How I Prepare to Write

When author Stephen King is asked how he writes, he always replies, “One word at a time.” I like this, because it simultaneously takes away the mystery of writing, and emphasises that writing a novel is like running a marathon – achieved by one step at a time. This article is about how I prepare, set aside time, and focus on writing each day.

I write in the morning only. By lunch time my creative brain is fried. My day commences with me getting up, making a coffee for me, and a cup of tea for my wife, and swallowing an anti-depressant. Then we go out onto the back-deck and read out Bibles, write in our journals, have a chat, and pray. Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of copying a verse that happens to resonate with me, into my journal.

Next, while my wife goes off to a real job, I get on the stepping treadmill that’s in the garage. I grab a novel, and I step-walk for 40 minutes (used to be 20, aiming for 60). Reading is a big part of being a writer. If you don’t read 50% of your time, you should re-think becoming a writer (or novelist at least). Sometimes I read terrible novels, usually only when I need reassurance that I can write better than some published authors who have actually gotten paid for their product. Usually I read good quality novels. I can learn off these, but I don’t analyse as I read, just enjoy the story. If you’re interested, I just finished Revival, by Stephen King, and am now onto The Stand. One chapter of Revival gives me 40 minutes on the treadmill, The Stand I get 2 chapters. Not sure if this makes me a fast or slow reader – probably average. I’m not actually into horror (there’s enough on the nightly news – which is probably why I avoid that), but I am into good quality writing. Currently, Stephen is the best novel writer I have come across, so I do purposely read his works. Why not learn from the best?

Once the 40 minutes is up, I have created a waterfall of sweat, and so I do the bathroomy things, and grab a light breakfast. Now that I’ve exercised by body, mind and spirit (they’re all connected ya know?), I go into my office, and sit down at my writing space. I have a big screen in front of me, and a keyboard, mouse, all which is connected to a rather old G4 Powerbook, which stays closed, under the screen. To my left is an angled reading aid (I don’t know what these are actually called), which I use to put my notebooks on, where I might have written a first draft, or some research notes. There is a small lamp with a blue globe, angled over the notes. Besides this, I sit against a wall, which is blank, except for a handwritten note that says, ‘What happens next?’ Reminding me to keep the story moving. I’ll make a coffee (de-caf this time – doctor’s orders I’m afraid), and grab a bottle of water. Both these sit to my right, just above the mouse-pad. My fancy pens, sit in a handmade wooden box around here too.

By this time it’s 9am, and I’ve not yet checked my emails or Facebook. I don’t check these on purpose. I know that I am most creative first thing in the morning, and by the time I’m ready for lunch, that creativity has substantially diminished (okay, it’s died). After lunch, after writing, is when I check emails, and perform the business side of writing and producing. I don’t need any silly aggravations or irritations, distracting me from my focus on writing. Why would anyone, after they’ve gone through this whole process to get themselves into a focused state, ruin it all by checking Facebook, or reading some stupid email?

And then I write, for exactly 3 hours.

That’s it. That’s how I prepare, and focus, to get ready to write. I have a concentrated time of exactly 3 hours, each day. This way, while I spend much time on the business side, promoting, writing blog articles, e-newsletters, entering competitions, making dolls (more on that later) and so forth, I ensure that I am always producing a new product.

Hope that was helpful.