Monday, 4 February 2013

The Hazards of Writing About the Past...

It's Monday so it must be catch-up day.

I really don't know where the weekend went to, but I didn't get my regular blog post done, or my word count totals for the week recorded.

Glad to say I managed to exceed my minimum word count again last week, but it was slightly down on the previous weeks totals- only 815 words this time.

I'm one of those writers who needs quiet, with the minimum of interruptions- if any, when I'm writing.

Sadly my first session last week came to an abrupt end when after two phone calls, I was disturbed by music so loud I could actually hear the lyrics clearly. It was permeating through the walls from my next-door neighbour, and that was enough to drag me out of 1802 completely...

Every writer has their personal writing routine. I need coffee- and often toast- to get me settled.

I keep a log of every writing session I do. So I have one just for the novella, another for short stories, and another for my novel. Before I start any writing I note down the session, date and time started, and the intended work.

Then I read through the previous chapter, make minor adjustment, and make a note of anything major that occurs to me as I go along. So by the time I get to where I left off, from the previous writing session, I'm 'in the zone'... :-)

The best way to describe it, is as if I'm an observer to the scene I'm writing. I can step back a little and decide that, say, a piece of dialogue or an action would be better done this way, rather than that way, but I'm still tied into the scene in my mind, aware that the 21st century world is still going on just over my shoulder, but in the scene in my mind I'm in 1802...

I can get up to look at a reference book to confirm something, or go and make another cup of coffee, but I don't lose that link, an invisible cord between my characters and myself.

Often I don't realise how much time has gone by, until I get to a stage where my concentration wavers, or I start to feel hungry- you can use a lot of energy without realising it. Once I reach that stage my characters start to slip away from me, and I know it's time to stop.

I save my work, and if I've completed a section then I'll print it out. I'll see how many words I've done in the session and make a note on my time sheet, and the time I've finished at.

Within 5-10 minutes all the modern sounds of the surrounding world start to consciously register again and I'm totally back in 2013...

But it really isn't a good idea for anyone to ask me a question about anything, or ring me, until I'm totally back in the present.

If you write about the past, have you found anything that helps you with any stage of the process?

Current Word Count 

Work In Progress
image courtest of Salvatore Vuono and

Total for January: 3,084                          


Rosemary Gemmell said...

I admire your writing routine, Carol! When I'm writing about the past I don't check anything during the writing stints, but find out later.

Patsy said...

I used to need quiet and to feel I had time to really get into the right frame of mind and get a decent amount of work done. That meant that I often didn't write anything. I've got better at ignoring distractions and bunging down a few words whenever I have a few minutes to do do. I get more done now.

Carolb said...

I wonder where my earlier reply went...

Rosemary, I do ignore a few general queries until later, but if it is relevent to what I'm writing at the time I will look it up.
I hate putting in an error that will require a lot of sorting out later, and perhaps mean rewriting a whole scene.

I have to admit that I can just about deal with background noise if I'm editing, Patsy, or writing general non-fiction; but do need the quiet for the historical stuff.