When Twitter blew up recently with the hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter, one of the more popular tweets was some variation of, ‘I wish I could write a book, I don’t know where you find the time.’ Of course, the point being made was that writers, and particularly aspiring authors, have all the same time pressures as anyone else – and it’s a question of carving that time out of your day. That was certainly the case for me when I was writing my debut novel, The Dark Inside.
When I started writing the manuscript in earnest, I was working full time at a large advertising agency in London, studying towards my masters degree in creative writing, and my wife and I had just had our first child. Busy times – but by no means unusual, and in fact, there are plenty of authors I’ve met who had a lot more on their plate than me. Nonetheless, one of the biggest challenges I faced in writing the book was simply finding the time to sit down and get the words out.
I found the best way to approach it, like any big task, was to break it down. I set myself word limits, both daily and weekly, that varied in length according to my schedule. On my busiest days, the target was a nominal amount – usually 200 words – and this turned out to be one of the most productive methods I employed. In the first case, as any writer knows, half the battle is getting started each day. Turning the computer on or picking up a pen and writing those first few sentences can feel like pulling teeth – but once you get going, momentum tends to carry you. I found having a low word limit made it less daunting to get cracking, and inevitably I’d end up writing more than planned. The other benefit of that method is that it forces you to write every day – and for me that was crucial in helping keep the story straight in my head and flowing on the page.
Of course, finding time to write is actually only half the battle; it’s also a question of finding time to think. Sometimes when you sit down, the words will come freely, but many times I’d find I’d try to start having not given any thought to what I was going to actually say that day – how the scene would play out, what would be contained in the dialogue, etc. So I found it was just as important to be disciplined in dedicating time to thinking. The only way I found to do that was to use every spare minute I had – whether that was on the Tube, standing in the queue to buy my lunch, or even in really boring meetings at work (sorry, boss!)
And that’s how The Dark Inside came together – day by day, inch by inch. If you love writing, you can always find the time.
The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds is out now (Faber & Faber, £12.99)