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Some Final Writing Thoughts

Guest post by Michael Jecks..

Until the next one …

It's been three months now since I started writing this little diary blog with Cult Pens.

I have to admit, it's been good fun having a chance to share a little about the work of an author - especially the pleasure of launching a new book and getting it to the shelves of the nearest bookshops.

Writing is not a difficult task. It involves a lot of thought and planning, research, preparation and then, basically, time to put the ideas down on paper as they form. That part is nice and straightforward. It's the rest of the work that's the problem: the rereading, editing, deleting whole pages at a time, the moving of vast chunks from the middle to the beginning or vice versa, and all this goes on before it even gets in front of a publisher.

I've tried to tell you a bit about all this from the point of view of an author. However, it's enormously difficult to explain the real feeling of the job. Just as an architect may go a bit blank when you ask him how he fills his day, or a company lawyer when you ask her what she does in her office all day. There are vast numbers of little tasks that take up the majority of the day.

In my case, it's the first half hour sorting out my Twitter account and keeping that up to date that constantly nags at me. Is it productive to play on Twitter? Probably a bit more than other marketing, I think, but it still feels like a form of work displacement activity. Rather in the same way that sitting and reading a book feels wrong. How can something I enjoy actually be work? And yet reading is part of the job spec for an author. It's finding the balance, of course, that matters.

However, this week I'm embarking on another story. I've worked out the basic plot and plan, and now I'm attacking the writing. That's the heavy lifting part.

However, although many authors complain about the effort, the mental strain, the labour involved in getting their words down each day, I don't. It's not that hard.

In truth, it's the real world that I find tough.

When I'm in a book, I am living several lives vicariously through my keyboard. I am the knight on his charger in the front rank at Crécy; I am the archer cowering under the Genoese attack as the crossbow quarrels fly; I am the King's adviser pushing the Prince to safety as the French knights shatter the front line and try to kill the Black Prince beside his standard. It's when the story ends and I find myself alone in my head that things are difficult.

Some writers say they will sit down for two hours in the morning and another couple in the evening. I don't have the luxury of time with my workload. I tend to write in one hour stints: in an hour I'll write a thousand words in forty to forty five minutes, and then take a short break. I'll make a coffee or tea, go for a loo break, or just wander the room mulling over the next scene, and then attack it. This way I'll write for up to twelve hours in a day - although no matter how long the hours, I tend to write no more than seven thousand words in the day. The rest of the time is spent either writing extra characterisations or back story that won't get into the book, fiddling about with extra research, or correcting the work I wrote in the previous session.

Office back to normal: back to the old desk in preparation for the new book

All that I find fun - and exciting. It's the work that keeps me writing.

It's the other stuff that's hard for me. Things like keeping track of all the literary festivals, remembering to keep in touch with bookshops, or keeping to specific deadlines. All the little tasks that a self-employed person has to remember to do. Thank God my wife sorts out most of that!

I often think being married to an author must be about the worst job in the world. After all, a novelist is always out somewhere else, even when his body is there in the office. My wife knows (to her annoyance) how dangerous it is to expect me to remember to do anything when I'm in a book. I can say the right things, I can nod, I can respond to "You did hear that, didn't you?", and I can still forget, usually, after about one and a half nano-seconds, approximately. I once treble-booked us on a Saturday evening. That was not good.

But many aspects of the job are delightful.

For instance last week I received an invitation to go to New Orleans in February. There is a parade over there, and I've been asked to act as Master of Ceremonies. A delightful invitation since I haven't been to New Orleans before, and it's one city I've wanted to visit for a long time.

This week I've been asked to go to the Crime in the Court event in London at Goldsboro Books. I'm always keen to go to Goldsboro - a small, specialist bookshop that always makes authors feel enormously welcome. Well, that's one reason - the other is, I'll have a chance to catch up with friends like the wonderful David Hewson and others.

I'm also having to gear up to some more publicity efforts. I have to record some pieces for Simon and Schuster about my latest books, and I'm delighted to learn that the Plymouth charity, PlymouthWorks, is taking my latest, "Templar's Acre" as their book of the month for July.

Of course I've also got the job now of writing a new name into my current work in progress - and storing the other name for my sequel to my modern thriller - thanks to both winners of the Cult Pens Competition! Working these two into my stories is going to be fun!

So, the last few months have been great fun, working with Cult Pens, but this is a good time to take a break. After all, their computers will soon run out of space if I keep on scribbling about my life. Their customers need more information about pens and pencils, rather than the diary of an author!

I'm really grateful to Greig and Simon for their help, their interest and their constant support with the blog. With luck I'll be able to add some more posts to their blog, after a bit of a break.

In the meantime, if you want to continue to read the meandering thoughts of a historical writer, please go to www.writerlywitterings.com, where I'll be continuing my rambling as I write my next books and wander the streets aimlessly hunting for a new story …

Thanks for reading the blog, and hope to write for you again soon.

* You can catch up on all entries in the Diary of a Writer series here.

As well as collaborating with fellow members of The Medieval Murderers, Dartmoor-based Michael Jecks is the author of thirty three novels in his best-selling Templar series. His latest, Fields of Glory will be published in June 2014 in hardback and Kindle from Simon & Schuster. Expplore more of Michaels' work at: www.michaeljecks.co.uk

28 June 2013

Michael Randall

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