Sunday, 6 March 2016

Is Writing an Obsession?

‘Do you write full-time?’ ‘Is writing a 9-5pm job?’

I’m asked these questions from time to time, so here’s my slant on it.

Since I tentatively dipped my toe into writing fiction at the end of 2008, I haven’t been able to stop. I kept thinking that after a year or two, my passion for it would die down – it’s a fad, right? – but eight years on and it never has. As a former Psychotherapist, I’m keen to know why we do things the way we do. So I asked myself the inevitable question: What is it about writing that has kept me so transfixed?

I have other passions in my life to compare this to. Growing up, my life centred around music. I started playing the piano at four and the cello at nine. By the time I got to 18, I was good enough to get into The Royal Northern College of Music on the cello and off I went thinking I was embarking on my life's career.
aged seventeen
Then something strange happened. I found myself surrounded by people who were practising ALL day long. From the moment I opened my eyes in the morning until the time my head hit the pillow, I could hear the not-so-far-away tinkle of a piano, a violin, a clarinet or the grumble of a tuba. These fellow students were dedicated, with a capital D; some of them were obsessed. I would put my cello away after a few hours' practise and be raring to go and do something else; play tennis, go swimming, read a book, listen to pop music. But everyone else was still practising... I was the odd one out and eventually I left - and went to university instead, for a much more rounded musical education.

With writing it’s different. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before, because it has become totally addictive. It isn’t just the writing itself, it’s the whole ‘managing my own business’ thing, because for a ‘hybrid author’ like me (ie Traditional and Indie - click the link for a recent post about this), there’s so much more to do every day than just write. And as such, I’ve never worked so many hours before in my life! Here’s a mini resume of some of the tasks that fill my day:
  • Playing around with initial ideas
  • Early planning and plotting, adding character profiles, maps, floor-plans etc
  • Writing a first draft (for me this is more or less the full length of the book, c90,000 words)
  • Revising drafts until the book feels ‘presentable’ (could be 3-5 versions)
  • Writing a jacket blurb and synopsis for my agent/publishers
  • Revising again (and again) after the book has been structurally edited by a copy editor and beta-readers
  • Proofreading
  • Preparing for a book launch - I now allow six months for this and I have a time-managed list as long as your arm, including formatting the book for Kindle, formatting the paperback (yes – it’s different), putting ideas together for the cover (ready to send to my designer), contacting Bloggers etc etc…
  • Daily/regular book promotion on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Goodreads
  • Sharing other authors’ posts and networking/book groups
  • Running Giveaways
  • Posting blogs on my site
  • Writing features for guest sites
  • Responding to comments/reviews and enquiries from readers
  • Taking photos for publicity and sharing on social media (such as my hubbie’s terrific cakes!)
  • Posting book reviews to Goodreads
  • Reading great novels for the above! (never seems enough time for this...)
  • Preparing a Newsletter (quarterly)
  • Liaising with agent and publishers (I currently have an audiobook in production for No LongerSafe, where I wanted to choose the narrator)
  • Learning new IT (such as adding a sign-up form to my website)
  • Preparing my monthly accounts for my accountant (urgh)
  • Okay…you get the gist.

Escape into the story...
The Best Bit
But the best bit is the actual writing – either getting the story down or editing, because for me it’s pure escapism. That’s the time when I climb into the story I’m putting together, take a look around and find out what’s going to happen next. That’s when all my ‘what if’ buttons get activated – What if you wake up one morning and find a dead man at the end of your bed? What if there’s a dead woman in the water and she’s wearing your own clothes? Creative people call this the ‘zone’ and the hours fly by. I always come back to Gloria Steinem’s famous quote below: 

Like many writers, I find I’m buzzing from dawn to dusk. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing at night. When I’m in the zone, I’m afraid to leave the keyboard in case I lose the thread. Capturing the story becomes paramount and I have to be forcibly peeled away from my desk at meal times! I must just finish this scene...I must just finish this sentence... But even when I’m relaxing and watching TV at the end of the day, I’ve still got my 'idea-radar' switched on and I’ll reach for my notepad (one in every room, I’m not kidding!) to catch the thought for later/tomorrow.
Notebooks around the place...
You may ask When does the ironing, cleaning, hoovering and gardening get done? Ah - I'll merely say that there used to be a lot more of that going on than there is now! I sort of squeeze it in and thankfully my hubbie is brilliant with all the cooking and shopping.

This writing business has now become my life and I've come across so many other writers who feel the same. It’s bigger than full-time and it’s the only activity I’ve ever done in my entire life that makes me feel so absorbed. Now and again, I have to re-charge my batteries, but most of the time – it’s just brilliant!

PS. I'm delighted to add that  No Longer Safe sold 30,000+ copies in the first month on sale.

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-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------              AJ Waines’ novels are Standalones and can be read in any order:

  •  Over 150,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' (UK Kindle charts)
  • No Longer Safe went straight to Number One 'Crime Noir' (US & UK Kindle charts)
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 20 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
Find AJ Waines at: 
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