How do you find time to write?

Like most authors I have to supplement my passion for writing with a day job. That’s just a fact of life. Unless you’re a multi-award winning household name, with titles from floor to ceiling at WH Smith’s, you’re going to need something to help pay the mortgage.

So how do you find time to write? It’s one of the questions I’m asked most often, and especially by people who know me from my day job as a farmer or general manager at the family business. The answer is simple, I don’t know. 

Writing is not something you can just sit down and do for half an hour between other tasks. If you want a structured story you need a structured way of working. It’s taken a lot of trial and error but this is what I’ve found works for me. 

I’m at my most productive in the early morning, and I mean really early. If I’m at my desk with a strong brew of coffee and two ginger biscuits by five thirty, then it’s going to be a good day. This is when I have my best ideas about storylines and plot direction. I like to write for a couple of hours and if possible I’ll finish a scene or chapter. I know I’ve reached the end of a day’s creativity if I’ve written a cliff hanger and want to turn the page to see what happens next.

By mid-morning I’m thinking about other things; for instance the business of being an author. I’ll do some social media stuff, I might post a blog or even spend time on the day job. There’s always things that need attending to around the farm, deliveries to be done for the factory or a car that need its MOT arranged. 

As the shine wears off the afternoon I’m ready for proof reading and corrections. I usually make a cup of tea; hot, not too much milk, and leave the teabag in please, before I sit down to start the process. I’ve said I’m at my most creative at home in the morning, but my Basildon office in the late afternoon is the best environment for amendments and alterations. I can easily spend a couple of hours there, as afternoon becomes evening, with a fresh manuscript and a bold red pen.

I like to read, I’m doing a lot more of it nowadays and having a Kindle is a great help. I’ve always liked murder mysteries, but in the beginning I had a notion that if I were to be a serious author then I’d need to read the highbrow, classic, novels. I tried one or two and found them dull. I discovered there’s loads of great stuff available written by living authors and for some strange reason my favourites are mostly from Scotland. I love a well constructed sentence and a story that draws me in. Christopher Brookmyre and Stuart MacBride write books I can’t put down. Anything by Peter James or Ian Rankin is a masterclass in the art of penmanship. 

Television, apart from a few well thought out and professionally crafted programs, is just chewing gum for the eyes. The original remit of the BBC was to Entertain, Educate and Inform but today most channels are satisfied with serving up a diet of cheap shows which require no cerebral input from the viewer. I’ll listen to the radio for news and follow a few podcasts. Commercial radio can be good, the talk shows on LBC get quite heated at times but the adverts become repetitive and after a while I need to switch off. I download the Times each day to my iPad. Sometimes I even read the odd article.

And so to bed, perchance to dream – sorry Shakespeare. I’ll have a podcast in the background or a comedy on BBC Sounds as I nod off. With a little luck I’ll be back at my desk in the morning with fresh ideas for my “who-dun-it” or an idea of how they pulled it off.

My favourite stories have always been the ones where the baddy isn’t caught.