Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Murderous nocturnal activities by Cathy Ace

How do you set real life aside and connect with the imaginary worlds you create? And how long do you write each day/week?

Setting aside real life to be able to connect with the worlds I have created, and am creating, is something that I – like most other writers – grapple with, and manage, in several different ways. For example, if I have a deadline looming I seem to feel the urge to clean something in the house, IMMEDIATELY! I have no idea why I’m happy for the light fitting in the bathroom to gather fluff for a few months, then to find it in urgent need of attention just a few days before a manuscript is due to be turned in, but that's what happens. It’s a form of procrastination I have become familiar with over the years, and I still find it soothing to shift the stress I’m feeling about a book onto something else.

At present, I’m working on a first draft that has no deadline attached to it, something that’s totally new for me. I’m actively creating the people, places, and situations, which will (hopefully) engage readers…such fun! But, even though I’m not seeking out distractions from that activity, I still have to focus on other tasks, because life demands that I do. I’m no different than most other people…I have to do things like writing this blog post, for example, or supporting my dozen books in the marketplace, or doing my daily work as Chair of Crime Writers of Canada. My two lovely chocolate Labs, who are my constant companions, need attention, as do the normal things in life…like family time, shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, working in the garden etc. 
Gabby, Poppy, and the garden - need attention at all times of the year

The result is that my “true” writing hours run from about 9.30pm to around 1am or 2am…when everyone is in bed, it’s dark outside, and it’s just me and my keyboard. I – personally – need peace when I am writing…no music, nothing to disturb me. I cannot write in coffee shops etc., for example. Well, maybe I could if I had to, but I’m lucky that I live in a rural area, with no neighbors, so peace is available to me. The nearest street light is one mile away, so I have real darkness outside the house at night, and the only noise is the occasional lowing of the cattle on the next property – that suits me just fine. All of that allows me to focus on what I am creating, rather than the reality of my dining room table, which is where I am writing this book (and this blog post).

Pretty much what I see from my writing table at night!

As for "how long do I write each day or week?"…that depends on where I am in the writing process. If we’re talking about writing my books (as opposed to writing things like this blog) then I don’t write every day, unless I am actively working on a first draft, when I write for about five hours every day. I don’t do daily word counts, because sometimes I write faster, sometimes more slowly, and sometimes my self-editing means I write negative numbers of words, because I delete chunks as I go along. Nope, word counts would drive me crazy. For me it’s about allowing the story to flow, and trying to get it right as it does so – sometimes my fingers can’t keep up with my brain, other times it’s the other way around, but I try to not let that bother me. Then there will be weeks and weeks when I am researching, outlining, checking plot shapes, and – of course – editing, when I am not “writing” at all…though all those other activities are essential parts of the authorial process (oh, that sounds very grand!). 

Every author has a different writing process; as I read this blog to myself it sounds as though I sit in the dark and tap away to write my books, while my days are used for other purposes. I suspect that’s pretty close to the truth. Indeed, as I finish up writing this, and look at my “To Do” list for the rest of the day, I happily admit I’m looking forward to everyone going to sleep tonight so I can “get back to” my fictitious world and characters, and spend some quality time with them.

Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries.  You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers:


Celia Fowler said...

So interesting! Thanks for sharing ~

Anonymous said...

Hi, Marlene Ezell here. I really enjoyed the blog. Thanks for enriching our lives with your books.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Celia, thanks, I'm so pleased you found it interesting....and - since it's daylight - here I am reading comments and replying ;-) Cathy

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Marlene - thanks for dropping by today...I'm so pleased you enjoy my books, and really appreciate you taking the time to tell me so :-) Also, thanks for reading the blog - so pleased you liked it. This is just the sort of boost that helps keep me writing through the small hours :-)