Thursday 20 September 2012

Gwenda Bond (Author of Blackwood): A day in the Writing Life

Blackwood by debut novelist Gwenda Bond was recently published by Strange Chemistry, a new YA imprint for Angry Robot Books and to celebrate this, I have a post from the lady herself to talk about a day in her writing life.  Just before we get on to that though, in case you haven't heard of the book, here's the synopsis:

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America’s oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance.

Doesn't that sound interesting?  Now, without further ado, here's Gwenda:

I wish I could weave a pretty narrative of an ideal writing day. It would start when my butler/chef/ninja assassin/confidante woke me with perfectly brewed coffee at 10 or so, served me breakfast on a veranda overlooking the beach, after which there’d be a swim, and then several hours of writing before an awesome parade of activities unfurled through the evening.

Of course, this is no one’s writing life. Because writing is inherently untidy. We make schedules, force it into certain times, but the truth is the process is pretty much nonstop and often mentally messy. This isn’t to say it doesn’t require dedicated time, because it does—oh, it does. I only “count” my writing time that produces words. That said, one of the most valuable pieces of advice I was ever given as a young writer was that you’d better be thinking about your story vast amounts of the time. In the background while you’re doing other things, when you’re driving or walking places, let it hum along—while you’re sleeping even maybe, turn it over and around in your brain so your subconscious has plenty to spit out when you sit down at the keyboard.

Here’s my actual usual writing day when I’m drafting something. Get up, have breakfast, coffee. If a really good day, exert enough willpower to avoid looking at email or twitter until after morning writing session. If a less chipper one, check these things and hopefully not lose too much time to them, then start writing. Note: I always regret checking, and yet I still sometimes do it. Especially if there’s a chance of news. The flesh is weak.

I’ll get in an hour or two on a good day, then go to work. Lunch, I usually try to split in half. A walk outside with my iPod, listening to my playlist, going two miles around a track through tall green trees, in which I allow myself to do nothing but think about the story. If I got a lot done that morning, I may be more than ready by the time I come back in to squeeze in another half hour of writing and get an impressive amount done for such a small time block. If I didn’t, then usually I’m able to crack whatever was holding me up during the walk, and I’ll come back in and make notes or sketch out the scene, maybe get started on it…and then write more later in the backyard on my Alphasmart Neo keyboard after work. I prefer the days that go the first way, because then I get the whole night off. Yay. There must be some time off, for sanity’s sake. But, regardless, I do more or less shoot for a decent word count, whatever that establishes itself at for a given project, each day, more or less.

I’m not a morning person by nature, so this wasn’t an easy pattern to establish. But it works well for me. I’ve come to really enjoy that early time when I’m the only one up, when my inner critique hasn’t yet shown up to criticize and the dream state is still clinging, and to place some importance on the symbolism of putting writing first. If my later sessions don’t happen for whatever unavoidable reason, I’ll have made some progress anyway. And that, most days, is enough to shut down the part of my mind that always believes I could and should be doing more work.

I really admire people who hold down a day job and still find the time to write and that's the key - FIND THE TIME and I shall be heeding this advice from now on.  Thanks Gwenda!

Blackwood was published on 4th September, 2012.  To find out more about Gwenda and her books, please click here to visit her website.

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