In honour of the RNAs 60th anniversary year, we have put together a special series of blog posts on various aspects of writing romance. These will feature advice and comments from some of our bestselling author members, who all have a wealth of experience and expertise. We hope these posts will be informative and interesting to both new and seasoned writers, but please feel free to add your own tips in the comments section below!
Each month we are highlighting a particular aspect of writing romance, and this month our bestselling authors talk about motivation and writer’s block.
There are a thousand ways to procrastinate – how do you make yourself resist?
“Switch off the internet. Go and write in a café and leave your phone at home,” says Rachel Hore. Yes, “Don’t switch it on until you’re done!!!!” agrees Barbara Erskine, and Prue Leith adds “JFDI (Just F-ing Do It!)”. She also has “a sheet on the fridge door with the number of words I need to write in a day/month. If I slip behind, I have to get up earlier and catch up.”
“Treat writing as a job,” is both Dilly Court’s and Sarah Morgan’s advice – “If I waste time, that’s time I have to make up somewhere else. But it’s important to know what you want from writing … Not everyone wants it to be a career, but I do and my behaviour reflects that.” For Sheila O’Flanagan it helps to “remind myself that it’s my own time I’m wasting!”
Elaine Everest has a daily wordcount goal and tries to stick to it. Both she and Milly Johnson like the Pomodoro method – “set a timer for 25 minutes and write, take a break for five minutes, then repeat. Do this four times and you have at least two thousand words which is very satisfying.” Milly adds “Or use the task and reward method. ‘I’m going to do one solid hour and then I can have my lunch’ that works too. Sometimes you just have to be tough on yourself.”
Rosanna Ley also likes the egg-timer idea, as well as “a do-able word target” and “rewards (e.g. chocolate/relaxing bath/reading)”, while Katie Fforde writes better when away from home “as there are fewer distractions.”
The internet “is a time suck and procrastination is my middle name,” says Liz Fielding. “An approaching deadline is the only guarantee.” And Jill Mansell loves procrastinating too, “but the job has to be done. I try to combine procrastination (like watching TV) with writing – otherwise the books won’t get written and I won’t get paid.”
What about the work/life balance – how do you get it right?
Liz Fielding has been making an effort to get away from her desk more. “I go to events put on by our fabulous indie bookshop … and visit local National Trust properties. I’ve joined a gym, the WI and Slimming World. Oh, and babysitting.”
Dilly Court’s relaxation is painting “when I get time, because I’m lucky enough to have grandchildren, a great-granddaughter, as well as a husband and a demanding spaniel.”
Barbara Erskine feels it’s very hard to say – “they are so inextricably linked … dog walking is good, but holidays are useless as they tend to flag up new stories.”
“Because I do a lot of business and charity stuff … and I’m on telly a lot, writing is a moveable feast,” for Prue Leith. “But I have lots of energy and I enjoy all aspects of my life … I like family weekends, short/long breaks with my husband, and I love cooking, gardening and planning our new house.”
Elaine Everest is happy “as long as my ‘to do’ list is shorter at the end of the week, my word count goal achieved, I’ve taken time out to relax for a few hours, the dog hasn’t starved, and the laundry basket is empty … I have the job I’ve always dreamt of and working longer hours is a part of the deal.”
For Dinah Jeffries it’s “the thorn in the flesh and biggest struggle so far. I started late in life … and worked very hard to produce the book a year my publisher wanted” but now “… I take longer to write each book, I walk, rest, listen to relaxation audios, play with my Maine Coon cats, spend time with my family and try to notice and enjoy every moment… I still want to write books, but I no longer let the writing dominate my life so much that I actually hurt myself.”
Milly Johnson feels her life/work balance is “crap. I work too hard and take on too many things … I have to say ‘no’ more … To refill the well I like the cinema and to plod around Ikea, and I cruise, because on ships I really can enjoy doing nothing … It’s hard when you’re a workaholic.”
She’s not alone – Rosanna Ley says “I’m not good at getting it right … I try to do yoga, walking, swimming, anything to get up from the desk. And I love reading. Hopefully all these help to ‘re-fill the well’.” And Sarah Morgan finds it hard “to separate ‘work’ from life. Even when I’m not writing, I’m often thinking about my characters … To relax, I love to spend time outdoors whenever I can. I walk, I cycle. Anything that involves moving, because my job usually means not moving.”
Sheila O’Flanagan thinks “it’s nearly impossible to get right”, but she enjoys travelling and finds that “being in a different place sparks my creativity. I also play sport because if you’re competing at something you don’t have time in your head for your characters and it’s always nice to get back to them afterwards.”
If you have any more great tips you’d like to share, please let us know!