As a full time computer games lecturer it’s difficult to find a whole day to write, so I tend to do this on weekends and holidays rather than weekday evenings. A typical day-job workday involves writing lectures on everything from games interfaces, to what makes a game fun to play. I usually teach a few classes per day and deliver a lecture to 200+ students. Between classes I organise elements of Animex, a large games and animation festival which I run at Teesside University.
A typical writing day, well, that’s quite a different story. At the start of a project I have to get out the house a lot and visit new places. All of this seems to help me develop my ideas and I’ll spend a few weeks scrawling ideas and story maps in lots of different colours on post-its and large sheets of paper. When this is finally complete, I create a chapter plan with a few sentences on what will happen in each individual chapter. Then I’m ready to begin the bulk of the work!
I mainly write at home and, because it is always during holidays from work, I have to do a lot of mental kicking to motivate myself to get on with it. I light a nice candle to help me focus, it has become a bit of a lucky ritual, then I put on some background music, nothing too exciting or I’d be up dancing and singing. I always start off writing at my desk in the spare bedroom, but being a huge fidget I move between the desk, the bed, and the floor at thirty minute intervals. I try to limit my access to the internet, but the fridge is a different matter, I make a lot of trips downstairs for tea and snacks.
I aim to write around 1500 words a day. Sometimes it’s a lot less, sometimes a lot more. I tend to follow my chapter plan at first, but the story usually takes on a life of its own at some point and carries me away with it. These deviations are always for the best, I love how my brain surprises me at regular intervals.
Now that I’m a bit more experienced as a writer I can trust myself more. When writing my first novel I tried to perfect everything straight away and it resulted in me getting stuck on a regular basis. Now I leave a little note in red for Future Gabrielle saying something like: ‘Write Alfie’s interaction with Artan here. Make it funny!’ It really speeds up the writing process, although when I do my first read through I do end up cursing Past Gabrielle on a regular basis.
I’m always more productive on rainy days. There’s something about rain pattering on the windows that makes me feel very creative. If I’m finding it difficult to focus, I go to a library and work there with good noise cancelling headphones. Parts of my books were written in libraries across the North East and North West. I actually typed the final pages of my third book in Stockton Central Library.
Towards publication a lot of my time is taken up with interviews and blog posts for magazines, bloggers and children’s book websites. I’ll also go on lots of trips to schools to talk about writing. This is great fun for me as I LOVE to meet my readers and to hear about what they think of my characters. Young readers are so full of ideas and so passionate about stories and characters, they inspire me to get straight back to my desk and start the whole process all over again.