Thursday, 1 December 2016

Guest post - Paul Fraser Collard

Today we're welcoming Paul Fraser Collard, author of the Jack Lark series, to the blog, talking about how he fits writing in, and around, his 'day job' ... 

Fitting it all in

If you had asked me a few years ago, my image of a writer at work would include an expansive, leather-topped desk near a window with a view over acres of rolling countryside. Or I may have pictured a serious author working in a café, their table liberally scattered with scrunched up notes and a number of empty coffee cups. I would not have imagined a tired office worker hunched over a tiny laptop on a packed commuter train. Yet that is my reality. For me, being an author means cramming my writing into every spare minute and using my daily commute to work as my dedicated writing time.

Fitting writing in is not easy. There are days when I just don’t feel like it. You see, I love a good box set and I will admit there are times when I am on the train and any thought of writing is forgotten as I sit back (or cram into a corner) and devour another episode of Sons of Anarchy, or last week’s episode of Westworld. I try to persuade myself that these somehow form a part of my research. It is my duty after all to remain current and to make sure that my writing reflects something of these wonderful dramas. Yet, I think we all know that is only so much fudge. There is no escaping a novel in progress.

I try my best to maintain a level of daily discipline. I find the morning commute easier, as I travel before the horde and I can pretty much bank on 500 to 1000 words on my way to work. The evening commute is harder. I travel at a busier time and finding my writing nook is often a challenge. But when I do get a seat, I try hard to ignore the lure of that latest downloaded episode and I summon the energy to battle out a decent number of words on my way home. In that way, I can keep that word count ticking over. I will never, ever, have that magic 5000 word day and I cannot foresee a time when I will have the luxury of a whole week or longer to devote to pouring out a great chunk of a novel. But, bit-by-bit, chapter-by-chapter, I can get that crucial first draft done and, with a few weeks worth of commuting time, I can polish that up into something that I can present my editor.

Writing like this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for me. It has advantages. It allows me to change things on the fly and, as I don’t produce a great swathe of a book in one go, I can keep reviewing and changing the plot as I go. On the minus side, I find it harder to hang onto every thread in a story especially when there have been many weeks between a character’s appearance in the narrative. There can also be horrible great chunks of repetition, where I forget what I wrote the previous week or month (or day!).

Make no mistake. I love being an author and the creation of a story is one that I enjoy immensely. I am now halfway through the seventh Jack Lark adventure and that proves that this method of writing really does work for me. I don’t see a time when I will move away from this slightly odd life and, if I am honest, I really quite like it this way. I have a feeling that I would find it harder to write if I had the luxury of time and space. It may be, that if the day comes when I become a full-time writer, then you will find me travelling the train network of southeast England, still working on my tiny laptop and still fighting for enough space to type.

Thank you Paul for stopping by. That's certainly NOT how I imagined an author's life to be!

The latest Jack Lark novel, The Last Legionnaire, is out in paperback today, and you can read Maryom's review here

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