On Being A Professional Writer No.5: My Working Week

Observatory

This will give you a good idea of how I spend my working week. Not included here are my evening meetings, emails, social networking and which gigs are paid (answer, as in all creative trades, very few of them).

Monday: Write ‘Invisible Ink’ column for following Sunday publication. Read and review two books for Financial Times. Work on outline for new novel – a ghost story – and map out a couple of outstanding short stories commissioned for anthologies. Revised cover for ‘Invisible Ink’ book arrived – love it.

Tuesday: Revise Hammer radio play and send off. Send off finished script for my segment of portmanteau film ‘Bloody London’. Continue on book outline. Scrap short story that wasn’t working, write it over. Do interviews for online magazines. Article delivered for magazine is now too long – reduce by half without destroying content.

Wednesday: Waiting to hear if three new books have been approved by publishers’ acquisitions for next year. Don’t hear anything; is that good or bad news? Final script check for revised play ‘Falling Stars’, heading towards a backers’ rehearsal on Friday.
It appears my leading lady’s script is different to everyone else’s – did I tamper with her lines again or did she take the wrong copy? Try to amend accordingly. Read ghost story at author’s club.

Thursday: Still no news from acquisitions. ‘The Casebook of Bryant & May’ will now miss the Christmas market because the printers have missing their shipping deadline. New January date decided. Finish first draft of new book outline. Get notes back from Tom Shankland, director of my movie segment for ‘Bloody London’ – they’re good but far-reaching. Still revising leading lady’s play script with phone under ear as I cook prawn linguini. Spend evening doing accounts. FT editor emails to ask for a seven-book round-up of the best of winter crime.

Friday: Write the FT reviews. Start second pass at new book outline, which is now taking off nicely. Hard to concentrate on this when three other books are awaiting approval. Start rewriting movie segment, urgently needed. Finish short story. Finish book outline. Try to find people to attend backers’ rehearsal of play. Now story commission in, wanted fast. Can’t come up with idea. Need a new story to read aloud tomorrow night at The Green Man reading group night. Do some tai chi to ease tendon cramp brought on from sitting hunched over screen all week.

Looks like the week will run well into the weekend…

This is a very typical week. On Friday a local shopkeeper says to me; ‘A writer, eh? That’s a nice hobby.’
I explain it’s not a hobby but my career. He gives me a look that tells me he doesn’t consider this a career. ‘Well,’ he ends lamely, ‘lucky you, not having to go to work.’

I nearly stab him.

13 comments on “On Being A Professional Writer No.5: My Working Week”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    For a week like the above, does your partner lock the glass doors out onto the oh-so-high patio, dead bolt the windows, hang netting about the flights of down stairs, hide all sharp objects – including the pizza cutter and wine opener, remove all lengths of rope, line, twine, belts and dental floss, glass objects that may be broken, hide the bath plug, and such, or was that all done years ago? You don’t have a too tall ladder for bulb changing do you?

  2. Rick D says:

    And how do you spend your spare time…?

    As Gandhi once said, ‘Fuck me!’.

    Clearly the secret to your prolific output has a great deal to do with not sleeping and working at a superhuman level of concentration. Is there a Olympic catagory for writing? There should be! We lazy unmotivated whinging unemployed scribes salute you, sir.

  3. Rick D says:

    Dan — Chris is tall enough to change any lightbulb without a ladder! Another of his amazing skills!

  4. agatha hamilton says:

    Had to laugh at the shopkeeper’s remarks. I expect you’ve heard – ‘A writer, eh? I would write a book, too, if I had the time’ – a few times.

  5. snowy says:

    “When Authors get stabby” now that’s a reality show I might actually pay to watch.

  6. Fiona says:

    I’m sure the people attending the Green Man won’t mind if you bring along something not so new. You need to enjoy yourself too!

  7. Steve says:

    But when will you get a PROPER job?

  8. Alan Morgan says:

    I get ‘and you have all that time with your kids too’, which is true, and lovely. But in the half term (as it is now) how many others have their children running around the office?

    It is odd that certain jobs aren’t proper jobs. It’s not like a labourer asks somebody on the bus when they’re going to get a proper job, hodding bricks on a frozen site, as opposed to scratching their arse and updating facebook at the office all day.

  9. Alan G says:

    I recall my (ex) girlfriend working at a keyboard all day – she came down with repetitive strain syndrome. I got out the cast and bandages and insisted that she rest it for a weekend.

    Irony – she used the same cast on me a few weeks later after I cracked my wrist trying to swat a fly.

    It’s funny how we perceive each other’s work. I doubt I could last a week on Chris’s schedule – too much like real effort. But, at the same time not many people would like to do what I do, what you do. It always looks easy from the outside.

  10. Alan G says:

    Oh – and the fly got away, settled and got pounced on by her evil cat.

  11. John Howard says:

    All that spare time and the money just rolls in without you having to do very much. I still want to read the next book though… :)

  12. John Howard says:

    P.S. If by ‘find people to attend backers’ rehearsal of play’ you mean people to make up an audience then I suspect you have a ready and willing crew here. If you mean ‘money men’ then we are probably not the chaps you need. ( speaking for myself of course – can only afford to purchase the next Christopher Fowler offering – and the next and the next…. )

  13. Helen Martin says:

    I cannot imagine being able to write a column (even if the research is already done) AND read and review TWO books AND do even a preliminary outline for a novel as well as outlines for two short stories. What – you started at 5 am and carried on through till 2am Tuesday? I think you are an example of the compulsive writer, the person who just has to write about things. I don’t know whether to cheer or sympathise.

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