A Writer’s Life 3: Life Between Sentences

London, Reading & Writing

There are side-effects of working from home, one of them being that your displacement activities include cleaning the spaces behind furniture that no-one will ever see, and visiting the fridge at ten minute intervals. I decided it was OK to get up and peer into the fridge every time I was stuck, and that this was nothing to do with being addicted to Krispy Kremes. Trying to eat more lightly led me into a new world of pain. Behold, a miniscule tub of Tesco prawns in ‘light’ mayonnaise. I checked the label. About 100 calories, perfect. I made sandwiches, and while I did so, read the label more carefully. 100 calories in 5% of the contents, which means there’s 100 calories in about half a tiny cream-slathered prawn. Now I obsessively went through the fridge – soon I’d completely forgotten what I was writing about. See how easily that happens?

I decided to get out more. Writing crabbed notes in coffee shops make you look like a nutter, unless you use something like a Mont Blanc pen and pad, and then you can write with your head held high. With so much wi-fi available, my laptop always comes with me, and is why I won’t be buying an iPad.

When I’m out I make notes and find I often slip unexpected stuff into my work – new things I’ve discovered. My Bryant & May novels are so-called ‘classic’ (ie traditional) mysteries but my ancient detectives do everything from smuggling immigrants, offending royals and bombing military agencies, and there’s a lot of factual material in them – I don’t just make it up.

As a roving writer, I have to be prepared not to be taken seriously. A regular complaint is that I ‘don’t look like a proper author’. I think this is something to do with living in Superdry T-shirts and K-Swiss trainers and not smoking a pipe, or having a Daily Telegraph hat.

I never panic about deadlines. Living in a very bright glass box means on sunny days I can’t see my TV screen. On those days I could shut myself in a cupboard and continue hammering the keyboard, or head off to the new Coen brothers film. No contest. People assume you’re planning plots 24 hours a day, but nothing could be further from the truth. I only start thinking at my desk. And sometimes not even then.

And here’s a lesson I learned; there are always three elements in a book; you, the words and the reader. Never let any one get in the way of the other two. And avoid the prawns.

7 comments on “A Writer’s Life 3: Life Between Sentences”

  1. Steve says:

    …wonders exactly what a “proper author” is supposed to look like….

  2. BangBang!! says:

    I really don’t know how you work from home. I wouldn’t get a thing done – I have no willpower at all. And I feel your pain re the prawns! I’ve lost 8 stone in the past year and you soon learn to read those labels carefully!

  3. Andrew Roberts says:

    i need to snap out of editor mode, but it’s ‘minuscule’ not ‘miniscule’

  4. admin says:

    Jeez, you make one lousy spelling mistake in 600 posts and they jump on you! But thanks for the reminder, mea culpa.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    I’m reading a rather interesting mystery which could have done with a good proof reader. There is one whole paragraph with two incorrect spellings, a misplaced modifier and a whole sentence that needs rewriting. You’d never find that in a Fowler. (one minuscule mistake in a book, perhaps, and I use minuscule all the time and spell it wrongly half of them.)

  6. Metabrarian says:

    Oh Oh…

    Should have read this post before I tucked into a desktop picnic of Tesco prawn sarnies!!!

    My but they were tasty 😉

    Have a good day all

  7. Hi, Thanks alot for your great post. You’ve helped me a lot.

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