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Confessions of a Spree Writer

I'm fast. Really fast...

Different authors write in different ways. I am not referring to writing styles, but how authors pace their writing. Some commit to writing a set number of words a day. Others only put pen to paper when they feel compelled to do so by a sudden urge or inspiration.

I am a spree writer. That means, when I get an idea, I start writing and I don’t stop until I am finished. This method works well for me, even though it can be exhausting. Because I can always find spare time at the start of the year, January and February are among my most productive months.

10,000 words? No sweat!

In my former occupation as a newspaper reporter, resources – human resources – were scarce. It wasn’t uncommon for me to bash out twenty stories a day, including pages leads and features. The sausage factory mentality of the modern newsroom has gone on to shape the way I produce creative writing. I set myself a deadline, and I stick to it. Force of habit.

The intensity of writing creatively to a deadline is all-consuming. When the seed for One Dead Wife was sown, it took just a few hours for it to start germinating. Within four days, I had bashed out 37,165 words. It was as though my life was hanging by a thread. I had to finish the story before I could draw my last breath. Ten thousand words a day is not unusual - it's the norm - for me.

Don’t interrupt!

Because being a spree writer is intense, I withdraw from the world around me. You could tell me your darkest secret and I wouldn’t hear it – let alone remember it. I am sucked into my own world, an imaginary space that is wedged between meal times and sleep.

This is a very unhealthy way to write. I am aware of myself moving my legs (I am a hypochondriac, so I worry about things like blood clots) and rotating my ankles. When I get really concerned, I may take a two-minute break to run up and down the stairs (I’ve got mild COPD, so this is quite a feat). At the end of it all, I feel like I’ve just crossed the finish line in a marathon.

Walking away

I can spot every author's mistakes – except my own. That is why I have taught myself to walk away from a project. When I have finished a book, I save the file and force myself not to review it for a period of at least twenty-four hours. Revisiting a manuscript with a fresh pair of eyes is vital. After the first edit, I walk away and do the same thing again.

Because writing can quickly turn into a very expensive hobby, I am slowly learning to produce the best work I can on a limited budget. I make no excuses for not hiring editors and proofreaders. I can’t afford them. End of. (*See update below.) I gain an enormous amount of pleasure from writing. And I am beyond thrilled to know other people read what I write.

Sales are the icing on the cake

Once I publish a book and start to promote it, I celebrate every single sale. I’ve done quite a lot of celebrating these last few weeks – and I’ve got readers to thank for that; for liking the idea of my book enough to buy it. Nine reviewers have asked for copies, so I guess I’ll be getting some qualified feedback very soon.

Any form of art is personal to its creator. Writing stories is no different. I am sure, I will hear things that will dent my confidence. However, I hope, among the criticisms, I get a few positives to carry me forward to my next big writing spree.

Happy writing - and reading.

*UPDATE: Right, well, I think I am going to have to bite the bullet and accept I need an editor! After a barbed review in the US, I have revisited the book and made a number of corrections. It's amazing what you can spot when a few weeks - rather than mere hours - have passed. Unfortunately, the 'clean' version of the book is too late for many of the review copies in circulation. A total of 18 reviewers have now said they are reading One Dead Wife. While I am sure not all of them will get around to reviewing it, those who do will have good reason to criticise. Lesson learned. My next project will benefit from a professional editor.