Friday, October 26, 2007

Writing on the road

When I first started writing novels I had a set routine, a specific time when I would pound away at the keyboard in hopes of getting something memorable on the page. The ritual of sitting down at the same time in the same place brought a certain discipline to the process of writing that I desperately needed. For the first book writing time was every night after my wife went to sleep, from ten to two in the morning, which suited my nocturnal nature. Then we had our first daughter who was also a night owl and my schedule had to change, so I wrote the second novel every morning from six to eight, sitting in a local restaurant, pancakes on one side of the table and laptop on the other.

But with two kids at home and in the midst of a tour to promote the new novel, any sense of discipline I once possessed has gone straight to hell. I’ve had to train myself to write on the road, to pick up the narrative thread wherever it left off, even if that was somewhere three time zones ago. Lately I’ve been doing most of my writing on airplanes or in hotel rooms. Tonight I’m in a hotel just north of San Diego, tomorrow it will be Chicago, and then on Saturday it’s a quick tour through Wisconsin before heading east to Ohio. I thought that staying focused on the road would be damn near impossible, and it took a while to get the hang of it, but in some ways the constant state of change has been a great catalyst for unexpected plot twists and random bits of dialogue that would never have occurred to me if I were sitting in my office at home.


Felicia Donovan said...

Tim, and here you are posting at 4:11AM and here I am commenting at 4:22AM because like you, I have a horrific writing schedule worked around family life and the day job, so I grab whatever writing time I can get. My nature is definitely not "nocturnal," however. I'm one of those annoyingly chipper morning persons.

But you're so right - it's one thing to churn out a novel when there's nothing else to do. It's a whole different story (ha) when you have full-time work committments, a family, and other books to promote.

Then again, not many of us can claim to be a Macavity Award winner either, so that gives you super powers, right?


Felicia Donovan

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Like you, Tim, I've discovered, much to my surprise, that I can be very creative and productive on the road. Hotels, B&Bs, planes and airports, makes no difference, the work continues. If I couldn't do it, I'd be screwed.

G.M. Malliet said...

I can't write on the road/on vacation, other than in snippets - ideas or phrases that take only a minute to write down.

I may have to get more disciplined about this, because after even a week away from the manuscript, it's very hard to get my head back inside it.