Today in a slight departure from the normal Q&A Danny discusses writing whilst working.
A novel born of the dark hours
When I run writer workshops I often get asked the same question from new writers who are struggling to write their first novel (and complete it).
How do I find time to write whilst working a job?
The advice I’ve tended to hand out is to write in the mornings, before work, whilst you’re fresh, before the day grabs hold of you, before tiredness and stress and responsibility have the chance to bite. Get up an hour early. Make your preferred brew. Sit in front of your word processor and write five hundred words, or four hundred or two hundred or fifty. You’ll find the day is more pleasant as a result. You won’t have that nagging voice at your ear reminding you that you have to write when you get home. You’ll be satisfied that you’ve made a forward step and ready to write again the next morning. What’s more, because you’ve had to leave for work it’s probable you’ve left your writing with some things left unsaid.
This is great.
This fits Hemingway’s advice to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next.
You’ll be able to go to the machine the next morning and carry on where you left off.
Again and again and again.
In a year you’ll have a solid draft of your novel written. In two years, if you’re determined, you’ll have a completed manuscript. Then you can start the business of trying to find a publisher for it.
That’s how I wrote Asboville. To an extent that’s how I wrote Soldier Boy too. But that’s not how I wrote FAN. Or, to put it more accurately, that is not when I wrote FAN.
FAN was written at night.
FAN was written late.
FAN was written when the lights were out, just the glow from the monitor (terrible for the eyes), the repeated music of a handful of artists on the headphones, Jack Daniel’s on the desk, a pile of Nottingham Forest programmes by my side and an unlimited, untethered access to the internet, to YouTube highlights of long lost matches, to memories that flickered like the computer screen, giving some things, taking some things away.
Night after night after night.
For two and a half years.
It was obsessive.
I’m not exaggerating when I talk of an emotional journey, of the impact of memory and nostalgia, of getting in touch with long lost friends and acquaintances from 20 plus years ago, of discovering personal accounts of Hillsborough and Heysel and Bradford, of learning of the history preceding these disasters, of the Taylor Report and the Popplewell Report, of sitting and reading and writing and thinking ‘it’s gone midnight, it’s gone one am, it’s approaching two am, I need to get to bed’…
Four or five hours sleep is no way to prepare for a day of teaching. Classes of fifteen year olds don’t have much sympathy for teachers with a headache.
But so what?
Another writer bemoaning their fate?
Not a bit of it.
Writing FAN was a compulsion.
I had no choice but to write it.
The unflinching anger, the utter desperation, the unrelenting voice visited me in those dark hours, night after night and demanded this story to be told.
It wasn’t an easy book to write but it was the most intense thing I have ever written, perhaps the most intense thing I will ever write.
A novel born of the darkness…in all sorts of ways.