The devil doesn’t want you to write. When things are going good, he’ll send a circus of excuses your way to throw you off.
I was on the 14th draft of El Niño in a 12 month period. The last four were done with the agent (See #1) and, when this one was finished, the book would finally be ready.
The edits looked like this:
Then. Here’s your friend back from Australia as a surprise, big drink? Sorry can’t. What about that wedding you’re supposed to go to? Will do the afters. And drive home sober. Will you not have one? No. Here comes a sunny day, here comes a bunch of us going away for the weekend, want to go that party? No. I’m writing. Now the doorbell rings, an unexpected guest, looking for tea and shite talk. Then a Jehovah’s Witness, followed by the TV licence man.
These are all the exterior problems. After that comes everything else. You’re tired because you didn’t get enough sleep. The rent’s due again, you should be out working. The car needs fixing. Why not play some online Poker, make a few quid, then do your writing? Hey, you’re not going to concentrate much this morning, you’ll just make mistakes and have to do it all over again. Why not watch The Sopranos for a while until you wake up properly? I know, let’s do some research, there must be some Post Office or bank or something your characters are going robbing next. Who do we know working in a bank?
So I’d conquered all that. Figured the key is to write when you least want to. Anyone can write when they’re inspired, just like anyone can make money in a boom. When the bust comes, then what?’ You need to turn off the phone, don’t open the post, don’t answer the door and plug out the Internet. Ideally, don’t use a computer that has web access at all. If you do, you’ll spend the whole day online, messing around on Social Media or looking up rubbish on Google. The rule is: Writing is writing – everything else is not. If you’re not writing, you’re not writing. You’re doing something else and calling yourself a writer.
If you pick a time to finish – say 5pm – then you don’t finish at 4.59pm. Writing, like the safe in El Niño , is time locked. If you don’t wait the appropriate time, the safe doesn’t open. If you finish at 4.59pm then that sentence, the one you’ve been waiting for, that was going to change the whole structure of the book, will not be written. It’ll come all the way up to your conscious mind and be sitting there ready for you to pull the trigger but you say, screw it, I’m finishing early today, and the moment is lost. And that’s the sentence that’ll make your book endure.