Time to Write, Time to Breathe

Time to Write, Time to Breathe.

By Tom Easton

Suddenly, I am a prolific writer. In all I now have written (published) 29 books, with

another (An English Boy in New York) due out in August. Admittedly some of these

are rather short (I write for younger readers as well as teens) and more than a few

don’t have my name on the front cover, but I wrote them, and they’re published. I’ve

also written dozens of books which were rejected but I’m going to gloss over those…

So I’m an old hand now. I can’t be considered for the Branford Boase Award any

more. I’m not the New Kid on the Block, or a Rising Star, or a Promising New Talent. I

was described as an Exciting Young Author in a press release earlier this year by

someone who hadn’t met me. This body of work does seems to have assembled

itself all rather quickly, though as I had my first book published 9 years ago, I guess

it’s not as quick as all that. I also suspect I have some way to go. As the comedian

Eddie Cantor said ‘It’s taken me 20 years to become an overnight success.’ So 11

more years then…

As it happens, last year I published no books at all. Last year I was writing. I wrote 16

and a half books in 2013 but none were published in that year. At times I was

working on two different books at the same time, I’d write a thousand words of a

comedy in the morning, then a thousand of a sci-fi thriller in the evening.

Then I’d be asked to write a book for younger readers. I’d stop working on the novels

for a week or two. I’d write the first drafts of the shorter books, send them to the

editor and get back to my novels while I waited for a response.

In addition to that I wrote blog pieces, I tweeted, I updated my website, my facebook

pages and I even joined Pinterest, which I abandoned immediately, not being able to

make head-nor-tail of it. I organised events, visited schools and libraries, attended

literary parties, darling, and wrote half a dozen proposals and samples for projects

which weren’t picked up.

I also work full time, and my wife and I moved, with our three young children into a

new house with a big garden, all of which (kids, house and garden) needed a lot of

attention. I WAS BUSY LAST YEAR. How on earth did I manage to do it all? How is it I

was able to write so many books last year?

The answer is simple. Because of deadlines. Because I was paid to write each book

and deliver it by a certain date. I hate missing deadlines. I work in Production for a

publisher and it’s my job to get books delivered on time, the idea of running late fills

me with cold, sick dread. Every working day, I take the train up to London. It takes

just under an hour each way and that time is my writing time. I am uninterrupted. I

get no emails, I don’t have the internet, I listen to music so can’t hear my fellow

passengers, or my phone ringing merrily in my bag. When I know what I have to

write, and how many words I need to do each day, I find the writing flows. I always

underestimate how much I can get done (I plan to write 750 words per session and

almost always exceed this.) I plan my writing. I write. While waiting for editors to

come back with edits, I work on the next book. I am efficient, I am calm, I am a

writing machine.

This year I have had 15 books published, with one more to come. All the work I put

in last year is coming to fruition. But suddenly, as this happens, the writing has dried

up. I’ve lost my prolixity. I have finished off just one novel and am about halfway

through a second, which I expect to complete at the end of October. I don’t tweet as

much anymore, I haven’t been blogging. I’ve abandoned my facebook pages. Why

have I slowed down?

Probably because the book I’m working on at the moment hasn’t been

commissioned yet. I haven’t discussed it with anyone, I’m not completely sure how it

will end, though I had a brainwave this very morning. I don’t know whether it’s any

good, or whether anyone will be interested in reading it when it’s done. No-one has

asked me to write it. No one has told me they like the sound of it. No-one has

written me a cheque.

Not having a deadline is a bit weird and I’m not sure I entirely like it. Because of this,

and because this book is the only thing I’m working on, I’m writing it slowly. I’m only

writing in the mornings, taking the opportunity in the evenings to try and catch up

on my mountainous TBR pile, but more often catching up on my sleep. As an aside, I

have to confess that for an author, I don’t read nearly enough. It’s something I am

trying to address.

In short, I’m back to where I was ten years ago. Trying something different.

Speculating. Writing for myself, unsure of how the work will be received. For now at

least, I have some time to breathe. Time to take things slowly. Time to re-plot, to

re-consider, to re-write.

I’m not convinced that concentrating on just the one book makes me a better writer.

But I’m quite enjoying it.

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