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
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.