People sometimes ask me: ‘when do you write? What are you working on now?’
Here is a snapshot.
I write on weekends and free evenings. My goal is to do two hours of writing every day. It is an ambitious target. Sample figures: January 2018 average: 91 minutes; Feb 118 minutes; March 64 minutes. I’m generous to myself on what counts as writing – eg this blog, research or meeting another author as well as physically putting pen to paper. This target-driven approach works for me.
I usually write in long-hand, then transcribe to the computer. I find looking at a computer screen as I write slows me down. The act of transcription to the screen later is enjoyable, and acts as an extra edit.
Mostly I work in the evenings between about 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. At weekends I sometimes manage four or five hours in a day. Many nights and some weekends, I don’t write at all. Often I find that moving to a place with no computer, with only my writing book and a couple of different-coloured pens, can stimulate creativity.
So what am I writing now?
My top project is a new novel, code-named The Boyfriend. Writing a novel is, as any writer knows, a big job. I have written 80,000 words since January 2018.
It is a tragic fact that, however brilliant, books do not sell themselves. Promotions – blogs, book readings, circulars or tweaking the settings on Amazon (I occasionally offer a Hotel Story for free) make a difference. All, sadly, also take time away from writing new fiction.
Project four is running this web-site. It’s easy to spend an evening tidying up links, updating posts, and so on – even before you start writing anything. The biggest danger is obsessing over how many hits you’re getting – I try not to look more than once every ten seconds, but it’s tough.
Project five is my back catalogue of novels and short stories. In addition to Blood Summit and The Boyfriend I have written six other novels:
– a comedy I was planning to publish in 2015, but have put in the drawer for the time being. A somewhat known Hollywood producer friend of mine is talking about making a movie of the book – watch this space;
– A Killing in Sevastopol, a thriller I wrote in 2012 about tensions between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea, is a prequel to Blood Summit but stars John Savage, a former SIS agent traumatised by a murder in Moscow who returns to work as a diplomat in Kyiv. Also in the drawer;
– The Skip Outside the Lenin Museum, a thriller set in 1990s Moscow, is a prequel to A Killing in Sevastopol. Yes, it is in the drawer;
– between December 2014 and June 2015 I published on this site the first 25,000 words of one of my favourite novels, Biotime. Set in California, New York, London and Vienna, it is a cult crossover between Cloud Atlas, A Handmaid’s Tale and Brazil. You can read a chunk of it on this site;
– Holiday Period is a prequel to Biotime, set a few hundred years earlier in London. Currently in the drawer;
– my recent novel Istanbul Rising links a powerful, myth-flavoured opening set at the time of the Conquest of Istanbul in 1453 with a modern-day thriller featuring John Savage, introduced in A Killing in Sevastopol. It, too, is awaiting a propitious time for publication.
I also have a back catalogue of other short stories, such as Novy Bor (I’m proud of the photo, by the way).
So that’s it. It’s demanding. It’s a joy. It’s writing.
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