Amanda Martin, NaNoCreature and woman behind Writer/Mummy has been kind enough to Guest Post about what it is like to write as a mother with young kids. Thank you Amanda for taking the time to do this, I always love reading about other people’s creative processes and challenges because it inspires me to continue on with my journey.
One of the challenges I face as a mostly-stay-at-home mother is that I simply cannot write everyday. Despite that rightly being the first piece of advice you ever get as a writer.
Write every day, even if it’s only ten minutes.
I know my writing would be better if I did, but I can’t.
I’m not going to make excuses. Yes I could find the time, between the kids going to bed and me crawling up an hour later after cooking and eating my dinner. I could write all the times I check Facebook just for adult interaction or when I sneak off to read for half an hour when the kids are decorating the decking with chalk. I could write instead of watching mind-numbing TV or vacuuming the lounge, but it doesn’t work for me.
Firstly I write rubbish. As I’m not disciplined enough to do writer exercises or pen short stories, I ending up writing rubbish in the middle of my current work in progress. Which would be fine except I’m terrible at editing. When I come across the dead bits, where the flow stops and it reads badly, I can tell it’s awful but I don’t know how to fix it. Once I’ve written a scene down it’s hard to write it any other way. So I have to try and flow first time round.
Secondly if I take ten minutes in my day to write I find it very hard to stop. Then my children get a very grumpy mummy for the rest of the day, or they hear “in a minute!” twenty times before they give up and go scribble on the kitchen table.
So I write for two days a week, Wednesday and Thursday, when the little darlings are at nursery. I drop them off, head for the coffee shop, open my laptop, and start writing. When I’m drafting I can average 5-10,000 words a day for those two days. Provided I have the ideas ready in my head and I know where to start. And that’s when I realise that I do write every day. Because I write in my head.
When I’m in the depths of a first draft, the story lives in my mind all the time. The characters follow me round and I worry about their problems the way I might a friend who has just told me she’s in trouble. I tap out dialogue scenes into my phone when I’m walking the dog. Something about the rhythm of walking generates a nice ebb and flow of dialogue without the distraction of punctuation or page layout. I can tap out a thousand words of predictive text on a forty-five minute walk.
I write short scenes in text messages when I’m sat up with the kids at night. I make notes when I’m lying in bed in the morning waiting for my daughter to thunder down the corridor and launch herself at me. I used to scribble on scraps of paper but I have found it safer to type text messages and load them onto my PC. Saves time and drama when I find the kids have used my scraps for their latest art project.
I’m not a planner, so when I’ve finished a scene or chapter I don’t often know what happens next. I spend my non-writing time challenging the text, working through possible solutions. Closing out loopholes, making sure everything that happens is plausible.
How could she be pregnant, she’s on the pill.
Oh but she had antibiotics.
An ear infection.
As a result of all my non-writing when I sit down to draft the words seem to flow from my subconscious directly onto the page. I have found it harder to write since I put my nursery days together so that it is less disruptive for the children, because I don’t have enough thinking time in between. Thinking, for me, is more important than doing. I read a quote somewhere that a writer is working when he is staring out the window. Absolutely.
Sometimes I find there are too many questions, some that I haven’t had enough sleep to find answers for. With the paranormal Young Adult romance, Dragon Wraiths, that I am currently working on, there were a considerable amount of sci-fi and history questions to solve during the first draft (some of which I still haven’t got straight in my head.) I spent a lot of time walking the dog asking myself questions like:
What actually constitutes Dragon Sight? How does it work? How does Leah learn how to use it? What former skills have helped her learn, to allow her character to grow.
The final thing I have discovered recently, probably to the detriment of my parenting, is that reading helps. I used to see reading as the ultimate luxury, taking me away from the things I should be doing, like writing my blog, drafting or editing. This week I have re-read the entire Keys to the Kingdom series (including spending most of my birthday reading the final two books. Luxury indeed.) I am meant to be editing and the Garth Nix series is more Middle Grade than Young Adult so it isn’t even helping me focus on my WIP.
Except it is.
The main character in the Garth Nix series grows and develops. He faces some extreme challenges and copes. We go on that journey with him, willing him to succeed. I have come to appreciate that my protagonist in Dragon Wraiths doesn’t grow enough. Her journey is too short.
So even while I’m curled up on my daughter’s sofa, basking in sunlight with a steaming cup of tea by my side, buried in Lord Sunday (after waiting four years to read the last book in the Garth Nix series) I am still writing.