THIS WEEK'S AUTHOR PROFILE - Conrad Williams
Before I was married, and when I lived in London, I followed a strict regime. I knew that I was a morning person when it came to writing (although I have been known to put in some midnight hours in the past). I also knew that if I didn’t get something written in the morning, I’d blunt my brain on the work I did in the office, which consisted of a different kind of writing. I was a freelance journalist, and for a while I was writing TV reviews for Time Out (I stand by my panning of Friends, by the way – I’m proud to say I’ve never managed to sit through an entire episode) and press information for Channel 4. Some might say that’s a conflict of interests right there, and you’d be right. It was odd, putting together the billings and additional information for a C4 programme I might then kick in the teeth at Time Out the following week. Nobody seemed to mind, though. But I digress . . .
As much as I enjoyed my day job, I resented giving the best hours of the day to it, so I resolved to get up early and work on my own stuff for a couple of hours before getting the Tube into the centre of town. I wrote London Revenant like this, and the unproduced screenplay of Head Injuries that I worked on for Revolution Films. These days, if I get up early, it’s no earlier than my youngest son. Luckily, I have a splendid wife who grants me three writing days a week. I’ll try to get started by 9 am, but can’t do anything unless I’ve had a cup of coffee first. I always wash my hands before sitting down to write (make of that what you will). I knock off at 5pm and take over child-minding duties.
I write directly into an application on my MacBook called Scrivener. It’s an application that allows you to capture notes (text, websites, photographs, etc.) as well as offering powerful organizational and editing tools, all in one, so you can have your research and the text of your novel together in an accessible format. I’ll try to get, at the very least, 500 words done, but more often will aim for 1000. On a good day I can hit 4K. If the house is full, I’ll listen to music—usually soundtracks, or dark ambient—on my headphones, and I’ll utilise an application called Freedom, which takes away the temptation of the internet for as many hours as you need. I write without editing, and keep on for however many months until I finish a first draft. Then I'll go back and start to fix problems. Although this might mean more work in the long-run, I think it's better to get the book out of the way, to have that fat chunk of paper stacked up, the essential story told, rather than get bogged down honing pages and a sense that the end is vanishing off into the far future. It's a nice feeling to know you've got a novel finished, and that no matter how knotty and gnarly the rewrites might be, what you need is all there, waiting to be found.
At the moment I’ve got two novels on the go. One of them is a modern ghost story set in France and the other is a big, torrid horror novel (hopefully the first in a series) aimed at young adults. They are sufficiently different from each other in order for this not to be a problem. I’m writing the horror novel longhand, which also helps to distance them, and I’m indulging in the fetishes of fountain pens and Moleskine notebooks while I’m at it. There’s something enormously satisfying about the flow of ink on paper, and there’s the sense of real connectivity, an active link between the mind and the words, that I’d forgotten about ever since I was seduced by Apple. It's a big leap from my days living in a Morecambe B&B, tapping out Head Injuries on a cheap PC with a ten-inch screen (the sales assistant at Morgans in Piccadilly joked: 'you get a free pair of binoculars with that').
Next year I’m hoping to write a follow up to my crime novel Blonde on a Stick and the first in a possible sequence of novels set in the Howling Mile universe that PS introduced through my novellas Nearly People and The Scalding Rooms. I think it’s time to go large with that place . . .
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