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The Book Fest Bore

posted 24 Oct 2016, 14:03 by Fran Brady

Do you have a writing routine?

Yes, indeed.

I get up every morning at 7.00 am. By 8.30, showered, exercised and breakfasted. I am at my desk. It is bare except for my computer in which I have filed a clear summation of yesterday’s writing and a plan for today’s tasks and targets. The first two hours will be spent on research. I have apportioned myself six websites to scrutinise today, relevant chunks to be copied and fielded into my research files and fresh links to new sites to be noted for future exploration. I file these in my research folder, under the file ‘future leads’. As I finish with each website, I cut the link address from ‘future leads’ and paste it into ‘completed leads’.

At 10.30, I stop. If I am mid-website when the time comes, I leave this site in future leads but add an asterisk to the address. I will begin with this site tomorrow morning, removing the asterisk before I paste the address into my browser.

Fifteen minutes are allocated for a comfort break and coffee.

At 10.45, I open the summation of yesterday’s writing and I read the last three pages I wrote. I feel my brain clicking out of analytical and into creative mode. I read the plan I drew up for today’s chapter: its purpose and its pace; its characters and dialogues; its events and timeframes. 

At 11.00, I open a new document, click on the caps lock and type ‘Chapter Twenty-two’. The world goes away; the clock ceases ticking; the post clatters through the letter-box unheeded; Dog pads in and out of the room unnoticed. Occasionally, I hold my breath, shake my head, purse my lips, wrinkle my brow and tut under my breath. There is always one character that refuses to stay within his/her boundaries, wreaking havoc into pre-planned dialogue and behaving in an erratic unscripted fashion. My editor tells me it is such characters that endear my novels to the reading public but I find them exhausting and intensely irritating. I have to keep rewriting my prescriptive character study and my detailed plot plan.

At 1.00 pm, I stop writing, save my work and put the computer to sleep. I whistle up Dog, don appropriate outdoor gear and take my half-hour constitutional along the towpath. I switch my writing brain off, I throw sticks into the canal for Dog, I chat to fellow dog-walkers, I buy my daily paper and I return home hungry. I feed Dog and I heat up soup and slice bread for myself. I allow myself ten minutes rest in an armchair with eyes closed and mind freewheeling. I may even sleep for a few minutes.

At 2.00 pm, I return to Chapter Twenty-two. The morning’s work is re-read and amended, nothing major, just some tinkering. By 2.30, I have re-immersed and re-engaged my descriptive, creative gear. Once again, the world goes away. Twenty-two cruises to a halt at 4.00. I re-read the entire chapter, tidy it up and write a full summary of it, which I store in my synopses folder, under ‘full by chapters’. I prepare tomorrow’s work schedule: the websites I will research; the pace and plot of tomorrow’s chapter.

4.30 is the time of my favourite part of the day: afternoon tea and scones. I take it in the conservatory, watching the birds and squirrels.

I return to my desk at 5.30 and spend the next two hours engaging with the world: I respond to correspondence, both actual and electronic. I sustain my social media persona with a few pithy posts and witty tweets. I send empathetic emails to family and friends. I make excuses for not attending events and gatherings. I read a few interesting news items. I smile at a few jokes. I flinch some horrific happenings.

At 7.30, I disengage from the world. I make a gin and tonic and sip it whilst the microwave radiates heat into my ready-meal dinner. I pick up the prizewinning novel I am currently wading through and take it and the meal into my sitting-room. I eat and read for an hour. At 10 pm I stop reading and listen to Classic FM for an hour while I sip hot chocolate, laced with a slug of brandy.

At 11 pm, I go to bed and sleep for eight hours.

In this way, I write seven chapters a week and complete a full length novel every six months. My list now stands at thirty-five published novels, all of them bestsellers.


The interviewer glances nervously at her watch. Book Festival events have to stick tightly to time schedules. One hour, not a minute more. The queue for the next event is already snaking round the grass quadrangle of Charlotte Square.

This famous, successful novelist has always refused Festival invitations but his year, he has given into pressure from his agent to do this one gig. She had expected him to be shy, slow to get going, short on answers, long on silences. In fact, he is like a robot whose on button, each time it is activated by a question, produces a programmed response that cannot be interrupted. A very long and very boring response which is joining with the stuffy heat of the tent and the pre-lunch torpor of the audience to create a soupy, stagnant, suffocating weight. Restless coughs and shuffles are giving way to deep sighs and low-key snores. There won’t be time for audience questions – but she doesn’t think they will mind.