I’m always fascinated by other writers’ creative processes, whether they are early birds or night owls, whether they write every day (some don’t) and the kind of word count they expect at the end of a day’s work. I suppose because writing is such a solitary occupation it’s interesting to see how other people approach it.
I have the four volumes of The Paris Review Interviews and regularly dip into them for inspiration, but I’m always on the lookout for similar resources. Over the last couple of months The Guardian has been publishing a series in the Saturday Review entitled ‘My Writing Day’, and Rose Tremain, William Boyd, Ian Rankin, Hilary Mantel and Anne Enright are some of the writers featured thus far.
Anne Enright’s day starts at 9am, finishes at 11pm and is filled with the kind of faffing that every writer is familiar with. ‘I never manage to write fiction in the morning. This is why I think mornings are wasted, and panic every afternoon.’
Hilary Mantel describes a long day filled with intense concentration, focussed work and a huge output. On a good day she can produce ‘thousands of words across half a dozen projects – and perhaps new projects.’
Ian Rankin was working on a new book when he was interviewed, and he had written the first draft in twenty-seven days. My heart sank when I read this (my first draft took me a year!) but thankfully he says, ‘It’s rough – really just me checking the plot works. The second draft sees me polish the prose, fix faults in chronology and geography, and add meat to the bones of my characters.’
It’s an interesting series for anyone interested in how the writing process works. I have also done some writer interviews on The Multiverse and you can take a look at how Peter Murphy, Kevin Barry and Declan Burke approach their writing day.