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Behind-The-Books Blog

My Writing Routine – a guest post by Beryl Matthews

Monday, November 11th, 2019

November can be a busy time as we find ourselves hurtling towards Christmas, but even more so for aspiring writers who may have set themselves a #nanowrimo writing challenge. We’re delighted to have author Beryl Matthews on the blog today to share the process that works for her. Beryl’s latest novel Friends and Enemies is now out on paperback and a brand-new story, From This Day Forward, will be out in April.

If you ask any author how they go about writing a book you would probably get many answers. Everyone finds a routine that works for them, and there are two qualities I have found necessary to stick to the task right to the end of the book – self-discipline and perseverance.

My routine might seem strange, but it works for me. I write by hand first. I prop myself up on the bed with a pad on my knees and a pencil with a rubber on the end in my hand. Then I put on noise-cancelling headphones and have gentle classical music playing quietly in the background. It has to be music without words because that can be distracting and I find piano music particularly good for the concentration. I am now cut off from everything like telephone or any other kind of disturbance and I am ready to work.

Handwritten pages of Beryl’s novel The Uncertain Years.

I usually start with a time period and one or two characters and then I just write, allowing the characters personalities to develop. At that point I don’t know where the story is going because I never plan or make an outline before I start. I try to let my characters live their lives and just write what comes into my mind. Each time I sit down to write I set myself a target of 1,000 words – sometimes it is more and sometimes less if I need what I call thinking time. Every morning I put what I have written the day before on to the computer, and it is then I will often make changes by adding or deleting pieces. When each chapter is typed I print it and then go through it making any small changes necessary. I work through the entire book in that way, and when it is finished I check through the completed book once or twice. Only then do I write a synopsis and send it off.

After parting with the characters I have lived with for around a year I wander around for several days feeling quite bereft. Then an idea forms, I reach for my headphones, pick up pad and pencil and I’m off again.


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