10 tips for writing a book with 3 children
Today I’m rather excited to announce the first ever guest post on my blog: from author and mother Anoushka Beazley, who published her debut novel The Good Enough Mother earlier this year. In fact you may have heard Anoushka speak at the Chiswick Book Festival.
Personally I struggle to get my blogging and my third drafting of The Novel done in and around mothering and The Day Job. So I was delighted to read Anoushka’s 10 tips for getting it written, with three kids at your ankles.
Where else will you find writing tips that include hiding the laptop from small hands, and letting children choose the colour of your character’s front door? And she’s written it just for my blog, and for you my lovely readers – how fab is that?
Take it away, Anoushka.
Ten tips for managing to Write a Book with Three Children
1. I tried to write every day.
I didn’t know that was what I had to do in the beginning but it became evident that there were a million things I could be doing, including wanted to be doing during the periods of my writer’s block, and if I allowed myself to wander amidst the hours of my day without a plan, a routine, a fixed time when I sat down at my laptop and wrote, then there would not be a book to talk about today.
I had two kids in full time school aged nine and seven and a toddler who was in truth growing out of her afternoon naps, but on this issue her timing and mine were not on the same page.
I needed her to stay in her cot for her two-hour nap for another six months at least, proving that kids can learn to walk by themselves, in their cot. However, there were times even this was not possible, like if they were ill. So I moved the time and wrote in the evening. Less creative due to typing with my eyes half closed but it was about the commitment, even if all I wrote was just one word.
2. I like cooking but not when I am required, obliged, needed to cook or my children will starve.
This takes the pleasure out of it,as does trying to cook after the school run when I have only one hour to make anything.
My mother can create delectable mouth-watering dinners from an empty cupboard – I am not my mother. So I plan. I roughly work out what I need for five dinners and do an on-line shop. I try and cook first thing in the morning and then it’s done.
Once I no longer have the threat of cooking dinner for five hanging over me I am free to skip with abandon around my house – until I am menacingly threatened – a lone woman – by the laundry basket.
3. There are paper and pens all over the house.
By my bed, in my handbag, the bathroom, the car. Anywhere and everywhere that I might be, because that is when I will have a thought about the book which needs to be put down before I forget.
It could be something I need to rectify, restructure, an epiphany about my character, a realisation about the scene in the bar and how it might be difficult to pull off if the bar blew up in the scene before.
As the book developed I found myself having more and more thoughts come to me. Whilst I was driving, in the shower, sometimes in the middle of the night I would wake up and scribble on scraps of paper, napkins, toilet rolls.
If I ever thought I’d remember it later without needing to write it down, I never did.
4. I have learned the hard way that once I close my laptop I need to move it to heights unreachable by little hands.
I must also move it away from liquids, especially avoiding scenarios where liquids and little hands converge.
5. Save as you go along and every so often send the total manuscript to your email to back up even further.
Put the date on each file as you may need to refer back and chronologically deduce elements of the narrative.
6. Involve the children and let them make small decisions.
It takes discipline to write a book while raising a family and at one point you will have to lock yourself away, a moment which is never fully appreciated.
There is an upside to this. Children get to see their parents doing something they love and it all suddenly takes on a new meaning when the kids get to choose a day of the week, or the colour of a front door.
They feel part of your creative process which is wonderful for their connection to creativity and their connection to their parent the author. And when the book gets published they can proudly say, ‘I wrote that.’ It’s easier to share you if they’re getting something out of it too.
7. Be patient with yourself.
There will be days when you feel like this is the most impossible task, made that much more impossible by having children around.
Having a career and kids is a challenge, no doubt about it. These are the days you need to be kind to yourself and know that you’re doing the best you can, the next day will be different.
I ate a lot of chocolate when I wrote. I eat a lot of chocolate now. My point being, indulge now and then.
8. There were days I could not write.
I was upset, I was tired, I was too busy, I was taking everybody’s temperature including my own.
Days like that even if you can’t write, read the last thing you wrote. Keep a toe dipped into the world you have created. Sometimes a day’s space and reflection can be as valuable as the writing itself and reveals all sorts of things. Shades of the novel not seen before, holes in the novel, character flaws.
Even if the writing doesn’t happen, keep your head in the space.
9. If your life feels more responsible than before, more monotonous than before, more restrictive than before don’t feel this will affect your writing, negatively.
Quite the opposite. This is when the mind is aching to escape and if you provide a channel you may surprise yourself by tapping into something you had no idea was there.
The Good Enough Mother was written during one of the most difficult times of my life. I wrote to have somewhere else to go. I wrote to escape from my life. How funny that it is with this book that I have had the most success and been brought back into the life I sought to escape from.
10. Try the agents and hopefully you’ll get that three book deal with Harper Collins but IF you don’t, don’t give up.
The world of publishing is changing so fast. I self-published and I would do it again. Chances are, if you’ve committed to being a writer then you can write, have something valuable to say and, maybe more importantly, feel more connected to the world when you are writing.
In today’s world the pressure is big on achieving, on owning, on producing. Yet nothing is as anti-climactic as achievement. The very nature of writing allows us an opportunity to enjoy and learn the value of the process, the journey, the struggle, the story. Children understand this gem of universal happiness and are cursed to become adults and forget it.
Watch your children play and write the same way. Enjoy each moment that day for as much fun as pretending in a make believe world can possibly be and don’t think about tomorrow.
Anoushka Beazley’s novel The Good Enough Mother is available now.