We’re delighted to welcome John J. Archer, author of Like a Suicide. John joins us today to share his thoughts so far on the writing process. Over to you, John.
On My Writing Process
Quick Background on How I Got Here
When I was eight years old, I remember being asked by an Uncle of mine what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer was simple and succinct. “A writer” I replied, without the slightest hint of hesitation. Looking back I wonder what made me so confident at the time.
I also often ponder what made me lose that dream for years (between the ages of ten and twenty I wrote nothing and chose to take a more ‘realistic’ career path, in Law no less.
When I dropped out of Law school a full year and a half in, it was the best decision I ever made in my life. Not that it seemed like that at the time. I think I was the first person in our family to ‘drop’ out of college. (Not sure if it’s true but I’ll take my families word for it.) The next couple of years were a grind as I worked in construction, restaurants and finally in a supermarket store. The one thing that made it worthwhile was that I was not doing something I had passion for and really enjoyed. I could never say that while studying law. I can now honestly say I love my life and love what I do, even if the pay from writing requires that I keep a part-time job.
The Writing Process
Writing is a lonely profession. This is not a bad thing if you enjoy writing but the one thing you must have if you want to write a book, is the joy of writing in itself.
I think most people can tell when they read a book that lacks passion and conviction from the author.
The hardest part of writing for me is starting. This may sound weird to a few of you but the process of blocking out everything else including noise, your other problems and people trying to contact you is like no other process I can think of.
On the other hand, I personally find it hard to stop writing once I get going. Many a night I would spend eight to ten hours working from 10PM till 6-7AM writing continuously. Those tended to be on nights when I didn’t have to go to work though. I never felt the quality of my writing suffered and was in fact worried that I might lose whatever creativity was flowing on that particular night.
When I was writing “Like A Suicide” (a psychological thriller following a serial killer called Wraith) I found that I struggled to write a word whenever there was noise. I did most of my writing between 10PM and 2AM in the morning, a time period when most of the noise in my neighbourhood is gone.
I wonder if the reason for this is because I was trying to write a story from a character’s perspective that took a lot of thoughtful imagination on my end.
I have found that when I am writing stories that I can relate to like some of my short stories I can write at almost any time of the day and with classical or soul music in my ear, something the great Stephen King apparently does, with heavy metal music though. I guess something about “Like A Suicide” meant that I needed to write it being fully present. It may have been the length (80,000+ words) and making it coherent or maybe it was just the fact that I was not so confident in my ability to write about a serial killer (thankfully I have not had any serial killer experiences, unless the watching crime documentary works).
I guess what a writer could pick up from my experiences so far is to understand that the writing process, while enjoyable for most writers can and will be frustrating from time to time. You may need to try different ‘muses’ and find what works best for you.
To make things easier I will list a few things to try and see if your writing creativity and productivity goes up;
- Try writing at different points in the day. If you work a full time job, try writing after you rest at night or sleep earlier and wake up earlier so you give yourself at least one hour to write before work.
- Try listening to music. I find classical and soul music are best for me while Stephen King listens to heavy metal rock so you will have to find your own muse. For some without music is the best option.
- Try some different stuff. I am not superstitious but the great Kipling used to write facing the North Pole. I think he said it had something to do with magnetic energy which helped improve creativity.
- Try writing 200, 500, 1000 or 2000 words a day. Some people lose creativity after writing a certain amount of words. Notice if you have a dip and either rest and come back or end your writing for the day
All writers are different so I would never suggest another person do something similar to me, but hey, you never know what little thing from my experiences you might pick up that might help your writing or just your understanding of what writers go through.