I begin this post by planting my tongue firmly in my cheek. I would love to say that I’ve unlocked the secret, that I’ve discovered the Holy Grail of writing, that I’ve figured it out! In truth, I have discovered a kind of secret sauce for myself. Other writers may benefit from my ‘process’, so if anything I say resonates, have it – it’s yours.
Reflect on book one
I wrote book one, You Might Meet Someone, for several reasons:
- My agent told me that the book I was writing at the time was my 5th book, not my 1st. “You’re not Liana Moriarty,” he said. “Yet,” he added. He then challenged me to write a simple, linear narrative. Which I did.
- It was a love letter to my partner, Ben. We met in Greece and I borrowed (rather heavily) from our story for the book – the first half anyway. When I introduced a love triangle I was well into the realm of fiction.
- It was a love letter to Greece. Greece is a place where you go to fall back in love with yourself – and with being alive. It challenges you to participate in your own life. If you haven’t been, go.
- I had some demons to exorcise. I was single for half my twenties and most of my thirties. And by ‘single’ I mean I dated awful men who I changed or hid myself to be with. I wanted to write about a woman who calls an end to that, who won’t compromise herself again to be with someone.
I wrote book one on weekends and on evenings after working at a full-time job where I spent the bulk of my time writing. It was often hard to come home (usually post gym or errands) and sit down and write for myself. I did it, but it took a couple of years.
For the sequel, I have time. We’re on a year-long sabbatical, and I am doing a good job of balancing contract work, being a Bali local, keeping fit, exploring, and reading (writers must always read), with writing.
I started writing in February while we were still in Australia and I hit 10,000 words. I was reasonably happy with that progress, but my goal in Bali was to up the pace. After 7 weeks here (with 1 to go) I have written an additional 55,000 words, so I’m about two-thirds of the way through. I’m pleased with that progress.
Celebrate the milestones
Each writer gets to decide what each milestone is. I celebrate when I get through an emotional part (if writing leaves me sobbing or laughing out loud – milestone!), or I finish a chapter. I recently finished part 2 (of 3) and was thrilled with myself. Celebrating, by the way, includes sharing with my followers and readers, pedicures, cocktails, massages, and congratulatory hugs from Ben.
The secret sauce
With book one, I had to knuckle down. I had to carve out time, and often had to force myself to sit down and write or edit or proofread. I had to self-impose deadlines and get others to hold me to account.
Being in Bali, with the luxury of time, the portability of a laptop, and being inspired by my surroundings, I am having a absolute ball writing this book. And I’m working faster, which means there is continuity in the writing – the style, the voice, the narrative, character development. I had to work laboriously at that in the editing process of book one, because I wrote it over such a long period of time. This all means that I’m writing a far better first draft than book one, and that means the editing process will be faster and easier.
Most importantly, though, I let the story come to me. This is the hardest part to explain. I don’t start with an outline, and I have no idea how many chapters it will take to tell this story. I don’t even know how it will end. The story – the characters, the setting, the dialogue – lives in my head and I write it as it happens. Sometimes my characters surprise me – I love it when they do that – so I often feel like a conduit for something bigger than me.
And when I get stuck, or I don’t know what will come, I step away – sometimes for a few hours, sometimes it’s days, and when I am doing something else – running, cooking, dodging scooters on the road – it comes. And I know where to go and I sit and I write it.
I’m so grateful that we’ve made this decision to pack up our lives, sell up our stuff, leave our jobs and to live around the world. It is my special not-so-secret-anymore sauce.