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 a third 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 congratulations 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.
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.