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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why Don’t I Update My Blog More Often? Well, I’m Going To.

The function of this blog up until now has been as a news platform, to promote upcoming publications, book tours etc and I will still use it for that, but I've now decided to start using it also as a very personal reading diary.

This was inspired by a fascinating book I read last year by Stephen King, called On Writing, which is about – funnily enough – the process of writing.

Although I've enjoyed all the films I’ve seen of his books (I think 'The Shining' is the best horror film ever made), his novels are not in a genre that interests me, but after a fellow novelist told me about this one, I thought it would be interesting to see how one of the biggest-selling authors of all time approaches his craft. Might pick up some tips...

The book changed my life. Seriously.

I had been getting quite low sitting on my own in a room from 9 to 5, five days a week, which was how I was writing my books. I felt guilty if I didn’t give it all my possible working time. Then I felt guilty for not enjoying what I do, when I know I’m so very lucky to make a living as a writer. Ooh, lots of lovely guilt – great for the creative process. Not.

But then I read about Stephen King’s rationale: his writing day is finished as soon as he has chalked up 2,000 words. Revelation! Sometimes he’s done by 11am, other days he’s at his desk until tea time, but once he hits the magic number he’s free.

He then went on to relate how other writers approached it. Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope – who had a full-time job running the Royal Mail, but also managed to pop out an astonishing 47 novels – wrote for a precise amount of time each morning. If he finished a novel with five minutes left to go, he would start another one. If he was three sentences from the end of one, it had to wait until the next day.

Another thing that fascinated me in King’s book was a list of all the books he had read in the previous year. It was a very long list, because that’s what he does when he’s finished his daily word count. He reads.

My reading has come down to a few minutes each evening before I drop asleep, so it takes me ages these days to read an average-sized book, and I was doing it passively, not fully engaged.

I used to rip through several novels in a week, reading while I was wide awake with synapses in full snap and Stephen King made me realise that to continue developing as a writer, I need to get back to being an active reader.

Add to that a growing awareness of the ever diminishing finite number of books left that I will be able to read in my lifetime, and I knew I had to take affirmative action

So my plan for this year, is to stop work when I’ve written 2,500 words, to read more, and to keep a list of what I read. And that list will be in the form of posts on here.


  1. Hi Maggie - welcome back! I've been meaning to put that Stephen King book on my reading list too. He's a pretty amazing man who's obviously got life pretty figured out.

    Good luck with it!

  2. Number of words vs. hours spent. That makes a great deal of sense to me. Once you get those words done, then you stop feeling guilty about it. Why is guilt so easy to load upon one's own shoulders?

    Making time for yourself to read is really important.

    Your Good Weekend column is the very first thing I turn to in the whole of Saturday's paper. Thankyou.

  3. I am so glad , you are back. I love your column and read it religiously- its the reason I buy the paper.
    i wonder if ther eis a book like the writing one about sewing...hmmmm...........

  4. Would the newspapers allow you to reproduce your columns here after a suitable time has elapsed since publication? I'm not prepared to buy a paper just to read your columns, much as I'd like to: the greeny in me says it's a waste of resources to chuck out the rest of the paper(unfortunately...)

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  6. Your column is one of the primary reasons that I even bother with the weekend Age since the new-news is always 'fresher' online. Glad to have discovered you here via a circuitous route of social networking leading to your website leading to this blog.

  7. Gosh, thanks for all your lovely and interesting comments.

    Will be posting first blog of book diary shortly.

    Maggie xxx

  8. I think this is a fabulous idea and I will be staying tuned. I also appreciate the review of "On Writing". I've heard many positive comments but yours has convinced me to read it.

  9. Love your books and your column. My Mum and I have been searching for one that you wrote a couple of years back about which month the seasonal clothing went on sale and when the best time was to buy clothes. We've searched high and low.... any chance you could help us out?

  10. Hi Maggie! I loved "On Writing" - really inspiring, as well as an interesting glimpse into King's younger years.

    Your post reminded me of an odd place I recently found to write:

    I usually need to be "in the zone" to write. As it turns out, it seems I've got a few different zones.

    Recently I had a lot of trouble putting my two year old son down to bed (he discovered he can open bedroom doors and ransack rooms instead of sleeping), and I was exhausted and just needed some time to myself. I went for a drive to a nearby beach. I parked the car in the darkness, and as a light rain fell I pumped out a short story on my laptop. It just all flowed.

    Granted, it was about a father who's son kept crying, keeping him from writing, and so it was quite close to home. I'd even go as far as saying it was self-therapy, but it certainly worked!

    It's amazing what you can do when you don't think you're in the right head space!

    Facinating blog, by the way - you've got yourself a new fan!

  11. haha thanks Maggie!!!

    Having one of those un-creative "i should be working" days right now.

    I literally spent half an hour deciding what to wear to buy milk.

    Have now set word count for myself and will power through - then new efficient self will hopefully spread to all aspects of life!

  12. Dear Maggie,
    I hope you don't mind but I have mentioned the fact that you are back blogging on my blog. It's a baby blog and only 1 and a half months old. I am thinking of adding you to my blog roll too, but only if this is ok with you. Cheers x

  13. Hello Maggie!
    Great to see you're blogging :)
    now I can read more than 140 characters of your thoughts!
    Your tweet pal + Good Weekend devotee, Carly

  14. loved this book too - read part of it in Hawaii in 2008 and literally just finished the end this Jan (2010) - very inspiring for writer types. And all the reading he says we 'must' do! Loved it.

  15. That Stephen King book is fabulous, isn't it? Okay, off to write 2,000 words now. Have you done yours yet?? Janexx

  16. read your recent writings on mature women and catalogue purchases and felt obliged to refer you to "Warning" by Jenny Joseph. See below
    When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
    with a red had which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
    And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
    And satin sandals, and say we've no money for buter.
    I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells And run my stick along the public railings And make up for the sobriety of my youth. I shall go out in my slippers in the rain And pick the flowers in other people's gardens. And learn to spit.
    Regards- Enjoy your column
    Fran Rowe