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How to Finish The Damn Thing

"Write 2,000 words a day, go snorkeling, have a few martinis, have some beautiful women over for dinner√¢‚Ǩ¬¶" According to Ian Fleming this was the right way to write a thriller. Right on, Ian. Just thinking about it relaxes me. Recently I found out that Sebastian Faulks, one of my favorite writers, has just completed a James Bond novel for the upcoming Fleming centenary. Towards the end of an NPR interview on his just published novel 'Engelby', Faulks says he followed Fleming's prescription to great success—well, the part about the 2,000 words at any rate. God forbid there would be any snorkeling enjoyed (not to mention any sexist 'beautiful women' appreciation!). 'Real' writing isn't supposed to be like that. It's a sort of Hemmingway-ish 40-hour-week-chain-smokin'-blue-collar-man-job, isn't it? You're supposed to rip your guts out over it. Recently I got talking to a young man at a music festival and he raved to me about the virtue of writing for 8 hours a day no matter what, 'even if what you're doing is boring as.' 'You actually do that?' I asked. 'Orr.. I haven't yet but they say it's the only way to really get somewhere.' I must have heard a hundred versions of this: 'it's what we're meant to do, but I'm not actually doing it because it isn't any fun.' If you're a woman (like me) who believes in the 'no added torture clause' (also me) you find yourself drifting off when people talk about writing in this way. I write because I enjoy it and I always have. I like sitting at home alone (blessedly alone!) listening to loud music and typing. I don't really care what it is I'm working on—a short story, an essay, or some web copy. When I get stuck I get creative, or I work on something else for a while. Not too long ago I had a short story published and decided I'd better get serious about getting down a long piece of fiction I've been thinking about for years. So I took my black marker pen and carefully wrote out a resolution for myself on red paper: "Each day I will write 10 pages and work for 8 hours" and blu-tacked it under my monitor. How did it go? I got uptight, felt like a failure when I couldn't meet my daily target, and started to criticize everything I wrote. Pretty soon I went back to what I usually do. I put The Smiths on the stereo, cranked it up and danced around the room getting into the head of my narrator. Before I knew it I had the first 30 pages and I'm still galloping along in the zone having fun. Am I going to finish the damn thing? Watch this space!

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