Find it at http://timellis.weebly.com/1/post/2013/02/a-life-in-the-dayof-crimewriter-tim-ellis.html
So, how did I get into writing? Well, I look back over my life and see the milestones that lead me here. As a teenager I wrote poetry, and that has continued. I was editor of a magazine called “The Gopher” in my early Army days. I used to play in the regional Scrabble championships, construct crosswords for fun, and read everything that I could lay my hands on. And then, one day about six years ago, after I’d read a book on Caesar by Conn Iggulden, I decided I could do that, so I wrote Warrior: Path of Desitiny. Since then, I’ve written twenty novels – mostly crime.
I sit in the living room in my leather recliner chair. I have got a shed, but I’m not keen on spiders, and there’s no electricity in there. Now that I’m 60 years old, my wife says I can write where I want to – so I do. There’s only the two of us now – the son having finally got a life of his own – about bloody time I often say! So, life doesn’t get in the way of what I want to do much anymore. I started writing a while back when I was still teaching. The more I wrote, the less I wanted to teach. Then, four yeas ago I had a heart attack and survived. It was a good excuse to retire – so I did. I suppose I’m a writer now, and I don’t think there’s a retirement age for writers – they just get recycled through charity shops (Ha, ha! There wasn’t a joke for ‘old writers never die . . .’, so I just made that up). Maybe I should start writing humour! Hecklers can kiss my ballpoint pen!
It’s just 7am, and I’ve been doing a lot of administrative tasks since 5am relating to my latest police procedural bestseller The Terror at Grisly Park (Quigg 5), which I published on Monday. Yeah, being a writer means doing loads of rubbish that isn’t actually writing, which is probably a good job because otherwise my brain would turn to mush if I tried to write all day. So, I like to intersperse my writing with frequent trips to the kitchen to make drinks/snacks/chocolate, the odd tweet/retweet, reading the news/sports on Yahoo, and so on.
My days are mostly the same because I don’t want to do anything much except write. At about 8:45am I go for my shower, and then take the dogs for their first walk. Gives me a chance to think through what I’m writing and what I’m going to write next. I have a target word-count of 1,000-words a day, but again I don’t subject myself to self-flagellation if I don’t make it. Most days I achieve a lot more, but I work on a larger target of 10,000-words a week, 40,000-words a month, and a finished 80,000-word book in two months, which is what I’ve been achieving for a while now. Being old, wrinkly, crotchety and forgetful has its advantages.
After I’ve walked the dog I generally get back to writing for a couple of hours. At midday I have my lunch and watch something I’ve recorded on Sky+ for an hour, and then I have a siesta for an hour or two. I get up again and start writing. At around 3pm I take the dogs for their second walk, and then write some more. At 5.15pm I put my laptop down and watch Pointless (big fan Alexander and Richard), watch the news and then do a bit more work until about 8pm and then I call it a day and watch some TV. Most of my writing gets done between 5 – 8am when there are no distractions.
1. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue (Elmore Leonard). Although sometimes I break this rule, but not much. I try to use actions, body language, or speech indiosyncracies to indicate who’s speaking,
2. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” (Elmore Leonard). I very rarely use adverbs (or “ly” words). Adverbs are telling – I prefer to show through actions and body language.
3. I don’t use “suddenly”.
4. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters (Elmore Leonard). I’m a bit in the middle with this one. I do give some description, but not too much.
5. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip (Elmore Leonard). Yes, I’m one of the readers that skip, and I keep this in mind while I’m writing.
6. Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue (Helen Dunmore). Yes, I tend to do this. I go to bed, and between the light and the dark, my characters show me where they’re going and what they’re going to be doing next.
7. A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk Helen Dunmore). While I’m walking the dogs, problems often get solved. If your instinct is saying it doesn’t work, your instinct is probably right – change it. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you it doesn’t work.
8. Don’t wait for inspiration. Discipline is the key. I agree. Get up, get writing. Do it every day – rain or shine. No excuses – just do it.
9. Use layering. When I re-read that one time I think about: The five senses, the descriptions, the dialogue, the emotions and feelings, body language, conflict, actions, the pace, active/passive, and long/short sentences.
10. Also, I keep it simple, I make sure there’s lots of “white space” i.e. I use a lot of dialogue. I like reading dialogue. I tend to skip over chunks of description when I’m reading.
Some of the rules I break with wild abandon:
1, Keep your exclamation marks under control (Elmore Leonard). No, I tend to use a few more than 3 per 100,000-words!
2. Read it out loud. I can already hear it in my head, so I tend not to read my work out loud. Although the wife has caught me muttering to myself on occasion.
3. Cut. What I write is usually the finished product. There’s nothing to cut generally because my writing is minimilastic anyway. I re-read what I’ve written, make some minor changes, etc., send it off to the proofreader. Make some more minor changes.
4. Avoid using a thesaurus. I use the online version whenever I lose a word, or I need a definition. My memory isn’t what it was, and Statins make it worse, so I break this rule when I need to.
5. Cut out the metaphors and similes (Esther Freud). No, I break this rule regularly. Metaphors and similies are like old friends.
Well, I think that’s about it. A life in the day of Tim Ellis.