HOW I WRITE: James Abbott, author of The Never King

The publication of The Never King is finally here - it's out in paperback and digital tomorrow! We asked the author to give us an insight into how he writes. 

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I do it all differently these days to when I was younger. A decade ago there were more luxuries. A favourite chair of an evening, with nothing before me but a few hours, a warm mug of drink and some nice music in the background. Or perhaps the back of a cafe on a quiet Saturday morning before mooching around town. I’ve come to realise now that such things are the ways of a pampered writer. Distractions such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook were not then in full flow, and shoddy wireless connections meant you could just about back-up a document rather than get lost down some digital rabbit hole for hours.

Now I have a young baby in the house, nappies to change, two attention-seeking cats to feed; I do about a million different jobs, write non-fiction too, wear several different writing hats, post on various social channels, try to stay fit, try to eat well and… The list goes on. Suffice to say I find writing significantly more difficult a task these days than I did a decade ago.

Time is still the most crucial factor, even though I used to have more of it. I very much have to change the hours that I write, to find little slithers in which I can devote to novel writing. There are some consistencies in my current routine and rituals: a laptop (I have always used an Apple laptop of some sort); headphones (though I use Bose bluetooth cans these days rather than cheap tinny things with wires traipsing everywhere); a mug of tea and a sofa. That’s just about it. That’s the ritual. I have no time for luxuries now, not even for searching for the right album to suit my mood, as that would be another ten minutes of writing time lost. There is no point in waiting for a calm space to find you: you have to force yourself into a stillness inside whatever modern day storm. 

Perhaps there are one or two things now that help me along: I listen to video game soundtracks - YouTube has plenty - to get me in the zone. Sometimes I’ll look at websites such as Concept Art World to help offer some inspiration. If anything, these are just gentle reminders, nudges, meditations. They’re mostly to disconnect my mind from reality and have formed not so much with a purpose, but have evolved out of habit, so much so that I can no longer remember the logic behind them. I suppose they serve a purpose. When it comes to a final draft, I may read a page or two from a writer at the top of their literary game beforehand, to give me something to strive for, but I’ll seldom do this in the first draft, construction stage. 

Is there anything to be learned from another writer’s ritual? Perhaps; perhaps not. We tend to scrutinise things like this to see if they’ll help get something written - they won’t. The only important thing out of all of this is simply to make time and be stubborn about getting to the end of a draft. Nothing else really matters.  

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Check out last week's blog post for more info about The Never King