We are delighted to welcome Tom Lloyd back to the Gollancz Blog. Tom’s stunning new epic fantasy, Stranger of Tempest is out in bookshops and online today. We caught up with Tom and asked him to share some of the secrets behind his writing process.
For my birthday I was given a book called How I write: the Secret Lives of Authors – which, given the wide brief they had, was by turns fascinating, clever, funny, sad, pretentious and irritating. But as I come out the back of writing my tenth book and Stormcaller passes ten years in print, it got me thinking about how I do it. More importantly how I’m trying to ensure I keep doing it.
[It’s worth pointing out here that I’m not a full-time writer, but the majority of my week is spent working from home, whatever it is I’m actually working on.]
I’ve been lucky in my career, I’ve done some things well, some… less well. But what I’ve also had to do is be aware of how to ensure I keep writing. My whole approach has been constructed over the years and has remained pretty unchanged for the last four. Stranger of Tempest may well be my best book, early reviews look good, and I know this stable routine is a factor. Part of that involves compromises about money and lifestyle, but we’ve chosen the life we want to lead and made it work.
Writing is my job. Yes I enjoy it, yes I’d do it in a reduced form if I wasn’t paid for it, but I am. It’s a fun job, it’s a rewarding one, but it’s a job. That means some days you’re not keen on going to work, it just proves dull and exhausting instead. But get the fuck to work all the same, because it’s your job. You don’t always have to like your job. I don’t always enjoy writing, but I push on through and focus on the days that I love it.
The physical setup is important – height of monitor, ergonomic keyboard, solid proper desk rather than dining table. The times I write are important – some before lunch once life stuff is dealt with, then a full unbroken afternoon. Just like footballers train at match times, my brain is geared towards working on an established schedule and my body needs to not be hurting while I do just that. Focus is key and if that means artificially imposed rules, so be it.
The times I don’t write are just as important however – outside of the hours of writing I need to keep on schedule, I very rarely work and the boundaries are clear and enforced. I have a family and I have a brain that needs a lot of down-time to keep functioning properly. The rest of life is important all by itself, as well as being key to the writing. This is a job where your brain never stops chewing over details so space is all the more vital when everything is connected.
What I do before and after each day of work is a crucial aspect of this – it’s when I walk the dog. Again, it’s routine, but mostly it’s exercise. We got her as a family pet but she’s my responsibility. She gets walked every day whether or not she wants it, whether or not I want it. Ripley is a part of our family, but we bought her to also be fifteen kilos of mental health. I could avoid going to the gym, I can’t shirk this responsibility and it’s another way to maintain the balance, to aim for another ten years.
I can’t control whether I’ll still be published in ten years, but I can ensure the conditions continue to allow for the possibility. I’m not the finest writer out there – I’m not the fastest, the most inventive, or frankly anything else. But I do intend to be one earning a living, not crippled by back pain, divorced, clinically depressed, obese or a creepy recluse. If this is the career you want, bear in mind what that actually requires and what success would look like to you. For some of us, just being normal requires effort – just imagine how hard successful might be. Your brain is the muscle you use in this job, train it right, treat it right – give yourself the best possible chance.
Stranger of Tempest is out now in hardback, eBook and audio download. Enter to win a copy of Stranger of Tempest by filling in the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck.
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