Thursday, 29 December 2016

How to Secretly Work on Your Novel During Your Day Job

For writers, nothing is worse than leaving your laptop to go to your day job—you know, the place where you actually get paid.

But don't let resentment cloud your ambitions. There's a way to keep the creative juices flowing even when away from your computer. Here are a few ways to secretly work on your novel while at your day job.

1. A two hour meeting in the board room?

Excellent! Take a few pens and keep your notepad on your lap, just under the table and out of sight. Throughout the meeting, glance up from your writing and make eye contact with the speaker, nod, and then write for the next five minutes. Keep repeating this process until the meeting is over. At the end of the session everyone else is weary and yawning, but you my friend have a spring in your step because you totally nailed the word count for that chapter.

"And then...and then...and then..."
photo credit,
2. A co-worker talks non-stop?

Embrace her enthusiasm! The office gossip is worth her weight in gold. Listen to REALLY listen. Memorize all her turns of phrase and quirky slang. Notice the gestures she uses when telling something especially juicy compared to how she greets the boss. BAM!! You just met your MC's neighbour/sister-in-law/horrible blind date. This gum snapping, pen clicking, bucket mouth is going to give your book loads of color.

3. An annoying co-worker?

Bonus! Make a list of his most annoying traits. Does he say, “TGIF” EVERY Friday? Does he ALWAYS hit the elevator button even though it's already lit up? Does he call you by a nickname that makes no sense? BINGO! Take this stuff and give it to your antagonist's sidekick.

4. Is your plot stuck at a crossroads, unsure which way to go?

No worries! The answer is close at hand. Go to the guy no one talks to. You know who I mean, the quiet guy who smells like cabbage and still lives with his parents. He's the guy you know has weird stuff hidden under his bed. Seek him out and tell him your characters' problem, but pretend they're real people. Don't even ask for advice, just wait and listen. It's the still waters that run deep. WHAM! He might give you the freaky twist no one saw coming.

5. Are you a stay at home parent?

Lucky dog! Kids are hilarious because their imaginations are untethered by logic. Listen not for the slang, but for the reasoning. Case in point, here's a conversation between my eight year old son and his friend sitting in our backyard as they chewed bubblegum.

“Okay,” my son's friend started. “You're in a boat and you're surrounded by sharks...what do you do?”

Chewing noise then, “Hit it with the oar.”

“There's no oars.”

“Take off the engine and hit it—“

“—there's no engine.”

A bubble pops followed by a long pause. “I'd let him close enough to bite me, then I'd punch him in the eye like a thousand times.”

Me? I would have stayed in the boat. But how boring is that? I never would have made a character dive in and start a fist fight with a shark—I will now though.

See? There's inspiration everywhere, you just have to be open to the opportunities. As one of my co-workers said, “You can never quit working here, the material is endless. There's so much sh** happening each shift, it's like a new chapter every day.

Yup, I couldn't agree more.

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