Diary of a hopeful author: Why I write with a TV series playing in the background

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Cor blimey moses, things are busy. The good news on the past few weeks is that the outline of my novel (book 1) has now been revised (all 50 odd pages of it), plus the full synopsis’ for books 2 and 3 in the series have been fully written and approved.

So, all that’s left over now is to do a pretty much final draft of the manuscript of book 1 and hey presto! It will be ready for publishers to read. So, you know, not a lot to do. To be honest, it is great. Now that the outline has been picked part by editors then put back together, the difference it is making when it comes to writing the actual manuscript is amazing.

If you are writing a novel my advice is this: do your outline first. Preferably, write it chapter by chapter, scene by scene. What this means is that when it comes to writing, you can just write because all the planning is already done. Sure, you may have to tweak along the way, stare blankly at that winking cursor on the screen, but seriously, it makes all the difference. And it will get you to the finish line faster, and that’s something we all love.

So, while I was writing, I thought of a post I did several months ago. See, my mind is odd. I cannot work in silence. If I do, my thoughts wander and, bizarrely, I get nothing done. At the moment, my background noise of choice is TV series The West Wing on my iPad. A few months ago, it was the TV programme, 24.  Writing & TV – not a bad working environment combo. Here’s the post…

How I write to episodes of 24 (March 2013)

How do you work? Or more’s the point – how do you write? It’s a subject of reasonably fevered discussion here and I’ll tell you why. Nine times out of ten, I can’t write in silence. It’s like time has stood still and my brain has frozen over. The reason I say all this is that the past week has seen me swimming in editing and writing. Sometimes it works out well, other, mah, not so much. But imagine my surprise when I realise that my best bouts of productivity come when I have 24 playing on my iPad in the background! It’s like having your cake and eating it. My friend thinks I’m nuts (don’t say it…) ‘Christ,’ she says, ‘how can you work with all that going on? If anyone so much as sneezes when I’m working at my desk, my mind implodes.’ Best not tell her then about the gun-shooting chase scenes in 24 then…

There is research out there that says that when a brain is multi-tasking, you know, lots of noise, activity, it can lock down on the task its owner needs to do.  Owner. It makes my brain sound like it’s a little puppy. Actually, that’s not a bad analogy…Anyway, of course, even though I am a woman, multi-tasking doesn’t always work out. I do find myself catching a scene of 24, for example, gauping at it then returning to my work and wondering what the hell I was writing about. And then it…Sorry, where was I?

It doesn’t just have to be episodes of 24 for me. In the past few months of writing and editing various projects I have got through: The entire series of My So Called Life (I learnt so much!); Series 1-4 of Prison Break (tattoos as maps – who knew?); over 10 films; 5 BBC documentaries; and one episode of Dennis the Menace (my daughter was off ill…). I’m like the hungry catapillar of box sets. Sometimes, when on the rare occasions TV and film on loop doesn’t boost my brain, I switch to music. We’re talking a bit of classical, jazz mainly. Sometimes only talking will do, so I go to BBC radio 5 or 4. If I’m feeling really with it, I’ll go to radio 1, but, as I am not below 25, this has literally only happened once.

As I shuffle through the rest of this week, I shall be watching 24 on loop. In fact, as I write this at, let’s see, 5.40 a.m., Episode 16 of Season 3 is playing on my iPad. It does make me feel quite sneaky, watching programmes when a) I am working and b) everyone else is still asleep. It’s like sneaking out of class at school without permission and going down the shops. Whether I’ll get a load of work done this week is still to be seen. But hey, at least I’ll know what’s happening to Jack Bauer and his team. Him and Denice the Menace.

So, how do you work or write? Which camp are you on: Is it total silence or a little bit of noise?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

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