Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 16 January 2013

There’s organised... and then there’s ORGANISED!

I have to be fairly organised. There are lots of good reasons why this is important. Some of those reasons are to do with the fact that I have to be self-motivated. I don’t clock in. I don’t work to anyone else’s timetable. No one knows or cares whether I’m working or not, but if I don’t work I don’t get paid, so I have to put in the hours.

The husband works a lot and we live in our house twenty-four/seven so we also make more mess indoors than most people who go out to work make, so, in theory, there’s more housework to do too. To be fair, the housework will still be there when I get around to doing it, and we’re pretty clean, tidy, do-it-as-you-go-along sort of people, and it’s all a lot simpler since the kids left home; nevertheless, it does all have to be organised. 

There are layers, though. For example, I box my shoes, and that includes shoes that are, I don’t know, ten+ years old, and I iron just about everything, except socks. I always put the lid down on the loo and I always close the internal doors on the ground floor, except for Dan’s office if he’s in there and he’s left it open, and the drawing room if it’s occupied. On the other hand, if the hoovering gets missed, it’s not the end of the World.

Then, there’s work.

I have very little trouble getting up and getting on. I have a basic routine that I follow. I work fairly regular hours, and, within those hours I do fairly regular amounts of work. The spirit doesn’t have to move for me to be able to write. If it has to be done, it has to be done, and I find a way to do it. I have good days and bad days, of course I do, but the basics are in place.

My problem, and, honestly, it isn’t so much a problem to me as it is to my poor editors. My problem is that I don’t plan. I don’t even know if I can plan, not really... At least not in detail.

Writers of tie-in fiction are often asked to plan fairly thoroughly. It is quite important, often, for an editor to know, fairly precisely what is going to happen in a novel, especially if it is one in a series that involves continuity of place, time, characters or other elements. I get that. I honestly get that.

My problem is that I don’t quite seem able to see that far into the future, not in any real detail.

I can imagine a basic plot, and, some of the time, I can stick to it, but all the amazing ideas I have along the way that are generated by the work are what really excite me about any writing project. When it comes to a short story, it’s not so bad, of course; how far is it really possible to stray? But give me 80 or 90 or 100 thousand words to play with and anything can happen between A and... well... that’s the point, because if it’s flash fiction not much can happen between A and B. If it’s a short story, getting to C or D might allow for a detour or two, but with a novel, if I’m going to get all the way to Z, which heaven knows, I might, I could end up in Timbuktu for all I know.

Thank God I’ve got a modicum of discipline... Just enough, I hope, to tame the beast, rein in the madness, enjoy the journey and make the most satisfying detours. It can be a hell of a ride. I only hope that I’m not the only one who thinks so.


  1. For me, sticking to my first plan would mean a limted amount of imagination - moderating and adapting as I go along incorporates so much more. I would hate to have to deliver a detailed plan and then stick to it, but I imagine you've found a way to allow for detours and flashes of inspiration.

  2. I'm either totally organised or one of the laziest people you'll meet (getting up in time for the World at One on R4). I've just started my Paediatrics Module and I can't do any work whatsoever until I've written up my reading lists. It takes soooooooo long. I have to go through all the learning objectives and lectures to work out what I need to know and then find it all in my books, type out the page references, create the documents and off I go. My computer filing system is something the NHS would be proud of.

    And another thing; if I'm not up by 8/9, I'm generally cursed to having a very unproductive day.