During the last ten days I've written the first third of a new novel. I've been writing four or sometimes five hours every week day, an average of 1,000 words per hour. My routine goes something like this: 9am walk for an hour (my incentive is an excellent takeaway latte, at the top of a gruelling hill) while "watching" the next scenes in my novel running like movie reel in my mind's eyes; 10am write for three hours; break for lunch and read for an hour and/or make notes towards the novel; 2pm write for another hour. After the school run, I go offline, tidy my notebook for tomorrow so I know roughly where I'm starting from. Then I read, for a couple of hours at least.
I find the keeping of notes very helpful. I don't re-read what I've written the day before, unless my notes dictate a light edit. But mostly I concentrate on moving forwards, getting it done. I find reading essential. It flexes a different part of my brain entirely. It makes me think about what works and doesn't work in novels, structurally perhaps more than in terms of the words themselves. But when I say that during the last ten days I've read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore, and AL Kennedy's Day, it's probably apparent that I'm not reading around any one topic, or looking for exact inspiration. I'm just closing the circle, surrounding myself in words because this is where I want to be right now. Where I need to be.
Do I worry that my novel will end up owing too much to these other authors? That my voice will be drowned out? No. I'm on my guard against it, for one thing. And it's good for my writer's ear, I think, to hear other voices than my own.
But what do other writers think? How do you complete the circle, when you're writing something new? What rituals and charms do you put in place, to stay focused in the right way?