As some of you might have noticed, I haven’t written a book in a while.
After Dark of Night came out, I got a wee bit carried away and wrote seven novels in two years. Yep. I have to remind myself of that now and then because even though I remember it well, I’m also a bit like…
I got to the end of the second book in the Stockholm Murders series two summers ago when I was staying in a cottage in Stockholm’s archipelago. I did all the final checks, uploaded it, drank a glass of prosecco on the deck overlooking the Baltic Sea and thought to myself, I think I could do with a wee break.
The following week I was outlining Glasgow Kiss book six.
But when I came to draft it, it… wouldn’t come.
I mean, it did, literally. As I’ve often explained, writers’ block (for more than a day or two) isn’t really a thing when this is how you pay your bills. It can’t be. If you allow it to be, you will have bailiffs knocking on your door before long, it’s as simple as that. Even when writing is an uphill battle, you just kind of chug on because you have to and eventually it starts flowing again.
Maybe that would have happened if I’d persevered, but at the time it felt as though maybe I needed a slightly longer break, and then I sold not one, but two, TV projects to production companies, so working on those scripts had to become my main priority for a few months.
And then lockdown hit.
In those first few weeks/months of lockdown (almost a YEAR AGO what the actual what?!!), TV production came to a halt. Nobody knew when or how they could resume shooting, when so even projects that were in development — including mine — hit the pause button.
So I thought, perfect, I’ll write a book.
Given that everything was super dark and horrible, I decided that instead of being sensible and writing the next book in either of my current series, I’d treat myself to working on a dream project that’s been building in my head for years now. It’s an urban fantasy/magical realism and it’s got time travel and adventure and it’s just glorious and I love it.
I got about a third of the way through before my creativity keeled over and died.
This time, it was down to lockdown. While it’s not impossible to write whilst trapped in your flat alone for 23 hours a day, fuelling creativity with such little stimulation is exhausting. After several days of literally staring at a blank page and worrying from the moment I woke until it was time to go to bed again. I admitted defeat.
I decided to switch gears, and launched The End, a collaborative drama series which meant working with actors and other writers (albeit mostly over Zoom, but still!) Then a feature film popped into my head out of nowhere and I wrote that, and then the second season of my Swedish audio series was commissioned, development on one of my TV projects started up again… and six months later, here we are.
Now, switching gears and shifting project priorities is just part and parcel of a full-time writer’s life. More often than not, you feel a bit like a pinball in that fairground game, bouncing madly from story to idea to project and back again. There’s no real way to avoid having several on the go and inevitably dropping one or two along the way. Now and then aspiring writers ask me for advice, and it’s the main thing I tell them: get used to juggling. It breaks your heart and leaves you permanently frustrated and guilty, but there’s no getting around it.
Or if there is, twenty years in I haven’t found it!
This past year was particularly challenging, of course, for, ya know, obvious reasons. Several months ago I decided I was just in creative survival mode and whatever writing I could get done was a win and the rest could wait. Since October, this meant my audio series and TV pilot, because if I blow them off, the bailiffs come knocking.
However! All my contracted work is turned in for the time being, spring is beckoning and however optimistic or pessimistic the various roadmaps prove to be, the end is at least on the horizon.
It’s time to finish a damned book 😎