The ‘Daily Miracle’. … that’s what we tabloid hacks used to call it. How else could you describe putting together 100+ pages from scratch in a single day? Then ripping it up and doing it all over again the next day. Miraculous indeed.
After three decades in that frantic, febrile world, I’ve discovered that writing books is a very different business. For a start, I’m on own. No talented team of journos around me. No daily deadlines. No competition. Now it’s calmer, of course, a lot less pressured. But I used to enjoy the stress. Thrive on it, in fact. Adrenaline is a great antidote to inertia. Trust me, it’s much harder to get up each morning and motivate oneself to go to work at a lonely desk.
I’ll tell you another truth: writing a 500-word tabloid page lead is a damn sight easier than crafting a 90,000-word adventure story. It’s a whole different ballgame: to plot a storyline; develop compelling characters; research (mainly online) stuff you didn’t know even existed; write a few thousand words every day come what may; review and rewrite. Long weeks and months in solitary confinement with the constant, nagging worry: is it any good? Or is it pretentious shit? As a newspaper editor, I did not have to wait very long for such reader feedback. They provided it every single day … much of it unprintable!
But, perversely, for all that I miss the heady mix of inspiration and perspiration (and occasional desperation) that came from producing the Daily Miracle, I have come to love the slow, painstaking process of writing novels. The blank Word document; the waking up in the middle of the night with an idea to quickly consign to iPad notes before sleep erases it; the flashes of imagination that seem to come from nowhere to help the story move forward; the regular gold nuggets that pop up from random research.
To my surprise, I even enjoy the editing and proofreading stages when the editors get their scalpels out. Indeed, my chief editor, the excellent Roberta Ivers at Simon & Schuster, gave me invaluable feedback and insights that helped shape a more polished and professional piece of work. And, of course, every novelist will tell you this: all the frustration, pain, and hard slog is worth it when you hold the shiny new printed product in your hands.
A bloody miracle, you think … even if it is now yearly rather than daily.