Over the past ten years, Allison has published five books for young adult readers and five for adult readers in the women’s fiction genre. She is currently working on a six episode New Adult e-serial for St Martin’s Press, a new YA novel, a travel memoir and her sanity.
Having failed at becoming a ballerina with pierced ears (her childhood dream), Allison instead began a writing career as a journalism student at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Within a few months she had slunk sideways into studying Russian. By the end of her degree she had learned two very important things: that she wasn't going to be a journalist; and that there are hundreds of types of vodka and they're all pretty good. After several years spent whining about how hard it would be to write a novel, she finally tried writing one and found it was quite an enjoyable experience. Since then, she has had nine novels published. She keeps up her education by sampling new kinds of vodka on a regular basis.
Take it away Allison...
I love Allison Pearson's book I Don't Know How She Does It. It always makes me smile when I recall the scene where heroine Kate bashes mince pies with a rolling pin to make them look homemade. If you're a mother and a writer too, you're sure to have understood Kate's motherhood vs. work predicament. You can't not.
I always find myself remembering that scene when other writer mothers ask me how I 'do it'. The truth is, until both my kids hit school this year, how I 'did it' was a nanny three days per week. I always felt bad when I admitted this was how I managed to find the time to write. Probably because I knew this wasn't an option for every mother out there who wanted to write. But the fact was, writing was my job, my son couldn't attend day-care because of health problems and I simply couldn't write whilst also looking after my two kids. Somehow they always wanted something. Like food (what's with that?!).
Now I have both kids at school, I have more time. But that time can slip away fast if I'm not careful. Between drop off and pick up, I have roughly five hours per day in which to write. That's 25 hours per week. Not exactly a full-time job. In 2012, I have a YA release out in February (Shooting Stars, Walker Books). I'm in the middle of writing a Downton Abbey-esque New Adult six episode e-serial for St Martin's Press that should be released one episode per month starting June 2012. And I'm also writing a travel memoir as we're living in Cambridgeshire, in the UK, for 18 months. It's a lot to fit into 25 hours per week, especially when you add in PR, email and so on. So, how do I do it? Well, I have a few small tricks up my sleeve that I've learnt over the years. So, here's 'how she does it':
- She tells her muse to get stuffed. Pre-kids, I used to have to feel 'in the mood' to start a new ms/do those revisions/finish off those page proofs. Not anymore.
- She knows you can get some work done even if there is only ten minutes to spare. I used to need to allocate large blocks of time for things. Now I know I can sketch out a chapter, or write a hundred words or so while I'm sitting in the car waiting to pick one of my kids up. I haven't yet lowered myself to writing in the bathroom, as some friends have, but I'm not saying I'll never go there. Your call.
- She doesn't 'do' coffee except as a very special treat. Plenty of people will think that working from home means you are always available. And you are. If you never want to get another word written, that is. Remember it's okay to say no, or to schedule ahead. The thing is, two weeks from Friday might be a better time to do coffee than tomorrow, especially when you promised yourself you'd finish that second draft by the end of this week. The best bit: when you finally have that scheduled coffee, second draft all done, you know you totally deserve an éclair as well (and we all know éclairs have no calories when you've reached your writing goals).
- She has six monthly goals, monthly goals and weekly goals. More work gets done if you know exactly what you're meant to be doing as soon as you sit down. I have a document I update weekly with what I need to be doing each day, as well as an outline of what's going on monthly and six-monthly work-wise.
- She always factors in a bit of extra time to deal with sick kids, sick animals and sick cars. As a mother, there's always something. I know that if I need two weeks to do some revisions, it's better to add a couple days on to the end of that time-span just in case. If nothing goes wrong – bonus! Coffee and éclair time! (Or, you know, you could start in on the next task…).
- When the going gets tough, she gets out her egg timer. If I'm really struggling to write, I find an egg timer can help. I trick myself by saying I'll do only 30 minutes before stopping for a cup of coffee/Facebook break/Twitter-fest etc.. By the end of 30 minutes, I always seem to keep writing.
- She schedules in at least one writing conference/retreat/workshop per year. These might seem like just another thing to keep you from your writing, but I find them invigorating and always come away ready to write harder and smarter. I network. I have little planning sessions with myself. I hang out with people who get what I do. I laugh. This is incredibly important when you work by yourself day in and day out. When your work Christmas party consists of you, a photocopier and a bottle of vodka, you need to add those other people in at some point or you might start thinking those characters of yours are real.
About Shooting Stars
Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar and the only celebrity who’s ever been kind to her—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream: real photography classes, and maybe even quitting her paparazzi gig for good. Everyone wants to know what Ned’s in for. But Jo certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment.