In the first of a series of guest blogs, Australian author Phillipa Fioretti writes about her study, silence, and why she always knows where her towel is.
Do you have a special / particular place where you write? If so, did you set it up, or did it sort of evolve?
I am lucky enough to have a real study with a desk, bookshelves and a reading chair. It was a study, then a baby’s room, then back to a study. I decorate it with mess and clutter, in heavy rain the window leaks so I have a special towel on standby, it’s hot and stuffy in summer, but it’s my own room. Virginia Woolf was right, I need this room and will never give it up.
Do you usually write at certain times of day, or particular days of the week? To a self-set word count?
I write most days. I like to be at my desk by 9 am with a double shot flat white on hand and then I dive in and work. I slowly rise to the surface as the coffee wears off. The concentration wanes, I find myself not taking as much care, skimming, and then I know it’s time to stop.
I treat the writing side of this life as a job – do it, daily. (I’m shocking at the business side and tend to put it off). I go back later in the day and read what I’ve written, maybe tinker a bit, but the meat and potatoes of the day is in the morning.
I don’t have a daily word count. It doesn’t work for me. I like to write so I don’t feel like I need that sort of discipline. Either the story needs to be told or it doesn’t. I do start checking total word count toward the end. If I’m aiming for commercial publication then I have to bring it in under or about 85,000 (for a genre novel), so I need to know I have enough space left to get my plot threads sorted and craft a satisfying ending.
The thing about words is you can toss ‘em if they’re no good. So writing two thousand words a day is neither here nor there. Writing two thousand usable words is more important. If you have to think all day to get a hundred excellent words then that’s how it is.
Some writers listen to music whilst they write. Do you? If so, any particular type? Do you change the music according to what you’re writing?
No. No music. I need to write in silence. I’ll do my thinking or imagining with music as a background, usually opera. But with my just completed ms I listened to lots of Frank Sinatra.
Do you have a statue and / or pet which you treat as a muse, or at least, a sounding board?
My dog is supremely uninterested in my work, and my family tends to run screaming if I bring up the subject. But I do have a few images that I stare at, mainly postcards that I bought in Vienna a few years ago.
One in particular called “Bather” by Josef Engleheart. The bather is tentatively easing herself into the water, holding onto rocks while she finds her footing. I feel like that when I start something, and again when I try and sell it.
If you don’t have a writer’s shed, do you fancy one? If so, what would it be like? Also, do you have a favourite writing “shrine” – eg, have you, or do you wish to, make a trip to a particular house or place associated with a writer you admire?
My study is my shed. I have favourite writers but I’ve never had the urge to see where they lived or worked. Don’t know why. I was very affected by visiting Sigmund Freud’s house in Vienna, and I love visiting artists’ studios or looking through their journals. Perhaps if Sebastian Faulkes would push off for a day and let me nose around his study I’d get a taste for writers’ studies.
Longhand, typewriter, dictation machine, computer, and/or…? Are you a fan of a particular type of pen, pencil, notebook, etc? Share your stationery addiction(s), please!
I write on a PC at a desk. Anything else gives me RSI. I do carry a ragged old notebook but more and more I am using a note taking app on my tablet or voice recording on my phone if I’m out and need to jot down ideas. I have no stationery fetishes because I lose stuff and my kids walk off with what’s left. They can’t walk off with a PC.
I have just finished a mss and I’m in the awful liminal space of not having a writing project. I have four starters fermenting away and I have to commit to one of them and I keep going round in circles, changing my mind and not getting anything done.
Three of the four are unlike my previous work, and while I lean toward a new challenge there’s always the option of building ‘my brand’ (hate that concept). Whatever happens, I’ll be launching a new pen name soon-ish, and hope to keep the two streams going at the same time. So lots of quality study time awaits me.
Thanks for chatting to us, Phillipa, and all the best with the new projects.
The next writer showing us round their shed will be Nimue Brown.
If you’d like to do a guest blog for “Writers and Their Sheds”, please complete the “comment” form at the bottom of the “About” page.