Novel writing can be a very solitary existence, and writers – especially unpublished authors like me – can be shy creatures. Last night I hauled myself away from the made-up world of my unfinished novel to see Dan Brown in all his best-selling might, hoping that I wouldn’t feel my writing ability fade under his forceful presence. I was looking for some insider information on the creative writing process; inspiration that would help me on the journey through the lonely world of reclusive, unpublished writer to that of a published author.
So for me at least, last night in the National Concert Hall was less about the content of his books and more about Dan Brown the writer and his writing process? I wondered if I would have anything at all in common with Dan Brown the writer. I read somewhere that he hangs himself upside-down on his gym equipment when experiencing writer’s block, as viewing his surroundings from this alternative angle gives him a different perspective from which to see things. When I get stuck, I go outside into the garden and walk around in circles for a while, allowing the frustration to simmer furiously until the fresh air clears my head. In contrast, Dan Brown’s process seems much more inspired but I was still hoping that we would have something – anything as writers – in common?
He told us that thoughts of infinity kept him awake at night when he was a child. I was inspired immediately. I remember as a child clinging tightly to the blankets while scared out of my wits at the thoughts of the never-ending nothingness that went on forever in the vastness over-head in the sky. Maybe Mr. Brown and I had something in common after all? He then talked about his writing process – 7 days a week, 365 days a year, beginning in the death of the night at 4am every single day. Two sleep cycles without writing and he is liable to drop the ball on his complex plot structures, so like all writers, his writing his mostly perspiration – a lonely pursuit in a vacuum. He writes novels that he wants to read himself, novels about things and places that intrigue him to ensure that the motivation remains intact throughout. His novels go through about 4 drafts before his editor sees them and for every 1 page that ends up in a draft, he has thrown out about 10.
It is said that you should never meet your hero, as the mysticism fades when it becomes apparent that the object of your fanaticism is actually of the lowly human kind and not something other-worldly. Now Dan Brown is not my hero, in fact I have only read his best-selling book The Da Vinci Code (albeit three times and in one sitting on the first read) but his novels are published in 52 languages around the world with 200 million copies in print. My novel is available in one language, with a grand total of 3 copies printed out on cheap paper. But if I keep writing about what I know, keep writing a story that I would like to read myself and don’t shy away from the perspiration of writing, perhaps I could get 1 novel published in 1 language and proceed to hang myself up-side down on gym equipment while I try to think of the novel that I am going to work on next.
Written by Nicola Connolly.