Rachel McLean

– Thrillers That Make You Think

Finding the Perfect Place to Write

My never-ending quest to identify my perfect conditions for writing continues!

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on the first draft of One Of Us, the third and final part of the Village trilogy. (Which is why I haven’t posted an update for a while, sorry.)

When I’m writing, I like to monitor my progress. I have a word count target for each day, which varies according to how much time I have available and what stage in the story I’m at. Generally, I’m slower at the beginning of a novel than I am at the end, as despite having already plotted the story, I’m often finding my way at the beginning. At the end, in contrast, the story normally races out of my brain and can’t wait to be written.

Keeping track of this helps me identify the best times of day and places for me to write. This time, I analysed whether I was most efficient in the morning, evening or afternoon, as well as the best spots for me to write.

As my kids were off school and my husband was at home with them for one of the weeks I was writing, I went out most of the time, as I find it really hard to concentrate when my family are in the house (there’s the sound of their voices, the overwhelming temptation to down tools and join in with whatever they’re doing, and the fact that my youngest son comes into my office every five minutes telling me he’s hungry).

So I had a few places where I did most of my writing:

  • My local library.
  • One or two local coffee shops.
  • A local bar, where I often go to write in the evenings when the coffee shops are full (only midweek when it’s quiet).
  • And the occasional stint in my office.

My favourite spot right now is my local library. It’s a wonderful, welcoming library which has a cafe that brings food and drinks to your table as you work (see below). You don’t get much better than that.

It’s also very welcoming to local authors. They have all of my books in stock, hosted the launch of Sea Of Lies, and like to promote and support local authors. They’ll be running a stall at a local street festival tomorrow and I’ll be volunteering. I really hope the torrential rain we’re enjoying here right now lets up!

But it’s one thing knowing where I enjoy writing, and another to analyse the data and find out exactly where I’m most efficient. So I did a bit of tinkering in my spreadsheet (good old Excel) and found out where I write fastest.

Here are the results:

LocationTime of DayAverage of Words per hour
Coffee#1Afternoon2591
LibraryMorning & Afternoon2658
John Lewis cafeMorning & Afternoon2671
OfficeMorning & Afternoon2717
Quinto LoungeEvening2772
Pret a MangerEvening3026

The table above shows all the locations where I worked on the first draft, in ascending order of speed. It shows me that although I love working in the library, it’s not the most efficient place for me to write.

This may be because it wasn’t an easy couple of weeks to spend in the library. It was busier than usual because GCSEs are taking place here at the moment, and there were lots of sixteen-year-olds in the library studying. Some of them weren’t exactly quiet!

But the interesting thing is that the two places where I wrote fastest were the places I wrote in the evening (Pret a Manger was only the host of one short session so doesn’t really count, but still…).

So this prompted me to look at my figures by time of day. Here’s the data:

Time of DayAverage of Words Per Hour
Morning2463
Afternoon2736
Evening2948

Whoah! I wasn’t expecting that. It seems I get more efficient as the day progresses. And there was me thinking I’m a morning person…

I find having access to data like this really helpful. I can use this knowledge to alter my work pattern.

In fact, I already have: for the last week, I’ve been doing admin and marketing in the morning, and writing in the afternoon (and sometimes the evening, although I prefer to reserve that for family most days).

Time will tell what impact it has on my writing.

I’d love to know: do you have a great local library, one that supports local readers and writers and is a welcoming place to hang out?

Let me know in the comments – if I ever visit your area, I’ll try to send some time writing there!

Posted in Writing
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