Thursday, 3 January 2019

A Day in the Life of author Elizabeth Ducie @ElizabethDucie #ADayInTheLife #Author




A Day in the Life of author Elizabeth Ducie

Welcome to another edition of my occasional series; 'A Day in the Life of ..' 
I've invited authors to come and talk about what their average day looks like, we are trying to get rid of the myth that all authors laze around on a sofa bed all day, dictating their books and making millions of pounds! 

I'm delighted to welcome Elizabeth Ducie to Random Things today. Here is her Day In A Life ...


I wake, refreshed from seven hours undisturbed rest, at 5:45am precisely. The early morning light plays gently on my pillow. I slip into a flowing African caftan, tip-toe downstairs to avoid waking my husband, make a pot of fresh mint tea and then stroll across the garden towards my retreat. My caftan brushes against lavender and oregano; their aromas mingle with the minty steam and remind me to use all my senses in my writing.


In a household where paint is bought on the basis of any colour, as long as it’s white, my retreat is different. One wall matches the colour of melted Galaxy chocolate; the rest are bright custard yellow. My pine writing table is empty save for my laptop and a neatly-written To Do list with just one item: Write entry for next competition.

The brief is a 2000-word story, with the theme ‘Midnight’. By 8am, I have mind-mapped ideas; picked one that resonates strongly; identified my main protagonist and her conflict; and planned out the main steps in the story arc.

I drift back across the garden to the house, kiss my husband and share a healthy breakfast of cereal and wholemeal toast.

At 9am I return to my desk, in smart-casual attire. I write in a pattern of twenty-five minute bursts followed by five minute breaks for a drink or a stroll around the garden. Four hours later I have the first draft completed: 2500 words, ready for editing.

We eat lunch in the sunshine, accompanied by the trickle of water in the stream: salad from our own vegetable garden and smoked fish, accompanied by home-made lemonade. I take thirty minutes to read a couple of chapters of something from this year’s Booker Longlist.

By 2.30pm I am editing, polishing and refining every word. At 4pm, my husband reads my story. He is complimentary, has some constructive criticisms and spots a couple of minor
typos. By 5pm, the story is finished and submitted.

Only now do I switch on the internet connection. I learn that I have won first prize in one competition and am short-listed for another one. I check my emails and respond to those needing answers before switching over to Facebook where I find seventeen new people have ‘liked’ my author page. Flipping across to Amazon, I note sales of my anthologies are up again this month. I move on to Twitter where I retweet several useful articles for writers; have a brief conversation with two eminent publishers who are vying for the rights to my debut novel; and post a gentle reminder that my books are currently on sale at a special price for the holiday. Finally, I prepare a hand-written To Do list for tomorrow.

At 6pm I close down my laptop for the day. Sitting in the kitchen, I chat to my husband as he prepares a delicious, nutritious supper. We return to the garden for chilled white wine and olives while waiting for the meal to cook. Our evening is spent reading, chatting with friends, or watching documentaries on the television. We retire at 10pm and I am asleep by 10.45pm, notebook to hand in case of useful dreams.

I’m a writer, I write from experience, from what I know. But I’m chiefly a fiction writer, so I may have tweaked this description of my writing day — just a little bit. I didn’t think anyone would notice. I wonder what gave it away. Was it the home-made lemonade? Was it the way the internet stayed switched off until the day’s writing was finished? Surely it can’t have been the way I planned, drafted, edited and submitted a story in just one day? That’s what all writers do, isn’t it?
As with all my writing, there are elements of real life in this account. Let’s go through it again and see what the non-fiction version would look like.

I wake, whatever time I’ve gone to sleep, around 6am. The curtains are open and, if the
sun is up and there are no clouds, early morning light plays gently on my pillow. I slip into a flowing African caftan, one of several I’ve collected during business trips. I tip-toe downstairs to avoid waking my husband and, assuming it’s dry and warm enough, stroll across the garden towards my writing retreat. I walk through cobwebs glistening with dew and smell the cattle shed across the stream. If, on the other hand, it's pouring or freezing, I take my laptop to the lounge or the attic landing. I can write anywhere; but some places aid my creativity more than others.

In a household where paint really is bought on the basis of ‘any colour, as long as it’s white’, my retreat is a feast for the eyes. One wall resembles melted Galaxy chocolate; the rest are bright custard yellow. But my pine writing table bears my laptop, a printer, a tower of filing trays, assorted papers, odd bits of stationery, a pile of books awaiting review — and a solitary elastic band.

My primary To Do list is a spreadsheet, with columns headed: Category; Action; Due Date; and Priority. There is always more than one item each day. My first task is to amend the due date on everything I failed to do yesterday. In addition to the spreadsheet, I may have a mindmap entitled ‘My Life’ or ‘My Writing Life’; there will be a list of key tasks for today written in my diary; there may even be a detailed timeplan for the next few hours scribbled on a scrap of recycled paper.
I start by checking Facebook, commenting on overnight messages from insomniacs or overseas friends, congratulating anyone with a birthday or a win to announce, and follow any links to writing competitions. By 8am, my competition spreadsheet is updated and I have enough prompts to last to the end of the year. I have also checked Twitter, Amazon and the counter on my blog.




I drift back across the garden to the house, kiss my husband and share a healthy breakfast
of cereal and wholemeal toast — unless we’ve run out, in which case, it could be bacon sarnies on white sliced bread, crumpets or muffins. If we’re feeling virtuous, we might have fresh fruit as well.
At 9am I return to my desk. I am still wearing the caftan and will do so until mid-morning or lunchtime. Occasionally, if I am on my own and the writing is going well, I will still be wearing it at supper-time!

Sometimes I write in a pattern of twenty-five minute bursts with a five minute break for a drink or to stroll around the garden. Sometimes I block out two to three hours for a given piece of work and use a timer which I switch off each time I am interrupted by phone calls or visitors — or I interrupt myself for a quick look at Facebook or another check on KDP. At some point, I may forget to switch the timer back on, but will continue writing anyway — always a good sign. Four hours later I may have merely prepared a plan and set up my project within Scrivener; or I may have completed a first draft of the story; probably, it is somewhere in between.

We grab a bite at lunchtime, often eating different things and at different times. I try to take in a couple of chapters of whichever novel I’m currently reading (often fantasy), but am more likely to fall asleep in the chair.

By 2.30pm I am working once more. I can’t write in the afternoons is a self-imposed rule of which I’m trying to break myself; so I edit and polish either my new words or some that are more mature. I might work on my marketing strategy, tidy up my website, plan another writing project, do the accounts — or switch to something completely unrelated to writing.

At 5.15pm I close down my laptop for the moment and pit my wits against the latest contestants on Pointless. Then, sitting in the kitchen, I chat to my husband as he prepares a supper which may be nutritious, comforting or downright indulgent, but will always be delicious.

We may sit in the garden with chilled white wine and olives, listening to the gentle trickle of water in the stream while waiting for the meal to cook. Our evening is spent reading, chatting with friends, checking out our emails and social media sites, or watching American cop shows on television. We retire around midnight and I am asleep before I can finish the thought I should have my notebook by the side of the bed...

OK, so it’s not my ideal writing day; but it’s close enough to keep me happy and keep me writing. And best of all, at the end of each day, my word count has gone up once more!






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Twitter: @ElizabethDucie



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