Nyla Nox – My Writing Life
I write a lot.
And I’m a bit astonished to see these four little words written down on the screen.
Yes, I write a lot.
Many years ago I took an evening class in poetry. Most of us were struggling with the writer’s bane: actually sitting down and writing something.
Our teacher, someone who had published quite a bit of poetry, told us that yes, it was a difficult process, but ‘if you write every day it will become a habit.’
At the time, I couldn’t even imagine that, but I fervently wished for it. We were all very impressed. The teacher looked to us like a creature from another world.
And now, I suppose, it’s true. For the last seven years, I’ve been writing at least five times a week. I’m not sure it’s a habit yet, but then of course I’m no longer a poet.
I realized that poetry, while often quoted as the one thing that makes humans special, is exclusively written by people who make no money from it. You could call it a hobby, even at the highest level.
And I wanted to give myself a chance to be a professional writer, in every sense.
Now, my books, including all three volumes of ‘Graveyards of the Banks’, have been ‘hot new deals’ and in the Amazon best seller lists. I’ve been interviewed in the Guardian and reviewed in many different countries. My articles about the world of the Graveyard trilogy have been translated into German, French and Mandarin.
Hold on – is that really me?
People talk about the ‘impostor complex’ – when you are actually something (like a writer) but you feel as if you are an impostor, just pretending to be a writer, and you are secretly convinced you will be found out and publicly exposed.
I think I still suffer from that.
But meanwhile I write.
The ‘Graveyards’ trilogy has taken me seven years to complete.
If I had known that at the beginning – well, I think I would still have written it.
And it was a very emotional experience.
Many days I was sitting in the coffee shop (I write most of my books in coffee shops because I like the buzz and all the other people around me, also writing away on their little laptops), feeling angry, frightened, excited, passionate and desperate in turn.
My books are very emotional, but I was also emotional about the writing process.
I realized pretty quickly that I would only be able to sustain the long long process of novel writing that needs so much discipline and dedication, by separating the two main functions: creation and editing.
When I write a new part of the story, or a new story, I write only forward, which means I write without stopping, and I don’t read what I’ve written. At all.
I wait at least a week until I read what I’ve written, and then I edit a larger chunk of the story, not just the material from one single session of creating.
Sometimes I wait much longer, if I can. That has the advantage that I don’t exactly remember when and where I wrote what. And that means I don’t mistake the emotions of the writing process for the emotional arc of the story.
When I tried to edit as I went along, I got stuck and I got scared.
And really, being scared is the biggest part of the writer’s life. Not just for me.
It’s so confronting, telling a story that is somewhere inside me, but in a vague and dreamy form, and having to trust that it will come out, and shape itself somehow.
And it’s extra confronting if that story is based on your own life experience.
I’m a pretty timid person anyway. So for me to stand up to the journey of fear and peril that is to be a writer, I think that was only possible because I really wanted to tell that story. It was the passion that drove me on.
It was the passion that made me sit down once or sometimes twice a day, and write.
And sometimes, when I managed to pull an exciting, lively scene from the nothingness of the empty page, when I managed to craft a long sequence from a lot of disorganized material, when I felt that the story was finally jumping off the page and hopefully into the readers heart, I was happy. And it was a deep, wild kind of happy. I’ve never experienced this kind of fulfillment with anything else.
On the way, I got to write articles and stories, and I got to meet many other writers.
I have started a new book, completely different from this one, but right now my writing life is a little disrupted. But that also makes sense. It’s the end of an era for me.
Is writing novels now a habit? I don’t know. I don’t feel compelled to do it. I just feel the passion.
I was fully awake. I was awake and throwing up when they injected my jaw so that it bulged up and triggered my gag reflex. They then walked off and left me with an assistant I could not even see. I was fully awake when blood filled my mouth and I couldn’t swallow for fear […] Continue reading
Here are the first few pictures from Nyla’s reading of ‘Slaughterhouse Morning’ at Waterstones Covent Garden on Friday 3 March. Wonderful audience, standing room only for quite a few! Most exciting image: people picking up my book, rapt and immersed. Reading it, buying it. Wow! Continue reading
A modern-day Boschesque purgatory “Rather than relying on major dramatic moments to carry across the power of the story, it’s the death of a thousand cuts: a steady, minute chipping away of sensitivities, of sensibilities, of defences, of any sense of normality, together with the pathetic gratitude of finally winning horribly minor victories that make […] Continue reading
Financial fiction meets Dante’s Inferno meets The Office. Wow. This was an amazing, moving book. Most of the financial fiction I read is best described as thrillers or mysteries, but not this book. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect… the first couple of pages had a pace and a style that I wasn’t […] Continue reading