Writing life: Diana Gabaldon

The Outlander creator reveals a typical day's work - and why the small hours are the best for writing

Writing life: Diana Gabaldon

I stagger out of bed, take the dogs outside, and then I'll get a Diet Coke and a couple of dog biscuits and go upstairs. By the time I've consumed my Diet Coke and had a quick run through the morning email and Twitter feed, I will probably be compos mentis enough to work. I wake up usually between 8:30am and 9am, so I'll be 'going to work,' so to speak, around 11. I work maybe for an hour before lunch, and then go out with my husband for lunch. Afterwards I'll work for another hour.

Shaping up 

What that work is depends where I am in a book. In the beginning stages I don't know much about it; I'm doing a lot of research and thinking, but I write every single day, because if you don't write, the inertia builds up. So you want to do it, whether you know anything or not. It's sometimes only half a page, but it's words on a page.

I don't write with an outline, and I don't write in a straight line. I write where I can see things happening, and I glue these little pieces together. In the first months, I'll have handfuls of these small scenes that have no discernible connection, for the most part, but as I go on thinking and working and writing, they begin to stick together.  I think in geometric shapes, and once I have seen the internal geometry of a book, then the writing becomes much faster and easier. I can see the shape of what's missing.

Burning the midnight oil 

Mid-afternoon I'll go out and do the household errands, come home, do my gardening, go for an evening walk. I live in Phoenix, so half the year it's so hot, I have to go out and walk at the local mall. Back home I make dinner. My husband likes to go to bed early, around 9:30pm, so I'll tuck him in, go lie on the couch with the dogs and a book. I have two big, fat standard dachshunds who are very cuddly. We go to sleep, and then I wake up again naturally between midnight and 1am.

We get another Diet Coke and go upstairs, and that's when I do my main work, between midnight and 4am. It's quiet; there are no interruptions. The phone doesn't ring. No psychic noise. Nothing. It's the ideal time to work. One of the great perks of being a writer is that you can work when you're mentally capable of it, not when someone else thinks you should.

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