I’m lucky enough only to work four days a week in my day-job. Friday to Sunday are my precious writing days. If I have any admin to do with writing, or any other part of my life, then I do my level best to get it done during the week – either very early in the morning, at lunchtime, or in the evening after my run. My commute takes 50-60 minutes each way, and that time is given over purely to reading fiction. Say what you like about London’s packed transport system, but the sullen silence that hangs over its commuters is ideal for reading! Delays are not an irritation; they’re more time to read in peace.
I never get up later than seven at the weekends, and I go to bed before half-ten. The key to success in just about any field is consistent discipline, which makes habit. And, as Tony Robbins says, habit makes character. I used to be a night-owl, but now I’m the opposite, and much happier and more productive for it.
You must have a daily plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I deal with email in the morning, then go out for a run. I eat lunch early, and the afternoon is given over to writing. Nothing else is allowed to enter this space. Even when I’m on long-haul flights and lengthy train journeys I will write during this time. I can’t emphasise to new writers just how important it is never to let excuses get in the way, and to build up this habit. If your brain is used to performing a certain task at a certain time of day, it will find it easier and easier to do so. Once I’m done for the afternoon I’ll go to the gym to wind down. I used to do a second run, but the gym’s a bit easier on my knees and it’s good to be around other people. Ironically, I went to an extremely strict Scottish boarding school, with enforced sport every day, which I utterly loathed. My contemporaries are apparently all pot-bellied now, whilst I’m an athletic super-nerd!
I seldom write in the evenings, so that’s when I socialise, do an evening class, etc. It can make relationships difficult, but the right partner has her own passions. I’ve tried relationships with people who don’t have an overriding passion, and they don’t work.
Doctor How’s famous megalomaniac brother Doctor Who sold his fictional life story to the BBC half a century ago, painting himself as a lone hero. Disillusioned, their four cousins dropped out. For fifty years, Doctor How has held the line against the forces of darkness and stupidity. And he’s not that happy, since you ask.
Illegal aliens try to hack How’s Spectrel (TARDIS is a very rude word where he comes from), just as he suspects his estranged cousin Where has been compromised. When reports come in of mysterious attacks by alien creatures, Doctor How has to rely on his new companion Kevin, a petty criminal from south London, and Trinity, a morphing super-predator, as he counters this threat to humanity’s existence. Bungling agents from MI16, long desperate to capture the Time Keeper’s technology, hamper How’s efforts to combat the alien menace. Can Doctor How keep ahead of MI16, save Where and combat the alien threat?
There was a red telephone box on the pavement outside. The light inside was bright – so bright that Kevin couldn’t see in – and yet the light didn’t illuminate the area immediately around it. Even the black letters of the backlit TELEPHONE sign were indistinct due to the brightness of the light behind them. The obtrusiveness of the light made it difficult to see what was beyond it. As he walked slowly past Where’s black cab, he noticed that the telephone box was not reflected in its windows or polished paintwork. Thoughts of vampires crept through his imagination.
“Doctor?” he called.
“What now? Can’t you see I’m busy?”
Once he’d skirted around the phone box, Kevin could see that the Doctor was somewhat stretched. He was standing on the bonnet of the cab, with the tip of one finger on its badge and the other touching the crown symbol above the TELEPHONE sign, which was at the very limit of his reach.
“It’d be a lot easier and faster if I could put my whole hand on both of them,” he said.
“What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing, lad?”
“Um. Is it kinda like when you have to jump-start a car with another one?”
“Yes, it’s kinda like that,” the Doctor panted. “And before you point it out in your own wonderfully literal way, yes: I’m kinda like a time-travelling breakdown recovery service.” He paused to catch his breath again, and winced. “And I can tell you it’s not particularly pleasant being the wiring. Thankfully, Where’s Spectrel should shortly recover enough to be able to take a transdimensional feed off mine. Ouch!”
Mark Speed has been writing novels since he was fifteen. His comedy writing has appeared in newspapers as diverse as the London Evening Standard and The Sun, and been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra. He performed his solo comedy, The End of the World Show, at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 and 2012. He is currently working on the five-volume Doctor How series.
Amongst other postgraduate and professional qualifications, he has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from City University, London. In 1995 a chiropractor told him he’d never run again. Sensibly, he gave up chiropractors, runs every day and has completed several marathons and a couple of Olympic-length triathlons.
NLP founder Dr Richard Bandler called him a ‘polarity responder’.
For more about Mark Speed and his writing, go to his website, check him out on Facebook or Goodreads, or follow him on Twitter.