How to procrastinate #3: Nina de la Mer

How long did it take you to write your first novel?

From its first incarnation as a series of letters to its final draft before publication, I’d say five years. What’s encouraging is that the unpublishable drivel of those letters somehow transmogrified over time into something that readers, real live readers, are picking up in bookshops. Encouraging to me, I mean: I’m currently at the ‘everything I write makes me want to vomit’ stage with my second novel.

What’s your worst procrastinating habit?

It’s boring, but scrabbling across Facebook and Twitter. I’d love to say I think it’s useful to tune in to this never-ending social networking chatter as an insight into behaviour in the metaphorical ‘human zoo’, but actually I think you might as well listen to the screeches, squawks and squeals from an actual zoo: It’s just background noise, and it’s very distracting.

How do you stop yourself doing it?

Turn off my computer’s airport. When that (inevitably) doesn’t stop me re-logging in to the internet, I climb the stairs to turn off the airport hub which lives in a different room of my house. Being naturally lazy, that often works. If it doesn’t, and I’ve time, I haul my ass and computer to Brighton library where they mercifully don’t yet have WiFi. Should this situation change, and they modernise, I’d be amazed if I write anything of length ever again.

Do you listen to the interminable Inner Critic? How do you keep her quiet?

Oh she’s a pain, that one. Nag, nag, nag. But yes, I do listen. I think we have to, if we want to write anything worthwhile. For this reason, I also listen intently to feedback from first readers of my work (my husband and writing group), my editor and publisher, and I even have time for real-life critics. My school motto was ‘Perfection, Nothing Less’ (which is funny considering it was a mediocre comprehensive) which has stuck with me through life, so I value all constructive criticism of my writing, and that certainly does include my bossy pants Inner Critic.

Quick tip for aspiring writers?

Write! And if you can’t write, read. And if you can’t read, daydream.

Nina de la Mer was born in Scotland and grew up there and in Brighton, where she now lives with her husband and children. Her first novel 4AM, shortlisted for the 2010 Myriad West Dean Prize, was published by Myriad Editions in 2011. There is more about 4AM here.

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