How long did it take you to write your first novel?
Three years. The time for research and writing was directly tied to the funding for my PhD at the University of Surrey so I knew right from the start that three years was my timespan – but within that there were periods of really productive writing and periods of procrastination.
What’s your worst procrastinating habit?
My worst habit is probably watching terrible American sitcoms, the kind with a constant backing track of canned laughter. That said, I do think you need a good bit of ‘switch-off’ time and the better TV (Frasier, for example) is actually really useful to get thinking about structure and use of dialogue.
How do you stop yourself doing it?
I give myself a stern talking to. Particularly since I started writing full-time, I’ve been very stern with myself, making sure that I realize how big a privilege it is to spend the whole day writing. I’m a really tough taskmaster, if I don’t do the work then I only get one biscuit with my mid-morning cup of tea instead of two. Once there are biscuits involved, I tend to get serious.
Do you listen to the interminable Inner Critic? How do you keep him quiet?
Yes, absolutely. I think it’s vital to listen to him, because he’s the one who tells you that something isn’t yet quite right, that something needs to be reworked or that you need to research something a bit more. I actually think the Inner Critic is to be welcomed and cultivated, as long as you coach him to be civilized and not to contradict himself. Same goes for Outer Critics, really.
Quick tip for aspiring writers?
Write first thing in the morning, before doubt and the debris of life (emails etc.) take over.
Liam Murray Bell published his debut novel, So It Is, with Myriad Editions in June 2012. He recently received Arts Council funding to complete his second novel and he holds a doctorate in Creative Writing from the University of Surrey. He lives in Sussex with his wife.