One Day At a Time

Hilary Mantel has won a plethora of prizes for her last two novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. They are part of a three part series, and she is currently working on the third.

There must be a hell of a lot of pressure on her to produce something not just as good as, but even better than the first two.

She’s been asked a lot about these pressures lately, and she is says she always forgets what’s done before – when she settles down to write, she only thinks about what’s before her that day – the big story she’s telling, the little stories to tell. What’s come before doesn’t affect her.

It seems like a sensible way to write. I mean, when you think about it, it’s one hell of a task we’re taking on. To write a whole book? A massive book, hundreds of pages, thousands of words? Then to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until its perfect?

If it’s a first book, it must be so brilliant that it gets noticed and chosen. If it’s a follow-on book, it has to be even better than the one before. It’s a daunting task, when you think about it. Momentous even. Enough to put anyone off. No wonder most books never make it beyond the ‘I have an idea’ stage.

But the idea of just concentrating on what you have to do today makes it seem manageable. Not a book, just a big story and all the little story. Forget what went before, forget the expectations, ignore what might happen. Just concentrate on what you have to write today.

It seems to work for Hilary Mantel.


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