GUEST BLOG: Anna Caltabiano

The YA author tell us how to write a novel and get a six-pack in the process...

An early example was when I read that sitting for more than 3 hours a day can shave a person’s life expectancy by two years. You contemplate trying to write for two hours and 55 minutes every day, but soon you realize that trying to stick to a schedule is impossible. You’re a creative person after all. Isn’t that why you wanted to write a novel in the first place? So then you buy a stability ball online to combat this statistic. You figure you can use it instead of a regular desk chair and develop a six-pack while you write your novel. Of all places, you buy it on Amazon and feel slightly ashamed due to all the articles you’ve been reading recently on publishers and authors battling Amazon. But since they were the only ones willing to ship it for free, you tell yourself that this purchase doesn’t count. You will start your boycotting tomorrow, when there aren’t any important, life-saving purchases to be made.

You anxiously check your mailbox for your stability ball everyday. You start questioning whether Amazon will in fact deliver it to you in 5 to 8 business days as stated on their website. You wonder if they know that this is a potentially life-saving delivery. While waiting for the stability ball to come in the mail, you start hanging around your mailbox more often than your desk. You tell yourself that you will start writing in earnest after the stability ball comes, because your life comes first.

On the seventh day, you realize that the stability ball might not fit in your mailbox even if it came deflated, so you check your porch. Ah, there it is! The life-saving device! You promptly spend an entire afternoon trying to inflate it. You soon realize that inflating it by mouth is one of the least smart ideas you’ve ever had. But being stubborn, you continue past dinner. Finally, your new desk chair replacement is done! You sit on it and try not to roll away while you finish writing your first chapter.

It takes you till the ninth day to register that this isn’t working. Balancing precariously on a stability ball without falling off takes all of your focus leaving you very few mental cycles for your book. You realize you haven’t even finished a page today. That $26 you spent to prolong your life was probably not working either. Instead of your abs getting sore, you feel your knees getting sore from the number of times you’ve fallen off the stability ball. Sure it looked easy in the beginning, but now you have new-found respect for those yoga teachers who don’t break a sweat balancing on stability balls cross-legged. Time for another plan. Luckily you’re always equipped with a Plan B.

Plan B is writing while standing. Desk chairs and stability balls are overrated. You’ve watched a documentary on the beneficial effects of working while standing. You’ve also heard it increases productivity, which is definitely something you need. You deflate your stability ball and place your laptop on a pile of books. You keep adding books until you no longer have to stoop to reach your keyboard. Sure your laptop wobbles a bit precariously, but where’s the fun without the risk?

This setup lasts for about 15 minutes before your calves start cramping up. You try to prolong it by flexing your calf muscles every so often, since it was working so well. Type. Flex. Type. Flex. You realize you can’t feel your legs anymore, and your protagonist hasn’t even set forth on his quest yet.

The next day you come up with another plan. This one is foolproof. Since you can’t stay still in one place, either on a stability ball or standing, you figure you can write while moving. And what better way to write and move simultaneously than strapping your laptop to a treadmill? This will definitely make you healthier as well.

Feeling proud of yourself for coming up with this solution, you bring your laptop to your local gym. You even brought velcro to strap your laptop into place. You’re feeling so smart that that feeling doesn’t go away when the man behind the gym counter gives you a suspicious look, as if what you were doing was somehow questionable. He was always a beefcake anyways.

You start jogging on the treadmill and quickly find out that you have to jog rather close to the front to be able to reach your keyboard. You try not to trip on the piece of plastic the conveyor belt comes out of. Realizing you can’t keep yourself from tripping and also concentrate on writing, you slow the treadmill down to a rapid walk.

This actually works for awhile. Occasionally you won’t be able to keep up with the machine and your hands will slip off the keyboard, causing you to reach your arms forward in some sort of zombie dance move, straight from “Thriller.” This will cause the beefcake behind the counter to snicker with his friends who he’s now called to witness your ingenuity, but you think Michael Jackson would be proud.

Every now and then, you’ll also get so absorbed in your story that you’ll forget to walk. This causes you to fall off the treadmill backwards. But fear not, your laptop is safe thanks to all that velcro. The people working out around you will debate whether they should rush to your aid or pretend that they didn’t notice you fall off. The latter is quite impossible due to your shrieking all the way down, and this almost makes you feel bad for them. Almost.

Over the course of about a week, you’ve tried and seen your healthy writing lifestyle backfire. You’re once again writing for more than three hours per day, and after trying and failing at writing while sitting on stability balls, standing, and running on a treadmill, you’ve come to a simple enough conclusion: it’s just easier to sit down at a desk chair and sacrifice two years of your life to writing, than not write at all. It sounds a bit morbid, but it’s not like you’d be doing anything productive with those two years anyways. You’d probably be watching cat videos on Youtube, and there’s a limit to how many times you can watch a cat use a human toilet.

Everything you’ve done for this past week has been a major flop, but on the bright side you’ve successfully procrastinated on your new novel. Now with that crucial step over with, you’re ready to buckle down and actually start your novel.

Anna Caltabiano

The Seventh Miss Hatfield is published by Gollancz on the 31 st July and the ebook will be priced at £1.99 until the 7 th August

Find more from Anna at Wondrous Reads tomorrow