I stumbled upon this question in Louise Doughty's excellent book 'A Novel in a Year.' In it she quotes Australian novelist Elliot Perlman's advice to aspiring novelists.
Before you begin to write, think what you are prepared to sacrifice.
It's good advice that set me thinking. A novel is a long haul, and writing time is precious. Once you've made that commitment, be sure that certain things have to go. I came up with the following sacrifices:
We've all read about Lawyer-Novelists, and Actor/Comedian Novelists, but the reality for most is scampering home from some lowly Day Job to sit up half the night battering the keyboard. Supermarket check-outs, cleaning, and care work may be physically exhausting, but at least they leave you head-space to dream up your next chapter. Unless you have a wealthy partner, you'll probably need two such jobs in order to pay the bills. I've had my share. Jobs that is, not wealthy partners. Many years ago, stomping around a windy school playground dressed in a custard yellow nylon overall with a whistle clamped between my lips was my absolute low point. This for the princely sum of £30.00 a week.
Gossip with a pal over a cup of coffee and chocolate brownie is one of the joys of life. If you're stressing over a hole in your plot though, it's more likely to give you indigestion. When it comes to writer friends, a good whinge about the current state of publishing over a cuppa is undoubtedly therapeutic. On the other hand, your friend's latest horror story may put you off finishing your tome altogether. Social media is one thing, but a real social life can be the novelist's worst enemy. Unless of course you're using lovers, partners, offspring, mothers and friends as your raw material. If so you'll need to do more than give them a moustache and change their name/hair colour, or you may have some explaining to do.
A TV documentary I once saw showed a well known novelist at her daily routine. In every scene, Ms X sat poised at her computer attired in a variety of floaty chiffon creations, sassy up-do and decked in enough jewellery to sink a galleon. (No it wasn't Barbara Cartland.) Could this just be for the benefit of the camera, you might ask? In my experience, especially when midway through a novel, writing in your Jim jams, beanie hat, fingerless mitts and tartan rug over the knees to stave off hypothermia is closer to the truth.
Okay, good readers make good writers. That said, once you're off and rolling, filling your head with someone else's plot and characters can be distracting. This is when I turn to non-fiction: travelogues, poetry, literary memoirs are all good. Let the TBR list pile up for a reading frenzy when the last chapter is done. Bliss!
The final question is of course, was it all worth the sacrifice/s? That depends I guess on how your novel turns out and what happens to it. So - what would you be prepared to sacrifice?