What Does Distraction-Free Writing Look Like?

by Matt Hay

I find myself close to finishing the first draft of my debut novel, looking back at this incredible journey that I have been on and all I can think about is how I will develop my characters, the story and the plot for book two. I need to get a grip on myself and concentrate on writing and finishing the project that I am on before starting the next one.

This is one pitfall that I have learned about myself and other writers during my time so far. I started writing Glens of the Dead back in January after plotting out and creating my characters and to be honest, I thought that I would be finished by now. Writing sounds easy, doesn’t it? Just sit down in from of your computer and write a novel, nothing to it…..bahahahahaha, this is so wrong, it is not that easy, there are so many things that an unfocused mind can procrastinate upon.

Writing wise, I started off well and got the first 15k done in about two months which I thought was good going, that was until I got distracted by the launch of Maximus Shock. The buzz and awe of seeing your first stories published in a nice shiny book had my head everywhere but where it should have been, which was at the laptop typing. I celebrated with hospitality at the football with my dad and kept taking pics of me with the shiny new book when it arrived, it was an exciting time. Not realising how much I was putting myself off of schedule, I thought that the world was my oyster and my confidence was growing.

At one of the release events, I got talking with [my editor] and Sporm was born and I agreed to write the story, thinking that I could write Sporm and Glens of the Dead at the same time, I sat down to do this and boy was I wrong. Unfortunately, Glens took a back seat and I sat for another couple of months and created a 10k Horrotica short story that is absolutely ridiculous and was a blast to write, but when that had gone through edits and was finished, I looked back at Glens in May and found that I had only written 15k, four months on from when I began. So, what did I do, I focussed. I started putting daily word counts on myself and motivated me to get more written, which it did and I had another 15k written by the end of June. Whilst this was a great achievement, it was not good enough for me, at this rate, I would be finished my first draft in August 2018, eeeek.

So, I took my plot and changed from pantsing out the story to plotting it out properly. I go on holiday to one of the most remote parts of Scotland, no internet access, no electricity, and solitude. I can read by charging my kindle through the car battery but apart from that it is a case of enjoying the scenery and making your own entertainment. It is great for the kids as they get the freedom to go out and play without any bother, something that they don’t get at home. I decided to take some notepads and my plotter jotter was created. For each day during the fortnight, I sat and plotted out chapter by chapter until the I got to the end of the book, then all the wee ideas that I had for book two and for other potential novels, I wrote on paper and this has been my bible.

This is not set in stone however, I change the chapters as I write, I tend to go off on tangents or come up with new ideas whilst writing but the plotter jotter helps me focus and know how many chapters I have to write until the book has finished. It is now close to the end of November and I have passed 90k which means that over the four and a half months, I have churned out 60k which is a great achievement for me as it shows what I can do when I focus and don’t let distractions derail me or side-track me into doing other things.

My current focus is to get the final part of the first draft written, according to my plotter jotter, I have four partial chapters to write and then I will be finished. I have learned not to let distractions derail me, so the thoughts of book two are put to one side whilst I write and I am focussed on getting the initial draft completed.

It has been a fantastic and amazing journey so far and I know that there is so much still to do with self-editing, creating more drafts, fixing my own mistakes and plot holes, then getting editing feedback from Christina before we think about beta readers and getting Glens of the Dead ready and prepared for people to read on their kindle or a paperback.

I have learned so much about who I am and what I am capable of since I started writing regularly and properly but I think that the most important lesson is that I now know how to deal with distraction, or do I?

Look a Jedi unicorn, ooooo, I need a picture of that.


A father of two daughters, Scottish author Matt Hay spends his time roaming the beautiful West Lothian countryside, dreaming of new lands and stories whilst enjoying the never-ending Scottish rain. When he is not trying to scare you with his stories, Matt often can be found at Almondvale Stadium watching his beloved Livingston FC do battle against the best football teams in Scotland.

Don’t Let Submission Rejections End Your Love Of Writing

Guest Post by Scott Carruba

The Mass of Rejections

I have been doing the #IGWritersOct, which, ironically, is primarily an Instagram thing, but hey, let’s think outside the box. It has been an interesting effort, and today’s prompt is “RIP: Rejection stories”. I have a lot of those.

The first time I ever formally submitted was back in the early 90’s. I was in the throes of basically churning out pages and pages that were deeply derivative of Lovecraft’s work. I will call them weird fiction, but they were really more my finding my own voice within the appreciation of another author.

This was back in the days before the internet, and I was mailing off my submissions to various magazines. I never got published this way, though I came close once. One of them asked me to cut a story down a great deal, and I labored over it, finally getting to the length they wanted only for them to reject it a second time.

I did not submit again until some years later, throwing together a query letter for a novel. I had a copy of the Writer’s Market if I recall correctly, and this thick, hardbound book set me back a decent amount. I put together many letters, SASE’s (how many people today even know what those are?), and the envelopes upon envelopes I licked. I went to the local post office with stacks of sealed-up hopes. I received letters from most of these, and none of them were successful.

I then tried again sometime later with another novel. This one epic, beastly in size (nearly a thousand pages), and I tried sending my queries this time to agents and publishers. As before, I received many replies, mostly all form letters, all rejections.

I let my interest subside. I still wrote, though not as much. It took more than a decade for me to realize I had nearly abandoned a great creative love of my life. I remember driving up to Barnes & Nobles once, and I turned off my car and sat there. I looked at the store, and I thought of all the books in there. None of them were written by me. I felt a wave of depression hit me. My fairly routine desire to go in and find something new to read had fled and all I could think about was my own lack of publication. I left.

Fortunately, I found new inspiration and wrote my current series (still working on the third). I was lucky enough to find a publisher, and now you can find my books out there if you are so inclined. And I hope you are.

Scott Carruba is a creative writer from Houston, Texas, possessed of a Philosophy degree and a unquenchable imagination. He has written pages upon pages of poetry, short stories, and various longer tales. He currently has published Dance of the Butterfly and Sword of the Butterfly.


Photo by: Dương Trần Quốc