My Writing Process
Many thanks to Thorne Moore author of the powerful novel, A Time For Silence, and the upcoming novel , Motherlove (due out Feb 2015, for inviting me to take part in the ‘My Writing Process’ blogging tour. Read Thorne’s blog, which tagged me, http://www.thornemoore.co.uk/ http://thornemoore.blogspot.co.uk/
Thorne Moore home page
And now it’s my turn to answer four questions.
What am I working on?
Probably more than I should be. I’m working hard on the first draft of the last book in the Pattern Trilogy (working title,Patterns End – although, of course that could easily change) I’ve also just finished the first drafts of two children’s’ books. I’m waiting to see if a novella I’ve sent off to a publisher is accepted and keep going back to make notes on how I can improve it, if it ever gets to see the light of day. And I’ve started research for another book. All that, on top of the planning and preparation I do for the adult creative writing classes I tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council, keeps me happily away from the dusting and other domestic trivia. Most of the time. I’d love to test Quentin Crisps’ theory that, “After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse” but I’m not brave enough. Besides that we have a holiday apartment … bit of advertising coming up here … (http://www.saddleworth-house.co.uk ) … that I like to keep spotless for our visitors because I like them coming back year after year.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Hmm – I think my voice is my metier. A lot of my readers have told me they can actually hear me reading the words to them. I wrote for many years without sending my work anywhere and, looking back, I’ve realised I was drawn over and over again to my roots (I’m born and bred Yorkshire, but transplanted happily in Pembrokeshire, Wales for a long time). Now I use that knowledge and those memories in my novels.
For simplicity I usually describe them as sagas set mid twentieth century. So, I suppose they are Historical, evoking a sense of that time and place but woven with issues that have always affected the human race. And, for good measure, there is always Crime and Romance mixed in. My work is often described as ‘gritty’ – which I take as a compliment – because the lives of my characters live in a ‘gritty’ world.
Why do I write what I do?
Because I have no choice. I have a motto on my study wall:” If you hate the world and everyone in it, you should be writing” While I wouldn’t go that far, I have to say I do get very twitchy if I have to go a couple of days without writing. I think I’ve written stories from the day I learned to hold a pencil (bit of an exaggeration there – but you know what I mean) My mother even has the first story I gave her when I was eight; about a teapot falling off the kitchen table, breaking its spout and dying – she said I cried as I wrote it! I still like to write the unexpected blended with a bit of poignancy. And the mid twentieth century holds a special allure for me: from the days of ‘turbans and donkey-stoning’ doorsteps (and if you don’t know what I mean you’ll have to read the first of my Pattern series; Pattern of Shadows -hah!) to the heady days of the Beatles, mini skirts and The Twist (wait for the third and last of the trilogy!) Also, the difference in the society and culture between the North of England and West Wales in that era fascinates me and just begs to be the background of my books.
How does my writing process work?
I’m quite methodical in the daytime: we have an old Cavalier King Charles who always wakes at five in the morning. I get up, let her out, make a cup of tea for myself and husband -he’s never awake but I make him one anyway – turn on my PC – and write. Usually until about eight o’clock when I have a break for coffee or, if it’s a teaching day, get ready for class. If it’s not a work day I have been known to still be in my dressing gown at lunchtime. I try to get an hour’s writing in most afternoons. It used to be that my head wouldn’t work in the evenings but over the years I have become a bit of an insomniac and, after a couple of hours in bed at night, I get up and write then. Sometimes I’m just about to crawl back into bed as the dog awakes and the whole process starts all over again.
As for the actual process of writing I am so slow. Once I get an inkling of the idea of the story I want to write I spend hours/ days/ weeks researching: the era: the culture, the politics, clothes, education, homes, books. films. toys … it goes on and on. But until I’ve made the world the characters are going to live in, I can’t move on. Then there’s the characters. Pinned on a notice board on my study wall I have pages of every detail of every character: appearance, work, position in families, characteristics, hobbies, habits etc etc. All on separate sheets. And then I plan an outline and at last, start to write. And everything goes out of the window! The characters take on a life of their own and won’t do what I want them to do, won’t stay in the setting I’ve given them, won’t say the dialogue I put in their mouths. Nevertheless I plod on, knowing they are probably right to rebel.
Each time I begin to write again I read through what I wrote the session before and immediately start to alter it. ‘Finish the first draft completely’, I tell myself but it’s no use; there I go again, changing words, sentences, paragraphs.
And when it’s ‘perfect’ I send it to my editor at Honno. And find out it’s not perfect at all and there’s a lot more to do. The first edit is the worst; I have been known to stick my head under the pillow and scream at this point. Then I realise I’m actually an adult, this is my work and I have to just get on with it. After that it’s the nice stuff; the tweaking, the discussions with the editor; the compromising, the knowing when to stick to my guns and when to give in because she knows my writing and what my readers expect from me.
And then the tedious bit – the proofreading. I’ll say no more about that. Except it’s probably the most important part of the whole process. Readers will always spot the wrongly placed semi colon (I do love semi colons – they’re dotted about all over the first drafts) And Spellcheck doesn’t recognise homophones.
When it’s finally out of my hands I go away for a few days with my long-suffering, very patient husband (secretly storing away notebook and pen, just in case, you know).
So that’s all for now. Let me introduce three other great writers whose blogs will take the tour on :
Kate Murray, author of the lovely The Phantom Horse, an anthology of short stories. Visit her websites: http://kate0murray.wordpress.com/ & Kate Murray kate0murray.wordpress.com & http://katemurray.org.uk/ Kate Murray Home katemurray.org.uk
Karen Aldous author of the great – soon to be released (19 May 2014) – The Vineyard. Visit her website:http://www.karenaldous.co.uk/karen-aldous-author-2/