I was tagged into the My Writing Process Blog Tour by my lovely friend Anne Booth. Anne, and I and our friend Judith Heneghan (see below) were at University together where we used to talk into the wee small hours about our desire to be writers. Both of them got started before me, and have inspired me to keep going. I’m delighted that Anne’s excellent first book for children, Girl with A White Dog, is coming out next month. (Watch out for it as a plug of the month).
I really enjoyed Anne’s account of her writing process which she has written about here. And here is my attempt to answer the same questions:
1) What am I working on?
I have just completed (or completed as far as I can without professional help) my first novel, “Echo Hall”. I’m in the process of submitting to agents, getting rejections, learning, revising, resubmitting, which is all very nerve-wracking. So to give myself something to think about, I have written the first draft of my second novel, “The Wave”. I did this in a month for Nanowrimo, and I’ve left it aside for a few weeks so I can think about the re-writes. I’m aiming to get back to it soon. The novels are very different. The first is told over eighty years with complex plotting and a strong narrative arc as it explores the impact of unresolved conflict from one generation to the next (both personally and politically). The second takes place in less than 24 hours and is much more character and ideas driven, so it’s posing very different challenges. (With the first novel, I’ve spend ten years taming an unruly plot, with the second, I am trying to work out how to make limited action interesting and alive.)
I have also completed a collection of flash fiction drawn from writing on this blog and some newer pieces. “rapture and what comes after” contains ten paired stories dealing with the light and dark aspects of love. I’m hoping to publish as an e-book soon in order to generate income for a pamphlet version.
Finally, I have a strong idea for a play, and have the beginnings of a screenplay sitting in my files, but never have time to take them forward. (So many ideas so little time…)
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That’s quite a difficult question to answer, partly because I don’t consider that I write to a particular genre, (“Echo Hall” has several, and “The Wave” is quite different); and partly because unless you are writing formulaic fiction, each writer should have their unique way of writing in the genre they choose. What I can say is that I aim to write to the best of my abilities, using the genre most suitable for the narrative, and experimenting only when it serves the story.
3. Why do I write what I do?
This one is easier. Reading and writing have always been inseparable for me. I read to be entertained, thrilled, horrified, amazed, inspired, moved. I write to do the same for other readers. I write because I absolutely have to, because I am possessed by stories that only I can tell, peopled by characters jostling in my head who demand to be heard.
All fiction writers draw from their experience, vision and values, and I am no exception. I aim to tell stories that people can’t put down, but which also make them think. I hope I manage to communicate something about my views on war, God, politics, relationships without preaching or forcing readers to agree with me.
4) How does your writing process work?
I spent a very painful two years on the treadmill of a creative writing course that demanded two long assignments each term. I found trying to write to such short deadlines absolutely excruciating and it did nothing for the quality of my work. However, whilst it was a difficult period, and I nearly gave up on the course more than once, it did teach me what process works best for me.
I now realise that when I have an idea, I have to just throw it on the page, not thinking about the writing, till I can see the shape of it. Once I’ve got that down, I have to put it away for a while (as I have done with “The Wave”). In the meantime, I research and keep my writing skills honed doing other projects (flash fiction is particularly good for working on precision). When I come back to it with clear eyes I can see what is working and what is not. I start by dealing with the structure, and after that will edit the words. My first drafts are always banal, full of cliche, repetition and limited character development. I have to do a lot of re-writes to create work that uses the right words in the right way, feels fresh and clarifies character motives. I have to be prepared to jettison scenes and chapters I really love, to ensure the story is told the best of my abilities. My writing can’t be rushed!
So that’s my process. Here are three more writers, who next week will tell you theirs:
Julia Williams. Julia is my twin sister, chief cheerleader, and unpaid editor. She was a brilliant editor for Scholastic Children’s Books where she took over the prestigious Point Horror series, developed Point Crime, Point Romance, Point Fantasy and edited “The Sterkhalm Handshake” which won the The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1998. When she took a career break to raise her family, she began writing fiction of her own. She is now a successful author of commercial women’s fiction, with six best-selling novels to her name, including “Pastures New,” “Last Christmas” and “Midsummer Magic”. She is currently developing a great fantasy series for children. Julia’s website is http://juliawilliamsauthor.com/ and she tweets as @jccwilliams
Dan Holloway. I first met Dan on-line. For a long time I thought he was a woman, till I discovered his twitter handle @agnieszkasshoes was derived from his novel “The Man Who Painted Agnieszkasshoes”. Since then our paths have crossed at a flash fiction reading, a protest and somewhat surprisingly, when he was a guest at my work’s annual fun run (where despite his pretence to be slow he beat me hands down). Dan is a prolific writer of novels, poetry, flash fiction. He was self-publishing before Kindle, and is a leading light in avant-garde independent fiction. He has recently announced his first book deal. He blogs at http://danholloway.wordpress.com/about-me-2/
Judith Heneghan. As noted above, Judith, Anne and I have been close friends for thirty years. Judith was the first to forge ahead with her writing career, when she took an MA in Creative Writing for Children at Winchester, which inspired me to get going myself. Her first novel “Stonecipher” is a wonderful piece of historical fiction, which reminds me a lot of Diana Wynne Jones. Since then she has written a number of picture books and over forty non-fiction books. She is a highly regarded lecturer in Creative Writing and is currently Programme Leader for the Winchester Children’s MA course. She has recently been appointed Director of the Winchester Writer’s Festival. Her blog for the festival can be found at http://writersfestival.co.uk/blog. She tweets as @JudithHeneghan