Friday 2 January 2015

Blog Tour: My Writing Process

Back in September, I was tagged by Van Demal as part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour. I was excited to be asked, and headed off to the Writers' Workshop Festival of Writing fully intending to pick up the blog baton when I returned. Then promptly forgot.

I was reminded by Claire King's excellent contribution to the tour - one of those head-slapping moments where you remember something you can't quite believe you forgot. I'd like to use her  experience of being 'silenced' by the current project as an excuse, but y'all know me too well to believe that. So, in the spirit of a new year, new me, here goes:

What am I working on?
Still the damned book.

Okay, in case you've forgotten, I spent the second half of 2013 and first half of 2014 writing the first draft of my novel. I proudly tidied up the spelling and more glaring mistakes in continuity and called that the second draft (yes, I was that naive), and sent it out for critique. No awakening was more rude.

I took my bruised ego and heavily revised first chapter to the Festival of Writing where I got lots of positive feedback and inspiration for rewriting the book. That was September. It's now January and I've only done about 7,000 words of the rewrite. I let life get in the way, made excuses, procrastinated like a pro, mainly because I was daunted by the size of the task ahead. More than once, I wondered if this was the book I should be writing. Given that I was pretty much starting over from scratch, maybe I should take the opportunity to write something else entirely. I'd lost the passion for my book, and I didn't know whether that was because it wasn't the book I should be writing, or just that I'd got too close to it to see its potential anymore.

In any case, I made a positive decision to NOT write for a few months, just to see what happened. And what happened was that the book kept working on itself in my subconscious. Chapters have been insistently rewriting themselves in my head while I'm doing the dishes, or taking a shower, or sweeping leaves. Though not consciously looking for it, I've found inspiration in the books I've been reading  - inspiration to widen the themes I'm exploring in my own, to engage with the time and place my book is set in, as well as with the characters that inhabit it. I can't let go of this story, because it won't let go of me.

So, yes, I'm still working on the book, and this non-writing work feels just as important as racking up the words did in the first draft stage.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don't think I can answer that question. My writing doesn't really fit into a particular genre. And if it did, would I want it to be different? I want it to be distinctive, and to be good, but difference may be overrated. Anyway, I leave that one for other writers to answer better!

Why do I write what I do?
It's a cliche, but I write the sort of things I like to read. Sadly, that's not the most commercial of choices. At the Festival of Writing, one of the agents I saw suggested that my book would work well as a psychological thriller. She's right. It would. I watched her face fall as I explained that I don't like thrillers, and very rarely read them, so really, really couldn't write one. I write about what interests me, and that's people, and why they do what they do.

How does my writing process work?
I'm a target-driven person, and a goody-two shoes. I ALWAYS hand my homework in on time and I hate myself for missing even self-imposed deadlines. So my process is focused around meeting daily goals, in terms of either time spent or words written. I don't mind when I do the work, as long as it's not first thing in the morning. I admire those who rise pre-dawn to write. I can write nothing intelligible before 9am. I schedule my writing time depending on what other commitments I have that day, but I make it non-negotiable, once it's in the diary.

I can write anywhere once I'm in my stride, often the noisier the better. I find it best to get started on the day's work away from home - in the lounge at the gym, in a local cafe, even in the car while waiting to pick up a child. Once I've got a bit of work going I can carry on once I get home, but I find it hard to get started when conditions are ostensibly perfect - sitting in a warm, quiet house with a good cup of coffee and all the time in the world. Perverse, I know, but I also know I'm not the only one.


  1. I really enjoyed this, and particularly your point about the writing that happens when you are purposefully not writing. I have spent the last two months 'not writing' and it has been fantastic. Like leaving a field fallow, you can't really see what's happening, but the earth is all the richer for it when you start up again. I may even make this a regular thing. Good luck with the damn book xx

    1. Thanks, Claire. I find a fallow head much more productive than one I'm actively furrowing. Also, not sure how long I can sustain this metaphor...

  2. A great post. And no, you're not the only one to struggle to get going when conditions are perfect. I know exactly what you mean. Claire

  3. Really admired your honesty - it made me feel less guilty about my own lack of enthusiasm for my own work that I often suffer from. Btw I'm not called Claire ;)

  4. Hello, not-Claire! It's hard, isn't it, when you're feeling blah about it. I'm glad my subconscious has told me in no uncertain terms to keep going. Otherwise it's too tempting to throw in the towel. Again.