Wednesday, 26 February 2014

My Writing Process (Blog Tour)

Back in January I was tagged by Shirley Golden to take part in this Blog Tour, but due to family matters and other commitments (and writing!), I kept postponing working on this post, until I finally found time to sit down and think about it.

My writing process… I never really reflected on the subject. How and why do I write what I do? How is it different from other authors’?

I’m not sure I can answer the latter question. I suppose most writers go through the same process: conceive an idea, think about it for days, weeks, develop it in my head, jot down quick notes about characters, time frame, location, main plot points, and finally write the story.

The way I go about writing a novel is a bit laborious and goes against what most writing manuals teach not to do, which is writing and editing at the same time. Sensibly, we are told to write the first draft in an uninterrupted flow and then go back to edit as many times as necessary to produce a better, tighter second, third, fourth draft.

Unfortunately I can’t do that. I work like Penelope on her proverbial Shroud.

I write, I read back, I delete, add, change; then write a bit more, read back, delete, add, change and so forth. Sometimes I read back from the start of the last chapter, sometimes from the start of the novel. This way, you ca imagine, writing the first draft takes ages. But the first draft it’s also the second, third or fourth, so when I finish and start the editing, this normally doesn’t take long as so much of the work has been done as I wrote.

I don’t claim this is the best way to write a book, but it works for me and it gives me a better sense of how the story is shaping up.

On occasions the flow is so good that I don’t want to stop it, so I write several pages without feeling the need to edit, but at some point I have this urge to take a break and look back at my work to polish it.

Aside perfecting the form, the main focus when I write is on the characters and so a lot of attention is given to make sure they are well crafted, believable and empathetic, with their own unique voices and quirks, distinct not only from each other, but from the narrative voice. i.e. me, the author.

In addition, I am a bit of a stickler for factual, geographical and historical accuracy. I spend a lot of time researching the tiniest of topics to make sure I get it right, whether it’s what song was number one in the charts in a particular week on a particular year, to how a street looks (or looked!) when  you take a stroll down it, or the weather details for a specific month in the past.

This type of work featured a lot in my novels Playing on Cotton Clouds – which spans three decades and is set in locations as different as The Midlands, Italy, London and New York – and A Summer of Love, where it was important to convey the beauty and romanticism of the Cornish coast over the course of twenty years.

I am currently doing a lot of research, as I plan to write a historical novel set during and in the immediate aftermath of World War I. The initial idea has already changed and expanded due to the fascinating information I have uncovered in my research. It’s an ongoing project at a very early stage, but about which I am very excited. Watch this space.

I now pass the baton on to Catriona King to continue in the Tour with her ideas on writing. Trained as a Doctor and Police Forensic Medical Examiner in London, Catriona worked closely with the Metropolitan Police on many occasions. In recent years, she has returned to live in Belfast. She has written since childhood: fiction, fact and news reporting. A Limited Justice was her first novel – and the 1st in Belfast’s Modern Thriller series – and follows DCI Marc Craig and his team through the streets of Belfast in the hunt for the murderer of three people.

You'll find more about her Belfast's Moder Thriller series on her website