Big thanks to my writing friend and FlashFlood editing buddy, Shirley Golden, for inviting me to join this blog tour. It made me think a lot about my writing habits! So if you’re interested in what I’m up to and how I do what I do, here are my responses to the questions… 🙂
You can read Shirley’s responses from last week HERE.
What am I working on?
I am working on my debut – a psychological suspense novel called BLACK WOOD. I recently received comments (all good – whew!) from my agent after a bit of a rewrite and we are now brainstorming the final part of the puzzle before it gets submitted to publishers (again). Fingers crossed!
I have plans for another two books set in the same town – not quite a series, but sharing a setting and with some overlapping characters – a bit like Belinda Bauer‘s Shipcott novels (Blacklands, Dark Side and Finders Keepers), which are not really a series as such, but all set in the same place.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is an interesting question, as I have recently been trying to formulate a short pitch for my novel that describes it in one sentence. After some discussion on facebook and twitter, it currently reads like this:
“Amidst the claustrophobia of a small Scottish town, Black Wood spins a tale of dark secrets and fractured friendships, where past meets present with devastating consequences…”
How does this differ from other novels in my genre? Well, I’m not really sure… the book focuses on the lives of the characters and how they interconnect in a place where gossip is rife, everyone knows your business, and secrets never remain buried forever. The ‘crime’ element is almost secondary to the main thread of the story. Black Wood does contain various elements that could place it in different genres according to taste…
Also, as I have written outlines for several standalones, which are all completely different and possibly more in the realm of horror/weird fiction – think: ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ – I don’t think I’m in danger of being labelled predictable 😉
Why do I write what I do?
I’ve always read a lot of crime and horror fiction, and am particularly interested in the psychological aspects of bad things happening to ordinary people and how they react. I particularly like dark secrets and the exploration of relationships – the idea that people are rarely what they seem. I’m writing the kind of things that I like to read. I think I would struggle to write for any other reason. Like many writers, I am fascinated by the concept of ‘what if..?’ and this is a scenario that seems to work well in most good genre fiction.
How does my writing process work?
- Ideas come to me all the time. Something on the news, something I overhear. Sometimes it’s a tiny snippet, other times I can picture a whole scenario. I email notes to myself and add to them with each new thought until I have enough to work with.
- It will probably change later, but I always know I’m ready to go when I have an opening scene to start me off. It can take a while to get to this place, with a lot of note-taking and brainstorming ideas, but I can’t get anywhere without this – if it doesn’t feel right at the start, I stall after the first page, and if I try to push on regardless it never feels right.
- I work quicker when I start with a title. Sometimes these change later, but usually I spend a lot of time getting them right in my head before I start the story. A good title is essential for me as it frames the whole story.
- I always worry about not having my characters fully formed. I tend to be led by plot and their personalities then come together from the actions that surround them. Once they exist, and the story is in full flow, I tweak them and their backstories and eventually their secrets start to come to me. I don’t plan them in that way where you ask them questions like what they eat for breakfast and where they’d like to go on holiday. I’ve tried, but it doesn’t work for me.
- As far as planning goes, there’s a whole big debate about ‘plotters vs pantsers’ and having tried both, I’d have to say that I am a plotter by nature. I would love to just have a rough idea and wing it – in fact, I have tried that many times, with little success. After several failed attempts at writing a full-length novel, I finally completed one when I outlined in as much detail as I could. Things changed along the way, of course, as characters developed and caused the original ideas to shift, but without a plan I know I would never had made it to the end.
- I struggle to write without editing as I go. I like to read over the day’s work and fix it where I can. Saying that though, there have been times when a scene or a chapter has come to me at an inappropriate time, such as while just about asleep (the usual) or while on a train, or more regularly, while driving. In those cases, I write as fast as I can and email the mess to myself, fixing it when next back at the computer. Because of this, my first draft of Black Wood was in quite good shape, and I only went through making a few tweaks before I sent to my agent. I then made further tweaks based on his feedback – then I made some more significant changes and that is where it currently stands. I’ll definitely be using what I’ve learned from writing this book to help me write the next.
- I’m not in the ‘write X number of words every day’ camp, preferring to write in splurges as and when I can. When I was in the thick of the novel, I was writing in several chunks every day, early mornings and late nights – but before that, when I was working on shorts and flash, I definitely didn’t write every day. I always think I’ll write more on my days off work, or at weekends, but that rarely happens. Snatching time before or after work tends to be far more productive, and in those short bursts I can usually write about 1000 words an hour, if I’m focused and know what I’m writing. That’s probably the most important thing for me – knowing what it is I plan to write before I sit down to write it – otherwise I just end up staring at a blank page, or more likely, refreshing my facebook and twitter feeds to find something to do other than write.
I don’t believe in a strict set of rules for writing. Everyone is different and works in different ways. I’ve bought loads of books on the craft of writing, and most have a few good tips and tricks, but the only way I can see it working is to find your own way. Anyone who tells you it’s easy is lying. Writing is hard work, but the feeling you get when someone tells you they’ve enjoyed something you’ve written makes it all worthwhile.
Comments welcome, as always 🙂
Jane Isaac‘s first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The sequel, The Truth Will Out will be released on 1st April 2014. Jane lives with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo, in rural Northamptonshire.
Miranda Kate is a British expat living in Holland, who by day is a freelance editor, and by night a writer of dark, disturbing ‘real-life’ fiction. Primarily a novel writer, Miranda enjoys exploring her writing through flash fiction, finding a certain satisfaction in the end result.
Laura Jamez, a mother of two from Dunfermline, has been obsessed with horror stories from a very young age. She is currently working on a new collection exploring the worlds of a Vampires and Werewolves, due for release late Spring 2014.