Following on from my last post you might be relieved to know that, this time, there will be no mention of underwear, damp or otherwise. There will, however, be quite a lot of information about how a writer works - or at least this writer. You see folks, I've been invited by the lovely Karen Owen, picture book and middle grade author, to take part in The Writing Process Blog Tour. Yes I know this all sounds very grand, but it's actually quite simple: every Monday the participating writers post a blog answering four questions about their writing process. Today it's my turn. So, if you're interested in having an insight into my working practice, not to mention my overactive imagination, grab yourself a drink of your choice and read on.
1 What am I working on?
I've just started writing the first draft of another contemporary young adult novel that, on the surface, is a ghost story - but is much more than a straight-forward exploration of the paranormal. I'm really excited about this book as it's unlike anything I've written before. The action is mostly set in the Scottish highands, primarily around the modern day village of Glencoe, a place renowned for its spectres, and steeped in legend. Before I began writing the story I spent four incredible days in and around the area, soaking up the atmosphere, badgering the local people for information on what it's like to live there, and scribbling lots of notes. And snapping photographs, of course. The photo to the right is one of the hundreds (yes hundreds!) taken while I was there.
2 How does my work differ from others of its genre?
To be honest, I'm not really sure how to answer that. The thing is, even although I read lots of young adult fiction, I can't claim to have read every book that is, or has been, published. Given this, making a comparison is an almost impossible task. What I can say is that every story I write is influenced by my life experiences and the things that I have learned, or observed, about the world we live in. It's probably this amalgam that helps shape each of my stories and makes my work differ from anyone else's. Undoubtedly, it's the same for any writer.
3 Why do I write what I do?
My answer to this is brief: I write the sort of books I would have liked to read when I was a young adult.
4 How does my writing process work?
I begin with an idea, or a question that I want to explore. Sometimes, conveniently, these thoughts occur to me at home whereupon I fetch my Ideas Notebook and jot them down. Usually, though, inspiration strikes when I'm out and about - walking the dogs, or food shopping and suchlike. If I'm lucky I'll have one of my (many!) mini notepads with me, if not I'll type a line or two into my mobile phone (or use the voice memo function), and transfer the notes into my notebook when I arrive home. I also keep a little pad on my bedside table, and have others in various parts of the house. Even so, I have been known to use the backs of envelopes and scraps of paper from time to time. If I'm in the bath or the shower when inspiration strikes, I simply switch one of my rings onto another finger as a sort of aide memoire.
As you might expect, I end up with an ever-increasing stream of ideas. So what do I do with them? Actually, it's quite easy: I let them brew for a while, throw in an intriguing character or two, and hey presto - the more appealing concepts rise to the top. From there on in it's a case of deciding which one to run with next, then begins the research. For this I use the Internet, read books, go on several field trips, making lots and lots of notes along the way.
Once this preparatory period is over, I start the actual writing. Mostly, this is done at my desk, in my office (a converted upstairs bedroom), typing straight into my computer. Sometimes, however, if I'm working on a first draft, I park myself in a comfy armchair in the sitting room. For a change of scene, I occasionally work in a coffee shop or cafe. I never right longhand, but always have a large journal by my side (I go through several per book) into which I write copious notes, which helps with the self-editing process. Having completed each draft I leave it for as long as I can - several weeks at least - before revising. I then have a quick read through, making minimal notes, before embarking on a thorough self-edit. For this I use an exhaustive checklist I compiled using the advice contained within James Scott Bell's excellent book, Plot and Structure. I repeat the self-editing/re-drafting process until I feel the manuscript is ready for submission.
I could wax ever lyrical about my writing process, but I sense you may need to recharge your glass/cup by now. So, without further ado I'd like to introduce you to the three writing friends who will take up the blog tour baton next week...
First off, we have Sarah Broadley. Here's what she has to say for herself: Sarah is a children's writer who has jumped out of her picture book 'comfort zone' and dived into the world of 7+ and 9+ books with reckless abandon. She currently spends her time with imaginary monsters, causing mayhem wherever she goes, while attempting to solve mysteries and save the world from chocolate gobbling authors - everything really that comes along for the ride when writing for younger readers. Sarah has been a member of SCBWI BI since July 2013 and regularly attends SCBWI BI South East Scotland meetings in Edinburgh. www.greatbigjar.com
Next up is Michael Edwards. Michael is a picture book writer and illustrator, currently living in Edinburgh, UK. He studied fine art before moving onto music at university. The love of music carries over into Michael’s writing style, which often demonstrates a keen interest in rhyme and rhythm. Michael’s illustrations focus on quirky characters and bright colours. He also has a background in psychology and is keen to help children to learn about themselves through the joy of reading. http://www.oojooboojoo.com
Last to pick up the baton, but not least, is Sean Noonan. Born in Scarborough, Sean had the good fortune to grow up in different parts of Europe. He finished his schooling in the Kingdom of Fife, and went on to study at St Andrews University. But a life of adventure beckoned so he spent the next twenty-odd years as a Salty Seadog, sailing the oceans and being fascinated by its wonders. Eventually, he 'swallowed the anchor'and came ashore as a management consultant. He now lives in Scotland with his wife Liz and their two children. In the years ahead, Sean looks forward to entertaining young people of all ages. http://seannoonan.info/
Sarah, Michael and Sean will post their blogs on Monday, April 7th.