Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The way I write...

Following on from my previous post about writing sisters, I thought I'd give a few insights into the way I write, as opposed to the way, Virginia does it. Like I said, we're very different! In my early days of writing (and after realising with my first unpublished novel that I really badly need to plot) I started the process off with a longish synopsis, of up to four pages, and a more blurby type thing, both of which I gave to my then editor. Initially I started planning individual chapters, but I found that too stifling, so now my synopses tend to be divided into two or three parts and I give each a rough story arc, so I know where I want to be by the end of each part, and then flesh it out. Basically I get too impatient planning and the writing starts to escape with me (so much so, that sometimes things I've planned not to happen till part 3 turn up in part 1 which can be a bugger I can tell you.). I am allright with a basic skeleton, but anything more detailed and I am dead in the water. By trial and error I've also discovered that my early attempts which would involve writing, rewriting and fiercely editing the first few chapters made me want to slit my wrists, and leave me incapable of finishing the damned thing. So now I throw caution to the winds and just write till the story is out. Even if it's shit, I've got something down, which is a lot more satisfying than staring at a blank screen, I can tell you... I had always typed my first drafts up, till I was on holiday a few years ago and discovered that actually writing by hand is much more productive for me. For some reason I find it easier to get the basic story down. The typing up and faffing about when I realise things don't fit together very well is a damned nuisance, but I actually think I get a first draft out quicker that way. As a notorious procrastinator, I can waste HOURS of my life on twitter and Facebook while I'm supposed to be writing. This way, I take myself off to cafes and libraries to concentrate solidly for several hours at a time. On my best days I can get through at least three chapters, on my worst, one. And if anyone has been following me on FB recently, they might have noticed I've been doing a lot of cafe writing as I was working insanely hard to hit a tight deadline. One of the things I love about writing by hand, is that so long as I have a pad with me, I can do it anywhere. I know I could with a laptop, but I find the hassle of lugging one around a bit of a pain. And over the years as I've been sitting waiting for various children to finish various activities I find it's a great way to maximise moments I didn't know I had. Thus in January I found myself sitting in a cafe in Hammersmith waiting for inspiration. A blank page can be intimidating too, but when you are stuck somewhere for three hours, and you don't have access to the internet, and you have nothing else to do, it is AMAZING how words do come out. Even if you have to force yourself to put pen to paper.
Some days I visit more than one cafe. After about an hour I get bored, so a change of scenery works for me. Though I have to fight with the temptation to run home and go and lie down (Writing frequently makes me want to lie down and go back to sleep) I try to resist the urge. I find this can be helpful to the creative process too. As if I am stuck and can't think where to go next, invariably by the time I get to my next location, I have found a solution of sorts to my problem (even as if frequently when I come to rewrite it's not the right solution. So long as it's enough to move me on, that is good enough for me.)
By the time I am at the end, I am quite demented. Scribbling notes in the column (as I've done in the pic below) to remind myself of where I'm going with the damned thing. But OH the relief when I finally get to the end. I actually never type the end, which is a hangover from my editing days as I know it always gets edited out, so I don't see the point. But nonetheless, there's a great sense of satisfaction when I DO get there.
The end though, isn't really the end. It's the beginning. Particularly when you are mad enough to write by hand. My next stage is typing up - I always try to type up as a I go and then get into the writing and that all goes for a burton. Suffice to say I had ten days in which to type up my first draft and get it knocked into a good enough shape to send to my editor this time. And pray WHAT did I do with all that time. Oh yes, I procrastinated HUGELY. For which I was kicking myself last Tuesday when I realised I had left myself very little time to edit. Although to be fair, I edit as I type, so the first printed draft, is in effect a second draft.
And by the time I'm done I usually have a very stiff neck, and my wrists fill like they're going to fall off. At this point in the process I usually hate the book with a passionate loathing. Especially when I read it through and think all the things all writers do, like it's shit, why would anyone buy this/read this, why do I bother? This dear reader, is part of the process, and has to be got through. It is just as illusory as the other reaction you go through when you're thinking, this is it! I am on fire! This is the best thing I've ever written etc! What then usually happens is a far more sensible response. I scribble notes on the second draft, and go through it one more time. By the end of which I can see further tweaks, which need sorting, and I am far more likely to be of the mind that it's ok, I have written a story, which needs lots of work, but I'm heading in the right direction. This is my fourth draft, and this is the one I send my editor.
At this point I do breathe a sigh of relief, because now it's out of my hair for a bit, although the writer who told me many years ago sending of an ms to an editor is a bit like sending off a job application wasn't far off the mark. There's always the worry your editor/agent will hate it but you have to hope it won't come to that... And while I am waiting, I can spend a bit of time researching more information for the book which I didn't have time to do in the writing process, and selecting songs for my playlist (I always have a soundrack to my books, I shall post the latest one when I've worked it up more), and pay a little attention to sorting my domestic life out. In two weeks time my edits will come in and everything else will go for a burton, so I have to make hay while the sun shines! If you want to know more about the way I write and meet me in person talking to my twin sister Virginia Moffatt about the way she does, check this out. Virginia is crowdfunding to publish her amazing book, Echo Hall with, here: here You can help her do it by pledging to join us for tea! Or if you can't do that, there are other pledges you can make. And if that's not your bag either, please do feel free to share on FB and twitter! Many thanks


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Matthew Hynds said...

As a writer myself I find this very interesting! I’ve finished a travel book for which I’m currently seeking publication, and now I’m working on a science epic which has been many years in the planning. I know what you mean about the tension between planning and writing the damn thing... there’s only so much detailed planning you can do before your brain turns to mush... anyway I am writing the damn thing now. Thanks for the insights into how a published author of several books goes about the process.