Of course I’m flattered by the nominations, but there’s no denying that responding eats into your writing time. So, as I did a couple of months ago with my backlog of blog awards, I’ve decided to condense the four blog hop doo-dahs into a single post.
Lisa Reiter nominated me for the “my writing process” blog hop way back in June (hence the Sweet Williams on my desk). This involves answering four questions about the what, why and how of one’s writing and passing on the baton to another three writers whose work you admire. Easy: but I still hadn’t paid my dues when, almost three months on, Tricia Orr invited me to be her nominee for the same blog hop. Meanwhile, another mutation raised its head, focusing on the single question of “why I write” in greater depth, which came my way via Ruchira. Finally, a brand-new blog hop from #writingwithoutworkshops, again concentrating on the importance of why (via the tag #importantbook) infected me by one of my Liebster nominees, Juliet O’Callaghan. Let’s hope I can do justice to these lovely ladies’ confidence in me by providing some answers that aren’t as rambling as this introduction.
Part of the reason for my delay in responding to Lisa’s nomination, was that I wasn’t working on anything much during the summer, apart from blog posts and revising the odd short story. Autumn and winter bring much more time and headspace for bigger projects and now I’m in the very early stages of a novel project following three point-of-view characters through the resettlement of psychiatric patients from longstay hospitals. I’ve never been particularly attracted to NaNoWriMo, but used the buzz of its slipstream to complete 30,000 words of a very poor first draft during November. As it wasn’t too painful, I’m trying to maintain the thousand words a day average during December so I can get to the ending, interspersed with delving back into my forthcoming debut, Sugar and Snails, to work through the publisher’s initial round of edits.
*How does your work differ from others in this genre?
Mmm, I suppose this is where I should showcase the all-singing all-dancing USP for my debut novel. But one of the exciting – and also confusing – aspects of literary fiction is that there’s no blueprint to follow and each novel needs to be considered on its own merits. I could say more but, at the moment, I’m still unsure whether to trust the research that says that spoilers don’t spoil.
Why are you working on this project? Why is it important?
This is the sole question (okay, two questions, though easily combined) in the “important book” blog hop, but perhaps the most difficult of all. The last thing the world needs is another novel so I can’t claim my work matters in the overall scheme of things. But the themes of my fiction matter immensely: how we deal with difference and the struggle to be true to oneself.
*Why do you write what you do?
While it’s impossible to judge your own writing from the reader’s perspective, I aspire to write the kind of fiction I like to read. I’m attracted to complex characters, emotional depth and a willingness to confront the harsh realities, probably because I’ve seen too much of the downside of what happens when this is denied, but I do appreciate, especially from the feedback on my reviews, that this isn’t to everyone’s taste. My biggest fear on publishing my first novel is not so much that others won’t like it, although – even though that’s a given – I find that scary enough, but that the reader in me won’t like it either.
Why I write
While this overlaps with the above question, I’m taking it separately because it isn’t part of the formal “my writing process” blog hop. Charli Mills, Ruchira, Lori Schafer and Sarah Brentyn have beautiful full-length posts on this, but I’m serving up the 99-word version:
I write to tame and organise the thoughts that bubble in my head. I write for the part of me that’s inconsolable and don’t have the hands or the talent for painting, pottery or the piano. I write because it’s proven more effective than screaming to communicate my personal truths. I write because publication provides the perfect payback for a painful childhood and because I’m addicted to alliteration, a glutton for grammar and ruled by the rule of three. I continue writing to discover where my imagination will take me; because if I stopped, I’d no longer be me.
*How does your writing process work?
I like to play with the ideas in my head for as long as I can, be that hours, days or months, before committing anything to page or screen. The benefits of greater flexibility over what the idea might grow into seem to outweigh the risks of losing a good idea. I start to write when my thoughts are overwhelming and I have sufficient space to channel them, uninterrupted, onto the screen. (However, this might change when I come to analyse my experience of producing a fast first draft.) After that it’s the usual writing, editing and rewriting.
In terms of the mechanics, I’m proud that my mother taught me to type the quick brown fox runs over the lazy dog way, using all fingers and thumbs of both hands. But too many dissertations left me with repetitive strain injury, so now I type by voice. The manufacturers claim their voice recognition software is faster than typing but, until they produce a version perfectly attuned to my Cumbrian vowels, I have to disagree.
So that’s me well and truly writing processed, and I’m delighted/relieved to pass on the torch to three wonderful but very different types of writer who have agreed to share their writing process on their blogs (only the *questions are embedded in your contracts).
I hereby hand you over to Charli Mills, Norah Colvin and Caroline Lodge. Click on the photos to go straight to their websites.
Norah has spent her life learning and thinking about how children learn and how best to support their learning. Her own observations as learner, parent and teacher have enhanced understandings developed in both formal and informal study situations.
She believes strongly in the need for learning to be self-initiated, directed and motivated, and the importance of timely and appropriate support for learners on their individual journeys.
While no longer working with children in a school setting, Norah continues to share her passion for education through writing.
I blog a mixture of reviews, topics related to books, reading and writing, and promoting collaborative writing. One theme is exploring Older Women in Fiction, because they seemed rather hidden. The wonderful world of blogging has provided me with additional sources. I include a list on the website.
Currently I am involved in promoting the publication of the book I have co-authored with Eileen Carnell (a 20-year collaboration). It was published by GuardianBooks in July and is called Retiring with Attitude: approaching and relishing your retirement. Lots of material for the blog.