Ever since I started the journey to becoming an independent writer, I’ve been reading about various marketing strategies and ways to be a part of the digital writing age (writing a blog is a really good start, apparently). I’d heard about blog tours without really knowing what they were about or how to get involved in one, so this week it was great to be invited onto ‘The Writing Process’ Blog Tour and dip my toes into uncharted territory.
For my part in this ever expanding tour I’ve taken up the baton from another writer by answering four questions about my writing process. I’lI then pass the baton onto two other writers who will do the same (it should have been three but it seems writers are busy multi-tasking people. Who knew?). What appeals to me about this process is the idea that these links between writers create a thread of knowledge and advice, something I still pursue myself even after twenty years of writing.
In fact, one of the side-effects of being handed the baton is going back to read the previous writer’s post, and then the writer before that, and the writer before that and so on and so on until I realised it was the middle of the day and I hadn’t even thought about my post yet, but I did have an awful lot of new writing advice, and I’d discovered some writers I wasn’t aware of before. So, if you want to know about the vast array of ways to engage in the creative process there are worse ways to spend an afternoon, but make yourself a bucket full of coffee first and switch off your phone because it could become your new addiction.
I was invited on the tour by Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, a writer I met while we were on the Creative Writing MA together. She writes beautifully fluid and insightful prose with a focus on family relationships, and you can read more about her work on her website. Her latest novel is called ‘The Piano Player’s Son’, a title I wish I’d had the forethought to bag for myself.
So, with all the pre-amble done, here are my answers to the four magic questions:—
1. What am I working on?
I’ve just started reworking a novel for teenagers that I finished (or thought I had) about five years ago. It has a dystopian setting and I can see now why it didn’t work, as I hadn’t figured out the world in enough convincing detail. That’s what I’m spending time on now, asking the question What If?, as well as researching such random things as bushcraft and knives, and going back to read other dystopian novels for YA such as the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, and Numbers by Rachel Ward. I am quite desperate to start the writing now, but I’m trying to stop myself!
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Now this is a tough one. The question suggests I’ve thought about how to make myself different and my work reflects this, but that’s just not the case. Creatively I’m selfish. I write about what interests me and what I’m passionate about because I think if I’m not passionate about it, my readers won’t be either. I will, however, try to cobble together an answer that might even be true.
I have a tendency to ask difficult questions in my fiction. I’m interested in the dark side of human experience and as I write for young adults this can become very dark. For example, in my last novel, The Big Deep, I was asking the question How do you know if your thought processes are normal? As the question suggests, my main character is dealing with the uncertainty of mental health and how she can understand how her mind works, as well as the concept of what is ‘normal’. This is a fairly unsexy subject matter as far as mainstream publishers are concerned, which is why I decided not to go down that route and publish myself on Kindle instead.
Is it this willingness to deal with difficult subjects that makes me different? I’m not sure, as there are plenty of other writers out there doing the same thing (Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness), but I suppose as human beings we all have a unique and original perspective of the world, so maybe…
3. Why do I write what I do?
I’ve written for adults and teenagers, including novels, short stories and radio plays. I like writing in different forms and for different age groups as it keeps me fresh, helping me to look at things from a different angle each time, and I think that’s why people read, to try and see something form a character’s point of view. As for subject matter I’m really interested in the motivation of my characters. What drives them to behave the way they do, what makes them do good things, but more importantly, what makes them do the bad things. It’s this struggle that I find endlessly fascinating.
4. How does my writing process work?
I try to do some thinking and planning before I begin. The temptation is to launch straight in when I have a good idea, but experience has taught me that developing the characters, plot and theme, and making sure they interconnect and are interdependent is crucial in giving the story the necessary depth.
Once I’ve done this and I can’t hold myself back anymore I’ll begin, and try to keep going (aiming for about 1,000 words a day) until I’ve finished a first draft. I’ll do some rudimentary editing as I go but on the whole I try to be constantly moving forwards. Then comes the tough editing process. I see the first draft as the equivalent to tipping the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle onto the floor, and the editing process is seeing how all those pieces fit together, occasionally having to throw pieces out if they don’t belong there.
When things are working out I’ll only need a couple of rewrites, but The Big Deep took nine drafts and there were times when I thought about giving up. My main character had other ideas though and wouldn’t leave me alone, so I had to find a way of uncovering her story.
Of course I make it sound really straightforward, but in reality this process is constantly interrupted and/or encouraged by my teaching at Bath Spa University. I get to surround myself with writers and talk about writing as much as I like, which is a great environment to be in, but it does have an impact on the whole sitting in a room alone and just writing scenario.
Okay, that’s it, questions answered and a big thank you Lindsay for inviting me onto the tour. Here are the two writers I’ve passed the baton to:—
I started my writing career with short stories and articles before publishing two novels with Hodder & Stoughton and then moving on to explore poetry for performance. I’ve been lucky enough to lead creative writing groups in beautiful locations across the world as well as participating in various Spoken Word activities in Frome. My current passion is drama ~ reviewing theatre, and writing scripts for stage.
Crysse Morrison, writer: drama, fiction, reviews
http://www.cryssemorrison.co.uk ~ http://crysse.blogspot.co.uk
Michelle’s adventures in writing have seen her act as a tourist for the Londonist, peek into pretty homes for onefinestay, and interview writers at their desks for the SCBWI ‘Words and Pics’ blogzine. She also co-ordinates the new AusNZ literature festival. Michelle can’t quite believe she’s been working on her debut YA novel – a time travel affair featuring lots of vintage objects – for four years! She is rep’ed by Jenny Savill at ANA and recently re-launched her blog as loststoryfound.
The links in case you want them are – Londonist – http://londonist.com/ onefinestay – http://www.onefinestay.com/ Words & Pics – http://www.wordsandpics.org/ AusNZ festival- http://ausnzfestival.com/ ANA – http://www.andrewnurnberg.com/ and finally – phew! lost story found – http://loststoryfound.com/