Monday, 14 April 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour - Write, Pace, Edit

I was delighted to be approached  to take part in this writing process tour by Nicky Schmidt; she of the always interesting blog, Absolute Vanilla. My friendship with Nicky is more virtual than face to face. In fact, we've only met once at a British Isles SCBWI conference. We do, however, share a mutual love of wolves, chocolate, and, above all, stories. Do read Nicky's blog tour post. It is, as ever, fascinating. Thank you, Wolfy One, for passing the baton!

What am I working on?
Oh, I love it so much! It's a middle grade thriller set in Victorian London. It's got gangs, it's got bodies, it's got grit and grime, it's got twins. It's set in the docks – Rotherhithe and Wapping – and I've pounded the streets, making notes, taking photos, trying to take myself back in time.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
What a question! Is anything ever startlingly original? Does anything really differ? If so, how does it fit its genre? But all that aside, I'd have to say my work differs because of its sense of place. I tend to write about London. I live in London. I love research! I hope that what I've done in this novel is that through all my research and street pounding, I've made the Victorian London docks seem real to the reader, to evoke a real sense of place.

Why do I write what I do?
I've said in previous blog posts, that I'm not really a 'what if' writer. I tend to get a grain of an idea from places. In the case of my current novel, it came about through a visit to a Victorian mortuary in Rotherhithe. I write thrillers because that's what I love to read. And I write for children because it's such an exciting field, full of wonder and possibilities. There's nothing better than watching a child becoming engrossed in a story, being inside its world, and I want to write a book that does that.

How does my writing process work?
In a nutshell – idea, research, plot, write, pace, write, pace, write, pause, edit. I come up with the idea, get all excited, then I do some research – about the place, about the people, the history. I never write without knowing where I'm going, so I write a loose plot. This always changes along the way, but I like to know roughly what happens before I sit down to write. I'll write a character list, do some character studies, and I'll outline the first few chapters in more detail. Then I begin. The opening chapter never ends up being the actual opening chapter. I know this as I begin. It's fine. What this original opening does is set the scene in my head and, more importantly, starts building the voice. I find I only get the voice by chapter three or four, and I only ever get the voice by actually sitting down and writing it. So I write, and I pace. I don't know why, but I just can't sit still when I'm writing. I have to get up, walk around for a few minutes. Then I'm good to go again. I do this until I have a full first draft, stopping every now and then to plan out the next set of chapters. I don't edit along the way. I'm of the 'quantity not quality' opinion first time round. The pause between writing is never that long. I can't help it. I try writing something else. I try writing nothing. But I need to go back fairly quickly. I write using Scrivener and keep folders of bits to add, ideas, and changes. They help hugely with the edit. Which is basically the same process as above but with 'quality not quantity' fixed in my brain!

So that's me. I'm handing over to the splendidly excellent Liz de Jager. Her post will be really interesting because she writes like a demon. If anyone knows how to get the words on the page, it's Liz. Look for her post on 21st April.
http://www.lizdejager.co.uk 


While writing her debut novel, Liz de Jager fostered her love of YA and genre fiction by developing the popular My Favourite Books review blog. This ran for seven years and enabled her to gain insights into the publishing industry. She grew up in South Africa and now lives and works in the UK with her husband Mark. Banished (Tor Books) is Liz’s debut novel and you can also find her on twitter as @LizUK.

And a late entry to the er...race. OK, to the blog tour, is Mark Jones. Mark always has an unusual view of the world and I'm sure his post will be both enlightening and vastly entertaining.


Mark is a small shrub at the bottom of your garden. Due to an ‘accidental’ dumping of toxic waste he became sentient and started doing the only thing a shrub with no legs could do to stay sane, write books. You’ll often find him struggling to survive amongst those nettles you really should pull up, one leaf wrapped around an old biro, scribbling over a sheaf of dock leaves.  Dig him up before he attaches himself to the cat.
http://writing.thebookmonkeys.co.uk

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Trauma of the Title

Titles. How hard can it be? I'll tell you how hard. Absolutely, totally impossible, that's how hard! Yet somehow a novel never seems right, never seems real as you're writing it unless you have the right title. My current novel is certainly no exception. Yet I've written novels with excellent titles. And I've had excellent titles but no novels to go with them.

Some authors have the most wonderful titles, and I am green with envy.

The Treachery of Beautiful Things (Ruth Frances Long). How gorgeous is that? The book's good too.

The Feral Child (Che Golden). Great title. Great story. Hmm. Could there be a connection here?

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish (Mo O'Hara). I know. Perfect, eh?

But then you have titles that are not so great.

Lord of the Rings? Meh!

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Good. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? Bit nothingy. (But my favourite ever book, actually.)

So I battle on with my own titles. Mudlarks - ditched that. It didn't even have much to do with the story.  Becoming Patience Baker. Really? What was I thinking of?! Bird Wars. Luckily I only stuck with that one for the briefest of moments. I've made lots of scribbled notes. Words that have something to do with the plot. Disappeared? Bit rubbish. Sometimes I come up with a nice title, only for someone to have got there first. And done really well with it. Ah well. The search continues.