Writer and writing process guru Bec Evans encouraged me to contribute to a blog tour in which writers share their process. I agreed, in part to help me understand my own process better, and in part as I decided a few months ago to knuckle down and write a novel.
What I’m working on
I am midway through drafting said first novel. After years of talking about writing one (and knowing how annoying this has been for my wife over the past few years, I’m becoming aware of just what pain I must have inflicted on my family and oldest friends) I’ve finally mustered the concentration/ willpower/ determination required and am doing it.
My novel follows the fate of two lost souls in a small coastal community, whose lives collide, dredging up memories both would prefer stayed beneath the surface. More than that I can’t say – not out of a desire to be enigmatic and enticing, but from the fact it’s far from a structured, well-organised project and I’ll probably only know what happens once I’ve written the thing and read it back to myself. Ask me again in a few months.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
At the moment, I’m concerned about writing the best story I can rather than thinking about how it differs from other works. I consider myself very much a novice, so if some of the thought I put in at the word and sentence level shows through and helps it stand out I’ll be happy.
Why do I write what I do?
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve not been writing this novel since I was eight or nine (which is a helluva long time to procrastinate), and while I’ve written short stories, poetry, songs, journalism and academic articles galore, I’ve never felt capable of tackling a novel. Before now, it’s always seemed overwhelming and – if I’m honest – too much of a commitment. There are always so many other things to do that are easier to achieve and it’s only now the fear of not writing a novel has outweighed the fear of writing it I’ve managed to put pen to paper.
I write because of the sneaking suspicion I come across better on paper than I do in person and because I’ve set myself the challenge and if I didn’t end up completing it, the sense of failure would be pretty terrible. That’s something I feel even more now I have children – that a life ambition unfulfilled is a truly sad thing.
How does my writing process work?
I write mainly in the evenings, after my two children are asleep. My aim is 500 words a session, although often I’ll fall short of this and sometimes spend a frustrating couple of hours sitting with my pad, writing nothing and struggling to keep my mind off whatever writing I’m being paid to do at that time, especially if either the novel or the professional writing involves tough decisions, and is particularly taxing. Other times, I’ll sit down and the words will flow and I’ll wonder where they’ve come from and there appears in front of me is a whole new scene I’ve obviously been processing in the background somewhere.
My writing process has stayed pretty much the same as it has been for almost 30 years. I remember clearly as a very small child, jumping out of my bath and running to find a piece of paper to write a poem and being found by my parents shivering under a towel on my bedroom floor, scribbling down what had occurred to me). I find I need to process my ideas over time and then let them flow, which means it’s fairly difficult to schedule my novel writing, though I see the need to (I think this approach is responsible for many beginnings, though perhaps not so many endings).
However, to improve my chances of success, I’ve enlisted help in the form of Manchester Metropolitan University’s MA in Creative Writing, which is ensuring I use my time well (partly by virtue of the help of tutors and colleagues, partly because I’m paying for it). I’ve also signed up to trial a new website (devised by Bec, who got me started on this blogpost) which aims to help writers find the time in their lives to get the important work of writing done. I like to have deadlines (I started my professional life as a journalist so this is natural) and the support of other writers, so this approach helps keep me on the right track.
I believe the enemy of writing is TV (as are Facebook and Twitter), so I resolved a while back a) only to watch things I’m really interested in and b) only to watch TV when I’m too tired to read, write or talk (I’m, as yet, less successful at avoiding Facebook and Twitter).
Next on the blog tour
Anna Mansell is a full time writer and part time marketing consultant for the arts, living in Cornwall. Yet to be published, she is working on her second novel and hopeful that one day in the next twenty years her time will come. She blogs at feelthefearandwriteitanyway.wordpress.com and can be found on Twitter @annamansell.
By day, Nicola Robey is a writer at Cornwall based writing agency Stranger Collective, where she helps to make words count for everyone from theatre companies, to burgeoning brands and big businesses. In her free time, Nicola likes to explore dark crevices of comedy, and is collaborating on her first script. You can follow her at @NicolaRobey @StrangerFeed and at nicolarobey.tumblr.com
Currently reading: The Inglish Soyal Susiety, by Tim Nickels
Currently listening to: The excellent Penryn community radio station Source FM.