Monday, 25 February 2013

The writing process

I mentioned a week or so ago that I would try and address some of the questions that people have been asking me by email regarding my writing, so I thought that today I would make a start. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is how or indeed if, I plot my novels. I've read many articles on this over the years and it seems to me that every writer is different and there's no right or wrong way. Some go piling in and see where their characters take them, often ending up with their novel going in a completely different direction to the one they imagined. Others seem to plot their novels in minute detail, drafting extensive character descriptions, timelines and plot twists before they even write a single word.

Personally I like to strike a happy medium. I'll have a rough ideas in my head what my lead characters are like personality wise and what they look like appearance wise, but other than that I just like to roll with them and watch as they develop throughout the book, often surprising me with the way they turn out.

With regard to the story plot I always try and plan to write 22 chapters of about 4000 words giving me a complete novel of 88000 words - this gives me some wiggle room for editing and development. Before I start writing the novel, I will sit and jot down how I see each chapter going, usually in blocks of 5 or 6. I will literally jot down 4 or 5 lines of what I think should happen in each of those 5 or 6 chapters and then I start writing. They are just bullet point ideas for each chapter but somehow they are usually enough for me to expand although not always to the 4000 mark, which is not necessarily a problem.

When I've written the first draft of say the first 4 chapters I will sit down with my notepad and pen and try and plot out the next half dozen chapters, ideas for these hopefully being generated by the writing I've already done. Once these are plotted out in rough I go back and write the next couple of chapters I already had planned and hopefully during that time, inspiration will strike as to how to expand the second batch of bullet point ideas. Following? I hope so, though I'm sure there must be a better way to describe my writing process. It might strike some as chaotic or piecemeal, but like I said earlier, there's no right or wrong way as far as I'm concerned. Whatever works for you can't be wrong.

There are problems of course. Halfway through my second book, Redemption of the sword, my ideas well dried up and I really struggled and it must have shown up in my writing because my publisher returned it to me saying it wasn't good enough. Actually she put it much nicer but that was the general idea and I took her point and completely rewrote the offending section and the rest as they say is history.

I hope that kind of answers the question for those who kindly wrote in and inquired about the thought process behind my writing and I hope it was interesting for everybody else. Remember, it doesn't matter how you travel on the journey of writing a novel, so long as you reach your destination.

Good luck with your writing.

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