Sunday 22 May 2016

Inside The Author: How I Write


Every writer has their process and I'm no different. In other aspects of my life, I'm very organised. I always have been. I like things to be planned out and although I can be spontaneous, I do prefer to know where I'm going, what's expected of me and what I'm going to do when I get there. I'm the same with my writing. I plan to the point where it seems ridiculous, but it works for me and like I said, it's part of my process.

So, where do I start? Well, with the idea. Once I have an idea, I think about it for a few days and then start to flesh it out in my mind. With a few of my works, the idea has hit so strongly, I immediately start to take notes. When I have the idea fleshed out a little, I start the research. For some of my works, I've needed to do very little research, while for others, I have been drowning in research media. I like to have hard copies of information to go through and highlight, so that while I'm writing, I can fact check quickly without interrupting the flow.

With one of the books I've written in the past, I also wanted to get first hand knowledge of what it was like for the people actually living the lives I was writing about. Although I had some knowledge from my own life, I am but just one person and everyone experiences things differently. I also had to delve into religion and how each one dealt with the subject matter. I had to look at what it was like to be a first generation British person and the different cultures and traditions that would have come from their parents. It all adds up to a lot of work, but it's worth it in the end.

Once I'm ready to start writing the book, I need to create the characters. In the beginning, when I was first writing BLACKOUT, all the information was put on A4 paper and that was all I thought I would need. The same applies to when I first started the DYING THOUGHTS series. However, as time moved on and I fleshed out my characters more and more, as I started to plan them more and more, I realised I needed more space and more order to the whole process.

As you can imagine, when writing a series, you need to be careful about continuity, so I transferred all the information onto note cards and from then on, I did the same with any new work I started. WAITING ON YOU was no different, as I started with a handful of characters, the cards would grow as I fleshed out Zack's family and Angelina's classmates. I made sure that I had a physical description of each character along with any other traits that I needed to remember. With the DYING THOUGHTS books, I also made a note of every case Tara worked on, partly to be sure that I wasn't repeating myself too much and partly so that I'd know what the case would be before I had to write about it. I'm not kidding when I say I think up ways to kill people for a living!

Once the characters are created on paper, I start to decide what I'm going to do with them and over what time frame it's going to happen. I make a chapter plan with a short synopsis of what's supposed to happen in each part; usually only three or five words. I then make a note of what day each of these chapters is supposed to happen on. I add an extra note when I've surpassed a week, then two, and so on. I don't usually spread the books out over too long a period, but at the same time, it can't all happen within two days. I try to ensure that there won't be more happening in one day than is physically possible. Sometimes, I don't recognise that I've done that until it comes to writing that chapter, in which case I'll change it as I'm writing.

After I've done all of that, I get to write the book. While I'm writing, I make a note of the page each chapter starts on, the page it finishes on and the final word count. These are only for my benefit as no one else really needs to know whether or not the chapter had 2000 or 3000 words, but it does help in the long run when I need to print a hard copy of a certain chapter, or when I'm editing and can't remember the page a chapter starts or finishes on. While I'm writing, I also print out each chapter as it's finished. I like to have a hard copy for my own records so that should something happen to my computer, or the external hard drive it's backed up on, I have a copy of it to work from.

Although a lot of thought goes into the chapter plan, it's not written in stone and while I'm writing, I usually find that the story, the characters or just my own sense of what's happening changes and I end up going in a different direction. Sometimes, I'll switch a chapter around so that it happens before or after it was planned to. I like the fact that it's very flexible because sometimes when you're beginning to plan you don't see something as clearly as when you're actually writing it.

I don't have a solid plan for the actual writing though. I'm not someone who needs total silence all the time, nor am I someone who only writes between certain hours. I am flexible with my writing because of my chronic illnesses, and also because I write when I am inspired (and sometimes when I'm not!) and although I'm a planner, I'm not too strict with myself, at least not all of the time. The only thing I really need to write is a fresh cup of tea, but once I get started and enter the zone, then I'm usually fine to keep going. I don't approach writing as something I have to do, it may be my career, but not allowing myself to get under too much pressure allows my creative juices to flow better. I write because I want to, and because it fills me with joy. I write because I have stories to tell and I will keep writing until I don't. Writing is good for me, and you've got to have something good in your life because otherwise how do you keep smiling?

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