How do you write? I've just been reading a fascinating Facebook thread on the subject, and so I thought I'd post my answer here.
|The cafe where I write. Power points and no music|
When I've writing a first draft I try and write 1,000 words a day without planning too much ahead. I can tinker with what I've written the day before, but I try not to do any wholesale editing.
I can't write with music on, and I'm very distracted if I have an internet connection. So I often go to a local cafe at 7.30am and work there for two hours, when it fills up with mums and babies. Early morning is a very good time for me to write, and it leaves the rest of the day free to do other stuff and think about my story and characters. I also find it useful to have a self-imposed time deadline, so I have to produce the right number of words by 9.30am. (This is a throwback to a life spent in newsrooms). The cafe is perfect for me - no music, plenty of power points and I don't know the internet code.
I don't start with a chapter plan, or even much of an outline. I want the plot to surprise me as I write. But I do need an idea - a what if? or an x+y+z - and a voice, or possibly many voices. My first task is to establish voice. So a lot of what I write at the beginning is trying to nail the character through their voice- their language choices, rhythm, metaphors.
Once I have the voice, then in theory the character tells me the story. The more voices, the more difficult that process is. Sometimes one voice drowns out the other. Whatever happens, it is fatal to stop and go back for anything more than some light editing. I would rather rewrite an entire book than ask too many difficult questions at the beginning of a book when most of it is hidden from me.
At the stage where I have 60,000 - if all's gone well, that should take around three months - I have a first draft. Many, many things about it will need changing, but I know that. At this point I am shaky with relief that the book has a beginning, middle and - crucially - an end.
This is the point when I generally share my book with my agent. I am blessed with a fabulous agent whose judgement I trust absolutely. She will guide me through the bits where I've gone spectacularly wrong, and there is generally a frenzied second draft rewrite at this point.
And then to the editing process, when the book is in the hands of an editor, and a dialogue begins - first about the book as a whole, and then about the detail of the writing. Generally I enjoy this stage, there something thrilling about discussing my characters with people who find them almost as interesting as I do. But it might lead to a third or even fourth draft, and it can involve negotiating some disagreements.
Then the copy edit. I like to do quite a bit of rewriting at this stage. Editors tend not to be so keen. I've done this stage in various ways. First I mark up a hard copy. Sometimes I send that back to the publisher. Ideally though I will sit with the editor, and we will discuss all the items in our marked copies page by page. This takes many hours and many biscuits.
Throughout all of this I make very few notes. Sometimes I scribble in a notebook or make notes about future chapters that might slot into the story. Very occasionally I plan out a section of, say, five chapters. I might do some research, but I generally do it on the internet and just copy and paste into a document. For the historical book that I have been working on for the last two and a half years (between other projects) I have read books and visited libraries. Sometimes I interview people - Camelot, which runs the National Lottery, was very helpful when I was writing Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, about a 16-year-old girl who wins £8million.
I know when things are going well when I find myself thinking obsessively about my characters and their story, hearing their voices in my head, waking up in the morning with plotholes explained. At these times I'd rather talk about my fictional creations than my actual children.
Right now I'm halfway through the editing process with one book and nearly finished with a second draft of another. Brewing at the back of my mind are one or two new ideas. And I am also turning the lottery book into a musical which is a completely different sort of writing process altogether.
So, how do you write?