Writing process blog tour

I’ve been nominated by my fellow Faber Academy classmate, Kristen Arcadio. Kristen is in the process of penning a trilogy. The first of the series, Borderliners, was published in February this year. The second, Split Symmetry, is out very soon and the Third, WorldCult, is planned for December. She does this on top of being a mother to three children and working as a digital communciations consultant. Phew. You can check out her work at www.kirstenarcadio.co.uk

1. What am I working on?

I’m working on my second novel, a thriller, provisionally entitled, Crossed Paths. I’ve also begun the blog series, Djinn Mamu… & Other Strange Stories which touches on themes running through a novel I recently completed – The Silent Children.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

While Crossed Paths is a thriller, it has a claustrophobic feel. Half of the action takes place in a single room. There’s a veil of ambiguity. I want to draw the reader in, let them take the ride only for him/her to be thrown off course at the end, and as a result, I want them to almost go back to the beginning to see what they may or may not have missed.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’m fascinated by personal relationships: parent-child, teacher-pupil, close friendships, etc. I like to explore how they change and why they change. I also like intrigue, creating a sense of mystique and thrill and I like the challenge of trying to catch people out: creating the element of a surprise, which, when the reader reflects on it, there’s this “aha” moment.

4. How does my writing process work?

Honestly, I don’t have a particular approach to writing. I’m a bit haphazard about it. I do have a beginning and I know how the story will end, but at the point of starting to pen my first draft, I’ve got no idea how I’ll actually get to the end. In a way, it’s a bit like joining the dots. I’ll have an idea for a scene floating in my mind. It’ll sit there evolving for a bit and then I decide whether or not to use it. Of course, I know that there have to be hooks, the character needs to evolve – that so-called arc – and there has to be a sense of place, but those things sort of figure themselves out over the course of my novel and I’ll go back to earlier chapters to jot down notes on what I need to add/subtract.

Unfortunately, I’m a bit a of a time waster. I get distracted by the news and yes, I admit, this includes The Daily Mail Showbiz column for five minutes before berating myself for (a) being clueless about 99% of the celebrities it covers, (b) absorbing myself in the idiocy of the things written, and consequently, (c) having contributed to The Daily Mail’s popularity. It’s a bit like porn. You get the thrill and then the guilt soon afterwards. In a blink of an eye, I actually find I’ve wasted a good hour or so of what would have been Essential Writing Time.

That said, I did complete one novel – The Silent Children – a modern day ghost story set in Vienna. It took me just over eighteen months. I managed to complete it for a few reasons: I gave myself a deadline for my first draft. Actually, I was pregnant. I had nine and a half months to get the story out of my head and into my computer. Second, I took a break. Actually, I’m not sure you’d call it a break given I had a tiny baby in my arms plus a toddler, but three months away from my book was the best thing I did. When I went back to it I thought it was such rubbish that I re-wrote the whole thing. That said, it’s a lot easier to edit something than a blank piece of paper. The re-writing took two months.

Having someone critique your work is essential. It’s painful too. I gave my next draft to friends, classmates from my Faber Academy course and then paid for a Manuscript Assessment from The Literary Consultancy (TLC). They passed it on to one of their readers and a few weeks later I got a several page report on my draft. Frankly, it was the best money I ever spent. It’s objective, supportive, BUT to the point with regard to improving your draft, highlighting the things that friends just won’t. Lastly, I edited it, then edited it, then edited it. I’ll think it’s OK, only to see yet another typo, grammar mistake, or even have a better word or phrase in mind that simply escaped me during the last iteration of checking. I won’t lie: editing is a pain, but like exercise, you’ve got to do it. And I’m sure there are still things that I’ve missed.

I do need peace and quiet around me when I write. This is particularly true now that I have two children – one of which has a penchant for knocking on my door every five minutes wanting to come in. With The Silent Children, I got a lot of it done tucked in a quiet spot in a local café. I also got fatter with the number of lattes and snacks I scoffed down – being pregnant was little excuse. So a café is good for getting work done, but not for the waistline.

Once I write a paragraph, the words flow. I’d like this to be more the rule than the exception and I know that once I’m in that space, I do write. What I tell myself is that it’s OK to produce 500 words. And even if it’s utter crap, it’s better than nothing. I also know that I can’t write for more than two or three hours. That’s my limit. I need a break from my fictional world and characters. In the case of The Silent Children, my story turned darker, then even darker still. The perfect antidote was my own children: loud, funny and without an ounce of darkness in them.

As mentioned above, I’ve begun work on my second novel. I think I’ve got a good story to tell. At the moment, there’s a beginning and an end. And nothing more than ether in-between…

I’m tagging fellow Faber Academy alum and talented writer, Louise Morrish. Her first novel, Beyond the Pale, is set in Edwardian England and the present. The novel features two young women separated by a century, whose stories illustrate how past events can reverberate in the present. It will be available from Amazon soon. Visit her website at: http://lemorrish.co.uk/index.html