My Writing Process

I've invited by Susan Price to take part in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Susan is a fellow member of the Authors Electric where you can also find both of us blogging on a monthly basis.

Here are some thoughts on how and why I do what I do:

1 What are you working on?
I’m working on the final proofs and publicity for a novel called The Physic Garden which is about to be published by Saraband Books. It will be out in hardback on March 27th and in eBook form a little earlier than that. It’s a historical novel about friendship and betrayal, among much else. Working with Saraband has, I have to say, been a real pleasure. A publisher in a million. 

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
The novel is a piece of literary historical fiction. Is that a genre? Maybe it is! But I’d hesitate to label it too precisely. I don’t think a piece of fiction has to be unreadable or inaccessible to be literary, nor do I think fiction has to be facile to be popular. There are a lot of voracious readers out there, young and old. They may be reading on Kindles and on other devices, so we don’t always spot them when we’re travelling, but they are still reading and loving stories. I know because so many of them seem to want to talk about books and stories online. More than ever, I think.

3) Why do I write what I do?
I write what I do simply because I love what I do. I had a faintly bizarre conversation over the Christmas holidays with somebody who thinks I should be writing more comedy. And for television at that. Well, if that’s what I was doing, I would perhaps be making a bit more money. But you can only pick and choose what you write to a limited extent. On the whole, it chooses you. That’s also why – on the whole, and I know there are exceptions – you can’t often write those stories that people tell you about themselves, however good and interesting they are. 

As a writer, you always have far more ideas than you have time to tell them. So when people ask ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ which is a perfectly good and valid question, it can be quite hard to explain that you are never short of ideas. They come in droves. You have a head full of them. They jostle for place and even when you’re writing one novel, there may well be a whole cast of other characters, niggling away at the back of your mind, waiting to be heard. What you are often short of is the time to write those ideas.

A cast of characters, waiting to be heard!

4) How does my writing process work?
I do a lot of writing and I do some writing almost every day. I’m quite disciplined and if I have a deadline to meet I’m very disciplined indeed. I write a novel as one long document, in Word, divided into chapters, and I write very quickly. But I wouldn’t let anyone except me see that first draft. I don’t really even talk about the novel at this early stage. If you talk too much about a project it can disappear before your very eyes. Once I’ve got something to work on, a complete manuscript, however sketchy or clumsy, I do lots and lots of rewrites and revisions. Lots of polishing. I do plenty of research beforehand, but I often find out what I don’t know when I’m writing the novel, so I’ll go back to researching as the story progresses. 
I love revising and reworking. It’s like living with these characters in this setting and it’s very enticing. When I have to stop and when something is finished and published it never quite feels finished. It’s a sad time. I have to get going on something else almost immediately, otherwise I miss the characters too much and (as I’m doing right now with an old project) can sometimes be enticed back into writing a sequel – or writing about the same character in another form. 

I've passed these questions on to Michael Malone, and to Uuganaa Ramsay, who blogs here, both of whom are also Saraband Authors - fine writers both. Do visit their blogs and read on!


Susan Price said…
Agreed with almost every word, Catherine - especially about not talking about a new idea, and only finding out what you DON'T know as you write.
I loved Physic Garden - and Curiosity Cabinet and Bird of Passage - in fact, everything of yours that I've read.
Carol McGrath said…
Really lovely and I look forward to reading The Physic Garden.
Becca McCallum said…
Very interesting post on writing methods. The bit about 'where do you get ideas from?' certainly rings true with me.

The thing that doesn't work for me is the 'not talking about a project'. I need to tell people what I'm working on, otherwise it would just slip away from me and get lost with all the other beginnings.

But then I don't write for a living, so maybe it's different.
Hi Becca and thank-you for an interesting comment. I know what you mean about 'all the other beginnings' since I have a LOT of those! But once I've decided to 'go for it' with a project I don't talk about it much. Interestingly, I might talk about it to certain people, but never very much. Or not until I've actually got something down on paper.Partly it's because when I do try to talk about something I'm working on, either the person misunderstands me, or I find myself wondering if it's even worth doing. There are exceptions of course. It's one thing to discuss an existing manuscript with a good editor, but I've had a few experiences where industry professionals have 'stuck their oar in' with disastrous results - and it was only later that I realised how wrong they were.