My writing process~ #mywritingprocess
Janet O’Kane invited me to share my writing process as a part of the current blog tour that’s doing the rounds. It consists of four questions. I am tagging Suzie Grogan to carry the baton after me but do feel free to do the questions yourself. Add the hashtag #MyWritingProcess and see what is already out there on Twitter.
What am I working on?
Apart from waiting for surgery, I’m working slowly on a number of projects. I’m very close to getting my next novel Square Peg out on Kindle. For those who loved Away With The Fairies, this novel features Isobel Trelawny and her husband Mickey, but some years in the past when Mickey was at training college. The main character of Square Peg is Chloe, whose temperament and character is probably summed up by the title of the novel. The initial blurb is as follows:
“Chloe is a square peg in an increasingly uncomfortable round hole. Brought up by her wildly unconventional grandmother, she’s a true free spirit and has never learned to pull her punches. She’s just married trainee Church of England clergyman Clifford, and is living at the theological college and trying to figure out what’s going on around her. She’s had very little connection with formal religion, and has a talent for stepping on all sorts of emotional land-mines with the wives of the other ordinands. That would probably be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that her grandmother has inconsiderately died, and left her a house full of exotic souvenirs of her days as a travelling doctor, instructions to track down her father and sister, and what everyone else regards as a really bad attitude. She’s also lost her job, her temper, but not the will to live.
Chloe’s life begins to unravel in ways she could never have imagined as she tries to understand her own background by setting out to find out what became of her sister and father. But trying to integrate her uncompromising approach to life brings her into escalating conflict with the other women of the college, leaving her isolated and friendless. In Clifford’s final year of training, Chloe meets the arty, anarchic Isobel and together they concoct a plan whereby the irrepressible Isobel becomes the mole amid the college wives and they start to undermine and sabotage the status quo with a series of practical jokes and psychological warfare that has terrible consequences for Chloe when things go horribly wrong.”
I’m working also on getting The Bet into paperback finally. The manuscript is being slowly readied for print. I’m really looking forward to having this one in my hands.
Writing wise, I am limping along with two projects. One is a novel that is running under the working title of Belle Dame, and which I don’t want to say more about yet. I’m around one third to one quarter done, and I’m very pleased with how it’s going. The other project is a little harder to explain. About three years ago I started a serial on this blog called “Lost” and I posted ten installments before stopping. Each episode had been written in a form of trance, and I decided to continue with this. Because the right mental state is quite hard to get into, the process has been slow, though I’m actually very proud of and intrigued by what has been emerging. Working title of Tabula Rasa, this novel is a journey into the hinterlands of soul and beyond and is quite unlike anything I’ve ever produced. I’m about 20k words into this and have no real idea of how long it will be.
I’m also ready to publish a longer short story, of around 18k words, called The Hedgeway, which is something I may save for the autumn and especially Halloween.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, as I’m not entirely sure of what my genre(s) is/are, I’m not sure how to answer that. Away With The Fairies and Strangers and Pilgrims are both listed at metaphysical fiction, which to me implies that the story has its roots firmly in the spiritual/psycho-spiritual realms. The Wild Hunt touches on that but is also heavily touched by mythology and folklore. Moth’s Kiss is very much about karma and consequences. The Bet is also hard to place, falling somewhere between literary fiction and psychological fiction.
Why do I write what I do?
I write the stories that come to me, starting with seed pearls that can be a single word, a dream, a scent, a feeling or sometimes a combination of factors that coalesce into a complex mix of narrative and characters that live and breathe in my mind. I am hopeless at following rules and guidelines and my few attempts to write to certain formula have been flat, dead and rapidly binned.
How does my writing process work?
It’s changed. At one time I would be consumed by a story and I’d write pretty much non-stop until it was done. The Bet was written in only 17 days, for example. Since my illness, the processes by which a story emerges have become blocked by memory problems and concentration issues, and it’s much harder work to get from Once upon a time to The End. But I have a general rule that when I do sit down to write, I write for a minimum time and word count, so I aim to produce a thousand words at a sitting. I sometimes set my kitchen timer for an hour, so I stay put for that hour, to ensure I have a chance to get to the thousand mark.
When I do sit down to write, I make sure my study door is shut, to ensure that cats or humans won’t be able to interrupt me. I start by lighting a stick of good incense; it’s been observed that incense smoke raises the levels of serotonin in the brain. Then I light a tea light under the oil burner, and put on essential oils that get me in the mood or which are somehow part of the narrative I am working on. I do put music on, but I find it hard to find music that doesn’t distract me by making me listen to the words. So most is instrumental. I also like using the various pink,white and brown noise generators available for free on the internet. There’s one site that you can set the noise to oscillate. Combined with a site that has rain sounds, the noise coming from my speakers ends up sounding like waves on a shingle beach. It’s often enough to put me into the semi-trance state I need to be in to allow words to flow through me from my unconscious. You see, I believe that my own creativity is not in my direct conscious control and I have to be able to step out of my own way to be able to write. That’s why my illness has been devastating, because it’s made the connections between conscious and unconscious harder to bridge, as well as affecting my ability to carry the memory of what I have already written in a story.
I also believe that the stories I write have an element within that comes from beyond me. Whether it’s from a collective unconscious or from a kind of divine inspiration, I feel sure that what I am writing is not pure fiction, that is carries with it a form of truth that at core all good stories must carry. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve started to call “Forever Fiction”, that is to say stories that people come back to time and again, and which are rediscovered and treasures by new readers and even new generations. My greatest wish is that I may write such works. If this sounds pompous or narcissistic or frankly “up myself” I apologise. I have always felt I was born to write. Along with the tens of thousands of other writers who believe themselves to be talented or gifted, I offer my work as a gift to the world and to my own soul.