Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour: Nobody said anything about having a process!!!

I feel very lucky and only mildly terrified to have been asked to blog about my writing process, especially as quite a few folks seem curious about it…I can’t imagine why. I didn't even really think I had one until I sat down to write this!

The baton has been passed to me / hurled like a hand grenade in my general direction, by the wonderfully lovely Kay Vallely, or as I like to think of her, ‘Mrs Post-it Note’ And if anyone else had asked I’d have said no way, but I couldn't say no to Kay…just look at that face!

Kay Vallely is writing her first YA novel and it is heavily influenced by where she lives. When she’s writing in her summerhouse (jealous!)  she looks onto the Welsh and Shropshire hills, both steeped in myths and legend. She’s only a short walk from her childhood home, the source of many adventures and ghost stories. Her love for stories and writing only increased further when she became a primary school teacher and fell in love with reading to a captive audience! Fast forward to being mentored by Imogen Cooper, on the Golden Egg Academy, and she is now on the road to completing her YA ‘magical realism’ novel. You can read Kay’s AMAZING blog entry at

     What am I working on?

I am currently working on a middle grade novel full of magic and adventure with a dash of humour (apparently!) 

Its working title is ‘The Apprentice Witches Handbook’ and it’s about a young witch who fails an important evaluation test and is sent off to the back of beyond to be the town witch.

She is determined to prove her skills and abilities and gets into all manner of scrapes and bother and stumbles across a very real and terrible threat to the town in the shape of a long buried demon god! Add in oodles of spells, a host of suitably scary monsters and a collection of friends and foes to help her or hinder her and we're there! Sort of!

The idea came very clearly to me with an image of my main character, Arianwyn, standing in a garden, by the light of a full moon drawing magical symbols into the night air. That scene doesn't actually exist in the current draft though, but I’ll always remember it was where we first bumped into each other!

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

Whilst the world its set in is 100% a fantasy world it’s also incredibly real and dangerous. The characters are the heart of the story and my heroine is unique and doesn't conform to the average fantasy mould (fingers crossed)  

         3. Why do I write what I do?

Because of the utter pleasure and sheer joy of creating a whole new world and new people to live in it and to indulge in the adventures I have always wanted to have. But most importantly to give other readers the comfort, escape and understanding books offered to me as a child…and still do.

In fantasy books like The Chronicles of Narnia, no matter what is happening in our own lives – in the ‘real world’, we can just escape and be free from it, for just a few lines, a chapter or a whole book. And that helps us to cope with whatever is happening in our lives, gives us confidence that others are battling as well and are winning and triumphing and we might just triumph with them and in our own lives.

Imagination is such an important thing in our childhoods and I firmly believe we build and train our imagination through reading, especially as children.

        4. How does my writing process work?

Well as I said, I wasn't really sure I had one. The idea for my current book totally popped into my head with the image I described above so I wrote that all down and I took it from there really. I knew how the story might start and that was my next point of call, but gosh aren't beginnings hard! 

Soooo, I spent quite a bit of time working on that and then a few key scenes that had emerged from my daydreaming and from the first few chapters and scenes I had written, but everything was fairly nebulous and random.

I made heaps of notes in a little orange notebook (I LOVE notebooks!) and started to gather images of things, places, people etc. that I wanted to use in my story on Pinterest ( I love Pinterest only slightly less than I love notebooks!)

But I was still flip-flopping all over the place with scenes and characters. Every time a new thought or idea, scene, character, setting, magical creature of thing popped into my head I would scribble it down before it ran away. Somewhere in that tangle of spells, monsters and witches I found a sort of ending (hurrah!) But I was still troubling over how everyone was going to get there without it being a really short book!

And then I stumbled upon a blog post by Jim Butcher which was all about the Big Swampy Middle (BSM, the less attractive cousin of the BFG?) And to be fair I didn’t have a big swampy middle…I had barren tundra (think tumble weeds!) The blog post was great, I now knew I needed something mahoosive to happen in the ‘middle’…well duh! Yes, I know but I was so caught up I couldn’t see the creepy woods (full of terrible, magical, monstrous creatures) for the trees.

So I mapped out a mash up story board /time-line/ story arc/ brain map thing-a-mi-jig and plotted the scenes I had thought up already – hurrah…I had a plan-thingy! Sort of.
Now I look back on it all my ‘wandering’ was quite helpful in terms of developing my characters and just being creative and imaginative, I just went for it with little attention to anything really as I went along. But actually what I had was a LOT of notes a beautiful Pinterest board, some more notebooks and a few typed up chapters. I found I was struggling to actually sit down at the laptop and write. I’m relatively focused when working on something but I found being at the laptop boring and I just couldn’t bring myself to type anything onto the blank pristine white screen and I would perhaps eventually type a couple of hundred words, having first looked at Pinterest  or stroked my notebook collection! Then doubt myself and delete it all.

Somewhere in the midst of all this I was on holiday with some friends, I’d packed a notebook and all my collected scribbling’s thinking I might get a bit of time to sketch out a scene or two. The house we stayed in had a lovely terrace at the end of the garden that looked over the town of Rye and the East Sussex coast and it was beautiful. I found myself out there most mornings whilst everyone else was showering or having a lay in or out jogging (imagine that…on holiday!) and I got loads of writing done, in the old fashioned way with a mechanical pencil and my Martha Stewart notebook (highly recommended!) and I actually physically wrote.

I found the ideas poured out of me like the proverbial! and I realised the problem before had been because I wasn't writing…I was typing!
There was something in the connection of the physical process of writing each and every word in my notebook…and then several others, that I loved. Ideas seemed to keep up with the flow of my writing and the blank pages were an empty stage ready for my characters to walk onto and not the sterile white screen of the laptop. It was a revelation. Bliss!

I promised myself I would type up all my chapters from my week away as soon as I got home editing as I typed and this worked a treat.

I’m now a member of The Golden Egg Academy – look them up, it’s a truly remarkable community and I am honoured to be part of it and among such talented, lovely and giving writers, editors and experts.

I’ve worked on the legendary BookMap tool devised by the wonderful Imogen Cooper which has helped highlight weak points in my plot and will help with my editing  and I recently attended a Golden Egg residential workshop with Beverley Birch and Bella Pearson!!! (I Know!)  It was an amazing weekend and challenged me to look at the story in a whole new way.

At the end of this month I will begin working with Bella at editorial 1:1s which I am so looking forward to and I'm sure through her expertise and skill I will continue to refine and learn more about the 'crafting' of my writing and now editing….but that’s another blog!

I am now passing the baton in this marathon to the super Jacqueline Jay (a fellow Golden Egg Academy member) 

Teacher by day and urban fantasy writer by night.  Jacqueline writes for teens; the age group she spends so much time with.  She lives with her husband and teenage son, if they disturb her while she’s writing; they do so at their own peril.  Her writing room is a restored VW camper; she taps on her keyboard while her husband tears up the waves kitesurfing.  She loves; coincidences, anything sparkly and leaving random messages on the beach for people to find. 

Her current novel: Instar is set in the City of Bath and follows 17 year old, Maia James.  She's plagued by cold shivers and each time they happen, a memory vanishes.   A winged shadow appears and the only link is her dad’s disappearance.  To find him, she’ll have to steal memories, but to get that power, she'll have to join those he warned her to stay away from.  Instar: whose memories would you steal to get the truth?

You’ll be able to read Jacqueline's blog from Monday 28th April at Jacqueline Jay Blog

And because I promised Kay I would end with a dance routine......

1 comment:

  1. but I love the sound of writing magical symbols in the air! How exciting that you have a 1:1 with Bella Pearson at the end of the month. I wish I'd had an Apprentice Witches Handbook when I was a kid. Looking forward to reading it - can't wait to be a kid again. Good luck and read you soon, I hope!