Monday, 19 May 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

First dip into the world of blog tours. I'm following on from Abigail Watkins. You can read about her writing process here

What am I working on?

My writing life is at an exciting stage. I’m collaborating on a number of projects but my main focus has to be the Waifs of Duldred fantasy series for ages 9 to adult.

Book 1, Oy Yew, was longlisted for the Times/Chicken House Award. After some near misses with the big six I’m delighted to be working with indie press, Mother’s Milk on the trilogy. I’m currently sorting out the tricky middle section of book 2. Managed to write for a sneaky two hours at work today - I'm self-employed so only myself to answer to.

This morning we had a production meeting for a beach panto to be staged this summer in Weston-super-Mare. It's based on the 1930s poem 'Albert and the Lion.' It brings Albert to Weston where he searches for lost treasure in the company of witches, pirates and dragons. We're using puppets and actors. I've really enjoyed writing for the show and am looking forward to seeing it realised.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think the voice is different. I see a lot of chatty writing. I prefer the language of the classics: Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, The Wind in the Willows. They are my benchmark. I aspire to Philip Pullman's readership, the literary end of the crossover market. The themes run deep but there’s plenty of humour in the mix. 

Not following the crowd is both a weakness and a strength. It was wonderful to get this email from a commissioning editor for one of the big houses. She first read Oy Yew some time ago:
I have read and considered a fair number of submissions since then, but yours has stayed with me – the characters were lightly drawn and yet fully realised, and I so enjoyed the warmth of your writing. With so many authors writing either for the older age group (teen/YA) or for this age group but going down the slapstick humour route, it’s really quite rare to find such a lovely story with such a classic feel.

Despite her enthusiasm she played safe. If your work is eccentric - try the small presses.

Why do I write what I do?

So I can go there.

I want to go to the worlds evoked by WB Yeats: twilit places of wood smoke and leprechauns. Through the looking glass, laws and limits fall away. The characters are the sort you watch with awful fascination. My best writing happens when I step through the glass and scribe.

How does my writing process work?

The Duldred books started with chimneys: they have that mysterious portal quality. Then came Alas, the chimney sweep laden with fears and guilt. Oy crept in, extremely quietly, yet somehow demanding top billing.

Some scenes come chronologically and fully formed; others have to be worked at. I’m catching at language and images, consulting the mental hoard. Characters fill out and dictate events. The ending is decided somewhere in the middle. It’s random, organic, all over the place.

Sculpting comes later. 40,000 words are cut. 5,000 are put back. I draft and redraft, adjusting a sentence when the rhythm is off,  changing a word or action that isn’t true to character, varying the pace, strengthening the plot, adding signposts.

Then I leave it for at least a month. When I can read it without blushing it’s done.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous insight into your work, and good advice about some of the smaller, indie presses, which have a lot going for them. To get such fantastic feedback from an editor must be so encouraging too - after all, the best books are the ones that stay with us.