Since I finished looking over the copy edit of book 2, I’ve started to get really stuck in to writing book 3 of the Little Somerby series. As usual, this has led to much thought about what my ‘process’ is when I’m writing, so I thought I’d try to document some of that here, for those who might be wondering what it looks and feels like in my head!
- I’m a plantser. That means I plot a bit and I fly by the seat of my (massive, mummy) pants a bit. I generally know the beginning and end of a story when I start, and who the main characters are, but I don’t often know what’s going to happen in between until it happens! Sometimes my characters go off in directions that surprise me. For example, I didn’t know what was going to happen to Meredith in The Second Chance Tea Shop until it did! And as for the fallout from that, which caused a bit of controversy among some lovely readers, I didn’t know that was going to happen, either!! Tara made me do it…
- This kind of links to something I love in writing – repetition. Not the annoying kind, but the kind where there are patterns, history repeating itself, events that mirror other events etc. Often, when I write, there will be an ancient resonance in a modern setting. I like to think it’s because, living where I do and setting the books here, I’m surrounded by history, but it’s probably just because I like patterns!
- I always start writing every scene with dialogue. I think it’s because I see and hear everything so clearly in my head, and my characters are always in conversation. I write very dialogue heavy prose, anyway, but I find it helpful if I just skip the scene setting and jump straight into the conversations. Then, later on, I might add some description and detail before the talk, when I’m clearer about the purpose of the scene and its setting.
- I don’t start at the beginning – instead, I write scenes as they occur to me. This seems to work, and often one scene will trigger off another in my mind, or I’ll make a connection I hadn’t made before. I tend to write the scenes that are most interesting for me first.
- I don’t listen to music when I write, but I do listen to it in the car, and often ideas will occur to me when I’m driving if a particular song comes onto the stereo. I’ve had some of my best ideas that way! Occasionally I’ll make an exception and put music on when I’m writing, but only when I’ve got a clear idea of where a scene is going. Martine McCutcheon’s excellent song ‘Say I’m Not Alone’ is a good current example of this – I heard it on the local radio, thought of a scene and then had the song on constant repeat as I wrote the scene.
And for those of you who want to see what my workspace looks like, here it is! It’s right in the corner of the living room, by a set of double doors. Stephen King once wrote that he worked best with his desk in the hub of his home, and, while one day I hope to have my own little study where I can shut the door and retreat to listen to my imaginary friends, for now I’m following King’s advice and staying central!