How do you write?
As an author one of the questions I get asked most often is how to get writing right and how do you know what to write? I guess everyone’s different but I always say it’s best to write what comes naturally to you… that may mean choosing a topic you’re familiar with, or one which interests you or one which is close to your heart.
And how do I actually write? What is the process? Is my process the same as the next person’s?
First you need an idea
Ideas can come from anywhere too… a conversation, a past experience, a movie scene, a newspaper headline, a google advert… There’s inspiration all around us but we can only write well if we are writing about something we connect with passionately.
Writing is hard work and, if you’re not invested from the outset, you will likely give up at the first hurdle and, believe me, there are many hurdles. It takes many hours and patience, resilience and determination to bring a book to the professional standard required to publish successfully.
Writing is not romantic. Consider the challenges faced by Roald Dahl, Sylvia Plath and more recently J K Rowling. And of course, writing the story is only the start of what’s called the writing journey, which is often plagued with self-doubt, imposter syndrome and the dreaded writer’s block.
Let it brew
One of the first things I do when I have an idea for a story is sit with it for a while… let the idea take seed, let it dance in the wind, let it fight its way out… and what I mean by that is I don’t rush to get writing. I let myself be absorbed by the story, allowing time for characters and plot ideas to develop. I make notes and I collect images on Pinterest. I do research and ‘tune into’ fiction and non-fiction books which carry the same themes or setting.
The subject of my most recent novel, Alexander and Maria, where a married man with cerebral palsy ignites an online friendship with a woman, first came to me after I connected with a follower on Twitter in 2017. After several months a story began forming in my head. What if this happened? Slowly an entire story developed. I wrote most days. At first I wrote what came into my head. If you don’t have anything written then there’s nothing to improve on.
At this stage it doesn’t matter what you write as long as you get it down – either by hand or on a laptop. Writing is a slow burn. It cannot be rushed and can only happen if your bum’s in the chair and you’re writing.
I prioritised writing time over idly watching the TV. I scheduled writing time into my weekend diary pages and stuck to it. I booked time for writing as I would a coffee out with friends or a visit to my mum and dad’s house for lunch.
After the first draft
Once the first draft is written there are many other layers of writing to diligently work through… editing and rewriting, proofreading, copy editing. When I first began writing in January 2015 I was carried along by the excitement that I could actually write. Equally, I spent hours reading about the art of writing. I was open to learning about the craft and developing myself as a writer.
I have since self-published two novels, a poetry collection and a short story and a novel with The Conrad Press. As an accomplished author, I know how to develop great stories readers want to read. The book market is highly competitive with 7,500 ebooks published every day.
Finding the ‘write’ support to get writing right
Working through your ideas and developing good practice from the outset will save you time and money in the long run. Look for a supportive, encouraging network of people to motivate and support you all the way; Instagram and Twitter afford great writing community support. There are podcasts and websites committed to writers and the discipline of writing.
As I work on my fourth novel I also support many new writers to write. My Writing For Life Writer’s Mentoring Programme offers online sessions and I also offer several levels of editing to suit writers of varying experience. Working alongside an author to create something readable and marketable is a huge honour and the rewards are mutually high.