Getting The Words Down – The Writing Path Blog Tour
Russell Philips a writing colleague of mine invited me to take part in IC Publishing‘s Writing path blog tour. I thought it might be interesting to join in and do something a bit different to writing about ditch crawling for a change. The idea is to exchange ideas of how people write by answering a set of questions so here goes:
1. Share how you start your writing project(s).
My inspiration originally came, like many others I suspect, in wanting to see if I could write successfully. I choose my subject matter based on my own personal experience. All too often one reads books where the writer clearly hasn’t a clue about what he is writing about, particularly with my genre of military fiction. I always have an overall idea of where I want to start and where I want to end. My current series of books about the modern Royal Navy are following recent historical events, so I can use that as a template for the overall plot lines. Even so I will have generated a fairly good storyline in my head long before I start to type. And here I must give my definition of ‘writing’ and it has nothing to do with sitting at a keyboard. I do most of it in the bath, walking the dog, just before going to sleep, even watching television. This is why I leave notebooks and pens around the house so I can jot ideas down when inspiration strikes before I forget them. So by the time I sit in front of the computer the key elements are already in my mind. That said, I often start a chapter and find that I’ve written something very different to that which I had originally envisaged. I find that the key is to allow enough flexibility to change plot lines and characters but to keep the overall aims of the story in mind.
As regards research, I try to use my own personal experience as much as possible but do most research up front while developing the story plot line and then refer to it as I progress and if necessary look for supplementary information as the need arises.
2. How do you continue your writing project?
I never, ever, force myself to write. If I sit down and the words don’t come then I go and do something else. That said, some days I will find that hours have passed and thousands of words have appeared from almost nowhere. My overall schedule is to produce two books per year at about 1000 words a day but in reality one day it could be none and on others much more. Also, I often write myself into a plot dead end and then there are two ways out. One is to delete and start again. I try to avoid this. Not the least because I hate to destroy hard work (especially mine). On nearly every occasion I’ve successfully used the tactic of leaving the book alone and occupying myself elsewhere. Almost without exception within a few days, inspiration strikes. I guess my subconscious is working even when I am attempting to hit a golf ball (badly). And of course I enjoy what I do. When I start doing some general proofing I often find that I forget that I wrote the words at all and start getting into the story all over again. This is of course a problem when looking for typos etc but gives me some confidence that the story is working out well. Luckily I am now retired from mainstream employment so I can devote as much or as little time as I want to writing.
3. How do you finish your project?
As I said above, I always have the end game in mind, so it’s fairly simple to know when a story has concluded. I write adventure novels and my sole aim is to get the reader to want to see what’s on the next page until the (hopefully) exciting conclusion. Once it’s done, I let it go. There is plenty of other work to be done. As a self published author I do all my own graphics and although I get help with proofing etc I do a fair bit myself as well. In the past I have used professional services, especially for editing and frankly I’ve been less than impressed with the value for money. That said, I do have a number of friends and relatives who are more than happy to offer criticism some of which I even listen to. However, in the end it’s the people who buy the books who are my best critic. When I tried the mainstream world I gave up after one less rejection than J K Rowling had. I may not have been quite as successful as her but my sales and reviews must count for something.
I always have the plots for several books in my head these days. It’s become easier as time goes by, I just wish there was the time to write them all…………..
4. Include one challenge or additional tip that our collective communities could help with or benefit from.
I write novels. They are stories about things that never happened. I think some authors forget that. Whether its making up a fun little storyline for a children’s book or a massive complicated competitor to War and Peace, it’s still just a story. I am an avid reader and always will be but now that I also write I find I am becoming more critical. I’ve read some beautifully written rubbish and some badly written gems. The gems win every time. So as a reader I would urge writers to concentrate on a damned good story above all else.