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How I write…

How do you write?

A flippant answer would be ‘with a pen’. Seriously though, I have been asked numerous times how I write, what processes I go through to bring you the finished novel.

Here’s how I do it.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

When I wrote my first novel at the age of 12, it amounted to 40,000 words and will never be published. I started with an incident and just kept writing. I had no plan and no idea where the plot was heading; I just had a vision of a young boy of 15 standing alone in a farmer’s field in the dead of winter.

Beyond that I sketch the bones of the whole story whether that is a mind map or just a basic list of possible scenarios. I like to set the title early on as it is a focus point to work towards. The Aduramis Chronicles: Destiny of the Wulf has three clear story-arcs and no less than three bad guys all running together. It’s pretty complex as a writer to keep track, but the story is never overbearing or too complex for the reader.

Some authors set out their characters lives and arcs ahead of time. I like to pepper pot them into a story and they flow into the piece from my imagination and I know nothing of them till I introduce them. Only then do I consider their back stories and personalities.

Do you have a set routine?

I’m not very lucky to have the whole day as a landscape for writing. I work full time, so my writing is reserved for breaks, the night time and weekends. As you can imagine, this makes writing 120,000-150,000 words a long process.

During work break times, I furiously scribble down the next exciting chapter, longhand. That’s right, I write longhand. My handwriting is terrible, but at least I can read it, just.

At home, I read my emails, answer my tweets and have a mess about on Facebook and then I’m ready. My job from there takes two arcs. I either type up the days work into my iPad, or, if I’m editing existing work, such as Underworld, I’ll do that instead on the Mac.

If I get stuck with what to write, I leave a space and fill this up with keywords that would describe the scene, location or emotions. From this list I can go back and cobble together a meaningful scene.

My target is nonexistent. I don’t set one; just to write as much as I can is enough to feel I’ve achieved a daily goal.

Do you write with pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

My handwriting is terrible, but as I said previously, I hand write the initial story. I have notebooks in every room in the house and one in my bag whenever I go out. If all else fails, I will jot a note down in my iPhone. Even when I’m not writing (watching a film, sleeping) the story is still churning away in the background and I don’t want to lose anything.

How important is research to you?

It’s easy to do too much research, but it is necessary and it has to be accurate for the story to work or for the content to be plausible to the reader.

How do you go about researching?

Wikipedia is a great source of information, but generally Google is your friend. I do occasionally dip into other works by competing authors to check certain facts, since, it may come as a shock to some, I have only ever read one fantasy novel (if you don’t count Harry Potter or Narnia), I do not wish to taint my work with other writings.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

Aside from a folder for each novel on the Mac, I store the documents securely in the cloud too. Each contains related documents, character studies, time-lines and research. On the computer, I have the novel itself, a list of chapters with short details of the scenes, the story outline, possible titles and research in lots of separate documents.

Then there are the notebooks I mentioned earlier, which I update daily by transferring the ideas elsewhere. I also create my own book covers, so there are many versions of the covers stored here also. All in all there is nearly 2GB of data.

How does that first draft take shape?

From my outline I tend to focus on what will happen in the next scene. I see and hear it unfolding like a film inside my head, which is quite common for writers, I think. Although I have the story mapped out, I’m always thinking ‘How can I do this better?’ Often it isn’t about action, but about the order of reveals or the way something is said or missed out. The other thing I do, and don’t judge, is to read dialogue to myself. Not using character voices, but to ensure it flows realistically.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

I must have music playing, usually classical, to aid my creative process. I normally play a fast piece when writing action as I find it produces awesome visuals. If I don’t have access to music, you’ll usually find me humming a tune.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as you write?

Often I’m so deep in a storyline that the passage of time escapes me and I can seem ignorant especially if others are around and trying to talk to me. Because

I write where other people are (even a noisy karaoke bar) it can come across that I’m ignoring them. It’s just I can only concentrate on one thing.

Where do you write?

There are three areas I write. Work desk during breaks, my kitchen table, and my living room settee. I will sometimes edit in the bath or bed via iPad.

Do you edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

In the first draft, my main task is to get the story down, but I do keep an eye out for mistakes with grammar and punctuation. Beyond this I write a second draft and clean up my mistakes, that my lovely beta readers and myself find.

Note: I read aloud every piece to make sure it reads right.

What word counter or other method of keeping track of progression do you use?

I just use the word counter within Scrivener, a great software designed for writers.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

Destiny of the Wulf took 3 years all told, but Underworld only 1 year and 3 months. A little longer than I had hoped due to some health issues, but I’m getting quicker and have already started book 3 The New World.

In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?

I use all three mediums, to ensure that the finished article is perfect.

What happens now that first draft is done?

I usually buy myself a little gift, such as a computer game and take a few days out to play this! Then I ask my beta readers to go through it and highlight my errors.

My mother is wonderful at this, she’s like a whippet hunting out those pesky typo’s.
I then work on a second draft, polishing and polishing the story.

I finalise the cover and send it off for professional editing. When it comes back I give it the once over and finally convert to the various formats, paperback and eBook.

I’ve been unlucky to secure a publisher or agent so far, so I self publish via Amazon Createspace and iTunes Bookstore.

Next week…

How I publish.

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