Do you have a particular ‘writing routine’?
No, not really. I prefer to write first thing as that’s my liveliest time, and less in the afternoon because around 2pm is the time I most want to go to sleep! I read an article once that said 2.16 pm is the time most people feel at their drowsiest – you’ll probably remember that forever, now, like I did! I don’t have any little rituals, though; I just sit at my laptop and start. Oh – but I must have coffee. TONS of it, and so strong it’s probably really bad for me!
Are you a plotter or do you start with an idea and see where this takes you as you write?
Definitely the former. I don’t write huge detailed plans, and I think of changes and improvements as I go along, but I can’t see how anyone can write without deciding on a basic plot; they must have to edit out a hell of a lot of superfluous stuff when it’s finished! I’ve read in the past that a couple of well known writers just sit down and start with no plan – Jackie Collins, for one. I think it’s probably only possible to do this successfully if you’re a very experienced writer (or an exceptional talent).
What point of view do you prefer: first person or third person? (Ever tried 2nd?)
First, generally. I’ve just written a novel completely in first, though from different characters’ points of view, and it was so much easier than writing in the third person; it’s like writing a diary, or talking to someone. My writing style is very conversational, so I think it suits me.
When I write in the third person, I do so in a way that I’ve recently discovered is a specific style, called free indirect speech. I didn’t know what I did had a name until I read about it on the blog of someone who’s doing a course in creative writing. It’s when the narrative is not the words of a faceless narrator, but the thoughts of the character, so that the story is told from their point of view. It’s just something I’ve always done.
The second person? I think that would only work for a poem or short story!
What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
I’d say the worst is that thing that happens when you’re tired, and you decide that everything you’ve written is a load of crap. Everything else, I love!
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Far too much for a blog interview answer! There are loads of tips here, in a post I wrote a few weeks ago – dos and don’ts for first time novelists:
Is there a phrase or quote about writing that you particularly like?
Several; one from author, editor and writing coach Rayne Hall:
“Writing can be descriptive without being wordy – and wordy without being descriptive.”
Also these two from best selling novelist Zadie Smith:
‘Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.’
‘Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.’
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Oh dear, this is where I sound really boring! I write most of the time. I relax by binge-watching good drama serials, with my husband. We love crime, thrillers and gangsters. I love historical ones (not the schmaltzy or historically inaccurate!), too. I also love historical documentaries. I read a fair bit; at the moment it’s mostly research for a future novel. Other than that I just do what everyone does – hang around and spend time with my family. Okay, okay, and I play too much spider solitaire, and backgammon on the ipad – I actually get RSI from it…!
Are there any books on writing that you find useful and would recommend? (links helpful if you have them).
I’ve never read a book on writing itself, because I come from the side of the fence that believes you can’t teach people to write. I do think, however, that some articles (and, therefore, probably books as well!) can make you more aware of things that you’re doing that make it worse – some of which are outlined in my ‘dos and don’ts’ piece. I’ve learned a few things that have helped me improve, usually from editors rather than other writers. On the marketing side, if you’re self-publishing your first novel, then My Way by Dave Perlmutter is a good one, although you do need to remember that what worked for him may not work for you. Here is the Amazon link – my review of it is on there, too.
When looking at books on marketing/writing (and there are hundreds), it helps to check out the fiction books by the author, too – if they’re not that successful, it might be that the tips in the marketing book are not very good. There is a US writer called Jeff Bennington who gives good advice, too – I can’t remember the name of his book right now, sorry.
Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
If it wasn’t for Twitter I wouldn’t have sold more than 150 books, I shouldn’t think! I don’t spend time on online writing groups or forums or anything like that, though; I think people can get too caught up in them. There is a bit about this in the new novelists article, too – I’ve also put links to two articles about the self-published author and Twitter, which may be of use. I do like Goodreads, but I liked it more before it became just a sales tool, and was just about the discussion and recommendation of books. I have an author page on Facebook, to keep it separate from my personal stuff; on there I post blog articles and notifications of any special offers, or just chat; I don’t use it to promote on a day to day basis, because I don’t think that’s what people sign up for Facebook to see.
Tell me what plans you have for your future writing career and/or anything else you'd like the reader to know about you.
I’ve just finished a novel – it’s a long contemporary drama/family saga with a historical theme to it; more anon! Next, I shall be writing a Christmas themed novella to publish at the end of October. After that, I shall get on with the sequel to the drama/family saga. I also have the idea for the one after, which will be in a similar vein but centres round London gangsters in the 60s and 70s. Anything else I’d like readers to know about me? Yes: I am endlessly appreciative of everyone who reads and enjoys my books and blog posts. Every tweet to tell me someone’s enjoyed a book, every lovely review makes my day. I was trying to work out the other day exactly WHY I write, and I couldn’t come up with an answer. I think, though, that whether you produce books or art or music or films or pieces of embroidery or whatever, about the best thing that can happen is when someone says ‘that’s really good, I love it’. If any of your blog readers or Twitter followers would like to give me a try, my short story collection, ‘Nine Lives’ is only 77p!
Here is link to my Amazon page:
This is the Amazon.com page, for outside the UK:
Here’s my personal blog:
…. and my writers’ blog on UK Arts Directory:
….. and here I am on Facebook:
Many thanks for inviting me to your blog, Fran, and I hope this has been of interest to you and your readers.