Monday, September 16, 2013

The writing process (or mine, at least...)

The most common question I’m asked about writing books concerns my process. This question always throws me because, to be honest, I don’t think of what I do in terms of a process. The terms implies an order, a system, a precise and methodical journey that is embarked upon each time I write a novel.

Ernest Hemingway famously wrote for only five hours each day. Beginning at five-thirty in the morning he would toil at his typewriter until ten-thirty, when he would allow himself to begin drinking. But he would never take alcohol after dinner as this would impede his ability to begin again, bright and early the next morning.

Having two young children I cannot be as regimented as Hemingway, nor can I drink as much. I’m at my desk three days a week when the boys are in school and at childcare. On those days for the six hours I’m sitting at my computer I write with a single-minded obsession. Similarly, when they boys are in the bath, out with their father or watching television, I scramble to my office and continue.


Even if my domestic responsibilities only allow me fifteen minutes I always manage to get something onto the page. My working time is extremely precious and I don’t want to waste a second. I cannot afford the luxury of writers’ block. I simply write as much as I can in the time that I have.

Occasionally what I have written is gold. When I read it I can’t believe I was the author. More often what lies on the page requires work, then lots more work, to make the words shine. That’s when I begin the task of refining and polishing. This involves going over the scene numerous times, cutting and rearranging as I seek original language and imagery. This can take many days, months even, until I’m completely satisfied.

Sometimes I find it helpful to leave a scene that’s causing me trouble for a few days as I continue with the main story. Following the hiatus I come back to the section with fresh eyes. It’s amazing what a brief separation can achieve. The words begin to flow and the descriptions that previously seemed so distant are suddenly at my fingertips.

This is the way I work. This is my process.

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