21st April 2014 My Writing Process
Huge thanks to Jade Ngengi who passed the "My Writing Process" baton on to me. Jade is seventeen (WOW!) and her first book MIRAGE will be published by Chicken House and is the first in a possible trilogy.
You can read her post here:http://jadengengi.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/my-writing-process-blog-tour.html?spref=tw
And here's my post:
1. What am I working on?
I've just finished my second novel, LIES LIKE LOVE, which will be out this summer, and so I'm back to developing new ideas (of which I always have too many and of which too many will never come to anything) and coming up with a decent first draft which I guess my agent will then have the dubious pleasure of reading and trying to sell! At the moment I'm working on something a little bit different, in so far as there aren't any appalling grown-ups destroying the lives of my protagonists; they're doing it for themselves this time. But there's a huge amount of work to be done before this idea really takes off. I usually discover character by free writing and seeing how the characters interact with one another and how each new situation then leads to new revelations and strengthens and deepens my sense of the individual protagonists. Once I have the understanding of the characters it's so much easier to then build the plot.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Both BLACK HEART BLUE and LIES LIKE LOVE are YA/Crossover novels. A lot of YA appeals to an adult audience, so I don't think my writing differentiates itself so much on that level. I'd like to think that I write Gothic Contemporary (yes, I made that up), in so far as the events are based in reality and could actually happen - there are no vampires or werewolves, but at the same time there is a sense of an otherworldly presence or frightening Other lurking in the narrative. In BLACK HEART BLUE, for example, it was Hephzi's ghostly self, conjured by Rebecca as a comfort and as a spur to her to change her life, which fulfilled this role. This slightly supernatural element is rationally explicable, but it's something I enjoy developing and I hope it adds an interesting dimension to the story. I'll be really interested to see what readers make of The Thing, which is how Audrey, the heroine of LIES LIKE LOVE, refers to the presence which haunts her.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I write the kind of books I love to read and I write the kind of books I can write. If I tried to write a comedy I think it'd be pretty terrible. I'm really interested in how we understand one another, what makes us behave the way we do and especially the "dark" side of human experience; this means I'm drawn to writing about uncomfortable and difficult subjects. As a teenager I read a lot of Judy Blume (my favourite was Deenie) as well as early Jacqueline Wilson ( which is very different to some of her current writing, in that it was aimed at an older audience and was therefore a lot darker) so I suppose I've always loved books about growing up, dealing with adolescent challenges and the rawness of young adult experience. My novels feature heroines who are different in some way, or at least they feel or are made to feel, different. I think that's something we can all empathise with. It's definitely something I struggled with when I started secondary school knowing no one and being very much the outsider. In those days no one bothered to integrate the disparate groups of children and I was left by the teachers to fend for myself. My mum says I cried every morning and begged not to be forced to go to school and the memory of that awful first year has really stuck with me. So you write what you know, as they say, and I know a little bit about feeling like the odd one out. My characters' lives explore far more extreme versions of my own experiences, though, and that's because I write about things which bother me, not just about myself, but about society. When I wrote BLACK HEART BLUE I was heart-sick at hearing so much horror in the news each day about the abuse of children which had continued under the noses of social workers and doctors and neighbours. Similarly for LIES LIKE LOVE there were a couple of appalling news articles which made me think about some of the issues the characters are dealing with in the novel. Leo, another m/c in Lies Like Love, is someone who's just come through a breakdown and is rebuilding his life with the help of his aunt, and so I'm also exploring the social, academic and parental pressure put on teenagers and how intolerable that can be.
4. How does my writing process work?
When I'm starting something new, I usually come up with an opening chapter or couple of paragraphs first and at that stage it's all about character and the words on the page. Having said that, I rewrote much of my original draft of LIES LIKE LOVE, including the opening, but I still prefer to start just by diving in.
The delete button is your friend! (I really need to get a lamp shade. And brush my hair)
With LIES LIKE LOVE, I had a sense of the structure of the novel before I began, whereas with BLACK HEART BLUE it was a much more organic process although I had a very broad outline. Overall I'd say it's really handy to have a sense of where you're going, where the climaxes will be and what shape the finished novel will take, but this is something which for me is always fluid and keeps developing even at the latest editing stages (my writing process has definitely been helped by the fabulous editors I've worked with over the two books and, of course, my agent).
A VERY broad outline for BHB. And a shopping list.
Both BLACK HEART BLUE and LIES LIKE LOVE are dual narratives. I don't really plan it this way and I always write the story from one perspective first. LIES LIKE LOVE was originally Audrey's story, just as BHB was Rebecca's. But I usually get to the point where I need another perspective, style, tone and then that's when I let the other voice have its say. I like working like this because I know the story and the characters so well that the second voice is really easy to write.
What's weird is that once I've finished writing a novel I can't usually remember actually writing any of it. On rereading, whole chapters come as a huge surprise and I love it when that happens as it means I've really been caught up in the moment and not over thinking anything. I prefer to write without other distractions, although that's not usually possible in a household with two children, a dog and a hamster (the hamster's usually pretty quiet, I'll admit) and when I get stuck I have to over-ride my lazy gene and take the dog out for a walk. Flashes of inspiration usually come when I'm away from my computer and I take my phone and use the voice recorder so I don't forget them.
All I want to do is write. Not that I don't enjoy the other bits of my life, I do. But when it's just me and the imaginary people and the words doing beautiful things then that's an amazing thing.
You can watch the trailer for LIES LIKE LOVE here:
The next blog in the tour comes from Blondie whose bio is here:
Blondie created her first picture book at the age of five, about a land of cucumber people. Her writing has got somewhat darker since then. She is currently working on Heart of Glass, her first novel for young adults, tackling relationships, eating disorders and suicide with a punk attitude, all tied together with a paranormal bow.
It was working as a Borders Children’s Book Specialist that made her realise reading and writing were things she could do as a career. She now has an MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa and writes in every spare minute, in-between working in a coffee shop during the day and ghost-hunting at night.
Blog- Parallel Lines: blondiecamps.wordpress.com