I was flattered to receive an invitation from writer Catherine Noble to take part in a series of blog posts where writers nominate others to answer four key questions about their writing process. I ‘know’ Catherine via Twitter and hope to meet her one day in real life too – by the tone of her blog I’m sure we’re on the same wave length.
Some of my answers are things I’ve talked about in previous posts so regular readers (the blog stats reveal this figure is not in the hunners but there are a few of you out there!) might have read it all before and prefer to skip this post, hopefully I’ll see you on the other side. For those diehards or new followers, here are my answers to the questions passed on by Catherine…
1) What am I working on?
I’m working on my third novel – you could describe me as determined or delusional but I’m definitely not a quitter. My first attempt was really just a personal challenge to see if I could actually go the distance and complete a full length novel. I had never written fiction before, not even short stories and I’m sure if I had the guts to read it now, I’d cringe. It has a DNR order firmly attached to it and its final resting place is in a ‘vintage’ style suitcase (can’t beat Matalan for a bargain in home décor). I got help with the writing (not my fantasies of being published) and went on two Arvon courses, left a permanent job to go to uni to do an MLitt so you’d think novel no.2 would be better. You’d be right; it got within a bawhair (a recognised unit of measurement in the west of Scotland) of being published and was shortlisted in Hookline Book’s competition for writing graduates. The rejections hurt but of course a whiff of success (and short stories being published) made me believe that I could write and helped to keep the dream alive.
So, third time lucky eh? I love to think that this is THE ONE. I feel my ‘voice’ has developed over the years and because the novel is set in 1985, in the same town I grew up in, I hope the fiction has an authenticity the others lacked. It’s a coming-of-age novel about a teenage friendship and how the dynamics of their relationship has lifelong consequences.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’d class my writing as Scottish contemporary fiction. Novel no.3 deals with gritty themes such as sectarianism and yet it still has lots of black humour in it (at least I hope it’s funny!) I admire writers such as Kerry Hudson and Damian Barr who have also tackled hard-hitting issues but still make room in their writing for lighter moments. That’s what I’m aiming for, and in that sense, my writing style is similar (if I’m gallus enough to compare myself to established writers) but obviously as they are my words, my ideas and my voice, then it has to be different – it’s my story, whatever genre label that’s slapped on it.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write the type of book I want to read. I admire authors such as Jackie Kay, Janice Galloway, Anne Donovan, to name but a few, I could go on but you get the idea, they are writers of Scottish contemporary fiction who bring the world I know alive and help me understand it better. I want to do the same, give a voice to Scottish working class characters that don’t often feature in fiction.
4) How does my writing process work?
The initial ideas for novel no.3 came from an assignment I did during my MLitt course. The brief was to write an A to Z on any topic – I’m no expert on anything but myself so I wrote about my childhood. The exercise triggered ideas to expand the piece into something more substantial and before I knew it, no.3 had legs and ran off the page using the ‘freefall’ method. It’s a technique I’d never tried before and helped get the words down and the story out without constantly self-censoring each and every paragraph. The downside is that the editing process has taken much longer than I expected as the initial draft was so rough. I’ve hacked away at the words and tried my best to buff them into something worth sharing – if not, there’s room in the Matalan suitcase and no.1 and 2. would enjoy the company…
This is the closest you’ll see me get to athletics by passing the virtual ‘baton’ to writer Paul Cuddihy to write the next blog post. One of my good pals is the sister-in-law of Paul and I’ve been to two of his book launches – both great evenings where Paul entertained the crowd with words and music. He’s a talented guy whose post will no doubt show off his wit and vibrant personality. Here’s a wee bit about him…
Paul Cuddihy read a lot of books in 2013 and then wrote all about his year of falling in love with literature again in a book called ‘Read All About It’, which is published on Amazon as a paperback and eBook. He’s also written a trilogy of historical fiction novels, as well as a couple of football books. He believes that subtle product placement is the key to book promotion.
Does your writing process sound similar to mine? Has anyone else helped you develop your writing process or have you improved through trial and error?
7 thoughts on “My Writing Process Blog Tour”
Great post, Helen, and love that Snoopy cartoon – that’s exactly what it feels like. Glad you’re enjoying novel three and giving a voice to Scots language – never come across gallus before but determined to use it with my Scottish friends
Hi Anne, Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. Thought you might be interested in this…:)
(ga·luss) Dialect, chiefly Scot ~adj.
1. self-confident, daring, cheeky.
2. stylish, impressive (esp. Glasgow “He’s pure gallus, by the way“).
3. Orig. derogatory, meaning wild; a rascal; deserving to be hanged (from the gallows).
I’ve never got further than writing a blog, as you know, so I admire your hard work and dedication – and you might just have given me an idea for next year’s A-Z challenge! An A-Z of me, hmm, there’s a thought.
Hi Anabel, Thanks – it’s certainly been a long haul so far…Your travel blog requires a lot of commitment too. The A to Z exercise was really enjoyable and I found it interesting that each letter sparked off long forgotten memories. Mine was only based on childhood memories but I might try it again with random facts about me or bring it up-to-date. Look forward to yours – no pressure! 😉
The travel blog works much better when I set a goal such as this. I thought I would never do A to Z again, and I will certainly have exhausted several letters as far as travel goes, but you have definitely given me food for thought. I find the older I get, the more nostalgic I become so I’m sure I would have no bother writing 26 posts about my personal history!
Really enjoyed this post, Helen. Especially like your ‘freefall’ method. All the best with novel 3. Oh and did you know Anne Donovan has a new novel out.
Hi Anne, Thanks for your best wishes. Yes, I read a review of Anne’s new book today. I’m not a big reader of historical fiction but I might give it a go. If you read it, please let me know how you get on with it.