How I write a book

Strangely, how I write a book depends – for me at any rate – on the genre, as much as anything else.

In women’s lit, which I am writing at the moment, I notice that Phase One begins with an irrepressible impulse to write something about someone, perhaps a single, short chapter, a couple of pages to set the tone, to introduce the main characters – a wife and her small son, for instance.  Or I might take up a character who first appeared in a short story.  People are what motivate me to write – not future worlds or historical settings.  The character is at the front, though s/he may be someone I have never met before.  As long as I get a good first chapter down tight, I find that enough of an anchor to leave the story until I have time to write again.

The situations I write about are almost always drawn from life but often the character is unknown to me.  I enjoy the thrill of being invited into the world of someone whose insights are often different from my own; as long as I don’t force the process, as I write about them, the characters gradually introduce themselves.


Phase Two is in some ways the hardest part of writing.

Having got the first chapter(s) down as I like them, absorbing the tone, and tuning in to the emotional undercurrents that will, I hope, power the story, I have to follow through with the next phase, in which I hope to keep the tension and tone of the first phase.  That relies on not forcing the writing, but sitting down to almost, well, take dictation when I feel light, open and able to disappear into a world that unfolds around me.  Time vanishes and it is often only when the phone rings or the clock strikes, that I realise it is time to get up and do something ordinary…

There is discipline in the process, but not the hard, force it out at all costs discipline of a daily word-count, thankfully.  All the same, I know now, that any words I managed to write on any given day do support my determination to continue, by offering tangible evidence of effort, boosting my word count, even if the words eventually end up on the editorial scrap heap.

Thanks for reading.

(To be continued.)


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