Monday, 7 April 2014

My Writing Process

I've been asked by the lovely Vikki Gemmell to write about my writing process, as part of a bloghop that's currently sweeping through the writerly blogisphere. Vikki is a fantastic writer; I especially loved her poignant flash fiction piece At The Fair. You can see her writing process by clicking here, it's a most enjoyable read.

Without further ado, here are my own answers:

What am I working on?

Having written many first drafts, I finally committed to writing a "proper" novel back in September 2012. It goes by the name of Brothers, but the story has changed so dramatically, the title isn't really relevant any more. Despite distracting myself with different projects and many other attempts to sabotage my own efforts, it's slowly but surely developing into an actual novel.

It's a story of three Glaswegian families woven together through tragic circumstances. Expect affairs, deathbeds, unwanted children, unemployment, drugs. You know, a romantic comedy. Also expect plenty of Glesgae patter, debauchery and frolics, and maybe even a few tears (there's been plenty of tears writing it!).

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It's different because it's being written by me, not other people. Last year, I went to a writing class and we were all asked to write a story using the opening sentence: The clown was suicidal. You have no idea how different the results were; no two stories were remotely alike!

My work is the result of how I see the world and I only hope that vision can be enjoyed by whoever reads me. I hope that doesn't read as arsey as it sounds in my head.

As it happens... I transformed my suicidal clown into a short story, Merry Andrew, to be published by Eunoia Review next month!

Why do I write what I do?

I like to write about people's natures and about how no-one is exempt from hardship. I write about the complexities of real, unglamourous life because that's what seems to interest me most. I believe compassion can be found in the murkiest waters, no matter how infested it is with absolute turds of humanity. I didn't consciously seek it out as a theme, but there ye go.

How does my writing process work?

I envy respectfully loathe writers who just pick up a pen, start from page one and don't stop until their novel is complete. I suspect they are At It.

Having toyed around with many a method, I appear to have come up with a bizarre analogy for my writing process. An anatomy themed one, of course.

(Photo by OtisArchives 3)

First, there's the skeleton. You can call it the outline if you want but I think it's more than that – it's the outline and the story chunks (main plot movements) and the scene/chapter structure. These are my bones. It took me a long time to arrange these bones into a functional skeleton for this WIP.

Then there's the next bit, which is what I'm doing now – it's the sinew, muscle, tissue, veins, organs, tendons. This is my characterisation* and fleshing out of scenes. I'm trying to paint a good picture of it all for the reader with sensory detail, suspense, foreshadowing etc., all the while keeping true to my story. My writers group is invaluable for helping me with this bit.

That's all in preparation for the final edit, which is the skin. Boak, I know.

Then I'll send it out to test readers and we can discuss hair and make-up, dahhhlings.

On a more practical level, my writing process involves getting to work an hour early, at 6am, to work on the novel. I usually do the same on tea/lunch breaks and a little bit in the evenings (although I'm usually out of gas by then). I have Mondays off work at the moment, so that's my proper, glorious Writing Day. I try not to write at the weekend, as there is a life to be lived and people to enjoy.

*I got to know my characters a bit more by writing a 50k word stream of consciousness walk-around of my characters for NaNoWriMo 2013. The jury is still out as to whether it was a vital part of building the story, or an extreme method of procrastination.

So now you know.

I have asked two very talented writers to take the reins for next week's Writing Process:

Caro's first novel Absolution was shortlisted for the New Blood Dagger (an annual award given by the British Crime Writers' Association). Her second novel Singing to the Dead was long listed for the Theakston's crime novel of the year. Her next two novels, Dark Water and The Blood of Crows were published to critical acclaim. Book six, The Night Hunter will be published in June 2014. Her novels are translated into seven languages.

Helen MacKinven writes contemporary Scottish fiction and has an MLitt in Creative Writing. Her second novel Buy, Buy Baby made it to the short list of the Hookline Books novel competition for students and graduates of MA writing courses.Several of her short stories have been published and she is currently working on her third novel. She lives in a small rural village in North Lanarkshire with her husband, two sons, two dogs and ten chickens.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my writing process. What's yours? Do share, I LOVE hearing about this kind of stuff.

Take care
Catherine x


Helen said...

Hi Catherine, Many thanks for nominating me - I'm flattered to be asked and be described as 'very talented' - your words, not mine! And I hope I can follow this great post. I really enjoyed hearing about your WIP and like the analogy of fleshing out the body of the story and characters. Your 'voice' resonates with me and echoes my style of 'tell it like it is'. If your novel is written in the same tone as your blog I know I will love it. Words like 'boak' made me smile and has the authenticity I strive for too. I hope to meet you in real life one day and look forward to reading your novel. All the best :)

Vikki said...

Hi Catherine, Thanks for the lovely mention in your post. I am in awe of the fact you get in to work at the crack of dawn to write! That is dedication! I love that you said your writing is different from others as it's written by you - very true. That must have been interesting hearing the different interpretations of that first line at your writing class. Well done on getting your story published in Eunoia Review - look forward to reading that...and your novel!

Anne Mackle said...

Very interesting post Catherine. I love books about Glasgow but haven't read any for a while so I'm looking forward to reading yours and one day reviewing it on my blog.

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