I think I’ve been writing my whole life, but there have been lengthy periods when I’ve got side-tracked. Doing a degree in social work led me on a very particular career path for a long time, but over the last ten years, writing (and editing, teaching, mentoring) has been my main focus.At the moment I feel like Jekyll and Hyde. In 2010, my travel memoir, A Blonde Bengali Wife was originally published, but it has just (November 2015) been reprinted and re-launched as an ebook. This summer I also finished my PhD in Creative Writing, which included writing a novel. So, I have that manuscript finished, but in need of revising, for (hopefully) interested literary agents and then general publication. It means I’m slithering between the marketing and self-promotion required for one, and the final editing of the other.
2) HOW MUCH RESEARCH AND PREPARATION DO YOU DO BEFORE WRITING?
For someone who is addicted (and I use that word deliberately) to writing lists, I am curiously unable to warm to specific chapter plans and character profiles. That said, I’m definitely not one who starts out with a vague idea and lets the story tell itself. I tend to draft key scenes in a novel and link them – a bit like ‘joining the dots’ – and to write individual pieces about the characters; monologues almost, or imagining them in different situations (most of which won’t go into the book) and getting to know them that way. Chasing Elena is set on Cyprus (a place I’ve visited frequently) in 2004 and 1974, so I researched the history and culture of that for accurate background.
Does it change as I write? All the time! But what the process has done has removed the fearsome ‘blank page syndrome’ where I can’t think what to write – if in doubt write around the subject.
3) DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TIME TO WRITE? HOW DO YOU BALANCE THIS WITH OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES SUCH AS FAMILY LIFE OR OTHER WORK?
I’m a single mother with a five year old son who goes to school five mornings a week and to bed at (optimistically) 7pm. Whilst he is away/sleeping, I do as much work as possible and within that I make time to write. So, it’s less about having a favorite time than making the most of limited ‘free’ time. I’ve learned to work late into most evenings – not my natural inclination at all – and to allow my own writing occasional priority, which is difficult because it doesn’t bring the money in.
The best side-effect of having a baby, working and studying means I don’t procrastinate any more. I really don’t and I never thought I’d say that about myself.
4) WHAT PART OF THE WRITING PROCESS DO YOU FIND THE MOST IMPORTANT?
The writing process is like building a house. You need an original concept theme that seems feasible, you design and plan plotting, characterisation) how that might evolve. Then you lay the foundation (first draft), build on it (x more drafts), deal with any bits that fall down (rewriting) and then add the roof (editing). After that are any final snags and the cosmetic work (professional editing, proof= reading) and then you try and sell the result! A convoluted way of saying each part of the process is integral and builds on the one before it. However, my personal favorite is editing and to risk another analogy, to me editing is like a jigsaw – I know all the pieces are there, I ‘just’ have to fit them in the right places.
5) WRITING HAS MANY HIGHS AND LOWS. HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED?
I tutor Local Authority and Adult Learning classes in Creative Writing, and those groups keep me both grounded and motivated. I appreciate the face to face contact of real, grown-up people, for whom writing is an enjoyable pastime rather than a career and who want to have fun as well as learn. I’m definitely mercurial about my writing (ability) but whatever my mood, every Monday morning I look out of my window and remind myself of how lucky I am to be free to plan my morning my way. Who else can meet a writer friend/client for coffee and legitimately call it work?
6) DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AND/OR BLOG?
After a very slow start with social media, I’ve had to hit the ground running. I started a blog in 2010 to mark the publication of A Blonde Bengali Wife. Now, I post in it about once a month and it’s really an open diary about writing, people’s achievements and the charity, Bhola’s Children (which is supported by income from the book). When i took the unlikely decision to self-publish the ebook reprint, and realised the marketing and promotion required, I had to learn about Twitter from scratch, build a Facebook pagem and get my head around things like blog tours…I couldn’t have done any of that without my colleague, and now friend Clare Morely http://www.myepublishbook.com and another friend I’ve only made through social media, Alison Drew.
I’ve seen the power of social media in marketing, but i still find it baffling. I’ve found it very friendly and supportive, not to mention informative, but it’s very time=consuming. (When does a writer ever get chance to write any more?) I suppose you could say I’m on the fence.
7) IF YOU COULD PASS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO A NEW WRITER WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Write. There is a vast difference between being a writer and liking the idea of writing, Fundamentally, it’s down to how many words you have on the page, and if you can keep going and finish whatever you started. It’s very easy to talk about writing, read about it, listen to everyone’s opinions about it – back to social media again – and dream about being the next JK Rowling or EL James. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but if you want to be a writer you need to put in the work; whoever said writing was 10% talent and 90% perseverance had a very good point.
You can buy A Blonde Bengali Wife from Amazon
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@Anne_ABBW and @AnneHamilton7