The idea of the Writers’ Blog Tour is for bloggers to answer the same four seemingly simple questions and then pass the challenge on.

I’ve been tagged in it by John Hunter, who runs a very fine writing blog over at The End is Nigel. John’s post about this has set the bar high, but I’ll give it a go.

The Questions:

What am I working on?

Hey, this is almost straightforward. I’m working on:

  • a rewrite of a science fiction Young Adult novel – it’s mostly structural and descriptive rewrites at this point
  • a sitcom screenplay – based on a new idea, this is something I’m flitting in and out of
  • a new Young Adult novel (also SF) – this is a freehand one page a day book, and I love it
  • a play – this took me by surprise when I started to write it last week, but it’s flowing and I’m enjoying it immensely
  • a collection of short stories – one a month, just rewriting one today
  • I’ve also started mulling over a children’s novel, but it’s at a gestation phase rather than full on writing phase

To the casual observer it may seem like I’m working on too much, but I don’t feel like I am.  I’ve been splitting my time between things, so for instance I tend to work on the rewrite every morning as the sort of ‘bread and butter’ area of my writing, and dedicate the afternoons to research, screen or play writing. I often write a page of the YA novel in the evening after dinner. Ideas and short stories tend to be written down when I think of them.

2. How does my writing differ from others of its genre?

This is a tough one as I don’t write in a specific genre, or even in a specific medium. However, there are common threads in my work which may help to make it different as a whole.

I’ve found that no matter what genre my novels are I tend to set them in a version of Edinburgh and make the city something approaching a main character itself. Edinburgh is my home and part of me: I love the history of the place, I grew up learning our stories, and I hope some of that comes across in my work.

The idea of other stories informing our lives is also interesting to me, and I have found it surfacing as a thread in all my work – sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly. The stories might be fairy tales, family history, contemporary mythology or fragments from the news and history, and I think it stems from the love I’ve always had of stories and reading.

I’ve found that recently I look at the themes of identity and truth in my work. I suspect (and in fact hope) that these themes will change as time goes on. For instance, a few years ago the dominant themes in my screenplays were the nature of belief and the relationships between women.

Something that shouldn’t make my screenwriting different is that women are normally the central characters in my scripts.

3. Why do I write what I do?

As to why I write the different mediums? I love film, and find the technical and collaborative aspects of screenwriting fascinating. I genuinely enjoy the challenges of setting up a story world, finding the right structure, and creating believable characters which will be exciting enough to take a film crew and subsequent viewers on a journey.

Although I always knew I wanted to write novels it wasn’t until I’d been screenwriting for a while that I gained the confidence to give it a go. I’m still far less certain of myself in prose but I have found it an utter joy, even when I’m clutching my head in horror at my ineptitude, boring ideas, etc etc. Standard writer’s stuff, worth it for the happiness of writing a line to make you cry or laugh, and knowing that each draft is bringing you closer to the truth of what you wanted to write.

4. How does my writing process work?

I’d say pretty much everything for me starts visually, with some key images/scenes popping into my brain. It might be that I writea note and stick it in a file, but more often than not I’ll mull the image over for a while in my head.

From the image comes questions, characters, a story world, perhaps a loose plot, sometimes a theme, and normally lots of specific scenes. All, typically, still in my head but sometimes scribbled on a notepad.

After that it’s a mixed bag. If I’m working to commission on a screenplay I would initially write a synopsis/outline/treatment as needed, agree to it, and work on that for a first draft. However, I never do anything so rigid when I’m writing on spec – I find it more fulfilling and exciting to just get to the long story. If I have scenes or story elements planned out I will write them on cards and pin them up on a board above my desk, along with a few character notes, but that’s about it.

For both novels and screenplays I work in a combination of paper and software, as the mood takes me. I have whole first draft screenplays and books written longhand, which I do quite like, but if I feel an urgent need to write then I go to the PC first.

The best lesson that doing nanowrimo a few years ago taught me was not to edit as I write the first draft. I just keep going, taking notes as needed if I think things have to change. If I know something needs to happen but I don’t know what to write, I’ll put a scene in and simply say ‘she needs to find X out’ and move on to the next scene/chapter.

Once I have a rough first draft I will write a long synopsis which outlines everything I want the piece to be. I’ll then read the draft and make notes, then go back and start cutting and rewriting. I then repeat, repeat, repeat, get feedback, repeat…

I’ve discovered that I like to listen to music when I write, typically one or two albums per piece. It helps ground me to the mood and setting of my work. For instance, the book I recently finished was written when listening to a Decemberists album, while the last screenplay I wrote had a Clint Mansell album playing in the background.

I’m supposed to tag new people to take on the baton of this subject, but everyone I can think of tagging has either done this already or doesn’t have a blog – many of my writing friends are Facebook users only. So if you’re reading this and would like to take part, do! Please leave a comment with a link to your responses, or tag me in a Facebook post or tweet. Would love to hear answers from you all.

One thought on “The Writers’ Blog Tour

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