|Not a vineyard tour, though this is also good for writing|
This week I have taken up the baton from Kate Smalley Ellis to take part in a writing process blog tour. It's been a revelation and a relief to dicsover the sheer variety in how writers work, and also what is common amongst those of us who are plugging away. Kate and I were part of the same writers' group in London for years, and met again by surprise recently when we were both shortlisted for the Myriad Editions Writer's Retreat Competition, which I wrote about here. This goes to show regularly presenting your work and receiving critical feedback should be part of your writing process if you can acccess such things. I wholeheartedly recommend this to all writers.
Here are my answers to the writing process blog tour questions:
What am I working on?
Mostly, my collection of short stories inspired by elements of British folklore, all set in the same island community, and driven by my interest in the fantastical, metaphor and ambiguity in short fiction. I am currently trying to limit writing other material, as this collection is part of my Creative Writing PhD, but sometimes things will insist on popping out. It’s a pretty good outcome when your displacement activity for writing is other kinds of writing.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Genre itself is an issue for me. I am not writing fantasy, but use fantastical elements. Some of it is not even speculative fiction. Yet all the interconnected stories are set in a place that has no ‘real’ location, nor a particular time in history or the future. I use folktales and folklore only, rather than fairy tales, which pop up an awful lot in contemporary short stories.
Why do I write what I do?
My mother says I write the world I would like to be in, and to some extent that’s true (though it can be rather brutal, which I can live without). Certainly there is an element of escapism from London and work and technology. I am interested in worlds where less is explainable by science, where magical explanations do just as well, or better, than rational ones. I also believe that the story a person reads is a combined effort between the writer and the reader, so I like to use ambiguity to force the reader to have an input, and come up with their own interpretation of events.
How does my writing process work?
I have been lucky enough to learn early on that having acres of time is not good for me as a writer. I am far more productive when I have to squeeze writing in as a precious activity, around the necessities of life such as work. I write in coloured pens in a Moleskin notebook, which I also fill with snatches of folklore and quotes or words that inspire me. I spend a lot of time poring over an old Anglo-Saxon dictionary! Things flow best when I don’t know what is going to happen in a story, but sometimes I do character sketches, or think through events. Editing takes far longer than writing, but I have my wonderful supervisor, Alison MacLeod, to guide me in this. At some point I always follow Adam Marek’s advice, and look for the heart of the story, the beating centre which is served by all the veins and vessels that make up the details. If you don’t know what the heart is, you’re in trouble.