Monday, 7 February 2011

Why I Write. Or Why I Think I Write.

I can't remember a time when I didn't write. I've read and loved books for as long as I can remember, and since the age of six-ish, I've wanted to be an author (except for a passing interest in being a geography teacher when I was about fourteen, before I discovered how deep my mutual hatreds of children and speaking in front of people ran). It sounds like a cliche, but I write because I have to. I wrote my first complete novel when I was fifteen, and since then, I have to be working on something, otherwise I go a bit stir crazy. Five years, seventeen novels and no major breakdowns later, here we are.

For me, reading has always been an escape, and writing just seemed like the natural progression of that. I probably read a book I didn't like and thought, "I could do better than that," or else a certain family member pushed me into actually writing something down, instead of just talking about ideas all the time. I don't currently have a project, I'm starting to put together the fragments of an idea that I have high hopes for. At the moment I have four linked strands all taking place in different decades, although my fear is that I'm doing something very similar to the current ITV drama Marchlands, which I honestly haven't watched, just seen adverts for. At the moment, my main dilemma is whether to tell the story in a traditional linear fashion, or have it jump around all over the place, which I think has come from the Chuck Palahniuk novels I've been reading recently, particularly "Invisible Monsters", which seems to follow no specific chronology, but the reader has no trouble placing the events, despite the constant changing of information, including names, genders, relationships.


  1. Is it linked strands like in "Birdsong" where its a family story being discovered or is it like the Forsythe Saga where it is following one family or person over different decades? If you need help with historical research let me know! :) What about trying to get one of your seventeen novels published?

  2. It's more like the history of the house being discovered by the current owners, and there are parts where it flashes back to, for example, 1916, when it was still owned by the family who had lived there for centuries (or probably, my research is a bit iffy at the moment, so I'll probably take you up on your offer with that). I'm not quite sure how to deal with these bits yet, because they aren't really flashbacks, because the people in them are all long gone and so there is nobody to remember them or flash back to them, but the woman isn't imagining them either. I'm not sure how to work it yet.

    I did try, once. Years ago. I tried to get one of the books published, it was the first in a series of seven, but after the first batch of rejection letters, I didn't pursue it because I was starting a new series of seven and wanted to concentrate on that instead. At the moment, I'm doing a fourth edit of a book that I think could be the one, but I'm not ready to send it out yet. I still have some huge changes to make to it.

  3. All writers experience rejection. I'd like to say it gets easier but my New Year's resolution forbids lying... :0) That said, you will be amazed how far perserverence can get you.

    Something to note; John Cheever received invaluable advice from the editor of the New Yorker magazine that helped him get his stories published. In fact, it helped him to write them in the first place, knowing what they were looking for. Did you receive any feedback from your rejections that you can use in a similar way?

    I'm interested to know where the ideas for such prolific novel writing come from? This is something you can link to some of what we have been/will be discussing regarding influence/inspiration/biography and experience etc.

  4. I could NEVER stick to that resolution, I just make random things up all the time without knowing why I do it. Luckily, I've managed to stop doing it in writing, so I don't get caught out as often.

    Unfortunately, I didn't get any feedback at all, really. I remember getting lots of letters that were clearly saved documents that they sent out to everyone, usually saying that they weren't accepting submissions at the present time, or that my manuscript wasn't the type of thing that they published (the latter annoyed me, since I did research to find who I should send it to), but no feedback that I can recall. I still have the letters somewhere, it might be worth digging them out to have another look.

    I wish I knew where the ideas came from as well! A lot of the time, I start with a character, who just sort of strolls into my head (I used to feel silly saying that until someone pointed out that that's what JK Rowling said about Harry Potter), and it just sorts of expands from there. Anything can trigger an idea, a line in a book or on television, a conversation I've overheard somewhere. I got an idea for a story from a Lynx advert the other day, which I'm actually a little embarrassed about. It was made worse by the fact that I was in the cinema, and had to whip my phone out covertly to make a note before I forgot about it!

  5. Why are your blogs so coherant and insightful? You're making me look bad! I always thought of reading as a bit of a chore I must say. Writing is where the escape is at. AND! I quite like children and geography, we're a madcap pair!

  6. I'm not sure I'd use the word insightful, but I've actually blogged before, so maybe that's had some impact. You like children? I'm sorry, I don't think we can be friends anymore. I do quite like geography, though. And if you find reading a chore, you're probably reading the wrong books. I can recommend some brilliant ones, if you like.