I’m pleased to be part of a blog-hop centring on four questions that reveal part of my writing life. Thanks to Linda Acaster, also from the Hornsea Writers group, for the hand-on.
1) What are you working on?
The short answer is ‘Too much!’. I’m approaching the end of a marathon penultimate edit of book 3 (around 200k words) of my epic fantasy trilogy, A Seared Sky, book 1 of which, Joinings, was published by Fantastic Books Publishing at the end of March. I’m finalising research for a sci-fi novelette. Producing posts for my blog relating to A Seared Sky, to enhance readers’ experience. Writing short stories. Participating in various online forums with Goodreads, LinkedIn and Facebook.
2) What is happening around you while you write?
Ah, now that’s where I’m fortunate. My daughter’s away from home on her third year at university, at the moment. She’ll be home at the end of the month, so I’ll no doubt be involved with her various ‘Dad…?’ demands then. My wife, who acts as one of my beta readers, is applying a fine-tooth comb to each chapter as I print it off. In the background, my iMac is playing a selection from 1414 tracks on iTunes; a mix of pop, rock, jazz and classical. I find the music has the effect of excluding other sounds. Outside my window, across the drive, the neighbour’s hedge peeks over our wooden fence and occasionally hosts songbirds. Recently, as a way of holding back the deterioration of my aging body fit, I’ve taken to setting my audio alarm (I use the Howler Timer) for an hour at a time and I then get up and use a skipping rope for a few minutes (I was once a boxer, so I know the value of skipping as an aerobic exercise). Floor to ceiling behind me and above my desk, shelves groan with books. Next to the window is a map for A Seared Sky, so I can check on locations as I edit. And my desk is scattered with odd notes and Post-its bearing scribbles I’ve recorded whilst engaged in some otherwise uninterruptable task.
3) Explain your research routine
Routine? Now there’s an interesting idea. I write as a pantster. My research takes the same sort of route. In other words, I discover I need to know something, so I see what I can find out about it. No plan, no programme, no set routine at all. At present, I’m gathering information for a sci-fi novelette, so I’m viewing certain TV programmes, reading snippets from reference books, visiting various websites. All the information is placed in a file on the computer, to be dredged as and when required as I write the story. I’ve done the character sketches already and the basis of the story lurks somewhere within the tangle of my subconscious mind, to ooze out once I start dedicating time to the creation.
4) Which comes first plot strand, character, or...?
Character. Actually, that’s not strictly true. Usually, what happens is that an idea strikes me. It can stem from something someone says, an item in the news, another story I’m reading (or writing), or may simply pop out of thin air when I’m out walking with my wife. I keep notebooks, and a voice recorder, for such moments of inspiration. I allow the idea to simmer within the warm juices of my brain (it’s mostly water in there) until it demands special notice. It’s then that I develop character sketches for what I believe will be the main players. Once at that stage, I begin the creation of the story. I don’t plot. But I have a sort of skeletal diagram in my head of the story, and I generally have a fairly good idea of where the story ends (that’s not to say the characters won’t rebel and send it to another destination entirely, of course!). The rest just happens as I sit at the keyboard. I never edit a word until the story is complete. Of course, this means that the editing process is lengthy and detailed. But that’s how I write. I’ve tried other methods and none of them works for me.
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PennyGrubb is a crime-writing academic who cures by day and kills by night. Her fourth novel, Where There's Smoke, is due out in paperback later this year. Penny is following me on this trail, her post appears 16th May; click here to reach it.