One of my favourite social media friends is the lovely Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, a writer, musician, singer and dog psychologist. Last week, she was asked to write a blog on her writing process as part of a blog tour. You can find her post here. Many of her books are about dog behaviour and training, but she also writes fiction as well as lyricis. Given her experience and credentials as a published author, I was very pleased and excited to be asked to take the baton of the blog tour and answer the same questions here. There are only four questions, but I had to think about them for quite a time, so read on for my mental musings on My Writing Process:
What am I working on?
Actually (says she with slight shame), I'm not writing anything right at the moment, but I plan to start a new book in the next week as the urge to take up the proverbial pen is becoming pretty irresistible. As I've just published a book, I've been in a bit of a lull, but any of you who have read my last post will be able to see the ideas that have been swirling around in my head. I'm pretty sure now that I'm going to write the Belgium memoir first because it will go easily with the thesis I am writing.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Why do I write what I do?
I write the memoirs because I need an outlet for my observations and also the for funny situations I've found myself in over the years. I love to laugh and to be able to share that with my readers too. My first book, African Ways, was inspired by reading Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. His descriptions of the lovely Freanch folk who helped him with his house renovations reminded me of the equally lovely African folk I lived with on a farm in South Africa. I've been lucky enough to move around quite a bit in my life and I've met the most amazing people, so my memoirs are really about them as much as they're about me. In fact, my fiction serves much the same purpose. The Skipper's Child is based on my partner's youth as the son of a commercial barge skipper. It is not his story, but the plot is interwoven with anecdotes he has told me about his childhood on the waterways. My other novel, How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics (see sidebar), was written as a way of using anecdotes and observations from my own youth when I tried my hand at smallholding in England's west country. All the incidents concerning the animals Maisie (the book's heroine) collects and keeps are true, and quite a number of the human characters are based on observations about people I knew when I was young.
How does your writing process work?
Well, firstly, I never write anything by hand. I never have, except when I was at school and university. As soon as I could work out how to use an electric typewriter, I started typing stories. Then when I got my first computer (an old DOS) at home, I started writing short stories and radio plays. I wouldn't know where to start writing long hand, I really wouldn't. I think I'd never get further than a few pages as there would be so much crossed out and moved around, I'd never figure out what I was trying to say!
Largely speaking, I chew things over in my head for a long time before I start writing, but quite often, I only have the skeleton of the idea when my fingers touch the keys. Most of the time, that's enough for me to get going. I find it quite easy to get into the situation my characters land themselves in, so the stories generally flow quite easily - for the first draft, anyway. The editing takes much, much longer, especially for my novels. I nearly always have to re-write the beginning of my books completely. I think this is because my fictional characters always change a bit as I write, so by the end, they are not really the same people as they were when I started. As for my memoirs, the beginnings are always a bit of a fumble to get the right 'voice' the first time, so they need re-working to make them consistent with the voice that has developed later.
The memoirs usually take about a year to write, edit and produce, but the novels have taken much longer. My Eccentrics took two and a half years - not a speedy process. But that doesn't bother me. I love the process of writing what I hope is a strong story, so time is not an issue. I'm always a bit sad to finish writing a book as I have so much fun with them. The novels often go off in directions I am not expecting, so both mine have been adventures for me too. The editing and proofreading is the hard part, but even more important in a way - just not as enjoyable as the creative part!
Thanks again to Lisa for inviting me to do this, and I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into my writing process. Next week, I'm handing the baton on to Jo Carroll, whose lovely blog Over the Hill is the window on to her beautiful lyrical travel books.
If what I've said has interested you and you'd like to get a taste of what I've written, click on the links in the side bar and have a read of the preview sections available