I had an idea for a book. This is how it begins, my writing process. An idea, just a grain. I didn’t think about it too much. Ursula K. Le Guin is good on that. Let it go, she advises, don’t analyse, simply let it develop in its own space and time. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist.
This is how I normally start.
I sit back and let it fly.
Next, I try to rough out ten basic, progressive steps. I’ve never had a course on creative writing, nor did I major in English Literature. I don’t know how to critically dissect a novel, play or poem, but I can tell a good story. Always have been able to. Don’t ask me why, perhaps it’s a gift. If it is, I’m grateful. Very.
I can usually envisage a story to the end. It may change in the middle, of course, as characters and scenarios develop, but the ending is always very clear in my head. Not so with the beginning. Beginnings are hard. I simply write, get anything down, and later – sometimes much later – I go back and add a new beginning. I did this with Road Kill and I did it with Burnt Offerings. Not preludes or prologues or whatever they are called, just a simple re-working in order to hook the reader.
Long ago, I remember reading an article about Dick Francis. He used a simple diagram of a book to show how he paced his stories. A book, standing on its own, with bookmarks sticking out from between the pages. They indicated those all important peaks and troughs of action. Some were huge, others small, but it kept the reader on their toes, left them breathless and desperate for more.
I’ve always remembered that diagram and I think it has taught me more than any tutorial ever could. Besides, I’ve had enough of those. I spent six years trying to become a teacher, firstly at night school, then at university. Sometimes I felt like eating my own head.
So, the ten point plan is sketched out, the end is known, and then comes the actual writing. I tend to pitch straight in and write like a demon. Soon, I am totally immersed in this new world, a world of my own making, and it is one which is rich in character, dialogue and lots and lots of wrong turnings.
But it changes. It grows, sometimes on its own. Characters do things I never envisaged, scenes arrive from out of thin-air. It can sometimes be exciting, often it is nerve-wracking. And I’m always looking at ways to improve the story.
I woke up with a new ending for Road Kill one night. I don’t know where it came from, but it made perfect sense. So, even though the book is on its final draft before sending it off to the publisher, I have to rewrite the end. It’s better. More sudden, unexpected.
And that’s the thrill of writing. The unexpected. I’ve done it again with a new book I’m writing. I couldn’t figure out how to develop the central theme of a power-thirsty politician conning his entire country. No, not country. The world! And then, it came to me. I was in a shopping mall of all places, wondering what to buy people for Christmas and BANG! There it was. Why hadn’t I thought about it before? So damned simple, but so out of the blue.
You see? That’s what being a writer does to you. It takes you by the scruff of the neck and shakes you very hard. It never ceases to amaze me, and always makes me smile.
You can learn a lot more about my work by visiting my websites.
For Young Adult novels of the paranormal, visit: www.glennstuart.co.uk.
For adult orientated fiction, see www.stuartgyates.com.
I hope you like what you see.
Oh, by the way, I’ve been interviewed, by Nick Wale. Visit his excellent blog series, and this one in particular, which is all about me!