Welcome to my guest page. Here, every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation, over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, if they are not driving, with a friend about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Welcome to my guest page, Patsy. I’m so pleased to have a chance to chat with you in the clubhouse tearoom, during a quiet moment. We’ve been following each other progress for quite awhile now. I’m sure it was before you were married and in the early days of blogging. So let me start by asking you, when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I’ve always tried to write things I enjoy reading. As we have to read our own work, often many times in the case of novels, this seemed a sensible plan.
I started off by writing short stories for women’s magazines (if you want to get the guidelines and other information to start your journey on the same route, take a look at the Womagwriter blog). I still write some of those, but will be concentrating more on novels in the future.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
It’s a romantic mystery novel, set partly in my home town of Lee-on-the-Solent and partly in Falmouth. Thankfully it’s not a new idea and I’d already done most of the research for the Falmouth scenes.
The book was started years ago, in response to a competition I’d spotted (I regularly blog about free to enter writing competitions, and had my first novel published as a result of winning one). At the start of lockdown I couldn’t concentrate on short stories, so decided to try something else, and had another go at it. That worked really well. What I’d already written was so bad I immediately saw ways to improve it, and once I got started the story quickly grabbed my attention – and held it. I really hope it does the same for readers!
My fantastic beta readers have given great feedback and I think (hope!) the rewrites are finished and it just needs a little polish before being ready to submit.
In between drafts I put together a collection of 24 previously written short stories, with a clothing theme. Ironically I did most of the work for Dressed To Impress in my PJs.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
I haven’t counted, but I’m pretty sure it’s less than a hundred.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? (If you only write short stories, or play do you plan your story, or let the characters lead you.)
With short stories, I just write them.
My working method for novels is changing. Or to be more accurate, I’m developing a method. I didn’t used to plan, which wasted a lot of time – both through years of not knowing what would happen next, and then rewriting or deleting scenes which didn’t work with the final story.
In future I intend to write a rough outline and a synopsis before I start work on the chapters. I’ll probably still change things as I go, but I won’t have to make everything up as I go.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
None are based entirely on one person, but many are inspired by people I’ve met. My mother-in-law has partially appeared in quite a few stories! I’ve even put people in just so I can delete them.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I don’t have one – nor daily word count targets. Most of my writing is done soon after waking up (which isn’t the same time every day). If I start writing I keep going until it gets tricky, or I have to go and do something else. Generally, if I write at all, it’s for around three hours – but it can be all day.
Although I don’t write every day, there aren’t many days I don’t do anything writing related – even if it is just unconscious research.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I sometimes do.
How do you select the names of your characters? & do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
Characters are people. Just as with people outside of books, I learn about them gradually. I might start with knowing their name, or what they look like, something they’ve done, or their relationship to somebody else. The longer I spend with them the more I learn.
Just as we can start being friends with someone, work with them or agree to a date before we know their life history, I can start writing a character before I know everything about them.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The sex scene in Firestarter. I hadn’t intended to write one, ever, but Alice didn’t let me get away with that. She had her hunky fireman, a romantic cottage and open fire and wasn’t going to waste them.
I built up the scene gradually – starting with ‘they did sex’ and adding more detail whenever I felt brave.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A Year Of Ideas: 365 sets of writing prompts and exercises only took a couple of months.
My novels have taken much longer. Probably about five years on average – but that includes long periods of abandonment for three of them. I estimate that if I plan properly to start with, and keep going I could write a novel in less than a year.