This is a great question, and one I have been asked a few times, just recently I was again asked by a twitter follower, and its not easy getting it all into 140 characters, so I thought what the hey, lets see if I can blog it.
I think if you were to ask 1000 writers just exactly how do they write, you would possibly get 1000 answers. The aim of this blog has and will always be how HTTK came about, and how I was able to write and publish my story. I am a new writer in the sense that I have only just started publishing, but I have actually been writing for many years, again I have no idea how everyone else does it, I can only tell you how I do it. I have never really thought of myself as a writer, I am just someone with a wild imagination, who loves to write, so how I approach it is relatively very much a selfish pursuit. At this very moment as I write the rough draft of what will be published here, its a Saturday night, and most of the people I know are at the pub, or a club, and yet here I am planning another blog page, see what I mean? It may be considered sad, but this is my idea of fun, I love the feeling of stringing together words, and even though my books and blog are pretty much unknown in the world at large, I still feel the thrill of tapping the keyboard.
There is a wonderful feeling about having an idea and just sitting and looking at what is and what isn’t possible. In some of my earlier blog posts you can get an idea of how I approach this (Living with characters, A new world etc.). notes are made and ideas scribbled on many pads, and then from the vast pile, I try to find a logical order to run the story or idea. If I have a good gut feeling for the story, at this point I write bullet points. For the Bowman of Loxley my first book, I kept it very simple. for example.
Loxley is hard to find, even though its a fortress.
Robbie is restless, feels caged, loves Rune, is too nervous to tell her.
Billy is not really his brother, but was taken in ten years ago by his mother Jess. (Billy loves Alice, the cousin)
Robbie is great with a bow, and has an unnatural gift, Leenard has heard about it and in a chance encounter invites Robbie for coffee.
Robbie senses there is more to Leenard than meets the eye, Leenard feels the same about Robbie.
Leenard asks Robbie to give Rune archery lessons, Robbie is thrilled but a little worried, Leenard learns more about Robbie during their meeting, and finds out what he really knows about Loxley life.
The above is copied off my notes pad, and what you see has now been published as the 10,000 word chapter that opens the book. OK if you have not read the Bowman of Loxley at this point, you will not quite get it, but a quick visit to the Heirs to the kingdom web site, and a click on the books page will put you on book one, where you can indeed read the chapter via the Bookbuzzer widget.
The important thing here is, that just a few lines, became 10,000 words and the way I achieved it was to actually write small pieces that focused on each of the line headings. I saved each file in a folder on my computer, which I have labeled “Bits Box”. This folder contains a short written version of every idea I have had about this particular story. All are given titles that I can easily recognise, and so when the time comes to put a chapter together, I sort the files into order, and simply cut and paste them together, leaving a double line between each small piece. Its a very simple operation, and all I have to do is then read through carefully, and fill in the gaps with extra description and detail to connect each part of the story together. A friend of mine refers to it a quilting, and I think that possibly is a good description, because I do sew each of the parts together to make a whole.
Once I have put together the crude first draft of the chapter, I then sit and read through it making changes to make it flow. I add and subtract until I think I have the chapter pretty much as I want it, some chapters take an age and others fly out like some demon spirit being exercised, it can be a strange experience, but I find it to be highly enjoyable.
Every chapter is stored as a separate file, and only when I am absolutely happy with them do I do the first cut, which is usually blocks of five chapters. I never cut the whole thing together until I am happy that each block of five reads smoothly, the editing does take an age, as I go over it many times constantly making subtle changes, and adding new ideas. For myself the story occupies my thoughts more than I would care to admit, I am constantly thinking of what is already down and looking for ways to get it better, I tend to visualise the story as pictures and run it through my mind, almost like film to see if it works. The thought process of HTTK has occupied the major part of my mind for well over the two years I have been writing it. I have read endless piles of books on how the Celts lived and how they lived off the land. I have consumed folklore of the UK by the cart load, and noted anything that might help improve the story, and so when I sit eating my tea, or not really watching the TV, all this information washes around inside me.
It might sound strange, but I can only really describe it by saying, everything I have studied, or written down, mixed with the notes and all my thoughts gets stored like a huge filing system in my subconscious, so when I do sit down with my bullet pointed ideas, and actually start to write, my brain just seems to explode, and out come the words. Its a thrilling exciting process for me, I type with huge speed and make loads of errors, but I just let it all flow out on to the screen until its done, and that’s when the editing process starts. There has been quite a few occasions when I have sat back having read the first rough draft of a chapter, and I have stared at the screen in wonder, and asked myself, did I really write this?
It is hard to explain it in words, themes appear that you never meant to be there and characters take on a life of their own, but I am alone in the room and so I know it was my fingers hitting the keys. I can only describe it as the preparation and long hours of thought before hand, that I think primed me for the writing , so I make my corrections and add to the bulleted list for the next chapter and then my thoughts turn to that task, and slowly but surely, one chapter at a time I put together my books, then it is time for the first five chapters to go to my readers group, and I begin the editing all over again, as I gain their insights to the story. Finally when all the blocks are as good as I think I can get them, I cut and paste it all together and for the first time, I read the story in its entirety, that is the moment when I know I have another instalment in the series, although I have to confess, it will get proof read many more times before I am fully happy with it.
This may, or may not make sense, its how I approach writing, and may not work for everyone, it does for me and so I stick with it. I think at the end of the day, all writers like actors or sportsmen, have their little rituals to help them, find yours and if any of the above helps, then please use it, and enjoy what you write, for it is a great pleasure for myself, I hope it will be for you…