The Writing Process (Kiss and Tell)
That really is my hand and I want no unauthorised use of it.
These last few weeks, I have undertaken a writing marathon. Whilst awaiting the cover and final layouts of book two of The Eternals trilogy, Hunter Hunted, I decided to crack on with unfinished storytelling business. Today, however, I am taking a rare break from it and thought I’d answer a few questions that have been asked about my writing process. I realise people often find this sort of thing interesting — I hope — so I thought I’d reveal Everything! Patent Pending.
Beginning (The Zone)
The first bit is often the hardest. I am a writer who likes to write whilst listening to music. I can procrastinate with the best of them until the soft leather of the headphones slips over my ears; writing takes me then, and I’m lost to everything else. That sounded dramatic, and it is, but getting those headphones on my head can be an issue — I really ought to employ someone to just plonk them on every morning after my run. Then comes the listening. I have a playlist for every occasion, but the one I write most to is the following:
- Insatiable / Darren Hayes
- Lifelines / a-Ha
- White Flag / Dido
- Ordinary World / Duran Duran
- If You Love Me / Brownstone
- Wicked Game / Chris Isaak
- Only When I Sleep / The Corrs
- True Colours / Cyndi Lauper
- Everytime / Loreen
- Here With Me / Dido
- It’s Over (Remix) / Level 42
- Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word / Elton John
- That’s The Way Love Goes / Janet Jackson Janet
- Other Side Of The World / KT Tunstall
- Born To Die / Lana Del Rey
- Flown Away / Lene Marlin Playing
- Something About You / Level 42
- Stranger In Moscow / Michael Jackson
- Requiem Mass in D Minor, K. 626: Sequentia – Lacrimosa / Mozart
- Beauty On The Fire / Natalie Imbruglia
- O Mio Babino Caro / Nicola Kirsch
- Red Rain / Peter Gabriel
- I’ll be dreaming. / The Pierces
- Running Up That Hill / Placebo
- Gravity / Sara Bareilles
- Haunted (Alan Wake Soundtrack Version) / Poe
- Nobody Wants To Be Lonely / Ricky Martin
- Russian Roulette / Rihanna
- To The Moon & Back / Savage Garden
- Too Lost In You / Sugababes
- A Love Before Time (English) / Tan Dun & Yo-Yo Ma
- Woman In Chains / Tears For Fears
- Spanish Guitar / Toni Braxton
- Everything (Is Never Quite Enough) / Wasis Diop
- As / George Michael & Mary J. Blige
- I Want To Know What Love Is / Foreigner
- As Long As You Follow / Fleetwood Mac
- Skyfall / Adele
- Black Coffee / All Saints
- Hunting High And Low (Remix) / a-Ha
I never tire of listening to what I enjoy and it really helps to get me in The Zone.
The Thought Process
Next, the easy bit. I count myself fortunate to never ever get writer’s block and the written words come as easy as spoken words do not. The trigger, or spark, can be anything from an image or a word, to a sound or a thought, everything is inspiration if given the chance. The trigger for The Eternals was a picture posted by the wonderful Morgan; The Snow Lily, (which one day I’ll publish) merely the thought of a child looking out at snow — I love snow; Britannia Unleashed (a Steampunk extravaganza that’s almost complete) was a made up name. Like I say, pay attention to everything because you never know where it might lead.
Once I have that word or image, I immediately get the start and finish of the book. Just like that. I know it sounds too easy or made up, but it’s the truth. I could plan twenty books in one day if I felt that way inclined. Once I have the start and finish, the rest unfolds like a concertina or a flicked pack of cards. The whole process takes a minute at the most and I’m off and running. I will write a story, or more, with the same ease as eating breakfast; the editing is another thing altogether. I use a combination of repetition, speaking the lines out loud, Prowriter.com and Grammarly to iron out a story. I will go over and over it until I think it’s done. I have a thing about being made to look an idiot and it translates into my editing. I will not let it go until I think it can’t be improved and me belittled.
As a note, I rarely take notes, (did you see what I did there?) For a man with perhaps the world’s worst memory, I could rewrite a novel almost word for word, whereas a short story or poem is forgotten within minutes. I often find them on my laptop and wonder where on earth they’ve come from. If someone comments on a blog post, I can guarantee that I’ll have no idea what they’re talking about unless I reread it.
Confidence (Boo! Hiss!)
Next, comes confidence. I have none. You might think I have, but I can assure you, you’re wrong. My trick is this, and again, I assure you it’s the truth. I don’t believe a word of someone saying how much they enjoy my writing, and don’t give a damn if they say they don’t. If someone comments in a negative fashion on any part of something I write, I ignore it, so don’t bother. This might be particular to me as I know it is said all criticism should be taken on board, as well as praise, but this is the only way I can pluck up the courage to reveal my writing. As I’ve said many times before, nobody could be harder on me than me. The method works for me, anyway. (I used me too much there. I hate repetition. I hate repetition.)
A Note On Marketing
Here, I am fortunate to have a wonderful publisher: they push, I do as told. Marketing is a side of writing I find hard to embrace. A lot of writers are introverts by nature and I am more than most. Bulling my own work up, selling myself, etcetera, etcetera, comes extremely hard to me. Even sending my work off for review is like pulling teeth. I read and see others that I would term as terrible, sometimes at best, selling hundreds and hundreds of books and gaining review after review and truly wish I had their chutzpah — that was just an excuse to use chutzpah. Likewise, in the blogging world, I could happily never comment on anything or return them, but as you know I do. This is because I really do try.
To those of you who enjoy my app posts, these are what I use to write the serious stuff on: Scrivener. That didn’t take long, did it. I use all sorts to post to my blog: Byword; Ulysses; iA Writer; Editorial, but Scrivener alone for the serious stuff. This provides focus. Focus is the single most important factor when writing a book because you’ll live and breath it. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong job. I trim all unnecessary applications off both my phone and laptop to facilitate better concentration. The addition of a notepad at the side of my bed is also a good tool to have for those just-in-case-moments. PS. On the chance my wife reads this, I’ll admit to having Neko Atsume on my phone. Cats visit you and leave you fish to spend on buying them toys. I saw it recommended on a writer’s relaxation post as a tool to unwind and thought — Yeah right! — and now I’m on it every day. Curse you whoever you were!
Lastly, comes relaxation, as I struggle with it and always have. Music again helps, as did sport when I was younger. Running every morning is also a blessing in disguise as it both helps me relax and lessens the headaches (I have one right now) that have plagued my life. Good old fresh air and all that. Relaxation is very important. Don’t make yourself ill.
- Write, write and write some more. Write until you can see your own mistakes because only then will you improve.
- Read a lot. An awful lot. This is not just to relax but to help with spotting the mistakes in number one. PS. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes.
- Write whatever you want as much as you can in as many ways as you can. Send the best off to magazines and if they send it back, check it, then send it to another: writingcareer.com is a good source for writing opportunities.
- Get a good writing program or at least a good writing process. A good workman is only as good as his tools and all that.
So there you have it: me. I never write long blog posts, and haven’t vetted this as well as I should because of it. I don’t like being preachy as I don’t like being preached to, so I hope I wasn’t. With any luck you’ll have found this interesting, and if even some small part assists you, then it was worth me doing it. Enjoy your writing.
Thank you again for reading
Richard M. Ankers, author of The Eternals
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