Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Writing Tag

David Isaak has tagged me. I don't usually respond to being tagged, but since this one's about writing I've made an exception.

Copy the questions into your blog and answer them. Then tag five other writers to do the same!


1. Do you outline? As a novelist? Is the Pope Protestant? (Well, there's always something there, sometimes clearer, sometimes fuzzier, like the outline of a ghost, lurking in an image, or an idea. But I never want it to be too clear, actually, otherwise why write the bloody thing? Writing's an exploration, not knowing everything and having to find it out is a great deal of the excitement, which will be transmitted to the reader). But as a radio dramatist? Is the Pope of the other persuasion? No one will let you write anything for radio or screen without an outline they can approve, and quite frankly that's writing by numbers: many's the time I've discovered that a play doesn't really want to and shouldn't be made to go the way it seemed logical at outline stage that it should. And that, not to put too fine a point on it, is why so much in the media is bland, unsurprising trash.

2. Do you write straight through a book, or do you sometimes tackle the scenes out of order? I don't do straight, my novels aren't linear, the episodes are always out of order, but yes, because there's another sort of order, the thematic, they do tend to stay in the sequence in which they come out.

3. Do you prefer writing with a pen or using a computer? You're joking me, encha? Isn't this the question writers can wearily and sneerily predict will be asked at every reading and render them gob-smacked because they do not understand why anybody wants to know or even gives a flying f***??? And if you think I'm going to confess to the panics I undergo when I can't find my silver Cross fountain pen...

4. Do you prefer writing in first person or third? Preference doesn't come into it. Each book, or section of a book makes its own demands in this respect.

5. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, do you create a playlist, listen randomly, or pick a single song that fits the book? Come off it, I'm making my own music in my head!

6. How do you come up with the perfect names for your characters? Who said they were perfect? Usually they just come, and like names in real life, once they're there you accept them and they fit. And then it's pretty hard having to ditch them because they turn out to be the names of real people, say...

7. When you're writing, do you ever imagine your book as a television show or movie? No, no, no... this is what makes me furious! When will people learn that novels aren't just fodder for movies or TV dramas? If I want to write a movie I'll damn well write a movie. (Didn't stop me thrilling, though, when one of my novels was optioned for TV).

8. Have you ever had a character insist on doing something you really didn't want him/her to do? Nah, they can do what they like and they do.

9. Do you know how a book is going to end when you start it? Sometimes. But then sometimes I turn out to be wrong.

10. Where do you write? You're at it again. I'd like to say on the roof or down a cave. You know where I write really, don't you?

11. What do you do when you get writer's block? Spit. Shout. Sigh. Eat. Feel sick. Drive my partner round the bend. No solutions, I'm afraid.

12. What size increments do you write in (either in terms of wordcount, or as a percentage of the book as a whole)? About three pages a day.

13. How many different drafts did you write for your last project? Three, if you count the aborted first go a few years ago when I hadn't guessed the secret, ie what the novel was really about.

14. Have you ever changed a character's name midway through a draft? Oh yes, see above. My mum reminded me that I hadn't changed the name of a right bitch. (Oops, I'm supposed to be writing fiction.)

15. Do you let anyone read your book while you're working on it, or do you wait until you've completed a draft before letting someone else see it? It's not a question of letting, it's a question of forcing - just one person, my partner: I make him sit down at the end of every writing day and look at what I've written, notwithstanding the weary set of his shoulders and the faint sigh...

16. What do you do to celebrate when you finish a draft? Go out! And fling my arms about and run!

17. One project at a time, or multiple projects at once? More than one? God forbid!

18. Do your books grow or shrink in revision? Mmm, neither really. Maybe I should be worried...

19. Do you have any writing or critique partners? Well, I don't think when it's done at knife point you see it as a partnership (see above), but my real-life partner's a damn good critic.

20. Do you prefer drafting or revising? I can't answer this. It's all a continuum for me, and although I know that later it's more like fine-tuning, it still feels part of the same process of pulling this thing together out of the ether.

I'm supposed to tag five other novelists now, and they can take it up or not as they wish:

Debi Alper
Amanda Mann
Clare Sudbury
Marie Phillips
Lucy Diamond
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