Blog Tour Monday

I’ve been invited to take part in a kind of blog relay by Megan Taylor, the author of three novels who has recently done exceedingly well in numerous short story competitions. It reminds me of school relay races where dropping the baton was the most important thing – that and doing it quickly. I’m passing the baton on, swiftly and smoothly, to Magda Knight, whose speculative fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and who has had two YA novels longlisted in the Mslexia YA Competition 2013; and to Amy Dunne whose book, Secret Lies, has just been published by Bold Strokes books.

What am I working on?

I’m working on my next short story.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My genre tends to be literary, with dips into fantasy and soft sci-fi. Some of my stories are a mixture of all three. I like magic realism, slipstream and weird tales and using any technique or style I can get my hands on to make a story work. As Steven King said in On Writing:

There is absolutely no need to be hidebound and conservative in your work, just as you are under no obligation to write experimental, nonlinear prose…Both the traditional and the modern are available to you. Shit, write upside down if you want to, or do it in Crayola pictographs. But no matter how you do it, there comes  a point when you must judge what you’ve written and how well you wrote it.

Why do I write what I do?

I have absolutely no idea. I sit down and write and let whatever comes, come.

How does my writing process work?

I saw Doris Lessing speak at the South Bank Centre in 2008 and her answer to this question was curt and similar to my feelings on it. Each writer has their own way of doing it and if you talk too much about what you are doing, at least while you are doing it, it can cause the energy to dissipate. Keeping the lid jammed down on the boiling pot helps your writing. Having said this, I’ve had a lot of help from reading other writers’ suggestions. My three favourite writing books are:

  • Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
  • On Writing, Steven King
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldberg
Dorothea Brande’s book is priceless because she addresses the problem of why people can’t start writing in the first place. Get going first and then worry about technique. I use On Writing after the first draft to ask myself, in Stephen’s words, “what’s it all about, Alfie?” If I had to say something definite I’d say, write, write regularly,  and never judge what you write no matter how odd it sounds. Editing comes later.
How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish is also an excellent tool to help you understand what your sentences are doing without studying formal grammar.