• Kathryn Allen

My art of writing

Updated: Jul 31, 2018

So that 'how to' book or post says you're doing it wrong? Yeah, me too.

I've attended many a Writer's Festival and it is always fascinating to find out about the process for other writers. The important thing for me though was realising that while I could take on bits and pieces of how other people operate, the core of how I write will always be the same. And that is okay.

Not everyone likes the same writing style and not everyone can successfully write the same way. By successfully I mean, writing fluently. Sometimes I can’t find the right way of expressing what I want to say but I still have the ideas. When I try to write like other authors (particularly very structured ones), my ideas getting buried in the discomfort of trying to force something that feels unnatural. When I first tried this, I had been to a writers festival where I had heard people talk about various approach for example, write something every day even if it’s rubbish, write a minimum amount every day, plan everything about the story before touching the keyboard, write one draft – burn it – write it again. Being keen to improve my writing I did some of those things, not the burning though. I invest so much in my writing I’m certainly not burning it even if no one but me ever reads it. In any case the computer and it's fickle approach to backing up presents loss of works in progress without having to purposely destroy anything.

I can only write when the plot or dialogue or scene buzzes in my head. I am not one of those writers that can sit down and pump out quality work at the same time every day or in fact every day at all. So when the thoughts are flowing I write them on anything I have to hand: napkins, the back of receipts, on my leg once when I couldn’t find any paper. I tend to write chunks of the story, not necessarily in order and then piece it all together over time. During this process I sometimes find something I’ve written doesn’t work anymore or doesn’t make sense so I pull that out for possible use in another story. I also have a very associative mind so I tend to only watch or read that sort of genre and listen to music that aligns with what I’m writing. If I don’t I lose focus and then my writing gets patchy.

While I prefer to work on my laptop, I have embraced Dropbox so I can write on my ipad too if that’s all I have available. I write by hand if that’s what is near by and this does have the benefit of being able to edit while I transcribe onto the computer but I feel like I’m wasting writing time when I do this. Once a draft is complete, I usually give it to my bookclub to review. They all have different tastes so I get many different comments (and a useful first round of typo corrections!). They are great at pointing out things like where some of the character decisions weren’t convincing and where things didn’t make sense. I have given drafts to other friends and whatever people say about friends being too nice to give you feedback, well I have never had that problem. One friend brought an early draft of Ever Man back with only 17 of a possible 70 pages at that stage read as she told me she had lost interest at that point. After the first round of edits, I might give the second draft back to a couple of girls in the book club or to someone else who has not seen it at all and ask them to go through it. I have found it useful to get someone not particularly into the genre to do a review just for typos and they can do that without getting caught up in the story.

So for my money, do it your way. No one else knows what it is that you love about writing or what makes the ideas and words flow.

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