Questions of style

Over at Write Anything a new writing meme has been posted, and Janie has asked for readers to respond on their own blogs, and post a link back on the site. The meme itself was started by Becca at Write on Wednesday.

  1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both?
    I write mainly fiction, although on my other blog I write about politics, law and other non-fiction topics. On my creative writing sites, as the name suggests, I mainly focus on fiction, but there are the odd non-fiction articles about writing.

    In terms of genre, most of my writing is Gothic or Romantic (please note the capital “R” – my writing style is Romantic, I do not write Mills & Boons style romance…”). I sometimes venture into Lovecraftian horror and speculative science fiction.

  2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?
    I consider my blogs to fulfill the functions of journals and writing notebooks, however, I do keep a paper journal, but only occasionally.
  3. If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?
    I have never read a book on plotting. I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing, but generally when writing I have a rough idea of my characters goals, and let the situations flesh these out further. I am a firm adherent to the theory that your characters exist somewhere in your head, and if you give them the space to explore a situation they will inform you of their motives, and tell you when you are trying to make them do something out of character.
  4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?
    In the spring of 1998, I had an idea to write a series of short stories based on the playing cards in a tarot deck. This idea still features in my work in progress. This may answer the question of whether I am a procrastinator or not… In all seriousness though, sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not, and it relates to the answer for the next question.
  5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?
    This is very much a mood thing. I can’t force myself to write for hours when I just don’t have the inclination. Sometimes I can sit with the laptop in front of me for hours and grind out 300-500 words for an article. Other times I can sit for one hour and get close to 2000 words out. When I have the muse, then I can sit for hours and the words fly from my mind, through my fingertips, and on to the screen.
  6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?
    I’m an “anytime” writer. Most of my NaNoWriMo writing was done at lunchtimes during my day job. I have also written in the early hours of the morning, both because I’ve stayed up waaay past midnight, or because I’ve gotten up very early in the morning. Let’s just say I’ve seen some 4am writing from both sides. I think I am probably most creative early in the morning (despite the fact I am no longer a morning person), but currently and by necessity, I am an evening writer.
  7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?
    I write with music on, either playing out of my computer/an iPod stereo if I’m on my own, or through handphones on my iPod if I’m somewhere public. Generally when I really want to concentrate on some writing I play music with no lyrics. Often classical, but usually film scores (John Williams, and recently Hans Zimmer). When concentration isn’t of paramount importance to me (no complicated plots to resolve, just generally seeing where imagination takes me – flash fiction scenarios) then I’ll have songs playing. The mood of the song depends on the mood I want the writing to have. At the moment I’m listening to some Soul Asylum.
  8. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)
    Computer. In this day and age, I can’t face writing longhand then retyping it. I used to do that, and sometimes I still do for very short pieces (I’m more comfortable taking a pen and paper onto public transport than a laptop!) but in the main I create on a laptop, edit on a laptop, review on a laptop. The ease with which my work can be chopped and changed, transferred between formats and sent out makes it the most attractive option, for me. But every writer is different.
  9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write?
    I wish, but I don’t know these things. The writer is the god of the world they create, but they are a blind god. Sometimes your characters have other plans and take the story in different directions. There are two possible endings for one of the characters in The Long Watch, and I don’t know which I prefer. I’m leaning towards one over another as it allows a whole new plot to emerge for the next book, but we’ll see.
  10. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?
    Yes, but not in a way you might think. I don’t look at what’s out there and set out to emulate it, rather I try to ignore it and do something else. This stems from a decade of crossing ideas off of the internal list I have, as I see these ideas turn up on bookshelves, on the television, and in the cinemas.
  11. Editing/Revision – love it or hate it?
    Hate it. I don’t think I’m a good editor. I need a good editor, but that editor isn’t me. I can edit other people’s works, but suffer from the worry that I’m just imposing my voice over theirs, rather than strengthening what they have written. But as for my own, I hate doing it.

So there you have it – a little about me, as a writer, and my writing style.

Who’s next?

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5 thoughts on “Questions of style”

  1. Paul: Your responses are really interesting and provide insight into your writing. So glad you decided to participate!

    I do have a question, though. Is “Mills and Boon” like the American Harlequin romances, i.e., what we call the “bodice-rippers?”

  2. Hi Janie – yes, Mills & Boon are the UK romance/bodice-ripper publisher par excellence. They are sort of pulpy, slightly trashy, quite formulaic, but hugely popular, and have been going for 100 years.

    Actually, I just looked up some info on the company to check if I was right with the “100 years” figure, and found out that they were taken over by Harlequin in the 1970s, so they are identical!

  3. Oh and on the subject of Romance – it always bothers me the space shelf given to romance in the bookstores. I know that there is a lady in Brisbane who specialises in the online sale of romance (and I was actually pulled up at the lights next to her the other day!) and has made a nice little packet out of it.

    You are the right sex to write Romance though Paul – aren’t the vast majority of romance writers blokes – or is the just an urban myth?

  4. I think it might be 50/50 between men and women for writing romantic potboilers, but so many pseudonyms are used it is difficult to tell!

    I remember in my local library growing up the “romance” novels were given a huge space, due to their popularity. They are a world away from the “Romances” of old (and Captain Juan is becoming very like the old style Romance) and the Romantic style which my writing is falling into these days.

    There are romantic elements to my stories, no doubt, but I couldn’t see myself doing that kind of full blown romantic novel.

    After all, if one of my characters steals another’s heart, they usually do it literally, with their bare hands, through the chest, before devouring it…..

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