I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Stephanie Butland’s The Other Half of My Heart. It was published by Black Swan on 22nd October 2015.
I’ve just begun reading ‘The Other Half Of My Heart’ and it is wonderful.
Here Stephanie tells us what it’s like to be a writer and how her writing practices have evolved:
When I asked for suggestions for this blog post, Linda’s idea immediately caught my eye. She asked: Are your routines and techniques the same now as in the early days or have your personal experiences impacted on the how and when you write?
And I thought: I don’t think I’ve ever thought about that. How interesting. So, here I go.
I often remind writing students is that if you can write, you can write. It’s not as though we have a limit of words meted out to us and we mustn’t spill or waste them. So deleting a paragraph – even a sub-plot – that isn’t working doesn’t matter, in the long term. It took me a while to learn this. Now I have a sort of ‘dumping ground’ document for every book, where I cut and paste the things I’ve deleted from the main manuscript. It hurts less because I’m saving them for later. Not that I’ve ever used any of them…..
Something else I am less precious about now is when I write. I used to be an ‘up at 6, write for an hour and a half before breakfast’ person. There’s an extent to which I still am – it’s certainly my preference – but I’ve got a lot more relaxed. If I’m trying to get something finished, but I overslept, I work after breakfast. If I’m travelling, I plug in in an airport lounge and write, even though it’s noisy and I usually have no idea what time of day it is. Certainly the words flow more easily in my quiet little studio – but it isn’t the only place I can work any more.
As far as techniques go – I think I research earlier these days. When I wrote ‘Letters To My Husband’, Andy the doctor was much more involved in earlier drafts. But having a coffee with a GP and asking her about her job made me realise that there were a whole lot of things I’d had my doctor do that a real-life GP simply wouldn’t. That was a pain of a rewrite and it was entirely my own fault. So I’m better at working out what I don’t know and not making assumptions. Of course there’s a down side to this – I read books on strokes and interviewed people who’d had strokes, and stroke nurses – before I realised that was a sub-plot that had to go, and all that research time (mine and others’) was wasted. Maybe I’ll use it in another book..!
And the final thing that I’d say has changed is that, having been through publication four times now, I know there’s no place for slacking or gliding over tricky bits! When I was at school my English teachers sometimes told me off for ‘resting on my laurels’ and, my goodness, editors will do that too. So now instead of submitting a draft that I think is 80% there and waiting for an editor to point out all the places where I need to explain more and fix my timings (a pregnancy in ‘Letters To My Husband’ was found to be 11 months long by a copy editor) – I try to do it myself. I’m doing that now, with my fourth novel, which is good enough for submission – but I’m giving it another edit and polish now, instead of later.
So, what’s changed? I’m more ruthless with words, more flexible with when and where I write, more inclined to research, less lazy. But then again I’m writing this blog post at 9.30am in my pyjamas, so I still have a way to go!
There are lots of other interesting blog posts you may have missed