During these languorous days, the calm before the rewrite storm, I find myself (sometimes) thinking about the writing process. Generally, when I’m at work on a novel, I don’t give the process a second thought. Actually, I fear to do so. I’ve never taken a course. When I started writing I don’t think there were any courses. What if I did a course and discovered, erk, that I’ve been getting it wrong all those years? It might be like a swimming instructor trying to cure you of a corkscrew kick. Result: a sinking feeling.
What are my writing habits, good or bad? Well….. I make copious research notes and then allow them to fall off the back of my desk and gather dust. I also get ridiculously over-excited when I realise what my next book will be about. Like a kid on Christmas Eve. I can’t sleep. I want to get up and make copious research notes (which, see above). Another habit I have, if you can call it that, is to write in the First Person. This is apparently the tendency of novice writers. Then they grow up and use Third Person.
That’s a trend I’ve reversed. My first two novels had omniscient narrators. Since then I have always used First Person and to do otherwise would now feel very awkward. Like putting my shoes on the wrong feet. Agreed, First Person can have its drawbacks. It confines you as a writer. You have only one point of view. I like that. It draws you close to the story-teller.
Of course it’s essential that your narrator has a distinctive voice. For some writers this is a problem. They can give you 500 beautiful words on the landscape but they can’t write voice for toffee. Landscape is a problem for me, perhaps because I dislike its attendant dangers of adjective overload and simile incontinence. But voice, I love. ‘Beware,’ the on-line writing tutors warn. ‘A boring narrator will kill your story.’ Well, duh! What kind of idiot is willing to go to their desk every morning to be bored?
A voice, when it presents itself, is an unmistakeable thing. For me it’s a tiny bubble of excitement. A little bat-squeak that says, ‘Let me out. Go on. Chapter 1. You know you want to.’
I believe a bat may be about to squeak but this isn’t quite the moment to indulge it. While I wait to learn whether my publisher wants another book from me I need to distract myself with other activities. Such as retrieving from down the back of my desk the copious notes… (see above).