Saturday, May 03, 2014

My Writing Process

My friend Louise Marley tagged me to take part in this blog ramble. She writes romantic suspense, and I love her books. You can read about her writing process on her own blog here.

So here are the questions I’m supposed to answer:

What am I working on?

The answer is always the same, whenever you ask me! It’s always “the next book” and as I write a series, it’s always the next Libby Sarjeant book. I don’t mind discussing it with close family and my editor, but no-one else, and no-one sees it until I send it to Bob (aka Dear Ed). I hate each book as I’m writing it, and by the end of each one think it’s the worst one EVAH!

Which brings me to – why do I write?

Gawd knows! I think it’s in the DNA. Like most writers I know I started writing my own stories when I was a child and just carried on. I slipped seamlessly into writing features for the trade press when I had my children, and could do it from home. One of my poor babies was dragged in her pushchair to such diverse locations as Simpsons in the Strand (sports department!) and the Cambridge Science Park. Then, as a vaguely trained actor, I began writing (and directing and performing in – try and keep me away) pantomimes, and even a musical, based on old Music Hall songs. The pantomimes are still being  performed all over the country, I’m happy to say, and pay for the annual hols. Then I fell over the short story market and finally into novels, my first and last love. And I write what I first read, starting at the age of nine – mystery novels.

How does my writing process work?

Oh, lordy, lordy. Um. To tell the truth, it’s very unromantic. These days, my publishers will ask me for a title for the “next one”. This will be well before “this one” is finished. So between us (publisher, editor, me and my eldest son – and occasionally the sales director) we come up with a new “Murder...” Then I try and find something to fit, and when I send “this one” to Dear Ed, I have to rush through a first chapter to go at the end as a taster. Eldest son has lots of ideas for settings and situations, and for some reason – because he isn’t actually the demographic – understands the books and the concept. So I’ll take one of his ideas and run – well, waddle – with it. As I write I’ll jot things down in a notebook which sits beside the computer, or in a Word document I keep open alongside the book itself. There is no plan, and I frequently tie myself up in knots, but my argument is: you can’t plan life, can you? It always throws up the unexpected. I’m quite likely to change the murderer at the last minute, so don’t believe anyone who says they spotted it right from the beginning. If they did, they’d better start writing the books – they know more about it than I do.

How do my stories differ from others in their genre?

They don’t really. Except that mine are proper novel length, and these days a lot of so called “Cosy” crime stories are barely novellas. I still say I write Murder Mysteries, but “Cosy” has become the accepted designation, which I dislike as much as my friends who write romantic comedy disliked “Chick-Lit”. My books follow the Golden Age Detective Authors and their amateur detectives, although it is so much more difficult these days to be an amateur! Luckily, most of my readers are willing to suspend their disbelief.

And that’s that. Next, I’m tagging the terrific writer Jan Jones. She and I have been friends for a long time, and she writes wonderful books. Her debut novel Stage By Stage is still one of the best books I’ve read, and her most recent release, Fairlights, a delight for readers who enjoy Mary Stewart.   


Jenny Haddon said...

I don't think we can ever say what makes our stories unique, can we? I know I can't. It has to be for the reader to tell.

I would say Libby is special because she feels like a real person. I know I could have a conversation with her. I like her family, her hobbies, her wine-swigging friends and her humane but deliciously slap-happy approach to detection.

Great stuff.

Lesley Cookman said...

Thanks, Jenny - that last line sounds like a Shout Line to me! You're doing this soon, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jenny, totally. it's Libby's life we all love and want to be part of. With Libby we have a friend and also her friends.

Mandy K James said...

Your writing process is a little bit like mine in that I never know what is going to happen. And my goodness what a brilliant career you've had and are still having! Never a dull moment. Have you considered writing your memoirs?

Lesley Cookman said...

Thanks, Mandy - it sounds far more exciting than it actually is! Mostly spent broke, but at least now I'm earning my own living - enough to keep the cats, anyway.

Jan Jones said...

Lovely post, Lesley. Yes, I'll be doing this next. Just need a little time...

Clare Chase said...

I loved reading this post, Lesley. I think I started reading mystery novels when I was about nine too, and developed a similar love for them.