I let ideas come freely for a long while, and then I start planning. Once I have a detailed plan down, I start writing, but from that point on I still follow the creative process as I write. Sometimes that leads to a deviation that doesn’t work, and I cut the whole lot and go back to the plan. Sometimes the deviation turns out to be great, and I go with it and amend the plan accordingly.
My day job as an editor can be quite a hindrance to writing – I automatically slip into editing mode, and that pulls me out of being in the pure creative flow. My solution is to try very hard to resist the urge to edit as I write. So I write the first draft quickly, letting the words flow out. And then, some weeks later, I begin to edit. And edit. And edit.
Is there a fictional character you’d like to meet?
Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. It seems to me he could do with a friend – and some relationship advice.
Who’d you like to invite to a fantasy dinner party?
Oliver Queen (the Arrow), James Corden (presenter), Dawn French (comedian), Ed Sheeran (singer), Bear Grylls (adventurer), Kathy Reichs (author), Stephen Fry (actor), Beaker (Muppet). Oh, and we’d better have someone to cook, or we’ll be eating cheese on toast – Gordon Ramsey will add a bit more colour (and volume) to proceedings.
Five pieces of advice for new writers?
1. Explore. Go places, meet people, challenge your assumptions. Thoreau says it best: ‘How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.’
2. Read. The single best way to improve your writing is to learn by osmosis, to read and read and read. Not just in your favourite genre; all kinds of books by all kinds of writers. Literary, mass market – even the bad ones have plenty to teach you.
3. Believe. If you don’t have faith in yourself, why should anyone else? You’ve nothing to lose by believing you can write, and everything to gain.
4. Enjoy. Always remember why you want to write – for the sheer love of it. Don’t get bogged down in the business of writing. Love every minute.
5. Keep writing. In his bestselling book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell lays down the 10,000-Hour Rule: to succeed at anything, you need to practise your craft for 10,000 hours. That’s a lot of writing!