Continuing the What, Where, When? feature of writers and their writing processes, I am very pleased to welcome Amanda, whose debut novel As If I Were A River will be published by Urbane Publications in Spring 2016. to the blog to talk about her writing life.
Hi Amanda. What do you write – what are you currently writing and what made you start writing in the first place? I’m writing my second novel at the moment. I started plotting and planning it properly about four months ago but it’s an idea I’ve had running around in my head for a few years now. I’m finding that the experience of writing a novel is very different the second time around as I have a much better idea of what I’m doing and how to do it! It’s also a very different kind of story from my first novel and is set partly in the future – but one that looks more like the past and medieval superstitions around witchcraft are resurfacing. It will be published by Urbane Publications in 2017. I’m also working on a short story collection.
I’m one of those clichéd people that says they always wanted to be a writer! Some of my earliest memories are of books and as my siblings were all a lot older than me I spent a lot of time alone as a child. That’s how and why I fell in love with reading and, by extension, writing. I loved writing stories in school and went through a stage just before starting secondary school of writing plays. Then I stopped writing as a teenager as I was told it was not a proper job and not one for the likes of me.
But I had to start again as my head was always filled with people, lines and story ideas. I would be walking around or sitting on a train and writing whole paragraphs in my head so I realised I had to let them out. For around a decade I didn’t really do anything seriously with my fiction, although I did start working with words and got a job as a trade magazine editor, but in my thirties I started going to writing classes, did the OU Creative Writing course and started sending out my work.
When do you write – authors tend to have a set routine, morning, lunchtime, night – when do you write and why then? I’m not a creature of habit but I am definitely better in the morning. I work as a freelance writer though and some weeks when I’ve been really busy and have delivered around 20,000 words in articles and blogs for customers I just can’t squeeze out any more words for my fiction.
So I tend to have big focused bursts of writing it as I mull a lot first and work so much out in my head beforehand that by the time I sit down to write it pours out. I try to get away on writing retreats as often as possible too as being away from the everyday routine really works for me. I discovered this when writing my first novel and went to stay at Retreats for You in Devon, which is a wonderful place that every writer should try to get to! I was living in London at the time so just being away from the city helped but I’d been plotting away in my head for weeks before I went and wrote around 25,000 words in a three night stay!
Where do you write – some people do it at a desk but some people do it at the kitchen table. Where do you do it? I write for my customers at the kitchen table in the house where I’m living at any given time, which changes often as I’m a bit of a nomad and move around a lot. To create a different kind of writing atmosphere I tend to write the first drafts of my fiction on the sofa. Much of my writing takes place in my head though before it appears on paper and this is done on my walks – I usually walk for around 45 minutes twice a day. I write, and rewrite, whole scenes in my head when out walking, and chat with my characters to get to know them better.
What do you write on – Apple or Windows? Laptop or desktop? Word or Scrivener? or anything else… The vast majority of my fiction is written as longhand in my notepad first. Then it goes into Word from there and when I’ve got a good amount done and am nearing the end of the first draft, I transfer it into Scrivener. Always a laptop as desktops don’t suit my nomadic lifestyle!
How much contact do you have with other writers – are you a solitary writer or do you have a writing group? I don’t belong to a writing group but I have a couple of writing friends that I workshop stuff with via email and occasionally Skype. I’m lucky to have a good network of writers that I’ve met at various events over the years and we are all connected on Facebook and Twitter – which are places I tend to think of as my version of the office watercooler as I don’t have any colleagues to chat with or a real workplace to go to! I also go to the Festival of Writing in York every year and catch up with lots of people there and meet others in the real offline world for the first time.
I also run a small creative writing business, Retreat West, and through that I hold a few writing retreats each year, which are a great chance for me to spend time with other writers too.
Finally – writing in coffee shops – yes or no ?! I don’t tend to but only because most of the time I’m living in the middle of nowhere and coffee shops are few and far between! But when I lived in London I often used to meet up with writing friends in the Southbank Centre café to workshop our stuff. I get a bit distracted though and tend to end up people watching instead of writing.
Bio: Amanda Saint’s debut novel, As If I Were A River, will be published by Urbane Publications in Spring 2016. You can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook and find out more about her writing on her website.