I call the way I write, organic writing, because it grows and evolves as a natural plant does. It needs tending, yes, certainly, but, the process is one of nurturing and helping, facilitating, if you will, but not enforcing or structuring.
I don’t plan before writing. That’s correct, I sit down and may have a title or not, but beyond this no real idea of what kind of work I will produce, beyond whether it will be a novel or a short story and the basic genre.
I do plan nonfiction, because I think there is a very real need to do so and I blame my journalism tutor, he was a hard task master and things learned, stick.
With fiction things are different. I have tried planning and structuring in the past. I took a couple of those creative writing courses back in the 80s when ‘The Plan’ was all the rage. Now, I know many people still love this way of working and I think it’s great, just not for me, it stifles my creativity.
Perhaps this way of writing stems from my background. As a stage actor I was used to being called on to use improvisation a great deal and as I morphed into writing, it was with plays, the first of which I workshopped with the actors as it was being written. This gave the written work a natural realistic flow and was often born of trial and error and spur of the moment creative thinking.
Once I have started something, I will make rough word sketches of possible places to go, but nothing is ever set in stone. If I walk away from the project, on my return things will have changed and I will then have to work around these new revelations.
My characters will often decide to do or say something which changes the whole direction of the story. I never fight this, because if I’m surprised, it makes sense that my reader will be as well.
To write in this way, you have to be very confident with your writing and also relaxed about the outcome, regardless of what that might be. For example, my first book, which was to have been written with another author, as a nonfiction title detailing the life, times and exploits of my infamous father, first turned into a novel and then morphed into a trilogy.
I use the same organic process when deciding on a book cover. I spend time with different mental images and once I feel that I’m close to something, move onto photographs, choosing how I want things to look. I then mock up my version of the cover (Not pretty) and send this to my cover designer, she then works her magic and give or take the odd tweak here and there, I end up with the cover that I know is right for that particular book.
To work the way I do, you have to be very flexible and not too needy. If you need to be in total control of your fiction writing project from start to finish, my way is a highway of nightmares. For me it’s an adventure and I’m never bored with the result, no sooner do I begin something and sit back, the story unfolds and I feel as though I’m along for the ride.