This Monday is the last in my #motivation series. Thank you so much for following me. It’s my turn today to talk about how I go about writing my books.
It is invariably a place or a person that sparks off ideas for me.
My wonderful Italian mother-in-law was the inspiration for my first historical novel, The Tuscan Secret and there are local friends where we live in Tuscany who have told me their stories too. I like to visualise these people when I’m writing. And I hope to do their stories justice.
Locations are another springboard. I pin the images to my noticeboard to get me going. I need to transport myself to these worlds, as if I were within a film.
The premise and details come through word of mouth and research. I think I write better when I am very familiar with the settings. As I speak fluent Italian, research is very easy for me. I have a fantastic resource almost on my doorstep. Down in the valley is the National Museum of Archives. I can look up on-line to source the diaries I want to consult and book a slot to view them. Reading personal accounts has loaned me so many details that I would never have dreamt up. I do admire authors who can set their stories in places they have never been to, but I find that difficult and worry that what I write will not be accurate.
I walked the route of the transumanza for A Tuscan Memory to see what kind of terrain the shepherds crossed
My Tuscan books are largely based on real events, but I use these as the background and thread in imagined stories. I wish I could say I programmed this so that it all poured out beautifully and uninterruptedly. But… look at my desk in Tuscany! (A peach works wonders, by the way). I use my timer to limit the sitting time, otherwise I am stiff and hunched up at the end of the day. I take little breaks on the hour.
If everything was in my head from the get go, I wonder if my imagination would be as alive. Of course I do plan to an extent: I have an idea and I have the characters when I set off. But other characters happen along the way, and events, misunderstandings, complications, nuances knock at the door. “What if?” is a constant question in my mind so that I can add layers. Once I start, I mostly write at my desk or in a quiet spot, but if a scene comes to me, I can write anywhere. My handbag has pens and notebooks in it, rather than lipsticks.
At structural edit stage, the layers need untangling and sorting. This is the period when I am probably very difficult to live with. I’m totally taken up with moving chapters about, cutting, pruning – in a panic that I might leave something crucial out. I always make copies of everything throughout the writing process and back it all up too. This is also when my timeline, chapter summaries and story diary are essential tools – plus lots of tea and walks to thrash out sequences.
A book takes me about one year to write. Less time and I would panic. Recently I read Sophie Nicchol’s wonderful book, The Dress. “Let the words find you…” says Fabia, her main character. “…The best words are not chosen…”
Of course, the words don’t drop into my lap without a lot of thought and work. And having a deadline is a wonderful motivator. What I take from this author’s words, is that I should not push too much. To write well, we have to enjoy what we are doing. Hopefully, the readers will enjoy the words too. I have had some very special reviews and they make all the agonising worthwhile.
My latest book, The Tuscan House, is now available to pre-order. It will be published on April 7th.
Thank you so much for reading this blog and I hope you are motivated to write. It is fun, I promise you, despite all the hard work.