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My Writing Process Meme

Elaine Walker

I've been invited to take part in a blog tour passing from writer to writer, to gather an insight into individual ways of working, connected by the tag #mywritingprocess. First of all, thanks to my friend, Martine Bailey, for inviting me.

Martine's debut novel, An Appetite for Violets (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014) will be launched on May 22nd. It is an evocative tale of food, felony and finery with strong characters and an expertly realised historic setting.

You can find out more about Martine here –

http://www.martinebailey.com/

https://twitter.com/MartineBailey

 

I have invited the following writers to carry on the #mywritingprocess meme:

Rob Mimpriss: http://www.robmimpriss.com/essays/creative-process-meme.php

Rob is writer of short stories, with two collections Reasoning: Twenty Stories and For His Warriors: Thirty Stories. He has a recent story in New Writing: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/NUwAz2VWQrUp4ATnykvI/full

Gill James: http://www.seek.salford.ac.uk/profiles/GJAMES.jsp

Gill writes fiction for children and young adults and flash fiction and short stories for adults. She's a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Salford and her latest publication is The House on Schellberg Street, http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=130

She keeps several blogs, two of which are aimed at writers and those learning or teaching creative writing at university.

http://gilljames.blogspot.co.uk/

http://creative-writingteacher.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Allene Nicholshttp://allenen.wordpress.com/my-writing-process/.

Allene is a poet and playwright currently working on a book of ekphrastic poems about feminist art. She’s also working on her dissertation, which is about the representation of the witch in feminist poetry and popular culture.

Gill and Allene were two of the contributors to my collection of exercises and ideas, Teaching Creative Writing: Practical Approaches (Professional and Higher Partnership, 2012).

Making contact with other writers is always interesting as most of the time writing is a solo activity - so here's my contribution to the meme.

My writing process - Elaine Walker

1. What am I working on?

I am working on songs at the moment. Singing and playing the acoustic guitar gives me an immediacy I enjoy.

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I can perform something I'm working on, then revise it, polish it and work it  up to a final version through playing it live.

That's very different to writing for publication. Song writing requires me to be concise, a great discipline while voice, situation and mood need to be created in just a few words.

I'm lead singer with a band and run an open mic night and small music events too, so live music is a big influence on my writing all the time.

I've also just finished working with Rob Mimpriss - one of the writers I've tagged above - as part of a project using the records of the North Wales Hospital, a place with a long and complex history, perhaps better known as 'Denbigh Mental'. My story, 'A bridge to Puffin Island' will be online soon on the project website. I've also written a song with the same title and have two more underway based on the records.

The final stages of an essay on my old friend, William Cavendish, first Duke of Newcastle and his horses, for a new collection from Brill need completing, but I've finished the actual writing.

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The editor is doing the hard work of compiling the completed essays now so  all I have left to do is send the images when he's ready for them.

This will be the second collection of essays on the Duke from Brill that I've been part of. The first was The Horse as Cultural Icon (2011) - it seems that whenever I think  my work on him is complete, something new comes up.

In the last year, I've written short fiction, an academic essay for a collection, a full-length non-fiction book, songs, copy for the Royal Mail, a couple of talks and conference papers, as well as teaching materials so I'm often working on several things at once.

2. How does my work differ from others?

I'd like to think it differs from others because it comes through my own way of looking at the world.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I'm intrigued by odd connections and 'what ifs?' and this is probably why magical realism is my genre of choice for fiction. I like to be able to follow those connections and push at the boundaries of the everyday world without stepping across into other-world fantasy.

I write poetry and song lyrics when something small captures my attention - moments that are best explored in isolation, rather than part of a much larger piece of work.

Non-fiction on the horse in cultural history has become my academic speciality through just the sort of surprising connections that interest me.

I have ridden and kept horses since I had a riding lesson for my 5th birthday but they became part of my writing by happy accident. While I was doing an MPhil on the poetry of Margaret Cavendish, I came across references to her horseman husband, William, first Duke of Newcastle.

His two horsemanship manuals of 1658 and 1667 had received little academic attention at that time and became the subject of my PhD and later my book, To Amaze the People with Pleasure and Delight (2010). Through that, all sorts of unexpected commissions, talks and additional books came about, so an investment in odd connections seems to work for me.

 Both William and Margaret Cavendish were famously flamboyant so they form yet another connection between horses and my love of the fantastical.

4. How does my writing process work?

I tend to have ideas cooking, often for years, which means I have a lot of snippets and incomplete pieces. But, if they are worth bothering with, they will niggle at me and one day I'll return to them. When an idea takes off, I work very quickly, but it can take a while to reach that point!

I work well with a deadline in mind and my most recent book (The Horse, Parragon, 2014) took less than six months from the email asking if I'd like to do it, to proof-reading the final layout. This was a rapid process, given the two-year turnaround that is fairly standard, but it suited me well.

Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, it's usually an idea or a phrase, a photo or a picture, that sets me thinking.

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Once that process is underway, it's important to get out of my own way and just let it happen.

Elaine Walker - my-writing-process-meme - April 2014