Helen Cox is a UK author. She made her on-screen debut in The Krankies in 1990. Given the choice, her Mastermind topic would be Grease 2 and when someone asks her if she is a god she says 'yes.' Oh, you want to know about her books? Best click some of the links below.
I just love talking to writers about their writing journey. Even though all authors are working towards the same goal, finishing written work in some format, it seems we all go about it in very different ways. For instance, when writing my first novel I spent about 30% of my time writing and around 70% lying on the living room floor in the foetal position.
It felt like a valid lifestyle choice at the time…
On the blog today, I’m joined by writer and photographer Richard Carter who no doubt takes a much more mature and sober approach to these things than I do (I hope). He’s in the process of putting the finishing touches to his book: On the Moor: Excursions into Science, History and Nature, a book that explores some of the stories behind a walk across the countryside in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. Being a Northern lass, and a lover of the natural world, myself, I was intrigued by Richard’s book and he kindly agreed to talk to me about the process of writing it.
Thanks for joining me on the blog today Richard. Could you start off by telling me what your book is about and where the idea came from?
I had been mulling vague ideas around in my head for some time. I knew I wanted to write about one of the subjects that most interest me: nature, the countryside, science, and history. I had been re-reading lots of books by my favourite authors; seeking inspiration; brainstorming in my writing journal, when it suddenly dawned on me that many of my favourite ‘nature’ writers don’t write so much about nature as about places. I had been taking regular walks on the Moor above my home in Hebden Bridge for two decades, so why not write about the things I encounter on my walks up there, and the science and history behind them? I chose the working title On the Moor because the book is set on the Moor, and is on the subject of the Moor.
I’ve spent many an afternoon walking the moorlands myself and am not surprised they inspired you in this way. But have you always been a writer? When did you first realise that writing was something you wanted to do as a profession?
At the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve written as a hobby for years, maintaining several websites and blogs, and I have a lengthy and long-running (26-year) correspondence with a close friend. But it wasn’t until 2011 that I realised, if I was ever going to get that book inside me published, I’d better get off my backside and start writing!
Ha! Oh yes, that old conundrum of knowing the book you want to write and then realising you have to write it. So, what is it you love most about the writing process?
The thing I most enjoyed as I was writing On the Moor (apart from the walks, obviously) was the research. From the beginning, I had a pretty good idea about many of the subjects I wanted to cover in the book, but, as I began to dig deeper into those subjects, I started to discover all sorts of fascinating stuff, which kept leading me off on new tangents (the ‘excursions’ of the book’s subtitle).
As to the actual writing, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed writing the second draft, which is where the hard work really began. Having got the ideas written down, I now had the challenge of making my book a more entertaining read—as well as cutting back on my beloved semi-colons and em-dashes.
Oh, for the love of semi-colons! Yes, I feel your pain. Many of them have to be lopped out of the final draft even though they are beautiful. But semi-colon culling aside, what is the most challenging aspect of writing for you and how do you deal with that challenge?
My greatest challenge is the self-doubt. Catch me on a good day, and I’m prepared to admit that I think I might actually be a half-decent writer. But, whenever I read my own writing, I invariably think it’s absolutely terrible: it always reads as if I wrote it; not a real writer! To make matters worse, this insecurity means I’m an incorrigible tweaker: I’ll spend hours on end going back and trying to make what I’ve written so far absolutely perfect, rather than moving on and getting the damn thing finished.
I overcame the problem of being unable to read my own writing dispassionately in an entirely unexpected way. It might not work for everybody, but it certainly worked for me. I decided I needed to know more about e-books, so I bought a Kindle and, as an experiment, converted the first drafts of my early chapters into e-book format. When I read through them on my Kindle, it suddenly felt as if I was reading a real book, rather than something I had just written. I was suddenly able to see which bits of my writing were good, and which genuinely needed more work.
As for the tweaking, I set myself an unbreakable rule: once I had finished the first draft of a particular chapter, I was forbidden from returning to it until the whole book had been finished. This was incredibly difficult, but it really helped to think of it as a rule that must not be broken.
Wow. No revisiting chapters until the whole book is finished? You are truly a bigger and better person than I. That takes will power. What are your hopes or plans for your book now?
A Nobel Prize would be nice, but I just want to get it out there. For all my grand talk, my no tweaking rule only works for the first draft. After that, it’s tweaking all the way. I’m currently working on my sixth and (definitely, definitely) final draft.
If you could offer advice for someone starting to write their first book, what would you say to them?
I’ve already written an article about the single best piece of writing advice I was given: keep a writing journal.
I would also advise people not to rush into it. Take time to mull things over, to work out exactly what it is you want to write about. Your writing journal is almost certainly the best place to do this.
You can find out more about Richard’s writing projects by visiting his website.