My fourth book, Candleburn, is FREE on Amazon for a couple of days and to celebrate, I thought I’d post a portion of a recent interview with Simon Duringer, author of Stray Bullet. It deals with the fine line authors tread between marketing & writing “their vision”.

The full interview can be found
here
.

Candleburn can be got
here
. Remember – it’s FREE for a couple of days!

Q: Your writing methodology, explained in a previous interview, appears to be very clinical and more akin to a marketer’s approach than that of an author. From the way you have chosen your subject matter through to how you construct your characters and how much you write in any given time frame. It seems though everything is mapped out before you even put pen to paper. Is that a fair assessment of how you write and have you ever just thought of a subject and hit the qwerty hard allowing the characters to lead the way?

A: Short answer no, long answer maybe.

Here’s reality. I’ve met many, many authors. I’ve yet to find two who write using the same method. Some plot everything first. Others go for characters. Some are anarchistic. Others produce notepads full of detailed backgrounds for every event and full family histories, only a fraction of which makes it into the book. One writes the entire book as a 30,000 word short story containing everything. When he finishes that, he shows it to his agent who says yes or no and then he fleshes it out. It’s a brilliant system. Not sure it would work for me.

My key point is: do what works for you and do it well.

At the end of the day, if you hit writer’s block and going for a swim helps you clear it, do that. If it’s free form writing that gets your juices flowing then go for it. If it’s writing the novel in 30,000 words then fleshing it out – super! Dan Brown likes to hang upside down from the ceiling like Batman so blood flows to his head. Yeah, it’s weird. I bet he’s crying all the way to the bank that you think so.

Okay – so that’s how to write. But your question is also in part about what to write:

If you want to write about a new type of hybrid pony-unicorn, don’t expect your ponycorn adventures to be mega hits (you may get lucky – the five-year-old girl called Cassy who did this did indeed achieve success: http://ponycorns.com/) but don’t expect it to happen.

If writing is what you want to do and you want to write what you want to write, then my point remains: do what works for you and do it well.

Back in reality, there’s a balance.

Yes, we’d all love to do art for art’s sake. We also all like to pay the mortgage and eat. If you want to be a professional writer – or even just a widely read author who gives their work away for free (or nearly free) – you’ve got to write for some kind of audience. Personally, I like crime, conspiracy thrillers, men’s adventure and espionage. I’m lucky, there’s a good market out there for that stuff and I’m not having to slog away to convince people that the genre is worth a punt (doesn’t mean you can’t do that – Jasper Fforde has done terribly well, for instance).
However, it’s a crowded space. I need to stand out. I know what I want to write. I know my novel’s world (I call it “Ritter World” after one of the characters… but so far, he’s only appeared in one of the four books. His second appearance may not be until book seven or eight). So before I start I do think about how I’m going to pitch my tent.

When you say I’m a marketer rather than a writer, you’re probably referring to an interview I gave where I said authors should think about a single sentence selling point for their books. I try to and I find it helps. I don’t always do that, though.

The first book containing Ritter (published as Overtime) didn’t start out as a single sentence pitch. I decided on a rough topic I wanted to play with, came up with some plot ideas, wrote the start, developed the character and then was off to the races. The book wasn’t really fully formed in my mind until I was a third of the way through.

All of my novels tend to work like that to a degree. I think that’s kind of anarchistic – here’s an idea, here’s a character… Where does it go? I also write non-linearly. I write the opening 5,000 words. Often I then write the end (or at least, an end… It may change). Then I go through and write the significant scenes I really want in. That perhaps fuels another idea. I put those scenes in too. I link some of them. I go back to the start. I begin to sew everything together.

While this is what’s going on on paper, in my head, I do have certain ideas (whether it’s character arcs or plot or subtext) that I want to work with. I can’t say whether it’s marketing driven or any other style. It’s not really relevant: it’s just what works for me.

Do what works for you and do it well.

The full interview can be found
here
.

Candleburn can be got
here
.

posted by Jack Hayes
on May, 27