ALLISON SYMES - Q&A
Do you write directly to screen or does a proper pen and paper have to come into your work somewhere?
It depends on what I’m working on. Short stories do tend to be written directly to screen. For novels, I like using a pen and paper and use this as a chance to just write the story, switching off my internal editor. I use the typing up as my first edit, to delete the unintended repetitions (there are always some!), to start checking that my story structure makes sense. Poems I often draft on a scrap piece of paper. Scripts I tend to do direct to screen. I can see the advantages of direct to screen but wouldn’t want to lose the physical act of writing altogether.
Do you write daily?
Generally, yes. I don’t always do a stint on all the things I work on in one go but I like to make sure I’ve written something. I like to take time off for holidays, certain family birthdays, including mine (!), but at least I can plan my writing around these and I usually end up doing more in the few days before these events and again afterwards so my word count probably averages out to much the same number as if I did write on a strictly daily basis. I also think because I “allow” for holidays like this I find my writing routine easy to stick to.
What part of a story/novel/script do you enjoy writing the most? The first or final drafts?
I must admit I feel a certain amount of relief once I’ve written the first draft as I know I then I have something to work with and knock into shape. I know I overwrite so I know a lot will have to come out but there is satisfaction to be had “feeling” your story tighten up as you get rid of repetitions, tighten up the prose and so on. What can be tough is knowing what is the final draft. There can be a temptation to keep working on something and never let it go out into the big bad world! I love coming up with the idea in the first place and then getting it on to paper, editing is a joy for the reasons given above, but coming to the end is satisfying and sad at the same time as I know I’ve then got to move on. Having said that, it opens up the door to getting on with a new story and enjoying the writing experience all over again!
What type of writing do you like most – short stories, novels or scripts?
I love all of them and for ages I found short stories almost impossible to write given the confinements of word counts (at least with novels you do have some room to expand your characters and plot). It is when I realised, having read this, that a short story is only meant to capture one moment in time I found I could write these and am delighted I’ve had a few published on the web, been shortlisted in Writers’ News for a few and been commended at the Winchester Writers’ Conference. I love reading short stories too – when there isn’t time for a novel but you need a reading fix, these are ideal. I love with novels being able to explore my characters’ motivations and back stories more as long as these propel the plot along. I also enjoy ending chapters on cliffhangers! Scripts I adore as I’ve always enjoyed writing dialogue and I love listening to radio scripts. I love the way radio can take you anywhere and everywhere without having to leave the house and would love to write professionally for it.