Regardless of what I’m writing, at least three. I need to get the story down first, then edit it for sense and structure and make sure I’ve got the story right, before going through it for spelling mistakes, grammar and so on. Novels take more drafts as there’s so much more material to keep on top of so obviously need more work. Editing for story structure and sense is really important here. For scripts, I need to be able to “hear” the voices in my head once I’ve got the script prepared. It has to “feel” real.
When writing, do you “see” images or “ hear” voices first?
I hear characters speaking. I heard Eileen’s strident voice before “picturing” her. I think of my creative mind as being like my parents’ old huge television set where the sound came in first, followed by the pictures, you had to give it time to warm up before getting those pictures and sometimes you needed to give the box a clout on the side to make sure the pictures did come through. To date I have not yet had to whack myself around the head to force through my “internal vertical hold” but I suspect that may only be a matter of time! Having said that, I think hearing voices is great for dialogue writing and you can get a good idea (though not always the right idea) of how someone looks from how they sound. Most of the time you’ll be on the right lines but there will be an exception to the rule that stumps you from time to time. Seeing pictures I suppose could give pointers as to how someone is likely to speak but doesn’t allow for people who’ve “bettered” themselves (or are seeming to put on a false front).
Do you have fixed routines for writing?
Generally I write in the evenings (and use odd times during the day to catch up with professional reading, emails and son on). I find I switch into “writing mode” as if I’d never left it. I think it would be easy to let your writing go if you don’t put particular slots of the day aside for writing. And I have found the more I write, it’s easier to get ideas, to trigger other ideas and it is a joy finding potential new markets. Things that would once have taken a few weeks to sort out, I can now do in under a week. Being at the computer promptly is crucial for me – there’s always loads to do.
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.