Monday, 21 February 2011

How do I write?

People have asked me - How do I write? Well I’m sure that every writer has his own way of writing and I am no different.  For those who are interested here is my two-pennyworth.

Momentum is the important thing for me – it is the key. Sometimes this is just not there and every word seems to need extracting like some precious ore chiselled from the ground. When the momentum is there however I do everything I can to keep it going. This is where the asterisk (*) comes in. Anything that I write that needs verification or more research gets an asterisk (*). I then have to return to these (*) at a later date. For me it is about – keep writing. Rewriting and editing come later.

I use a word document that remains open every time I sit at my laptop. This contains the current chapter that I am working on. At the same time however I have a number of other word documents open – this keeps everything I need to hand to maintain that momentum.

  • A document entitled – Research/name of the novel.  This contains my original conceptual notes for the novel. Added to this is any further research that I have undertaken, and this is often very extensive. These research notes are added to as the book develops; a story line or back-story may open up to me and require further research.
  • A document entitled General Notes. This contains writing style prompts, built up over the years and under subheadings; e.g.
1.      1.      Descriptions: e.g. a hard wicked face, blue-jowlled, craggy, long chiselled cheeks, inexorable eyes. Wore his hair long. Silver-tongued, an anaemic look, pale blue eyes took your full attention so that you gaze never dwelt on anything but them.

    1. Conversation i.e. the ways people talk. e.g. Sniffed, grunted, grumbled, groaned, mumbled, griped, murmured, rumbled, screeched, squealed, cried, screamed, enquired.

    1. Word sounds. E.g. Ah, Argh, Mmm, Err, Erm, Huh, Ugh, Oy.

    1. Phrases. e.g. His eyes gave a flash of anger. He felt himself shiver, but his eyes told a different story, He felt that he was being torn apart, He darted a look.

  • A document entitled Authors Notes – these will eventually be printed t the end of the story as part of the published book. This starts out as a blank document for each novel but I enter anything that the reader may want to know that I deemed unnecessary to include in the narrative or would stand as ‘authors voice,’ if my character would not say them. E.g. Up to 1837, a marriage ceremony was required to be performed in a consecrated building. Julia and David would not have been allowed to have been married in the gaol therefore. This inaccuracy has been allowed for dramatic affect.

  • A document entitled Punctuation.  This contains a brief of common punctuation uses, apostrophes, commas, colons and semi colons, hyphens, brackets etc

  • Finally I have a prompt at all times, immediately below the line I am typing the story on. This is constantly in my eye-line so that I don’t deviate from what I am trying to do. It says the following:
        Open with big question or hook/INTRIGUE.
       Then you have the problems your hero is up against/ CONFLICT.
       That builds to the CLIMAX.
       Followed by the RESOLUTION

Sunday, 9 January 2011


As readers of this blog will know my novel, No Quarter Asked No Quarter Given, is loosely based on the events in the life of Daniel Mendoza; he was the inspiration behind the story to be told. Mendoza himself was such a complex character, so in developing the story, I split his character into two separate people, one the honourable pugilist Samuel Medina, and the other the roguish Captain John Campbell-John.
The reason for using the character Samuel Medina was that I could not know, from this distance in time, what sort of man Mendoza really was. It was relatively easy to research about his exploits but the man himself; well that’s a different story. I did not want to attribute personal characteristics to Mendoza that were invented; what I was writing was an historical novel not a biography. So some of the main events in his life form a backdrop to the story but everything else is a fiction of the authors making.
So what did Mendoza look like? I had seen some facsimiles of him fighting but they were crude and showed little of his features. So I start with a blank canvass and could invent an appearance that I could put in my readers mind – here, this is what Samuel looks like. The first description of a teenage Samuel can be found in chapter 2 as described by Captain John Campbell-John as follows:

The lad had large brown eyes that were warm and compassionate. He wore his hair in a pigtail and his face was shaven in the style of an Englishman rather than wearing side ringlets and a beard in the style of his father. His general countenance reflected his kind-heartedness, his olive skin and aquiline nose being softened by two great soulful eyes. He had one of those faces which, while not handsome, was warm and encouraging; the kind of face that attracted the fairer sex.

When the book was ready for publication I was asked by the cover designer, Paddy Brennan, if I had found any images that could form part of the design. I took to the Internet again, for images of the 18th century pugilist and spent many hours searching various sites. But then a strange thing happened – I came upon a portrait of Mendoza as a young man. This was not the pugilist Mendoza but a head and shoulders portrait.

This was spooky – the image that I had drawn for my readers was, I had thought, purely factious. But here was the man I had invented smiling out at me from two centuries ago and he is exactly as I had described him.

See what you think from the image attached. Is that spooky or what?

If you agree, send me a comment.