Crime author Maggie James has a new book out at the moment, After She's Gone, and I invited her over to the blog to have a chat this week.
Do you outline/plot, or do you prefer to start at the beginning and see where the story takes you? Why do you prefer this method of writing?
I'm very definitely an outliner/plotter. I've tried starting at the beginning and seeing where the story takes me, but it doesn't work – I feel adrift without the structure of an outline. I use the Snowflake method, whereby you take the basic idea for the book and expand it into an entire outline. I can't plot in too much detail, however; after a while I need to throw myself into writing the book and work out any remaining issues as I go.
I use word targets to keep myself motivated. I aim for at least 2,000 words per day and it’s so inspiring to see the totals mount up. I also set myself a date for completing the novel, but I'm usually wildly optimistic when I set it, which means I never make those!
How do you structure a typical day to ensure you avoid distractions and hit your word count targets?
By nature I'm a night owl, but for some perverse reason I'm more productive in the mornings. By the afternoon I'm running out of creative juice, and in the evenings I prefer to socialise or go to the gym. So I structure my working day accordingly; I write, plot and edit in the mornings, with the afternoons reserved for blogging and promotional work.
By nature I'm very goal-driven, so my word count targets help in motivating me. My main distraction, as it is for many people, is social media. My preferred platform for promoting my books is Facebook, so I log on to do marketing work but end up chatting with friends. I've tried using software to block myself from Facebook, but somehow I always forget to switch it on...
We all occasionally hit a brick wall with our creative endeavours - what do you do to overcome any stumbling blocks?
I've only once hit a major brick wall in the creative sense, after the release of The Second Captive in 2014. I published the book shortly before embarking on a two-month trip to Thailand and Cambodia, and life at that point was frantic. My intention was to plot my next novel while abroad, but I simply couldn't manage it. None of my ideas came together in the way I wanted, and to make matters worse my laptop was dying. In the end, I decided to rest, relax and enjoy my holiday, and to divert my writing efforts into a non-fiction publication. I’d had it in mind for a while to publish a book to help would-be novelists get over their fears about writing. The result was Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft, and it worked wonders in restoring my creative juices – a kind of literary palette cleanser, if you like!
It's hard to know how it will all pan out, because in April I travel to Canada on the first leg of an extended overseas trip. I've long had a severe case of wanderlust, which I indulge as much as possible! The plan is to revisit Toronto and then head over to French Canada, before dropping down into the USA and heading south through Mexico and Central America into South America. I spent ten months in South America in 2010/2011, and it's a fascinating continent. I've no return date – the trip will take as long as it takes, and along the way I need to accommodate writing my fiction which may mean stopping off somewhere for a few months at a time.
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