Today, I’m happy to invite Dan Rhodes to my blog where he will talk about his books and writing process in general.
1) CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING? ARE YOU WRITING NOW?
I started writing in earnest in 1996, and my first book, ‘Anthropology’, came out in 2000. I’ve recently published my ninth, a novel called, ‘When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow’, which I finished in January. I’ve not written anything since, and nor will I until the clocks change in the autumn.
2) HOW MUCH RESEARCH OR PREPARATION DO YOU DO BEFORE WRITING? FOR EXAMPLE, DO YOU DO CHAPTER PLANS AND CHARACTER PROFILES ETC? DOES ANY OF THIS CHANGE WHILE YOU ARE WRITING?
I make notes. Any lines or situations that might one day be useful get scribbled down. I’ve never written a character profile. I used to sometimes draw flow charts, and write different bits of the story at different times and then join them together, but for my last two novels (‘When the Professor…’ and ‘This is Life’) I started on page one and wrote to the end. I found them going in unexpected directions, which was fun.
I’m not big on research. I tell stories, so I have a licence to write what ever I want. It’s fiction – why let facts get in the way?
3) DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE TIME TO WRITE? HOW DO YOU BALANCE THIS WITH FAMILY RESPONSIBILITIES OR OTHER WORK?
I used to write late at night, but now I have a family the nocturnal life isn’t possible. I also work at least six hours a day, five days a week, outside the biz. When I’m in writing mode I try to get in a couple of hours in the afternoon and start again once the kids are in bed, until I conk out. I also try to find time on my days off. It’s a question of fitting it in when I can. It’s too much really, which is why I often take time away. Before starting, ‘When the Professor…’ I’d been on hiatus, and hadn’t written anything for a year and a half.
4) WHAT PART OF THE WRITING PROCESS DO YOU FIND MOST IMPORTANT? FOR EXAMPLE, FIRST DRAFT, EDITING, REWRITING, ETC.
I wouldn’t say one part is more important than another. you have to bust your arse at every stage. It’s necessary to go back over what you’ve written endlessly, obsessively, until it drives you to distraction. Anything less is lazy-arsed writing and doesn’t deserve to be read.
5) WRITING HAS LOTS OF HIGHS AND LOWS, HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED?
People will gasp when I admit it, but I do enjoy getting paid. I have bills to pay and need to make a bit of money from writing in order to be able to continue to do it. I’m not talking about making a fortune, but I’m usually trying to dig myself out of a financial hole, and the possibility of a modest payday is a great motivator. I wrote ‘This is Life’ in twelve and a half weeks in order to stave off impending ruin. The challenge was to write a book in that time while maintaining my quality standards, and I ended up with a novel that I’m incredibly proud of.
I also feel that there is a natural ebb and flow to the creative process. Some people call the ebbing periods ‘Writers block’ but I think that’s nonsense. It’s just nature’s way of telling you to go and do something else – see it as an opportunity to read. For this reason, I never take advances against unwritten books, and I think it’s lunacy to do so. I find it baffling that the book trade throws so much money at books that havent even been written.
And of course there is the underlying sickness that causes me to write, and the irreplaceable satisfaction of creating something.
6)DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AND/OR BLOG? HOW USEFUL DO YOU FIND THIS?
For years I occasionally maintained a vague blog – giving details of books coming out, live events, etc…But as I’m publishing, ‘When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow’ myself, and not having a publicity department behind the book, I’ve had to get a bit more active. I reluctantly signed up to Twitter – something I had sworn never to do. To my dismay I’ve found myself enjoying it. It’s also been really useful when it comes to getting the book read. I’m not sure many people would have known it had come out, without it.
I avoided social media for years, and seeing it as a potentially wretched drain on my writing time, and I have no doubt that I was right about that. Twitter is a catastrophic distraction, and though I’ve never looked at it I expect Facebook is just as bad. Next time I’m in writing mode I shall do my best to go back into hiding. It’s important to step back from social media when you’re in the fog of writing – and anybody who respects you as a writer will understand that.
7) IF YOU COULD PASS ON A PIECE OF ADVICE TO A NEW WRITER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Above all, this: Don’t give up the day job. Seriously, you would be amazed how little it is possible to earn writing books.Most of us have at least part-time employment elsewhere.
These days writers are bombarded with bland encouragement and advice so general as to be meaningless. I really believe it does more harm than good. Words of caution even discouragement are far more helpful. If you’re writing to the extent of your capabilities – and there’s no reason to put pen to paper if you’re not – you will be setting yourself up for a gruelling experience.
I have no qualms about this – anyone who’s put off by a little light discouragement isn’t going to have the chops to make it as a writer in the first place – and their time would be better spent doing something else. It’s the people who take discouragement as a spur who will be the ones to write books worth reading.
Dan’s book – ‘When the Professor Gor Stuck in the Snow’ is out now.
Find Dan on Twitter @MiyukiBooks