The Writer I Am, And The Writer I Want To Be (sort of)

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This is how most people think writers write

Lorna Sixsmith, writer of Would You Marry A Farmer? and blogger/chief over at Irish Farmerette, very kindly asked me to carry the baton on a blog tagging exercise where writers say a little something about how, why and what they write.

As it turned out, I found it very unsatisfactory writing about the writer I am.  So I ended up writing about the writer I want to be. The writer who would undoubtedly exist for real and for sure, had I neither a day job, nor places to be which involved walking around on legs, and other heavy responsibilities such as breathing, and forming opinions.

Then I thought it might be a bit of fun to contrast my two writing selves. You can vote on your preferred companion later, if you like.

This is how I write. Sort of

This is how I write. Sort of

What Am I Working On?

Both The Writer I Am (for ease of referral, let’s call her Bitsy) and The Writer I Want To Be (Prudence) are currently working on 2 novels: the structural (brutal) edit of a young adult novel and the 2nd draft of a sort-of-kinda romance. They are also working on blog stuff, the odd bit of doggerel, and most days, whatever you’re having yourself.

Bitsy isn’t doing too badly, considering what a struggle it is, just getting up in the mornings and making it to the day job. Prudence, however, has already spotted 3 vital plot-holes in the YA novel; drawn up an annotated list of every agent she will ever want to submit to (in order of preference) and worked out a strategy for making the sort-of romance the subject of the next great literary bidding war. She’d like to rest on her laurels, but she just invented a brand new genre, and is finding it difficult to keep up with the ideas pouring forth as a result. She sleeps 3.5 hours a night, loves children, and lost a stone in weight last week.

a rather victorian pen pictureHow Does It Differ From Others In The Genre?

Bitsy has crises of confidence approximately 4 times a week. So if she’s asked, most of the time, she can’t think of anything that differentiates her work, other than the fact that she thinks that everyone else’s is better. On the rare occasion she’s happy with something she’s written, her answer to this question would be an eloquent: “Uh, I have a genre?”

Prudence, however, has already perfected an interview-ready answer to this very question, sparkling with modesty and hilarity in equal measure. Her droll delivery of said answer is even more revealing than her words; transmitting gravitas and sensitivity in turn, she gently reminds her audience, even as they laugh, that whilst it is always possible to poke fun at life’s pitfalls, it can be difficult to find it funny when you’re actually in the hole.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

When Bitsy first sat down to write, she was sure that some sort of wordy stream-of-consciousness business would pour out, containing the odd deeeeeeep thought, and quite possibly a lot of annoying alliteration. She really just wanted to see if she could write a book at all. She had absolutely no idea that instead, she would find a sort of more-or-less commercial narrative voice, telling stories which seem to reside somewhere between the laughable and the improbable, and focusing on some very familiar old things such as love, death, and eating.

Prudence tackles extremely lofty issues in her literary fiction, but is famous for doing so with a light touch, which strips bare the truths of this moribund existence, even though she never uses words of more than two syllables. Her ability to insert limitless nuance into words such as “toe”, “shrub”, and  “the”, was the major rationale behind rave reviews in the Guardian and Observer, three years in a row.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

Book confusion ladyBitsy sits down night after night on the couch with her laptop, quite literally, on top of her lap. Sometimes the TV is on (for shame). If there are no ridiculous self-imposed deadlines, she will merrily procrastinate with social media, blog comments, politics, cat videos, recipes containing too many ingredients, and eyebrow-plucking, before feverishly typing what she was supposed to write hours before, until a time which is way past reasonable.

If there is a ridiculous self-imposed deadline, such as NaNoWriMo, Bitsy writes like the clappers, managing 50,000 words in 1 month with no plan whatsoever; and yet, oddly, clearing plot hurdles with metres to spare,  overcoming humps and slumps and all manner of writerly topography with minimal anguish. Much later, she reads it back, and wonders who the hell wrote that? Then she does at least 2 edits for structure, plot holes, over-writing, tangent terror and character assassination, before passing it on to her writing group, who are firm, yet gentle with her.

Prudence, on the other hand, sits primly (straight-backed) at the mahogany desk which once belonged to Ernest Hemingway, elbows tucked neatly, typing beautiful prose which stems from a meticulously bulletproof plot outline. Sometimes she allows herself to smile when she notices rapier wit sitting comfortably, yet quietly and without guile, within a sentence. She targets 1,000 words a day, and having achieved that by lunchtime, eats the tasty low GI salad prepared by her assistant, contentedly slipping back to the desk for 2 hours afterwards in order to edit her already flawless copy, and scribble a few lines of nonsense which will be later hailed as The Poetry Of The New Truth.


Um, I’m not sure I like Prudence, after all that. She sounds like a bit of a pain in the arse, actually.

Now it’s my turn to tag. I’m delighted to pass on the baton to Jan Hawke, a chef of many, many literary and writing world pies, who can be found on Over to Jan:

Author Jan HawkeI live near Launceston in Cornwall UK with husband Peter and Toby and Benji the Springer Spaniels – it’s a tie between the boys as to who’s maddest, but as I outrank all of them in being weird anyway it’s not open to debate really.
I’m physically lazy with things that don’t hold much interest for me (so that’s mostly housework and, increasingly, cooking…), but I love where we live, mainly because I chose it for being so quiet and off the beaten track, very close to the moors and quite near to the sea.
I also love books, both to write and to read, the latter of which can be very eclectic (I enjoy Julian Barnes, Kate Atkinson, Jeanette Winterson and will happily admit to Jilly Cooper too) but in the main I’m heavily into SF&F, particularly Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and Julian May, although I can pass on Zombie Apocalypses fairly easily…


  11 comments for “The Writer I Am, And The Writer I Want To Be (sort of)

  1. April 27, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    I’m with you…Prudence is a drag, though I wish I had her discipline. Thanks for the smile.


    • April 27, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      Thank you, Stephen. I can say that the more I’ve got to know Prudence, the more loathsome she becomes. I’m contemplating strangling her with a word of 5 syllables. If nothing else, it’ll make a lovely piece of flash fiction 😉


  2. April 27, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Oh Lor – how am I going to follow that?!!!!! lol

    Bitsy’s got the right stuff I agree. Don’t think – write. And then go back and whittle if you must – or better yet get someone else to do it for you because you’re obviously (I’m imprinting here)… totally nuts!


    • April 27, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      But you don’t follow that, Jan. You leapfrog it. Which I know you will. No pressure, obviously. I wouldn’t do it to you!

      Yeah, if only Bitsy could be an itsy bit more consistent, she’d be the toast of the fictional universe I’m contemplating inhabiting on a full-time basis. I’ll keep you posted….


  3. April 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Bitsy should write a novel about Prudence, it’d be much more fun than Prudence’s novel about toe shrubbery.


    • April 29, 2014 at 9:00 am

      Bitsy would be far too intimated to write a novel about Prudence. Unless, that is, she came up with some marvellous angle that would by-pass even Prudence’s sense of irony. A parable about the perfect child and his wonky, one-legged fraternal twin brother, perhaps. Set in a shrubbery…


  4. April 29, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    I empathise with Bitsy, especially the four times a week crises of confidence — like being on a roller-coaster. And the days of the week become ever shorter, with fewer and fewer hours, and all concertinaed into a fleeting weekend with a short interlude between.


    • April 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Bitsy was delighted with your empathy! Unfortunately, this kick-started a vicious cycle of optimism which ultimately ended in self-loathing. She is currently sitting in the corner, cutting up the individual keys on her keyboard with a nail scissors. Normal paranoia, if a lot less destructive, will commence shortly 😉


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