Happy New Year! I hope you all had lovely days. I had a very busy but fun holiday at my parents in the Netherlands, seeing my brother and (very pregnant!) sister in law (I'm now an auntie to the lovely Lotte, she was born 4th January!), more family members and friends. 'Oliebollen' were involved (the family recipe as well as my dad's skills are AMAZING), as well as Christmas dinners and whisky.
Near the end of 2017, I answered some questions on my writing process for a German student and I thought it would be fun to share. It'll be published in German on the student's school blog! I'm very glad I didn't have to answer in German, though...
1. How do you prepare before starting a new story? Do you plan your characters and world well before you start and how well do you plot your story beforehand? Or do you simply start writing and see where your characters take you?
A story can start with anything—a line, an image, a character; it’s different for each book I write. Depending on the genre I’m writing, I’ll have an idea about the world, but a contemporary is ‘easier’ in the way it’s set in the world we know, whereas if I write second-world fantasy, I’ll have some ideas about what this world looks like, but a lot of details will follow as I write my first draft. I always know my ending; I can’t write without knowing where it ends. This helps me determine the character growth, and also the beginning of the story.
2. Do you write your stories chronologically, chapter after chapter? Or do you start for example with the ending or certain scenes you have in mind?
All my stories are written chronologically. I can’t write out of order as I’m very specific about which scenes I write—they all need to have a purpose and move the story forward; if that’s not the case, those scenes don’t need to be in my book. If I were to jump around, I feel like I’d miss out on certain ‘emotional dominos’ for my characters, depending on what’s happened.
3. How long does it take you to write your first draft of a new novel? What do you aim to achieve in your first draft and how much do you usally change from the first draft to the final version?
This is different for each book. The shortest time a first draft has taken me was eight weeks, and the one I’m currently drafting has been in the works for 2,5 years. I’m picky about my first drafts—while I don’t mind grammar and spelling mistakes, I do want the story to work, and I can fuss over certain scenes endlessly if they don’t feel right. As a result, though, my first drafts tend to be relatively clean. I’ll always cut things and add others when editing, but the bones of the story (and some flesh and muscles and blood) will always already be in my first draft. I never have to do a complete overhaul when I work on edits.
4. Do you prefer writing at your laptop or do you like writing in longhand? Do you have a favourite place for writing?
Most of my writing is done at home, where I have an ergonomic keyboard to spare my poor arms. ;-) I’m too impatient to write entire stories in a notebook—but I always carry one with me, because I do a lot of plotting by hand, and notebooks come in very handy for those unexpected moments of inspirations. While I’m mostly alone when I write, I do like to meet up with other authors every now and then. Writing is very solitary, and it’s nice to have someone who can hold you accountable to actually get the work done. Writers are really good at procrastinating!