Infinite Sky Blog Tour: C.J. Flood My Writing Process

First, I always panic. This is just my personality type. There doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it. Once I’m in a state of almost total panic, I read books, newspaper articles and magazines. I watch films, box sets, TED talks, and listen to This American Life, Radio 4 and music.

I take notes, listing subjects that interest me. For book two: bullying, class, suicide, friends as family replacement, soldiers, post-traumatic stress disorder. During this period, I refuse to talk to most people about my idea, while boring one individual to weepies every time I see them, which I make sure is every day.

I buy stationery: post-its, folders, plain A3 notepads, felt-tips. I make ideas clouds using multi-coloured felt-tips. I brainstorm characters using multi-coloured felt-tips. I try out narrative arcs using multi-coloured felt-tips. This goes on for months, and except for the sense of terror that I am never going to have another idea in my life, and the certainty that I can’t even write anyway, it is a perfectly nourishing and enjoyable period.
Next, I try to write an outline. This is difficult, seeing as I barely know my characters, and only have a vague notion of theme. I give up outlining, and try to free write, but that’s difficult, seeing as I don’t know what’s going to happen either. I don’t even know where the story is set! I spend some time thinking about place, before realising it’s impossible to decide on a setting when I don’t even know what the story is.

Round and round I go. Outlining, researching, free writing, buying stationery, over-using stationery, I try to make progress, and it’s really, really slow, but eventually, something starts to emerge.

It is different from what I intended, but this is because the magic bit of writing has come into play. My subconscious mind is doing a lot of the work for me. When I’m not paying attention, which is most of the time, my characters go off on tangents, and sometimes these are better than anything my panic-stricken conscious mind can come up with.

At last, the novel starts to take shape, and writing it becomes a real pleasure. I begin to believe these people are real, and these things happened, and I want to spend all my time with the story so I can work out the best way to tell it. When I have my first completed draft, I send it to my agent and my editor, and then I wait for feedback.

And this is where the real work begins.

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