We’re bidding farewell to April with a new instalment in our Creative Process Series. This time it’s Hazel Osmond’s turn.
It doesn’t have to be absolutely quiet, but it does have to be non-distracting. So somewhere with background noise is OK as long as it’s not too loud. If there’s music playing, it either has to be such a familiar song I’m not really tuning into it, or have no words at all.
How do your ideas come to you? Do you write them down or let them disappear?
In that time between waking up and being fully awake, I often get ideas come to me and usually I have to write them down, having learned that otherwise they flit away. I like to go out for walks too because there’s something about the rhythm of walking that generates ideas or helps me sort out plot niggles. Those walking ideas stay with me till I can get to some paper.
Do you plan a story from the beginning to the end or start with an idea and let the chapters come to you as they will?
I plan, but not too tightly. So I’ll rough out chapters and know how the story will end and the major events along the way. I’ll also make sure I get any timelines right at this stage, so for example, if there’s a seventeen year old appearing in the present day story, I make sure I have birth dates and conception dates right. But it’s loose scaffolding rather than a tight plan. If I plan too much, when I come to write the whole thing, the freshness is gone. Often as I write, new twists and turns develop so there’s room for me to surprise myself.
Do you prefer writing easy quick stories or long, layered ones?
I don’t know if there is such a thing as an easy, quick story! I’m going to say that as a short story writer I do like the snapshot of a life it offers and the way it makes you use every word to the greatest effect. On the other hand, there’s something satisfying in drawing all the different threads of a complicated plot together … Sorry, I can’t decide!
Which do you find easier to write: dialogue or description or are they equally hard/easy?
Definitely dialogue. I’m always eavesdropping on conversations to make sure I get the rhythms right.
Is there anything that you won’t write or feel uncomfortable writing?
I would find it hard to write about child murder or violence against the vulnerable – I became much more sensitive to anything happening to children once I had my own.
What do you do to cure writer’s block? What advice can you give to new writers who might be scared to post their stories?
Just try to keep writing in the hope that something good will emerge. Because I have spent years as a paid advertising copywriter, I have learned that you can’t wait for inspiration to show up, you just have to get the words on the page and work from there. Having said that, I had a break from writing last year following a number of deaths in the family – I needed the break from mining my own emotions to create emotional stories. Luckily it has passed and I’m writing again.
To new writers – if you’re really scared to post, find a good beta reader who can help you get your story in the best shape and then go for it. And then, well, try to put your fear in perspective … most people are kind and supportive and those who aren’t are really few and far between. And really, should you let what ‘might’ happen stop you from expressing yourself? No … do it!
‘Vanity Fair’ by William Thackeray. Layered, complex plot; intrigue; love; battles and an amoral female protagonist in Becky Sharpe. A huge, witty, satirical blockbuster of a book!