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In A Class Of Her Own

October 28th, 2016

different-class-blogOn Friday I went to listen to Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat, amongst other well-known novels) talking about, and reading from, her latest book Different Class.

But it was the question and answer session at the end that I found most interesting. Someone asked her how long it took her to write her books. The answer was anything from three months to five years! The reason she gave for this was that sometimes she ran out of inspiration; she had to have a break while she did some research; or she had to wait for the pieces of a plot to fall into place in her subconscious. What she stressed, though, was that she didn’t feel that any of this time was wasted as she always had more than one project on the go and when a particular piece of work wasn’t going well she turned to something else. A sensible approach for any writer.

Another person asked how much detailed plotting she did before starting to write her novels. Her answer to that one was that she puts together an outline for the story but that she never feels obliged to stick to this and she lets it develop and change in line with the requirements of the characters. If you have a very rigid plotline you might be in danger of straightjacketing your characters to make them follow this, rather than letting them become fully rounded people. It’s the characters – and their voice – that the reader is interested in, not the cleverness of the plotline.

And that word ‘voice’ was a recurrent theme. I got the impression that Joanne was someone with an absolute compulsion to write. She’s obviously pleased that she gets recognition for her work, but she would still have been forced to write even if she’d never had the luxury of giving up her day job. She says she writes what she wants to write – not what a publisher expects from her. You could feel her affection for the main protagonist, Roy Straitley, in Different Class. And on more than one occasion she said how much she enjoyed writing in his ‘voice’. I suspect that we’ve not heard the last of him!

At the end of the session I managed to ask her what she thought of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as we’re not far off the start of November and anyone intending to take part this year should already be planning their strategy. She felt that it was a great way for anyone to kick-start the writing of their novel. But – and there was a ‘but’ – they must face the fact that what they will be left with, at the end of the month, is a very rough draft. They will then need to sit down and start seriously editing and working on it before sending it off to a publisher. So, anyone considering devoting November to writing their novel – take heed.

So, some good tips there from a well-known author. Next week, my guest will be Phil Busby, who is making a welcome return after having a break from blogging. In the meantime, don’t forget that you’ve still time to enter our Flash Fiction Competition – if you don’t enter, you can’t win!

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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