On Monday, Anna talked about how she organises her life so she can write. Today, she talks about how she attacks her writing.
1) Do you have a different process for writing short stories versus novels?
No. I just find a character and let them show me what happens. I don’t write a lot of short stories,
though. I prefer writing novels.
2) Do you plan out your stories, or do you write organically?
I can plan what sounds like a good story, but when I start to write, everything changes as I get to
know the characters better, so I’ve stopped trying to plan. When I have to produce a synopsis for a
publisher, I do. But it never fits the book once I get past chapter 2 – and the editors don’t complain. I
think they have to fit their company ‘rules’ but they understand writers.
3) Do you wait to finish the draft before revising, or do you revise as you go? If when you finish –
how do you approach it? If as you go – how do you approach that?
I revise as I go, but push on as fast as I can and don’t aim for perfection – if it ever exists! I call my
first complete draft the ‘dirty draft’ because I know it’ll benefit from polishing. And actually, I enjoy
polishing best of all the writing tasks.
4) How many times do you revise before you submit?
Until it’s ‘right’. And don’t ask me how I know that, I just do. Some books take more polishing than
others. The one I wrote when my mother was in her final illness took three whole polishes, more
than usual. Most books take one polish to turn the ‘dirty draft’ into a final manuscript.
5) How has your process changed over the course of your career?
I work more quickly, but after 55 novels published, I ought to, don’t you think? I’ve learned so
much about writing. That doesn’t mean I don’t still learn. I do. But I still write organically, ie
knowing only the setup and having a rough idea of the main characters. There’s always a surprise
for me (and the reader) in the middle of a book. For instance, Bram, a character in ‘Destiny’s Path’,
was so vivid and wouldn’t get out of my head when I’d finished the book, so I gave him his own
series, starting with ‘The Trader’s Wife’. I hadn’t planned that, but I know a good hero when I see
I think the main change is that I trust myself more now – in my own genres, that is. I’d not trust
myself in a strange genre.
6) If you’ve mentioned previously (or haven’t but think it’s true) that the process is different for
each book, can you give some more details on how this is the case?
It isn’t different. Just faster or slower. Some books are easier to write, I can never figure why.
7) What’s the most difficult part of the book for you? Why do you think?
The middle. The first white heat of enthusiasm is past and there’s still a long way to go. This is very
common among the novelists I know. Before I was published I used to abandon books in the middle,
so I had a lot of partials waiting in the wings when I got into print. Very helpful. Now I just press on
until it comes right.
Anna Jacobs writes historical and modern novels. She’s had 55 novels published so far, with others contracted and in the pipeline. Her latest historical novel ‘The Trader’s Wife’ is set in Singapore and Western Australia in the 1860s. Her latest modern novel is ‘Moving On’ set in the UK and there’s also a book of short stories just out ‘Short and Sweet’. Anna is currently the 11th Most Borrowed Author of Adult Fiction in the UK and is in great demand in Australian libraries, too. See
You can read the other interviews in this series here: http://nicolermurphy.com/?page_id=84