On Monday, she discussed her habits. Today, Mary Victoria takes us through how ‘Get It Wrong Before You Get It Right’ works for her.
1) Do you have a different process for writing short stories versus novels?
Short stories tend to come out in a rush, unplanned. Novels have more of a pre-planned structure, though the plan often changes on the fly.
2) Do you plan out your stories, or do you write organically?
Both. I start with a basic outline, but I’m prepared to throw it all out while writing if a better idea presents itself. It often does… I call this the Get It Wrong Before You Get It Right method.
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. This means I’m continually unpicking what I’ve done in order to advance a bit further in order to go back and unpick more, etc. It sounds ridiculously inefficient but that’s what seems to produce the best work for me. I call this the Get It Wrong Again And Again And Again method.
4) How many times do you revise before you submit?
And Again And Again And Again… alright, until the ms is ripped from my bleeding fingers.
5) How has your process changed over the course of your career?
I find myself doing more internet research for my current project, but that might be because it’s contemporary fiction set in a specific place… I need to get the details right.
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?
Well, taking the latest project as an example, thorough historical, geographical and even geological research was necessary before I could start on certain sections of the book. Whereas the fantasy writing was about creating an internally coherent world, this book is about making sure I cull the right facts about the outside world to inform my story. It’s still a species of fantasy - all writing is, whether ‘realist’ or not - but the difference is that with contemporary fiction, a reader can say, “Um, no. People didn’t smoke that brand of cigarettes in Beirut in 1977. I remember, I was there.” It may seem obsessive and nitpicky to worry about that sort of thing, but really it’s quite fun to do the research.
7) What’s the most difficult part of the book for you? Why do you think?
Getting the first draft down is quite hard for me, because of all the doubling back, second-guessing, third- and fourth- and fifth-guessing I put into it. I’ve learned to relax and love the Wrong, however. Getting it wrong means having half a chance of getting it right, afterwards.