Today I’m welcoming Peter Jones to my blog to share his writing secrets and a few truths about how he ticks. We met almost nine years ago, two nervous newbies turning up at Billericay Writer’s Group and we’ve been friends ever since…and not just friends but writing buddies, supporting each other on a perilous, slippery journey along the ever changing path of publishing.
Peter’s first novel, The Good Guy’s Guide to Getting the Girl, followed his immensely successful non-fiction title How to do Everything and be Happy, and rocked the charts alongside Nick Hornby and Helen Fielding. His latest novel, The Truth about this Charming Man, is a rib tickling, page turning cracker, available now as a super summer read.
1 How do you write? Is everything plotted, planned to perfection? Do you ever change tack as you go along or always stick to a pre-made plan?
I usually start with a plan – some kind of simple bullet-pointed outline – and then write around it. As the book emerges I might tweak the outline (as new ideas occur to me, or – more likely – the original ones don’t quite work), but I’ll definitely update my various spreadsheets that track when each scene of the story takes place, and my daily word-count. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
2 Do you have a writing ritual? Meditation, certain cup for your tea, writing trousers?
Yes: Get up. Eat breakfast. Sit my bum in the chair (around 6am on a good day) and get writing.
No facebook. No emails. No shower, or bushing my teeth. I have to get my writing brain going FIRST.
Never mind whether I ‘feel like it’ – or whether I’m particularly inspired. I sit myself down… and write. Anything.
At some point I’ll get washed and dressed – during which I’m still writing, albeit in my head. Then it’s back to my computer. And I can normally keep going (with frequent breaks to make more tea) until eleven, maybe twelve. At that point my brain turns to jam. Only then do I look at facebook. If some of my facebook posts seem particularly ‘jammy’, now you know why.
If I get stuck, or wake up with a total lack of motivation or energy, then I’ll give myself permission to write dialogue. Just dialogue. No punctuation, no description, no speech tags – just a line from one character, followed by a line from another character. Basically I just have a conversation with myself on the page. And sometimes I can spend the entire morning writing nothing but dialogue. BUT… the following day I go back over what I’ve written and fill in everything else – speech tags, description etc. It’s a little like laying bricks on one day and adding the concrete the day after… but despite being counterintuitive it seems to work. Sure, often the dialogue changes; sometimes I end up deleting whole chucks because a ‘look’ says it all – but that’s ok; in those two days I usually write more than I would have done had I tried to write ‘properly’.
3 Aside from writing, what makes you tick? Tell us 5 things about yourself we probably don’t know.
- I once appeared on the front of the TV Times magazine
- For a while I worked for Barclaycard and went by the name of Mavis
- I fainted in the school sex-education video. Twice.
- My favourite beverage is Champagne.
- I recently played the part of a monk, a space-cow, and a voltine (a kind of space-wolf) in an audio episode of Doctor Who (with Colin Baker, and other people).
4 If you were stranded on a desert island with shelter, food and water, what 5 items would you want with you?
- Some kind of solar powered generator.
- My iPod.
- My iPod speakers.
- My electric toothbrush.
- A lifetime supply of toothpaste.
5 On said island, what 5 books would you take and why?
- The biggest copy of the Bible I can lay my hands on – preferably a Kings James version with very thin pages. It would make excellent kindling.
- Some sort of deserted island survival guide, possibly by Bear Grylls or someone similar
- 101 Delicious Deserted Island Recipes – or similar cook book
- A Nigella Lawson cook book. One with lots of pictures. Of Nigella.
- Erm… is it possible to have a second Nigella book?
6 Off the island now, which famous person would you like to have dinner with?
Gosh. Well I’d like to say the Dalai Lama, or someone like that – but truth is I’d really like to meet singer songwriter Nerina Pallot. I love her music. Really great lyrics.
7 Your current writing projects?
I’m currently in the middle of my third vaguely romantic, comedic novel which I hope to be out in January 2017. Also, I’ve been promising an update to my guide to online dating How To Start Dating and Stop Waiting for quite a while now – and it’s almost ready. Almost.
8 Other published work and links….feel free to add as many as you like.
My latest novel, The Truth About This Charming Man, came out just a few weeks back and is part of Amazon UK’s June Summer Promo (which means you can get it for a mere 99p). It’s the story of William Lewis – wanna be actor – and… well… rather than me tell you, switch on the sound and watch the thirty-second movie promo by clicking the big play button in the image below (or here if you can’t see any image)
Thanks Peter, more tea and flapjack?