The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Elizabeth Ducie
I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow Swanwicker, Elizabeth Ducie, to my blog today. Elizabeth has written many best-selling novels and several very useful non-fiction books sharing her expertise about the business of writing. I am so happy she has taken time out to join me to talk about her writing habits.
When I Write?
I write every day, of course. That’s what being a writer means, isn’t it?
Okay, so that might be a bit of a fib, but I certainly try to write every day, even if it’s just a few words,; and if I’m not working on anything major, or don’t feel particularly inspired, I’ll use writing triggers from my Writer’s Toolbox (a Christmas present from my husband) to get myself going. I work on the basis of an average of 500 words per day, apart from November when I take part in NaNoWriMo (the annual writers’ challenge to write 50K words in 30 days) when the average goes up to 1667.
I am very much a lark, rather than an owl, and often start work around 6am or earlier. Mornings are definitely my best time to write. When I am taking part in NaNoWriMo, I pride myself on getting my daily quota finished before breakfast each day.
A while ago, I decided that telling myself ‘I can’t write in the afternoon’ was just an excuse, and sometimes I do end up writing later in the day; but I’m less productive and much slower when I do.
Where I Write?
It really depends on the time of year, the weather, and what else is going on in my life at the same time. If I have a full day free, and if it’s not pouring down or freezing cold, then I will head over to my writing room, located on the other side of the garden, just a few steps from my front door. It’s light and airy, with glass on two sides, so it’s almost like being in the open air, especially during the warmer months when I can work with the doors wide open.
If it’s cold or wet, then I tend to take over the dining table instead and gradually spread all my note books and papers around the place, until there’s barely room for us to eat our meals. On the other hand, if it’s really warm, I will decamp to the patio and work under a huge umbrella. I only realised how easy that can be after a holiday in Greece last year, when I spent every morning pool-side, working on my latest book while enjoying the sunshine and an occasional dip to cool off.
When I first started writing creatively, I still had a day job and spent a lot of time in airports and hotels. So, I am equally happy writing on the move, although that will tend to be by hand in a notebook, rather than straight to screen. I always carry headphones with me which make it easy to shut out noisy backgrounds – like those found on a train or even in public libraries – so basically, I can write wherever I need to.
How I Write?
I tend to write direct to screen most of the time. That doesn’t mean it arrives on the page fully formed – far from it. I am quite happy with the concept that the first draft may well be garbage, since it’s much easier to edit garbage than a blank page. But I can type faster than I can write, so it’s the most productive way to capture the words. And as a scientist who measures everything, it also makes it easier for me to keep a check on my word count and update my spreadsheet.
When I’m travelling, I often make copious notes which often end up as blog posts. Those are always done by hand in a notebook.
Why I Write?
I know some people say they write for themselves and would not worry if no-one else ever saw their words. But with me, I think it’s an ego thing. I believe I’ve got stories to tell (fiction) and knowledge to share (non-fiction) and I want to get my words and ideas out there for people to read.
I’ve always loved crafting words into neat, expressive sentences. Even during the thirty years when I worked as a technical writer and manufacturing consultant, I took pride in the quality of the audit reports and training programmes I wrote. With all the travelling, I collected a lot of anecdotes and experiences that I knew I was going to write up ‘one of these days’.
Then in 2005, I was quite seriously ill for a while, and realised that today was ‘one of these days’. I started learning how to write creatively and, although I thought I was going to specialise in life writing, I found I was more comfortable putting real incidents into fictional situations. So, I concentrated on short stories to start with, then moved to the novels. And somewhere along the line, I slipped back to non-fiction as well – although these days it’s mainly business books rather than pharmaceutical manufacturing textbooks.
What I Write?
I’ve already said that I write both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve just published my fourth novel, Corruption!, which is the final part of a trilogy of thrillers set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals (where else?). I’ve lived with Suzanne Jones, Charlie Jones and Francine Matheson for the past four or five years and really need a break from them (although the feedback I’ve had suggests many of my readers are not happy to see the series end, so I may have to revisit them at some point).
My next novel is going to be quite different from the previous ones: a time-slip story set in Russia, featuring the Romanovs; quite possibly with a fantasy element to it. I’ve worked in Russia for many years but am having to do a lot of research on the historical aspects. So, my fiction at the moment is restricted to an occasional short story. I plan to start writing the novel on 1st November.
In the meantime, I’m working on part 4 of The Business of Writing. This one’s called Independent Publishing and it’s aimed at answering the business questions a writer needs to ask before going down the indie route. It is due for publication in the summer.
I was born and brought up in Birmingham. As a teenager, I won a holiday to France, Spain and Portugal for writing essays and poetry in a newspaper competition. Despite this promising start in the literary world, I took scientific qualifications and spent more than thirty years as a manufacturing consultant, technical writer and small business owner, publishing a number of pharmaceutical text books and editing a technical journal along the way. I returned to creative writing in 2006 and since then, I have written short stories and poetry for competitions — and have had a few wins, several honourable mentions and some short-listing. I am also published in several anthologies.
Under the Chudleigh Phoenix Publications imprint, I have published one solo collection of short stories and co-authored another two. I also write and lecture on business skills for writers running their own small business. My debut novel, Gorgito’s Ice Rink, was published in 2014 and was Runner-Up in the 2015 Self Published Book of the Year Awards. In 2016, I published Counterfeit!, the first in a series of thrillers set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals. The second in the series, Deception!, was published in 2017. The final part of the series, Corruption! will be published in September 2018.
Having left Birmingham to study in London, I lived for more than twenty years in Wilmington, Kent. In 2007, I moved to the South West of England, where I live with my husband, Michael, in a converted granary sited picturesquely on the banks of, and occasionally within the path of, a small stream. In 2012, I closed down my technical consultancy in order to concentrate full-time on my writing. In 2013 I graduated from Exeter University with an MA in Creative Writing
I am the editor of the Chudleigh Phoenix Community Magazine, a monthly online newsletter and for five years ran the Chudleigh Phoenix Annual Short Story Competition. I am a member of the Chudleigh Writers’ Circle and one of the organisers of the annual Chudleigh Literary Festival. I am also a member of Exeter Writers, West of England Authors and ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors). I spend far too much time on Facebook and Twitter, but have met some wonderful members of the writing community as a result.
When I am not writing, I am a keen reader and singer (I am a member of several local choirs). I also enjoy live theatre of any kind, share with my husband a love of fine dining, and am a real sucker for the kind of country house hotel where you can kick off your shoes and curl up with a book in front of a log fire.
I would like you to believe I am also a keen walker, enjoying the beauties of Dartmoor and the South Devon coastline—but, as a writer, I’m good at making things up.