This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Jessica Brockmole's book, Letters from Skye, is a story of war and separation told through a series of letters and is out in two days time. Today Jessica is telling us a little bit about her writing and road to publication.
It’s probably not as glamorous as it could be, and it’s occasionally done in my pyjamas. I generally spend mornings replying to emails and social media-ing. I then spend the rest of the day, until the kids return from school, doing whatever writing or research or revising I need to have done for that day. I often have a checklist for the week of what I want to have accomplished (which scenes, which chapters, which questions to be answered) and work my way through that. In the evening, after everyone goes to bed, I’m often back at it.
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When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
No, I really don’t use celebrities, friends, or family as inspiration; my characters usually arrive on the scene fully-formed and very much their own creations. For those characters who maybe need a little help getting their story across, I will sometimes mentally sift through characters in movies or TV shows who visually accomplish what I hope my character will. Sometimes seeing a demeanour or set of gestures played out on the screen will give me an insight into how to describe those on the page. But I actively try to avoid doing this with people I know.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Ever since I was a child and put every last stuffed animal at the foot of my bed so that I wouldn’t have to leave anyone out if I had to flee a house fire, I have hated playing favourites. The book I’ll often name is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Though a quiet story, the characters are anything but quiet. It’s so full of big, real, layered characters. As a history-lover, I adore the setting of Brooklyn at the beginning of the twentieth century. As a woman who was once a bookish, occasionally-awkward girl, I adore the honesty of this coming-of-age story.But that probably doesn’t fall under the Women’s Fiction category. A recent Women’s Fiction read that I enjoyed was Lori Nelson Spielman’s thoughtful The Life List. I’m often drawn to “could’ve, should’ve” stories. I also love stories packed with lost love and yearning, like Alyson Richman’s The Lost Wife and Jamie Ford’s Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I rarely plan before beginning a story. I have a premise and whatever characters have wandered through my imagination in pursuit of that premise, and I dive right in. I can’t wait to learn their stories; I love discovering along with the characters. Before writing, I do enough research to give me a push (the big events surrounding my story, the generals of what people wore, said, ate, did at that time). I do the greatest portion of my research in later drafts, once I know the questions that need answering or the descriptions that need deepening.
I tend to write first drafts fairly quickly, in a breathless rush of months. I end up with a draft that, while often technically sound, has changed from beginning to end. I have to go back and decide what the crux of the novel is, where the big themes lie, what pushes my characters from point A to point B. After that first draft high, I then spend far longer rearranging, rewriting, researching, and rearranging some more. With some books, I have fewer drafts, with more obstinate ones, more.
What was your journey to being a published author?
Letters from Skye was the first book that I wrote and it was written largely in secret, late at night after everyone in the house went to bed. I had two very young children at the time and those quiet hours after midnight were moments just for me. After I finished it, I began wondering if this writing thing could be more than a late-night hobby. I began reaching out to other writers, joining groups, and learning more about the craft. I revised it. I wrote other books. I learned what I’d been doing wrong all along and what I’d been doing right. Three years, four books, and almost two hundred rejection letters later, I signed with an agent. We were fortunate to sell Letters from Skye.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That we write a book, send it off, and we’re done. People are always surprised when I tell them just how many drafts I go through, how involved my editor is, and how many other people read and offer input at various stages of the process. My editor is my partner in this whole process. She sees my vision and, through many drafts, she helps me shape my story into what I want it to be. My friends will ask what I’m working on now and then be surprised when I say, “The same thing I was working on last time you ask.” I spend more time (much more time) revising than I do writing that first draft.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Be patient. Whether your goal is telling a story that needs to be exorcised from your imagination, whether it’s to type “the end,” whether it’s to see your finished book on a shelf (virtual or otherwise), it doesn’t happen overnight. And it shouldn’t. For most of us attempting our first novel, there’s no deadline, no reason to race to finish or to publish. Take the time to enjoy the process and to learn from it. There’s no rush. The story will still be waiting to be told tomorrow.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a novel set during the First World War in France. When a French soldier and a Scottish artist unexpectedly meet in Paris after the end of the war, amid the wreckage of war they attempt to rebuild a friendship and a long-lost summer romance they once had.