This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Paula Daly's novel, Just What Kind of Mother Are You? has been receiving rave reviews - here's our recent 10/10 review - and today she's answered a few questions for our Novelicious readers.
1. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
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I start as soon as the kids have gone to school and the dog has been walked – usually around 9.30 – and I begin by going over yesterday’s work. Once that’s done I’m in the right place mentally and ready to write. I make a few notes on a scrap of paper outlining what I’m about to write next, something like: ‘Lisa has huge row with Joe’ and I find that it’s this part particularly, writing out in long hand what I need to get down, which prevents me from getting stuck.
Then I write 1000 words. Sounds easy. It’s not. I love doing it but I do find it hard. So much so that I have to unplug the Internet and I don’t answer the phone – unless it’s one of the children calling. When I’ve done 700 words I allow myself a break and do something fun like … fold washing, push the Hoover round, mess about on Twitter for a bit. The whole process takes around four and half hours and I’m pretty much brain dead by the end of it.
2. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I don’t use celebrities as inspiration but my characters come from an amalgamation of people I know. Bits of dialogue get thrown in and certain traits and tics to make them as real as possible.
3. What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I read the opening page and had to put the book down for a moment as Aibileen’s voice had such a profound effect on me.
It was that thrill of knowing I was in the hands of an incredibly skilled author, and the thought of another four hundred pages ahead to enjoy. I still pick it up now and read odd paragraphs, marvelling at the combination of wit, pathos, and love, evident throughout the story.
4. What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I start by having a really good think about my story – for around two months. During that time I’m looking to work out everybody’s motivation, have some idea of an ending, and picture a few lively scenes that I can hang the book upon. For me, the most important thing to be clear on before I start is my baddie’s motivation. If that’s not right, the reader will feel cheated at the end and I want my reader to walk away from the book satisfied.
I write one draft and then go back and slot in anything I’ve missed. The first draft is usually in pretty good shape – but naturally things pop up after the first read through. Usually the tidy up involves giving the story more depth. I am a rusher and write down all the action first, then I have to go back and pad it out with descriptions of scenery, weather and so forth.
5. What was your journey to being a published author?
I started writing around four years ago when a friend recommended Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing’. I’d always fancied having a go but had no real idea of where to start – Stephen King gave me the confidence to try. I wrote some short stories and then began a novel.
The novel was picked up by an agent who said, “We don’t want this, it’s not good enough. Go and write your next one.” So I did and I wrote a rather frivolous psychological thriller that bordered on caper. It was rejected by all the major publishing houses. That’s when I decided I really needed to nail my genre. So I read every book I could find labelled as psychological thriller and began writing, Just What Kind of Mother Are You? shortly afterwards.
6. What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it’s a closed shop. That you need to know someone to break into publishing. I didn’t have any contacts, I submitted in the usual way – query letter, first three chapters – and my experience is that if you write the book they want, it will be published.
7. What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Get writing and see if you like it. If it doesn’t thrill you to do it then you probably don’t have the staying power to see it through to the end. What you’re writing doesn’t have to be great, it doesn’t even have to be good (you’re bound to be full of self doubt), but it must excite you – even just a little bit.
8. What are you working on at the moment?
Another psychological thriller along the same lines called ‘The Day Before She Came’. This one asks: What if your friend steals your husband … and you know she’s a psychopath … and no one believes you … not even your own children?
It’s Hand That Rocks the Cradle meets The Fugitive. And I have the BEST baddie – she’s equal parts sexy and nasty.