This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Ruth Dugdall's latest book, Humber Boy B, is about two young boys who are found guilty of murdering another child. They are granted anonymity when they are released years later and Cate, whose job it is to manage Humber Boy B's rehabilitation into society, finds her loyalty is challenged when she begins to discover the truth of the crime. Today, Ruth is telling us more about her writing routine and her writing tips.
My teenage daughter usually wakes me in a panic about being late, and I’m very quick at pulling on some clothes and driving her and my son to school. When I get back to the flat I have breakfast, and will look over my e-mails. Then I make a second cup of coffee and start to work. Depending on what stage I’m at that can mean writing 1000 words (if I’m working on a first draft) or editing. I’ll work solidly until lunchtime and often through it, as my writing day ends when the kids get home at 4pm.
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Because they are then around, and it’s a small flat, I’ll do things that require less focus, like reading research articles, or googling things I need to check out, or responding to publicity requests like this one. (As I type, the kids are chattering beside me and it’s 4.30!)
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Yes, I sometimes come across a person who helps me to finesse a character. I recently met a social worker who was very intense and driven, and as a result I modified a character in Nowhere Girl. I also use real people; Cate Austin’s probation manager is closely and affectionately drawn from an ex-colleague.What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I’m not sure what `women’s fiction` means. Since women read more than men, and are as likely to read male writers as female ones, I would think that any book falls into that category. My favourite book of all time is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and I think that books like Divergent and Hunger Games owe a lot to Atwood who, as ever, was ahead of the curve.
I used to say I dived in, but given that I’ve been thinking about Humber Boy B for fifteen years that doesn’t sound right anymore! I also used to do endless drafts, but now it’s fewer. I plan more than I used to, and that’s also been a natural evolution.
What was your journey to being a published author?
It was long and involved many rejections. What kept me going was the occasional competition win and being chosen for writing mentorship programmes (like Apprenticeships in Fiction and the Escalator Scheme). Maintaining motivation is important, and I often suggest to other writers that they seek out positive gains if they possibly can.
My big break came when I won the Luke Bitmead Bursary in 2009, and the prize was a publishing contract with Legend Press. For me, a small independent publisher was a wonderful option, and they have given me a lot of artistic freedom and support. I feel very lucky to have found them.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Really good question. I have three:
That we are rich. Given that most writers have other jobs it’s not as lucrative as people suppose.
That the idea is what counts. People sometimes come up to me at parties, to tell me their ideas, which is lovely. But actually ideas are the easy bit, it’s welding them into a full-length novel that takes a bit more head-scratching!
That we are cat-loving alcoholics. I have no pets, and always wait until at least six o`clock to open the wine!
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Just write. Don’t set a big goal at first, make it achievable, but try to write every day. Also, I’m a great believer in writing groups. They are a source of support and the meetings will require you to write something, to take along and read, so they are a good discipline. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m editing Nowhere Girl, a novel set in Luxembourg about a teenage girl who goes missing from the annual summer fair. Because I’m unfamiliar with the Luxembourg criminal justice system I’ve got involved in prison work, and I’ve also made some police contacts. I’m hoping to show another side to Luxembourg, from the one usually portrayed as a banking city where very little happens.
What are your top five writing tips?
- Set realistic writing targets and stick to them.
- Join a writing group.
- Read your favourite novel and ask yourself why you like it so much.
- Visualise your novel as a film. Play it out in your mind and see where the gaps are.
- Enter writing competitions. They boost morale and sometimes give feedback.