This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Sue Moorcroft's novel Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and Dream a Little Dream has been nominated for a RoNA in the Contemporary Romantic Novel Award category. She's a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner.
Check out her website www.suemoorcroft.com
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I start work early, about 7.30am, but I often don’t write until after lunch because I spend the morning working with students and competition entrants. To divide my day this way seems to keep me working well in all areas. I tried writing all day one day and working with students etc the next but it didn’t work nearly so well. On writing days I was all written out too early and on student days my attention began to wander. I finish about 6pm but I sprinkle Zumba, yoga and piano classes through my week, to break things up.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
For characters? A bit. Mainly for looks, and then it tends to be a bit of a pastiche of more than one person rather than a straight visual copy. For personality, rarely, but I do use situations that come up and I certainly study the way that people react to events and utilise that in my writing. When I was a tutor for a university I went to a meeting and the creative writing tutors were on the next table to the counselling tutors. I discovered that we thought about things in exactly the same way – it’s just that they worked with real people and we made ours up. (Sorry, strayed from the topic a bit!)
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
This is a tough question but I’m going to choose Suzanne Brockmann’s Gone Too Far. It has a fabulous relationship between Sam and Alyssa, one that’s been bubbling under the surface of other books in the series, and it uses a huge bold canvas of international incidents and life-or-death conflicts. Huge respect to her for her characterisation and plotting.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I do plan, but in a messy way. In fact, it’s less a plan and more a heap of paper. I usually have a starting point and a couple of characters with their conflicts and issues. Then I begin scribbling in long hand. I like to talk to myself about each character and look at them from several different viewpoints. For example, the hero will show one side of himself to the heroine but quite a different one to his mother or his son. I like to see all those facets. I spend quite a bit of thinking about conflicts and if I can make what the hero want conflict with what the heroine wants, I do. I really like to know why they want to be together and what’s keeping them apart. (If I don’t know the latter then I will have a short book!) I like to have done some basic research so that I know my plot will, loosely speaking, work. I’m often about half way through my plot when the urge to write gets too strong to resist, so I begin, and hope that the rest will become clear as I write.
All that said, when I wrote Dream a Little Dream I saw the first chapter so clearly in my mind that I thought I’d just get it down, even though I hadn’t finished my planning. Then it was like taking a dragon for a walk – it took off with me dangling from the leash, hoping that it knew where it was going. I had worked with some of the characters in All That Mullarkey so that helped. And I knew how quests were going to conflict.
Drafts – as many as it takes. My first draft is definitely very drafty! I find this the most difficult part of the process and have the sensation of barely keeping all my plates spinning. After that I can relax and enjoy the polishing process.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I was published in magazine fiction first because I read that it would help get me a publisher for novels. I had 87 stories and a serial sold, plus a few extraneous articles, before my agent rang with the magic words, ‘I have an offer for you.’ Those 87 stories etc took me from April 1996 to July 2004. Uphill All the Way, my first book, was published in April 2005.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it’s easy and glamorous. Parts of it are. But it’s mainly hard work, especially the promotion.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Educate yourself. Do a course, read writing books, go to classes, go to talks/seminars/conferences. (You can find out where I’m teaching on courses from my website or blog.) Most of us learned to write at school but that doesn’t make us novelists any more than having drama lessons qualified us to work as actors. Also, learning to write doesn’t necessarily teach you much about publishing so look for ways to learn – mixing with other writers is the best way I know.
Look for a way of writing that suits you. Some people like to begin and see where it takes them; others have to plan each chapter. When you’re drawn to certain techniques don’t be afraid to try others – they might work or you might take one little thing from the process that made the experiment worthwhile. Even if you only learn that something doesn’t suit you at all, it’s all education.
What are you working on at the moment?
Is This Love? I’m at the happy stage of having the book out with my beta readers. I’ll take their feedback and begin the final polish next week as I need to send in the book in a few weeks. My publisher has already seen the first draft and emailed to say it was the best thing I’d written. I was so excited I could hardly frame words so just sent back an email full of emoticons – smilies, glasses of champagne, fireworks, pulsing hearts etc. So far my beta readers have liked the novel, too.
Of course, none of this will stop my editor making all kinds of points but that’s what helps make it a good book.