This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Author Lisa Dickenson is from Devon, and lives beside the seaside with her husband. Her first novel, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, is published on 12th November.
Of course! It’s terribly glamorous. If it’s a week day, it starts when I’ve hauled my groggy body onto the early morning bus for an hour-long commute to the office. Out comes the laptop, and on switches the brain. That’s when I write the best stuff – no internet, no days-worth-of-thoughts ping-ponging around in my head, just me and my characters, chattering away. Then I have the day job, with some social media catching-up or blog writing at lunchtime, then my long commute home where I probably hone and tone what I wrote that morning, or slap out a bit more. If it’s a weekend I’ll aim to write in the morning, instead procrastinate until about 4pm, write a couple of sentences, procrastinate some more, then have a burst of creativity at about 9.30pm.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
Yes! I love the humour in Bridesmaids and New Girl – Kristen Wiig and Zooey Deschanel’s comedy sounds so unrehearsed and natural, so if I’m struggling with some dialogue I image how the two of them would say it and it always comes out smoother. Other than that I tend not to imagine that, say, Ryan Gosling is my leading man, nor do I go into too much description about their looks within my writing, because I want my readers to imagine the characters how they want; picture themselves as the leading lady, be able to fancy the love interest whatever their ‘type’ is.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Sense & Sensibility. One, because it’s based in Devon, where I live, and two, because I love slightly unlikeable characters! Characters who you are on their side, but there is something a bit disagreeable about them. Jane Austen was brilliant at this; you only have to look at Cher in Clueless, the modern reworking of Emma, to see how those character types appeal just as much today as they did then. My favourite character in Sense & Sensibility is Marianne: “Esteem him! Like him! … Use those words again, and I will leave the room this moment.” – this girl is hilarious. Would I like her as much in real life? Possibly not. But she’s definitely the most interesting character, and be they goodies or baddies the most interesting character is the one you’re really reading the story for. I also loved the BBC adaptation a few years back with Charity Wakefield as Marianne and Dominic Cooper as Mr Willoughby.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I don’t feel I’ve mastered the writing process yet; it always feels like I’m doing it the wrong way to everyone else. Twelve Dates was very structured and planned out from the start – it had to be, the very title explains why, it wouldn’t have worked if Claudia and sworn off men and gone off on a tangent half way through. But I’ve been just as happy with writing I’ve dived straight into without much more than a rough synopsis, because when I don’t need to stick to a plan it’s nice to figure out what my characters are going to get up to as the story progresses. I’ve learnt so much with writing Twelve Dates that I definitely think I’ll be merging the two with my next novel, making a more detailed plan but not stressing if it takes a different turn and the plan needs rewriting along the way. And as for drafts? Twelve Dates was handed into my Editor, Manpreet Grewal at Little, Brown, two chapters at a time. I’d say on average I did three drafts of each. But it felt jolly nice on occasion when draft one came back with barely any changes – it was like she’d given me an A!
What was your journey to being a published author?
In a way, it started when I was in primary school. I used to begin countless stories and books, rubbishy little things that usually involved the characters from Sweet Valley or The Babysitters Club. I always dreamed of being an author, but growing up, and realising it’s not widely considered a very obtainable job, I wouldn’t say I lost interest but I just accepted it probably wouldn’t actually happen. I focussed on working in publishing instead, which is what I’ve done for seven years now, always with that niggling feeling of how brilliant it would be if I could actually be a writer. About a year and a half ago I decided I’d give it a go, I added ‘write a novel’ to my bucket list (even if it would never leave my computer, I wanted to still do it), and I got stuck in. Then I saw a competition to have a short story included in the Sunlounger anthology being put together by Belinda Jones. I thought, I bloody love Belinda Jones. Let’s give this a go. Who knows what’ll happen, but it’ll be good experience and at least someone out there would have read my work. I was shortlisted – and stunned – and that’s when Little, Brown got in touch. The Twelve Dates of Christmas was born in the hottest UK summer in nine years, and here we are. And now I’m signed on with lovely Literary Agent Hannah Ferguson at The Marsh Agency, so hopefully there’ll be more to come.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
I’m not sure I’m out of the stage where I’m believing the myths myself, to be honest! I’m really only half way through the process of having my first novel published, in that it’s written, it’s pre-orderable, but I have yet to find out about sales, reviews, reactions, what’ll happen with that second novel. People keep asking me if I’m rich yet (which I’m not) so that’s perhaps the only myth I could debunk right now. But then EL James is worth £62 million isn’t she? So maybe it’s just me…
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Don’t be a big scaredy-cat about telling people you’re a writer. It is bizarrely scary to open up that you do/want to do something creative because we all have that fear of failing and people knowing we’ve failed. But you never know what doors will open if you start acknowledging this part of you. The first time anyone read anything of mine was when I entered a short story into the Sunlounger competition. I was shortlisted, and I shared that on Facebook. A lot of people then said to me “I didn’t know you were into writing!” including an ex-colleague who still works in publishing. She contacted me, asked to see some sample material, and that, erm, snowballed into my first, festive ebook being published.
What are you working on at the moment?
My next novel is in the very early stages, so much so that I haven’t quite decided the location for the main bulk of the story. It’s about a girl who enters millions of competitions in an attempt to change her life, be it in a small way with a new electric toothbrush, or with a five star holiday. She’s not very successful, but one day wins a place at a film summer school in Los Angeles or New York, something she’s completely ill-equipped for and it would mean quitting her job and uprooting her life. She, of course, takes the placement.Thanks, Lisa!