How Writers Write is monthly series of guest posts where established writers invite you into their workspaces, reveal their work habits and share their experience.
This month, Jacey Bedford answers the question…
What do you use to write?
Well, apart from the inevitable notebooks that I carry round and have by my bedside, I’ve always used a PC and I have a high spec laptop which I use mostly as a desktop machine even though it’s theoretically portable. When I got my first book deal my writer-friend Karen Traviss, whose output is prolific, advised me to get three things: a large monitor, a good quality keyboard and Scrivener. She was correct on all three counts. With my first advance I treated myself to a Cherry gamers’ keyboard which has a responsive, mechanical click, a Samsung 23 inch monitor and, yes, I went out and bought Scrivener for PC. Scrivener does take a bit of getting used to. Unlike a basic word processor, you can’t just click and go. It probably has more features than the average fiction writer needs, but you can just learn the basics. There’s a word processor element, which is pretty much the same as Word or whatever you’re used to, but it also has a left hand column which shows your chapters, scenes, notes and research. You can save all your bits and bobs there. Before Scrivener I had files full of research notes and characters, but Scrivener lets me keep everything in one place.
When do you write?
I’m a night owl, often writing until three in the morning. When I’m on a roll I’ve been known to pull all-nighters and crawl into bed at 9 a.m. (or not at all). During the daytime hours, my time is rarely my own. I’m a music booking agent, working from home. The phone rings. Someone wants something doing yesterday and I have to scramble. A lot of things happen outside of normal office hours in the music industry, so my timings can be erratic (at best) or even chaotic. But, usually, after about 8 or 9 p.m. everything goes quiet and that’s often when I get my most productive writing done. Needless to say I’m not usually up very early in the mornings unless I have to be.
Where do you write?
I think it’s really important to have a space which you don’t have to share with other people, or clear for other domestic usage. I have an actual office in the front of the house, the oldest part that dates from around 1800. It’s a house with many additions. In 1880 part of it became a shop (now closed). My office is the old draper’s department and still has plain, darkened, pine-lined walls and marks where the shelves used to sit. I claimed it as work space more than twenty years ago. It’s very basic, but you can hardly see any of it for shelves, books, files, stacking boxes, and filing cabinets. Any spare wall space is covered in posters, maps and photographs. It’s not posh, but it is comfortable. It’s messy and organic, and I love it.
I can look out of my back windows across green fields which lead up on to the bleak Pennine moorlands of Yorkshire. I don’t r￼eally need to go anywhere else to write. I’m not someone who ever seeks out coffee shops or libraries as work space, I need my peace and quiet and this old stone house works well for me. Prising me out of here is difficult.
How do you write?
In silence. I can’t write with music or radio on in the background. Perhaps it comes from my years in the music industry, but I have a deep distaste for musical wallpaper, or background sound-wash. Music is for listening to as far as I’m concerned.
I’m a burst writer. I’ve been known to write 10,000 words in a day, but I can’t keep that up for long, but if I can clear the decks of distractions I know I can manage a steady 50,000 words in a month. Of course, distractions always intrude. The day job will never leave me alone for long.
Questions of Style
I don’t have any set style. My preference is for clean, invisible prose that lets the story shine through. Every story, every character within a story, has a voice and as an author you’re always looking for ways to make that voice individual and appropriate. Much depends on how the stories beg to be written. My Psi-Tech space operas are third person, past tense, with a limited number of viewpoint characters. There are sections, as my characters are transiting through foldspace where everything is weird, so those sections are written in third person present. Present tense is a challenge, and can be very effective, but I’d hesitate to use it for a whole book. My historical fantasy, Winterwood (due in February 2016) is a first person (past tense) narrative. Telling a story from a single viewpoint requires a much tighter focus.
When the First Draft is Done…
I always like to share a first draft with a few trusted beta-readers. I’m one of the organisers of Milford, a week-long SF writer’s conference which focuses on peer-to-peer critique of works in progress. A lot of my books, the first chapters, anyway, have been subjected to MIlford critiques, often tough, but never cruel. Always fair. A couple of years ago a few of us who met at Milford formed Northwrite, a small critique group that meets face to face once a quarter. We can also call upon each other for beta-reading duties when a draft is finished.
When I have a completed first draft I send it to my editor at DAW and then cool my heels for a few weeks. She phones me with comments and suggestions and points out all my logic blips. The redraft usually takes two to three months, depending on the extent. After that there may be a third, much smaller, polishing edit. It’s never easy to let go, but when you’re working to a publisher’s deadline, you don’t really have much choice. I guarantee there are always things that hit you in the face once you have the printed book in your hands and you wish, wish, wish that you’d done something differently, but a book is always a snapshot of what you thought worked well at the time.
What Are You Working On At The Moment?
Crossways, a sequel to Empire of Dust, came out from DAW in the USA on 4th August this year. The Psi-Tech books (I suppose you can call them space opera) are set about five hundred years in the future, after the Earth has been knocked back to the Stone Age by a devastating multiple meteor strike, and is now in a Renaissance with Africa and Europe as the main powers. Almost being wiped out was the kick up the backside humanity needed. Space colonies abound and platinum, essential to space travel through the Folds, is competitively sought (and fought over). Megacorporations have grown to be more powerful that any one planetary government. My characters, Cara and Ben, are implanted with psionic technology.
In the first book, Empire of Dust, I mostly deal with Cara’s story and its repercussions. She gets on the wrong side of the megacorporations and in particular her ruthless ex-lover. The strap line is: Is anywhere in the universe safe for a telepath who knows too much? In Crossways Cara and Ben’s fight against the megacorps continues, but something is stirring in the depths of foldspace. The strapline is: A hunt for survivors turns into a battle for survival. DAW has asked for a third Psi-Tech book. In Nimbus I’ll be dealing with whatever is lurking in the Folds. I’m still thinking up a good strapline for that one. I’ve written two and a half scenes so far, but I know where the story is heading.
In a completely different vein, my first historical fantasy, Winterwood, is due out in February 2016, and DAW has already ordered a sequel to that, too, which will be called Silverwolf. Winterwood is set in 1800, in a Britain with magic, and features Ross (Rossalinde) Tremayne, a cross-dressing female privateer captain (and occasional witch), accompanied by the jealous ghost of her dead husband, and an annoyingly handsome wolf shapechanger who gets very upset if you call him a werewolf. There’s a mystical box made out of ensorcelled winterwood, and a problem to be solved before an ancient wrong can be set right. Silverwolf deals with the aftermath because, of course, when you make one change in the world, the ripples eddy outwards and the ramifications must be dealt with.
I’ve had several short stories published over the years, details of which can be found on my website at: www.jaceybedford.co.uk. You can join my mailing list from the contact page there, or you can find me on twitter: @jaceybedford, and facebook at: facebook.com/jacey.bedford.writer