For today's guest post, Siobhan shares her process of writing Tell it to the Moon and offers some fantastic writing advice.
On writing Tell it to the Moon
I started the writing process of Tell it to the Moon by taking myself out to a café with a notebook and pen and having a coffee-and-cake-fuelled brainstorm about the issues I wanted to cover in the book. Writing a novel is a long and solitary process, so it’s really important to write about subjects and characters that fire you up and will keep you entertained. Writing a sequel is easier in some respects because you already have a fully formed cast of characters, but the challenge lies in keeping the storylines fresh and interesting.
So I asked myself the questions: What do you really want to write about? What makes you angry / inspired / excited / curious? Then I began jotting down ideas. The first subject that came up for me was the school system and how I feel it’s failing young people. So I decided to explore this through the character of Sky, who, in Tell it to the Moon, is sent to high school at the age of sixteen after being home-schooled her whole life. Another issue I was keen to explore was sexuality and coming out. I was also interested in testing Maali’s spiritual faith to breaking point, and I decided to give Amber an identity crisis and continue the bullying storyline that I’d started in the first book.
Once I’d figured out the main storylines for each of the characters, I took a pack of index cards and wrote out the major scenes on them. Then I played around with the order and started filling in the gaps with more scene cards – at this point most of my living room floor was covered in the plot, which made for an interesting talking point with any visitors! Then I started writing.
Once I started writing, other ideas for the plot began popping up. In the first book I’d been keen to avoid any of the characters having a romantic relationship, as I wanted the emphasis to be on the girls’ friendships. But this time round I thought it would be interesting to have one of the characters completely unexpectedly fall in love and examine the impact this would have on her friendships within the group. I also got the idea to send one of the characters off on her own mini-adventure.
I like to be flexible with the plot as I’ve learned that often the best ideas come up once I’ve started writing. Sometimes it feels as if the characters have taken over and they’re telling you what they’d like you to write. I love it when this happens because it means I’m really in the creative flow.
I wrote all of the first draft at my computer, apart from Sky’s poems. For those, I took myself off to Brighton beach with a notepad and pen and wrote them free-hand, imagining I was her. It’s fun being a writer, pretending to be another writer! Then I typed them up into the manuscript.
As with every novel I’ve written, for about the first half, the task ahead feels incredibly daunting. Especially when I looked at my scene cards all laid out and saw how far I still had to go. But once you pass the half way mark something shifts psychologically. I also seem to pick up speed with my writing, which provides another boost. Finally getting to that very last scene card is one of the sweetest feelings in the world, beaten only by typing the magical words: THE END.
But of course, it’s only the end of the first draft. Then the editing begins…
It took a couple of redrafts to knock the book into shape – it’s hard juggling four separate storylines and my editor’s great at spotting which character isn’t quite getting her fair share of the spotlight, or which story needs a bit of fine-tuning.
Once a novel is edited, it has two final checks: the copy edit and the proof read, both of which are done by separate people, so it’s being looked at by fresh pairs of eyes. Then finally, I’m sent a proof copy – the first time I get to see the novel laid out in book form, which is always a thrill.
But nothing beats the thrill of seeing the finished product. And this was particularly true with Tell it to the Moon, as I was so delighted with the beautiful cover Walker Books created. Seeing your finished book makes all of the hard work of plotting, writing, rewriting and editing so worthwhile. And it’s a dream that every aspiring writer should hold on to.
Thanks so much Siobhan! I love gaining an insight into the writing process and picking up tips from writers that I admire.