Gillian Philip

…taking dictation from people who don't exist.

One of those Blog Tours

Posted by Gillian Philip on 21 April 2014. No Comments so far.
These are always fun (except when I realise just how organised other writers are). The reason blog-tag-tours are kinda interesting is because you find yourself having to examine something you take for granted in your day-to-day writing life. In this case, we’re invited to answer four awkward questions about how we write – and then tag a writer friend to do the same. So, I was invited to join in by the lovely Kathryn Evans (see her own blog contribution here) and you’ll find my next tagged blog at the bottom of the page.

And here’s mine…

For pantsers, there’s always a risk of getting caught with your pants down.

What are you working on?

Tricky one, this. You know how a work-in-progress can be a special little snowflake and you don’t want to expose it to the sunlight? Well, mine might be a slightly yellowed, asymmetrical, malformed little snowflake at the moment, but it’s still vulnerable, the poor thing. So all I want to say is that it’s a fantasy, it’s set in the modern (or near-future) world, and it’s for middle grade rather than YA. I got quite addicted to middle grade books after writing some for the lovely company Working Partners. 8-12s are a great readership, so enthusiastic and passionate about the books they love, and I wanted to write more books for them that were created entirely in my own head.

These muscles were developed on 4,000 words a day.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

Stepping aside from Little Snowflake, of which we will Speak No More, I’m going to answer this one with reference to my previous books: YA contemporary stories Crossing The Line, Bad Faith and The Opposite of Amber, and the Rebel Angels fantasy series.

I don’t think I can say elements of my work differ from all others in the genre; that would sound, I don’t know… a bit cocky. I know other writers get terribly fond of their villains, and I certainly do – who doesn’t love a bad guy? My bad guys tend to end up taking over the story and becoming the antihero, so my protagonists aren’t always entirely sympathetic. I hope they make up for that in other ways – their vulnerability, maybe, or their ultimate redemption. I’m not so interested in following the Good Guy through the story (though he or she may be a big part of it).

I love to find a good rhythm in my writing, especially in dialogue or description – if I feel like I could sing it, I’m happy. And I hate exposition, to the point where I am often guilty of under-doing it. My editors often have to tell me to explain things more. But I still try to keep it to a minimum.

Why do you write what you do?

Because a character, or maybe two, will grab me by the ear and refuse to go away until I’ve told their story.

Also because I’ll gaze upon the work of other writers with open-mouthed admiration, and hope one day to do something as good. My current heroes are Vince Gilligan and Joss Whedon, though that’s basically an excuse for posting nice pictures to accompany this text.

How does your writing process work?

I used to be way too keen to fly by the seat of my pants: to start with a single situation, then make it up as I went along. I still like doing that – it’s exciting! It’s fun! It means you don’t have to stress about the next 80,000 words! I still recommend it to anyone who thinks they’re ‘stuck for a plot’.

But working in a team situation (for Working Partners) has really made me appreciate the value of a good outline. I still can’t write my own detailed synopsis or chapter-by-chapter without killing the story as dead as dust, but I now try, before I start, to have a few pages of ideas in rough chronological order. Once I start, I’ll try to outline each chapter before I go ahead with it. It does give a sense of purpose, a sort of confidence that things will happen to the characters before the end of my writing day.

It doesn’t suck out the fun, because inevitably things still change. I still get to know the characters as I write them, and they do unexpected things, and I’ll have sudden revelations about how the story should go. Besides, that happens with the most thorough and carefully planned storylines. Stories, when they’re done right, come to life. It’s the best part of writing – and reading.


And now! My tag – which goes to Kirkland Ciccone, YA author of Conjuring the Infinite. 

Kirkland Ciccone spent his teenage years performing fabulous one-man shows inside theatres, libraries, cafes – and his living room.  He writes quirky and murky YA for cool teens and their cool parents.  His debut novel is titled Conjuring The Infinite, which was released last year to rave reviews.  It has also been shortlisted in the Catalyst Book Award.  His second book is titled The Endless Empress, and is tentatively scheduled for release in October 2014 through Strident Publishing.

Kirkland also has magnificent taste in Doctor Who companions, his favourite being Donna Noble.

Have fun! And don’t write in the bath.

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