Thank you all very much indeed for the lovely response to my Womag blog post earlier this month. As Patsy mentioned at the end of that blog post I’ve returned to answer questions raised, It’s a daunting task, especially when I recognise many of the names of those asking questions and they’re writers I admire, Gulp. Here we go!
Elaine Everest asks: I've really enjoyed reading your books, Glenda. Can you tell us if you envisaged a time when you move your stories to another town?
Hi Elaine and thank you very much for your kind words. I’ve been given two three-book deals with Headline to write novels set in the village of Ryhope where I was born and bred. It’s a dream come true to set the novels in Ryhope and I have no wish to leave that setting just yet. It’s rich in characters, in history and gives my saga novels a very strong sense of place. It’s a village of two haves with the gritty coalmine and the pastoral farming community plus there’s the beach, a railway and lots of opportunity for drama. So for now, I’m more than happy to keep on writing about Ryhope. One review said that Ryhope came through as one of the characters in the book, which was a huge compliment.
Patsy asks: How far ahead do you plan the soap, Glenda – and do you stick rigidly to that plan, or can you be flexible if an interesting idea presents itself?
Hi Patsy! For my weekly soap opera Riverside that I write for The People’s Friend magazine, I keep a list of important events I’ve introduced that will need repeating, e.g. birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Added to that list are national days such as Mother’s day, Valentine’s, bank holidays etc. These provide a good framework to help planning but apart from that I … dare I admit it?.... don’t plan at all. I sit down each week, eager to write Riverside, it’s my writing highlight of the week. But as for what is going to happen, I have no idea until I sit down and start typing! I’ve just written an episode which will be published in May this year and at the end of it, one of the main characters says something like “Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan!” and I have no idea what that plan will be to solve the problem I’ve created until I start typing on Wednesday this week. Sometimes if I have a brainwave about a storyline for a particular character I’ll add it to my ideas list for the soap, where it might stay for a few weeks or even months before I use it.
Kate Blackadder asks: Where your Ryhope novels are concerned, Glenda, are you a plotter or a pantser?
Hi Kate! As mentioned above, when I write Riverside I’m definitely a pantser but when I write my novels I’m firmly a plotter. I plot the overall arch of the story and then break it down into 16 chapters. I give each chapter at least one (and usually two or even three) dramatic, emotional events, whether good or bad, and a couple of gentle laughs too. I plot each chapter with a few paragraphs, so I know where I’m going when I sit down to write. But the plot isn’t written in stone, it’s more like a framework on which I weave my story. It needs to be flexible because I’ve learned that once I start writing, characters appear I haven’t planned, stories will go off on tangents I never saw coming and I embrace these changes as I go. As the story moves and finds its own way, subsequent chapter plans need to be changed, it’s always evolving. But I find a do need a plan of some kind so that when I sit down to write, I’m not faced with a blank page. I know what I’m doing and that fuels me on.
Eirin Thompson asks: What an interesting and inspiring post. It sounds like your writing output is immense! This must require quite a bit of juggling. How do you manage to get so much done? And, working from home, how do you protect your writing time from domestic demands?
It's not easy, that’s for sure. But writing is my full-time job now and I treat my days as if I was in any other job. Fortunately, it’s not a dull 9-5. My day can start as early as 7am and finish at 1pm, for instance. I break my day down into writing chunks. A couple of hours of solid writing is enough for me each day, otherwise it feels like I’m just filling space for the sake of it. I’m fortunate to live right by the sea and can take a walk on the beach to clear my mind after writing. I allow myself Mondays off to go shopping and visit my mum who is in a care home with dementia. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings are for novel writing. Wednesday afternoons are for writing my weekly soap opera Riverside. Fridays are also a break too, when my husband and I go off walking or sightseeing or go out for lunch - our Friday adventure we call it! Saturdays and Sunday will see me tinkering away at short stories for women’s magazines or competitions if the mood takes me, and if it doesn’t, I’ll use it as thinking time for my novels. And as for domestic demands, I’m very lucky indeed that my husband does a lot of the housework while I’m writing my novels. I lose myself to the page and he’ll knock on the door of the study (aka our spare room) where I’m locked away, typing and shout: “Want a cuppa?!?” I’m very lucky indeed.
Carrie asks: A very interesting post to read, Glenda, and congratulations on all your wonderful success. Do you find writing novels very different to writing short stories? And how do you start...an idea in mind that takes a journey of its own?
Thank you, Carrie! I find that writing novels aren’t so different to writing short stories – and here’s why. When you think of writing a novel, you think of writing say, 100,000 words (which is what the publishers ask for). That’s a terrifying number. What I do to make it manageable is break it down into 2,000 word chunks. Each 2,000 words is the length of a short story I’d write for a woman’s magazine and psychologically, for me, that makes it much more manageable. Once I’ve got my 2,000 words to write I treat it exactly the same as a short story. It needs a strong intro, good characters, dialogue, and a satisfying conclusion… of sorts… before it goes into the next 2,000 word chunk and the next. Saying all of that however, there is a different kind of joy to writing a short story that’s say 700 words and it just flies off your keyboard after an idea just won’t leave you alone. As for ideas and inspiration, they can come from everywhere and anything. When I have an idea for a short story I write it down on a list. Some ideas work out as stories but some don’t. And if I get very stuck and want an idea for a story, this is a very useful website I sometimes use. (Note from Patsy – you may also like this book which is full of story ideas and writing prompts.)
Sharon Boothroyd asks: Great post. How do you find the stream of plot lines and ideas for Riverside on the TPF? I'd be totally stuck, I wouldn't like the pressure of committing to producing an ongoing weekly serial! I admire your output, Glenda.
Thank you Sharon and hello! For my weekly soap opera Riverside in The People’s Friend, it’s all about knowing who the magazine readers are, what kind of things they’re interested in. I’ve been writing for the magazine since 2015 and attended one of their fiction writing workshops (highly recommended, by the way) so I think I’ve got a good feel for what the magazine are after in terms of fiction. However, although Riverside is a soap opera, it’s not Coronation Street or EastEnders or any of the TV soaps we know. It is unique, written solely for the readers of The People’s Friend. At its heart are Mary and Ruby, two women who’ve been friends since they were girls. I love writing Riverside. It makes me chuckle when I write it and feedback from readers is always warming to hear. When you love writing something so much, whether it’s short stories or a novel, when your heart is in it and your head is engaged, there’s no pressure at all. Writing really is the perfect job for me and I couldn’t be happier.