Karen Bayly

Author and Copywriter

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Writing and Me

I don’t really like talking about my writing process as I’m not sure it’s the slightest bit interesting. Yet I do understand that other people seem to want to know the hows and whys of why authors write. For me, it is straightforward - I sit down, put my fingers on the keyboard, and type.

Of course, it’s taken some time to get to the point where that works for me. I used to wait for inspiration before I started writing. As a result, I wrote in short and inconsistent bursts. I decided that the occasional short story was all I could manage and put any thoughts of writing a novel out of my head.

That changed when I did my PhD. I remember holding my somewhat hefty thesis in my hand and thinking - if I can write this, then I can write a novel.

Murray and George ignoring my thesis

I’d like to say that crafting my first novel came easily but the truth is it was still a slog - and I didn’t do it alone. I enlisted the help of various creative coaches over a couple of years, but the one who helped most was Cynthia Morris at Original Impulse.

From Cynthia, I learned the value in writing for just fifteen minutes a day. I learned to switch off my editor's brain and ignore my internal critic. In doing so, the stories bubbling and brewing inside me could come to the surface and flow onto the page.

As I practiced these new skills, I discovered that I could write at my desk, or in a café, or on my iPhone on the train. In fact, I wrote my first novel, "Fortitude", using a text editor on my iPhone on my morning commute. Every evening, I would cut and paste what I’d written into Scrivener.

Looking out of my "office" window

Given I travel around three hours a day (to the day job and back again), I still use my commute to write. I still use my phone as well as the train is often so crowded, pulling out a laptop is not really a comfortable option. So the bulk of my second novel has also been written on my iPhone, only nowadays I have the Scrivener mobile app, so I can sync rather than copy and paste.

From "Fortitude" on Scrivener Mobile

I’ve also learned the importance of plotting, even though I’m a pantser at heart. Nowadays, I do plot an outline before I start writing but then I pants it within that framework. Quite a few unplanned plot points and character quirks have ended up on the page in my both my soon-to-be-published novel and my current work-in-progress. I do feel a sense of gratitude and wonder when I reflect on this process and see that somehow I’d set up these twists and turns in previous chapters without truly realising what I was doing at the time.

The thing is, so much of our storytelling happens away from the keyboard or pen. It happens in our dreams and quiet moments. It happens in the deep dark recesses of our brains when we aren’t thinking about our creative work at all. Often, all we do when we write is let that story escape.


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