Julie Lewthwaite has over twenty years’ experience as a professional writer. She is a published author of non-fiction and fiction (the latter as Julie Morrigan), and a member of the Society of Authors in the UK. She has worked as a freelance writer and editor for the past six years.
Carrie: When did you discover your love of writing?
I’ve always loved stories. Before I could write I made stories up to entertain myself and my friends and before I could read I pestered people to read to me. Writing is as natural to me as breathing; I remember as a child being shocked when I found there were people who didn’t write.
Carrie: Please tell us a bit about the books you’ve written.
The first fiction I had published was crime fiction, and I still enjoy that very much. My first published novel, Convictions, is the story of two sisters, one of whom is abducted while the other escapes. I also write horror and weird fiction. My last published novel, Darke: The Devil, The Magician and The Fool, is the twisted tale of a stage magician who has sealed a pact with the Devil.
I wrote short stories and flash fiction before I wrote full-length novels. These days I write stories of all lengths and I enjoy mixing things up. I have so far published four collections of short stories, three full-length novels and two novellas.
My most recently published book is Cutter’s Firm, the second in a series of three novellas about north-east gangster Gordon Cutter. The style is uncompromising and there is unlikely to be a happy ending. The final book in the series will be published later this year.
Carrie: How would you describe ghost writing to someone who hasn’t heard of the term?
Quite simply, it’s writing on behalf of someone else, whose name will go on the front of the finished book. You may get an acknowledgement or an ‘as told to …’ credit, but more often than not, no one will know it’s your work. (Not all writers are comfortable with that level of anonymity.) How much input you get varies from client to client. It might be as simple as ‘I want a business book aimed at new businesses,’ or be much more detailed. Either way, the project has to be carefully managed and include sufficient checks and balances that you and your client can be confident the end result will be what’s required.
Carrie: How is your work as editor and ghost writer different from writing for yourself? How do they inform your work?
Whether I’m editing or writing for someone else, or writing for myself, I’m always learning. Any one activity informs the others, and the outcome is that the more I do, the more I learn, and the more competent I become at my craft.
Editing requires an eye for detail, and not just as far as the language used is concerned. You can’t have someone smoking a cigarette on page three if they stubbed it out on page two. You can’t let them drive home from a night out if they took the bus to get there. And if they were called Mary in chapter one, they can’t be Martha in chapter ten.
Carrie: As you can speak from multiple perspectives on this I’m curious, how important is collaboration to the writing process?
With ghost writing the majority of the collaboration comes in the planning stage and allows the project to proceed with all parties confident the right book is being written. With my own writing, the majority of the collaboration comes after the first draft has been written, when it goes to my editor and I get feedback on how well the book works. That’s not to say we never discuss things while the first draft is in progress – I’ll often look for feedback on an idea or a plot point – just that when we get to the stage of having a full first draft the feedback can be more specific.
Carrie: Can you describe your creative process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop a written work from idea to product?
With non-fiction, I take a strategic approach. I devise the outline of the book and pencil in word counts per section or chapter, both to get the weighting right and to arrive at the desired finished word count. With fiction, I don’t always have a well-defined plan, although I do generally have a fair idea of what needs to happen to tell the story. It’s more of a rough sketch than a firm plan, though. Characters don’t always do what I expect them to do and it can be interesting to let them have their head and see where they take the story.
Once the first draft is completed, the manuscript goes to my editor. Books will generally go through a couple of rounds of editing – occasionally more – with my revisions in between. This is essential and improves the finished product immeasurably.
The last task as far as content is concerned is to proofread the finished book. Then, of course, covers and blurb are needed so books go out into the world in their Sunday best.
Carrie: What do you do when you are stuck for ideas?
It’s never happened. I have files full of snippets and outlines. If I never have another new story idea, I won’t run out of things to write.
Carrie: Advice to aspiring writers?
Sit down and write. Do it as often as you can. Learn about words and spelling and grammar, they are the tools of your trade. Read widely, and read the work of people you admire. Learn from them, not just from what they do that is wonderful, but also from the things that you would do differently. When you write something you are proud of, whether it’s a poem, a blog post, a short story or an epic novel, take a little time to celebrate. Then sit down and write again. While amateurs are waiting for the muse, professionals are getting on with the job.
Carrie: How do you know when a book is “finished” and ready for publication?
When it’s been through the editing and revision process enough times that both I and my editor are confident it’s as good as it can be, then it’s ready.
Carrie: Name one creative resource you can’t live without.
The news – I spend quite a bit of time on news sites and what I read there very often sparks ideas for stories.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
For me, it’s the act of making something that would not exist without you, that only you could make in quite that form, and that provokes an emotional response from people who experience it.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Do you commit to your art as much as you can? How much time do you dedicate to the idea of your work versus doing the work? Let’s talk about it below.
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