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7 Things I’ve Learned About the Writing Process by Donna Ashcroft

Writing.ie | Resources | Developing Your Craft
Donna Ashcroft copyright vanessa champion

Donna Ashcroft

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  1. Most writers suffer from imposter syndrome

I’m not good enough; my last book was a fluke; this is the worst thing anyone has ever penned; I should give up.” Sound familiar? Welcome to my head and the heads of many other writers. It’s been comforting to discover through chatting with other novelists and reading comments on social media that a lot of us suffer from angst – and it’s a normal part of the process. Filling your head with doubts about whether you can do something, or are good enough can be the death knell for creativity. It’s important to keep on top of ‘the evil voice’, as I like to call mine. Focusing on goals – the next 500 words, finishing the next chapter, getting to the end of the book is the best way to prove that voice wrong. But also understanding these feelings are normal – and most writers suffer from them – can make it much easier to push through.

  1. The midpoint is probably going to be painful

I’m currently writing my tenth book and I still forget this. I’m about 45,000 words into my first draft and suddenly I’m suffering from imposter syndrome (see point one). I don’t know where I’m going next, I’ve got too many characters, too many storylines and I don’t know where any of them are supposed to go – (I’m a classic pantser unfortunately so planning isn’t helpful for me). I find it’s important to take a deep breath at this point and to remind myself that this is not the time to press delete or start again. In fact this is the time I make a list of each separate storyline and have a quick brainstorm before taking a few quiet hours away from my desk to let my subconscious work. My mantra for midpoint anxiety is ‘trust the process’ – normally after a couple of hours (or days) the solutions begin to emerge.

  1. Getting to know your characters is a lot like dating

So I haven’t dated for a few years, but I know that you don’t get to ‘know’ a person after spending one evening with them. Getting to the core of a person takes time. When I’m developing a character I do a lot of thinking, trying to understand their past, their wound, what they need to learn throughout the book – not to mention how they take their coffee! But what I’ve realised is (and this can be frustrating), I rarely know my character properly until the first draft is written. I find them in the story and it’s only at the end that I’m able to go back and feed in the vital elements that make them, them.

  1. Stories are made of balloons (and you need to catch them all before you write)

I can rarely sit down and start to write immediately. It often takes about twenty minutes to be able to get back into my story at any given time. I used to find this frustrating but then I saw a writer on Facebook describing it as like having a head full balloons that you need to catch before you can write. Imagine every storyline, location and character is a balloon filled with helium and you need to grab a hold of all of the separate strings so they can participate in your next scene. If someone interrupts, your head lets go of all the strings and you need to capture them all again so you’re able to write. That’s why it’s really important to have a space or place to concentrate without constant interruptions – and why it can take a little while to get started each time.

  1. Writing’s easier if you have a buddy

I met my writing buddy Jules Wake, at a writing circle over twelve years ago. Jules and I meet up at least once a week for a walk to brainstorm ideas, talk through plots or characters and to discuss writing in general. While I’ve got amazingly supportive friends, if I want to spend two or three hours talking about my imaginary characters and the challenges they face, she is the person who completely understands.  Writers need other writers – especially when they are stuck, but also they will help you to feel normal.

  1. The Pomodoro technique works

I learned about the Pomodoro technique a few years ago at an RNA Writing Conference. I went to a Nina Harrington workshop and she told us how this process can help writers to be more productive. The technique involves writing for 25 minutes and taking a 5 minute break (which doesn’t involve looking at your phone, talking or reading), then writing for a further 25 minutes, taking a 5 minute break etc. The technique helps with focus and creativity and it really works (at least it does for me). There are lots of free apps available if you want to download a timer to your phone or computer.

  1. Your first draft is rarely a thing of beauty

Another thing I have to keep reminding myself about is that it is okay to produce a dirty draft. I was a copywriter in a previous life and have been known to spend hours crafting a sentence or phrase. This is a difficult habit to break, but it’s crucial if you’re going to write a novel. The first draft is rarely a thing of beauty. It’s the bones of a story, often knobby, with a lot of missing pieces – but that’s okay. You’ll flesh it out on the second, third of fourth draft. Just get that first draft written so you have a place to start.

(c) Donna Ashcroft

You can find Donna on Twitter @Donnashc or visit her at www.donna-writes.co.uk

Author photograph (c) Vanessa Champion

About Summer in the Scottish Highlands:

Escape to the gorgeous little village of Lockton in the Scottish Highlands, where you’ll discover sunshine, secrets and an unforgettable romance. It’s the perfect place to be this summer…

Thirty-year-old Paige Dougall’s life is a mess. Only a year ago she was smashing all of her life goals: handsome husband, high-flying job, cute kid. But in just under twelve months everything has gone wrong. Nursing a broken heart, single mother Paige returns to her childhood home in a picture-perfect Scottish village to try and get her life together.

Paige is too wrapped up in her worries to embrace the beautiful rolling hills and lavender-scented air of the highlands. That is until Johnny Becker, the infuriatingly cheerful chef, with his twinkling eyes and dimpled smile, steps onto the scene and provides Paige with some much-needed distraction…

Johnny challenges Paige to step outside her comfort zone and focus on the things that really matter. From food tasting, to puppy training, to mountain climbing, in every moment she spends with Johnny, Paige finds herself remembering how to live again… will she be able to love again too?

Across long sunshine-filled days, Paige and Johnny grow closer and she’s tempted to open her heart to him. But is happy-go-lucky Johnny hiding secrets of his own?

And can Paige learn to let go of her past and find happiness in the highlands?

A gorgeous, moving summer romance novel about finding joy in the small things and discovering what really matters in life. Perfect for fans of Nicola May, Sarah Morgan and Cathy Bramley.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Donna Ashcroft was born in London, England and grew up in Buckinghamshire. She went to university in Lancashire and, among other things, worked as a copywriter, buyer, waitress, secretary and marketing manager.

Donna wrote novels for over ten years before being published. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and was a joint recipient of the Katie Fforde Bursary in 2017. She has had six books published with Bookouture – her new book Summer in the Scottish Highlands is published in June 2021.

Donna loves a happy ending and is never happier than when she’s escaping into a romance novel or movie. When she’s not reading or writing she’ll probably be found hoovering … or negotiating with her teenagers about who is doing the washing up.

You can find Donna on Twitter @Donnashc or visit her at www.donna-writes.co.uk

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