People often ask me about my writing method. Of course, each writer has his or her own but here is mine (please remember I’m relatively new at the game).
First, I set myself a completion deadline and stick to it. This approach probably reflects my diplomatic career in which every task – writing a brief, a policy paper or a speech – had a firm deadline which had to be met.
Second, I decide a working title for the book. It may not remain the title at the end but during the writing it provides a valuable focus – the end point. I’ve only changed a title once at the end, but on the advice of my copy editor reverted to the one I had chosen at the start. She was right.
Third, I then decide how many parts the book should have and once that is done I list the provisional chapter headings in each part. These headings (and the part headings) sometimes get changed as I go along. Nonetheless the list acts a road map.
Fourth, I don’t write every day as I have other things to do but I will certainly do so when I am free, whether it be during the day or evening. I have a notebook with me all the time so that on train journeys, bus rides or when I’m just having a coffee in London I can write down quickly any thoughts about the storyline that suddenly occur to me – as a consequence of what I might observe, overhear or read. I am fascinated by human nature and it’s all around us when we are out and about.
Fifth, towards the end of writing a book I try not to become obsessed with tying up too many loose ends. Some I do but others I leave, knowing that they will always be there if I want to follow up with a new book later.
Last, how do I know if I’ve got to the end of the story I am telling? The answer is I know I have when I get there. I just get a feeling that it’s time to stop.
If I didn’t I might miss it.