Steven is giving away (3) Signed Paperback copies of “THE MEREST LOSS.” For your chance to win, be sure to leave him a comment below.
Getting to know Steven Neil, the author of THE MEREST LOSS.
THE MEREST LOSS, a story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.
The Writing Process
1. How did you set about writing your novel?
I planned thirty-six chapters of not more than 2500 words for my novel, even before I had a subject. This arose from a conversation with one of my Creative Writing tutors.
Me: I can only write short stories. I could never write a novel.
Her: But you can write a 2500 word short story?
Her: Well, can you write ten 2500 word short stories?
Me: Yes, I suppose so.
Her: Well, if you write thirty-six short stories on a linked theme, you have written a novel.
2. Where did your ideas come from?
Originally, I was planning to write a Dick Francis style thriller and I was researching a jockey called Jem Mason, who won the first Grand National at Liverpool in 1839. I found a line in his description which said something like ‘also famous for his relationship with Harriet Howard, who ran away to live with him in London when she was fifteen and who also became Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer’. I decided she was an even more interesting character and I set about writing a fictional account of her life.
3. Are you a planner?
As my answer to question one indicates, I am absolutely a planner. Once I have my outline however, I don’t write in a linear fashion. I move across the timelines and try to complete each chapter as a mini story.
4. How do you write, e.g. manuscript/PC?
I write straight on to PC and I edit on the PC. I have also used Dragon software to dictate on to PC. It works to about 85% accuracy once it learns your voice and I find it helps to unfreeze my thinking if I am struggling to type words on to the page.
5. When do you write: are you a lark or an owl?
I write at odd times. I often write late at night, but I also write early in the morning when ideas that have been running through my mind overnight are still fresh. I like to write to word count. I think 200-300 words at a time, edited and polished, is good going.
6. Do you have any writing rituals or habits?
I am not sure they are rituals or habits, but I do commit to reaching my word count every time I sit down to write. Even if the writing isn’t very good, I can always improve it later. ‘You can’t edit a blank page’ is good advice.
7. How do you edit?
I edit as I go along. I might generate 300 words of ‘new’ writing and then move to a section of ‘old’ i.e. unedited writing and spend time editing. I am always going back to the beginning and reading through, to make sure the continuity is right.
8. Have you experienced writer’s block and if so, how did you overcome it?
Not really. I just keep writing. Eventually it comes out.
9. What do you enjoy about the writing process?
I think I enjoyed the research process the most. I am not a natural writer. Nothing came easy. However, I think the planning and organisation skills I learned in my business career, allied to the writing craft skills I learned in my degree and my masters degree gave me the tools of the trade. I think Harriet Howard’s story deserved to be told as it is a fascinating tale. I hope I have done it justice.
10. Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
I have met some tremendously naturally gifted writers but that alone will not make you a published author. I genuinely believe that, however gifted, you need to learn the craft of writing. Invest in a creative writing course and learn about structure, plot, point of view, character, setting and dialogue before you start writing. When you have finished the first draft of your novel, understand that you have only just begun the process of writing a publishable novel. Even if all your friends and family tell you your novel is brilliant, invest in an independent development and copy editor before you even think about publication.
© Steven Neil
THE MEREST LOSS is available in paperback and eBook in the US, UK, France, Canada and Australia.
Follow Steven Neil on TWITTER for information on how to purchase the paperback through an independent bookseller in the UK.
Steven has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. He has been a bookmaker’s clerk, bloodstock agent, racehorse breeder and management consultant amongst other professions in his varied career. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire, England. The Merest Loss is his debut novel.