It’s a pleasure to welcome fellow blogger, Joanne Fox on to my blog today.
Joanne, I always enjoy your stories, which I’ve read in People’s Friend and the other magazines as well, glad you could pop over and tell us more about your writing.
- Suzy/ Do you remember the first story you ever had accepted in a woman’s magazine? Which magazine was it, and what was the story about?
Jo/ Hi Suzy and thanks for inviting me to be your guest today.
The first women’s magazine to publish me was Woman’s Weekly early in 2006. The story was called ‘The Thought That Counts’. It was about a widower who was worried about introducing his new lady-friend to his sister.
- How this story came to be accepted was, I had entered it for the Frome Festival Short Story Competition the previous year. It didn’t win anything, but was among a batch of stories forwarded by the organisers to Woman’s Weekly for consideration. I was then extremely lucky to receive a phone call from the magazine, saying they wanted to buy it.
- In 2007 I entered the competition again – and won! Frome was very good to me, and I definitely recommend putting it onto your writing calendar for next year. Even if you don’t win, you may still get yourself noticed.
- Suzy/ I know from following your blog, that you sometimes have a writing break, and lovely sewing you’ve been doing as well. What was it that got you back writing again?
- Jo/ It’s not unusual for me to take a break from writing every few months. Mostly, after two or three weeks of not writing, I feel a sort of tension building up in my head. I think that if I don’t start writing again, I might actually kill someone!
- I did have a longer break this winter – the longest in many years. It wasn’t planned, but I was really enjoying doing more hands-on creative things. I have the mixed blessing of a day job, so if I stop writing it doesn’t necessarily spell financial ruin. Quite naturally I reached a point where I wanted to be writing once more, and I came back to it refreshed.
- Writing demands a lot of concentration, and also some digging around in your own life for experiences that you can draw on. Although the ideal may be to write every day, sometimes events knock you off balance, or you just feel mentally tired. I think it’s good to take a break. Try new things. Clear your head. If the writing is in you, you will always return to it.
- Suzy/ Do you plan your story before you start, or do characters form, and then you let it develop as you write?
Jo/ My initial starting point is most often a setting or situation that I want to write about. As I let it roll round in my mind, characters appear, and they really lead the story.
If I find a story isn’t working, usually it’s because I don’t know the characters well enough. What’s driving them? Why do they feel the way they do?
- At this point I need to go back and rethink. I might do something like a storyboard, cutting out pictures from magazines that relate to my setting or characters. This helps me to clarify things in my mind.
- It might be more logical to do the storyboard first, but I do better by getting the momentum going with some writing. I love that first buzz of a new idea. It’s like rocket fuel!
- Suzy/ How long normally would it take you from the first idea, to when the story is ready to submit?
- Jo/ If it’s a very short story, say less than 1,000 words, I can often scribble a sketchy first draft in a day. Then it will be at least a week before I send it out, to allow for general improvements, tightening up and tidying.
- At the other extreme, there have been rough ideas or first drafts sitting in my drawer for years. Suddenly I will reminded of one of them. Perhaps something happens to provide the missing link, or I see a new angle, or maybe I decide to tell the story from a different point of view. Though the story might have been a decade in the making, it’s quite quick to finish it off once I pick it up again.
- Occasionally I write stories set in the 40s/50s/60s. I enjoy these, and would like to write more historical fiction, but the research required adds on a lot of time. Perhaps this is something I’ll do more of in the future.
- Suzy/ Harvey must be a great inspiration for your stories. Have you any golden retriever stories in the pipeline? The mirror one on your blog is hilarious.
- Jo/ Harvey had a starring role in one of my People’s Friend Christmas stories a couple of years ago, and the illustrator did a fabulous job. It’s always exciting to open a magazine, and see how your story appears on the page. With this one, as soon as I saw it, I said, “It’s Harvey!”
- A good thing about dogs is, they make you go out and walk in all weathers. When you’re walking you’re also observing, and chatting to other dog-walkers. I often find ideas that way, so it’s likely that Retrievers and Labradors will continue nosing into my stories.
- Suzy/ When you’re in a writing mood, how does it fit into your day? Are you an early morning writer, or late night one, or whenever?
- Jo/ Unfortunately I am neither a lark nor an owl, as I need plenty of sleep! What works best for me is doing some writing first thing. That’s about 7a.m. in my case. If it’s a work day I may only manage twenty minutes or half an hour.
- As long as I’ve done some morning writing, even if it’s been a short spell, I can always carry on with it later in the day. However, if for some reason I’ve missed doing any morning writing, it feels incredibly hard to make myself sit down and start. All sorts of mundane tasks take on urgent importance, and I easily can fritter away time.
- Now I am in writing mode again, I’m trying to be disciplined about that morning writing. It seems the key thing for me. Apart from adding a few words to my current story, it also feels good preparation for whatever else that day brings.
- Thanks, Joanne for the interview, and if you want to read more about Joanne and her stories, the blog is here.
- Stories are on Alfie dog here.
- Thank you, Suzy. It’s been fun, except for the trials of taking a decent photo of myself in the rain!
- You look stunning, and so does your garden.