Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thoughts on The Process -- Jim Murdoch

Welcome to the Guest Post Segment: Thoughts on the Process, where authors share some insight on their writing. Our first post is by author Jim Murdoch. We reviewed his novel "Living With the Truth" a while back, and the sequel to that is currently in our queue. So without further ado: Jim Murdoch

JM: Well, of course, every book starts with an idea but once I have an idea I never have much of a clue where that idea might take me. It's a spark, nothing more. My third novel began as I was walking across the River Clyde. I came up with the sentence: "Milligan and Murphy were brothers," and that was it. By the time I had crossed Glasgow Green I had a paragraph but I had no idea who these people were or what I was going to do with them. Or how they might be brothers. I did know that this was a novel though and not a short story. I sat on that paragraph for a fortnight before I even attempted another word.

When I did begin again it was from where I had stopped and I wrote a scene where I developed the characters. Looking back I can see that all my novels have started the same way, an opening chapter where we get to know a bit about who we're dealing with. This means that the action is delayed till Chapter 2 but I don't mind that.

All the books were written from start to finish and in most cases I had no idea how they were going to end with the exception of Milligan and Murphy. Once I worked out who the pair were and decided what I was going to do with them, from that point on their fate was sealed so I wrote the final chapter and then all I had to decide was how many steps it would taken them to get there.

I write a basic story first and foremost. The first draft of my first novel was about 25,000 words. The rest, as far as I was concerned, was padding and that was the fun part, grafting in paragraphs of descriptions, expanding sentences to give colour and tweaking words so that just the right one is used. That said I edit constantly. And I always do it the same way, find a decent starting point and read until the flow stops. Then edit. Repeat until the book flows from the first till the last word. Often I'll read bits out loud. There is no better way of making sure your text works even if you never intend for it to be read aloud.

Plot is not very important to me. My books end up with them but they're all character driven works and the plot develops as the character does. Once the character has found himself then the book is over.


Jim Murdoch is a Scottish writer living just outside Glasgow. His poetry appeared regularly in small press magazines during the seventies and eighties. In the nineties he turned to prose-writing and has completed four novels and a collection of short stories. His first novel, Living with the Truth, came out in 2008 and the sequel, Stranger than Fiction, was published in August 2009. You can find out more about him on his blog, The Truth About Lies.

Visit Jim at his blog:

The Podpeep review of Living with The Truth:
If any of our regular readers would like to share their process, we would love to hear from you. You can email it to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line: Thoughts on The Process. I will give it a quick proofread and post it to the blog. Please include a short bio and a link to your website or blog if you have one. If you have already been reviewed by us, please include the title of your book, as well.

Thank you Jim for being our first.


Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

I like your "basic story" concept and then fill in from there.

I do that too, but I don't generally fill in much past 30k words, cause they are novellas after all and I have to keep things a bit tighter.

I find writing the rough draft lean works for me. I don't have to cut so much later.

Thanks for contributing Jim.

Jim Murdoch said...

You've very welcome, Cheryl. What I didn't really emphasise and probably should was how hard that first draft can be because you're flying blind. Once it's done you have a shape to develop and work with - so much easier.