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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Creating a Text – Milly Johnson

What phases are involved in the creation of a text?

Personally my own experience of writing a book is that it begins with a single inspiration: something I read, something I hear that my subconscious instantly recognises as a ‘potential’ story. For instance, an article I read about clutter clearing spawned the seed in my head ‘what if someone starts clearing out rubbish and can’t stop and clears out her whole life?’ That concept is now a 120,000 word novel with my publisher.

So – I have my concept. Within a very short time (and don’t ask me how this works, it just does) my brain starts to ‘knit it up’ into a story. It’s a very loose-holed garment. I know the ending (because for the foreseeable future mine will be, baddies get come-uppance, goodies get love and the dream partner) but I also set up ‘markers’ where my story will visit en route to the happy ending.

I do know authors who plan out 20 chapters of 5000 words and sketch in roughly what will happen in each chapter and then fill it out to the required wordage. I follow the Stephen King method of getting the scaffolding of my plot down as quickly as possible. I set off writing towards the first ‘marker’ and see where it takes me. It’s as much as a surprise to me what my characters do and how they veer off what I have planned for them and if they look as if they don’t want to go to my marker, then I let them go their own way and see where they take me. (I’m aware this sounds mad…) I favour the shorter chapters and mine seem naturally to fall into the 2500-3500 mark, give or take the longer dramatic ones (5000)

Once the structure is in place, then my favourite bits begin. The editing and filling in parts and because my structure is so sketchy, it’s clearer for me to see where I can link bits in and lay ‘seeds’ that come to fruition later on in the book, although their relevance isn’t known at the time. And of course I can then weave a theme through – in my next book – lots of summer imagery and birds and bees.

A fair bit of my work seems to be conducted on a subconscious level – for instance I can wake up in the middle of the night with the sure and certain knowledge that a plot can’t possibly work, even though I’ve been asleep and can’t remember even questioning it. I do hope other authors have this ‘quirk’ and I’m not ready for the funny farm.

Whatever works – this is the way I’ve found does it for me.

Milly Johnson is a writer, the author of The Yorkshire Pudding Club; she blogs at: and her website is here:

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