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  • Lynne Shelby

Because I Love What I Do - Sandy Barker -This Writing Life #9

I'm delighted to welcome Sandy Barker to my blog with a guest post about her writing life. Sandy's debut novel, One Summer In Santorini, is published today!

Over to you, Sandy:

When I started teaching in the 90s, I was tasked with teaching English to teenagers. I soon discovered two things. One, most teenagers don’t like English class, and two, even though I’d aced my English Lit degree and my post-graduate in teaching, graduating both with honours, I had no idea how to teach teenagers to do what came so naturally to me — to write.

I had to learn quickly how to reverse engineer an essay, and to provide writing prompts and guidance for teenaged brains that would steer them clear of those dreadful introductions that began, ‘The dictionary definition of [insert word here] is…’.

When I meet up with adults who were once teenagers in my classroom, they say things like, ‘I still remember how an essay is like a burger.’ I’ll cringe inwardly at my rudimentary analogy, but outwardly beam that they still remember — and for some of them, still use — what I taught them.

Since becoming an author, I’ve been asked on occasion what my process is. How do I write?

It’s a great question, because I literally have no memory of not being able to write. I was one of those children who arrived at school, aged five-and-a-half, already reading. I could do my letters, and I was primed to be what I have (almost) always been, a writer.

When I contemplate my writing process as an author and explain what happens in my mind as a story and characters emerge, it may seem that I am ‘lucky’. I am mid-way through writing my fourth book, and once I know who I am writing about and generally what will happen to them, the story typically flows. It’s almost as if I see and hear my characters in my mind, and I just follow them around and write down what they do and say.

In literary terms, I am a planster — half-way between a plotter, with their spreadsheets and posters, and a pantser, so named because they fly by the seat of their pants. I’ll write things down — ideas for a scene, lines of dialogue that pop into my head while I’m making stew, and even snippets of future books that come in wispy, almost ethereal forms. But on the whole, I avoid too much planning. Part of the fun of starting with characters and a loose plot is seeing where they will take me.

In my work-in-progress, the main character surprised me by quitting her job in chapter three. As I wrote the line of dialogue, ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, but I quit,’ I was both shocked and proud. I didn’t know that it was exactly what that character needed to do until I saw the words on the page. It’s kind of like when you’re having a discussion and you hear yourself say, ‘I’m just deciding this as I speak.’

Sometimes, my fingers fly across the keyboard a half-a-beat ahead of my brain. That’s when I know I am ‘in the zone’. I’ve had instances where I have been so absorbed by writing that my partner has asked me a question and I’ve answered it an hour or two later, unaware that the time has passed.

If I get stuck —and sometimes, because I don’t plan every detail, I will write myself into a corner — I leave the writing for a day or two. I’ll work out or make banana bread. I’ll spring clean, reorganising cupboards and cleaning windows. I will clear out my filing cabinet or polish my silver jewellery — anything but write. Eventually it will come, the answer, and I’ll sit back down and unpick the minor mess on the page. I’ll unstick myself and keep writing.

I know that there are writers for whom each word is like squeezing blood from a stone, and I appreciate that I haven’t yet encountered that experience. But I do work hard. Writing is all-consuming and exhausting and exhilarating — all at once. There are moments of self-doubt where I wonder why I am kidding myself. There are moments when I mentally high-five myself for writing something so funny I laugh out loud when I read it back, or so poignant my breath catches in my throat.

In short, I love it. I love writing and I feel very fortunate that my books will soon be out there for others to enjoy. And while you’re reading my first book, I’ll be editing my second and finishing my fourth. Because I love what I do.

Many thanks for telling us about your writing life, Sandy.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading One Summer In Santorini - a lovely summer read. Wishing your book every success.

One Summer In Santorini

There was something in the air that night. . .

Sarah has had enough of men. It’s time to rekindle her first true love – travel – so she books a sailing trip around the Greek islands with a group of strangers.

The very last thing Sarah wants is to meet someone new, but then a gorgeous American man boards her yacht… And when she also encounters a handsome silver fox who promises her the world, she realises that trouble really does come in twos. Will Sarah dive into a holiday fling or stick to her plan to steer clear of men, continue her love affair with feta and find her own way after all?

If you would like to purchase One Summer in Santorini, please click on the links below or copy and paste into your browser.

Amazon UK:

Amazon AU:

Amazon US:


Also available on iBooks

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