More from Allison Pearson
Published: January 12, 2004
|Allison Pearson, author of I Don't Know How She Does It, talked with us about her writing process. For the original article, see How I Write in the February issue of The Writer. |
Some of her additional comments are posted below.
|Did you outline at all?|
I kept one file, which is called the "must MUST." And that was anything that would occur to me--from snatches of description to what I wanted to cover. I was writing a book about a working mother, so I wanted to talk about the guilt. There would be a section labeled "feelings about the childcare." And then there would be subheadings within that: jealously of nanny, fear that child will love babysitter more than loves me, etc.
The book is really an attempt to hold up the whole topic of working motherhood into the light. I thought there were hundreds of facets to the dilemma and I wanted to shine light onto each one. That's how I conceived the book. So I had lots of notes about things I must get in.
|What is your revision process like?|
I was trained as a copy editor at a newspaper, so I'm a very serious editor of my own material. When I handed in the book they didn't change anything. Because it's my training, I would revise a lot as I went along. I feel confident if I'm building on a bedrock of stuff that's good rather than coming back to fix it later. I'm sure some people will do that and just get it down and then clean it up. I like to get it really clean and then move on--that gives me a feeling of "at least you've got some good stuff here."
|What did the experience of writing a novel teach you?|
As a first-time novelist I didn't really grasp how much you have to earn the reader's trust. If something happens, say somebody walks out on a marriage, you have to have planted enough stuff in the preceding chapters so the reader doesn't think, "that's just not going to happen." I think one of the hardest things was writing it and then going back--it's like a detective mystery--you have to make sure there are enough clues so that [you retain credibility]. And I did that for many relationships--from Kate's husband to the cab driver.
All that stuff-- that's part of keeping the reader with you. You've gone and done the real spade work, just making sure that each relationship has a history. No matter how small the relationship is...asking yourself all the time, "have I earned that paragraph?"
|What advice would you give to other mothers who want to write?|
Well, Kate Reddy says in the book that "time off for myself feels like stealing." I would say that time for yourself to write is an investment--it gives you an outlet for yourself that being a mother or being the maker of the home doesn't give you, so I would say try to make the time if you can. Pay a babysitter, persuade your friends to help you out. Being a mum is hard work, exhausting, and I think it's wonderful to have a relief like that.
--Posted Jan. 12, 2004