Guest post – Liam Livings answers questions about writing

Welcome to Liam Livings, who I met at the UK Meet in Brighton last year and who’s one of the organisers of this year’s event in Manchester. Liam’s working on the revision of his first novel ready for submission. I love talking to writers at all stages of their career. They’ve all got something interesting to say about their work. Check out his answers to my grab bag of questions.

Can I start by thanking Becky for having me on her blog, I read it with interest, and admire how focussed it always is on writing, in contrast to my own more meandering blog taking in baking, cats, old book reviews, as well as writing. Becky and I met at the UK Meet 2012 in Brighton and I was pleased when she asked me if I’d like to appear on her blog, so here I am…

Do you plan or fly by the seat of your pants?

I am a planner, but don’t let it be my master. I use, what I like to refer to as ‘my framework’ – something to keep me from going down a blind alley, but enough to let me veer off course for a bit if that’s what the characters and story calls for when I write it. I do an overall chapter plan, a few points per chapter, so I know where I think it’s all going. Then, each chapter at a time, I flesh out what it’ll include, more often than not, changing what I’d originally written. This more detailed ‘framework’ is the basis of what becomes the actual chapter, and again that’s often different from the outline, depending on what the characters themselves wanted to do as they jump up and live on the page in front of me.

Do you write every day?

Hmmm, to write every day, or not to write every day, the great unanswered questions of the writers’ world! I write a diary every day – does that count? When I’m writing a first draft, I give myself a weekly 5000 word target, which gives me flexibility for days when I physically can’t fit in any time to write, and other days when I can knock out more than 4000 words in one sitting. If I’m not actually writing something towards a work in progress, I still write little snippets of notes on my phone’s all the time: ideas for future blogs, characters, scenes.

Do you find writing fun while you’re doing it?

I love it! I love creating an imaginary world, and getting to know the characters. I find pretty quickly the characters start doing things I hadn’t originally planned or thought of. And that’s the joy of writing – you take a phrase, character trait, lyrics from a song, whatever gives you inspiration, and from that as the germ of an idea you grow a scene, chapter, character, whole book around it. There’s something so wonderful about being completely immersed in your own fictional world, with the door shut to the outside world, no interruptions as the words just fly from your fingers onto the page. I talked to my friend Mark, about gaming (playing computer/video games) and admitted it did nothing for me: the games often seem too complex and I’d much rather read a book. Mark explained that for him, gaming was about escapism, being completely absorbed in another world, and it occurred to me I get this from writing instead.

Why write the genre you write?

Interesting question, I’m not 100% sure which genre I do write yet. I don’t think it’s category romance, and it’s not science fiction or fantasy, or historic. The stories tend to be almost contemporary (BFP is set in the late nineties as is The Second Book) about friendships, romance and people finding their place in the world as a gay man. I suppose I’m writing the genre of fiction I like, but with more gay characters than I usually read. I’m writing from experience, as I’ve got ex-boyfriends, and still have a lot of gay male friends. I suppose what I’m saying is as a gay man (why does that sound so worthy, especially since it’s the second time I’ve said it?) I see the world through that lens, so I write my fiction through that lens too.

How long can you go without doing any writing/editing etc before getting twitchy?

I usually take a few weeks off between finishing a first draft and revisions. Does that count? Mind you, at the moment, between first draft of The Second Book and revisions I’m blogging, so that’s still writing. If I were to go cold turkey, nothing, no writing at all, I think I’d get twitchy, in need of writing down some of the ideas swirling around my head, after a month. But I’ve never actually put that to test!

Do you keep a diary?

I’ve kept a diary every day since 1998. It’s a mixture of what I’ve done, who I’ve seen, reflections on those events, thoughts, worries, aspirations about the future, anything else I want to include really. At first I used to feel awful about criticising people or things in it, for fear they’d read it. Now I just let it all come out, it’s quite cathartic really, like having a personal councillor every night. People often ask me, how do I have time to do it every day, or exclaim that their life’s not interesting enough to keep a diary. In my experience, there’s always time to do what you want to do, if you really want to do it. And even the everyday seems pretty interesting/amusing/illuminating even just five years after the event. I’m sure Nella Last and the other Mass Observation Movement diarists thought their post WW2 scribbling weren’t particularly interesting at the time, but now they offer us a detailed peek into the daily lives of Brits at that time. I often think about what Kenneth Williams (who kept a diary for 40 years) used as a threat to his friends, ‘You’ll be in my diary!’

A diary also gives the opportunity to revisit uplifting as well as very painful memories in full Technicolor detail, which has to be used carefully. What did that horrible mid uni breakup feel like? How did I feel the day I got my first proper job? It’s all there, in black and white in my very own fair hand. I sometimes imagine them all being published after I’m long gone, and smile. I find it helps me realise how worries, problems move on, after being all consuming at the time. You read a diary from a few years ago and think, oh yeah, I remember that, and it turned out to be nothing. It’s also interesting to look back at my reflections of meeting people for the first time, after knowing them for years. It gives you the opportunity to see how your life changes by taking a step back from living it day to day, and looking how now is so completely different from say 1999.

Best Friends Perfect, is currently in being revised, ready to submissions to publishers as soon as possible. My current work in progress, TSB (The Second Book for wont of another title) is at first draft stage and should be ready for beta reading during summer. For more information check out my website and blog at I’d love to hear from you if you want to get in touch.

8 thoughts on “Guest post – Liam Livings answers questions about writing

  1. Gosh Lee, you sound so organised.
    I expect the reason I never kept a diary is that I have always lacked motivation.


  2. Great answers, Liam. Love the stuff about a diary. I keep one – but my writing is so scrawly I’m lucky if I can read it a week later never mind years!

    1. I really enjoyed writing the answers to your questions, and once again, thanks for having me here.
      My diary is pretty much the only thing I actually write, with a pen, and there’s something quite therapeutic about that, when you’ve spend the whole day on a keyboard. I must admit there are some diary entries I struggle to decipher after the event, but I usually get there!

  3. Hi Liam, I loved this Q&A. Queen Victoria’s journals are all online now and they’re fascinating!

  4. Lovely Q&A, my dears. The Kenneth Williams Diaries are absolutely fascinating reading. Maybs one day when you’re famous we’ll read yours in the same way (only I hope they’ll be happier!)

    1. What a lovely thought Charlie. Yes I hope they’d be happier too. I’ve dipped into the Kenneth Williams Diaries, but really must read them properly.

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