AuthorsGetLit · Guest posts

BBC broadcaster and author Pam Rhodes on writing without a concrete outline

When I was first reached out to to review Pam’s new book Springtime at Hope Hall, I was immediately hooked. Labelled as a heartwarming community story, it’s no wonder this book immediately got my attention–I do love my stories about families, both blood and otherwise.

Pam’s written 12 books so far and all of them are hailed as down-to-earth and heartwarming. But did you know she doesn’t outline before going into the novel? I NEED to know how she does it because I’m the same way and I always felt bad about it. Every writing course swears by outlining and then there’s me, just winging it.

In this guest post, Pam explains exactly how her writing process is and where she gets her inspiration from.

Over to Pam.

I’ve always loved writing. As a television journalist for many years, I often needed to write with speed and accuracy to hit news deadlines, never allowing myself the artistic luxury of writer’s block! But once I got round to tackling my first novel, WITH HEARTS AND HYMNS AND VOICES, back in 1985, the joy I discovered in creating characters and storylines that I hope others might find absorbing, challenging or moving, became a compulsion. My latest trilogy, HOPE HALL, brings my total of novels up to 12 now, with just as many other genre books also published.

From that first book, I’ve recognised that I enjoy writing just as much as I do reading — and I write in much the same way, bashing out stories so quickly that it’s almost as if I’m watching the action unfold in front of me. I’ve been greatly helped by my experience of presenting BBC TELEVISION series ‘SONGS OF PRAISE’ for more than three decades during which I have had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of people who have shared the challenges they’ve been through with great generosity and candidness. I feel as I absorbed those stories into a moving, inspirational tapestry of human experience and emotion that has been an incredible source of ideas for me as I’ve created a host of fictional characters and storylines in various books over my years of novel-writing.

One reassuring insight I was given very early in my writing came from an experienced author who said, “Sometimes a door will open and someone new will walk in.” Many of my favourite characters have appeared just like that! I would probably fail every test in a Writers’ Course on How to Create a Novel. I never have a detailed plan in mind. I hate having to write a synopsis in advance, because I’m rarely sure at the start how the tale will end, or what twists and turns might come along before I get there! It’s not that I don’t give very thorough thought to possible ideas. For months before I start writing, I mull over potential storylines in my mind, often not even writing them down. Then, I like to take myself away somewhere quiet for about four weeks (usually February, at my sister’s little apartment in Spain, away from the distractions of family life and normal work at home), and come back with the novel completely written. My stories are usually community-based, with many different characters, and it can feel like a ten-dimensional crossword puzzle remembering all the details about each one of them. Writing consistently from dawn to dusk for a concentrated period means that I keep all those details in my head — and those characters become very familiar as their lives evolve on the laptop screen in front of me.

I simply love writing. I’d enjoy writing stories even if no one ever had chance to read my books. The fact that they do is the best bonus of all!

Springtime at Hope Hall by Pam Rhodes (£8.99) is out in paperback on 21st February.

About Pam Rhodes

For more than three decades, Pam Rhodes has been the familiar face of BBC’s SONGS OF PRAISE, where she is known for her sensitive interviews with hundreds of people who face huge life challenges. Pam never forgets a story, and that rich tapestry of life experience has been wonderful inspiration for her down-to-earth, heart-warming books which now number more than twenty. Pam’s wide experience of Christian church life both in Britain and around the world has provided a backdrop for most of her novels, although her books always have a wide mainstream appeal.  

Pam cut her teeth in broadcast journalism, working widely in TV, Documentary and Radio, especially Premier Christian Radio where she presents her much-loved Sunday morning programme ‘HEARTS AND HYMNS’. She is often on the road compering evenings at churches and other large musical events across Britain, and she has been very active for years in her official roles with several national and local charities. Most dear to her heart is The Leprosy Mission of which she is a Vice President.  The appeal video she made at Anandaban Hospital in Nepal raised over £4m in 2019.  In January of 2020, her visit to Bangladesh will continue her determination to do all she can to eradicate leprosy from the world at long last.

Pam is a mum and a grandmother, and she and her husband Richard run a boarding cattery at their Bedfordshire home where they care for RSPCA cats who are looking for new owners.

~ Shruti

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