My Writing Process – Blog tour

Fellow Read Regional author, Susan Elliot Wright, invited me to take part in this blog tour in which writers talk about their writing process. The questions seemed easy but when it came to answering them it was harder than it looked. But I’ve given it my best shot. If you want to read Susan’s blog, you can find it here.

IMG_20140402_091008515My very messy desk.

What am I working on?

I’m waiting for the copy edit of my second book, Gone, to come back to me so I can be horrified by all my mistakes. And while I’m waiting I’ve started work on the third book. I’ve spent months trying to work out the plot only to be told by my agent and editor that it’s not quite right. So it was back to the drawing board and more sleepless nights, unable to think about anything else. It’s quite strange to be at the day job, working away, but in my head I’m trying to decide on the best place to stab someone in order to keep them alive just long enough to serve the plot.

I’m also making notes for a non-fiction book about my travels in America – although I have been making said notes for the last ten years!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think it’s quite hard to see your own work objectively enough to see how it’s different or similar to other work. But I think my crime novels are slightly unusual, but not unique, in that the narrative is shared between the police and the “normal” people. I like having the victim’s (or criminal’s) point of view alongside the police characters because I think it draws the reader in that little bit deeper. I think we can identify with the woman on the street more and think ‘What if that was me?’

I do think Gone is different to Stolen in some ways though and the third book seems even more of a departure in some ways which I guess is a gamble if readers like what you’ve done before. But I’d hate to think I was writing the same book over and over again!

Why do I write what I do?

I’m asked quite a lot why I write crime fiction and why people love it in general and the answer is I don’t really know! I started writing crime because I’d loved reading it. I remember the first crime novel that really gripped me was The Third Victim by Lisa Gardner (who my character DI Gardner is named after, by the way). It was so good, I just couldn’t put it down. And that made me seek out more of her novels and then more crime novels in general.

I think as a writer I enjoy writing crime because it’s quite challenging trying to figure out a good plot and keep people guessing. As a reader, I think we all enjoy crime because it’s fascinating and thrilling and by reading about it rather than experiencing it in real life we can explore the dark side in a safe way. There are a lot of theories about crime fiction offering a resolution and justice being served that’s comforting because it doesn’t always happen in real life – but I quite like an unhappy ending sometimes so maybe that’s not always true!

How does your writing process work?

I suppose it starts with a very vague idea – maybe something I’ve read, seen on the news, overheard. Over time the idea starts to develop but sometimes this can take years. I had an opening to a crime novel which I thought would be the second book but I still can’t get past that opening so it’s still whirring around the back of my mind somewhere.

Once I’ve got a few ideas I start thinking about what ifs? and play around with different scenarios. It’s not very often an idea will come fully formed. But once I have a couple of ideas I start thinking about the characters involved and sometimes write little sketches or scenes which are unlikely to end up in the book but help me get to know the characters and that helps develop the plot once I know how and why people are doing things.

I’m very disorganised with my writing notes. Instead of keeping them all together in a nice notebook, I scrawl ideas on bits of paper and end up with a complete mess with no rhyme or reason (see the photo above for the state of my desk). Talking it over with my boyfriend helps if something isn’t working. He can usually spot holes in my ideas , and sometimes just saying it out loud helps even if the other person doesn’t come up with anything. Talking to the dog is good for this – she never has an ideas.

Once I’m happy there’s something there and I have most of a plot, I start writing down each plot point or scene on a little bit of paper and spread them all over the floor. This way I can see more clearly where things are missing and also how best to structure the book. I shuffle the pieces around until I’m happy and then write up a vague chapter by chapter outline. I use this to guide me once I start writing but often I’ll go off on tangents anyway.

I can write a first draft quite quickly once I get going because I don’t edit as I go. If I kept stopping to try and get everything right, I’d never get past the first page! So editing can be a long process. I generally go through a lot of drafts but hopefully each gets better.

Once I’m fairly happy with a draft I’ll send it off to my agent and editor and wait for their notes with a feeling of nausea. When I get the notes back they’re always helpful but I always think it’s worse than it really is – that I’ll have to start over and I’ll never finish. This isn’t true but I always think it regardless!

 

So that’s me and my process. Thanks for reading. Next week, 14th April, the following writers will be blogging about their writing process:

RS Pateman

Rob is a native of Harold Hill, Romford in Essex but spent much of his adult life in London, particularly Kennington. He’s also called Rotterdam, Manchester, Edinburgh and Frankfurt home for varying lengths of time.

He somehow graduated in History from Warwick University and then faffed about as a tour company rep, play leader and night club bouncer – while dreaming all the while of being a writer.

His dream sort of came true when he began a career as an advertising copywriter. Eventually he sat down and wrote several books – one of which became The Second Life of Amy Archer (Orion). His next novel, The Prophecy of Bees, a psychological thriller about a troubled teen in a remote country house and her susceptibility (or otherwise) to superstition and witchcraft, is out in November 2014. http://rspateman.com/

Helen Cadbury

Helen is a York based writer whose debut novel, To Catch a Rabbit, was joint winner of the Northern Crime Award and was launched by Moth Publishing in May 2013. Helen was born in the Midlands and brought up in Birmingham and Oldham, Lancashire. She writes fiction, poetry and plays and is currently working on a sequel to To Catch a Rabbit. http://helencadbury.com/whether-pigs-have-wings-blog/

 

 

 

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Murder in Malton

maltonphoto by Stephen Morris

Another grand day out in the name of crime fiction. This time to Malton as part of the Ryedale Book Festival in a lovely pub/restaurant called The Yard.  It was nice to have the whole Moth gang back together along with support from Norbert and Eric the dogs.

The event was held together by Alfie Crow who gave us a brief history of crime fiction, all the while wrangling Norbert who recently underwent a rather personal operation. Poor Norbert. Still, he seemed to enjoy the show regardless.

Thanks to everyone involved in organising the festival, particularly Sarah Tyson and Dinah Keal.

Durham Book Festival

durham book festival

Another night, another event. But what a lovely event it was. It was very exciting to be asked to take part in the Durham Book Festival and everyone at Clayport library in Durham were fantastic (and also have great hair!) It’s always nice to hear Helen Cadbury read and last night was no exception, and the audience were enthusiastic and asked good questions. But the biggest treat of the night was being interviewed by the wonderful Caroline Beck who was sooo well prepared and had some very interesting and challenging questions to grill us with.

Thanks to everyone who came and to New Writing North (especially Rebecca Wilkie) for inviting us to take part.

The End of Summer Reads

books

No, this isn’t a picture of my living room – my books aren’t as tidy as that. But I’m going to be surrounded by books this week as I venture out to libraries and bookshops around the North East.

First up is an event at the new library at Whitley Bay where I’ll be reading and talking about Stolen thanks to the lovely folk at North Tyneside council who chose the book as their Summer Read this year. I’m very excited to meet some people who’ve read the book and see what they think.

Then on Thursday it’s off to Clayport library in Durham as part of the Durham Book Festival. It’s very exciting to be asked to take part as anyone who’s ever been to the festival knows that it attracts fantastic writers and the events are excellent. So thanks to New Writing North for inviting me to take part. And it’s always nice to work alongside fellow Moth writer Helen Cadbury.

Finally, Saturday takes me to Helmsley to take part in the On Our Turf festival, again with Helen Cadbury. We’ll be at the Cut Price Bookstore from 2.30pm reading from our debut novels (as well as sneak peaks at the next books) and we’ll be signing copies too.

See my events page for all the details.

The Crime Bus.

_1030347smaller

Before I get on with another round of rewrites for the second book, a quick update on the very nice weekend I’ve had. Despite it raining constantly on Friday and having returned from seeing The Be Good Tanyas at The Sage in Gateshead to discover my part of town was flooded, it was a very nice couple of days indeed. The Tanyas were fantastic (if you haven’t heard them before I urge you to seek them out) and I was also very surprised and warmed to my cockles to receive a fan letter. An actual letter that someone had taken the time to sit down and write and put in the post. Very exciting!

Then on Saturday it was off to Easingwold to take part in On Our Turf. There was all sorts going on and will be more at various locations throughout the rest of September. Check out the website here for more info. Our event was on a bus (pictured above) which was strange but fun – an intimate reading on the back of the bus alongside Helen Cadbury and a very lovely audience. As well as reading from Stolen and To Catch a Rabbit, we bravely (or perhaps stupidly) read from our still-in-progress second novels. Fortunately both seemed to go down well. Thanks to Alex for letting us bring a little crime to his bus.

Ooh I feel like a proper writer now!

_1020126With Alfie Crow, Kate Fox and Helen Cadbury at the Bloomin’ Words Crime Cabaret (photo: Stephen Morris)

Been a bit lazy with the blogging recently but I was doing other work. Honest! Like taking part in the Bloomin’ Words Crime Cabaret at the White Rose Bookshop in Thirsk last week. It was a fantastic evening with readings and murder ballads and competitions and everything – a brilliant night organised by the brilliant Kate Fox. There’ll be more Bloomin’ Words events soon so I’d recommend going if you’re anywhere near Thirsk.

I also had the pleasure of going to London and meeting lots of lovely agents and editors in the hope of getting them interested in me and my work. The event was organised by New Writing North and it went really well. And while I’m not saying that seeing your book for the first time in an actual bookshop or being asked to sign said book doesn’t make you feel like a real writer, there’s something about getting an agent that’s like the holy grail. You spend years trying to get one of these strange (but lovely) creatures to read your work and then all of a sudden several come along at once. A bit like buses.

So I’ve spent the week in the very unusual position (for me) of having a choice of agents and it was a very hard choice to make. But I’ve finally made it and I’m very happy to say that I’ve just signed up with Stan at Jenny Brown Associates.

People wiser than me say that choosing an agent is a very important decision and it’s a bit like a marriage so you really need to get along well. And after six hours in a pub being plied with cider I can say that we definitely did get along.  And I will also add that the meeting was not at all creepy like I’ve just made it sound!

Lovely Libraries

_1010961With Helen Cadbury and Alfie Crow at Middlesbrough Library (photo by Stephen Morris)

Had a great week with two events at two very different but equally lovely libraries. First up was Hartlepool library which is huge and very well stocked with crime novels. It was great to do an event alongside the brilliant Mari Hannah who makes it all look so easy.

Then last night it was off to the beautiful Central library in Middlesbrough as part of the Literary Festival. It was a great evening chaired by Claire Malcolm from New Writing North, and nice to hear fellow Moth authors Helen Cadbury and Alfie Crow read again. We also had a lot of fun exploring the library afterwards and taking lots of photos in the fantastic surroundings.

Thanks to everyone who came along to the events and asked such good questions. I look forward to seeing you all again.

Newcastle Launch

becka-newcastle-launch7l-r: me, Michael Donovan, Alfie Crow (not sure where Helen Cadbury went!) Thanks to Stephen Morris for the photo

Fantastic launch for Moth Publishing and Alfie Crow in Newcastle last night. Alfie gave a very funny reading from his novel Rant, which I recommend you read if you haven’t already.

I had to speak for about thirty seconds which was fairly terrifying, I have to admit. So there could be vomit at tonight’s launch in Guisborough. Perhaps seats at the back would be a good idea for anyone who’s coming along.

But apart from the public speaking, it was a great night. Lovely to see the other writers again as well as the Moth Publishing team and many other friendly faces – some I’d met before, but mostly strangers. But very friendly strangers!

June I’ll go out. July I’ll catch up on TV.

f moth author helen cadbury with her book TO CATCH A RABBIT

On Thursday night fellow Moth author Michael Donovan had a book launch for his brilliant debut Behind Closed Doors. I wish I’d been able to get there as it looked like everyone had a fantastic time, including Helen Cadbury who joined Michael as he very kindly plugged her book too. Thanks to Odette Rigby for the photo.

Tomorrow will kick off an epic month of events to promote Stolen with the official launch of Moth Publishing at Waterstones, Newcastle. The event will include a reading by Alfie Crow from his novel Rant, and all four Moth writers will be in attendance.

For someone who thought (mistakenly) that writing was a solitary pursuit and whose evenings are usually spent watching TV – frequently re-runs of American sitcoms – all this gallivanting around the north-east is something of a culture shock. I have to admit the thought of my own book launch at Guisborough Bookshop on Tuesday night has kept me awake for the past few nights. But like so many scary things, I’m sure it’ll be less frightening in reality than it is in my imagination (I am a crime writer after all).

After I’ve calmed down after Tuesday’s launch it’s on to York on Wednesday for Helen Cadbury’s launch for To Catch A Rabbit. I’m really looking forward to this because the book is so good. It’ll be great to hear Helen read.

Then I get a few days off before things kick off again with a photo shoot in North Tyneside, some media training at the BBC (more sleepless nights ahead, I’m sure), an event with the lovely Mari Hannah at Hartlepool library on 19th June, and one at Middlesbrough Literary Festival on Friday 21st June with Helen Cadbury and Alfie Crow. Then it’s off to London the week after to mingle with other writers, editors and agents.

There’s plenty more lined up in later months but hopefully I’ll have time to relax a little and catch up on TV watching before Harrogate at the end of July. Oh, and I should probably spend a little time on the second book too!