Fancy being part of the new #TeamLori UK advance reader team? Here’s how…

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#TeamLori UK is go and I’m super excited!

To help spread the word about the Lori Anderson series I’m putting together a small advance reader group called #TeamLori.

The idea is that members of #TeamLori will get early proof copies of new books in the series so they can share their thoughts on review sites, social media, with their friends and family, and basically act as fabulous bookish cheerleaders.

Founder members of #TeamLori will get a paperback proof of Lori Anderson book three – Deep Dirty Truth – along with some limited edition goodies. Membership is totally free and limited to twenty readers at the moment.

To join #TeamLori you don’t need to be a blogger (although bloggers are of course super welcome) but you do need to be UK-based (as this is for the UK edition), enthusiastic about reading thrillers and have enjoyed earlier books in the Lori Anderson series.

So if you fancy being one of the first to join #TeamLori don’t delay, click this link to SurveyMonkey and tell me why you’d like be one of the founder members of #TeamLori:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/FL725Q5 

*** TEAM LORI MEMBERSHIP IS CURRENTLY CLOSED ***

*** THANK YOU FOR SUCH AN OVERWHELMING RESPONSE ***

#crimewritersincafesprocrastinating – @RonaHalsallAuth talks about Keep You Safe, dog walking and Twitter! #crimefiction

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Today crime writer Rona Halsall is my guest on Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this is where I get to quiz writers about the lengths they go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.

Rona’s debut novel – KEEP YOU SAFE – is out now and I can’t wait to quiz her all about her writing and procrastination habits…

Welcome, Rona! So tell me about your latest book

My debut novel, Keep You Safe is about Natalie, a woman who has been wronged in the most terrible way and now she is determined to put those wrongs right. She has been convicted of a crime she has no memory of committing, but her husband doesn’t believe her and he takes their baby son to live on the Isle of Man, where she has no legal rights. Three years later, when Natalie is released from prison, she sets out to find her son, knowing that his life is in danger. But who can she trust?

How long did Keep You Safe take to write?

It probably took a couple of years, with many rounds of editing and the finished novel is very, very different to my first draft. It started life as a romantic mystery, but when I pitched to an agent at a Literary festival, she said she liked my writing but felt my voice was more suited to a psychological thriller. So I re-wrote the whole thing, and it took a little while to get the plot right.

What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot?

That would be dog walking in the many lovely places we have here on the island – forests, glens, old railway lines and beaches. Whenever I get stuck, it’s time for a dog walk to clear my head and sort out whatever problem I’ve come up against.  There’s usually a coffee shop involved along the way, because dog walking is thirsty work, isn’t it?

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

Keep You Safe was definitely written in a pantser style, but the edits were so complicated and time-consuming that I’ve decided I need to plot.  My second book, Love You Gone, was plotted and it only took six weeks to get a rough first draft together, so I’ve decided that’s the way forward for me. Of course there’s always room to stray from the plan when a better idea pops up, but in general I feel it saves time to do all the creative thinking up-front, get the plot sorted and then the writing is much, much easier.

When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft or equally across all three?

Procrastination is an integral part of my writing process, I think! Maybe it’s a way of turning off active thinking and letting your subconscious get to work on your ideas. I think copyedits are my least favourite part of the process, so I probably procrastinate more at this stage than any other!

Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why?)

I love the freedom of the first draft and the flow of words when you really get into the groove and you surprise yourself. That’s a little bit of creative magic and it’s a wonderful feeling.  But I like the editing process as well. I like fiddling with sentences to get the words just right, working out how to describe emotions and places in a way that will give the reader a picture in their mind and let them really experience the story. And I enjoy getting my editor’s input and seeing how her thoughts can shape the story to make it better.

When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?

Social media is also a major distraction for me, having only recently discovered Twitter and I can lose a lot of time flicking through my newsfeed. I love seeing what everyone’s writing and which new books are coming out – I’m going to have to get one of those apps that turns it all off while I focus on writing!  I also do a lot of snacking.

When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?

I have a whole range depending on the time of day. In the morning it’s coffee and I don’t tend to bother with snacks. By afternoon I’m ready for herbal teas and I don’t stop eating – dark chocolate, mixed nuts and crisps!

And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?

When I’m writing, my poor husband gets ignored for a large part of the time, so once the book is finished, it’s time for us to do things together. So we might go out for a meal to celebrate or go to the movies and get a takeaway and he breathes a big sigh of relief!

Dog walking, Twitter and dark chocolate – sounds like a perfect procrastination combo!

A big thank you to Rona for letting me grill her about her writing habits and procrastination pitfalls.

KEEP YOU SAFE is out now. Find out more over on Amazon by clicking on the book cover below:

CTG Reviews: The Memory Chamber by @HollyACave

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Holly Cave’s The Memory Chamber is out in paperback this month and wow this book blew my mind – I loved it so much and just had to shout about it!

If you’ve not heard of it yet, here’s the blurb:

An afterlife of your own design – what could go wrong?

Isobel designs artificial ‘heavens’ for her clients, created from the memories they treasure most. She works for Oakley Associates, London’s most prestigious firm of its kind. Her heavens are renowned for their beauty and perfection.

But Isobel crosses an ethical line when she falls for Jarek, a new – and married – client. Then, in the wake of his wife’s murder, Isobel uncovers a darker and deadlier side of the world she works in. As her life starts falling apart, Isobel realises that nothing is as perfect as it seems, not even heaven itself…”

Honestly, it’s a gorgeous, terrifying, heart breaking, fascinating book and I just couldn’t put it down. Hugely recommended!

You can find out more over on Amazon by clicking on the book cover below:

#crimewritersincafesprocrastinating –Christina McDonald talks about The Night Olivia Fell, social media and sun! #crimefiction

 

Today debut crime writer Christina McDonald is joining me for Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this QA is all about the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.

Christina’s debut novel – THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL – has a super intriguing premise and sounds fascinating so I can’t wait to quiz her all about her writing and procrastination habits…

Hi Christina, and welcome to the CTG blog

So great to be here, Steph! I’ve been waiting to write this post until I got the cover for my book. Then I got the cover for my book and I was waiting for the cover reveal. Then the cover reveal happened and I’ve been putting it off because I haven’t had the time, and because…well… procrastinating. But here I am!

So tell me all about your latest book?

The Night Olivia Fell is a domestic suspense novel with an emotional plot. It is  about a single mother called Abi who is startled awake in the small hours of the morning by a phone call informing her that her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the bruises circling Olivia’s wrists. When the police rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

How long did it take to write?

The first draft of writing book didn’t take me that long – 3-4 months. It was all the stuff after that: edits, getting an agent, edits for the agent, getting a publisher, edits for the editor. Altogether, from the time I wrote the book until the time it will be published will be three and a half years.

What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot – home, café, bar, other?

In my garden at home on a beautiful, sunny day! Best is when my dog joins me for a cuddle while I’m reading. Reading is incredibly escapist, like skipping out on real life and jumping into another world. Like most people, I can get sucked into social media, too, but I do try to be a little disciplined about it. But reading, nope! I have very little discipline in forcing myself to not read, and when it’s sunny in my garden, all bets are off!

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

I have a general idea of what I want the story to be about and where I want it to go, but really not much more than an idea. From there I start writing from page one – I write chronologically – and see where I go. As I get a more specific idea of themes, characters, tone of voice, etc, I jot out basic ideas for the inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint and third plot point. As I write I plan about one chapter ahead, so I know where I’m heading; and I keep an outline of the main things that have happened in each chapter so I know where I’ve been. I guess I’m a weird hybrid of a plotter-pantser.

When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft, or equally across all three?

Oh, definitely the middle! I always find myself very clear at the beginning of what I want to set out for the story, and once I’ve crossed the middle hump I usually know where I’m going and what will be the worst thing that can happen to my protagonist(s), so that last plot point and climax are fairly clear, but the middle part can be a struggle. Like many writers, I used to be a journalist, so I have a fear/respect of deadlines and have never missed one, but right around the middle part I start flogging myself with doubts, worrying that I’ll miss it and that the book will be horrible. Once I get over that, though, it’s usually fine.

Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why)?

Drafts! It’s so clear in the first draft, and there’s such a freedom about writing exactly what I want to write. But once I get to edits it all becomes a bit tangled and confused in my mind. I start doubting why and where I’ve put plot points, if my character is ‘likeable’ enough, why I even wrote the book in the first place. From what I hear it’s really normal, so I just push through it. I have to give myself a good week or so after I’ve received edits to just sit on them and just see everything from a different angle. Then I hop back to it and get going on the next draft.

When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?

Reading and social media. Social media can be a huge time waster, so I try to be really disciplined about it. I do need it to engage with readers, but it sucks you in so much. But when I start reading a book I sometimes get completely lost in it. Once when I was a teenager I was reading a book while sitting outside the classroom and about a half hour later I sort of came to and realised everybody had gone into class while I was totally zoned into the book. I was just left sitting outside the door!

When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?

Coffee in the morning, wine when I work in the evening. And I love me a good old pack of Biscoff biscuits!

And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?

I think because this book hasn’t been published yet I feel like it isn’t really ‘done’, if that makes sense. There have been so many things to do: write, edit, market, publicity, publication, etc. I’m in the ‘trying to figure out marketing’ and ‘getting good reviews’ stage. Maybe once it’s published I’ll feel done and can celebrate with a lovely bottle of Champagne, but I feel like I haven’t won against procrastinating just yet. The battle is still on!

I think you should definitely crack open the bubbly on publication day, maybe a pack of Biscoff biscuits too!

***

A huge thank you to Christina for letting me grill her about her writing habits and procrastination pitfalls. 

THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL is out in February 2019 in the US and in March 2019 in the UK. Find out more about Christina and her writing at her website – https://christina-mcdonald.com/

And check out THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL and pre-order it over on Amazon by clicking the links below:

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Night-Olivia-Fell-Christina-McDonald/dp/1501184008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533491822&sr=8-1&keywords=the+night+olivia+fell

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-Olivia-Fell-Christina-McDonald-ebook/dp/B07FBQVLCC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533491767&sr=8-1&keywords=the+night+olivia+fell

 

#crimewritersincafesprocrastinating – Roz Watkins talks about her writing habits, horses and champagne! @RozWatkins

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Today debut crime writer Roz Watkins is joining me for Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this feature is all about the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.

Roz’s debut novel – THE DEVIL’S DICE – is a brilliant read so I can’t wait to quiz her all about her writing and procrastination habits…

Welcome Roz! So tell me all about your latest book – THE DEVIL’S DICE

Thanks for inviting me to do this fabulous feature! ‘The Devil’s Dice’, my debut, was published in March this year. In it, a slightly chubby, not-very-glamorous detective (who probably has cat hair on her top) returns to Derbyshire and is confronted with a bizarre death which appears to have been caused by an ancient witches’ curse.

How long did THE DEVIL’S DICE take to write?

It took me about eighteen months to write. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I started, but with incredible naivety I bought ‘Writing Fiction for Dummies’ and got stuck in. For my second and third books (not published yet), I’ve had deadlines, and they’ve taken me around a year each, not including the editing with my publisher.

What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot – home, café, bar, other?

I don’t need to leave the house to procrastinate. Funnily enough, when I was writing the first book, I was also running holiday cottages, so sneaking in some writing at the kitchen table was my procrastination activity when I should have been cleaning loos. Now I’m supposed to be writing, I find soooo many ways to procrastinate (but cleaning loos is not one of them).

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

I’m not sure I’ve developed a writing process yet! For the first book, I tried all sorts, reading books on plotting and screenwriting and everything else I could get my hands on. I do now try to plot, but find I end up changing everything as I go along. I scribble copious notes in lovely notebooks with coloured glitter pens and I stick post-its on the walls – can we call that plotting?

When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft, or equally across all three?

I procrastinate more at the beginning. I find first drafts really hard and get a bit obsessed with word count, which I’ve realised is stupid because it’s the thinking that’s the hard bit. Getting words down isn’t hard if you know what you want to say! I like the creative side of it but it’s hard because you don’t really know where it all comes from, so with the best will in the world (and determined non-procrastination) you can still have a terrible day where you get nothing decent done.

Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why)?

I actually prefer edits – they still feel creative, but I seem to relax once I’ve got a decent number of words down (even if they aren’t in the right order).

When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?

Walking the dog is a top procrastination activity, because he stares at me until I do it and it’s pretty challenging trying to work with this going on. Social media is up there too. I’ve installed a thing that blocks me from spending more than half an hour on it between 10am and 5pm, otherwise every time the writing gets hard, I feel my brain saying, ‘maybe we could just check Twitter…’ I found it particularly hard around publication time because if somebody says something nice about the book, I just find it almost impossible not to go straight on there and thank them!

I’ve realised I can procrastinate whilst telling myself that I’m actually working, by picking horse manure out of our field. It always needs doing and it puts me into a kind-of Zen state where ideas come to me. If any aspiring writers would like the opportunity to try this, do get in touch 🙂

I also love a bit of research, and tend to get sucked in. Looking at my ‘favourites’ I can see these webpages, which are all relevant to my books (honestly!):

  • I’m a psychopath Ask Me Anything
  • Farmer EATEN ALIVE by his own pigs in shocking attack
  • Body integrity identity disorder – the man who wants to chop his own legs off
  • Can An Organ Transplant Change A Recipient’s Personality?

Another current fave is googling ‘writing sheds’ and fantasising about having one in my garden.

Then there’s my ancient cat, Toffee, who came with the house. She demands (at extremely high volume) ‘Toffee Time’ every morning. She’s long-haired so I have to sit with her and brush her and make sure she doesn’t get too matted. She lives in our barn so I can’t combine Toffee Time with writing or anything else useful, and anyway she insists on my undivided attention.

The animals are an endless source of procrastination, and no that isn’t a severed leg – it’s a boot. The horses know how to procrastinate! As I near a deadline, or when I’m working on edits, panic tends to set in. I procrastinate less and also clean the house less.

When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?

I glug copious amounts of tea and coffee and try to avoid snacks when writing. If I started snacking, I’d never stop, and Writers’ Arse is already a worry. At least the drinks force me to get out of my chair and go to the loo every now and then. I also try to stay off the gin and the wine while I’m writing 🙂

And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?

I’m another one who thinks a finished book deserves champagne. When I finished book 2, I thought I saw a cheap bottle of nice champagne whilst doing an online supermarket shop, so I ordered it. When it turned up, I realised it was cheap because it was 25cl – not even a decent-sized glass. That was a very bad moment.

The picture at the top of this post is me at my book launch necking the booze while my agent does the hard work!

Books, animals and champagne – sounds perfect to me! 

A huge thank you to Roz for letting me grill her about her writing habits and procrastination pitfalls.

THE DEVIL’S DICE is out now. Find out more over on Amazon by clicking on the book cover below:

#crimewritersincafesprocrastinating – Barbara Copperthwaite talks writing scenes out of order and the procrastination temptations of dogs @BCopperthwait

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Today crime writer Barbara Copperthwaite is joining me for Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this feature is all about the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.

Barbara’s latest book is THE PERFECT FRIEND and I can’t wait to find out more…

Welcome Barbara! So tell me all about your latest book – The Perfect Friend?

It’s a dark psychological thriller, set in the seaside town of Tynemouth. The story explores the relationship between two women as it twists into suspicion, lies and obsession.

How long did The Perfect Friend take to write?

I started it in October, while on holiday in Tynemouth – which is why it is set in that seaside town, as I found it so inspirational. I handed in my first draft to my editor at the end of March, so that’s five months. Obviously since then it’s been through several rounds of edits!

What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot – home, café, bar, other?

There’s a café near me that I haunt in winter. But most often I write at home, especially since I took over the dining room and made it my office, although it looks more like the dogs’ playroom, as there are usually tennis balls and toys everywhere for them. When I’m procrastinating, my dogs are a great distraction.

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

I wish I were a plotter as I think it would make the writing process a lot less stressful. But the fact is that I’ve tried to do that and it just didn’t work for me. Everything that I’d plotted out so meticulously simply didn’t work when I got into the details of things  as I wrote. So, for me, jumping in is the only way.

I tend to have an idea that I want to explore, themes in my mind, and the types of characters that I want to inhabit the world that I’ll create; after that it’s a question of having fun discovering for myself how the story will work out. Wondering how I’ll get to the endpoint is what keeps me interested, because I’ve also found that I get bored when I plot. It’s normally around halfway through the book that I decide what exactly the ending will be; the only time I’ve known from the beginning how I wanted to end a story was when I was writing The Darkest Lies.

Here’s a confession… I’ve a terrible habit of writing random scenes when I first get going. Often, I have no clue where they will slot into the story, or even if they will make the final cut, but they help me get a feel for where I’m heading and what I’m trying to say. Once I’ve hit around 8000 words, I’ll actually write the beginning of the book and work forward making links to the random scenes.

When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft, or equally across all three?

Each book has been a completely different experience, so it’s impossible to say. My first book, Invisible, was written in snatches while I was commuting, which certainly concentrated the mind – there was no time for procrastination.

My third book, The Darkest Lies, was the hardest to write, and emotionally draining, too. I got about halfway through and couldn’t see a way forward. I was convinced that it was awful. In the end an author friend read through what I’d already written and it took her telling me that it was absolutely fine to make me continue writing. If she hadn’t done that for me I honestly think I’d have abandoned it. Yet that’s the one that landed me an agent and publishing deal.

I’m currently working on my sixth book and I realise now there is no ‘usual process’ for me. I do tend to find, however, that a lot of time at the start of a book is spent thinking rather than doing. Staring into space and letting your mind wander is a key part of the creative process, I think – no excuse, I genuinely do!

At some point what I refer to as the ‘tipping point’ arrives, the point where everything just speeds up and I become obsessed with my book. Nothing else exists by this stage. I’m probably a nightmare to live with, as I really am in now world of my own. That tends to come at around half way through the first draft may be slightly earlier with some books. Then it’s a case of rushing to the end.

Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why)?

Creating a first draft is incredibly exciting – and utterly nerve wracking. Every time I sit down to start a new book I wonder if I can actually do it again, and desperately try remember how I’ve done it all the other times (weirdly, I never can remember how!). I love the writing process, I love the opportunity to create, but it’s also the point where self-doubt eats at me.

For that reason I probably enjoy editing more, because by then I have something solid to work with, and know I can hone it into something. Before becoming a full-time author I was a journalist, and edited magazines. That means that working on copy from other people comes as second nature to me because I’ve done it my entire adult working life – and it comes in handy.

When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?

Walking, without a doubt. It’s almost as if my mind works on a treadmill, because I find that if I am walking then my brain seems to work a lot better and answers suddenly appear to the problems that I’m pondering. My two lovely dogs, Scamp, a cockapoo, and Buddy, an all-sort rescue, are my constant companions whether I’m walking or typing, so if I’m not in the mood for a walk I might just stop and play with them to take my mind off things.

When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?

I’m a devil for a slice of cake or hot chocolate. I often joke that my books should be sponsored by Lindt…

And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?

The first time I finished a book I was so excited by my achievement that I went out and bought a bottle of champagne and drank it while staring at ‘The End’ with the biggest grin on my face. Now it’s become almost a superstition. If I don’t toast writing the end of my book with a glass of champagne (or two) then I almost feel as though I’m inviting bad luck by not celebrating. So that’s become my ritual now, even though it does sound incredibly extravagant. It sounds a lot less glamorous when I add that I buy whatever champagne is on special offer at the supermarket!

Huge thanks to Barbara for letting me quiz her about her writing and procrastination habits. Her latest book THE PERFECT FRIEND is out now – click on the book cover below to find out more on Amazon:

Barbara is the Amazon and USA Today bestselling author of psychological thrillers INVISIBLE, FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD, THE DARKEST LIES, and HER LAST SECRET. Her latest book is THE PERFECT FRIEND. More importantly, she loves cakes, wildlife photography and, last but definitely not least, her two dogs, Scamp and Buddy (who force her to throw tennis balls for them for hours). Having spent over twenty years as a national newspaper and magazine journalist, Barbara has interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. She is fascinated by creating realistic, complex characters, and taking them apart before the readers’ eyes in order to discover just how much it takes to push a person over a line. When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs.

To find out more about Barbara’s novels hop over to her website at www.barbaracopperthwaite.com and follow her on social media at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraCopperthwaite and @BCopperthwait on Twitter

#crimewritersincafesprocrastinating – Zoe Sharp talks procrastination, writing on the move and the perils of cats @authorzoesharp

 

Today kick-ass thriller writer Zoe Sharp is joining me for Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this feature is all about the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.

I’m a huge fan of Zoe’s books, and super excited to grill her about procrastination, her writing habits and her latest book DANCING ON THE GRAVE.

Welcome Zoe! So tell me all about your latest book – Dancing On The Grave?

Zoë Sharp: Basically, it’s my take on the Washington Sniper incident from a few years ago, but set in the English Lake District. If you want the slightly longer explanation, it’s an exploration of what it means in today’s culture to desperately want to be famous, regardless of what you want to be famous for. It’s about the way we treat our ex-military personnel when we’re finished with them. It’s about loyalty, betrayal, love and revenge. Just the everyday story of country folk.

How long did Dancing On The Grave take to write?

ZS: Far too long. I actually finished the first version of this book eight years ago. It was just about to go out on submission when Derrick Bird went on the rampage in the west of Cumbria, shooting twelve people dead and injuring a further eleven before taking his own life. It wasn’t close to the storyline of my book, but at the same time it was too near the mark. The book was withdrawn from submission and I put it away for a long time. It was only recently I felt able to get it out and work on it again.

What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot – home, café, bar, other?

ZS: Home, probably, although ‘home’ is something of a moveable feast at the moment. As I write this, I’m actually sitting in the kitchen of a house in the Aveyron valley in southern France, where I’m house and cat-sitting for the whole of the month. That’s always been the beauty of this job—the fact you can do it anywhere.

Of course, the flip-side of that is that you can also fail to do it anywhere. I like to make pencil notes when I’m out and about, in cafés, usually, or waiting rooms, or wherever, and then type up my notes and expand on them when I get back to my desk. It doesn’t feel right to make notes at my desk. Here, I go and sit at the bottom of the garden, then it’s back to the kitchen table, or the one under an awning outside, to attempt to transcribe my scrawl onto my laptop.

If I’m in the UK, there are always other jobs that call to me. I’m in the midst of a house renovation project, so there are a million other things to do that are particularly difficult to ignore when the weather’s good and you don’t know how long that state of affairs might continue. This is why there are fewer distractions in the winter. Except for the cats, of course. They love to sit on paper (particularly with muddy feet) or my lap. Or my keyboard. Or my hands. Maybe they’re the feline equivalent of literary critics?

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

ZS: First thing I do is write the tagline, which has to grab you in a dozen words or less. Then I write the jacket copy, which has to grab you in half a page or less. And then I outline, in broad brushstrokes only, so I have the basic story arc in place, with the main dramatic events timelined. I keep going back to this outline and embellishing it as I go, adding threads that can be tied up later. What I don’t plan are the reactions of the characters to those dramatic events—I want those to develop in a more organic way as I get to them. And I don’t do complicated character biographies before I start. The characters only introduce themselves to me as the step onto the page for the first time. I do jot down a summary of each chapter as I write, just to keep the timeline straight in my head. I note down the gist of the action and dialogue, so I can plan structural edits, if I need to later, without having to plough through the complete typescript.

When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft, or equally across all three?

ZS: Getting started in the right place can be really tricky, no doubt about it. Sometimes you instinctively know what the opening line for a book is going to be, and you run with it. Other times, you just can’t quite find the right point. And I know all the advice says ‘you can fix a page but you can’t fix a blank page’ but without the right start point, I can’t shake the feeling that everything else I do from there on out is based on dodgy foundations. I like to hit the ground running, and if I don’t feel I’ve done that, I can’t move forwards with the rest of the story. The start of the book, after all, is never the start of the story. It might have started days or months or even years before the point at which you introduce it to the reader.

As for the actual writing part, the third quarter is the pits, definitely. I know that doesn’t fit into the standard three-act structure, but trust me on this. You’ve got the start of your story nailed, you’ve hit the top of the arc, and when you reach three-quarters distance you have to start to tie all those loose threads together into a cohesive whole for the climax. Do it too fast at the ending falls flat. Do it too slowly and you may finish up with thirty pages of stodgy “But how did you know it was the man with the wooden leg?” kind of exposition in the final chapters. Yeah, that third quarter is the bit I sweat over, every time.

Q6: Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why)?

ZS: Until recently, I would have said that I enjoyed having written more than I enjoyed the actual process of writing, but now I’m not so sure. I’ve had a great boost to my feeling of creativity this year, and the reception I’ve had to the new standalone, Dancing On The Grave, has been wonderful. I really feel I’ve regained my enthusiasm for actually creating story—the putting together of words and scenes into something that didn’t exist until the second you laid them across the page. I remember when I was writing my first novel, and working full-time, that I would get up ever-earlier in the mornings, such was my urge to write. It’s a compulsion rather than an occupation.

I confess, with a certain amount of masochism, that I quite likebeing edited, providing I feel the editor is on the same wavelength with both my style of writing and the story. Anyone who’s prepared to put time and effort into helping me produce the best piece of work possible is fine by me. But it can be a nightmare. Worst editing experience I ever had was with a US copy editor who came from an academic non-fiction background, and wrote me a report saying I displayed a ‘good deal of comma fault’, and she had issues with my ‘verbs of utterance’. I half expected it to have ‘see me’ or ‘could do better’ at the end of it. I wrote ‘stet’ 1251 times on that typescript. I know, I counted every single one of them…

When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?

ZS: Well, if I’m into a renovation project, I can find it hard to concentrate on writing because I’d rather be plastering or constructing something. It can have a good symbiotic relationship, though. If the practical half of your brain is occupied, it allows the creative half to freewheel and work through plot problems on a subconscious level. So, something practical is always good as both a means of procrastination and for inspiration. As is Scruzzleword, and Sudoku. And bringing my accounts up to date, and bringing logs inside in the winter, and social media, and…and…and…

Q8: When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?

ZS: Ooh, lots of coffee, usually, although I’ve never found it does much to keep me awake. I always have a large glass of tap water with a shot of tonic water in the top of it on the go, too, which I put on a side table so it’s away from my computer, just in case! The cats have a habit of parachuting onto my desk with little regard for the state of the drop zone.

For snacks, I tend to eat cereal like Cheerios or Special K, straight from the bowl with no spoon, and no milk. Weird, I know. I’m trying to retrain my sweet tooth, but I have a weakness for Jelly Belly jelly beans and Cadbury’s milk chocolate.

And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?

ZS: By having a day or two off without feeling guilty for not writing anything. A neck, back, and shoulder massage is usually a must by then, too, as everything will have started to knot itself tight as I reach the closing stages of the book. But it’s only ever a temporary reprieve, because then I’ll be into planning the next book, or edits, or some other writing task I’ve been putting off while I was finishing the current work-in-progress. It never ends, really. Good job I love what I do, isn’t it?

Huge thanks to Zoe Sharp for popping by the CTG blog and letting me grill her about procrastination and her writing habits.

Zoe’s latest book DANCING ON THE GRAVE is out now. You can find out more about it over on Amazon by clicking the book cover below:

And find out more about Zoe and all her books (including the fabulous Charlie Fox series) by checking out her website and social media…

Zoë Sharp was born in Nottinghamshire but spent her formative years living aboard a catamaran on the northwest coast of England. She opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve and wrote her first novel at fifteen. She wrote the first of her highly acclaimed crime thriller series featuring ex-Special Forces trainee turned bodyguard, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox, after receiving death-threats in the course of her work as a photojournalist. When not involved with renovating houses, crewing other people’s yachts, or improvising weapons out of everyday objects, she can often be found international pet-sitting.

Website: https://www.zoesharp.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorzoesharp

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ZoeSharpAuthor