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: