#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:

#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 – debut author Margaret Kirk reveals her procrastination habits! @HighlandWriter

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Today debut crime writer Margaret Kirk 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.

Ready for a grilling about her procrastination habits is Margaret Kirk whose debut crime novel – SHADOW MAN – is out now.

Welcome Margaret! Tell me a bit about SHADOW MAN…

Shadow Man, my debut novel, is a police procedural set in Inverness and the Highlands. The winner of the Good Housekeeping First Novel competition in 2016, it introduces Lukas Mahler, a half-Scots, half-German ex-Met DI, and is the first in a planned series.

How long did it take to write?

Well, when I won the competition (June 2016) I really only had about 25,000 decent words written. I then had a bit of a scramble to get it finished and sent off to Orion, which took another six months. Not too bad, considering I was in a state of shock for at least a month after finding out I’d won!

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

I have a lovely writing shed (dubbed ‘The Murder Room’) in our garden, where I should theoretically be able to shut out the world and get writing. But I’ve also got two demanding cats who wander in and out, and a really comfy day bed in there, so…

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

I plan quite carefully. I set up a word document called ‘Chapter Plan’ and do a one or two-sentence synopsis for each chapter, which I then add to/amend as I go. And I always write the synopsis for the book first – it really concentrates the mind and shows me where the book is going. And it alerts me to any potential plot holes I need to look out for.

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

Probably in the middle. There’s a lot of momentum that carries me through the first third, then as the plot becomes more complex, I start fretting about whether I’m going in the right direction etc. I gradually feel my way through and start gathering speed again for the finale!

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

I think edits, really, because there’s that sense that you’re working with what you have to make something better, and that’s always easier than pulling words out of thin air and sticking them down on a page. The shape of what the book should be starts to feel a little closer at the edits stage.

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

Cat-cuddling. Finding a new must-read series and absolutely bingeing on it, telling myself it’s all in the name of research. Sort of…and afternoon tea is a huge favourite!

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

Coffee and chocolate – basically, I run on caffeine. But in an attempt to combat the onset of writers’ posterior, I try to severely limit the chocolate, and make sure I get at least 30 minutes’ exercise every day. Honest…

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

…is celebrated either with Prosecco or a nice Scottish gin (Shetland Reel or Rock Rose) and Fevertree tonic. Cheers!

Huge thanks to Margaret for letting me quiz her about all things procrastination.

Be sure to check out her debut novel – SHADOW MAN. And keep up to date with all her news via social media at: 

Facebook: Margaret Kirk Author    Twitter:     https://twitter.com/HighlandWriter

Click on the book cover below to view SHADOW MAN on Amazon UK…

#CrimeWritersInCafesProcrastinating – @Anne_Coates1 reveals her procrastination habits

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Today crime writer Anne Coates 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.

Ready for a grilling about her procrastination habits is Anne Coates whose latest crime novel – SONGS OF INNOCENCE – is out now.

Welcome Anne! So tell me all about your latest book – Songs of Innocence?

What a marvelous opportunity to procrastinate by answering your questions, Steph! Songs of Innocence is the third book in the Hannah Weybridge series. Still recovering from the traumatic events of Death’s Silent Judgement (book two), Hannah, a freelance journalist, is asked to help investigate the death of a teenage Asian girl found drowned in Peckham Pond by her family. The police think it’s suicide; her aunt is convinced it is murder. Hannah’s enquiries reveal a trend of Asian girls missing school, or disappearing altogether and someone is determined she will not expose the reason why.

How long did Songs of Innocence take to write?

I started more or less as soon as I’d submitted the second book to my publisher and it took about eight months to write. I remember being on holiday when Matthew Smith, the publishing director of Urbane Publications, contacted me about publishing book three and what was the title? All the books’ titles are linked to a poet or poem I love. I dithered over book three but Blake was my inspiration and so I borrowed part of his own title and a poem I love within it. My deadline was four months away.

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

People who manage to write in cafés and bars intrigue me. How do they manage to stop people watching and eavesdropping long enough to actually get words onto the screen? Mind you I keep promising myself I’ll go and work in my local with a glass of wine for inspiration! Mainly I work from home although I have been known to write on the bus, especially if I see someone whose characteristics or way of talking I could use for a character. My powers for procrastination are legendary. Unlike some who have to clean the house/rearrange their working space or whatever, I am able to sit and watch the dust accumulate while I look out of a window for inspiration. When I get stuck on something I find changing my writing location helps so I tend to move around the house. However I have three cats who all compete with my laptop for a place to nestle and stroking a feline is very therapeutic.

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

Frequently when I get stuck on a plot problem, I wish I were more of a planner. However I “jump straight in” but rarely is the first chapter I write the one which appears at the beginning of the finished novel. For my current WIP, the beginning changed several times before I found my way into the story. In Songs I had a very tight time-frame for the narrative which helped with the plotting as all the action takes place in May 1994 and I used some real events to keep a check on the narrative path. Even so I don’t write chronologically so I have to write loads of notes to remind myself of what is happening and what should go before and after.

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

Probably equally across all three. At the beginning I spend a lot of time thinking about the plot and characters – this involves pruning the roses, weeding, filing my nails, making cups of coffee, anything rather that actually putting words onto paper. Cups of cold coffee and uneaten snacks indicate when the writing is going well. Towards the end of the first draft I may slow down to postpone the exquisite agony of knowing that I will have to begin rewriting and sorting out plot holes.

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

The relief of a finished first draft is second to none. Then at least I have something to work with and on. I do two or three drafts before I start editing and I print out each time to give myself a physical feeling for the MS. I love the last draft/edit as that’s usually when I change the ending for something more extreme. As I don’t plot and plan, characters lead me on sometimes into unknown territory. The finale is often a shock to me – and, I hope, for the reader.

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

Research – pause to polish halo – can lead a writer up and down all manner of highways and byways. Although I prefer to get a first draft written and worry about fact checking and so on at a later stage, I find looking up something or Googling a location can be all it needs to spur me on. I sometimes read reams about a subject and then only a tiny element makes it into the book. Of course, social media (which is how I happened to read about your new series, Steph in the middle of draft one of book four!) can be a huge distraction as can getting immersed in a novel.

Ah yes, very true – social media is a great distraction!

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

I love coffee but, as an insomniac, I avoid it after lunchtime. Then I drink water until it’s an acceptable time to have a G&T or a glass of wine. I’m a terrible snacker and how immersed in my writing I am dictates how healthily I eat. I try to make sure plenty of fruit and nuts are available but sometimes only chocolate will do.

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

The finished book always takes me by surprise somehow. It’s fabulous to see and touch but often it’s the reaction of my daughter and friends that gives it credence. The official launch party of Songs of Innocence was a few days after publication so on publication day we went to a local pub which features in the book and celebrated with Prosecco.

Huge thanks to Anne for being great fun and letting me quiz her about all things procrastination.

Be sure to check out her latest book – SONGS OF INNOCENCE.

Click on the book cover below to view it on Amazon UK…

#CrimeWritersInCafesProcrastinating – Howard Linskey reveals his procrastination habits! #TheChosenOnes

Today is the first of a new regular feature – Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating! As the title suggests, it’s 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.

First up for a grilling about his procrastination habits is the fabulous Howard Linskey whose latest crime novel is published this week.

Welcome, Howard! So tell me all about your latest book – The Chosen Ones…

Thanks Steph. Great to be here. ‘The Chosen Ones’ begins when a young woman called Eva wakes inside a large metal box with no idea how she got there. She understands she is being held captive but has no idea why. Investigative journalists, Tom Carney and Helen Norton, team up with Detective Sergeant Ian Bradshaw to investigate her disappearance and quickly learn that this is not the first time women have been taken but what links Eva to cases from almost two decades earlier and how can they possibly find her?

You can read more about it here: http://www.howardlinskey.co.uk/work#/the-chosen-ones/

How long did The Chosen Ones take to write?

The best part of a year, which is normal for me. I usually start writing a new book in January, just as the editing process draws to a close on the previous one. I’ve then got eight months to turn in a first draft by the end of August that’s usually around 100,000 words or so. My editor and literary agent will read it and send me some notes then I’ll do a second and third draft, or even a fourth before I’m fully happy with it. By the end of the calendar year it’s almost done then the process starts all over again!

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

All three! I mostly work from home and aim to begin once my daughter has gone off to school but in reality, I start with coffee, breakfast, the Times newspaper and internet-based distractions, while I sit in the conservatory at the back of our house and enjoy the sunshine, if there is any. I also have to remember to feed the squirrels. Wild ones visit our garden daily and they expect breakfast, to the consternation of our dog. It can be mid-morning by then and I’ll suddenly panic and get down to some actual writing. After a couple of days in the house, I get stir crazy and venture out. There’s a good café in my town and I’ll have lunch there while ‘plotting’, which sounds sinister but I mean it in a book sense. My favourite place to procrastinate though is the pub. Sitting with a pint of bitter and your lap top, writing away in a quiet corner of a pub during the day time feels like playing truant from life. I don’t do it often but when I do my venue of choice is the White Horse in Old Welwyn Village. They even opened up early for me once, so I could be filmed there for the true crime series ‘Written In Blood’. The viewers probably think I’m an alcoholic.

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

I do a little bit of planning up-front but I’d be lying if I said it was very detailed and most of this is in my head rather than on pages of notes. In the early stages I like to get some words down and write scenes that are likely to end up in the finished book, hoping that one scene will lead to another. I don’t write chronologically either but do the bits I am in the mood for then curse myself months later, as I wade through thousands of words that are quite literally in the wrong order. I end up putting them together again somehow. I have no idea why I write like this. It makes no sense at all but somehow it works for me and the books are always well received, thankfully.

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

Definitely at the beginning. As I race towards a deadline, the procrastination is inevitably replaced by panicked, guilt-ridden bursts of activity, where the word count climbs faster than usual. I used to be a reporter, so I have a journalist’s respect for deadlines and I’ve never missed a single one, which isn’t bad after numerous drafts for eight books.

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

I quite like doing the second draft, if I feel like I am going in the right direction. That first hundred thousand words grants you a certain amount of freedom with your writing but there’s always a stage where I start to severely doubt myself and the book. That’s natural and I push on through past it to the finish line. There is always quite a bit to be fixed and I do that with the second draft but by then I will have had some positive feedback from my editor and agent, which spurs me on. By the end of the book, I am sick of the sight of it as I will have been over and over the words countless times and will need several weeks away from it by then. My enthusiasm returns once I see the final copy. It always hits me then that something I dreamed up has been worked on, edited, printed and published until it’s a real book with my name on the cover.

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

Reading. I get distracted by research in the early days, so I’ll start with articles on line. I can lose hours doing that and it goes way beyond research that I can actually use. I had to learn a bit about underground bunkers for my new book and started researching them. An article about a bunker could then lead to one about the Cold War then what a bad guy Stalin was and how he almost lost the Second World War? Then, before I know it, I’m reading articles about Hitler’s inner circle and what happened to them all, which has nothing to do with my novel. Cue guilt, panic and a writing frenzy to make up for lost time till I get back on track again.

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

Coffee is a necessity, particularly first thing in the morning. I’ve got one of those capsule machines that delivers a small cup of very good coffee with a strong enough kick to wake my brain up. I try and avoid snacks because I have too much of an addictive personality for them. If I put a packet of Hobnobs next to my lap top they would all be gone by the time I’d written a thousand words and there would be chocolatey finger prints on my keyboard. I make sure I have a decent breakfast though and a good lunch, because hunger is too distracting and I have enough distractions already.

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

At some point, on publication day or when the box of finished books arrives at my home, I will open a bottle of champagne. I think something that takes a year of very hard work to complete deserves it, don’t you?

Huge thanks to Howard for being a great sport and letting me quiz him about all things procrastination.

Be sure to check out his great new book – THE CHOSEN ONES.

Click on the book cover below to view it on Amazon UK. It’s a bargain at 99p on kindle at the moment…