My writing routine has altered dramatically since the start of 2017. With a full-time job in a pretty pressurised environment I write as and when I could squeeze out the time – mostly late at night, or in the early hours of the morning sleep eluded me. Now I have a part-time business, and I get to devote 2-3 days’ a week to my writing – a genuine luxury.
On those days I can generally be found bashing away at my laptop from around 8.00am. After lunch I do another couple of hours. If the work is going well and I’m in the groove, I can often still be caught hard at it at five or six in the evening. I also still write longhand at times, on A4 pads which I keep close by in case inspiration strikes whilst I’m watching the TV or reading. I tend to get consumed by my work, no matter what it is, and when I’m in that mode I find it almost impossible to switch off completely.
Structurally, I do a basic outline of the story I want to tell. I list the key points, and then try to fill in a little of what comes between in order for the story to flow. The starting point usually suggests itself fairly quickly, and I’ll let others be the judge as to whether I get that right. I then need to figure out the characters I’m going to need in order to tell my story in the most appropriate way. I mull this over for a few days, let it stew, but I like to begin the writing process not long after I have all the pieces in place.
For the first 5 or 6, and then 10 or 12 chapters, I write and edit, write and edit. This pattern will often lead to new threads, new plotlines, new back story, new characters, and new chapters. Once I have that, I have the story firmly fixed inside my mind. From that point on I write and don’t look back again until I am done.
The first draft then gets sidelined for a while whilst I work on something fresh. Once it comes out again, that’s when the story comes alive. I write thin to fat to thin – I usually describe it as follows: I create the skeletal framework upon which I will later add the flesh. That flesh tends towards obesity during the second draft, and then every visit afterwards is designed to prune back. Make it lean, adjust the pace, get the voice right…really, there is so much to look out for, and so many obstacles upon which you can stumble.
In my book Degrees of Darkness I knew who the villain was and how I wanted to end the book from the word go. With Bad to the Bone I changed my villain – or one of them at least – right near the end, and so then had to go back and rewrite so as to drop subtle hints (hopefully). With the book I’ve set aside having completed the first draft, I could see the end but it was like those motes you get in your eyes which float around and the moment you try to focus on them they swim out of view. I was starting to panic, and then in the most glamorous turn of events I was in the toilet when the ending of the book came to me in a rush – just like I was afterwards as I hurried to jot it down (and yes, I did flush and wash my hands). As for my WIP…I know roughly how it ends, but it needs a little finesse and I hope that by the time I come to write it I have improved enough to do it justice.
Bad to the Bone was written quite a while ago, but when I came to look at how I wanted it published I decided not to update it. I like the feel of its time and place. I remember my late night sessions piecing that book together, and I think I grew as an author during its creation. I like the story and I’m pretty sure I’d get on well with DI Bliss. I could see myself having a pint with him and chewing the fat about football and music and…dead bodies.
Writing can be hard at times. But I’ve always believed you should write for pleasure, because if you don’t enjoy it then what’s the point? Whilst I am my sternest critic, I also know my own limitations. But I’m proud of Bad to the Bone, and now that it’s out there I can only hope that people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Many thanks, Tony.