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The emotional roller coaster of writing a crime novel

A Killing Coast - the seventh DIi Horton - Pauline RowsonEach stage of writing a novel for me brings with it a range of different emotions. These range from excitement and frustration, to relief, doubt and fear, plus a whole lot in between.

I'm currently working on the tenth in the DI Andy Horton series and the theme is developing nicely. Eager to begin writing I don't wait until I have a complete outline. I don't even wait until I have conducted all my research and I certainly have no idea at this stage who the killer is and why. All I know for DI Horton number ten is that it is set in the Solent area on the South Coast of England, Andy Horton is still living on his boat and riding his Harley Davidson and he is a step closer to finding out why his mother disappeared over thirty years ago. But another drama is unfolding and one which Horton can't ignore.

So excitement is the first emotion for me when beginning a new novel as I work up an outline and some character sketches. I conduct some research and more ideas begin to flow. I can't wait to get started and do so as soon as I possibly can often within a month of finishing the previous novel, sometimes within a couple of weeks..

Next comes frustration and an adrenalin rush. Many writers find writing the first draft frustrating and a bit of a pain. I have mixed emotions about it.  I thoroughly enjoy the buzz generated by the flow of the creative juices but often wish I could wave a magic wand and that first draft would be dumped directly from my brain without all the effort of having to key it into the computer. I, like many writers, try to write the first draft as quickly as possible, with minimal editing because that slows down the process. While writing the first draft I'll also be conducting more research..  
Then follows a sense of relief once that first draft is written, usually after three or four months.  Now I can turn to the revisions. I will go back through the novel and begin to flesh it out further, check the structure, the clues, red herrings, motivations and personalities of the characters. This may take several revisions and often further research until finally I check that everything hangs together, all the unanswered questions have been answered and that the words and phrases used are the correct ones.

Then come the doubts. Could I change this chapter, this scene, this phrase or word? Could I improve the entire novel, perhaps I should re-write the wretched thing. Help! By now I am so close to it that it is difficult to be objective.

And finally fear. Having gone through several revisions I'm now at the stage where I feel I can no longer change anything. It is as good as it's going to get and I desperately need a fresh eye over it.  With a rapidly beating heart, hesitating for several minutes my finger poised over the send message button, I take a deep breath and off it goes into the ether and to my publisher.

But there is no time to relax; it's on with the next novel while waiting with a certain amount of anxiety to see if my publisher likes my latest offering enough to publish it. Fingers crossed they will and DI Andy Horton will live to see another day.

Death Lies BeneathDeath Lies Beneath, the eighth in the DI Horton series was published by Severn House in hardcover in the UK in July 2012.  It will be published in the USA in November 2012

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AUGUST 27TH, 2012 @ 5:01:55 UTC


RE: The emotional roller coaster of writing a crime novel

Thanks for the briefing. I also begin my novels before I know the entire story. ALWAYS something happens--unknown to me early on--to change the novel`s journey. I will write scenes that come to me. Maybe they`ll be used; maybe not.
I want to thank you for your article. I look forward to reading your novels.


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