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Do you always write your crime novels chronologically?

Crime author Pauline Rowson talking about her crime novelsAt a talk I was asked an interesting question - do I always write chronologically or do I jump about?

My answer was in the main I try to write the first draft from beginning to end but it doesn't always work out that way, primarily because I do not have a complete plot line mapped out before I start writing.  Usually I only have the first three chapters plotted and some of the character profiles drawn up.  As I begin the creative writing process I find that there comes a point when I might jump from writing chapter seven or ten to chapter eighteen or twenty... or the ending.

I start at chapter one and crack on with the first draft, as I said above having very little idea at that stage where I am going and no idea who done it, why and how. I plot as I write allowing the characters to spring up, form, develop and spark more ideas. That isn’t to say I start with a completely blank sheet. I have a location and usually a victim, not necessarily a dead one, it could be a missing one.
I have my regular cast of characters in the DI Andy Horton crime novels, the Art Marvik mystery thrillers and the 1950s set mysteries with  Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Alun Ryga, and war photographer, Eva Paisely.  Alongside all these guys I have a smattering of new characters for each new novel, whose personalities and motivations need to be developed and layered up as I write. Sometimes those who I believe will be main characters fall by the wayside, some who I have given just walk on parts suddenly become a great deal more interesting and move up the ranks. 

Dead Passage a DI Andy Horton crime novelI have a plot line or story board that I add to, erase, and alter as I write.  All is going in sequence... that is until I get to about chapter ten or possibly even later.  By then I’ve begun to work out who did it and why and I am impatient to get to the end to see if my theories will work. This is when I start jumping about. 

I might write the last chapter (usually chapter twenty five which invariably gets altered in the revisions). Then I might write chapter twenty and go back and write chapter eighteen of seventeen.  I might just write without any real chapter breaks, although that is rare.  Once I’ve sussed out the who, why, when, where and how – of usually more than one murder – I can then, as the late Reginald Hill said, go back to the beginning and put in the plot.  And, as the late Ruth Rendell also said, put in the clues. 

It’s messy but it’s binding to quote another "great” only this time an actor, Bob Hope although at the time he was swearing "on a mess of black-eyed peas and candied yams”. (The Lemon Drop Kid). Me? I’ll stick to coffee and rock cakes, oh, and the more than occasional glass of white wine, which, by the way, helps the plot enormously.

I am the author of twenty-two crime novels all set against the backdrop of the sea, primarily on the South Coast of England.  My books are available in paperback, ebooks, Amazon Kindle and many as audio books. They are also available for loan in public libraries in the UK, Commonwealth and the USA.

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FEBRUARY 11TH, 2021 @ 6:54:11 GMT

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