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How I write - plots, characters, research and first drafts

I’m always eager to begin writing a new crime novel so I don't wait until I have a complete outline before starting. I don't even wait until I have conducted all my research and I certainly have no idea at the beginning who the killer is and why.

I usually work up an outline of the first three chapters and some character profiles, especially the victim, but I by no means have all the information about this person, that comes as I write, and as I begin to flesh out the plot.

I conduct some research. This could be on the means of murder, the police and forensic procedures, and the background historical information, which might be relevant to my proposed story line, particularly so with the Art Marvik mystery thrillers which have their roots steeped in the past. I will also conduct some historical research in respect of my 1950s set Inspector Ryga mysteries. In addition, as these are set around various locations in England, I will need to research those places as they were in that period.

I enjoy the buzz generated by the flow of the creative juices, but I often wish I could wave a magic wand and that first draft could be dumped directly from my brain onto my computer without all the effort of having to key it in!

I try to write the first draft as quickly as possible, with minimal editing because that slows down the process. However, there are many times when I have to pause it to conduct further research, which then often throws up more ideas of how I can take the plot forward. It usually takes me about three months to write the first draft of approximately 80,000 to 95,000 words.

Then follows a sense of relief and the revisions begin. I usually go through eight revisions before I am happy with what I have written. These involve fleshing out the plot and subplots, checking the structure, making sure the clues are all in there and the red herrings. It also includes ensuring that the motivations and personalities of the characters are fully formed and intriguing.

The final revisions mean checking the overuse of certain words and phrases and the punctuation.

All in all it can take me anything from six to nine months to write a novel, therefore I'd better get cracking!

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JULY 15TH, 2022 @ 6:21:02 BST

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