Month: January 2017

Paula Daly and her writing process

The Trophy Child by Paula Daly, her fifth novel, was published on 26 Jan. A mix of domestic / psychological thriller and police procedural, in a similar vein to Eva Dolan’s Watch Her Disappear it explores the internal pressures within a family and the dark side that can be hidden behind a perfect facade.

As part of the blog tour Paula talks about her writing process.

I’m often asked about my writing process. Not so much about where the ideas themselves come from, but how I go about shaping those ideas, how I go about actually writing a novel.

I can understand the curiosity. When I first started writing it was the one thing I wanted to know. I read lots of books on how to write, how to write a novel, how to write a thriller, a crime novel. I watched endless YouTube videos of authors explaining how they went about their work, creative writing teachers extolling their methods, other writers at the same stage as me, sharing what they’d learned so far.

What was clear was that there were many ways to tackle writing a novel. You can come at it from lots of different angles and still arrive at the same end point. Some writers don’t plan at all and are happy to get what Anne Lamott calls the ‘shitty first draft’ down fast, and then revise the manuscript until it’s ready. Others plan meticulously. A lot of writers do both.

I used to write freely. As in, I had no idea where I was going and I let the plot take me where it wanted it to. Trouble was, I ended up with three unpublished novels as a result. So I decided to try planning instead and I’ve stuck with that process ever since. I realise now that I need to know what I’m writing towards or I’ll go off at crazy tangents and waste a lot of time. And I find writing hard. Getting the words down on paper is not easy for me. So I don’t want to have to delete whole chapters when I’ve got it wrong.

So, once I’ve got an idea for a book, I sit on it for a while. I know when it’s a good idea because I get excited about it. And other ideas seem to start flooding in and ‘sticking’ to that original idea, making it better, more interesting, adding layers.

Then I research. Researching is great because it throws up more ideas for your plot. Often, I can actually begin to fashion a story out of what I discover during the research period. Then I start to write down ideas for scenes. Nothing concrete, just things that I think would be cool to write about, or would maybe surprise the reader, because they’d not seen something done in that way before. Once that’s done, I organise the scene list, and list of ideas, into something coherent that resembles a proper plot. This again takes practice. Structuring a novel is where most people stumble and it wasn’t until I read lots of books and articles about structure that I finally cracked it.

Eventually I’m ready to write. After around three to four months of planning, I’m ready to write Chapter One. It is the scariest moment for me because so much of what happens in my books is rooted in that first chapter. So I have to get it right.

I write seven hundred words a day (it used to be a thousand but I’m limited by back pain now) until the book is done. I edit as I go along, something that a lot of writers don’t do because it stops them from finishing the book. But I have to edit as I go as it’s the only way I understand what I’m writing about, and it’s how I keep track of my story and my characters. When the thing is finished it doesn’t need much of an edit as I’ve been through it over and over by then. Maybe just a day or two tidying up last bits and pieces before it’s ready to go out to my editors.

Then I send it off and I pray.

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Murderabilia – Craig Robertson

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Title – Murderabilia

Author – Craig Robertson

Published – 2016

Genre – Crime

I don’t think it’s any secret that I am a fan of Craig Roberton’s writing – his mix of gritty Glaswegian crime fiction, ability to weave in multiple plotlines and of course his very readable prose. This is the sixth book in the series featuring DI Rachel Narey and her partner, ex-police photographer Tony Winter and I’m pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint.

Set just months after the end of In Place of Death, Winter is now a photo-journalist with the Scottish Standard but that doesn’t stop him getting into the thick of it when it comes to taking crime scene photos. A particularly visual death has Winter taking the pictures of a body suspended from a railway bridge, a death Narey will be investigating but something happens at the beginning of the investigation that sees Narey confined to their home and a colleague she believes to be incompetent taking over her case.

While Narey is trapped Winter does some digging of his own but not one for inaction Narey also begins to investigate one aspect of the crime scene through the only means she can – the internet. What she finds is a world where people will trade anything and everything associated with serial killers and their victims. Unable to leave her bed she becomes more and more obsessed with what she finds and is drawn into the darkest area of the web. Where the first books in this series featured Winter’s obsession with his photography and the visual aspects of the crime scene this is Narey’s turn to be consumed by something horrific.

Normally Robertson’s books offer a view of the dark side of the City of Glasgow but in this book it’s the dark side of the internet that is centre stage and those that collect items most of us would find abhorrent. The book still manages to be atmospheric because it effortlessly captures the claustraphobia of Narey’s confinement and her obsession. She’s firmly at the forefront of this book which makes it a more emotional read than perhaps the earlier titles have been.

It’s refreshing to come across a plot and a take on an investigation which is original and Robertson on certainly achieves that here. I’m always intrigued by his books, there is always some aspect that he brings in that makes me want to go away and find out more about. In this case you might (or might not) want to try Googling ‘murderabilia’ for yourself. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

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Here’s to 2017

stockvault-large-colorful-fireworks114130Well whatever your thoughts about 2016 it has, inevitably, passed and here we are looking forward to 2017 and what that might bring.

I thought this might be a good opportunity, even if it’s just for my own benefit, to take stock of what I read / blogged in 2016 so this time next year I have a comparison. According to Goodreads I have read 51 books – which is what I would expect – I know I usually read about one a week and with the house move I’ve had a couple of weeks where I’ve hardly read a page.

As well as completing 51 books I consigned one to the ‘abandoned’ shelf, have carried over 6 that I had already started and still haven’t finished and started a further three – so I’m technically currently reading 9.

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My ‘to read’ numbers are a little frightening. According to Goodreads, which is how I try to keep track, I have a total of 288:

  • 146 on my bookcase (although this is theoretical as a lot have yet to be unpacked)
  • 41 on my kindle
  • 101 (intentionally) in boxes although I hope to get to them eventually.

This compares with a total of 250 in March when I commented following a post of Cleo’s.

I don’t commit to a reading challenge each year, blogging can feel like enough of a chore sometimes without making the reading feel challenging too!

As far as my blog is concerned I posted reviews of 39 books – confirming my suspicion that I am permanently behind and never manage to write / post the reviews at the same speed at which I read.

As well as the book reviews I tried two new things on the blog this year. The first was a series of features on those people who are behind the scenes but are all involved in getting great crime fiction to our shelves / e-readers. This was a popular feature which I will be pressing on with – I have some more interviewees lined up I just need to write the questions for them to answer.

I also built on my ‘Debuts to look out for in 2015‘ with a monthly post featuring forthcoming crime fiction / thriller debuts. Although this was a great way of focussing attention on these new releases it became far too difficult to maintain in the latter part of the year. Perhaps I’ll just do a single ‘2017’ post.

Overall the traffic to my blog has increased, which is great and thank you to all the people who have read, liked and commented. Here’s to more of the same in 2017!

So do you have plans, challenges or goals for your reading and / or blogging in the next year?