With HUNTED – the latest DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg novel being unleashed today – I am very pleased to welcome former cop and journalist Paul Finch to kick off his blog tour here and to offer an insight into how his writing routine works for him.
Questions concerning daily writing routines are quite difficult to answer for me, mainly because I don’t think I have a recognisable routine that I repeat every day. In general terms, I’m quite haphazard in my normal approach. However, when I’m writing a novel I tend to be a lot more focussed, so perhaps I can widen the terms of this discussion slightly.
Under the terms of my current contract, I’m writing two novels a year. That’s a bit of a tall order, but what it means for me is that I have to be disciplined. I’m not one of those who feel they always need to write 2000 words a day just to make progress. I feel that’s actually a sensible policy, though there are reasons why I don’t adhere to it, as I will shortly explain.
As with most novelists, my main drive is to get the first draft written. Anyway I can, I push myself hard to get it down on paper. Completion of that first draft always feels as if you’ve broken the back of the job – and in many ways you have; if nothing else, writing a novel is a huge physical effort. But of course that’s not as straightforward a task as it sounds.
I always find it helps if I produce a chapter-by-chapter blueprint first, and I always check that my editor at Avon is happy with this before I proceed to the actual writing. This gives me two advantages. Firstly, it enables me to write that all-important first draft without constantly stopping to work out what’s going to happen next, how I want this or that character to develop, etc (though you have to be flexible, and if better ideas come along mid-draft, you can’t ignore them just for the sake of having an easy day). Secondly, it offers me protection in that it hopefully guards against my editor asking me to do some major story restructuring later on, just when I think I’m home and dry (it doesn’t always work that way either, but it reduces the chance).
Once I’m happy with the chapter-by-chapter, I try to blast it onto the page. This is where your 2000-words-a-day thing is useful. But no matter how fast you write, it can be quite onerous if it means you are sitting gazing at a computer screen all day. So I prefer to dictate my first draft onto a hand-recorder, often while I’m taking the dogs for long walks in the countryside.
This is rewarding in all kinds of ways, not least because it means that both the dogs and I get plenty of exercise, but also because I’m away from all those online distractions, and also – and this is a bit of a personal thing – once I’m outdoors, particularly when I’m alone, it allows my thoughts to run free. It also helps in terms of volume. I find that I can originate way more than 2,000 words a day by this method. Of course, I still have to type them up later. There is no audio-to-text app that would work in my case, because my dictated drafts tend to be disorderly; they’re often just streams of words and sentences with no real thought to syntax, balance and such. That said, I find it relatively easy to knock all that into shape when I’m actually transferring it to the screen, which I usually do in the evening, sitting in the armchair with laptop on my knee, working from a pair of earphones while my family watch TV.
So that is my usual day at the start of the novel-writing process. Later on, when I’m proofing – in effect creating a second and third draft – things get a little more disorganised. My main emphasis at this stage is going through the text line-by-line to iron out flaws and errors. This can be a tiresome exercise because it’s slow progress, plus it plants me firmly in front of the screen, but as this involves a different kind of concentration I often find I can play mood music in the background.
The third and final draft before the book goes in sees me to revert to my trusty hand-recorder again. I now have what to all intents and purposes is a finished novel, but I want to make sure it’s nicely polished. I thus read the whole thing onto tape again, and play it back through my earphones while those pooches of mine get yet more exercise out in the country. I always keep a notebook to hand on these occasions, so I can jot down anything that jars or sags. Again, this can be a lengthier process than it sounds, but eventually all the necessary nips and tucks are made.
So, as you can see, my schedule changes from day to day, week to week. This is mainly because I aim to spend as little time as I can in front of a computer screen and keyboard, but invariably there is plenty of this. I am a writer after all … or so they tell me.
Here’s how Hunted is detailed on amazon, and you can order your copy HERE.
Get hooked on Heck: the maverick detective who knows no boundaries. A grisly whodunit you won’t be able to put down, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride and TV series ‘Luther’.
Heck needs to watch his back. Because someone’s watching him…
Across the south of England, a series of bizarre but fatal accidents are taking place. So when a local businessman survives a near-drowning but is found burnt alive in his car just weeks later, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is brought in to investigate.
Soon it appears that other recent deaths might be linked: two thieves that were bitten to death by poisonous spiders, and a driver impaled through the chest with scaffolding.
Accidents do happen but as the body count rises it’s clear that something far more sinister is at play, and it’s coming for Heck too…
And please be sure to follow (or Hunt) Paul as he hops across all of the following blogs over the coming days;