What’s Your First Draft Like? – Nick Quantrill

Today we are joined by crime writer Nick Quantrill.

NQ photoNick Quantrill was born and raised in Hull, an isolated industrial city in the north east of England. His Joe Geraghty novels are published by Caffeine Nights. His work has appeared in various volumes of “The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime”.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

Once I’m ready to start a new novel, I dump a load of notes down, usually far more than I need. It’s like I need to get everything out of my brain and down on the page. By this stage I’ll have been thinking about the novel for a while, so hopefully it will feel like a tangible idea. I tend to dump everything into Word, sometimes Excel spreadsheets (don’t ask) before trying to shape it.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I like to think so. Once it feels like I’ve made notes of scenes and characters and more general ideas, I need to work out something approaching a synopsis before I start. Weirdly, I find it makes more sense to do it by hand at this stage, like it helps clarify my thinking. Once I’ve got the opening in place, it’s back to the keyboard to flesh it out and put together a two-page outline which I break down a bit before starting. It’s comforting to have a loose map of the way through the novel, even though I know I’ll never stick to it.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Keyboard. If I had to write a novel by hand, I’d find something else to do!

 

How important is research to you?

I think more in terms of plot and character. So far, all my novels have been set in contemporary Hull, my home city. I’d like to think I’ve got a fair grip on the place, so research is often checking locations and wandering around, figuring out good places to leave bodies etc. When the story demands research, though, it has to be done properly.

How do you go about researching?

It’s a combination of methods for me, but usually online, reading books (must be print so I can scribble on them) and/or asking the right people the right questions.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

I love creating folders within the novel’s overall folder on my laptop. I tend to save a lot of web links from newspapers. Research is usually me writing summaries of things I’ve read, as I tend to absorb it better that way. I don’t seem to be a visual person, so very rarely save images.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I don’t tend to write a full first draft in its entirety. I like to feel in control of the process, so will write a section – it used to be three chapters, but I’m now aiming for an ‘act’ – print it off and revise before moving on. I write in scenes and number and title each one before pasting them to a master document. I find this method gives me a rough overview of the structure as I go along and makes moving things around so much easier. It’s proven invaluable to me in the past.

Laptop

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

Time is precious, so I try not to be. If I’m at home, I’ll make a cup of coffee before I start, but that’s about it. Weirdly, I like to hold a pen in my left hand as I type.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

The outside world very much exists. I combine writing with looking after my daughter, Alice, so my writing hours are when she’s at pre-school and then evenings, weekends, when I have childcare etc. I’d like more time to write (who wouldn’t?), but I know I’m pretty lucky.

What does your work space look like?

Ha! I don’t have one, as such. I lost the second bedroom/study when Alice was born, so I sit in the living room with my laptop on my knees, balanced on a food tray. Often, Alice will be running around, or my wife will be working or watching the television. I’m used to working with background noise and quite like. If I’m home alone, I have to put the radio on to help my concentrate.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

I like to edit as I go. It keeps me on track with the small details and threads that need dealing with. If I wrote a draft in its entirety, I fear I’d forget them.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

Word Count. Now I have a fairly settled routine around dropping off and picking up from pre-school, I have about two and a half hours to myself. That’s usually enough to get 1,000 words down. I aim for that as my minimum, and with evenings available, it’s generally achievable.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

I’d say it’s more like a second draft when I’m done, but I’m still finding a rhythm and routine with it. My circumstances have changed from writing around a full time job to writing around childcare, and they’ll change again when my daughter starts school properly. If I continue to have my mornings available for writing, I think I’ll have a second/third draft in reasonable shape within six months. Hopefully…

EditingIn what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?

I like to read on paper with a pen in my hand to mark up changes. It seems to focus my mind much better than reading from the computer screen. If I’m looking for a quicker, less detailed overview of what I’ve got, reading it on my Kindle suffices.

What happens now that first draft is done?

I think of my first draft as being more a second draft. If time allows, it’s another draft, but hopefully it’s taking shape by this stage. For each of my three Joe Geraghty novels with Caffeine Nights, I’d send it to them, ready for editing and work on it as necessary. For my current one I’ve attracted an agent, so a similar process, but with the input coming from a different source. And then it’s back to the beginning with the next novel…

You can find Nick on his website, Amazon and Twitter.

The Crooked Beat

CrookedWhen Joe Geraghty’s brother finds himself in financial trouble, it’s only natural that he turns to the Private Investigator for help. But when it relates to a missing consignment of smuggled cigarettes, it’s not so easily sorted. Drawn into the murky world of local and international criminals around the port of Hull, Geraghty knows the only way to save his brother is to take on the debt himself. But as he attempts to find a way out of the situation, the secrets and conspiracies he uncovers are so deeply buried in the past, he knows he’s facing people willing to do whatever it takes to keep them that way.

Have a look through the rest of the First Draft authors Here. Let me know if you want to do a Q&A.

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December’s Read For Crime Book Club

For various reasons the crime book club didn’t meet last night.

December’s vote is in though and we are reading;

The Ho Ho Ho Mystery by Bob Burke

pigThe festive follow-up to The Third Pig Detective Agency.

When Father Christmas goes missing on Christmas Eve eve, Mrs Christmas calls on our intrepid hero Harry Pigg to track him down.

What follows is another hardboiled caper featuring fairy tale villains, plenty of red herrings, a few close shaves, a couple of punch ups and a very clever twist.

Aided and abetted by his sidekicks Jack Horner and the genie from the lamp, Harry tries to save Christmas before time runs out.

If only he didn’t have to deal with those bloody annoying elves.

 

We are meeting on Wednesday 17th December at 8 p.m. GMT on Google+ Hangouts. To get the information on what we are reading, straight to your email inbox, sign up to the newsletter Here. That way you know you’ll never miss out on any of the information including voting options.

We’ll hopefully see you next month. Happy reading!

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The Open University Future Learn – Week One

In a post last month I said I had signed up to a free eight week course by Future Learn, a part of the Open University distance learning package. The course was Start Writing Fiction. I know I’m a bit past the starting blocks but I wanted to see if there were any nuggets of gold within the course that I could pick up or actual scaffolding type information that I didn’t know, after all, I am self taught.

We have just started week four and I’ve completed week two, but don’t worry about that if you decide to do it yourself. As you go along you will see there are plenty of people at the same stage as you by the timings of the comments left on each task. There is also no tutor input as far as I can see. But what do you expect for a free course. You work your way through tasks, listen to audio clips of published authors, read snippets of work from published novels relevant to the area you are working on and do what is requested. Any feedback is provided by your fellow students doing the course. I expect there is more interaction if you are up front and doing it as the course timings dictate, but life has been getting in the way a bit and I do hope to catch up.

The first week was all about where writers get their inspiration from. So, for us, where we would or could get our inspiration from. The course suggested we carry a notebook with us at all times and observe the world around us, specifically the people around us and imagine the stories that come from seeing the detail in those people. It also suggested mixing real life and fiction and seeing what we came up with. That was an interesting exercise. At the time I was sitting in a hotel room waiting for my daughter as she went for an interview assessment, so my only factual element in my piece was that I was in a hotel room. I’m not sure what they thought of that piece of writing! It did show how a story can be jump started though.

Next week I’ll do a run through of week two. And apologies for the bland no image post, WordPress wouldn’t let me upload a single image today….

Have you thought about doing a short free course? They do some really interesting ones, not just writing related ones.

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Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – My Personal Update

I managed to have a quick wander around before getting my train home.

I managed to have a quick wander around before getting my train home.

Last Thursday I was in London to see Professor Grahame. A top specialist in the field of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I was there because I was at the end of my tether, running out of hope and he was my last chance at getting to the bottom of what is disabling me so much.

You may remember a post back in September where I explained that I have a problem with my neck/head joint and with that I get a lot of extreme neck pain, crippling headaches, debilitating fatigue and a myriad of other issues. It now controls my life. I can’t do a day without pacing myself. I can’t go for a weekend away without being a medical mess afterwards. Professor Grahame really was where I was pinning everything, my whole life was stacked up in his hands. I was so invested in this appointment the day and night before I was a gibbering wreck and couldn’t sleep. Those of you on social media will have seen me up and active, way past my usual activity time.

The appointment came and I rambled (I also cried.) This was so incredibly important. But he listened, he asked questions and he examined me thoroughly. Professor Grahame actually lifted my head up higher with his hands and asked how it felt and it felt ok. Then he let go and my head just dropped like a brick back down into my neck. He asked how that felt. There was pain in my neck that had run up the back of my head as it had dropped.

At the end of it there is now an answer. An answer and action being taken. It would appear that the craniocervical junction is unstable which is what is giving me a lot of my symptoms. My head is too heavy for my neck. It’s known as bobble head. Or to put it in image form, my neck is a cocktail stick and my head a pumpkin and the stick is attempting to hold it.

The Professor is going to give my MRI to one of the top neurosurgeon’s in his field, in America, and ask him to look at it and do the official measurements, to see if it falls within surgical limits. He’s going to write to my GP to update him as he’s responsible for my day-to-day care. He has also said I need to wear an aspen collar to hold my head. This is the aspen collar.

Aspen

 

Flattering isn’t it?! I’m now in the midst of a scarf buying spree. Everything I wear will be accompanied by a scarf. Though looking at this again, I’m not sure they’re going to help much.

I did cry again when the Professor said all this, and he was shocked that I’d thought he wasn’t going to help me. It’s been such a battle as the NHS ortho and neurosurgeon’s don’t understand EDS and the impact it has on their respective areas that they don’t look, well, they don’t even listen, and to have it all in Professor Grahame was such a relief.

Now the impact of what this means to me is setting in a little and the joy of being heard is being replaced by a quiet contemplative understanding of just how fragile my body can be and what this current issue really means.

I am still pacing myself though and writing is something I can still do in spurts, so don’t think this is a setback in any way. It’s an answer. I just need to adjust my life…

I’m going to share this short video again.

 

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What’s In A Name?

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Nuchylee; freedigitalphotos.net

So, after declaring my decision to self publish Shallow Waters, I have been busy preparing behind the scenes for its release. One of those preparations involved checking out Amazon and Goodreads and to my dismay I found that there was already an author by the name Rebecca Bradley listed. She is a Canadian author who writes Science Fiction, Fantasy and some religious and children’s stories. Her last published work was 2007.

I’m a little confused now about how to proceed. My cover designer is starting work the first week of December so I need to have made a decision by then.

I can add my middle initial J and have my books as Rebecca J Bradley. My Twitter name and Instagram account are both listed as this. But my blog is simply Rebeccabradleycrime.com

Or, I can use my name as it stands, Rebecca Bradley. As a Goodreads author, your books should be listed under the correct author. We write different genres and I have an online presence which the other author does not, which I hope will help keep things separated.

If I choose the option of adding my initial to my books, do I quickly buy a new domain name for my blog before the release comes out and hope I don’t lose a whole bunch of followers as doing it now would be easier than doing it later down the line?

Stuart Miles: freedigitalphotos.net

Stuart Miles: freedigitalphotos.net

OK, to help with this, I’ve just done a Google search of the name Rebecca Bradley and this blog comes up as the first listing. I don’t think it would be wise to change the domain name now. The other author (there are other Rebecca Bradley’s – illustrators, designers etc) is listed second to bottom of the first page and it’s her Wikipedia page, not her own web page or social media. So I’m thinking, I need to keep the blog as just Rebecca Bradley, but what do I do about my books?

I am completely confused. Any help or idea’s would be greatly appreciated.

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What’s Your First Draft Like? – Clare Mackintosh

Today crime writer Clare Mackintosh seats herself in the First Draft hot seat.

b&w 140807MACK_0035 12x8 alt copyClare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant, and now writes full time. She is the founder and director of Chipping Norton Literary Festival, and lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and their three children.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

Buy a new notebook! Like most writers I know, I love stationery, and don’t need much of an excuse to go shopping. I start to make notes about the story, jot down thoughts about characters, settings, the time of year…

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

Not a routine, exactly, but I do like to have character names before I start writing, and I also pull together a plan for the story. When I wrote my first book I planned it incredibly thoroughly, only to unpick everything when I realised the characters just wouldn’t behave in the way I had anticipated. So now my writing is far more character-led and my plan is a lot more relaxed.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Pen and paper for making notes, but always a keyboard for actual writing. If I write by hand I can’t keep up with my thoughts. I touch type very quickly, and often write particularly visual scenes with my eyes shut, watching it play out in my head.

How important is research to you?

Really important. I used to be a police officer, and although I don’t believe every last detail in a crime novel has to be accurate, if there isn’t at least a ring of authenticity I think you lose the reader’s faith in you.

How do you go about researching?

Well, thank heavens for Google, that’s all I say… I didn’t have to do a lot of research for I Let You Go, just some basic fact-checking on the internet. I find social media absolutely fantastic for research: my Facebook followers have helped me out with all sorts of things, from how to destroy a car, to what would happen if you drank bleach!

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

If I were the sort of writer I would like to be, I would use some fancy note-taking app, or I’d have an amazing Pinterest account packed full of boards for each theme in my novel… Needless to say I’m not that sort of writer. I scribble things down in a notebook, or on a post-it note, or on my hand, and then invariably I lose it (or wash it off). I did start a Pinterest board for I Let You Go, but I didn’t have any real enthusiasm for it. My ideas are either in my head or in my draft!

Pinterest

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

My first draft is short – normally around 70,000 words – and it speeds up towards the end as the finish is in sight. Some sections are pretty good: others are little more than an enhanced outline of what is supposed to be happening, ready for me to go back and write them properly. The finished draft has loose ends and plot-holes, and is really just the beginning of the next draft.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

I’m not superstitious, and have never been the sort of person to have ‘lucky’ pens or the like. I never finish for the day without making notes on what I’m going to write the next day, so I’m not faced with a blank screen.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

I have a husband and three children: nice though it would be to lose myself in a manuscript for weeks at a time, it just isn’t possible. The reality is that the ‘magic’ only ever seems to happen about five minutes before the school run…

What does your work space look like?

I have a small office, about 7 foot square, with a bookcase, a desk, and a cabinet with my in-tray on it. I have the cabinet behind me because I don’t like to see any clutter when I’m working, and knowing there are things in my in-tray stresses me out! To my left is a big white board, and to my right a yearly wall planner. I have a big Mac screen, a phone and a lamp on my desk, plus a notebook and a pencil. That’s it. Oh, and a glass of water or a cup of tea.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

I’ve done both, and I’ve now settled in to my preferred method, which is just to keep going. I have to really fight my internal editor, though, who wants to change commas for semi-colons all day, instead of GETTING IT WRITTEN. She’ll learn.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

It really depends on what stage I’m at. For the first draft I don’t think word count really matters, so for me it’s just about moving forward. I might write a whole chapter, I might only write 200 words; but if I’ve moved the story on in the right direction, that’s good enough.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

Three months. Ish. It’s in no fit state to show anyone – in fact I don’t even call it my first draft. I label it ‘preliminary draft’ on my computer, and nobody sees it but me! Because I try not to stop to look things up, I use capitals to signpost to myself when something needs looking at. So a typical sentence might read: ‘She saw Mark WHAT WAS HIS SURNAME? getting in to his WHAT SORT OF CAR WOULD HE DRIVE?, and wondered if he had noticed her.’ If I spend time on these sorts of things as they crop up, I get lost in the internet.

How it all beganIn what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?

I use all three methods. My first read-through will be on paper, printed in double-spacing and on one side of the paper only, so I can write copious notes on the blank pages. Further down the line I prefer to use an e-reader, because it forces me to read it without fiddling with punctuation.

What happens now that first draft is done?

I give my ‘preliminary draft’ a rough edit to address the most obvious issues, then I send it to my agent and we have a discussion about it. I take another pass at it, and then it goes to my editor. By then it is technically a third draft, but it’s really just a tidied-up first draft. That’s when the real work starts!

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find Clare on her Website, Twitter and Facebook.

I Let You Go

I Let You Go packshotA tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . .

clip_image002.

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What Do You Want To Read For December’s Crime Book Club?

Next Wednesday 19th December at 8 p.m. GMT, we are meeting to discuss C J Sansom’s, Dominion. (You can find details of how the book club works Here.)

So, before that meeting ends, we need to decide what we are reading in December. At the last meeting the members agreed that we would, again, have a Christmas themed month and have nominated three books. Please never forget you can nominate books for the club vote!

This month we are voting on the three books below. Leave your votes in the comments, on twitter using the hashtag #crimebookclub or on the Facebook page.

The Ho Ho Ho Mystery by Bob Burke

pigThe festive follow-up to The Third Pig Detective Agency.

When Father Christmas goes missing on Christmas Eve eve, Mrs Christmas calls on our intrepid hero Harry Pigg to track him down.

What follows is another hardboiled caper featuring fairy tale villains, plenty of red herrings, a few close shaves, a couple of punch ups and a very clever twist.

Aided and abetted by his sidekicks Jack Horner and the genie from the lamp, Harry tries to save Christmas before time runs out.

If only he didn’t have to deal with those bloody annoying elves.

Mistletoe and Murder by Daisy Dalrymple

MistletoeIn December 1923, the formidable Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple has decided that for Christmas the family will all gather at Brockdene in Cornwall at the invitation of Lord Westmoor.

Her daughter – Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher – is something less than pleased but yields to the demands of her mother, especially as she’ll be there just before the holidays working on another article for Town and Country about the estate itself.

But the family gathering quickly goes awry. Brockdene, it seems, is only occupied by the Norvilles – poor relations of Lord Westmoor – and Westmoor himself won’t be joining them.

So Daisy, her husband Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, and their family must spend their Christmas holiday trapped in an ancestral estate with a rich history of lore, ghost stories, rumors of hidden treasure and secret passageways with a family seething with resentments, grudges and a faintly scandalous history.

The veneer of civility that pervades the halls of Brockdene, however, begins to wear thin when long-held family secrets threaten to bubble over, and one of the Christmas guests if found savagely murdered.

With few clues as to who committed the murder and with too many motives as to why, it is once again up to Daisy to sort out the truth that lies beneath a generation of poisonous secrets.

Blood from a Stone by Donna Leon

stoneOn a cold Venetian night shortly before Christmas, a man is killed in a scuffle in Campo San Stefano. The closest witnesses to the event are the tourists who had been browsing the man’s wares before his death – fake handbags of every designer label – but they have seen nothing that might be of much help to the police.

When Commissario Brunetti arrives on the scene, he finds it hard to understand why anyone would murder an illegal immigrant. They have few social connections and little money; in-fighting is the obvious answer. But once Brunetti begins investigating this unfamiliar Venetian underworld, he discovers that matters of great value are at stake in the immigrant community…

 

Don’t forget, you can sign up to the book club newsletter Here, making sure you never miss any voting chances or meeting updates.

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How To Query A Literary Agent

Rather than spend a long post about how to submit and all the rest of it, I found a wonderful vlog on submitting and you know me, if there’s a YouTube video that can do it, then I’ll use it!

Hannah Ferguson is a literary agent who seems to have recently set up a new YouTube vlog channel. Enjoy and I hope there are some little glimmers of gold in here for any of you who may be panning!

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My Decision To Become An Independent Author

Today I’m letting you know about an important decision I’ve made. The decision to become an independent author, to self publish my crime novel, Shallow Waters.

It’s not a decision that I’ve taken lightly, or that I’m going into lightly, but it is a decision that I feel is the right one for me.

As you know I tried the traditional route and it didn’t work out. I had some fantastic feedback (and I admit, some not, but reading and books are subjective, and the fact that there was such a variance within the professionals shows that.) but I just wasn’t taken on.

I just couldn’t put the novel down and let go. Self publishing is now a valid option for authors and I’m taking it and putting Shallow Waters out there. I have faith in the story and I have faith in the characters. They’re characters that are strong enough to carry it as a series and the second book is well under way.

It’s currently with an editor and I have commissioned a book cover designer. I don’t have a publication date set but I’m hoping to be ready around Christmas time. I will let you know as soon as I have a date.

I’m not going with Kindle Select where you are tied just to them, it will be available on all ereaders. This isn’t about how high I can get it in the kindle chart or how much money I can make. It’s about wanting to put it out there and doing it without isolating anyone, so no matter how you read, you will be able to get a copy. For me, this is about the love of writing, the love for this novel and the desire to have readers read it.

Now I’ve made the decision I’m really excited. Watch out for regular news and updates as the weeks go by. I’m going to be really busy!

I’m really happy with this decision and I hope you will be happy with me.

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Congratulations to Mel Sherratt and Mari Hannah

The UK based Crime Writers Association announced the shortlist for the Dagger in the Library award on Thursday. The award is for a body of work from an author. The long list was chosen by voting readers and the shortlist is decided by  a panel of judges including previous winner Steve Mosby, CWA Director Lucy Santos and a group of UK librarians.

The five shortlisted crime authors are:

Sharon Bolton                   (Transworld)

Elly Griffiths                      (Quercus)

Mari Hannah                     (Pan)

James Oswald                   (Michael Joesph)

Mel Sherratt                      (Thomas & Mercer)

Mel and Mari are personal friends and I wanted to send out a big cheer for them. It’s a huge achievement and one I’m proud of them for.

Wishing all the well deserving shortlisted authors the best for the next round. To get this far is acknowledgement of your work. Your readers can’t get enough!

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