Pauline Rowson on - Writing First Drafts

DI Andy Horton 11.
So, I have the idea and I have the location. I might even have the victim. I certainly don't have the killer or the plot.  I put the idea, location and victim in a circle and I ask myself open questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how?  I don't have all the answers, in fact I have very few so I do some research, and some more thinking, and gradually I begin to answer some of those questions. I draw up a plot line, which is very sketchy to begin with and might only be the first three or four chapters. I've created some characters. Then I start writing, direct on to my PC.

This is the free flow creative writing stage when I'm eager to bring the idea and characters to life by getting words and actions on to my computer screen as quickly as possible. Often these are not the correct words, the descriptions are hazy, the characters not fully formed, the grammar and punctuation incorrect but there is something  that can be shaped later. This is what I refer to as the brain dump phase when I wish that I could simply download words on to the computer without having to type them.

As I write, more ideas come to me. I conduct further research. The plot begins to fill out, take shape and the sub plots are weaved in.  In the DI Andy Horton series there is also the underlying thread of Andy's quest to find out the truth behind his mother's disappearance thirty years ago.

It's a tricky business keeping track of it all, which is where the plot lines, or storyboard, come in handy. I also keep a running check of what is happening in each chapter. I will keep a record of the page numbers, the setting, who appears in each chapter and the actions. On the left hand side of the page are the factual details, for example the times of sunset and sunrise; the times of the tides and whether it is high or low water, essential information as my novels are all set against the backdrop of the sea.

As I write this first draft I will also flag up questions that at some point need to be answered, this might be connected with research or it might why X has said something and gone somewhere, or Y has done this or that.  All  these questions I then list, knowing that as I work my way through the novel they will need to be answered.

The aim is to get the first draft written as quickly as I can and not to get hooked on editing. The latter is very easy to do, because as most of us know editing is easier than creating. Many writers can get hooked on making that first chapter, that first paragraph even that first sentence perfect, but striving for perfection during this phase means the rest of the novel never gets written.

It usually takes me about three months to write the first draft. It's a pleasurable time but also a frustrating one because I am keen to get the story written.  Once I have approximately 85,000 to 100,000 on screen I can then breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the second draft and more revisions to come.

Shroud of Evil, the latest DI Andy Horton (11) is published by Severn House. Available in hardcover from bookstores and on line and as an ebook on Kindle, Kobo and Nook. Also available for loan from UK and USA libraries.

The DI Andy Horton police procedural novels in order


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