Hi everyone, it gives me a great pleasure to welcome psychological thriller writer S. E. Lynes to the blog today.
She is the author of five novels, with the next due out in December this year. In between writing, she was kind enough to answer my questions regarding her first draft process.
Over to you, Susie…
1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it?
When I begin a book it is usually the decision to finally sit and commit to an idea that’s been germinating for weeks or months. The germination is important, a period of not writing, letting it brew. I start by drawing an arc on a sheet of A4 and putting some key plot points, for example, the inciting incident, the thing that is going to happen to my character in order for them to go on a journey, perhaps the crisis that it is all leading to. The next thing is the main character, which I usually have sketched out. If it is a first person narrative, I need to hear their voice, which can take a while but once I have it, I have it. In Valentina, the voice was working-class, University–educated Glaswegian; in the Proposal, the voice is very sassy and cynical whereas is my current WIP, the character is older, more down to earth, but laced with dour humour. The books evolve from there.
2) Do you follow the same process for the book you did before?
The process always starts as above. What happens then can depend on how difficult the idea is to realise. The Pact came very quickly because I had the whole thing in my head as a kind of pyramid made up of three main voices whereas my current WIP has been like trying to wrestle a squid into a bag. It isn’t even in final shape yet but it is months since I started it and only now is any kind of form becoming possible despite my knowing what the plot is.
3) What is your research process, if you have one?
My research is usually done online and mostly as I go along– sometimes before, sometimes after. I write standalone contemporary psychological suspense so I try and keep research to a minimum. Even when I have done a lot od research, as for Mother, which is set in the late 70s in Leeds against the backdrop of the Yorkshire Ripper, I tried to use that research sparingly for authenticity because I don’t enjoy reading things in other books that have nothing to do with the story but that I feel have been included because the writer really wanted to show their knowledge. But it is surprising how much you think you know about a certain thing and then, when you commit it to the page, you realise you have to go and check.
4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write?
This depends. Usually a few weeks. I need a break between novels as there is some burnout associated with completing such a large piece of work.
5) How does the draft form on the screen?
I have faith in the first draft. My first experience of writing anovel was to do a Write a Novel in a Month course with author and creative writing tutor, Sara Bailey. This has informed my process ever since. I don’t write a first draft in a month but I do write as much as I can each day in order to get the words down. I try not to worry about how bad it is at that stage, although, with experience, my first drafts are not as bad as they used to be. To anyone trying to write a novel I would say, just push on and don’t worry about the quality. It might be crap but that doesn’t mean you are, it’s just where you are in the process – you might just need more hours spent at the desk, more workshops, more classes… more commitment to the craft.
6) Where do you write the majority of the draft?
I write most of my work in my office between the hours of 11am and 4pm. It is quite a dark room and is has a large desk. The window faces the wall of the next house, so there is nothing to see other than a brick wall. It focusses my mind. After fifteen minutes, I’m almost oblivious to my surroundings anyway. When I can’t face staying indoorsalone, I go and write in a café – the noise is soothing but doesn’t concern me: no one is asking me what’s for dinner or have I washed their trousers. I have written on holiday in Spain – I got up and wrote for one and half hours each morning while my family were pottering about and forgot about it for the rest of the day and that worked really well. You have to stick at it.
Thank you for visiting my blog Susie. Finding out about your first draft process has been fascinating. Good luck with the next novel!!
Bio: After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London, where she managed a large café at Oxford Circus, before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, sheworked as a Radio Features Reporter, then Producer at the BBCbefore moving with her husband and two young children to Rome, where she lived for five years. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She combined writing with teaching creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She is the author of critically acclaimed psychological thrillers, VALENTINA, published originally by Blackbird books, now by Bookouture alongside MOTHER, THE PACT, THE PROPOSALand THE WOMEN. A new novel is due out in December 2019.