First Drafts With… David Mark

Good evening everyone.

I’m delighted to welcome crime writer (and fellow Northerner) David Mark to the blog. David lives in the North East and is the author of the DS Aector McAvoy series.

He was kind enough to join me for a quick chat about how he tackles that all important first draft process.
Over to you, David…
1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it? 


I’ve usually been thinking about it for an age before I get down to the writing, but nothing feels real until I’ve put 25 to 30 chapter headings on a page, and written a line or two under each them outlining what needs to happen within that chapter to move the story to the next key point. It can be something as simple as ‘McAvoy finds the body’ or ‘tension between two antagonists suggests shared history’, or somesuch. It’s all about pacing more than anything else. You wouldn’t write a concerto that was just wonderful openings. You have to get the rhythm right. 

2) Do you follow the same process you did for the book before? 


I try to. I used to be much more rigid how I worked, being at my desk for 9am and carrying on until 2pm, then researching for the rest of the working day until I began afresh the next. Now I have a two-year-old who wants to play horsies, so things are a bit more erratic. 

3) What is your research process, if you have one?


I’m a big fan of passive research, in that knowledge comes to me by accident and suggests the merest hint of a story, and then I’ll start to look into that subject in more depth until I feel able to write. When I wrote my historical novel, The Zealot’s Bones, which is set in 1851, I had to go slightly mad trying to get my mind into the right shape to make the narrative voice sound authentic, and to be able to write about what a character might smell like, feel like, what tastes might be on their tongue, whether they’d notice the fur on their teeth or remark upon a rat in the gutter, etc. It was a bit of a killer really. 

4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write? 


I have stories lined up like bullets, waiting to be slotted into the chamber. An author who is much wittier than me once said that writing the next book is the reward for finishing this one, and that is very true. 

5) How does the draft form on the screen? 


In pretty much the same order that you read it a year down the line. I’m not one for pinging about and writing the middle before the beginning. I might make structural changes when I’m done, but usually it’s pretty close to how I plan it. I want writers at their start of their journeys to try and remember that just because you’ve had a new idea, it doesn’t make it a better idea. Have the courage of your convictions. And if you’re faffing about with coloured post-it notes and bits of string and character cards, there’s a very good chance you’re playing a game rather than writing a book. Write the sodding book. 

6) Where do you write the majority of the draft?


Very simply, on my trusty old PC, in my office at home in rural Northumberland, occasionally stopping to look out of the window and shout at ramblers who think they can put their rubbish in my recycling bin. Countryside living is so good for one’s tranquillity ….


Thank you for joining me on the blog David. Your first draft process sounds great! I can’t wait to read your latest book!!


David Mark is the author of the internationally-acclaimed McAvoy series, which began with Sunday Times bestseller DARK WINTER. His new thriller, BLOOD MONEY, is available exclusively through Kindle. Gangster-noir epic BORROWED TIME will be released in March, published by Severn House. For more information, visit his website at

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