With each new book, elements of my writing process remain the same and some don’t! There have been some alterations during the four years since writing my debut, mainly due to learning more about the craft as I go: learning from reading other novels in my genre, from books about writing and also from taking note of what works for other writers. I find it so interesting to read how other authors approach their writing and sometimes I’ll pick up a hint or tip I haven’t tried before. Therefore, my writing process has adapted – even if only in small ways – and for my fifth book, I Dare You, a small but particularly helpful change was that I used a flip chart board and paper for the first time. I’d been struggling to keep the 1989 and present-day timelines flowing and having the flipchart helped organise the threads. It worked so well I’ll now incorporate this new tool into my future writing.
But, despite a few differences, the ‘bare bones’ of my writing process remains relatively the same. For example, the beginning stages of each novel tend to look a bit like this:
- I open my trusty ‘You Can Write a Novel Kit’ – a very handy checklist that encompasses the first spark of an idea, right through to writing your scenes – although aimed at writers at the beginning of their journey, I find it helpful and it’s now tradition.
- I buy a new notebook – this is a must for each new novel, and I love choosing it – this, too, is now part of my ritual.
- I let the initial idea for the book germinate in my mind for a few weeks before making notes. Then I tend to write an opening paragraph and begin thinking about the main character and their story. Then, I think up character names, which can take quite a while. I might look up baby names that were popular in the year my character was born, or, I may well visit the graveyard and take some names from gravestones. Sounds a bit macabre but it’s a good way of finding more local names – as I live in Devon, I set my novels here.
- I choose the point of view that best fits my story. Each novel I’ve written has had a slightly different format. I’ve written in third person, first person, a mix of both and with two timelines as well as experimented with past and present tenses. For I Dare You, the ‘then’ timeline was also written in reverse, starting with the inciting incident and working forwards. Complicated but fun!
- I have a corkboard where I pin index cards detailing each of the main characters information: their bio, backstory, physical attributes, likes and dislikes, their goals and motivation and I often print off a photo of someone who resembles how I imagine my character to look. This way, they become ‘real’ people for me, and it helps with engaging with them (yes – in my head I do have ‘conversations’ with my characters).
- I always write a chapter structure – using headings and dates – so that I can spread out the different point of view chapters and try to keep track of ‘where’ I am.
The first draft of the novel can take between four and six months and usually comes in at around 80,000 words. I tend to edit a little bit as I go, so this draft should be in fairly good shape. Then I begin the proper editing and once I’ve done what I can, I send it on to my agent who will give me her feedback before I send the manuscript to my editor. This is always an exciting, yet scary time. Of course, there will be further rounds of edits and how that goes depends on how well I’ve written and structured the book, so each novel is different.
Nothing can compare to holding the final finished copy of my book! And then I get to do it all over again.
(c) Sam Carrington
About I Dare You:
AN INNOCENT GAME. A SHOCKING CRIME. A COMMUNITY FULL OF SECRETS.
Two little girls were out playing a game of dares. Only one returned home.
The ten-year-old told police what she saw: village loner Bill ‘Creepy’ Cawley dragged her friend into his truck and disappeared.
No body was found, but her testimony sent Cawley to prison for murder. An open and shut case, the right man behind bars.
The village could sleep safe once again.
Anna thought she had left Mapledon and her nightmares behind but a distraught phone call brings her back to face her past.
30 years ago, someone lied. 30 years ago, the man convicted wasn’t the only guilty party.
Now he’s out of prison and looking for revenge. The question is, who will he start with?
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