Today I am pleased to welcome Katherine Hayton to the blog to talk about her first draft process.
Katherine is 42-years-old and works in insurance, doesn’t have children or pets, can’t drive, has lived in Christchurch her entire life, and currently resides two minutes’ walk from where she was born.
Her passion is writing and reading.
Instead of skimming widely across any and all genres she has narrowed down and done a deep-dive into crime fiction which has been her favourite for over a decade.
She still finds new and interesting things with every book that she picks up and is trying to bring something new and unique to me to the genre.
When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?
I ponder on it a little while. When I’m trying to fall asleep at night I’ll poke at the original idea from a few different angles and try to see what else it might lead to. If I’m still interested after a week or so, I’ll either jot it down for later if I’m already working on something, or start getting it down.
Do you have a set routine approaching it?
I have a short process of procrastination where I’ll sometimes design tag lines and covers for the unwritten story but usually I get excited enough about the idea to put those aside after a short tinker and start writing.
Straight to the keyboard. If I write things down as notes I’ve worked out I never look at them again so I don’t bother, unless it’s something I just need to remember and I don’t have my keyboard handy, like when I’m travelling on the bus or at night when I’ve already put the laptop away. My hand aches just at the thought of writing out whole scenes on paper.
How important is research to you?
Very important and very interesting. Usually when I’m not sure what the scene should look like or what the expected course of action would be for someone in a certain role I’ll just stop there and go hunting for information so I don’t accidentally muck it all up. I’ll also read up on things that are important to the main characters of my manuscripts before I head in and start typing. That forms part of my thinking about the original idea, people, and places.
How do you go about researching?
The Internet. I try not to do anything IRL if I can get it done online. It’s amazing what people upload onto YouTube if you want a close-up of a particular place or setting. I’m currently working on a new novel where the main character is a Police Detective in Christchurch so I’ve had a fine time getting video clips taken inside the new central Christchurch station including closeups of the cells as well as a number of reception areas for a lot of different stations. The Police have a monthly magazine which is full of helpful information as well. I can waste a lot of time researching things far more thoroughly than I need to just because it’s so interesting finding out what other people do in their lines of work.
How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?
In my brain. If I ever need to refer to anything again I can just search again and probably find something even more interesting. I used to write down all my ideas because I was terrified they’d disappear and I’d never be able to recall them again but time has shown that they stick.
Tell us how that first draft takes shape?
I just write from start to finish finding out what the plot is going to be as I get there. For the most part I start a new novel with an idea of the protagonist, the antagonist, the beginning and a few roads the story could lead down from there. I’ve tried plotting books out prior to embarking on the journey, but until I start writing the characters down I don’t know them intimately enough to know how they’ll react so any plot outlines end up in the rubbish anyway, so I don’t waste the time anymore or try to force it.
Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?
My laptop is the only thing I need although I appreciate a bit of peace and quiet. When I’m working full-time I try to get an hour of writing done before I start work and then tinker a bit in the evening if I feel like it. I’ve taken a break from work for six months at the moment, so as long as I write 5,000 words in a day I don’t have any particular ritual or habits. Except, if I’m writing I pause the TV.
Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?
Most of the time writing feels like effort and I’m acutely aware that I’m doing it, but there are periods of time every day where I get lost in the characters or the action or get entranced with a backstory that I never guessed existed except it was quite clear that it also had to because it explains everything; at those times it feels like pure joy. When I’m thinking about writing afterward that’s the feeling that stays and it’s always a bit of shock when I sit down an hour later or a day later and it’s back to being a chore.
What does your workspace look like?
I work sitting on my couch which is brown leather with a yellow double lambskin covering it and my laptop plopped in the seat next to me. I sit cross-legged until I can’t feel my feet anymore and then I get to take a break to have a stretch. I do have a desk and chair in another room with a window looking out over my cherry trees which seems like it should be perfect, but I never wrote much sitting there and the desk now can’t be sat in because all my gadget boxes are stored under there along with a tangle of old cords and plugs. I have my laptop open all day to browse the internet and look up things as they occur to me so it just makes sense to write in the same place.
Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?
Apart from the odd word or two that obviously come out wrong I just get all the words out. I have a different mindset when I’m making things up than when I’m looking for errors or structural integrity so it makes sense for me to keep them entirely separate. Often I throw out large paragraphs, scenes or even chapters when I’m editing to keep the writing and plot as tight as they can be so it doesn’t make sense to polish them beautifully.
I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?
I have a daily word count when I’m writing a first draft of 1,000 words when I’m working full-time, up to 5,000 on the weekends, or 5,000 words per day now I’m on a career break. I use the magic of Microsoft word to keep track of that for me. Also, if there are other priorities during that time I’ll take a day out here and there to do something completely different. For example I recently recorded my first audiobook and took a day out to record and produce the files for that to meet specifications. As long as I’m working it’s okay.
So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?
It took somewhere around two months. The shape is a bit rough because I haven’t been working to a set path so there’s usually some characters who have spent a great time waffling on about things that don’t matter at all and a few events laying groundwork for scenes that never happened. They’re not recommended reading for the most part.
In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?
I put it on my ereader so that it looks the same as any other book I’m reading. If I try to read it through on my computer screen I fiddle with individual bits of it while I’m going through so there’s never that ability to get a sense of how everything is.
What happens now that first draft is done?
The first thing I do is go back and rewrite the beginning now that I know all the characters so much better. I’ll then work through to fill in the scenes that were never written but are now essential. Next step is to send it off to a beta reader to see if the story works for someone other than myself.
Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.
Breathe and Release
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