Today in the First Draft hot seat is D. A. Cairns.
David is married with two children and lives on the south coast of New South Wales in Australia where he works as an English language teacher and writes stories in his very limited spare time. He has had over 20 short stories published. His second novel, Loathe Your Neighbor is published by Artema Press.
When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?
The decision to write something new is followed by intense thought.
Do you have a set routine approaching it?
No. I think we I my mind is available for free thought, jot things down on scraps of paper.
Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?
Straight to the keyboard.
How important is research to you?
I want my writing to be authentic so if I don’t know something about which I am writing or if I don’t know a place because I haven’t been there, then research is crucial. My WIP, Ashmore Grief, has scenes aboard a Navy patrol boat so I have been researching that subject matter extensively. I actually like it apart from how much time it takes.
How do you go about researching?
The World Web meets most of my needs. I also use social media to ask people questions.
How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?
On paper or electronically. I try to keep relevant bits and pieces in easy to find and easy to access files whether digital or cardboard.
Tell us how that first draft takes shape?
I imagine scenes and write them as fast as I can. Sometimes I see connections between scenes, but sometimes I have to make those connections later. I don’t waste time thinking about missing bits, names of incidental characters for example, because I can come back later and gap fill. My typing is bad because I can’t type as fast as I think, so I have to be careful not to write nonsense.
Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?
I prefer to write early in the morning and while listening to heavy music. Sometimes I write in silence. I try to make sure that i get up every hour or so and walk around. Drink and eat, stretch my legs, rest my eyes.
Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?
I do get lost, despite my above mentioned intentions. When I get on a roll, I stop thinking about anything but the story. It’s one of the things I love most about writing.
What does your work space look like?
Reasonably well ordered. The keyboard generally surrounded by piles of paper.
I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?
Every time I try to stick to word count targets, it doesn’t seem to happen. I still set targets but I adhere to them very loosely. I’m a part timer so I write when I can, and refrain from beating myself up when I can’t.
So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?
The first draft of my WIP, has one chapter left to write and it has taken two and a half months. It is full of chronological inconsistencies, plot flaws, mismatched names and has more than a few grammatical and spelling errors as well.
In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?
What happens now that first draft is done?
I begin the rewrite, filling in holes, and fixing inconsistencies. I consider input from my beta readers, and I generally think much more carefully about word choices, and how the story reads. I may change character’s names or qualities, ditch sub plots or add them in. The second time through I am more interested in my enjoyment as well. I begin to ask the crucial questions, ‘Do I like this? Does it move me? Does it entertain me? There will be at least one further revision before my editor gets her hands on it.
Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.