Today’s first drafter is author Jack Croxall. Jack grew up in rural Nottinghamshire and after gaining a degree in Environmental Science, decided to change tack somewhat and become a freelance writer and author. He is the author of Tethers, the first in a YA Victorian mystery trilogy and the dark journal, X.
When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?
I just dive straight in! I really like to get a couple of pages down, and then sit back and take stock. I’ll think things like, Where is this going? Is there a resolution? And, most importantly, What are the themes – what is this story actually going to be about? I don’t necessarily need answers straight away, just a kind of feeling that an answer is at least possible.
Do you have a set routine approaching it?
It’s just run straight into my little writing area and go, go, go; a writing space always helps to get the creative juices flowing I think.
Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?
Straight to the keyboard as I type much faster than I can write. I used a fountain pen all through school and university, and they are sooo slow (but pretty). That means I hate writing with a biro so I just get tip tap tapping from the off.
How important is research to you?
For Tethers I spent hours upon hours researching Victorian life because, even though there are strong fantasy elements in the book, I wanted the setting to be realistic.
I must also say that the research was fascinating, not a chore in the slightest! My favourite topic was life on the waterways – a style of living that is non-existent in today’s society. Whole families would live in the single cramped cabin of a narrowboat as they transported supplies up and down the canals. The life was incredibly tough and children would work full days as soon as they could walk. When I decided to set Tethers in the past I wasn’t actually aware of how much work it would entail, but I’ve learned an incredible amount and I think the novel is so much better for it.
How do you go about researching?
We have lots of books in the house so there’s usually something in one of those. Google Image Search is also very handy for seeing what Victorian contraptions and places looked like. That’s important because it helps frame your descriptions I think. It must have been so much harder before the internet!
How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?
I have a research doc which is basically a hodgepodge (or a mess) of words, paragraphs and pictures. Might need to reconsider that particular tactic at some point!
I’m actually quite scrupulous, so, once I’ve written a chapter, I go through and edit it four times before I move onto the next. That means that, when I’ve finished the first draft, it’s already vaguely coherent – still a lot more to do though, obviously!
Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?
Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?
No I’m gone. I often joke to my family that I’m off to Shraye (the fictional town where Tethers begins) when I write 😛
What does your work space look like?
That’s it in the picture there! A nice chair and desk with a window to stare out of when I’m desperately seeking inspiration.
I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?
No, not really. I keep an eye on word count but chapters are more of a building block to me.
So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take?
The first draft of Tethers took about eighteen months, but I wrote the first draft of my dystopian journal, X in a few days. I guess it’s very variable.
In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?
I try and read it through on all three of those. I find I notice different things depending on the format. It’s quite strange but I think it’s worthwhile – books are read in a variety of ways once they’re out, and so it’s good to test each version.
What happens now that first draft is done?
Let it rest for a week or so and then it’s time to get some serious editing in …
Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.
It’s been wonderful talking first drafts Rebecca, thank you for having me!