Today’s First Draft hot seat guest is Lisbeth Foye.
The Biggest Lie is Lisbeth’s debut novel which was published late last year. She is currently working on the sequel and hopes to have this ready by late April. She can’t remember the age she was when she wrote her first story but she does recall that it was about a family of rabbits which lived on a hill, she also remembers vividly, the surge of amazement that she had actually written a story. Now, many years later, that feeling has never left her.
Lisbeth was brought up in York. She has travelled extensively and lived in many places throughout Europe. She now lives in a small village, close to her niece and family, north of Cambridge.
Lisbeth says she feels very lucky to finally do that which she has always yearned to do – write. When she was a child she told her English and Latin teacher that she wanted to be a writer, Lisbeth has never forgotten her teacher’s advice. She told her that she should read those books which arouse a mix of joy and sadness, and that once she closed that last page she should have learned something she didn’t know before. She also told her that stories are powerful tools to evoke emotions and if she wasn’t able to create those sentiments with her words and story, then she should return to first base and start again.
When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?
I get a brand new notebook. I love my notebooks nearly as much as I love real books
Do you have a set routine approaching it?
No, not really. I’m currently writing the sequel to The Biggest Lie and I’m approaching it in a completely different way. Books are a bit like a group of people, each one needs to be approached as an individual.
Pencil and paper
How important is research to you?
Research is tremendously important, sometimes I can spend a couple of hours researching an item or an event which is only mentioned briefly in the storyline. I print calendars off for the years which cover the story so that dates, holidays and all that sort of thing are correct. I’ve been known to spend half a day researching something and then not use it in the book – it’s all knowledge though, so it’s not wasted.
How do you go about researching?
Googling first and foremost, when I need a more personal opinion of an incident or emotion handling a situation I ask a lot of questions. Yesterday I emailed three of my friends with different questions which I needed help or verification on.
How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?
I have a small notebook which is always in my handbag and which is full of quips, snippets and quotes, I tick them off as I use them. I have a bag hanging on my office chair which I keep all my “used” notes, I have a folder in which I keep all the things I print from the internet.
Tell us how that first draft takes shape?
I get stuck right in there, once I get that first line I’m away with it. Each character has their own personality; I decide on names – though these often change – I then make notes in my book against each one, date of birth, how tall, characteristics, facial features all that kind of thing, though more often than not that changes too, as they grow in my head and the storyline takes them down a completely different route than the one I had planned. That’s why I need to write in pencil, so I can erase and re-write. It takes double the time of course, first in longhand then typing up, but that’s how I work best.
Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?
I don’t write at my desk, it’s only a small desk, so I write when I’m on the sofa, in bed, at the kitchen table…and then type it up when I’m at my desk and if I need to check facts or research I make comments in my notes to check it out. When I type it up I flourish it all out a bit more. I don’t like writing with normal pencils, I like those retractable ones, with padded grips.
Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?
I love my solitude and I can’t believe how quickly the day passes when I’m writing, but I can also sit in a crowded café and write my book. I can block myself off very easily.
What does your work space look like?
It’s the middle room in my cottage, a small dining room, luckily the kitchen is large enough to have my dining table in there so I don’t have to worry about having to shift everything around when people come for dinner. I have a large carved Buddha which is so beautiful, it sits in an alcove just at the side of me. I have candles, I always have candles…a small comfy chair if I want to sit and write. Wires though are the bane of my life, there’s a whole cluster under my desk, I can’t stand them. One day I’ll buy something to keep them all neat and out of sight
Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?
Both. If I get a bit of writers block I’ll go back and read through what I’ve done so far and I’ll see things which need editing. This also reminds of things I’ve written and which I need to pick up on again later in the story. Once finished it’s a massive job of editing.
I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?
I’m not good at doing a set amount of words a day, I wish I was, I could then forecast when I’ll be finished. I keep an eye on the word count in the bottom left hand corner and am thrilled when I see a huge jump. My current WIP has a respectable 48,000, I’d like the finished book to be around the 75,000. The Biggest Lie is 114,000 – this one doesn’t need to be that long.
So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?
The first draft of The Biggest Lie took me around eight months, for three of those months I was working day and night on it. The edits took another three months. It got to a point where I couldn’t read it anymore.
In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?
Paper. I read TBL through on computer screen and thought I had it all edited so I hit the publish button on Amazon, Smashwords and Createspace. With Createspace (paperbacks via Amazon) you can get proof copies, which I did – I was absolutely horrified. I had mistakes and typos on virtually every page. I quickly stopped selling them on Amazon and Smashwords and re-edited all the typos before uploading again. Unfortunately, by that time over a hundred copies had been sold – so there’s a whole group of people out there probably thinking that it’s the worst book they’ve ever read. Luckily no-one wrote a trashy review. I would like to publicly apologise, I was absolutely appalled and if anyone happens to have that version, please let me know and I’ll make sure the corrected version is sent to them.
What happens now that first draft is done?
Lesson learned with TBL and all the errors, with WIP I’ll go straight to Createspace and get a proof copy to read through before uploading anywhere else.
Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.
Thank you Rebecca, I really appreciate the time you take to help authors and the opportunity to be a guest on your blog.
If you’ve enjoyed the answers on Lisbeth’s first draft process, you can find the previous Q&A’s from other authors in the series Here.
To be a part of the First Draft series, just get in touch and let me know. Along with the answers to the questions, I’ll need a profile photograph, a first draft photograph and any photo’s you feel are relevant to the piece, including book cover photo’s and three links that you feel are your most important.
Due to the fact that I am engaging in the A to Z Challenge in April, the First Draft series will take a break for the month, but please still get in touch and we can sort out the articles and book them in as they are returned starting in May.