I’m so excited to be able to say I have Cath Staincliffe talking to us today about her first draft process.
Cath Staincliffe is an award winning novelist, radio playwright and creator of ITV’s hit series Blue Murder, starring Caroline Quentin as DCI Janine Lewis. Cath has been shortlisted for the CWA Best First Novel award and for the Dagger in the Library. She was joint winner of the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2012. Letters To My Daughter’s Killer was selected for the Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club on ITV3 in 2014. Cath also writes the Scott & Bailey books based on the popular television cop-show. She is a founder member of Murder Squad and lives in Manchester with her family.
When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?
I need to have the starting point for the story and I have to know and name the character/s. Once that’s clear I write the first sentence.
Do you have a set routine approaching it?
Writing every day roughly 9-5 with breaks for meals, a walk, admin, emails and too much Twitter.
Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?
Pen and paper, no question.
How important is research to you?
I’m a very reluctant researcher and managed to do very little for my first few books but some stories demand it – it’s very important to me that the book feels authentic to the reader.
How do you go about researching?
Depends what I need to know. The Internet is great for finding things out, where possible I talk to people who know the field I’m interested in. The most research I’ve ever taken on was for my next book Half The World Away which is mainly set in China. For that I went to visit the country as well as speaking to lots of people here and abroad about different aspects.
How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?
It’s a jumble of notes and print outs, post-it notes, lists and timelines.
Tell us how that first draft takes shape?
Sometimes I write chronologically and other times I write sections separately like a collage to stick together. Every so often I have to stop and plan what’s next if the outline of the story isn’t clear when I begin.
Well, I have to write on narrow lined file paper with a black gel pen but that’s about it.
Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?
It’s safe to say I am away with the fairies when I am writing.
What does your workspace look like?
The first draft I do longhand sitting in an armchair upstairs – it’s a clean, uncluttered space. After that, when I am working onscreen, I am in the work room downstairs switching between my desk and the computer, and it’s more cluttered but comfortable – especially now the kids have left home and I’m no longer sharing it!
Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?
Bit of both – I go to a writers’ group so once a month I type up (or use voice recognition software to type) what I’ve written so far and send that out for comment. That’s like an edit.
I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?
Nothing really, I’m always worried I’ve not got enough words so I don’t count. Though I do see how many pages I’ve done as I’m typing up my work in progress and I have deadlines for delivery so that’s enough to keep me at it.
So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?
The fastest ever was three months – an unexpected commission for the first Scott & Bailey prequel book, Dead To Me. Weekends, housework and shopping all went out the window. It was frantic. But generally it would take me 6 – 8 months or so. That first draft is usually pretty close to what makes it into the published book.
In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?
Paper – always.
What happens now that first draft is done?
I incorporate feedback from my writing group for the second draft and then it’s tidying and trying to improve what’s there, checking where my chapter breaks are, trying to spot repetition, picking a title if I don’t already have one etc.
Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.
A blaze at an abandoned chapel on the impoverished Walton Estate turns out to be more than just arson when the body of a man who has been shot twice is discovered in the ashes. For the Manchester Metropolitan police team it’s the start of a gruelling and complex case that exposes the fractures and fault lines of a community living on the edge.
DC Rachel Bailey, recently married, is trying to come to terms with her new status and deal with the fallout from her chaotic family. She throws herself into work but her compulsion to find answers and see justice done leads her into the deepest jeopardy.
DC Janet Scott’s world is shaken to its foundations when death comes far too close for comfort and she finds one of her daughters on the wrong side of a police investigation.
DCI Gill Murray’s ex Dave, a Chief Superintendent, crashes back into her life, out of control and bringing chaos in his wake. Gill attempts to get Dave to face the truth of his situation, and to stay the hell away from her, but things are about to get a whole lot worse.
And then a second building goes up in flames…