Today I welcome Carol Hedges to the First Draft chair.
Carol Hedges is the successful UK author of 14 novels. 11 for teenagers and young adults, one ebook and two adult historical novels. Her books have been shortlisted for various prizes and her YA novel Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal.
Diamonds & Dust, A Victorian Murder Mystery is her first adult novel. It was published in 2013 by Crooked Cat Books, and is available as book and ebook on Smashwords, Nook, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com or to order in bookshops.
The second book in the series: Honour & Obey, A Victorian Crime Thriller is now available via the same outlets. The third, Death & Dominion A Victorian Sensation Novel will be published later this year
When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?
1. Fear – that I can’t sustain another book
2. Panic – that I have run out of ideas
3. Denial – that it doesn’t matter if I never write again
Do you have a set routine approaching it?
Kind of. I certainly seem to go round a set loop: as soon as I decide to write a new book (I’m there now, having just submitted Death&Dominion to Crooked Cat Books) the following happens:
1. Thoughts – maybe there could be something left in the pot.
2. Stirrings – ah….. what about THAT idea ….
And then I’m away …. this process takes a couple of weeks. I’m not one of those ‘can write new books continuously’ writers. I wish I was.
Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?
Keyboard. I start a new file and use it as a notebook. Paper is too unreliable, it can get lost, and I can’t read my own handwriting any more due to RSI. Though I do download and print out a lot of historical stuff too. I usually top up the notes as I go and write in front of them, if you get me, so I have to scroll further and further down as the book gets longer.
How important is research to you?
As a writer of historical fiction, research is the most important part of the writing process. If I get it wrong, some expert in the field will be sure to tell me, either in a review or on Twitter. If I can’t find what I need, then I know it is safe to make it up.
How do you go about researching?
I dip into various areas:
1. Contemporary writers. Both fiction, and non-fiction. I have a huge library of novels and facsimiles. I also raid all the local libraries.
2. Online documents. Luckily the Victorians were great documenters and there are a lot of online archives available to print out.
3. Locations. I try to visit the places I write about. If you look up, beyond the modernisation of many streets, you catch a glimpse of the original buildings. I take pictures and store them on the laptop
4. Historical images on Pinterest. There are a lot of collectors of Victoriana out there, and I download and store pictures of people, objects or places that I think might be inspiring.
How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?
I store everything on the laptop.
Tell us how that first draft takes shape?
I always write in the same way: I get down the opening ‘hook’ and the closing paragraph. Once they are written, I then develop the story from the beginning working towards the end, but I never start writing the story until those two landmarks are composed.
Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?
All writers have ‘lucky’ objects on their desk and I am no exception. I have, in no order of importance: a knitted pink cupcake, a glass Littala duck, a fossil I found in the garden, a piece of alabaster from my best Twitter friend Lynn Gerrard, and a peculiar gear thing with teeth that I can spin round. Sorry, you did ask …
Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?
Haha – yes. The famous ‘writing time’. It’s so true. When I’m writing, particularly if the story is pouring out, then time does funny things. I have come to the end of a writing session, looked at my watch, and a couple of hours have passed. No idea where they went. Sadly, this is not conducive to my spine and hips now that I’m in my 60s, so I am having to limit myself to thirty minutes writing, then a stretch and a walk round the house, before I resume.
What does your workspace look like?
Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?
I do reread as I go and may make an immediate alteration, but on the whole, I prefer to leave the writing alone until at least the next day, when I can read it afresh with a new eye. I don’t wait until I’ve finished the whole book before beginning the editing process; I like to be initially content with each section before I continue, though I will wait until the end before doing a whole book edit.
I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?
I’m not an obsessive word counter and I don’t set myself targets for each day. That way madness and frustration lies. I will check the word count every now and then, mainly because after 14 books I now know where I should be in the narrative, so I like to make sure I haven’t overrun or underrun on the storyline. I think there are so many stresses with writing a novel that I try to limit the amount I inflict upon myself, where I can!
First drafts can take anything from 6 to 8 months. I have other ‘jobs’ ( looking after my granddaughter and invigilating public exams) so I don’t always write every day. Because I do mini read throughs and tiny edits, it’s in reasonably good shape. Not good enough to submit to Crooked Cat though…. not yet.
In what format do you like to read it through, e-reader, paper or the computer screen?
I always do first read throughs on my eMac – the computer I wrote it on in the first place. After editing it and adding/cutting scenes, I transfer it to the Toshiba, which has an enlarge facility and a better spellcheck. That’s for second edits.
What happens now that first draft is done?
Then it goes to my publisher, thence to my editor. The FINAL FINAL read through, after all my and her edits have been done, is always on paper. I still find I get the pace and flow of the narrative better if I can actually see a whole page in front of me.
Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.
Honour & Obey
The long awaited sequel to Diamonds & Dust , Honour & Obey brings together Detective Inspector Leo Stride and his assistant Detective Sergeant Jack Cully. It is London, 1861 and a serial killer stalks the dark gaslit streets.
In another part of the city, Hyacinth Clout, bullied and despised by her older sister, decides to find love via the lonely hearts column of a newspaper. But will it be romance, or ruin?
Give me a shout if you fancy doing the First Draft Q&A. You can find the list containing all previous authors Here.