I’m really excited to welcome today’s first draft author to the blog, especially as I reviewed his book, Normal, in February and have already classed it as one of my top reads of the year. Yes, today we have Graeme Cameron talking about his writing process. I also have a small exclusive at the end of this post, so keep reading!
In his email Graeme told me I could write what I wanted for his bio as he was rubbish at them, so I’ve simply lifted what he did write for his bio on his own website which is as follows:
Graeme Cameron is the author of almost three short stories, two country songs and literally dozens of angry emails, including such classics as This Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, The Car You Sold Me Is On Fire, and the hilarious and moving Re: Restraining Order (I’m in your house LOL).
Graeme lives in Norfolk and has never worked as a police detective, ER doctor, crime reporter or forensic anthropologist.
When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?
Talk, think, talk talk talk, think, think, talk. The inception of Normal was a fairly well-documented accident, but the plan for my second novel has very much evolved through a process of talking and listening and occasionally being snarled at by someone with a vast understanding of the themes I’m tackling and whom I can trust entirely to assess my innermost thoughts and tell me whether I’m being an idiot.
Do you have a set routine approaching it?
Yes. I have a deadline, and I casually pretend I’m going to meet it until it becomes glaringly obvious that I’m not, and then I panic.
Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?
Straight to keyboard. If I’ve started writing, it’s either because I know exactly what I need to write, or I have no idea and am just winging it. Either way, scribbled notes don’t really work for me.
How important is research to you?
I write within real-world locations and settings, so for me it’s important to be accurate with details. Not to throw every single one of them into the manuscript, but to understand them thoroughly enough not to undermine the story with silly errors that render scenes unrealistic or even impossible. I think if a setting or situation is recognisably true to life, and the characters’ interactions with it are authentic, then whatever else they get up to will be that much more believable too.
How do you go about researching?
The internet makes simple fact-checking easy, which sounds very lazy, but what I mean is it makes it easy to track down the things and places and people you need to hold and visit and talk to in order to better understand the story.
How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?
In my head. Which means I forget most of it.
Tell us how that first draft takes shape?
Slowly, from the beginning, as accurately as possible. I find it hard to press Save on anything unless I think I’ve done a good job of it, so I proceed as though I’ve only got one shot at getting it right. That way hopefully I don’t have to write it another six times, because God knows I haven’t got the patience for that!
Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?
No, just peace and quiet. I’m far too easily distracted to be able to listen to music or sit by a window or Oooh look, a button!
Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?
I’m inclined to say I need to be left alone and not have any internet access or ringing phones or concept of a world outside these three square feet, but actually I need those distractions in order to keep my brain from overheating. If I come to a full stop and have no idea of the following capital letter, it’s time to look at something else!
What does your work space look like?
Currently it’s a small corner of my bedroom, with a desk and a laptop and a couple of toys to fiddle with. And a bed onto which I regularly tip out of my chair and sleep in my clothes.
Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?
As I go, as above.
I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?
I write chapters separately, aim to average about 2500 words each, and whilst I do have a daily word count target, today is another day on which it’s gone up, so I tend to just write as much as I can, when I can.
So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?
Well, Normal took about a year, but it was verging on submittable when I typed ‘The End.’
In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?
Computer screen works for me. That way, I can correct anything on the spot, rather than scribbling notes on it that I won’t understand in an hour. Which, trust me, happens.
What happens now that first draft is done?
Well, if all’s gone to plan, I send it off to my editor and hope she doesn’t make me do it all again!
Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.
He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving you into the lane ahead of him.
What you don’t know is that he has an elaborate cage built into a secret basement under his garage. And the food that he’s carefully shopping for is to feed a young woman he’s holding there against her will—one in a string of many, unaware of the fate that awaits her.
This is how it’s been for a long time. It’s normal… and it works. Perfectly.
Then he meets the checkout girl from the 24-hour grocery. And now the plan, the hunts, the room… the others. He doesn’t need any of them anymore. He needs only her. But just as he decides to go straight, the police start to close in. He might be able to cover his tracks, except for one small problem—he still has someone trapped in his garage.
Discovering his humanity couldn’t have come at a worse time.
And now the exclusive? Graeme Cameron has agreed to do a bite-sized interview with me! So keep a look out for that. I can’t wait!