Today I’m thrilled to be able to welcome Claire Seeber to the First Draft hot seat. (Which I have filled for another few weeks, before it finally gives way to the revisions process, to come you will be pleased to hear.)
Claire Seeber is a Londoner who started professional life as a (bad) actress and became a documentary maker, a journalist and a writer of, so far, psychological thrillers. The Observer said of her first novel: ‘a disturbing debut’ whilst The Guardian called it ‘powerful’…she keeps writing whilst also studying psychology and (trying to) to manage a home of slightly feral kids and animals. Luckily she’s got a very nice partner to help too.
When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?
It depends really on whether I am writing to a deadline, or ‘for myself’. Since my first book LULLABY was published, I’ve mainly written books that I’ve been under contract for – and that affects how I approach the first draft. But the two times I’ve written books out of commission, it’s been a very different experience. More, um ‘organic’ shall we say! Or perhaps free range sounds better 🙂
Do you have a set routine approaching it?
Er…a brief synopsis usually for my editor…then she says ‘Not so much’; then I sigh/ cry/ pull my hair out. Only joking. No, not really a set routine…I tend to just try to get pen to paper as it were any old where and begin!
Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?
Bit of both! I often start a novel in a notebook – I always have one on the go and I have to have a particular kind of A4 ringbound book, and a different colour for each new book. Ooh just the thought of it makes me giddy.
How important is research to you?
Good question! I don’t like to have out and out factual errors in a thriller – but I have definitely been known to make stuff up! If I didn’t make it up, then it would take me years! And I can get a bit carried away with research once I get started.
How do you go about researching?
Asking people in the know. For FRAGILE MINDS, handily, there’s a senior policeman in my remote family, who kindly let me barrage him with questions. For NEVER TELL, my neighbor and friend’s a barrister & he helped out re the court case (and was horrified when I occasionally ignored him!). And of course, a bit of Google never goes amiss! For a much more historical book I’ve been writing, I’ve read A LOT of books too. But I have to be careful to not then shove lots of unnecessary research in just because I think it’s fascinating. It might not actually help the story!
How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?
Note books/ magnetic boards/ pulling articles out of papers/ bookmark stuff on the computer & never look at it again!
How does first draft take shape?
I just write and write and write. Then I look at it and think ‘My, what a load of old baloney’ then I pull stuff out. I have brainwaves in the bath/ on the bus/ walking the dog sometimes, and I’ll think ‘Oh of course!’
Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?
My brain is quite helpful to have with me though sometimes it goes missing in action!
Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?
Yes I can get lost most definitely, though I have to get away from the internet etc. And my children! Nothing bursts the creative bubble quite like my little darlings 🙂
What does your workspace look like?
Cluttered! I am not a super organised person though I’m working on it, really!
Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?
Both – depends on the deadline…always a little editing, but sometimes much more as I go along, sometimes just getting the story down and then going back in proper detail
I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?
Oh God I hate the word counter! But it is both the writer’s enemy and our friend, don’t you think? Editors have a word count expectation and if the book’s too short, you’re in trouble!
So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?
The fastest I’ve ever done it is for The Stepmother I think as I was writing full-time for a few months. In the past the writing time has been more spread out between child-care and doing TV jobs (given that up now!)
In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?
Definitely on paper; I don’t even own an Ereader (note to self: must rectify). I think you spot more mistakes on paper!
What happens now that first draft is done?
I collapse in a big heap! Sometimes I ask someone else to read for errors/ plot holes. Then I give it to my editor, cross my fingers, try to keep breathing etc. And finally I start draft 2!
Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.
Thank you for having me – it’s been great fun!!
You can find Claire on her Website, Twitter, and Facebook.
Jeanie and Matthew are a happily married couple who both have teenage children from previous relationships.No one said it would be easy to raise a blended family under one roof but Jeanie and Matthew are strong. They will make it work.
And whilst Jeanie’s step-daughter Scarlett rejects her, Jeanie will just have to try harder to win her over.
But Jeanie has a past. A terrible secret she thought she’d buried a long time ago. And now, it’s coming to the surface, threatening to destroy her new marriage.
Someone is playing a terrifying game on Jeanie and she must put a stop to it once and for all.
After all, a fairytale needs a happy ending … doesn’t it?
A compelling, dark and twisty psychological thriller that will grip fans of Behind Closed Doors, Between You and Me and The Teacher.
Alex J. Cavanaugh (@AlexJCavanaugh) says
You do spot more mistakes on paper. But Claire, you need some kind of ereader. Get an iPad soon.
I also like your liberal use of exclamation marks!
Annalisa Crawford says
I love to edit on paper too, but my ereader is perfect for lending a greater distance to your work. I’ve only just started editing my final drafts on it, but it works so well. I tend to bookmark websites to never look at them again too!