I’m pleased to welcome crime author Cass Green to the blog to talk about her first draft process today.
Cass Green is the adult pen name of Caroline Green, an award -winning author of fiction for young people. Her first novel, DARK RIDE won the RONA Young Adult Book of the Year and the Waverton Good Read Award. CRACKS and HOLD YOUR BREATH were shortlisted for eleven awards between them, including: The Amazing Book Award; The Catalyst Book Award The Leeds Book Award; The Hampshire Book Award; Sefton Super Reads, the Oldham Book Award and The Stockport Book Award. She is the Writer in Residence at East Barnet School and teaches Writing for Children at City University. Her second book IN A COTTAGE, IN A WOOD is out on September 21st.
When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?
Grab a notebook. Then I try and brainstorm ideas, writing down anything and everything that comes into my head. I’ll be full of excitement at first but I almost always have a total meltdown and a panic that I can’t write anything ever again!
Do you have a set routine approaching it?
It’s a funny thing, because I have now written four books for teenagers as Caroline Green, and two books in my adult thriller persona, and I still don’t have a set method that works for me every time. I’m always trying to find new ways of working.
Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?
Both really, but for different things. I have actually started doing something new this time round (in the early throes of a new adult thriller) that’s working really well for me. I am very particular about notebooks in general; must be Moleskine, large sized, lined. But I received a small booklet with blank pages as a freebie from somewhere and I have taken to thinking of this as my ‘rough book’. So when I suddenly need to think of a minor character’s name, or job, or whatever, I write madly in there until it comes. I use the big notebook for planning. But I always write the actual book on the computer. My handwriting is terrible so I much prefer to write at length with a keyboard.
How important is research to you?
I try really hard to get details right and do research anything I’m not sure about. But I haven’t yet written anything that has required really serious research. I do hope to at some point. I am a journalist by training and I always loved the research part of that job.
How do you go about researching?
Online research, books, etc but mainly I try and track down people who know about the things I don’t! I like to talk to people who can fill in my own (many!) gaps in knowledge.
How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?
I would store most of it on my computer. I usually change my screen saver to something that fits with my work in progress too.
Tell us how that first draft takes shape?
Again, this seems to change. But for the book coming out in September (IN A COTTAGE, IN A WOOD) I found that using Post-It notes on sheets of paper really helped me with plotting. I then wrote the first draft fast and went back to revise after input from my agent. This time, I am slowing down a bit and trying to write less sparsely on the first draft. I am very much an ‘adder’ in edits rather than a ‘hacker.’ I don’t include enough detail and description on my first drafts and so I am trying to slow down a bit this time!
Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?
Music is very important to me in terms of getting into the right headspace. I make playlists for each book and need to listen to them when I am writing, or even making notes about the book.
Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?
I read that Jonathan Franzen goes into his attic for a month and pretty much becomes a hermit while he is writing a new book. I’m not sure that would really work with my family life! But I also have the attention span of a flea and so the outside world never really disappears for me. I’m far too easily distracted.
What does your workspace look like?
High-ceilinged, airy and light. There’s a large, comfortable chair and a leather-padded writing desk. The desk light brings just the amount of gentle illumination. It’s pretty perfect.
That’s what the British Library reading rooms are like, anyway! That’s my preferred place to write. My actual desk at home is covered in paper, bills, notebooks and quite a few biscuit crumbs.
Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?
As mentioned above, in the past I have been of the fast first draft school but I am trying to edit a bit more as I go this time round. I will get back to you on whether it is working for me!
I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?
When I am at the British Library and in full flow, I try to get around 3,000 words done in a day, but it can vary depending on where I am in the book’s cycle.
So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?
I find that my first drafts pretty much always take about five months. They do then need a fair bit of revision though.
In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?
I send it to my Kindle, or print so that there are two pages per A4 sheet. Anything that helps trick your brain into thinking you are reading a book, rather than a manuscript, helps with this process, I think.
What happens now that first draft is done?
It goes off to my agent. Then I chew my fingers until I reach the elbow and become generally unbearable to live with until I hear the verdict on how much work is needed!
Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.
Thanks so much for having me.
The Woman Next Door
A No.1 e-book bestseller, perfect for fans of Her by Harriet Lane and In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware.
Two suburban women. Two dark secrets. The almost perfect murder.
Everybody needs good neighbours…
Melissa and Hester have lived next door to each other for years. When Melissa’s daughter was younger, Hester was almost like a grandmother to her. But recently they haven’t been so close.
Hester has plans to change all that. It’s obvious to her that despite Melissa’s outwardly glamorous and successful life, she needs Hester’s help. But taking help from Hester might not be such a good idea for a woman with as many secrets as Melissa…