I was tagged in a post by a friend, colleague, and fellow crazy kiwi thriller writer Catherine Lea … and I’ve been avoiding writing this post ever since. Yeah, I know! Slack. 🙂
My writing process is slightly
fucked up screwy to be honest. It’s not like I sit down and outline everything and have little character bios or actually, any clue whatsoever, what’s going to happen. Yeah, that’s not me. If you could see inside my head you’d get why. I thought about trying to tell you all about the process for each book … and then my brain almost exploded. Seriously. I think what I’ll do is explain the process for snakebyte, databyte, eraserbyte, psychobyte and Array. Happy with that? Goodo.
First up: I’m a visual person. I see the scenes as they unfold. (That’s important so don’t forget it.)
Secondly: Music is always playing. ALWAYS. There is no exception to this. Bon Jovi is traditionally my preferred ‘work’ music – there is something energizing about playing ‘Bounce’ at full volume. I think it kicks my brain into gear? Once that’s out of the way, I’ll listen to ALMOST anything. (You can keep your techno and your rap – that ain’t happening in my house.)
Snakebyte: The overriding image in my head was a recycling bin full of tequila and wine bottles – everything I saw was filled with anger or sadness. (To be fair, I wasn’t in the best head space myself.) Knowing how soundbyte ended I figured this story was going to be a bridge between that and databyte. I let Ellie show me what happened next – because I’ve learned (the hard way) to just watch and let it unfold at it happens. So I did. I realized pretty quickly it was going to get messy in a bloody sort of way and that I’d need a couple of experts to vet some scenes for me. Once I’d written the scenes, I fired them off to Doug and Eric for their expert medical opinion. Happily they were both in agreement and I did good. Winning! The next thing that required some checking … went to Action Man. He’s pretty good at checking my action scenes. This story also introduced a new character that I knew was a keeper. Once everyone was happy with my medical scenes, SWAT scenes, how Ellie handled an assault rifle, the nuclear aspect, the new guy etc, the story was sent to a few trusted readers for their opinions. With this one I wanted to know if it could standalone. It pretty much can, so yay. My lovely editor at Rebel gave it a quick once over and done. 🙂
Databyte: I woke up one morning with an image in my head (see how this works?). It was pretty clear. I was looking at a photograph of a woman (Ellie) holding a severed hand. OMG, so many questions were generated at that moment. Thankfully Ellie didn’t do the dismembering so those images weren’t included in the scenes I saw … because yuck! Photos were bad enough. I knew from the very beginning that this was a big story because it felt big and every time another scene rolled out that feeling was confirmed. It was a fun story to write. In the early stages I met a new character – he seemed a little familiar. He became more so after I’d chatted to Mark Valley about acting and a typical day in his life. For me that made the character of Lee’s younger brother come alive and much easier to write. Cheating? Little bit. (Apparently the character ‘Mike Davenport’ is all kinds of hot … so there’s that.) The scenes rolled on and on, I found things out about my characters that I didn’t know before (that happens a lot), and finally it was done. The same process as before … me, Action Man, any medical scenes requiring attention are read by experts, a few trusted readers get to see it, then it’s off to Rebel and my editors desk. And the rest is history. 🙂
eraserbyte: This is different! So different. There was a comfort zone and I stepped way way out of it in several ways. I still saw the scenes so that bit is the same … BUT … (yeah big but) Admin One and Admin Bubbles (probably more Admin One) had a massive amount of input and that is not something that ever happens. I write and do not consult. This book … so different. Not only did Admin One dictate a lot of the plot (which then became quite a challenge to include and do it justice and they don’t know yet how it all turned out!) but my new guy from Snakebyte was front and center. Hmmm. Did I know enough about him? Well, that depended on the scene. Luckily I have a go-to guy for Mitch, otherwise I’d be a tad screwed because some of this book is written from his point of view. Uh Huh, that’s right. I write first person (you all know that, right?), and it’s easy because well, it’s Ellie and I know her … but writing Mitch first person. Crikey. Not easy. There were a lot of weird conversations that started with “How do you think Mitch would react to this?” So grateful to Grasshopper for being such a good sport. Once the hard part was done … the process as before, unfolded. Eraserbyte is with my editor.
Array: This is a collection of short stories. I think 12 of them are byte shorts and all were written for a specific reason, they do all follow on chronologically from each other. A couple of them were written for anthologies and therefore are themed, writing to a set of criteria is kinda fun. The purpose of these shorts (as with all my shorts) is to give back story to various characters, explore relationships, and explain things that readers want to know. They’re quick and fun and I love writing them. There are shorts in the collection written for national pizza month, and mother-in-law day – yep, my ideas can be that random! There is also one that explores PTSD which (if you’ve read any of the byte series) you might have seen a few symptoms in Ellie. Not everything is easy to write.
The process of writing a short is slightly different, especially if I have been asked to write on a specific topic (say … love for example). They still start with an image and a question but I’m aware that certain things have to happen. I love writing shorts that way but I don’t think I’d enjoy having a strict criteria for a novel.
It’s probably worth mentioning that I’m always a book ahead. So, databyte was launched this June but written over a year ago. Eraserbyte is due out next year – was written last year. I’m currently writing psychobyte – it’s exactly what it sounds like! I suspect it’s the SLOWEST writing I’ve ever done. I piss myself off with the slowness of this one. 🙂 It’s a book that’s required a bit of consultation while I try and get my head around what I can see. Yeah nah, you’ll have to wait!
Right … apparently tagging poor unsuspecting sods is what’s done now?
So … L.W. Wedgwood and TJ Hoekstra you’re up – share your writing process. (You’re welcome? hahaha)