It’s a pleasure to welcome Rebecca Muddiman to the blog with a guest post. Rebecca’s latest crime thriller Murder in Slow Motion (Gardner and Freeman Book 4) was published in February and is available in both ebook and paperback.
How I Write
by Rebecca Muddiman
Thanks to Karen for inviting me to write a guest post. Here are my ten steps to writing a book.
1. Find an idea
My first book, Stolen, was inspired by some of the child abduction cases that have been in the news in recent years. Murder in Slow Motion came from a personal experience. One night I heard my neighbours arguing and it sounded like things had turned nasty. My neighbours were generally noisy, but not like this. I lay awake wondering whether I should do something. Should I go up there and knock on the door? Or should I call the police? In the end, the noise stopped and a few days later the usual karaoke party took its place. But it still bothered me. Should I have intervened?
2. Develop the idea
Once I know my theme and inciting incident, I start to map out the rest of the story. Who are the characters? What’s going on behind those closed doors? What happens next? When I have some ideas of what I want to do, I start to research and this adds layers to the story.
3. Accept you won’t sleep for some time
The plotting stage is a mixture of excitement and frustration. Not being able to come up with ideas keeps me awake. But having ideas also keeps me awake. I annoy my boyfriend by switching the light on several times a night to write something down. (Writing in the dark doesn’t work. I’m more likely to have written on the bedside cabinet than the notebook on the bedside cabinet.)
4. Create a mess worthy of a serial killer
I used to be quite messy with my notes, scribbling ideas on any available surface. I now devote a notebook (or two) to each project and try to keep it all together. Over time it builds into something resembling a plot and once I have the bare bones I like to write down each plot point or piece of information on an index card (or, more likely, a torn up bit of paper) and spread them across the floor. I’ve been told this is something a serial killer would do, but I find it helpful to see everything laid out in front of me. I can see if there’s something missing – how to get from A to B. I can see how it flows and whether a scene needs to be added or moved around.
5. Don’t allow anyone into your crazy killer’s lair (especially naughty dogs)
Because I spread these cards across the floor, it means no one can go into the room until I’m done (which can be a while) in case any of the cards are accidentally moved. I have now invested in a large notice board to avoid any breeze based incidents but there’s something more satisfying about using the floor.
6. Create an outline
Once I’m happy with that, I type up a chapter by chapter outline. Sometimes it’s just one line per chapter – a vague description of what needs to happen. Other times it’s longer, incorporating bits of dialogue or things vital to the chapter. The outline is generally quite short. I like to know where I’m going, and having a prompt for each chapter makes it easier when I sit down to write. But I like some freedom too.
7. Write a first draft (but expect it to be rubbish)
Writing the first draft is my favourite part, mainly because at the end of each day the word count had grown and I feel like I’m progressing. Usually first drafts don’t take too long to write as long as I’ve prepared enough. Three months is about average.
Of course, first drafts are mostly nonsense, so once I get to the end, then the real work begins. In a lot of ways I like editing. I like refining things and seeing connections I hadn’t seen before. I like collaborating with an editor. What I find frustrating is that it often feels like I’m getting nowhere. I try to aim for a certain number of chapters to edit a week, but without that word count ticking away, it can sometimes feel like treading water.
9. Rinse and repeat
I try to leave a gap of at least a few weeks before going back and reading a draft. Having some distance lets me see things more clearly. The amount of drafts I do changes from book to book. With Murder in Slow Motion it was about six. I’m often amazed by writers who only do one draft, who just work on each chapter until it’s right and they can move on. I could never work that way. My books evolve as I write. What I think the story is about when I begin can often be very different by the end.
10. And relax
When it’s finally done, I give myself a couple of days off to catch up on reading other people’s books and then go out and buy more books just in case I run out. (I won’t. Ever. I have more books than my local library.)
Thank you so much for the post Rebecca. Your dogs look adorable, I couldn’t be cross with them for long!
| About the Book |
Katy Jackson is missing, last seen at her neighbour’s house.
DI Gardner and DS Freeman think Katy’s boyfriend, Andrew, is overreacting. She’s been gone just a few hours. But next door there’s evidence of a struggle and blood throughout the house.
When they realise Katy’s neighbour is police officer Dawn Lawton, and that Dawn is missing too, it becomes impossible for Gardner to put his personal feelings aside, driving him to put his own career on the line as he tries to find his friend.
As Gardner and Freeman unravel both Katy and Dawn’s secrets, they discover neither woman’s life is what it seems. And when everyone has something to hide, how do you know who to trust?
| Author Bio |
Rebecca Muddiman was born and raised in Redcar. She has lived and worked in Holland and London, and travelled across America on a Greyhound bus. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2010 and the Northern Crime Competition in 2012. When not writing she spends her time watching Game of Thrones and dealing with her two unruly dogs.