Today crime writer Rona Halsall is my guest on Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this is where I get to quiz writers about the lengths they go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.
Rona’s debut novel – KEEP YOU SAFE – is out now and I can’t wait to quiz her all about her writing and procrastination habits…
Welcome, Rona! So tell me about your latest book
My debut novel, Keep You Safe is about Natalie, a woman who has been wronged in the most terrible way and now she is determined to put those wrongs right. She has been convicted of a crime she has no memory of committing, but her husband doesn’t believe her and he takes their baby son to live on the Isle of Man, where she has no legal rights. Three years later, when Natalie is released from prison, she sets out to find her son, knowing that his life is in danger. But who can she trust?
How long did Keep You Safe take to write?
It probably took a couple of years, with many rounds of editing and the finished novel is very, very different to my first draft. It started life as a romantic mystery, but when I pitched to an agent at a Literary festival, she said she liked my writing but felt my voice was more suited to a psychological thriller. So I re-wrote the whole thing, and it took a little while to get the plot right.
What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot?
That would be dog walking in the many lovely places we have here on the island – forests, glens, old railway lines and beaches. Whenever I get stuck, it’s time for a dog walk to clear my head and sort out whatever problem I’ve come up against. There’s usually a coffee shop involved along the way, because dog walking is thirsty work, isn’t it?
What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?
Keep You Safe was definitely written in a pantser style, but the edits were so complicated and time-consuming that I’ve decided I need to plot. My second book, Love You Gone, was plotted and it only took six weeks to get a rough first draft together, so I’ve decided that’s the way forward for me. Of course there’s always room to stray from the plan when a better idea pops up, but in general I feel it saves time to do all the creative thinking up-front, get the plot sorted and then the writing is much, much easier.
When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft or equally across all three?
Procrastination is an integral part of my writing process, I think! Maybe it’s a way of turning off active thinking and letting your subconscious get to work on your ideas. I think copyedits are my least favourite part of the process, so I probably procrastinate more at this stage than any other!
Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why?)
I love the freedom of the first draft and the flow of words when you really get into the groove and you surprise yourself. That’s a little bit of creative magic and it’s a wonderful feeling. But I like the editing process as well. I like fiddling with sentences to get the words just right, working out how to describe emotions and places in a way that will give the reader a picture in their mind and let them really experience the story. And I enjoy getting my editor’s input and seeing how her thoughts can shape the story to make it better.
When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?
Social media is also a major distraction for me, having only recently discovered Twitter and I can lose a lot of time flicking through my newsfeed. I love seeing what everyone’s writing and which new books are coming out – I’m going to have to get one of those apps that turns it all off while I focus on writing! I also do a lot of snacking.
When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?
I have a whole range depending on the time of day. In the morning it’s coffee and I don’t tend to bother with snacks. By afternoon I’m ready for herbal teas and I don’t stop eating – dark chocolate, mixed nuts and crisps!
And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?
When I’m writing, my poor husband gets ignored for a large part of the time, so once the book is finished, it’s time for us to do things together. So we might go out for a meal to celebrate or go to the movies and get a takeaway and he breathes a big sigh of relief!
Dog walking, Twitter and dark chocolate – sounds like a perfect procrastination combo!
A big thank you to Rona for letting me grill her about her writing habits and procrastination pitfalls.
KEEP YOU SAFE is out now. Find out more over on Amazon by clicking on the book cover below: