Today crime writer Holly Cave is joining me for Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. In this feature I find out the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should actually be writing, and how they (finally) manage to win against the temptation of procrastination to finish their books.
Holly’s latest book – THE MEMORY CHAMBER – is a stunning, thought-provoking read and one of my favourite books of the year so I’m super excited to ask her all about her writing and procrastination habits…
So tell me all about your latest book – The Memory Chamber?
The Memory Chamber is part twisted love story, part crime thriller, part speculative fiction. It’s set in a London not that different to the one we see today, except that the profession of our main character, Isobel, is to create artificial heavens for people. By identifying and arranging her clients’ favourite memories, she can ensure they’ll have the perfect afterlife… or can she? As the story opens, we see Isobel falling in love with one of her new, terminally-ill clients, Jarek. This brief but passionate relationship will go on to make her question everything she knows, as Jarek’s wife is found dead and she embarks on a battle to prove him innocent.
How long did The Memory Chamber take to write?
I first had the idea during a sunny autumn dog walk back in 2014, but I was still editing my first, self-published novel, The Generation, at the time. When I did start The Memory Chamber, it flowed. I started writing in the spring of 2015 and completed the first draft shortly after the end of NaNoWriMo in October that year.
What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot – home, café, bar, other?
I’m so lazy most of the time that I just stay at home. For me, one of the best things about being a writer and freelancer is that I can regularly wear jogging bottoms, forgo makeup, and not wash until midday. But if I’m having trouble concentrating, I do find that I work harder in a café environment because I feel like people are watching me type! I really want to convert part of my garage into a little office though – my working space in the spare room isn’t that glamorous at the moment.
What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?
My process has changed a lot in recent months. I was always one for having a rough idea of where the story was going to go and then leaping in feet first. A classic pantser. But that approach hasn’t worked at all for my follow-up novel, which I’ve been to hell and back with. So, I’m now a reformed planner. I never thought I could do it, and I still believe that the first draft is you telling yourself the story, but I’ve learnt so much from books such as John Yorke’s Into the Woods and John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story.
When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft, or equally across all three?
Definitely at the beginning, when it’s totally needless. When it’s just a nervousness of starting badly or ruining the book in the first sentence. I also procrastinate when I hit stumbling blocks during the writing, but I think it’s forgivable in that circumstance because often, stepping away is the best thing you can do.
Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why)?
Both have their merits. I actually love the measured rigor of systemically working my way through edits and seeing your story improve with each change. But nothing beats the magic of that first draft when the characters take the reins and start telling the story themselves.
When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?
My name is Holly and I’m utterly addicted to my phone. I’ve recently started putting it on silent and leaving it on the other side of the room while I’m writing. But then it buzzes, and I start wondering if something vitally important and urgent has happened. As for a lot of writers, Twitter is a supreme distraction. Next step in the programme: switching my phone off completely.
When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?
Cups of tea that never get finished. My husband gets home and finds the house littered with half-empty mugs. It drives him berserk. I have a terrible sweet tooth and chocolate digestives are always a win. Although it changes with the seasons. No sooner have the Mini Magnum wrappers been emptied from my office bin than the mince pies will be working their way onto my desk.
And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?
I’ve learnt that every little milestone is worth celebrating. Any excuse and I’ll crack open a bottle of bubbly or take my husband out for dinner. There are so many pitfalls and disappointments in the publishing industry, that I think we writers need to celebrate each thing we do achieve, even if it’s one nice review. I’ve just finished the draft of my next book and sent it to my editor and I was so exhausted that I just took a week off work and read lots, which was great. When it’s finally edited and cleared for publication, I will probably treat myself to a weekend away because it’s been such bloody hard work!
A huge thank you to Holly for letting me quiz her about her writing habits and the temptations of procrastination.
THE MEMORY CHAMBER is out now. Find out more over on Amazon by clicking on the book cover below: