Welcome, Rachel, and thank you for sharing a day in your writing life.
Where do you write?
I have a writing room, filled with bookcases and an old dining table that I use as a desk. The windows overlook trees that are often filled with birds – incredibly beautiful. I use a laptop with no internet connection, so once I’m in that room, I can’t check emails or browse the web.
Turn on my iPod to play the soundtrack of the book I’m working on. The songs might be thematically linked, or evoke the mood I’m after. Since I play the same 30 or so songs over and over, they become like background music to me – I stop listening to the words and simply fall into the tone of that story. It also works as a cue – if I need to flick between stories because I’m revising an earlier one, or plotting a future one, the soundtrack clues in my subconscious and I’m immediately back immersed in that book.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I need to submit a synopsis to my editor, so I always plot to start with. Then I generally know what happens in each quarter of the book and I write a quarter at a time – I usually have one quarter out with CPs, then I polish it, while I’m writing raw words on the next quarter. I even keep the book in 4 documents (chaps 1-3; 4-6; 7-9; 10-12) until towards the end. It helps me keep the rhythm and pace of the story even.
What writing tools do you favour?
I write my raw words on my laptop then print out a double spaced chapter and flesh it out with handwritten notes on the printed page. Then I enter the changes on my laptop and tweak some more, then print it again and grab my red pen to edit. Repeat ad infinitum. It’s a slow process, but it works for me.
I always have a collage, with pictures that inspire the characters, colours, settings, motifs, etc. For example, for my latest book, Return of the Secret Heir, the collage (pictured left/right?) has pictures of actors who look like JT and Pia, baby booties because they lost a baby when they were teenagers, photos of New York, where the story takes place.
I use the collage-making time at the start as part of my dreaming time, where I flesh out the characters and their story, but I also use it when I’m writing the book. Eg, when I’m wondering what my hero might say, I look at his face and I can hear his voice in my head. It’s also a place to let my eye wander when I’ve paused, and get extra inspiration.
Can you name five objects that area always on or near your work desk while you write?
- writing chocolate
- various dogs (under the desk, behind my chair, sprawled in the doorway)
- dog chocolate
- a stack of in-trays filled with stuff related to the current book
Thanks, Rachel and all the best for your new release.