Wednesday, 28 January 2015

I've been tagged by CL Taylor! My Writing Process

I’ve been tagged by C L Taylor, to take part in this writing process tour. Cally is a fellow psychological thriller author  of  the gripping novel, THE ACCIDENT, (one of the Top Ten bestselling debuts of 2014, named by The Bookseller). Her exciting new book, THE LIE is out in April. I have to answer some questions on my writing process, then pass the baton to another writer. So here goes…

I’m currently doing revisions on a draft of a new psychological thriller. I’ve just used beta-readers for the first time and the process has been really useful – I can’t tell you! They’ve been able to spot plot issues that don’t ring true and have pointed out all those parts that are a bit contrived, but I thought I could get away with. No way! Back to the drawing board – which is very good, because it means my Agent will see a much better version when it’s ready. I do recommend test readers – they’ve been real gems.


I like to think that because I was a Psychotherapist for 15 years, I’ve got a bit of an edge when it comes to Psychological Thrillers – but actually, there are so many good writers out there that it doesn’t count for a great deal! I’ve worked with ex-convicts from high-security prisons, so I feel like I have some insight into the ‘criminal mind’, but most often these offenders were simply people under terrible circumstances trying cope the only way they knew how. I wouldn’t want to disrespect them by putting them in fiction. I like the idea of dramatic events happening to ordinary people. Mainly, I think the difference in my writing is my style – a number of people have said it has beautiful flow with good imagery and atmosphere, which I’m very pleased about.


I’ve always loved mysteries – since the days of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. I love clues and twists and turns. As an adult I was first drawn to psychological thrillers by Nicci French and Patricia Cornwell, although I don’t think they were given that genre name, back then. I like exploring moral dilemmas and what happens when love turns to jealousy or revenge. I like writing ‘domestic noir’ – what could be more scary than thinking you’re safe in your own home and finding that’s where your worst nightmares begin…


I tend to start with a single idea or 'hook' and I like to get a title early, so that I have a clean focus for the story. I used to wing it from the start - now, it's safer to do an extensive outline of the whole plot, although I do like to leave flexibility. For THE EVIL BENEATH, I had the idea of a woman finding a body in the water and realising that the corpse was dressed in her own clothes. That was all I had, but I was very excited by it. I know exactly when the idea came to me – I was in Mayfair with my sister, talking about something entirely different. I then had to build ‘who, why, how, what’ after that. Research is usually on the internet these days, but there’s always lots to check and I enjoy discovering new information. I don’t want to give away the end of the book, but Juliet goes to a hidden and dangerous place in London and I talked to people who had been there and got books out of the library about it. I knew the parts of London I was writing about well and did go back to get a feel for space, sounds, smells of the river Thames and atmosphere around Putney Bridge, as Juliet Grey, the lead, lives nearby.

In terms of actual writing, I tend to do a short sketch of an idea to start with, then fill it out, then fill it out again, so that eventually I have a list of scenes. I do full character profiles these days to make sure my protagonists come alive. I know there are plotting systems for writers on the computer, but I’m too impatient to learn how to use them – I want to get the story down. So I tend to stick to the old fashioned long story outline (usually in 3 acts) and cut and paste to shift scenes around. And I press ‘save’ – always.

Now it’s my turn to pass the baton on to another writer. I’m going to stay with the same genre and hand over to a fellow writer with the same agent as me, Kathryn Croft. Her new book, THE STRANGER WITHIN came out in October last year and has got great reviews. I’d love to know her writing secrets…
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AJ Waines is the author of Psychological Thrillers:  The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train.
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.

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