No matter how content you are in life, you occasionally need something new and exciting: a light to pierce through the clouds of the mundane. A life-affirming frisson, if you will. To shake things up, I’ve challenged myself to undertake some daunting tasks in the past, like stand-up comedy, but writing a psychological suspense novel has been the hardest thing I’ve done so far.
When I decided in January 2017 that I would write a novel, I did not have an inkling of what the story would be. Living in Glasgow, with the reputation it has, it was obvious there should be an element of crime. But what did I know about crime, beyond what I’d read in novels (Ian Rankin a firm favourite) or seen on TV? Thankfully, very little. And in a way, I wanted to keep it that way. But I did wonder: how easy would it be for an ordinary person to not just become a victim of crime, but to become the perpetrator?
Over the course of the next 2 months, while I took part in the James Patterson Masterclass online, I made a point of being extra observant, asking myself ‘Could this be a story?’ whenever something unusual caught my eye. Then a friend told me about wanting to open a vegan patisserie. ‘Wouldn’t that make a lovely setting?’ I thought. I also quipped that if it didn’t’ work out, it could always become a front for money-laundering.
And so was sewn the seed for In Servitude.
I grabbed an old roll of wall paper from the garage, spread it out on the dining table, stopping the sides from curling with the first things that came to hand – potatoes – and drew the whole plot out: the twists, the red herrings, the sub-plots and all. I’d read about the ‘magic formula’ for thrillers, but forgot all about it as inspiration took hold.
Then to write it all out. I won’t lie: it was hard.
But because I had a full outline, I just went about it chapter by chapter. Methodically. Mentally picturing the whole scene unwinding like a movie before I started to type. The dialogue came easy: I could hear the different characters speaking inside my head. The plot had already been laid out, so it was down to capturing the action and the settings in a compelling way.
On social media, writers always talk about how the first draft is just getting words out there. Just write it, they say, and fix it later. Let the words flow and the story will unfold. This was not my style. I’m more of a control freak (like my MC Grace!) and I edited as I went, not satisfied with moving on from a chapter until it was fully formed. This made progress slow and I worried whether I was going about it all wrong. Already suffering from impostor syndrome, did this mean I wasn’t a proper writer?
My advice to other writers is: just because something words for most, doesn’t mean it works for you.
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Thank you Digital Reads Blog Tours for the wonderful opportunity to host Heleen Kist’s guest post on Snapshot
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