The Crime Readers' Association

A Day in the Life: Working on a Deadline by Jeanette Hewitt

29th November 2015

My writing life has taken a new turn. After spending the last year in the company of crime fiction writers, attending events, meetings, launches and festivals, it’s time to get serious.
Although I’ve got two novels already published, and have completed another one, none of these three fall completely into the crime fiction category. In August of this year I decided that I needed to write that crime novel. I’ve had ‘the idea’ for a long while, working off the tag line; Chernobyl, 2015. With no law enforcement willing to go into the exclusion zone, a spate of murders are going almost unnoticed… Enter, Exclusion Zone, my forth novel, but my debut crime fiction one and my first writing as J.M Hewitt.

And as I wrote I realised that next April is the thirtieth anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and for maximum impact, I need my novel to be released around that time. And if I stand any chance of this I need for my manuscript to be completed by Christmas. That’s this Christmas!

So in August I began, working out that to write an 80,000 word novel I need to write about 16000 words a month, which is around 4000 a week. That’s only 571 words a day! So how come we are now in November, and I’ve written 40,000, when I should almost be on the last leg of the writing journey? Could it be that I’ve spent too much time working out ‘words per week’ on my calculator and not enough actually writing?

Although I won’t beat myself up too much, 40,000 words in three months isn’t too shabby and I’m actually really proud. Considering that I also took part in the Future Learn Forensic Course for six of those weeks, and successfully passed it too.

Because I know where Exclusion Zone is heading, I’ve taken the unusual step of sending it out into the world before it is completed. Normally this would be a big no-no, but I’m really pleased to report that I’m in tentative, but regular talks with an editor. Just yesterday I also received an email from another editor asking to see more of Exclusion Zone.

It is correspondence like this that spurs me on, so I am writing every day. Like many authors, I work a day job too, but my notebook goes everywhere I do, as you never know when you’re going to get a great idea and if it is not written down, it usually gets forgotten. I also write using One Drive, a ‘cloud’ server that you can access from any device. This means that I can access my manuscript from my laptop, my iPad, my iPhone or any computer connected to the internet. Even if I am somewhere with no Wi-Fi, like a plane, I can still continue writing my novel on One Drive and it will automatically upload and save later, when I’m in a Wi-Fi zone. Using One Drive, (other Cloud servers are available!) means if I find myself with ten minutes to spare, or in a lull at work, I can bash out a few hundred words on my iPhone because as they say, every little helps.

I also listen to other authors and their tips and tricks. It was SJI Holliday who gave me the idea of writing on my iPhone, although she used a BlackBerry. I know that Alex Marwood found that handwriting some parts of her manuscripts were extremely useful, something that I am yet to try but am not averse to. A lady from my local writing group, Felixstowe Scribblers, said she has found changing the font when reading through your work makes a difference in picking up errors or mistakes, as you have to look a little harder at a typeface that is not your usual one.

A big boost for me, and my personal favourite, has been designing a cover for Exclusion Zone and keeping it on the page as I bash away at the keyboard. The house in the cover is an actual building in Pripyat, Chernobyl. It’s haunting, chilling and with the overgrown surrounding forest, it is a constant reminder of the type of atmosphere that I want my book to convey. In its way, it is almost as helpful as a synopsis or tagline. It pulls me back when I get over enthusiastic and my story spins off out of control. Its grounding.

That is pretty much how A Day in the Life of me goes at the moment. And if you’ll excuse me, I must take my leave. After all, I’ve got another 40,000 words to write…
Jeanette Hewitt has two published novels, Freedom First Peace Later and Worlds Apart. Her short story won silver award in the author v author National Literary Trust competition in 2008. An as yet unpublished novel, The Intelligence of Ravens, was long-listed for the Retreat West Prize and won the BritCrime Pitch competition in 2015.

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