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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Chris Longmuir Shares her Writing Process

Chris Longmuir shares My Writing Process with Famous Five Plus  #mywritingprocess

I was recently asked to explain my writing process. The first thing I asked myself before I put my fingers on the keyboard was – How on earth do I explain something as mysterious as my writing process? I’m not even sure I understand it myself. But, nothing daunted, I’ve had a go, so let’s get started.

1) What am I working on?
As you probably already know I’ve written three books in The Dundee Crime Series, which to my surprise have been tremendously popular. I’ve also written a historical saga set in the 1830s. Now you might think given the popularity of The Dundee Crime Series, my new book would be number four, a contemporary crime novel set in Dundee. But you would be wrong. Oh, the book is set in Dundee, so no surprises there. And it’s crime, again no surprises. But it’s a historical one this time – got you! You see, I decided to combine my two interests, crime and social history, into a new novel which might just be the start of a new series.

The story was inspired by Dundee’s first policewoman, although that is where the similarity ends. My policewoman starts out in London, but is sent to Dundee at the request of the Chief Constable. When the women police (a voluntary force) were formed in 1914 she was one of the first to join. And like a lot of the early policewomen, she has a suffragette background. I bet you didn’t know that the origins of the women’s police included suffragette organisations, such as the Women’s Freedom League (WFL), and the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Anyway, she gets sent to Dundee and is immediately embroiled in a murder with satanic undertones, while at the same time fighting against prejudice from the male police force.

This novel was originally written several years ago and it was one of the twenty winners of an international competition for the best crime novel by an unpublished crime writer, all this was before I was published. However, a succession of editors insisted on changes which tore the heart out of the novel, and in my opinion completely destroyed it. At the end of the day it had become such a mess that it wasn’t published. So, this year I have torn it to pieces, completely rewritten it, and I hope my readers will like it. The revision, edits, and proofing are all now completed. I use two editors, one edits for content and the other for grammar. These editors are far superior to the ones supplied to me by the publishing firm that organised the competition, so there’s no danger the book has been spoiled. In fact, I think it’s looking pretty good.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you the title, well, it’s The Death Game, and it is almost ready for publication. It just needs the cover. My cover illustrator, the talented Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics, is working on that now, and is coming up with some brilliant concepts, so I reckon I’ll have it on sale as an ebook at the beginning of March, with a further paperback launch in June.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
All writers think their work differs from that of other writers, and I certainly wouldn’t want to mimic another writer, no matter how successful. I write in different genres, but considering I’m known mainly as a crime novelist, I will focus on the Dundee Crime Series. As far as I’m concerned I think this contemporary crime series does differ from many others. The books are often listed as police procedurals, but although many of my police characters remain the same in each book (it would be a nonsense to change the Dundee Police Force each time), they are not really the main characters. My main characters are the victims, the suspects, or the perpetrators, which means the books also fit into the noir genre. The other thing is that each book is different because the police are not the main characters. Night Watcher is a revenge thriller. Dead Wood is a cross between a police procedural, and a woman in peril thriller. While Missing Believed Dead is a psychological thriller as well as a police procedural. I like to get into the heads of my characters, and the more twisted the character, the better.

3) Why do I write what I do?
I suppose I write about what interests me. I’ve always been interested in social history, not the kings and queens and lords and ladies stuff, but how the ordinary people lived and survived in times gone past. So that’s where my saga and historical crime comes from. As for my contemporary crime, I suppose that’s because it has always been my favourite reading, from my teenage devourment of Agatha Christie, on to my more modern favourites Jeffrey Deaver, Val McDermid, Mo Hayder, Denise Mina, and loads more.

The suspense in my writing probably originates from my horror phase, starting with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and on through James Herbert, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz. Koontz in particular is a master of suspense. The darkness of my characters arises from my interest in psychology and what makes someone do something evil.

I’m sure there are many more influences, but those are the main ones.

4) How does your writing process work?
This is a really difficult question to answer because I really don’t know. I’m what is known as a pantster. I do not plot or plan the book I am writing, which I am told is unusual for a crime writer. I start out with one scene involving a character and take it from there. I write the scene, and then play the “what if” game, and so the next scene is born, and I carry on in that fashion until the end of the book. I reckon if I can’t surprise myself by what will happen, then I won’t surprise the reader.

One thing I do believe is that a writer has to write. It’s like any job of work, there may be days when I am not in the mood, but I have to force myself into the chair and force my fingers onto the keyboard, or if you’re a pencil and paper writer, you must grasp the pencil firmly and write. It’s possible what has been written may have to be junked, but it is important to keep the writing muscle active. It’s like any other muscle – you use it or lose it.

The other thing that is really important is the editing phase, and I don’t mean checking for spelling and grammar mistakes. Editing is dissecting what has been written and deciding if it can be improved. It involves a lot of rewriting, and when I am satisfied it’s as good as it can be, I send it out to my editors whose opinion I value.

Thank you for visiting and reading about my writing process.

Chris Longmuir


  1. Really interesting post Chris. Thanks for sharing

  2. Congratulations on your writing successes! How exciting to have a new release soon.

  3. Thanks folks. I'm counting the days to the new release. Should be any time now!