So I have the idea. I do some research. I work it up into an outline plot with a smattering of characters and then I start writing. This is when it gets messy.

1. The brain dump or free flow

First up is the free flow type of writing when I'm eager to bring the idea and characters to life by getting words and actions on to my computer screen as quickly as possible. Often these are not the correct words, the description is hazy, the characters not fully formed, the grammar and punctuation incorrect but there is something there that can be shaped later. This is what I refer to as the brain dump phase when I wish I could simply download words on to the computer without having to type them. The aim of this phase of writing, the first draft, is to get something written as quickly as possible.

2. The mixing and shaping

Second is the mixing or shaping phase when I go back through the novel (which might not yet be complete) and I move chapters or sections around because I realise they're not in the correct place. I might also ditch some chapters and characters or build minor characters up more, who, as the novel has progressed, have started to become more than just a walk-on part. I might even create new characters, or a sub plot might take on new meaning and significance adding colour and interest. Sometimes this second phase overlaps with the first. It's messy but gradually the novel begins to take better shape.

3. Next come the revisions

Once I'm happy with the first and second phase it's then time for revisions. Now I need to trawl through the novel to make sure that all the characters are fully formed and the clues are firmly planted and sometimes cleverly disguised; that all the unanswered questions are answered, the red herrings are in place, the setting and research are correct and it all hangs together.

After that it's final revision time, which involves checking every line of the novel to ensure that I've used the most appropriate words and phrases at the appropriate time and have not over used certain words. The computer 'find' function can be very helpful here.

I'm currently on phase three – the first revisions –of the next DI Andy Horton crime novel, number seven in the series. Now I am fleshing out the key characters, checking that plots, sub plots and clues all hang together, ensuring tension and atmosphere abound, answering all the unanswered questions and tying up the knots... I may be some time.

Footsteps on the Shore, the sixth in the DI Andy Horton Marine Mystery Crime Series was published in hardcover on 27 January.

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