Graeme Macrae Burnet is a Glasgow-based crime writer, published by Saraband Books. We first met a few years ago, when he’d just won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers’ Award (submissions for this fantastic programme are open at the moment – apply now if you’re eligible) – part of his professional development support included a couple of coaching sessions with me. You can find out more about Graeme’s writing (and his abiding fascination with Georges Simenon) on his blog.
This is the first of a series of short interviews that I’ll be hosting here on the site, covering topics that often come up in my mentoring and coaching sessions with new writers:
Sophy: When you first started writing creatively, what advice would have helped you?
Graeme: I don’t actually think you need any advice when you start writing. I think you need to try to find your own way of working. There’s such a cacophony of advice and ‘tips’ around for writers these day, I actually think it can be a bit burdensome. I’ve no doubt it’s perfectly possible to go online and find entirely contradictory ideas about how to go about things. The fact is there’s no right or wrong way. So I guess the piece of advice that would have helped me would be: Ignore all advice.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If so, what helped?
I’m a bit suspicious of the term ‘writer’s block’. If it means that someone is simply not writing anything, then clearly (brutal though it may sound) there’s only one solution to that. Easier said than done of course.
Do you write every day?
I try to treat it as a kind of nine to five-ish sort of thing and if I’m at the stage of producing a first draft I aim to write a thousand words or so a day. But some days are more productive than others.
Do you have any rituals around your writing practice? Do you prefer to write in a particular place or at a particular time of day?
I go to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. I enter by the back door and leave by the front, and if it’s free I sit in the same seat. I line up my coffee, water and extra strong mints, turn on an internet blocker, and, if the place if busy, listen to a loop of white noise. I generally I get most done in the afternoon.
Have you ever kept a journal?
No, but I keep a notebook to hand in case any little ideas spring to mind. I’ve got a terrible memory, and there’s nothing worse than knowing you had an idea, but not remembering what it was.
Are you a planner? Do you outline a book in advance, or do you just start writing and see what happens?
I hate planning. I want to the plot evolve from the characters, in an organic sort of way, rather than the other way around. But you can get yourself into a terrible mess working like that, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.
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