Pause... reflect...

07/02/2020 12:55

So, my last entry didn't really set my pulse racing, let alone anyone else's!

I'm going to pause and take some time to reflect on what I want this blog to be - but I'll probably use the blog itself as the place where I capture my thoughts (assuming I have any!), so watch this space...

The Process of Creating a Novel - Part 4

24/01/2020 13:16

Today, we move on to plotting, the thing that your story is actually about!

At its most basic, this is the beginning, middle and end of your story.  But most novels will have at least one sub-plot, perhaps several.  And if it's a Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, the sub-plots will all turn out to be part of the main plot, after all.  Don't ask me how he did that, by the way.  He was a bone fida genius, on a plane of existance I can only apire to.

But here's what I do know - how I create and manage my plot.  Again, I use a tool created by someone else - which I've just searched for and can't find...  So, apologies but I can't give the right credit.  

What I have found, however, are a number of much better descriptions than this one of how to go about plotting a novel, so I'm going to cop out of this one and just give you some links.  Hopefully, something in this list will resonate with you!

Annie Neugebauer

Jericho Writers


The Process of Creating a Novel - Part 3

17/01/2020 06:26

In Part 2, I promised to look at how I get to know my characters, so here goes.

Like most things in my life, the simplest answer is, 'it depends'.  It depends on the character, how much time they spend in my head before, during, and after the writing process.  For Nano Nineteen, the main characters - Wyn and Tandi - actually spent quite a lot of time in my head, introducing themselves and small domestic moments from their lives together.  I pictured them both quite clearly, and I shared some very sweet moments with them.  I also began to understand how their experiences whilst they were apart had changed them, leaving them unrecognisable to each other when they were reunited.

These 'meetings' were all in my head, of course, usually while I was walking to and from work.  Living within walking distance of work is such a blessing!  I would play a scene out in my mind, refine it, tweak it, view it from different angles.  By the time November started, I felt I knew them quite well.

Perhaps that's why, when it came to the actual writing of Nano Nineteen, I hardly mentioned them at all!  Instead, I focussed on Lallaya/Shepherd, to the extent that my Beta reader thought they were the main character.  They were certainly the main character in terms of the political story, I suppose.  And it was important to know that there was enough in the political/geographic/'real world' story to provide a backdrop for Wyn and Tandi's personal story across 4 or 5 volumes.

Nano Nineteen was an experiment in many ways but my process for getting to know my characters is fairly well tried and tested.  As well as the 'getting to know the people in my head' process outlined above, I also use two other techniques.

The first is the 'Extremely Detailed Character Sheet' (EDCS), which really does do what it says on the tin.  It's great for making me really think about my characters from every angle - a 360 view, if you will.  I even found that I needed to add a couple of fields.  And naming the character's family generates even more characters for me to wrangle!  Also, in a story like this one where I'm creating the world as well as the characters, it gives me a start on the languages of the different countries through their naming conventions.

The second is the short story.  I'll take my character - or even more than one of them - and put them in a situation outside the main story.  In this case, I used what I'd put in the 'Earliest memory' or 'Favourite memory' sections as the basis, then wrote a 700-ish word story about it.  Like the EDCS itself, it gives me a different view of the characters and, if I'm really struggling for material, it gives me something to refer to as a flashback!

Well, I hope that's given you some ideas for getting to know your own characters.  And how getting to know your characters can help to flesh out the world they live in.

Next time, we'll move on to plotting!

Quick update

10/01/2020 17:19

Happy New Year!

Just a quick one, today, to let you know my plans for 2020.

The first thing is that I plan to update and publicise my blog every Friday - or at least, MOST Fridays! - this year.  I'll continue with the 'Process of Creating a Novel' series, at least for the time being.

Secondly, I'm aiming to complete '70x700' - which has been in existence for over 5 years and still isn't at the half-way point!  So, the plan is to create a new story every week - draft, edit, publish.  Wish me luck!  Then, next year, I'll do a good edit of the whole thing and self-publish, now that I know how that works.

Finally, I am going to create an e-version of 'The Curse of Mannerley Manor' - but don't forget you can still get a printed copy from!

That's all for now - see you next week.

The Process of Creating a Novel - Part 2

25/10/2019 14:33

Today, I'm going to answer a question that I get asked a lot - where do I get my ideas?

To be honest, I don't so much get ideas as they get me!  It feels more like being a conduit for the stories, that they are telling themselves to me and I'm translating that through the action of my fingers typing on a computer.  And sometimes my translation is pretty poor!  I know what the story, or the scene, or the dialogue should look like, but I just can't express it properly.

So, that's how the story is told - but how do I begin?  Sometimes a character just appears in my mind fully formed - the title character in 'Rathia' was one of those.  Sometimes I am inspired by my reading to try my hand at something similar - that was how 'The Curse of Mannerley Manor' began.  But quite often I have a vague sense of a scenario and then have to search out the details.

Nano Nineteen is proving to be one of those!  The initial concept that presented itself was of a married couple, separated for an extended period, who find themselves changed by their experiences when they are reunited, perhaps irrevocably.

With the initial idea in place, I began working out what the exact situation is.  How have they been separated?  What are the experiences that have shaped them?  What world do they live in and how is that impacting on their lives?  What social and political changes are affecting them?

In answering these questions, I came to realise that this was not a simple domestic tale - although it is that, too.  This is an epic, a saga, a story that can only be told over multiple volumes.  One of my life-long ambitions has been to write a story that spans multiple books, and this may be the one.  And it came to me as a very vague concept!

Next time, I'll look at how I get to know my characters, the driving force of the story.

The Process of Creating a Novel: Part 1

18/10/2019 06:58

So, I have the outline of the story mostly in my head.  With the stuff that's going on in RL, I really haven't had the time to do anything much with it.  In particular, I'm really struggling to get to grips with my characters.

Characters are people.  They may live in our heads - and when we've written about them in the heads of our readers - but they are still people.  And people deserve attention, love, commitment, especially from their creator.  I must make a confession; I have woefully neglected my people.

Who are they?  What are their motivations?  What makes a princess dress as a man and go running off to war?  Why does a queen put all her trust in the most untrustworthy person she knows?  All very good questions - all still without answers.  And that doesn't get me anywhere on the path of understanding their world, the places they live or the history that has brought them to this point, the moment when my story begins.

I think I have two options.  Option one: over the next couple of weeks, make a concerted effort to get under their skins, to get to know them - starting with their names! - and the world they inhabit.  Option two: make that part of my Nano; write character sheets (including ones for the countries involved) before I get going on the story.  The whole thing is a precis, anyway, an experiment.  Can I tell a whole story in 50k words that can then be turned into 4 or 5 full length books?  Why not use some of the 50k to explore my characters?

Option two is very appealing.  It means that I don't have to beat myself up for not making any progress over the next few days, and increases the experimental nature of the whole piece.  What I can do in the meantime is get together a list of the characters I want to explore and at least find out their names.  I can also get together a list of the countries we will be visiting and work out what their 'character sheet' looks like.

I do like having a plan!

The process of creating a novel: Introduction

09/10/2019 06:49

I was talking to a friend about the process of creating The Curse of Mannerley Manor (which will be published and available to purchase very soon, honest!) and I found that, whilst I remembered the basic steps (and the editing, re-editing, re-re-editing and still finding things to fix when I was in the process of publishing!), a lot of the details had escaped me.  So, I am going to follow my own progress a little more closely this time, especially because my ambitions for this particular story are nothing short of epic.

To date, I have drawn up a couple of different outlines that I then attempted to merge.  I think they do work together but I haven't gone through the final hybrid properly, nor talked it through with someone else.  That step of talking it through, saying the words out loud, is an important sanity check, by the way.  What makes perfect sense in your head sometimes looks rather less logical when it's exposed to the light of day!

I have quite a number of characters, although I haven't yet named any of them!  That is definitely something I need to address sooner rather than later, as there is nothing worse than throwing a name at a character that just doesn't fit them.

I also have an actual theme this time - the way relationships adjust (or don't!) as the people within them change.

For the purposes of Nanowrimo, the story will cover five chapters but the plan is to expand each of those into a book.  Yes, I am in the process of creating my own epic saga!

I have decided to do it this way partly to test that question of logic, again.  I have this big, sweeping idea in my head - but how will it play out on paper?  Or even screen...  Is there enough to the idea to even make five whole books?  And another reason is that if it clearly isn't working I haven't created the first book and left the story incomplete.  I also think I'll be able to judge the balance of the story across the different parts better.

So, there we are.  My Nanowrimo journey for 2019 has begun!

Time for a refresh!

07/10/2019 07:10

Now that I am publishing my first novel - The Curse of Mannerley Manor (remember you can buy it on!) - I felt it was time to give this site a bit of an overhaul.

Please feel free to have a wander around and if you see something you like, be sure to leave a comment in my Guest Book!

Words, words, words!

19/01/2014 00:00

Today I start my first ever blog series - go me!

As the title above suggests, I'll be looking at words and their importance to writers.    It might seem pretty obvious - in fact, I hope it does! - but words are the writer's raw material.   I'll explore the way that the writer chooses, combines and manipulates this material to produce something that other people want to read.

So, check in next week for the next part.

Nano nano everywhere

01/12/2013 21:35

So, this year's Nano wasn't the greatest thing I've ever written.   It wasn't terrible - it just wasn't a great novel.

It did prompt me to look up some of my older manuscripts, though, and the one from 2007 - Today is not a day for heroes - is worth salvaging.   The last two chapters are very condensed and could probably be at least another five chapters.   When I write a Nanonovel, I like to tell the whole story even if that means chopping bits out.   So, task one for December is to do some work on that manuscript - tidy up the typos, expand the last two chapters.   But maybe I can take the whole thing further, really go in depth?   Let's start with the tidy up, though.

The other thing I want to try is doing the little prompts and competitions over at with a set of characters I'm developing for next year's Nano (you can never start too early!).   I'm planning a gothic novel of amazing proportions, so watch this space.

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