The WRs, Aiden Turner and 6 billion post-it notes: it’s all in the planning.

aidan-turner-poldarkThe Write Romantics have a secret. I’ve said it now, it’s out there. Don’t get too excited, it’s nothing that involves weird rituals or complicated handshakes, and certainly nothing involving dalliances with celebrities you could sell to the Sun newspaper. More’s the pity. That said some of us do have Pinterest boards that might make Aidan Turner want to take out a restraining order…

Our real ‘secret’, though, is the private Facebook group we use. It’s like a virtual watercooler around which the ten of us meet to gossip, complain, share and celebrate our writing lives and beyond. It helps stave off the loneliness that can come with being a writer and it’s also a brilliant source of information.

Just recently, Alys, who teaches creative writing, as well as creating fantastic fantasy and steampunk novels, asked us to tell her our methods for organising writing ideas, so that she could share these with her students. Suffice it to say that, as a pantster, I learnt a lot and I promised to share the responses here. I hope you enjoy it and we’d love you to comment if you have your own methods. Let’s face it, I for one still have a lot to learn.

Jo x

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Alys

I’m a notebook and photos kind of person. I had a pinterest board for my steampunk book that I used while I was writing, but mainly for fab pictures of clothes, hats and steamcars!

Helen R

I make notes on my iPhone and then email to myself… I have a file in Hotmail with lots of ideas now! I don’t think I have time to write them all though. Once upon a time it was a notepad but now phone is easier as I always have it with me. When I start a new book I have a new file and stash away photos, drafts, character notes etc

Jackie

I have a whiteboard for particular stories and stickies on the computer. I also use three separate pages of ‘notes’ on my iPad for names, titles and emotions. Although don’t let this give you entirely the wrong impression, I also usually have a whole heap paper in my ‘office’.

Helen P

I use Pinterest boards for every book, notebooks and I have a notice board for each book where I pin my pictures and postit-169631_960_720ideas. I also use a whiteboard to keep track of characters and plot strands. Evernote on my phone is great too, when I’m awake at 4 am but can’t be bothered getting out of bed to write it down! Oh, and post-its. Lots of them.

Jo

I have a little black book and notes on the pc, but I am a disorganised pantster so would not want to give anyone my advice. I tried Pinterest once, but then I forgot to go on there for ages and now I can’t remember the password… Are you sensing a theme here?

Lynne

I email stuff to myself and store it in a file called ‘inspiration’ and I have a notebook with me all the time and one by the bed to jot nocturnal notes in.

Deirdre

I have nice hardback notebooks, plus little one for my bedside table and even smaller one for my handbag which I always forget to take, but that’s the theory. I’ve got a computer file labelled ideas but never remember it’s there, so the notebooks work best for me. I also keep a file of cuttings from newspapers etc which might trigger ideas and a Pinterest board to store images.

Rachael

I have a special notebook where I write each new idea. It might be a title, or just a sentence, but each idea has its own page. As the idea develops in my mind, I then open a file on my computer for it and add photos, info etc and build it that way.

pinterestSharon

I use a secret Pinterest board for each book. I jot ideas that pop into my head on my phone then I write up rough story ideas on the computer. When it’s time to pull it all together and start plotting and going into motivation, theme etc, I use a notebook. I also have a pinboard with a timeline worked out for a couple of characters and a complete list of all the Kearton Bay characters’ birthdays and the ages they’ll be in each book.

Jessica

I use a mix of post it notes and other little notes hiding in a drawer and a file on my mac which has ideas for titles and ideas for concepts.

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We hope you enjoyed hearing how we capture our writing ideas, now over to you.

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Tears, tombstones and tittle-tattle

1174820_10201404510706309_1859499988_nI went *fake* camping the other day – I highly recommend it, by the way, it has all the benefits of meeting up with your friends who are sleeping under canvas, drinking wine and talking, but you get to go home and sleep in a warm, comfortable bed when they head off to their tents! My friend and her sister had both read my first full-length novel over the summer and we raised a glass or three to the new four-book deal I’d been offered a couple of weeks before. They asked me, though, if I was at all worried about having enough ideas to fulfil the contract. All I could do was smile and hope the red wine hadn’t stained my teeth too much.

Time is probably my biggest writing issue, fitting it around the rest of life’s commitments; ideas on the other hand crowd my brain and pop up at every turn. Some of them spark plots for full-length novels, novellas or even a series, and others for short stories for women’s magazines – a competitive market which I’ve finally managed to crack.

Everyone loves people watching, right? But my husband certainly thinks it’s a bit weird when we’re watching people inSS102271 a coffee shop and I start guessing what they do for a living, what their backgrounds are and giving each of them a life story. My mum tells me that even when I was tiny, she’d constantly lose me in supermarkets and shops and find me standing between groups of other mothers, listening to their conversations and asking them extremely nosey questions. Now, when my husband discreetly taps the side of his nose, to let me know that my eavesdropping is getting just a little bit too obvious, I tell him that I’m not just being nosey, I’m working!

SS102290Ideas can come from anywhere, take this past week for instance. Last Monday, I took the children to London and, standing-up on the tube, we noticed two impeccably dressed and made-up women with tears silently streaming down their faces. They weren’t talking to each other or wearing black, like they were on their way to a funeral, and they didn’t appear to have just received bad news on their phones. If it had been one woman, I might have imagined a relationship break-up but, with the silent tears and the two of them sitting side-by-side, my imagination was working overtime, trying to work out what scenario that had led to this point. Even the fact that everyone noticed, but no-one said anything, sparked an idea for characterisation – why we act the way we do? Maybe it was because if felt wrong to intrude on their grief, to check they were okay, or because there were two of them, but we all obeyed the unwritten rule of the tube… don’t talk to a stranger, whatever the circumstance.

Later in the week, my husband and I set off for a rare weekend away without the children and we spent a lot of time inAAA IMG_0226 restaurants and pubs, leisurely reading the papers over breakfast and avidly eavesdropping over bottles of Prosecco come the evening. Listening-in to the pub conversations of others is like sprinkling glitter on your imagination and the heated discussion one couple were having, about how there was no way they were letting their son borrow their camera for his trip to Paris with his girlfriend, who they clearly couldn’t stand, left me imagining another host of scenarios. Maybe he’d propose out there, then what would happen to the family dynamic? Or perhaps the girlfriend would prove to be as obnoxious as the parents clearly thought she was and the city of Paris would be anything but romantic! Of course, I’ll never know how the story panned out, but it sparked off an idea for a possible story about what happens when a family member brings someone new into the fold who just doesn’t fit it. Torn between your first love and your family, who would you choose?

IMG_0222Taking a break from eating and drinking, we decided to have a walk up to the Epsom Downs and, on the way back down, the phone’s sat nav directed us through a cemetery. It was quiet and leafy and, as I can never help doing when I find myself in one of those places, I just had to read the grave stones. There was one that really struck a cord – the burial plot of Luke and his Lily. He’d been killed out in Italy in the last year of World War II, she’d died some forty years later, clearly not having remarried. There was a whole life story on that stone, particularly as their three children had left a touching dedication, and she’d obviously raised them alone during a time when being a single mother was even more of a challenge than it is now. There’s definitely a novel in that.

For me, inspiration can be found anywhere and, whilst none of my characters are based on real people, conversations with friends definitely spark off ideas too. If they make a really funny comment, there’s a chance it might appear in some form or another somewhere along the line. So, as the sign says, be careful what you say or you might just find yourself in an eavesdropping writer’s next story!

Jo x

Today’s Spotlight Lets in Light with Emma Davies

We’re delighted to welcome Emma Davies as our Saturday Spotlight guest. Emma is an indie-published author whose debut novel Letting in Light – which we reviewed last week – has stormed the charts and we were eager to get to know the author behind the success. Over to Emma …

IMG_0254Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself (e.g. where you live, family, day job (if there’s one other than writing) etc.

I live in Shropshire which is a beautiful but undiscovered (by many) county just shy of Wales, and have lived there for about 14 years since our children were little. There’s me, my husband, three children, mum in law, and two guinea pigs, so life is mad / busy / hectic / fun / frustrating / noisy / all of the above. I’m currently a finance manager for a group of four schools, but like a lot of writers would love to be able to give that up and write full time. I’ve taken a little step closer to that by reducing my contract from full time to a four day week from September, something I’ve been hoping to do for a long time, especially since my full time role is not exactly a nine to five one. I’m so excited at the thought of having a whole day a week to write!

What led you to becoming an indie writer?

I think it was a natural progression for me really rather than a conscious decision. Since getting a kindle a few years ago, I’ve read many books by authors who are not traditionally published and found some absolute gems, by writers who I now count among my favourites. I hadn’t realized before until I looked into self-publishing this was even possible, and in fact how easy it is to do. As I was writing Letting In Light at the time it seemed the best way forward for me. I was getting older, I didn’t know if what I had written was any good, and I was put off by the length of time that seeking a traditional publishing route can take. It was a way of dipping my toe in the water and testing things in my own time and on my own terms.

The new cover

The new cover

Would you consider becoming traditionally published? What might tempt you?

I’ve always been very honest about my views on traditional versus self-publishing, and indeed readers of my blog will have read my countless deliberations before. I am still a bit on the fence, purely because I like to keep my options open; things change and I think you have to change with them. I’m not against traditional publishing, that’s not why I self-publish, but equally I don’t self-publish because I’m an ardent supporter of the ‘cause.’ I’ve done what felt right for me at the time. Both types of publishing have pros and cons and at the moment I can see that financially, self-publishing is the better option for me, and I like the greater flexibility it gives me. Having said that my ego would love nothing more than to walk into a bookshop and see a huge pile of my books on a table, so who knows? If I get a tempting offer I’ll let you know!

‘Letting in Light’ is an emotionally-packed read. Where did the idea come from?

That’s a really difficult question to answer without giving away a huge spoiler so I’ll have to stick to the book’s setting to answer the question if I may. I’ve always loved walled gardens and country estates, simply because of the capacity they have for the imagination to run riot, and that’s what really appealed to me; that I could take a setting such as Rowan Hill, put a bunch of people in it, and see what happened. The setting and characters have been with me for a very long time, and I knew the type of story I wanted to write. When I discovered the story line that would give the book the impact I wanted the rest just fell into place.

‘Letting in Light’ has been very successful. Have you been surprised at the success?

Utterly, but although it’s currently doing very well it has taken over a year to achieve this.

What do you do to promote your novel? What method do you think is most effective and why?

I guess like most people I just look for any opportunities that are out there, so guest appearances on blogs such as this one are a great way of getting your name and book information out there. I’ve done quite a few ‘interview’ features and also other fun posts, but these have all been quite widely spaced so it’s been a bit of a drip feed to be honest. When I first published Letting in Light I didn’t even know that book bloggers existed, let alone think about setting up reviews prior to launch. I have had a few blogger reviews now, but again perhaps this is unusual for a book already published. Social media is brilliant for networking with other authors, readers and bloggers etc but I have to say that Twitter has been the most effective for me. I try really hard to be as generous as I can to other writers because the one thing I have learned over this last year or so is how supportive and friendly everyone is. Twitter is great for this, and I really enjoy the interaction I have with people.

Recently you had 100 copies of your book downloaded in one day. The Write Romantics were in awe! What’s your secret?

The scary thing is that if I have one I’m really not sure what it is! I think for me a combination of things seemed to come together at the same time, and once sales started to pick up I think Amazon starts to play its part too. Much is written about the mystery of Amazon’s algorithms and how they work. Personally I don’t have a clue either but I’m sure that they have been wafting my book under people’s noses and undoubtedly I’ve benefited from that. One thing I have done it to create a SmartURL for Letting in Light. Essentially all this does is allow whoever clicks on it to be taken to their own country’s Amazon site so that you don’t have to post lots of links. However it also provides you with a whole range of statistics and as soon as I started to use it, with some very carefully put together tweets, I could see that my links were being clicked on, and at a rate that really surprised me. When I started I had over 500 click throughs in a matter of days so I knew that my tweets were attracting attention. Once I discovered that, I just kept going, and things have gathered their own momentum. Obviously now it’s a combination of things that are contributing, and I’m just thrilled that people are loving it the way that they are.

The original cover

The original cover

‘Letting in Light’ has a gorgeous cover, but we’ve seen a different version. What made you change the cover design and when did you do this? Did the cover change have an impact on sales?

I changed the eBook cover in May of this year from a design which I produced myself. A friend of mine who is an artist painted a beautiful watercolour which is the central image, but my desk top publishing skills really did not do it justice. I still have the watercolour though which is just lovely. When Letting in Light was first published I couldn’t afford or justify spending any of our family’s budget on a professional cover and so I did the best I could at the time. Earlier this year though when things started to pick up I realised that the cover really didn’t have the kerb appeal it needed to get noticed. People might look at it, but it wasn’t saying ‘buy me’. Also the thing about eBooks is that when people browse they are only looking at a thumbnail image and so this has to stand out. I spent a long time looking through pages of bestsellers so see what colours and types of design were more noticeable than others. There is only a very small window of opportunity to grab someone’s attention when they’re browsing before they’re onto the next book. So, I saved up and when I could had the cover redesigned professionally. I always knew what I wanted and the end result is exactly what I hoped for. Now of course I wish I had done it much sooner as I’m convinced it has helped sales.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently writing the sequel to Letting in Light which I had hoped to release later this year. However a few weeks ago, with the school holidays looming (and therefore for me more writing time) I had a mad idea about writing a novella for Christmas. Then one morning as I was brushing my teeth the perfect plot came to me, and so I’m right in the thick of this at the moment. It will (she says through gritted teeth) be published in October.

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since you published your novel? What’s the most challenging thing?

I don’t know whether it’s the best thing that’s happened, because this year has certainly been a year of firsts, but the nicest thing happened recently when I received a message from someone via my website; ‘I enjoyed your book so much I just wanted to let you know. I was devastated that this is your first and I can’t go straight out and buy all your others. Please write us another one soon.’ I was so touched that someone had actually taken the trouble to contact me personally; I got a bit emotional over than one!

The most challenging thing has to be trying to get the balance right between all the areas of my life, when most of the time what I want to do is just sit and write. I don’t think I’ve got the hang of it yet, but perhaps this comes with time!

You say on your website that you love Pringles. What’s your favourite flavour? Did you ever sample the Mint Choc Chip ones that came out a couple of Christmases ago?

I’m on record as saying I never met a Pringle I didn’t like, and that’s probably true, although my least favourite are salt and vinegar, not because I don’t like them but because if I eat too many they take a layer of skin off the inside of your mouth. I do however always keep going back to the original flavour, which on balance are probably my favourite. I did try the mint chocolate ones when they came out and loved them too, but really, chocolate Pringles? It’s not right; they’re a savoury snack, and if they’re not then I’m sorry but they’re an Elizabeth Shaw mint and I love those too!

Huge thanks to Emma for joining us. We look forward to reading the sequel to Letting in Light and wish her continued success. We’re not convinced about the mint chocolate Pringles though. Ew!

Jessica x

You can buy Letting in Light here and find out more about Emma on her website. You can also find Emma on Twitter @Emdavies68 and on Facebook.

Guest Blogger, Claire Haywood, tells us about “New Starts”

It’s coming to that time of the year when we look back and see what we have achieved (or not!) and start to think about the new year. This year, I made a start on writing. It wasn’t something I planned to do. I am a reader, a crazy reader too – I always have at least 3 books on the go and through my book group I have been introduced to lots of different genres, so I’m not fussy about what I read, I’m like a literary magpie. But writing? I guess I may have thought of it, and enjoyed it at school, but I hadn’t made a start.

But then there was Jo. A lovely friend from junior school where we shared desks, a love of learning, whizzing through the English activities, and ponies.

school

I was heartbroken when we went to different secondary schools, but life continued and we immediately and inevitably lost touch. This year, I am so thrilled to say that she’s back in my life and we have made a new start on our friendship. We have so many years to talk about, 3 children between us, many ups and downs concerning our lives to share and it is writing that has been the glue. Jo, Write Romantic and writer has lit the fire for my new start – writing.

Typically for me, I started by getting organised. I thought seriously about writing longhand, I love a sharp pencil and some beautiful paper to get my ideas down on, but I realised quickly that this wasn’t going to work. So I bought a lap top, just for my writing. An extravagant gift to myself but one that felt I needed to get started. I read all the old posts on this blog and wondered at the journeys of the writers here, how they made their starts, what they have achieved, the excitement and possibility of being published. All the time I questioned whether that could that ever be me? And then there was the most obvious thing, the thing that I could not organise, I needed an idea. This is where the support from my wonderful Write Romantic friend has been invaluable. Jo allowed me to realise that my prize winning idea, the thing that I was excited about writing and made me sign up for the ride, really wasn’t going to work. So I decided to go back to the drawing board and think about what I could bring to a story by looking at my life experience and now I am decided on my book. The subject is something close to my heart and something I know about, so I am starting from a point of confidence. I am still not sure which direction it is going in, but I understand that this is okay!

I joined the Nano event in November and one evening I wrote my first thousand words. This is where I started to learn about myself as a writer and I realised that for all my organisation I had no idea how to set my ideas out so they look and read like a book. I have lots of characters and getting them into the story was causing me trouble. So, I started again and re-wrote the start of that first chapter. Nobody told me that you have to have guts and bravery for this writing lark, because once you have written a little bit, you need someone to read your words to see if you are on the right track. I chose my English teacher husband, he was there and I needed an immediate answer that he thought my writing was, at the very least, okay. I have never felt more exposed. I couldn’t stay in the room when he was reading and made excuses for my style (shouting from the kitchen!) and the fact that I hadn’t written anything since school. I realised that it actually mattered to me. When I returned to the sitting room, he was smiling, and now I know that I have made that start.

I am not finding it easy. I have a crazy busy job and arrive home most nights far too late to make much of anything. I failed to make the grade with Nano and did not get beyond that first chapter, a very weak effort. We are now moving house and so not much will be achieved in the next few weeks. However, life will settle and I really, really want to try to complete my book. I have amazing support with Jo (who has offered to read for me from now onwards) and my husband who is also a frustrated writer. This blog has been great too as just knowing that others find it a challenge makes me feel like I am among friends.

So, what about next year? Well, I am determined to make some new starts for myself. The first will be to join the New Writers scheme in January – I actually have my alarm set for January the first, I am that determined to get my application in. Then the timescale is set for me, I need to come up with that book and get it finished by August, I am sure that this is something that I can achieve and I have the best part of eight months to get there. Nano in 2014? Yes, I think I will do it again and this will be my second book, for which I already have an idea and change of genre, and that one will be teen fiction. I hope that in the next few years I will be able to add ‘writer’ to the things that I do and I know that when I do get there I will have never felt so proud.

Claire

Desperately Seeking Inspiration …

A couple of weeks ago, I went on holiday to the Lake District. This is a place I love and have visited on many occasions but this was my first visit to Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey, the first property Beatrix Potter purchased in the Lakes.

I think anyone who has heard of Beatrix Potter would be interested in (and enjoy) visiting this lovely house and garden but, as a writer, I found it particularly fascinating. Beatrix, getting over the untimely death of her fiancé, found inspiration in the house, gardens and surrounding areas, setting many of her subsequent books there. The Tale of Tom Kitten is set in the house and garden, The Tale of Ginger and Pickles is based in the village and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck featured a duck that strayed from Hill Top to pick just three examples.

Wandering around the property, knowledgeable guides were on hand with copies of various books where visitors could match the illustrations to exact pieces of furniture and rooms in the house. My six-year-old daughter loved doing this. And so did I!

At Beatrix’s wishes, Hill Top’s rooms and furnishings “should be kept in their present condition” so that visitors could see where inspiration had come from and I really could see it. Her desk was laid out with letters and books and I must confess to having serious writing-desk envy (lots of drawers and cubby holes!) and could really picture the talented writer and artist at work. I could also see why she’d be inspired living in such a lovely farm in such a pretty part of the world.

Here’s a picture of me standing in the doorway of Hill Top. Please forgive the pasty legs!!!!

Image

All of this got me thinking about inspiration. Two weeks ago Deidre blogged about locations for books and asked whether we like fictional or real settings. Last week, Alex took this a step further and blogged in more detail about the two locations (Glastonbury and Orkney) that have inspired her novels. I’d like to look at inspiration in general. Where does it come from? Does a location inspire a story? Does a story inspire a set of characters? Does an idea for a character inspire the plot? I guess it can happen in many ways.

For me, personally, the inspiration for my first novel didn’t come from a person or a place. It came from something that happened to me. I’d always wanted to write but had no idea what the story would be. When this particular thing happened, I thought, “What a great idea for a story” and once that thought popped into my head, it wouldn’t go away. Suddenly I had my protagonist too because she’s predominantly based on me although how she reacts to “the thing” in my novel isn’t necessarily how I reacted to it because her reaction makes a far more interesting story. The plot unfolded by me constantly asking myself, “What if…?” and “Why…?” which led to new characters, settings and experiences.

Location-wise, my book is set in a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town although it’s based very much on a combination of Scarborough (where I live) and Whitby just up the coast from us. These two settings in turn inspired certain events in the book as there is so much stunning scenery in this area that it would be impossible not to be inspired by it. Scarborough has a castle so I have used that. Both locations have lighthouse piers and I have used that concept but created my own version in my mind for a couple of key events.

To conclude this piece, I thought I’d do a bit of a research on where some very famous writers got their inspiration from. I started with one of the most obvious – JK Rowling – but ploughing through several pages of Google just revealed that she got the idea for Harry Potter in 1990 while staring out of a train window on a journey from London to Manchester (or was it Manchester to London?) I read another article saying that she spent the train journey imagining what Hogwarts would be like and that, by the time she got off, she had most of the characters. But this doesn’t really tell me where the initial idea came from. Was she thinking about writing a book set at a boarding school and trying to challenge herself to do something slightly different resulting in lots of “what if…” questions before arriving at Hogwarts? Was she thinking about writing a book for children and had had a conversation with someone about witches and wizards which set her creativity juices flowing? I don’t know. I don’t imagine for one minute that she stared out the window at some fields and suddenly this whole world was created. There must have been some sort of trigger. Mustn’t there?

I found a slightly more satisfying response when I decided to look up Enid Blyton, one of the Write Romantics’ favourites. It would appear that, since childhood, she’d always made up stories and that they flooded into her mind at night a little like mixed-up dreams. In her autobiography, The Story of my Life (1052) she described the process of a story-unfolding like viewing “a private cinema screen inside my head… and what I see, I write down.” I found a fascinating link all about Enid Blyton (see below) but I still don’t know exactly where the inspiration came from. What made her imagine a group of four children and a dog having adventures, or a tree that reached the clouds and had different lands arriving at the top, or a man with big ears and a little boy with a bell on his head? Some of these are slightly shall we say unusual things to just pop into the head or onto a cinema screen or whatever if was that Enid Blyton experienced so surely, again, there was some sort of trigger. For more info, check out: http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/enid-the-writer.php

I checked out a few more writers but it was a similar story i.e. no specific pinpointed moment. And then it struck me that perhaps that’s just how it is with most writers; the ideas just appear with no specific sources. Perhaps that’s what being a writer and being creative is all about? Perhaps I’m unusual in being able to pinpoint the exact moment in time that my idea for Searching for Steven materialized because, not that I come to think about it, I can’t pinpoint where the idea for the sequel came from. It wasn’t from personal experience, that’s for sure. I think just popped into my head … while looking out of a train window … as if on a private cinema screen (or did I read that somewhere else?!)

Over to you. If you’re a writer, where has your inspiration come from? Something you’ve experienced? Something you’ve read? Something you’ve overheard? Or did it just materialize? I’d love to hear more. And if you’re a reader, what do you think might inspire you to write?

Thanks for reading.

Julie xx

I Can’t Get You Out of My Head!

La, la, la, la, la, la, la la, …. No, not the Kylie song. What I’m talking about is character invasion.

Many years ago, I started subscribing to Writing Magazine. I lapped it all up but what particularly interested me were the interviews with writers, particularly when they revealed the inspiration behind their plot and/or their characters. One thing I just couldn’t get my head around, though, was when writers described their characters talking to them, taking the plot in a direction they’d never planned and/or new or minor characters suddenly bigging up their parts. “Crazy people,” I’d mutter under my breath.

Then something strange happened … I became one of those “crazy people”.

If you’ve read my story on this blog, you’ll know I’ve been working on my novel for about a decade and, whilst the premise and the protagonist have always remained the same, the story has gone through many incarnations. In one of these incarnations, I had a character called Simon. The idea was that my protagonist, Sarah, would get together with Simon but he’d turn out to be still smitten with his ex. The reader would discover that he’d been attracted to Sarah because she looked like his ex. Simon was meant to be quite a nice bloke; just on the rebound and it would all work out fine because he wasn’t the one for Sarah anyway. Only Simon didn’t like his “nice bloke” image. He wanted to be mean. Really mean. The story took an unexpected turn with poor Sarah discovering his obsession with his ex by staying at his house one night and entering the spare bedroom instead of the bathroom only to find a wall plastered with photos of the ex (imagine a stalker’s wall in a thriller or crime drama). Other possessions of the ex – perfume, toothbrush, nightshirt, teddy – were all carefully arranged like a shrine. After fleeing the house, Simon bombarded her with phone messages and texts before turning up at her place of work with a knife and sinister intentions.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Where on earth did that personality and plot line come from?! Yes, with a rub of his hands and an evil glint in his eye, Simon had completely taken over. It was as though he had a life of his own and wanted a completely different persona and direction to what I had planned. For that, I had to punish him. He got written out of the story. A stalker with a knife wasn’t quite the angle I was going for in a lighthearted romantic comedy!

I have to confess that Simon didn’t actually “talk” to me. Not sure I’m quite into “hearing voices” territory … yet! But I did now understand what those writers meant about their characters taking over because it had just happened to me.

I once read a writer interview that fascinated me but I’m afraid I can’t remember who it was on (sorry – I know that’s useless). All I can say is it was a he and he writes thrillers. He described a novel he was once writing which involved a jaded detective driving up to a house in the middle of nowhere. It seemed deserted. He parked his car. As he got out, he noticed there was a little girl sat on a nearby wall who asked him a question. He hadn’t planned for there to be a little girl but there she was. And suddenly he realised she was far more interesting than the jaded detective. So he scrapped the book. All was not lost, though; the girl became a key character in his next novel. This really struck a chord with me.

Characters are what make a book. You need to care about the protagonist(s) to want to follow them on their journey and keep page after page turning. If your secondary characters or even very minor ones are more interesting than your main ones, perhaps theirs are the stories to tell instead, especially if you simply can’t get them out of your head. Maybe it’s time to get them onto paper instead. Simon, I haven’t forgotten you. Your day in print will come. Just not in Sarah’s story. Or the other two in the trilogy. But don’t give up hope, you crazy person you!

Oh no! I started this post by saying that characters talking to a writer may seem a little crazy and have ended it talking to my characters. Is that a white van that’s pulled up outside with men in white coats getting out?

Have your characters ever talked to you? Has a new character suddenly appeared out of nowhere and taken over? I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading

Julie xx

In the blink of an eye

It’s gone! I chased it, ran after it, at one point I held it in the palm of my hand. Then like a dream it faded away.

Ideas are the things that weave a novel together. Each strand is woven carefully into the fabric of the story. Carefully you select the colours you are going to use, then decide in which order you are going to start weaving. Everything is ready then you start to weave all those wonderful thoughts that you have had together.

weaving 2

Isn’t it wonderful all these amazing creations that you have had are starting to come together? The colours are looking fantastic. The fabric is looking good your work of art is coming together.

Then out of nowhere comes a snag in the fabric, something you hadn’t thought of. One of the strands doesn’t make sense it seems to be out of sync. Suddenly the colours are not looking as bright as when you had started. Carrying on you hope it will sort itself out. Keep on weaving and it will fall into place. It’s no good the strand is going to have to be removed.

Suddenly your fabric has a hole in it. How are you going to repair it?

You start looking for that strand that will fill the gap. Maybe another colour might patch it up. It starts to look good, but it’s not as perfect as it needs to be. You try again. That’s it almost got it. There it is the snag has gone, the hole has disappeared. Standing back you see the completion of your work of art.

Writing a novel is a work of art. Every idea is a strand waiting to be tied together. We all want our work to be as perfect as possible. Sometimes it doesn’t come together straight away and there can be delays. Yet in the end when we have done the best to make it as perfect as possible, then we can stand back and say that we are an artist of the written word.

Lorraine x