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.

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