A Year Without Pyjamas…

trifectaAnd what a busy year it has been!

February 24th 2015 signified my official launch as a published author when my debut novel, The Friendship Tree, was released. Since then, my writing life has become even busier and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

I left the I.T. world in 2003 and began writing articles for Women’s Health & Fitness magazines and part of what kept my momentum was my routine of setting an alarm, having a shower, getting dressed, and eating breakfast before starting the day. I’d ensure I was at my desk well before 9 a.m. and I know it helped me to think of freelancing as a real job, even though I was working from home. I seem to have kept the same habit since I began writing fiction in 2011, and I think I work better when I’m up and ready to face the world, even if it’s the fictitious world I’m creating. Mind you, maybe I’ll think differently when my kids are old enough to walk themselves to school!

Author photo - Helen J RolfeSoon after I wrote The Friendship Tree, I planned and began Handle Me with Care and I went on to publish this title in June 2015, followed five months later by What Rosie Found Next. I enjoyed writing each of these books, going through the editing process, deciding on cover design and plotting the next story. I also love connecting with readers, authors and anyone else on social media. It can be lonely working away on a draft or editing, and when I hear from other writers, or perhaps readers in other countries who have enjoyed my novels, it really makes my day. I’ve had some lovely messages from readers in Toronto, Connecticut and Australia and it always gives me a buzz to know people overseas can read my books.

Book five is well underway now and I’m hoping to have the first draft finished within the next month… and then the hard work starts! I also hope to have some plans to publish book four very soon, and I will be sure to post my updates on Social Media as soon as I can.

So for now, Happy Reading!

Helen J Rolfe x

Amazon Author Page





Plotters and Pantsers

We are almost half way through November, which means those of us doing NaNoWriMo this year should be nearing their half way mark.crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76

First confession. I’m not quite there yet, but with a little planning I hope to be within the next few days. This leads me onto the title of this post. Plotter verses pantser.

Second confession. I used to be a pantser. When I began writing, I simply had an idea and went for it. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have done that, but now I plot out the main points of my story before I start writing chapter one and this is what works for me. I don’t outline every single event in the book, just a few basic points along the way to my characters’ happy ever after. To do that I love post-it notes and coloured highlighters!IMG_0053

Like everything, there are pros and cons to being either a panster or a plotter. Plotters have control over the events in their novel but pansters may say that spoils their creativity. Pantsers never know what’s going to happen next – or even when. That’s something which doesn’t sit comfortably with plotters.

I don’t have rigid control over my characters and if they suddenly surprise me and do or say something as I write, I go with it, but I do like to see the skeleton of my story scribbled out on post-it notes. I’m open to change so maybe there is still a panster inside me.

Girl sitting on fence illustration

So, as I sit on the fence and debate which exactly I am – and try and keep up with my NaNoWriMo word count, I’d love to know which way suits you best. Are you a plotter or pantser and what’s the best bit about it for you?

Happy Writing!



Out of Control by Alys West

I’ve got a confession to make.  I’ve been trying to deny this for a while but I can’t anymore.  I have to admit that I’ve lost control of the characters in my second novel, Lughnasa. Orkney Aug 2010 009

Now some might say that’s a great thing.  Those would be the pantsers who like to go with the flow in their writing.  But I’m a plotter.  I write suspense. I need to know what’s going to happen so I can put the clues in the right places.  And not knowing what’s coming is starting to freak me out a bit.

It started with Winston.  After having a minor role in my first book, Beltane, he’s taken centre stage as the hero in Lughnasa and he’s grown and grown.  He’s a rather gorgeous archaeologist who just happens to be also a druid.  But now he’s got flaws that I never saw coming. He’s late for everything, he’s got a really arrogant streak and an unexpected fondness for Glenfiddich. And he never does what I expect.  I sit down to write a scene thinking ‘Okay, this and this have to happen’ and then Winston turns up and something else entirely actually unfolds.

Orkney Aug 2010 029

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I have a few control freak tendencies.  I like to be organised, I like to plan ahead.  So Winston’s unpredictability is quite hard for me to handle.  And now it’s spreading to the other characters and no one’s doing what I expect.

I realise to non-writers this probably sounds like a borderline personality disorder but I’m pretty sure that other writers will have experienced something like it.  So what did you do?  Did you give them their heads? Or did you force them back in line with your plan?

I realised how far we’d gone astray when I re-read the synopsis that I’d first mapped out about eight or nine months ago.  There’s a small possibility that we may hit the same ending but the middle looks nothing like what I’d planned.  And I don’t know what to do.  Should I tear up the synopsis and see what happens?  Or should I try to persuade them back on track? All advice will be gratefully received before I start tearing my hair out.Orkney Aug 2010 057

If you’d like to leave a comment (and I’m really hoping you will as I need all the help I can get!) you can do that by clicking where it says ‘leave comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.

Alys xx

P.S. Lughnasa is set in Orkney which is why I’ve included a few photos of the islands.

Short Stories are in the Saturday Spotlight with Margaret Mounsdon


The Write Romantics are compiling an anthology of short stories to be released later this autumn in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust and Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Several writing friends have kindly given their time and talent by providing short stories and we’ve all contributed ourselves. For some of us, this was quite a challenge as we’re novelists; not short story writers. We were therefore delighted to welcome prolific short story writer, Margaret Mounsdon, to The Saturday Spotlight.
CIMG2091Over to Margaret …
As I said to Jessica the two things I love talking about most in this world are myself and writing! So I am honoured to be a guest on the blog and hope everyone finds what I have to say is interesting.
A little introduction for those of you who’ve never heard of me.
My name is Margaret Mounsdon and I have been published in the womens’ magazines, namely Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, People’s Friend, The Lady and Take A Break’s Fiction Feast. Apart from the UK my short stories have been published in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway and Sweden.
I have had 25 light romance novels published and I’m in the process of putting my backlist on Amazon ebooks.
img078I have won or been placed in several short story competitions and the reason I am telling you all this is not to blow my own trumpet but to let you know it is possible to do this without knowing a single soul in the publishing industry or having an agent, or being able to pull strings with editors, publishing assistants, whatever.
Unlike mainstream fiction when the publishers want to know all about you for publicity purposes, in the short story market it doesn’t matter. You can quietly sell your stories with as much or as little publicity as you like. Different rights to short stories can be sold several times and can become ‘nice little earners’ over the years.
About 14 years ago I had no idea how the published short story business worked. I knew I liked reading them in the in magazines and sometimes I thought I can do as good as that. Eventually I decided to have a go.
I have to say I was not an overnight success. I started writing in the 1990’s and my first short story acceptance was from Woman’s Weekly in 2000. Having said that a lot of my rejected stories have since been re-worked and most of them have found a home so it pays not to throw any of your work away.
Thanks to all those who posted questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.
What do you think makes a good short story?
I like to have a good opening line. It’s important to make the reader want to read on. Some examples of mine are:-
  • ‘You find out who your true friends are when you appear at a party dressed as a trifle and custard.’ WWFS
  • ‘Don’t I know you?’ ‘ Yes I was once your wife.’ WW
  • ‘Private detective seeks assistant – must be discreet, practical and flexible.’ WWFS
  • ‘Vanessa stopped stalking Kevin after she left school.’ TAB FF
As you can see from these examples there is a broad range of choice and, as long as you follow the bounds of decency, almost nowhere you can’t go
Do you have any advice on how to crack the short story market?
One way is competitions. They are an excellent way to get in. The Lady magazine unfortunately no long publishes fiction but they used to have a short story competition which I duly entered one year. I didn’t win and I wasn’t placed but I received an email from their fiction editor who liked my story and offered to buy it and it was duly published. All because I entered their competition. Apart from that you must study everything in the magazines, including the adverts. I even completed the crosswords! Up to date market study is very important.
Also Woman’s Weekly run fiction writing days at their London office. I am going on one for serials (a market I’ve never been able to crack) in October.
img077Any tips on creating a believable romance in a short story?
Believe in your characters. Make them as genuine as possible. Make their problems creditable. Don’t create a situation ‘just  because’. Every action has to have a reason.
Do you create characters for short stories differently from the way you create the characters in your novels?
The characters in my novels are much more in depth. I do histories for them and cut pictures out of magazines and supplements etc. In short stories I work more on an idea and go from there.
What type of short stories do you enjoy writing the most?
I’ve been asked by People’s Friend to write a 10,000 long/short story for one of their ‘specials’. They wanted a ‘cosy’ type crime caper. These are great fun. Think Midsomer Murders meets Miss Fisher.
Do you plot your short stories or have an idea and start writing?
I usually get an idea then sit down and get typing. I managed to get a story out of a trip to our local recycling centre, and another when I was in a queue in a charity shop and I eavesdropped on a conversation. Inspiration can strike anywhere so take a notebook with you at all times. Coffee shops are good places to get ideas.
What gives you the most satisfaction; writing short stories or a novel. Why?
I have no preference but if I’ve just done a 42,000 word novella for People’s Friend, I like to take a break and a 1500 word short story makes a nice change.  
Do you buy the editions of magazines in which your short stories appear or do you get sent a copy?
Woman’s Weekly send copies. TAB Fiction Feast, My Weekly and People’s Friend don’t, but you do usually get told when your story is coming out. I tend to browse in WH Smith or the supermarket, just in case they’ve changed the dates. Also titles can get changed so you need to double check the magazines.
Fountain.Tell us more about getting “the call” for your first novel
It was with the defunct Heartline publisher. I’d met Sue Curran at a writing day. She agreed to look at my NWS submission. I was actually out when the call came. When I got back there was an answerphone message asking me to call her. She explained about Heartline and what they were planning to do. I still didn’t really ‘twig’ that they wanted to publish because they were only starting up. When she called back several times more, the penny finally dropped. I was ‘in’. I did a dance round the room and the joy of acceptance never goes away fourteen years later!
Why did you write under a pen name? Have you used this for all your novels?
I only wrote as Clare Tyler for my two Heartline novels. They had another Margaret on their books at the same time and suggested I used a different name. I have only used it once since when People’s Friend had two of my stories in one edition of their magazine and they wanted me to use another name for the second one. These days it’s Margaret Mounsdon all the way.
I have a People’s Friend novella coming out on 28 August. I entitled it Angela’s Return Home. The titles do get changed but it will be under the Margaret Mounsdon name.
Details of my novels can be found on my blogYou can follow me on twitter @SwwjMargaret and on my website through which I can be contacted if anyone’s got any more queries.    
Thank you for inviting me to be your guest today.
Thank you for joining us, Margaret. It’s been really fascinating to get a much deeper insight into the short story market which we haven’t really explored on our blog before. We appreciate your time and your advice.

For anyone interested in finding out more about our anthology of short stories, please see our earlier post. We’re running a competition for a book title and you’ve got a little over a week to get your ideas in to win a gift voucher so get your thinking cap on and get emailing!

Enjoy your weekend
(We’d love your questions/responses to this post. Comments can be left my clicking on the button at the end of the tabs below)


Indie Emily directs a writing destiny

Emily5We are delighted to be joined on the blog today by Emily Harvale, a successful indie author and self-confessed chocaholic – definitely a girl after our own hearts! Emily grew up in Hastings, East Sussex, and now shares a home with her adorable cat, Phoebe, who gets in the way of Emily’s writing whenever she can. When she’s not writing, Emily has lots of other hobbies; many of which, like watching a good movie, are enhanced by a glass of wine. She absolutely adores Christmas, something which you might not be surprised to hear when you review her back catalogue.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today, Emily. As you know, a number of the Write Romantics are thinking of going solo. So, we’ll start with the obvious question, what made you decide to self-publish and what do you think the benefits are?

A few things influenced my decision. I have ongoing health issues, requiring a number of operations over the last couple of years, so I didn’t want to contact an agent/publisher and have to tell them I’d be in and out of hospital for the foreseeable future! I received a wonderful report from the RNA’s new writers’ scheme and I wanted to know if other people also thought I was, “a talented writer who would go far”. What better way is there to find out than to ask the general public? I heard about indie publishing via Talli Roland. (I am an indie – for independent – publisher now, thanks to Amazon’s recent change). I’m a businesswoman and, after weighing up the pros and cons and realising there were no cons, I decided that indie publishing was the perfect route for me, so I added the extra chapter as suggested by the RNA reader, and went for it. I believe in jumping in with both feet and life is too short to wait for others to make my dreams, reality.

EmilyThere are so many benefits, in my opinion, that it would take all day to tell you, but the main ones for me are: speed of publication and being able to set my own schedule; choosing my own covers/cover artist; freedom to publish as many books as I want, when I want; not having to write in a specific genre; finding and working with professional editors etc. with whom I have built a good relationship … and money! Substantially more money than if I had waited, or taken another route.

Are there any downsides or things that surprised you about indie publishing?

I was surprised by how simple it is – and how easy it is to make mistakes! Things are constantly changing and it’s important to keep up to date. It’s also important to check one’s own books once they’re live. I recently had a formatting problem that only appeared on certain devices (iPad/Kindle Fire) but on the previewer, it looked perfect on all devices. That was a surprise. Things are not always as they seem. Other than that, I honestly can’t think of any downsides; only upsides. People say indie publishers have to do more marketing but I haven’t found that. I do far, far less than many ‘traditionally published’ authors I know of. I’m a huge fan of indie publishing. HUGE!

Do you buy-in any services to deal with things like proof-reading, formatting and book cover design?

I pay for a professional editor, a cover designer, and now a formatter (I believe in learning from my mistakes). I also pay for a very talented webmaster who has been with me from the beginning and who does lots of clever stuff for me, and not just on my website.

Emily2What approach do you take to marketing, how much of your time does it take up and what is your number one tip for increasing sales?

Er … I do very little marketing. I do some posts on Facebook and Twitter and, of course, send out my newsletter when a new book comes out or when I have my new cover or any other news. When my books achieve a high position in the humour or romantic comedy charts, (A Slippery Slope reached no. 1 in humour and no. 8 in rom com and they’ve all been in the top 5 of humour and top 10 of romantic comedy) I post about that, but that’s it really. I should plan a marketing strategy but it’s something I just haven’t got around to yet. My first book only sold around 500 copies until I did a 2 day free promotion on Amazon in December 2012, resulting in more than 12,000 free downloads. Since then, sales have been exceedingly good and I haven’t had/needed any reduced price promos (my books sell for £1.99; short stories .78p). Amazon did pick one of my books for their Summer Promotion last year, which was a lovely surprise, and I’m sure that helped boost sales even more. I gave away my short stories to my fans for free, as a ‘Thank You’ in December 2013 because I’ve been very lucky and they’ve been wonderfully loyal. I think it’s important to thank one’s fans. I’m fairly certain I could increase sales further if I made some effort at marketing. It’s on my list but it’s not a high priority as doing nothing much seems to be working extremely well – for me – and I’m not sure I’d be any good at marketing anyway! Perhaps less really is more.

Do you or would you ever consider writing in another genre and, if so, would you use a pseudonym?

I’ve written a ghost story (novella) but as it’s a romance too I’ll probably publish it under Emily Harvale. I’ve written a romantic suspense but it needs some work and I’ll decide whether to use a different name for that when I’m finally happy with it. I’m also writing a ‘cosy crime’ but that may turn into a romantic suspense. Yet another plus about indie publishing: I can decide what my books are, aren’t, or may be. I love writing my light-hearted, humorous romances though (yes that’s what I call them) and a lot of people seem to enjoy reading them, so I’m concentrating on those for now.

Would you ever consider representation by an agent or a contract with a traditional publisher?Emily3

When I’ve had my ‘final’ operation this summer, I may think about seeing if I can find an agent, mainly because I’m interested in subsidiary rights. I don’t believe in saying ‘never’ because things changed, but I would only consider a contract with a traditional publisher if the advance and terms were of considerable benefit to me. I’m certainly not seeking a publisher at the moment. My books are selling well and I’m making a really good living on my own by just publishing on Amazon. A large publishing house could increase my readership but I honestly don’t think a small one could. I have friends with smaller publishers and they don’t sell as many books, or receive as much in Royalties, as I do. I don’t see the point in losing money. To be honest, I think I can increase my readership myself, over time. I’ve already had a couple of orders via Waterstones. It may take me longer but I’ll get there.

Do you ever encounter any snobbery from traditionalists about choosing the indie publishing route and, if so, how do you deal with it?

Sometimes, unfortunately, from other writers, but I usually ignore it – or offer to discuss it over a bottle of champagne! Generally I’ve got no time for people who look down their noses at others. Readers couldn’t care less, on the whole, because they just want good stories. The Society of Authors see it as, “a perfectly valid form of publishing,” so that’s good enough for me. Actually, becoming a Full Member of the SoA was one of the highlights of indie publishing. I’d always wanted to be a member of the SoA and I sing their praises from the rooftops. The emails and posts on Facebook and Twitter, I get from readers, never, ever mention it – and as they are the ones buying my books, they’re the ones whose opinions I value. The world is changing; some people may not like it but they’re going to have to accept it or remain in the past. That’s their choice.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process from the initial idea to the release of the novel and roughly how long that process takes you as an indie author?

I’m not a planner so when I have an idea I just sit and write – virtually non-stop. I can write the first ‘fun’ draft (I don’t believe in using the negative term, ‘sh…. first draft’ because writing is fun) in a couple of weeks. I then leave it and work on something else – or tackle the jungle which clearly doesn’t want to be a garden – for a week or so. I then read and rewrite as necessary and as many times as I think it needs it. My short stories are each around 10,000 words and they took just two weeks to write and rewrite. My editor had them for about a week and after the edits were done, I published them. Four weeks from the ideas to publication. My novels (around 75,000+ words) can take anything from three months upwards but if I’m not happy with a book, I won’t let it go until I am. Another bonus of indie publishing: I can set my own schedule and don’t need to ‘rush’ to meet a deadline.

Do you think it’s worth publishing in paperback, as well as digitally and how do the sales compare?

I publish a paperback via Createspace but to be honest, I never check the sales figures. I do get regular monthly payments from them so they are clearly selling some copies. Very few compared to the digital sales though – probably between 1% and 10%.

You’ve written seven novels now, do you find it easy to create new characters and storylines or do you ever worry about unconsciously repeating themes?

The characters just turn up at my desk and tell me their stories. I do worry that they may start to get repetitive and I try to make sure they don’t. I think my readers will tell me if the stories are getting boring but I also think that certain similarities are inevitable. Girl meets boy, girl gets boy – nothing new there. I hope that the path to getting him, and the people involved, are different every time. I did want to massacre everyone at a wedding, once – just to stir things up with a surprise ending – but I decided not to.

Emily4Do you read all of your reviews and, if so, have you had any that you have found it difficult to deal with or that have bowled you over?

I usually read my first few reviews, or if someone has told me via email or on Facebook or Twitter that they’ve left a review, I read that. Most of them have been good but my first one star review filled me with self-doubt. It was followed by some five star ones and that helped. I never read reviews when I buy a book because I trust my own judgement and I always read the ‘Look Inside’ sample, so I realised that it didn’t matter if people didn’t like mine (unless every single person hated it, of course!) and I stopped worrying about reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but that is all it is – an opinion. I hate anchovies, and I’m sure many other people do too, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with anchovies, they’re just not to my taste. It’s the same with books. Some of the reviews I’ve had are wonderful – and all my reviews are genuine, I don’t ask family or friends to post good reviews. That’s futile and a little immoral in my opinion. It’s often the emails, Facebook posts/messages and Twitter comments that really get to me – and yes, some of them have moved me to tears … in a good way. To be told that someone was going through hell but that my books made them feel hopeful and happy is actually mind-blowing! Or that chemo was bearable because of my books! Or that an unhappy divorce didn’t seem so bad now! It makes me feel very proud but oddly, very humble. It also makes me want to write even better books.

If you could go back and give your pre-published self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Stop wasting time; go for it – but use professionals from day one.

What are the best and worst things about writing for a living?

Best: Freedom to do what I want, when I want and to have the money to do it.

Worst: Ditto. If I want to tackle the jungle, or have a long lunch with friends, I can, and do, even when I should be working/writing.

Emily1What are your writing plans and hopes for the future?

That’s the most difficult one to answer because I don’t really plan these days. I suppose I’m planning to put all my books with retailers other than Amazon later this year. I plan to put together some sort of marketing strategy. (Yeah, right!) I plan to continue writing as many books as I can/want to. I hope the future is as good and as bright as the present and that my readership continues to grow. Oh … and I hope I win the jackpot with my premium bonds – but that’s not really writing related; although if I did I’d buy a ski chalet and run writing/skiing retreats, so it sort of is.

Seriously though, I hope more people achieve their dreams by indie publishing and not giving a fig for what some people think.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I really enjoyed answering your questions. I know some of you are thinking of indie publishing and I sincerely hope that your experience is as wonderful as mine has been. Indie publishers are a friendly and helpful bunch. I don’t regret it for one second and I’m sure you won’t either. One of my favourite sayings is:

“The future is a blank page. You can write your own, or you can wait until someone writes it for you.”

I prefer to write my own.

Good luck and best wishes to you all.


It was brilliant to have you on the blog Emily and we hope you’ll come back and see us again soon!

Find out more about Emily and her books at the links below:

Amazon Author Central pages, (.UK and .COM) listing all her books and author bio.



My website: http://www.emilyharvale.com

The Wednesday Wondering – It’s character building, or so they say!

So, you’ve decided to write a book and you’ve created a cast of characters to fill the pages. You have the absolute power to decide about every facet of their background, personality and behaviour. So, my Wednesday Wondering for this week is to ask how you do it? For example, do you plot every little detail from their birthday, to the name of their childhood pet, their favourite band and what they like on their toast in the morning? Perhaps you find pictures of people who look like your characters to help with physical descriptions? Or maybe you just start with a rough idea of their motivation, and a few physical characteristics, and then let them evolve for themselves?

Ooh, it’s my penultimate Wednesday Wondering and I’ll soon by passing the baton to my lovely friend, Deirdre. Where on earth has the time gone? Story of my life really; that I always seem to be playing catch-up. Four children, three dogs, three jobs and a burning desire to be a published novelist has not a plotter made. I write whenever and wherever I can. So, as a result, I’ve always been a bit of pantser and my characters have only ever started out as vague concepts in my head. I love getting to know them as the book develops though and seeing their characters evolve. It probably sounds weird to anyone who doesn’t write, but the things my characters end up doing more often than not take me by surprise. Crazy, but true and I’m not alone as at least one of the other WRs has said the same thing!

I’m working on a trilogy of books which each feature one of three women in the lead. The protagonist in my first book, Sarah, arrived fairly well formed as she’s predominantly based on me. I would like to think I know myself fairly well, therefore I know Sarah fairly well too. I developed her a best friend from primary school called Elise who seemed to arrive in my mind fairly well formed and then a third character, Clare, appeared when I realised I needed Sarah to have two friends who would provide contrasting views on the scenario she was faced with and therefore cause her conflict. Clare therefore needed to be the exact opposite of Elise so her personality was quite easy to form too.

I have a box of quite large coloured index cards and I have (somewhat sexist-ly) created a pink card for each main female character and a blue card for the males. I’ve captured things like eye colour, hair colour, age, sibling names, job, DOB etc – all those details that may crop up a couple of times and I don’t want to have to do a search for key words on my MS to find out whether I gave Sarah blue, green or brown eyes.

I’ve been working on my trilogy for over a decade, though, so the characters are really well formed in my head. In the very early days, I actually did something resembling a CV for Sarah but of her personal life rather than career. Hardly surprising I took this approach given that my day job at the time was a recruitment manager! I’m thinking that, when I get to my first non-trilogy book, I will probably have to do something similar and do more work on a CV or index cards to build the characters in terms of appearance and personality because I certainly don’t want to spend 11 years on it just to know my characters really well!

By contrast, I have a writing friend who spends hours scouring the internet for drawings or photos of what her characters would look like and goes out exploring places and settings. She has these all over her office and has reams and reams of details. She works out how they’d react to a million situations (not necessarily ones that appear in her book) and feels this helps her really get to grips with her characters. She’s a huge JK Rowling fan and I know JK supposedly developed reams of detail about her characters that didn’t necessarily come out in the books (a famous example being that Dumbledore is gay) so I wonder if this is what has inspired her to delve into such great detail.

I don’t really plot the characters lives although possibly I should. I often have a clear idea of the hunky hero (Simon Baker, Simon Baker and Ooh, Simon Baker- The Mentalist) but I’m always a bit hazy on the heroine and actually not so good at that. They definitely evolve as time goes by and I realise they need to be say, a bit more needy, or self-disciplined. Never, ever have I mapped out their timeline, parents, hang-ups or childhood friends. Apart from deciding the heroine should end up with Simon Baker, of course.

Lego people

I plot everything. If you really wanted to know I could tell you Finn and Zoe’s birthdays, favourite bands and what they like for breakfast. Before I started writing the novel I had their complete backstory mapped out. Ninety percent of it I didn’t need but it helped me when I started. They did evolve a lot as I went along though. In the future I don’t think I’ll do so much planning. Having learned how characters grow and develop as I go along I think (although I may turn out to be wrong) that I can be a little bit more relaxed in the next book.

Helen R
I tend to come up with two names as a starting point. I then work up a character CV, detailing hair colour, eye colour, date of birth, job…all the basics. I then try to find a picture online that I can save in a document to look at when I need to…one day when I have a dedicated study I will put these pictures in the room so I can see them all the time.

My characters are semi-developed when I start writing but I think that it’s important to be flexible. I find that as I write, I get to know more and more about each one and so I start to expand my notes.

Lots of how-to books on writing advocate listing every little detail about a character but that doesn’t work for me. I prefer to build them in a more organic kind of way. Often I start with a name and age, then a physical picture will suggest itself from that, like height, build, hair colour, and perhaps the way they speak and something of their personality and traits. I might base them on someone I know but they won’t be exactly the same and I don’t usually have a clear picture of their face, although I can still ‘see’ them in my mind’s eye, if that makes sense. Their characters will then develop through the way they deal with the problems I foist upon them, and how they interact with each other. Sometimes I ‘see’ my character in the street or in a picture in a magazine but I only get to know them through their actions, by which time I can’t force them to do a thing. I know it’s a cliché but my characters definitely have minds of their own when it comes to creating the plot!

As far as my characters are concerned I am a plotter. I have questions they need to answer, which is anything from their age and family background to their favourite music. I start to fill out my question sheets before I begin to write the first chapter. I don’t however insist on every question being answered and I never try to incorporate these answers into the story. The reader may not need to know that my heroine had a pet rabbit as a child, but I do. These answers help me to know her better, to know how she will react when she meets the hero.
Once these sheets have been partially completed they sit on my desk as an instant point of reference or in case I suddenly discover a new answer.

I also think that having a visual on my characters is good and love to find the perfect picture that fits the image I have in my head of each character as I begin my story. These are then put on my pin board above my computer screen.

Helen P
When I first began thinking about writing The Ghost House I knew that I wanted my protagonist to be a strong female, I wanted her to be loyal to her husband even though he was going to be a horrible man. I also wanted a character who was just an ordinary woman who fights the same battles as the majority of us. I didn’t want her to have a perfect figure or long sleek hair. I wanted her to look like the woman who walks down the street and could be any one of us, someone who fights as many inner demons as most of us. I wanted her to be a policewoman but not a detective or an Inspector. Not many writers have characters who are community police officers so I thought this would be a good a chance to show her caring side and her day to day job.

Will was so easy to come up with he is a dream, in fact I would probably say he is my dream man. Once he realised it was time to change his ways he does it so completely how could you not fall in love with him. I wanted Annie to have a knight in shining armour because that what she deserves.

Now that you’ve heard how The Write Romantics do it, come and tell us if you are a plotter or a pantser when it comes to developing your characters – we’d love to know!

Jo xx

The Wednesday Wondering – Where’s Your Character Gone?

Welcome to my last Wednesday Wondering! Before you all sob helplessly and call The Samaritans, the slot isn’t going anywhere and neither am I. Having been the nosey parker who has quizzed the other Write Romantics with 30 questions (including this one) since we started this slot in late June last year (although I’ve had help with about a third of the questions coming from the other WRs), I suggested we all take it in turns to host a month and, bless them, the other WRs agreed to it.

For my final Wondering (for now), I have gone back to a writing-themed question:

Have you ever developed a major character and then scrapped them?

This could be cutting them out entirely so they never see the light of day, removing them from one book but re-incarnating them elsewhere, or killing them off. A few of the group have dipped out this week as it simply hasn’t happened to them but here’s what the rest have to say …



After my last NWS critique I almost got rid of a character. I didn’t remove her completely, but I certainly reduced the focus on her. My reasons for doing so were that she didn’t really add to the story, but she did help some scenes to form and move forwards for other characters.

It’s always tough to do this I think, and I really liked this character too. Maybe one day I’ll tell her story 🙂



Not a major character, but I have scrapped quite a lot of secondary ones and the main characters in my first novel, currently in what feels like its twentieth edit, have undergone an almost complete metamorphosis so that  they practically feel like totally different people.  Character development is something I want to work on a bit more in the future, though, and I might be about to scrap at least one major character in my current WIP… so watch this space.



The book I really slaved over and finished (just finishing it was a first for me) had a young girl in it who was pivotal to the hero and heroine meeting, but I decided to kill her off half way through. I think I just liked the idea of ramping up the emotion and stupidly though it was a good way to do it. My NWS reader tentatively suggested it might not be a good idea to have a romance with a major death in it (!) so I left it at that, because I realised I’d have to write the whole book again and basically was too idle to bother! I’m now re-writing it as I always promised my younger daughter that I would get it published. She was only seven and told her teacher that her mum was a writer. Bit embarrassing really! (Mind you, she also told the teacher her mum was too busy planning her new kitchen to bother with homework, so I guess the teacher had already formed an opinion of me by then). Have to say the book is coming on a treat and is better for not having anyone die in it – Oh, hang on, there is a death in the first chapter – but he was already dead before it started. So that’s ok, then.



I haven’t scrapped a major character from any of my books that I think of as potential go-ers but I was very fond of a builder called Steve who featured in my very first book that I’ve now binned.  I used his love interest, Millie, from the same book, in ‘Remarkable Things’ as she was too good to lose, but blue-eyed Steve with his hopelessness over money, his van that he gives a vicious kick to every morning, and his guilt over the death of his alcoholic ex-wife, hasn’t yet found his place in my current writing life.  Perhaps he never will, bless ‘im.



In book one of my trilogy, I wanted my protagonist (Sarah) to meet Mr Right quite early on in the book but dismiss him as Mr Wrong. I also wanted her to meet Mr Wrong and think he was Mr Right. Originally I envisaged my Mr Wrong (Simon) as a really nice guy who’d get on well with Sarah and treat her well but she’d realize that something was missing. I hadn’t planned out the book; I just wrote and, unfortunately, Simon took this as a licence to do whatever he liked. He turned into a bit of a disturbed and very nasty character eventually stalking Sarah then holding her at knife-point in her shop unless she agreed to take him back. Not quite sure where all that came from but I knew it wasn’t right for the story at all. This was meant to be a romantic comedy and, although the next two books start exploring deeper themes, stalking and knifes were not what I intended. So Simon came out the book and I had to start over again. I was intrigued by him and his backstory, though, so he may make a re-appearance in a future book although perhaps without the knife!


Over to you. If you’re a writer, have you ever scrapped a major (or even minor) character. If you’re a reader, have you ever flinched when a character has been written out of a story in which you’re engrossed? Please join in and share your experiences by clicking on the heart at the top of the post which will open up the comments section at the bottom.

That’s all for me for the Wednesday Wondering until later in the year. I will, of course, be responding to the questions so I haven’t fully disappeared. Next week and for the rest of February, I leave you in Jo’s capable hands. She’s come up with a set of cracking questions and I can’t wait to read how the rest of the WRs have responded to them.


Julie xxx

A NaNo-Nosey Wednesday Wondering

Well, today marks six days since the start of Nano (that’s one fifth or 20% of the way through – my old maths teacher would be proud ;-)), so we thought we’d be nosey and ask you to share what your writing aspirations are between now and the end of 2013.  If you’re not a writer, please tell us what you hope to clear from your TBR pile between now and then instead.  Hopefully, by this time next year, in addition to having Helen Phifer’s second book in that pile, you’ll be able to add some of the rest of us to your reading list too 🙂

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you will already have heard the current writing plans for Julie, Jackie and Helen P.  In addition to completing  NaNo, Helen P is also contracted to complete a second novel for her publishers, Carina, following on from the fantastic success of The Ghost House.  So Helen has even more pressure on her writing aspirations for the rest of the year, getting this second novel completed and good to go, as well as completing NaNo, than the rest of us.

Lynne, Alex and Deirdre (who has been enthused to make a late sign-up to NaNo) tell us below about their current writing aspirations and, as with NaNo itself, for some that’s a carefully planned path and for others a journey of mystery and suspense.


I’m going to try to sign up to NaNo but I’m just going to write 50k words like crazy. I might finish my existing book or start a new one. I quite like the idea of just writing with no plan and see how that goes. I get lots of plot/scene ideas in my head quite easily and I wonder how it would work out were I to make them into a book…



By the end of the year I hope to have made the edits to Beltane that were suggested by my NWS Reader and got the MS in shape ready to start submitting.  I know from my day job that the business world tends to grind to a halt after the first week in December as everyone puts off dealing with anything new until after Christmas so I’ll hold off submitting until  early in the New Year.



What I hope to achieve writing-wise by the end of 2013 has changed drastically since I suddenly decided to sign up for Nano, 5 days late as it were.  I’m a bit worried about taking a month’s break from my contemporary romantic, ‘The Promise of Roses’, which is my intended submission for NWS next year, but there’s no choice about that if I want to give Nano a serious crack.  Besides I’m loving the freedom of writing a brand new novel – working title ‘Dirty Weekend’ – especially as it’s different from my usual type of story.  If it continues to go well, I’ll try to complete the first draft of the Nano novel by the end of the year because it doesn’t seem the kind of book I can stop and start.  Hopefully I’ll also be close to finishing the first draft of ‘Promise’ by then too but I’m not setting myself any deadlines on that; as long as I can submit to NWS around March/April then I’ll be very happy with that.



Helen R:

I have edited my first manuscript again and finished another, so I’m really getting into it now! I guess my aspirations are as they’ve always been…keep writing, keep submitting, keep responding to feedback and keep heading towards the ultimate goal of publication.


Rachael has promised to come along and tell us all about her plans too.   We look forward to hearing if you have similar aspirations to ours, or maybe you’re one of the mad bunch planning to achieve 150K by the end of NaNo?  There are some of them out there!

Whatever you are planning, we hope your writing dreams come true and, if you happen to be passing a wishing well, please throw a coin in for us too 😉


Helen’s NaNo Love Affair!

I love, well I adore taking part in Nano because it gives you the freedom to just get a story down and get on with it. No worrying about anything because there is no time. I love just typing away and seeing where the story takes me. I’ve  always had a rough plan of what I want to happen except for this year. I’ve been so busy with my second novel I haven’t had time to do a detailed plan. I only have my idea and I know exactly how I want it to begin and that’s it. So this year I’m definitely a pantser!
1185224_10200753042177469_1584659865_nAnother thing I love about Nano is sitting at the back of my drawer I have two very rough drafts of novels that, once I’ve finished working on my Annie Graham, series I intend to edit and either try and get published or I may even self publish. It leaves you with a stockpile of work which is just waiting to be polished and published 🙂
Helen xx


To find out more about Helen’s writing, visit her author page at:
Buy the Ghost House, published by Carina Press, here (an amazing 59p until 5th November) at:

Jackie’s NaNo Adventure!

Since we’re talking of Nano, I don’t know if I’m cheating by starting out with ten thousand words already written (it’s an airline story which is hopefully a romantic suspense – the suspense at the moment being that I don’t know what the plot is, yet!) although I still do hope to do another fifty on top of that. I’m on holiday at Wells Next the Sea for the first two days of it, so will have to get up early, I think to fit it in.  The plot is loosely set around smuggling – diamonds and guns and is set in Africa and Russia (great-never been to either!) but do intend to brainstorm in the next few days so I get a definite plot.

Jackie photo

The last time I did Nano, I went off at a rushed tangent and ended up eventually scrapping about twenty thousand of the forty odd I wrote, so won’t do that again. I will probably write the names of the characters on a huge sheet of drawing paper (husband has them for designing kitchens) and another one for the plot (very loosely) and one more for ‘light-bulb’ moments. I’ll blue tac them on my ‘office’ wall and write with coloured felt tips whenever I feel the urge.

I’d love to be able to know chapter by chapter what is going to happen, but sadly that is not me. Afraid that if I was going to be an organised person, I’d be there by now! Have been googling about Africa for a few days whenever I have a spare moment to get a feel for it, but can’t settle to a particular area, although it needs to be near a diamond mine.

The nearest meeting points for Nano-ers seem to be Milton Keynes (nowhere near me!) or London, so not sure if I’ll attend any of those. Just need to give my elbow and wrist joints a few days to give the constant RSI pain a break in readiness. Have a good feeling about this novel and feel very upbeat about my writing for the first time in ages, so if Nano does nothing else for me, it’s helped to get my mojo back!