Playlists for Plotting: How music helps me write #amwriting #writing #mondayblogs

Similar to lots of jobs

Sorry if I’m shattering any illusions here, but being a writer is hard work. In lots of ways it’s a job like many others.

You have to turn up at your post. You have to put in the hours. You have to produce some sort of result.

Sometimes it can be tiring, frustrating and nerve-wracking.

At other times it’s invigorating, rewarding and morale-boosting.

And as long as there are more of those good times than the not so good then you’re motivated to keep going.

A different way of working

But working as a novel writer also has some unique aspects to it – or if not unique then they’re shared by only a few other professions.

Firstly, it’s a job where you have to work on your own. Even if you work in collaboration with another author, it’s still only you who can write your contribution.  You can’t share or delegate.

Secondly, you’re the boss. You’re answerable to you – and so it’s easy to let yourself off the hook. ‘Not in the mood? Don’t feel writing several thousand words today? Rather wash the windows, sort your sock drawer, play around on social media? That’s okay. You’ll easily catch up when you’re in the mood.’ But of course you won’t. You’re procrastinating and the novel won’t write itself.

And thirdly, even when the spirit is willing and you’re at the desk and keen to get going, it can be hard to know how to proceed, hard to shut out the world and hard to stay in the zone.

The magic of music

And that’s where music comes in. I find that background music really helps me both get in the writing zone and helps me stay there. I don’t necessarily even hear or at least actively pay attention to it as I’m writing, but if my concentration does go then it’s the music that brings me back on task.

The plot playlist

That’s why I compile a playlist for each of my books. And it’s amazing how just hearing that first track gets my brain where it needs to be and the fact the tunes continue to play in the background helps to keep the real world at bay.

So, today I thought I’d share a sample of five tracks from each of the playlists I used for the first two books in my Skye series of novels as well as some from the one I’m currently using as I write the third book in that series.

Displacement Playlist

And I love you so – Don McLean

Lon-dubh (Blackbird) – Julie Fowlis

Meadowlarks – Fleet Foxes

You are the best thing – Ray LaMontagne

I’m gonna do it all – Karine Polwart

 

Settlement Playlist

Mad World – Michael Andrews

I still care for you – Ray LaMontagne

Your Ghost – Greg Laswell

Wherever you are – Military Wives

The sound of silence – Disturbed

 

Fulfilment Playlist

Wicked Game – Chris Isaak

It’s always been you – Ray LaMontagne

I could never say goodbye – Enya

Fuel to fire – Agnes Obel

In our tears – Secret Garden

 

All the tracks on my playlists are atmospheric, evocative and appropriate for the feelings, moods and ideas I write about. These are just some of them.

If you click on a song title you’ll be taken to the track on Youtube where you can listen to the song for yourself and see what you think.

Do you find music helpful when you want to concentrate on something? Or is it distracting – if so what does help you focus?

 

Writing Fiction: Made Up Places

In my last post I wrote about five favourite real-life places that have featured in my books. So in this one I thought I’d share some other places that feature in my fiction but that are entirely made-up.

Now, you might be wondering why I felt the need to invent places. After all, my books are contemporary fiction and are set in real geographical locations with plenty of actual distinctive and exciting settings to choose from. Even my children’s book with its historical and fantasy elements is based in the real world settings of Edinburgh and the north of Scotland.

There are various reasons why I invented some additional settings as well as making full use of the real ones. Some were practical and some were just part of the fun of using my imagination. After all as an author I get to enjoy making up characters and their stories, so why not add in some pretend places too.

Imagined Houses

One of my favourite sorts of places to invent is a character’s home.

The house I created for Caitlin in my children’s novel The Silver Locket was based on a real house. Caitlin lives in Edinburgh with her father and her siblings in a large Victorian villa. And the house I used as a starting point was the one my piano teacher lived in – a house I visited regularly as a child. Another house familiar to me from childhood was the seaside one where one of my friends lived and this gave me a starting point for Rosie’s house in Change of Life.

For both Rachel and Jack in Displacement and its sequel Settlement I spent a fair bit of time creating their houses.

Jack’s house is a former croft house and although it’s over a hundred years old, he renovates, modernises and extends it. One of the outcomes of the work he puts in is lots of large windows that make the most of the light and the views. He also knocks down interior walls to make larger more open rooms.

Rachel’s cottage is on a working croft. It too is over a hundred years old. It’s the house she grew up in and has not had any recent modernisation work done to it.

For Jack’s house especially I trawled through magazines such as Ideal Homes and House Beautiful to get ideas. I also based some of the exteriors and interiors on actual houses including ones I’d lived in myself.

Once I had some starting point pictures in my head I then drew out the floor plans for the houses. I put in as much detail as possible – including the location of doors, windows and stairs as well as the layout of the furniture. I also made a note of the direction in which the houses faced and what could be seen from the windows. And these plans were important – not because I intended to include every detail of these dwellings in their respective novels – but in order to maintain clarity for myself when I imagined my characters moving around in these spaces. But not only that, it was also in order to maintain consistency for my readers who I hoped would be able to imagine these spaces for themselves.

Imagined Streets, Villages and Towns

Almost all the outdoor settings I’ve used so far in my novels are real. The walks taken by the characters, the towns and cities and villages they live in exist – even if their actual address doesn’t.

But I did make up one place and that is Halladale the crofting township where Displacement‘s (and its follow-up books) Jack and Rachel live on the real Isle of Skye. I located Halladale on the (real) Waternish peninsula at the northern end of the island but I decided to go for a made up community. The reason I did so was to give me freedom to lay it out as I chose to for the purposes of the story – and also so that nobody in the relatively small island community could possibly mistake it for their township or their house.

However, having opted for this made-up location meant that once again I had to some detailed drawing to do. After all I couldn’t have a character’s house facing the loch on one page and then have it turning through 180 degrees to face the hill a few pages later. So the whole township was committed to paper and stuck up on the wall.

Freedom to Create

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed making up all those places. The houses in particular were great fun to do.

And that’s part of the joy of being a writer – having the freedom to just make things up – people, stories and places.

If you’re a writer do you use real locations in your writing? As a reader do you prefer real world settings or made-up ones – or a bit of a mixture?

Five Favourite Walks: Real-Life Settings In My Made-Up Stories #amwriting

From the Scottish Hebrides to the Middle East, the settings for all my novels have been important to me. They’ve provided inspiration and they’ve influenced the content and direction the stories have taken. And judging by the reviews I’ve received, they’ve made a positive impression on my readers too.

Edinburgh is where I was born, grew up and spent a substantial part of my adult life. I also lived for many years on the Isle of Skye. And I have visited Israel-Palestine, where a dear friend of mine lives, on several occasions. So it’s probably not all that surprising that these places feature as settings in my books.

Indeed much of the action in my stories takes place while the characters are outdoors either working or simply enjoying being out in the natural world.

So in this post I thought I’d share my five favourite real-life, outdoor places that also feature in my novels.

The Hermitage of Braid, Edinburgh:

This is a wonderful park on the south side of the city. The water of the Braid Burn runs through it and it has Blackford Hill on one side and the Braid Hills on the other. In some parts it feels as if you’re deep in the woods or out in farming country rather than in the middle of a busy city. It has a semi-wild feel to it and is definitely not manicured parkland. I played in this park as a child, climbing trees and fishing for minnows in the burn, and I was brought on nature-study (as it was called back in the day) lessons from my primary school which was nearby. And it’s a place I return to nowadays if I’m in the city and feel like a good walk. So when I needed somewhere for Edinburgh school girl, Caitlin, and her friends to meet up in the school holidays in order to set out on their adventures in The Silver Locket, the Hermitage was the ideal setting.

Gullane Beach, East Lothian:

This is a lovely stretch of shoreline on Scotland’s east coast. There are dunes, a long sandy beach and amazing views across to Fife on the other side of the Firth of Forth. This is another place I visited a lot as a child and that has continued to be one of my favourite outdoor places since then. So when I needed a seaside setting for the home of Rosie, the main character, in Change of Life I chose Gullane and its beautiful beach.

Waternish Point, Isle of Skye:

A walk anywhere on this island is always going to be spectacular. The views and the scenery are breathtaking and second-to-none. But I’ve managed to choose two favourites that also feature in my writing. The walk to Waternish headland in the north of the island is the first walk that Rachel and Jack go on together in Displacement. And it’s a walk I did many times when I lived in Waternish. It takes you over streams and peatbogs, uphill and downhill, through a deserted crofting settlement and past two Iron Age brochs, before finishing at the lighthouse on what feels like the edge of the world.

Neist Point, Isle of Skye:

This walk takes you to the cliff tops at Skye’s north-western tip. You can walk down the steep path from the lighthouse to the cliff edge. You see lots of seabirds such as fulmars and gannets and looking out to sea, you may even spot dolphins and minke whales if you’re lucky. This is another walk taken by Jack and Rachel and which features in Settlement.

Dead Sea and the Judean Desert, Israel:

And walk number five couldn’t be more different in terms of landscape from all of the above. This landlocked exceptionally salty lake is on the border between Jordan and Israel. My visit here left a lasting impression. For a Scot used to coolness, dampness and greenery it was a shock to the senses to be walking in such hot, arid and barren surroundings – but it was still beautiful – albeit in a different way from what I’m used to. But having made such an impression on me it had to feature as one of the places visited by Rachel in Displacement and it’s the setting for her romantic encounter with Eitan.

So there you have it – my five favourite walks that made it into my fiction.

Where are your favourite places to go for a walk? And, if you’re a writer, artist or musician do real life settings inspire or feature in your work? As always please do comment below.

Author Research: A weird, wonderful and disturbing online search history

 

 

 

 

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

I’ve heard several crime writers say that they hope their online search history is never subject to investigation and then used in evidence against them. Some of them mention googling not only ways to maim and murder, but also how to dispose of a body, how to destroy evidence and various real and appalling murders.

Not just crime writers

I don’t write crime. My novels are contemporary second-chance romances. So you might think I wouldn’t have to do much in the way of research.

But you’d be wrong.

Checking the facts

As well as the central romance, I weave other issues such as mental health, culture and politics, and dealing with bereavement (to name only some) into my stories.  And so I have had to do a fair bit of fact finding and checking. Some of it has been in person in the real world, and some of it has been online.

And just like those crime writers I reckon my Google search history would at least look like a weird mixture if not downright disturbing. So, dear readers, in this post I thought I’d share just 20 topics from a fairly extensive list of searches that I’ve carried out for my Skye trilogy.

20 online research topics for Displacement, Settlement and (the work-in-progress) Fulfilment

  • Night sky in northern hemisphere winter
  • Geology of the Isle of Skye
  • Rare breed sheep
  • Lambing
  • Serving as a Royal Marine Commando
  • Night photography
  • Structure of Police Scotland
  • Treatment for a gunshot wound to the chest
  • Typical injuries sustained when a person is severely beaten-up
  • Aftercare and prosthetic limbs for double below-the-knee amputees
  • Israel-Palestine politics and culture
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Veteran’s charities
  • Working as an illustrator
  • Oil painting techniques
  • Sculpture techniques
  • Isle of Skye sheep and cattle auction mart
  • The 1930s Kindertransport
  • Middle-Eastern cuisine
  • Scottish Gaelic phrases

Dare you share some of the weird and wonderful things you’ve looked up online? As always comments welcome below.

Being an Author: Away from the Desk #amwriting #authorevents #bookfairs

 

Books don’t write themselves. Authors have to put in the hours at the desk getting those words written. But a writer’s life isn’t all carried out sitting at the computer or scribbling in a notebook.

I get a lot of my best ideas when I’m away from the writing cave. Sometimes they’ll come unbidden when I’m sitting on a train or bus, or gardening or cooking or doing some housework. And I’ll often solve a plotline problem or come up with a story development when I’m out for my daily walk. It’s as if my brain goes off on a walk of its own when I’m doing other things.

But as well as the normal and necessary daily breaks that form part of my writing day, there are also more formal and organised times where I’m out and about as an author.

In the last week or so I’ve attended two such events.

Local Business Fair

The first one was at a local business fair where all sorts of businesses and organisations were invited to hire a table and not only network with each other, but enjoy the chance to engage with members of the public who popped into the venue as visitors to the fair. So, as a local business – i.e. indie author-publisher I decided to sign up. I invited another local author to share my table and we had a fantastic day.

The weather was awful but that didn’t seem to put the visitors off, and from 10.30a.m. till 3.00p.m. the rugby club venue was buzzing. Me and my colleague talked to lots of lovely and interesting people about our writing and we sold a fair few books as well. We gave also out fliers, bookmarks and postcards to folks who preferred to buy our books in e-book format or who wanted to pass on information about our books to friends, family and libraries. It was also a great chance to network with all sorts of other local businesses, from handbag and jewellery makers to gin distillers and stately home administrators.

Author Talk

The second away-from-the-desk event was an evening spent talking to members of a reasonably local branch of the Scottish Women’s Institute. I always enjoy talking about my books and how I became a writer and this event was no exception. I was made very welcome and I was asked some very good questions. Even better was the fact that a couple of the members had already read my books and recommended them to the others.  I should also add that the homemade lemon drizzle cake that was served with my post-talk cup of tea was delicious and, again, I sold a good number of books.

Real Life versus Imaginary World

The above events are just the latest in a fairly long list of author events I’ve done in the last few years. I’ve taken part in book fairs, a book festival and a craft fair. I’ve given talks in libraries, in schools and to various groups. I’ve also delivered writing classes both to adults and to children. And, as well as the chance to promote and sell my work, it has all been very enjoyable. It’s great to get a chance to talk about my writing, to share what has inspired me and how I go about crafting a novel. And it’s even better to inspire others either to read, or to write, or both.

So yes, for me, as a writer, time spent working away from the desk is every bit as important as the time spent actually working at it.

What’s your view of writers getting out and about? As a reader do you like meeting authors at book events? Or, if you’re a writer, do you find time away from the desk is time well spent?

Being an Indie Author – Job description involving 3 hats – Part 3: Marketing

This is the third and final post where I share what it’s like for me working as an indie author-publisher. In this post I’ll be talking about marketing, how I keep in touch with my readers, and how I reach potential new ones.

(Part 1 looked at the writing process and you can read it here. And Part 2 looked at the preparations and procedures involved in getting my books published and can be read here).

Toolbox:                           

Over the years I’ve been publishing, I’ve learned a lot about selling books. And, because I now have a backlist, I also have an existing band of loyal and supportive readers. So, launching my first book was much harder than launching my latest one.

It’s also the case that things change – so what might once have worked may not do so any longer.

Having said that, there are some things that remain constant and essential to successful book marketing.

Identifying my target readers:

Books, like any other merchandise, have a target market. So authors need to know who their likely readers are and where to find them.

When I write my books I have a specific reader in mind. For my adult books that will be a woman who enjoys reading contemporary romantic fiction with a bit of depth to it. She’ll appreciate that age is no barrier to romance. She’ll enjoy reading about parts of the world or jobs, professions and lifestyles that might be different from her own. And she’ll appreciate that the path of true love doesn’t always run smoothly.

For my children’s book I knew that my readers would mainly be in the nine-to-twelve-year old age group and would enjoy an adventure story where the children rather than the adults save the day.

Where I find my readers:

Virtual World

The existence of the online world means that finding and connecting with existing and potential adult readers (or, in the case of my children’s book, with my readers’ parents/grandparents etc) is easier than it’s ever been.

I have a Facebook author page, I’m on Twitter, and I have this website and its blog. And through these I can alert people when I have a new book coming out and I can have ongoing interactions with the folks who read/might read my novels. These platforms also provide a way for my readers and/or followers to spread the word by sharing my posts or, indeed, their own recommendations as regards reading my books.

Blog Tour

Around the time that I’m launching a new novel I get a blog tour set up. This is where my new book will have a guest slot on a different book blogger’s blog every day for a week. Book bloggers are amazing, generous and hardworking folk who review and write about books for the love of it. The guest slot on a particular blog might be the blogger posting a review of my new book, or it might be the blogger interviewing me, or it might even be a guest post from me. Blog tour posts are widely shared on social media and so news of a new book ripples outwards as people share the book posts with friends and in reader groups.

Real World

And, in the real world I do author talks at libraries, book clubs, social clubs such as the Women’s Institute, and writers’ clubs – and for the children’s book I also do school visits.

I also take part in local book festivals and I go to book fairs, craft fairs and trade fairs – anywhere where there are tables available for authors to meet and chat to readers and to possibly sell books.

Book Availability:

I know some of my readers like to read real paper books and others prefer to read e-books. So I make sure both formats are available to them.

I also know that some like to get their books from an online store while others prefer to go to their local bookshop or library. So I also try to make sure they can get my books from their preferred outlet.

However, as an indie author, while making my books available online is easy, getting my books into bookshops and libraries can be trickier. Any reader wanting to get my a book of mine in a bookshop or library can ask for it to be ordered for them, but of course it would be easier if it was already on the shelf.

When I lived on the Isle of Skye the local bookshops and the library both stocked my books. As a regular customer at the bookshops and as a member of the library, I was able to use my existing relationship when I asked for my books to be stocked. And both the library and the shops were generally supportive of local authors no matter whether they were traditionally or independently published.

But having recently moved to a different area I’ve had to start building new relationships with local book sellers and libraries and my nearest bookshop has a no indie-author policy.

However, as I said above, just because a book of mine isn’t on the shelf, it is available (in the UK) to order via a bookshop or a library’s normal route. You just have to ask and be willing to wait a few days for it to arrive.

And if all else fails I’m happy to post or email a paper or e-book version directly to readers.

Hard Work:

So, yes, being a one-woman sales and marketing department is hard work but well worth the effort as it leads me to readers. Readers who not only buy or borrow my books but who write reviews, who feedback and who interact, readers who in their turn help me with marketing. And that’s what makes this book-writing lark such a rewarding one.

Three jobs in one:

So, as you can see the job of indie author – or authorpreneur as we’re sometimes called – is a busy one. I have to be the writer, the publisher and the book seller. But I love my multi-hatted job, I love writing books and I love that people get to read them. Long may this job continue.

Being An Indie Author – Job description involving 3 hats – Part 2: Publishing

This is the second in a series of 3 posts where I’m taking a look at my job as an indie author.

The first post in the series where I talk about how I go about the authoring/writing process can be read here. This second part looks at the publishing process and part three will look at marketing.

Preparing to Press the Publishing Button

The manuscript is complete. Now the hard work really begins. I redraft the whole thing many times, cut out whole sections, write new ones, make sure the whole thing makes sense and is well paced and well told. I check for consistency within the story. I check my research for factual accuracy. And I check the grammar, punctuation and spelling. I keep going until, at last, all is perfect – according to me.

So, I can’t put it off any longer. Now it must all go to the editor.

Professional Editing

A professional editor is vital to ensuring that the final product is the best it can be. This is the case whether a manuscript is going to be published by a traditional publishing company or by an indie author.

A professional editor must be able to spot all the mistakes, inaccuracies and blunders. They must be thorough, honest and harsh when necessary. If something’s not working, or could be done better, or is just plain rubbish they must say so.

My editor, John Hudspith, certainly does all of the above – and more. He’s a ruthless alchemist of prose. He points out where the manuscript isn’t perfect, the places it’s flat, flabby or lumpy – but he also makes useful suggestions as to how to improve things. His keen eye also spots missing or incorrect punctuation, and possible factual flaws or blips in the plot/character details.

Then I as the author must take all his constructive criticism on the chin, must not be precious, must get over myself and consider all his advice and suggestions seriously. And by doing so I ensure the book is polished and ready for its readers. John also helps with getting the back cover blurb and the front cover strap line just right – something that is vital in attracting readers to the book.

So I owe a huge debt of gratitude to John and if you want to know more about his editing services you can visit his website here.

In-House Proofreading

My current proofreader is my husband. He doesn’t do proofreading professionally but pre-retirement it was part of his job to check complex technical documents before they were released. He has a precise and accurate eye when looking over text. He picks up on yet more missing commas, ambiguous or inaccurate wording, and misspellings. This is despite me having read the document many times and John also having passed through it. So a good proof-reader is vital and I’m glad to have Mr S on board. He’s now open to working with other indie authors – so if you’d like to discuss using his proof-reading service then do get in touch via the comments section below and I’ll pass all queries on.

Professional Book Design

Another vital member of the team is the book designer.

In spite of the old saying advising us not to judge a book by its cover, it’s something most of us do. In truth the cover of a book has an enormous job to do. It has to fit the genre of the novel. The cover images have to suggest what’s between the covers, and the cover text has to be displayed in a way that will make it eye-catching and easy for browsing book buyers to read.

Then there’s the layout of the interior of the book to consider. The text needs to be presented in a reader friendly way. The font the size and the spacing have to be spot on. Then there’s the design and layout of chapter headings, page numbers and headers. And the book must look right regardless of whether it’s being read as a paperback, an e-reader or a phone.

Now, I’m neither artistic nor very good on the technical side of things but fortunately I don’t have to be. And that’s because I go to Jane at JD Smith Design for all my design needs.

I provide Jane with a design brief. This will include a short synopsis of the book, the formats it will be published in i.e. print and e-book, and a vague, just about coherent idea of what I’d like the cover to look like with maybe a few suggested images.

After a bit of back and forth emailing Jane will come up with the very cover design I was looking for – even although I didn’t know exactly what that was it before I saw it.

And once we’ve got the cover sorted out, Jane gets to work on the interior layout and design for all the various formats.

I love the look of my books and I get so many compliments on the covers. So, yes Jane is another alchemist who works magic on my book. If you want to find out more about JD Smith Design you can do so here.

And, I should add, it’s not just the books Jane designs for me, she also designs all my essential supplementary materials including, bookmarks, fliers, posters, postcards and a large roller banner  – all of which do a great job when it comes to marketing.

Pressing the Publish Button

Yes, indeed – publishing does happen at the press or rather the click of a button nowadays. So once the cover and the interior have been finalised it’s time to set up all the different formats on the appropriate websites such as the printer, distributor, and online booksellers. And then it really is as simple as clicking the button marked publish.

And now my book is out there – out there in the company of millions other books. All I have to do now is get it noticed. I have make sure folks know it’s available and how to get a copy. Now it’s time to get marketing – or rather to continue and step-up the marketing that will have already begun before publication.

 

Being an Indie Author – Job description involving three hats – Part 1: Writer

 

I’m an indie author. That means I write and publish my books. So not only do I do the creative part i.e. write the novel, but I must also ensure the manuscript is polished and ready to publish, and then I have to make it available and market it. So it’s a job that requires the wearing of three different hats – writer, publisher and marketer.

N.B. The only hat I suit is the trilby – hence the photo. The other hats for the purposes of this series will therefore be metaphorical – hey, I’m a writer – I can do metaphorical.

This will be the first of three posts where I look at each role in turn.

(If you’re interested in why I chose the indie route you can read a recent guest post I did here on Kate – aka the quiet knitter’s – blog).

 

The Writer’s Hat

The role of writer of the book is of course common to all authors whether they’re traditionally or independently published.

There are lots of how-to books, courses and online lists of advice available, but it seems for every rule there is about writing a novel, there’s a corresponding one that instructs the writer to do the opposite. So what it boils down to is – do what works for you and adhere to one rule only – and that is TURN UP AND WRITE.

I have attended several writing courses from week-long residential to one-off half-day workshops. And gradually I’ve discovered what works for me.

My Writing Method

Story Elements:

Character and Setting

I’ve found for all my novels so far – and for possible future ones (which I already have notes for) – the stories start with a character or two. The character will just pop into my head when I’m least expecting it – often when I’m out walking. If I like the character enough I’ll then carry out a bit of an interrogation/interview with them in order to find out more about them. They’ll tell me where they live, what they do for a living, their family situation and so on.

This information will help me come up with a possible setting for the story.

For example, Rachel from Displacement came to me when I was hanging up the washing in my garden on the Isle of Skye. She told me she was a Skye crofter, but also a book illustrator as nobody can make a living from crofting only. She also revealed she lived alone, she was bereaved, and her mother had been a Jewish refugee who’d arrived in Scotland as a child just before the Second World War.

Plot

Once I have a character or two I’ll then try to find out what problems, dilemmas and/or challenges the character faces and that will lead to ideas for the plot.

Then once I have these ingredients in place it’s time to get writing.

Planning

I rarely know the full story in advance and I don’t plan it all out beforehand. I’m more of a pantster (as in fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants) as some writing experts call it. Apparently writers are either plotters or pantsters. But I suspect a lot of us are a bit of both. I usually have a rough outline based on the timeline of the novel and divided up into beginning, middle and end and it’s usually handwritten on one side of an A4 piece of paper. But as I go along I’ll also sketch out (also handwritten) individual scenes or a list of scene headings. And sometimes I’ll break scenes down into post-it notes. However, there are other times where the ideas just flow and don’t require any sort of prompts or notes.

For me, part of the enjoyment of writing a novel actually comes from not planning in too much detail. That element of surprise, of characters sometimes sort of taking over is fun and exciting.

Of course as my most recent two novels have been parts 1 and 2 of a 3 part series, I’ve had to be a bit more organised planning wise – both to maintain consistency with the earlier book – and to ensure credible development in character and plot across all three books. But even with the series there has been no very detailed or inflexible plan. Indeed I didn’t plan to write a series. That only came about because readers of book 1 wanted more.

Getting On With The Job:

Desk Time

I aim to write every day Monday to Friday and I aim for a particular word count per day – that way I can have an approximate date for completion of the first draft in the diary.

It also means my writing brain is used to/coaxed into co-operating. It knows it can’t wait around for the muse. It knows it has a job to do and it had better get on with it – with or without the fickle muse. Yes, there are days when the quality’s not great or when it’s a struggle just to do a few sentences, but that’s all part of the process. Writing is a job and, like any job, there are good days and bad days, but regardless you do have to show up.

I don’t edit much as I go along. I may make a note to check or research something later, or I may a tweak here and there, but mostly I just plough onwards until THE END.

Although it isn’t really THE END – not by a long way…

In part 2 in this series I’ll look at the next stage – at the process of redrafting and redrafting and redrafting – to get the manuscript ready for going off to the editor. I’ll also share how it is working with the editor and cover designer in order to get the book to its absolute best version.

 

The Joy of Writing: A Vital and Life-Enhancing Passion

Do I find writing to be a joyful experience? Short answer: yes and no.

Yes, there are times when it’s difficult, times when I’d rather be anywhere other than at the writing desk, and times when I think I’m kidding myself about being able to write anything worth reading and that I should pack it in.

Writing for survival

BUT those negative times are relatively rare.  And no matter how bad the writers’ block or the procrastination or the self-doubt might be, I honestly can’t imagine not doing it. It’s vital for my health and wellbeing, it’s my purpose and my passion.

Writing for daily life

The everyday, practical, non-fiction type of writing – that is the lists, the lists about lists, the problem-solving mind maps, the journaling and the diary keeping – all help me work through problems, get organised and make decisions.

And when things are getting a bit too much – during times of stress, anxiety or depression – writing, for me, has really come into its own. At times like these writing, in the ways mentioned above, has been therapeutic and helped me find my way through and out the other side.

Writing for a living

As for the professional side of my writing – the creative, imaginative stuff that I do – well, that’s where the real joy comes in. I love setting out with one or two characters and finding out from them what their story is.

For me, writing a novel truly is a joyful voyage of discovery. Those first one or two characters introduce me to more characters along the way. They reveal where they live and they share their problems, dilemmas and challenges with me.

I love fleshing out the characters, creating the details of their homes and daily lives, providing the backdrop and landscape in which their stories take place. I also enjoy getting them out of the difficult or maybe even life-threatening positions I’ve put them in.

And it’s wonderful – if sometimes inconvenient – when having hit a metaphorical wall in a work-in-progress, the solution suddenly comes to me unbidden – when I’m in the shower, when I’m about to fall asleep or when I’m out walking. But inconvenient or not, I love it when my sub-conscious mind takes care of the difficulty.

Then there’s the buzz of seeing the finished article, of holding the book I’ve created in my hands. There’s nothing like it.

Apart, that is, from the even greater buzz when a reader tells you they loved it.

And it’s most certainly not about the money earned – although that’s helpful – but as long as at least one person reads and enjoys my made-up stories – probably even if that’s just me – I’ll keep on doing it.

A life-enhancing joy and passion

Yes, writing truly is an essential joy.

So, what is your passion – is it writing or something else? What drives you to pursue it? Can you imagine your life without it?

January: The Write On Month #amwriting

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

I have a love-hate relationship with two-faced January.

In the first month of the year, with the festive season over, it can be hard to get back to real life again. I hate the short, often dark days we get at this time of year in Scotland – and on such days I reckon I could happily hibernate until the spring.

However, we do sometimes get days like today – days that are very cold but also clear, bright and sunny and I can get out for a bracing and invigorating walk.

I also love the fact that it’s usually a quiet month socially – probably because everyone is recovering from all the December festivities.

And I like the fact that January is of course a good time for fresh starts and resolutions.

So as far as my writing is concerned I find this a productive time of year. I resolved to publish the third and final part of my Skye trilogy this year. So suitably inspired after my daily walk – a time when I get most of my writing ideas and insights – I’ve been able to have quality time at the writing desk this month.

I’m already 10000 words in and loving being back with my characters and meddling in their lives. I also have lots of ideas for future books – books set in different locations and with fresh new characters.

So January’s really not so bad after all – and I hope my productivity continues as the days lengthen and more distractions present themselves.

How’s January for you if you too are in the northern hemisphere? And, if you’re in the southern hemisphere, are New Year’s resolutions easier or harder to make and follow in mid-summer? Wherever you are – what do you hope to achieve in 2019? Please do leave comments below.