Excel works for me!

excel colourI create an Excel Spreadsheet so I can record a brief summary of each chapter as I go along. It is an invaluable memory-jogging tool which I frequently draw on. Trying to do this in hindsight is far more time-consuming. I also make a note of the number of words in each chapter to give me an idea of the running total. I’ve been meaning to buy Scrivener, which some members of my writing group swear by, but this is still on my ‘to do’ list . . .

Sometimes I keep a timeline so I know exactly when each event happens. This helps continuity.

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Background and Consistency

girl colourNext, the characters. I draw on many different sources: people I have seen or met in passing, or know or have known, or have watched on TV. Or I think of characteristics which would make my protagonist interesting. My inspiration comes from many areas.

I write a full biography of each of the main characters, including:boy

  • physical description
  • characteristics
  • background, including family (where necessary)
  • job(s)/career(s)
  • date of birth
  • anything else which is pivotal to the story
  • as I am a visual person, I browse the internet to find a photo which most represents each character so I can picture them. This also joins their biography.
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Does it always flow?

flow colourDo I love writing? The answer is: sometimes. When it flows, it feels as if I am a bird of prey being whisked effortlessly along by the ebb and flow of the breeze. It feels magical. But equally there are days when it feels as if each word is being forced through a minute gap and when it finally spurts out onto the page, it seems, at the time, awkward and all wrong.

But I have learned to just keep on writing anyway. And strangely, some of my best writing has occurred during those ‘force through a small gap’ moments.

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Write what you know?

light bulb colourSo, I start with an idea. For example: Swiss hotel, waitress, guest and a blossoming romance (as in ‘Never Again’).

I often hear the advice ‘write what you know’. I spent a couple of summers in my twenties working in hotels in Switzerland and Germany. Whilst the romance in my debut novel ‘Never Again’ isn’t, sadly, based on anything I experienced myself, the Swiss Alps provided a perfect setting for my novel. Nostalgically, my grandparents met in the same mountain village where I worked and my parents spent their last holiday there a few months before my dad died: special memories.

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Structured Outline . . . I wish!

logoI would love, love, love to be the type of writer who meticulously plans their novel from start to finish, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. It would make the whole writing process neater, more structured and left less to chance. And I can tell you, I have tried and failed at this method countless times. What happens when I sit down to plan is that my mind, infuriatingly, goes as blank as the sheet of paper or Word document in front of me. The more I rack my brains for inspiration, the emptier brain becomes.

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Soft v Hard Copies

soft colour

I thought my editing was finished until I printed out a hard copy. Hmmm! Essential part of the editing process for me now.

Put it aside

I know, it’s hard! But it is crucial. Having immersed myself in my novel for months and months, I became too close to it. I could no longer review my novel with any degree of perspective. By forcing myself to have a break while I worked on something else, this time was not wasted.

hard colourWhen I returned to my novel, I saw it with fresh eyes. Suddenly I was picking up inconsistencies or silly mistakes or awkward sentence structure which I had previously overlooked.

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Twitter Madness!

tweetIt’s crazy, I seem to be spending far more time on Twitter than on my actual writing – it’s like Facebook on speed. And totally addictive! It munches up the hours as effectively as a ravenous Pac-Man (now I am showing my age!).

tweetForget Dr Who, forget Sci-Fi, forget Sherlock, the world of Twitter takes me to a whole new level of awareness and perception (and more than occasional confusion . . . ).

tweetAnd all, if I am completely honest, because I would love as many people as possible to read my debut novel, ‘Never Again’ when I self-publish on Kindle in the Spring. And whilst the process of writing itself has many fulfilling moments, there is nothing more wonderful than someone getting pleasure from reading the very words I have spent months slaving over.

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