Tag Archives: how to write a novel

Want to know what I write in my Morning Pages? Here you go… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ Here’s a sneak peak into what I write in my Morning Pages…

I’m off for a while. A break. A small one, but it gets to a point sometimes – and I don’t know whether you find this – that you need a wee bit of time away from technology and the day job and just, well, chill.

So for the next few weeks, that’s me – trying to clear my mind. But, as a writer, I’ll have with me my pen and notebook, scribbling my morning pages in the shadow of big, snowy mountains. Morning pages to me are a bit of a saviour. I know I’ve written about them before – and you may have tried them yourself – but it really helps to write in the morning anything that enters into you head. It’s therapeutic I find, a way of keeping the drama on the page – a way of listening to what you have to say. And that’s what writing is about, essentially – listening.

So, I thought I’d let you have a sneak peek into what walks out of my head on to the page some mornings. Unsurprisingly, I end up writing a lot about the day time, the rise of it, the sun and all that entails. Here, below,  for you, is an unedited copy of what I wrote a few days ago when I woke up at 6am, downing strong coffee. It’s basically painting a picture with words of what I could literally see from the window that day, the weather, the feelings it created, ears and eyes open, listening to the words that wanted to speak.

Here’s to us and our glorious morning pages. Have a great few weeks. I’ll catch up with you soon  🙂

My Morning Pages, March 26th, 2016

“A halo of blue light rests on the horizon beyond, a thin silk band of shimmering brightness, fragile under the burgeoning weight of the heavy, grey clouds above.

Morning has begun. But the sun is quiet. Hidden behind an artist’s wash of black and navy and marbled pewter, the sun struggles to punch out, settling, instead, to whisper through the sky, to skim paint brushes of buttercup yellow in small, secret lines across the horizon.

The trees that stand tall at the bottom of the garden are still. A gentle wind breathing in and out, they appear relatively untouched by the looming rain that threatens to charge from above, the birches and the ancient oaks saluting the morning as solid and stoic as perhaps an old grandfather would, medals on his chest in the face of an unwelcome intruder.

The rain comes now, tapping at the window panes. Only a few seconds pass until, clouds parting in biblical waves, it lashes down in great big streaks across the glass and the concrete and the petals of leaves that scatter along unpruned borders, squirrels huddling in bowing groups under the wide umbrellas of the trees.

The sky, right now, has morphed to a dirty dish cloth wash,  a soup of wet and damp and upturned, pungent soil. And yet, even through all this, the birds sing. They announce their presence through short, intermittent voices, small radio transmissions of song and sound, their dedication to the day. Light, carefree, their dance to the sun that lies kidnapped behind mottled, clotted clouds.

And as they sing, one slip of blue sky sneaks past. One glorious, warm ray.  It blinkers bright,  a single slither of pure determination, of defiance and rebellion as if shouting, ‘Come what may, the day will win!’ For, of course, it always does.”

Thanks for reading 🙂 Share your own thoughts from your own Morning Pages below…

How to find your writing voice… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about finding your own writing ‘voice’.

I come from a background of regulation, working wise, that is. Embroiled in a world of statistics and focus groups and set patterned deadlines, my mind asserts that things should be done certain way at times, to a particular timescale. And while this approach, this attitude, if you will, was very handy in the domain of marketing, turns out it’s not quite so hot on a permanent basis for creative writing.

And so to my week and my utterly paralysed writing. I am, see, in the middle of an edit. Book two of my trilogy and way before this stage I assumed I had it all figured out – plot, characters development. The lot. And yes, while these things are definitely moulded, what a great (my) editor does, I am discovering, is take what you’ve got and help fine tune it in ways you never thought possible.

With my head in a muddle, it was only when I went away for the weekend, away from not only my laptop, but from my routine, from statistical head, really, that I realised I had been applying my old marketing work ethos to my writing. I was, in effect, attempting to ‘statistically analyse’ the merits of my edit changes. It came down to this: I had lost my voice. I was forcing words and ideas into my mouth without them actually being mine. It was not genuine. It was not,  I realised as I journeyed up the M4 home, me.

So, Monday morning and I asked myself this: was I writing from my gut? The answer, when I made myself admit it, was no. It was a light-being-switched-on moment. It was not me, that voice I was trying to shoehorn into the edit, but something else, my statistical head, maybe, who knew. But no amount of economics degrees or results analysis were going to help me, because I had been censoring myself, restricting, without realising, my own voice. It was not coming from inside.

We all find this, us writers. Do you find this? We think we should, see, write perfectly straight off the bat, forcing our words into a mould because we think that’s what should be written, that’s what people expect. And the result? The work we produce when we write like this is not true, not us, instead it is someone else’s and, the irony is, that when that happens, the result ain’t good.

So what to do? Well, you can, as I did this week, get into your true writing mojo mode by asking yourself a series of simple, honest questions. Honesty is the key here…

To find your voice, ask and answer these questions:

  • What I would really like to say is…
  • What am I frightened of is…
  • It would be great fun to say…
  • If no one was reading my work, I would really write about…

We all get a confidence knock from time to time – hell knows I do – but these questions to ourselves help. You may have one answer to them, you may have several, but the single thing you’ll most certainly end up with is the true key to who you are and what you write. In short,  you’ll end up with your voice 🙂

Thanks for reading 🙂 Join in the writing conversation  below…

How to increase your writing productivity… #amwriting

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about how taking time out can make you more productive…

I’m in the middle of an edit and I have come to a halt. Fuggy, brain a ball of cotton wool, I have stopped and wondered what on earth is up with me. Why can’t I think straight, I ask myself? I have been sitting at this laptop working non-stop, the writing was good, but now? Now it’s dried up, a well that’s empty of water.

And then I realised: my well, yep, the fact that it was empty – that was my problem. See, as writers, when we get on a working roll, we don’t often want to halt. ‘I can’t stop now,’ we say, ‘I’m in the middle of writing.’ But, I’ve discovered along the way since I got published, that to really be productive, you have to step back when times are busy. We get, we do, see, one eye on the end product. ‘I want a book at the end of this, a succesful one!’ It’s what we think, often obsess on, and that can be our down fall. We wind up loving the end product rather than the process of writing itself.

Here’s the rub: to write, we have to love writing, and to write well, we need to step back from it. That means taking ‘writer’s time’, a day here and there when we go out, somewhere new, refill our well, as it were. Because we need to look up, that blink in the sunshine to remind us about life, because it is life that we draw from to write with, to imagine from.

So, if you’re stuck like I was this week, in a fug after working so great before, step away from the laptop and get out. Breathe in some air, run, go to an art gallery, a museum, the seaside (yes, please!) – anywhere you fancy. Sure, you’ll have a moment of panic where you think you should really be working to hit that deadline, but trust me, by taking some writer’s time, you’ll come back more refreshed, more (without a doubt) productive on the page. Your mojo will return.

What more could we want, hey? Going out for a day and calling it work? Not a bad gig, this writer’s life 😉

Happy writing 🙂

Thanks for reading 🙂 Join in the writing conversation  below…

How writing morning pages can increase your creativity – and keep you calm…

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about writing your morning pages…

I’m all for a morning page. Let me explain. See, every morning, well, for the past year really, I’ve been, upon waking and fixing a strong cuppa, writing with pen on paper whatever comes into my head. It could be about anything. The weather, the birds singing in the wall of ancient trees outside, how I forgot to put the bins out last night and will I have time this morning to do it – anything. Who knows what’s in this head of mine.

And that’s the thing – I don’t always know what I’m thinking and so writing my morning pages unlocks it all. It’s like therapy. I’ll often find that I may rise feeling a little angsty, say, but can’t place my finger on why, and then my pen will glide over the page and whatever is on my mind will go figure itself right out on the the piece of paper before me. It’s amazing. It’s like, without me even realising it, my head – purely through the simple act of writing – is getting to the nub of a) what’s truly bothering me and b) the solution required, and all this without me having to even try, to even put any real conscious effort in.

In the past, morning pages not only have worked through answers to whatever I need, they’ve also helped me tap into a creative writing source I never knew was there. Take the birds. My study desk in our new home faces onto a huge old window through which lays our beautiful, sprawling garden crammed with tall, ancient trees, busy, extended families of birds, and what appears to be a very active, cunning (but cute) pack of quick witted squirrels. And so, several times when I sit, cup of tea by my side, pen in hand, I find myself daydreaming about what I see, then writing about it. The birds, their chatter, the way they flit and scamper and tease the morning into awakening – you name it, it all just flows out.

The trick is not to over think it. Just write. Get your pen and paper first thing before the day has begun and see what trickles out. You’ll be surprised. The important point is, though, the time of day – it must be done in the morning, these writing off-the-cuff pages. See, by evening time the day is done and, instead of looking forward, solving, creating, night sees us becoming more reflective, looking back on the time passed rather than pointing our brains ahead at what’s to come. That, see, is where we find the answers.

Whether you’re a writer or not, I urge you to try morning pages. Pick up a pen and pad (and strong coffee…) and start scribbling down whatever’s in your head. As a writer it, if nothing else, means that, at least once a day you’re stretching your writing muscles, even if it’s only for ten minutes.

But, above and beyond that, I’ve found that, whatever your day job, morning pages are a way to keep life calm, to not only discover with delight a creative capacity you never knew you had, but to find the answers, deep inside the recesses of your brain that, in truth, you always had. It just took a pen to unlock them.

Thanks for reading 🙂 Join in the writing conversation  below…

Top five writing tips: How to create great characters #amwriting

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This week: Writing great characters

I’m right in the sticky depths of book two of the Spider trilogy. 68k words in and I am flagging. But fear not! The characters, you see, to me, to my mind – it is all about the characters. And when you get them right, the whole book comes alive and suddenly, tapping on that computer becomes a tad easier.

So here you go. Top five tips for writing great characters:

1. Know ’em. By creating a full biography. I mean FULL. Just like you know your best mate or your spouse, you need to now your characters. Every detail, every nook and cranny. This makes them rounded, real – and easer to write. No bio = no character.

2. Imagine what they’d look like. I have pictures ripped from magazines & printed from websites of faces I imagine my characters would look like. This works especially well for the protagonist.

3. Empathy. You need to have an identification with your characters, not just from you, but, of course, ultimately, from the reader, too. For this you need to create empathy. Empathy is recognising a tad of yourself in the character. Once we can do that, the writing – and reading – flows.

4. Sympathy. This means ensuring that, in some way, your protagonist is human. We have to like what we see in at least a small amount, even if you don’t like other bits of the character. Amy from Gone Girl? She is a total psycho, but I like her ‘don’t care what you think’ attitude. See?

5. Be authentic. The reader is real and, therefore, so must be your character. Reader’s aren’t daft – heck, you are not daft. So why fudge a character or try to pretend on the page that this person is a certain way when that cannot actually be the case? Just tell it as it (really) is and you’re on to a winner.

 

Any top tips on writing great characters? Great! Share them with the group!

 

 

Top 5 writing tips: PD James tips for writing novels #amwriting

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This week: PD James’ novel writing tips

The author PD James sadly passed away last month. She was an amazing woman. After having her first novel published in her forties, she never looked back, writing over 20 crime novels, many of which were adapted for film and TV.

Crime author PD James
Crime author PD James

She was a hard worker, the type of writer to simply get on with it. I discovered her novels through my father in law, and so when I heard of her passing, I looked up her works and found a web page interview where she talks of her top tips for writing novels.

Below, I have chosen my favourite five, ones that, to me, really resonate. To get a full list of PD James’ top ten, I’ve popped a link below. Read, enjoy. And write.

Top 5 PD James writing tips:

1. Find your own routine. Are you a morning person or evening? A lark or an owl? Figure out what time of the day you work best at and stick to it – you’ll be at your most productive. Works like a charm.

2. Read, write and don’t daydream. This one speaks for itself, although, don’t let the ‘don’t daydream’ bit put you off. This, to me, simply means don’t procrastinate. Daydreaming in its actual form can, in fact, help the creative process, aid the flow of ideas when, say, you are stuck on a tricky scene. Basically, just get on with it.

3. Never go anywhere without a notebook. Yup, deffo. Ditto iPhone with notepad function – works equally well.

4. Never talk about a book before it’s finished. Agree. Because it may change, you may edit it to within an inch of its life. Until you are certain you’re 100% happy (until an editor gets hold of it…) keep shtum.

5. Be aware that the business is changing. Publishing is different even from when I was a kid. To me, change is a good thing, something to be embraced and capitalised on. No moaning about e-books or self-publishing. Nope. Instead, simply say, ‘Oh, okay. Great.’ Then adapt and crack right on. The results may surprise you.

 

For the link to the interview with PD James for her full top ten tips, click here

 

Any top tips on cracking your writer’s style? Great! Share them with the group!

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Top five writing tips: How to make scenes real #amwriting #NaNoWriMo2014

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This week: How to make scenes real

Writing fiction, ironically, is all about keeping it real. And by this, I mean making stuff up. Confused? Let me explain. When we think of a room, we don’t recall it as a building or a space or a room. Nope. We remember the room as warm or with white walls, with leather seats or flowery curtains. If we reflect on past events in our lives and look closer, we come to understand that what makes them real in our mind are the sounds, sights and feel of things. So to make your scenes real in your book, this is what you have to do. You have to paint the real picture.

And so to the top 5 of keeping it real…

1. Show don’t tell. You want to recreate a scene, not describe it. Show us what the character can see in that room or countryside or beach setting. So, instead of “I arrived nervously at the old house near the sea” (telling), say “I arrived at the cottage, white washed walls, flowers in broken pots by the door. I stood at the end of the path, hand on the peeling gate, waiting, shaking. I inhaled, tried to steady myself, the faint lap of the waves, the squall of the seagulls all singing like a lullaby in my ears.” (showing).

2. Practice describing colours. Sounds nuts, but it works. Imagine you are describing the colour red, for example, to a blind person. How would you do that? Hot, scorching etc.

3. Give details not judgements. An author’s job is to give the facts then know when to step back so the readers can reach their own conclusions.

4. Names are everything. Its sounds minor, a name, but it means a heck of a lot. In real life, so much is attached to our names. On the page, a name connected to a character, a well thought through name, anchors the writer to the page. If the name is not well considered, the reader can sense that because the character does not, ultimately, feel real.

5. Visualise. Try to imagine what is in a scene. Close you eyes, picture the scene you are trying to write about. Now open your eyes. What details did you pick up on? What was the weather? The temperature? etc. Write it down as accurately as you can. I use this technique a lot when I feel a scene slipping away from me.

 

Any top tips on keeping your writing real? Great. Share them with the group.

 

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Top five writing tips: How to find your writing style #amwriting #NaNoWriMo2014

Welcome to my new post: Top 5 writing tipstop5

 

This week: Finding your style

This has to be one of the most confusing elements of being a writer, I think. Certainly, when you’re starting out, style is something that feels elusive, like something others have but you never yourself quite know how to get.

And so we often end up copying others we admire, try to emulate their style. I know I’ve done this in the past. But thing is, get your own style, nail your individual writing nuance and what you end up with is something every writer, publisher – and reader – wants: a unique voice.

So fear not! Here are some top tips that I used myself to help crack my style. Give them a go, see how you fair. Good luck.

1. Read a piece of your writing aloud and in your mind. Mark out any dodgy bits, anything that sounds clunky. Then rewrite, re-read aloud, see if it sounds better. Repeat several times until you get a flow.

2. Knock out those adverbs and adjectives. These are like parsley garnish on a steak – unnecessary. What they can do is cloud your real style. We use them because we think we have to, but we don’t. Challenge yourself.

3. Go a bit further with this and write a piece, say 500 words, with absolutely no adverbs or adjectives in. It will be tricky at first, but it will get you style flowing, dancing, almost, off the page. Honest.

4. Don’t write. Trust me. Instead, sit back and just close your eyes. Then think. Think what you want to say. Take your main character, for example, imagine what they have to talk about, what scene they are in. Visualise it, every turn, every nook, smell, sight.

5. Now open you eyes and write what you have just seen. Don’t dither, don’t doubt or question yourself, just get it out. Try this several times and see how you can reach a steady flow of your own style.

 

Any top tips on cracking your writer’s style? Great! Share them with the group!

 

 

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**