Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Writing: planning scenes...

... and what to do with those scenes that you really want to write, but you know aren't going to end up in the book.

Trying to avoid this, by planning the scenes!
I'm a planner by heart. I may have written a couple of books more by the seat of my pants, but in the end, I needed to take them apart, plan them, and re-write them! So, for me, I prefer to know what my core scenes are (and therefore what the bones of my plot are) and some idea of how to get from major plot point to the next major plot point. Once all that is sorted out, I can start to write. But I also like to know that the scenes I'm writing aren't just a waste of time. Of course, some of them will shift and change (and maybe even disappear) before the final round of edits, but I'd like to think that I'm giving each scene the best chance of making the final cut, before I actually write it.

There are loads of blog posts on the essentials of a scene, but one I've found useful (and the checklist that the author has produced to go with it) is this one: https://jamigold.com/2012/06/how-to-make-the-most-of-a-scene/

There are downloads available of the checklist, and also an Excel spreadsheet for tracking scenes, here: https://jamigold.com/2012/07/blogiversary-winners-a-gift-for-all/

What I like about this is the simplicity, which gives me a better focus. In essence you need at least one of X and two of Y and if you can add in some from Z, even better!

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Writing: character arcs

Well, so far this month, writing has been going great guns! I suspect it follows from having done a lot of planning on the structure of the book and getting the bare bones of the plot sorted out. I've been thinking about this book, on and off, for over a year, and already had a heap of notes and a mind-map of the plot sorted. I then spent a good week or more nailing down the key scenes that I wanted, before I wrote one word of any scenes.

It also helps that I know the characters really well - this will be third book in the trilogy - so I haven't had to do so much on character development, though of course, there's some, on new characters or ones who have come to the fore a little more. I did spend quite a bit of time on their character arcs though, again, before writing a word of any of the scenes.

There's a great blog post on the different types of character arc, and also how these fit with general story plans: The 3 Types of Character Arc: Change, Growth or Fall. I also produced a summary sheet for planning out how each main character reacts to the different plot points:

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

'Hero' is getting a girlfriend

'Hero' is the name of the little chap who sits on my desk and who acts as a bit of a Muse for me. I blogged about him ages ago. He usually sits on the thirty-minute sand timer I have on my desk, though occasionally, he gets moved about. Most of the time he's brandishing a sword.

Anyway, for a variety of reasons, but mostly just because I like it, I've bought the female version. She too comes with some spare hands (and feet) and a selection of accessories. Her accessories lie more in the guns, knives, daggers, and more guns area than the laptop, book and pen section of Hero's box of tricks.

Hero's box of hands and accessories
(no, not creepy AT ALL)

Picture of the accessories for the girlfriend, from the website I ordered her from
(Hero may have met his match here...)

Why do I want to have them on my desk? To be honest, I just like Hero there, and I'm also getting back into sketching (which is, after all, the original purpose of the figures - as artists' models), so having two figures is useful. But actually, a lot of the time, I just chat to him. Or his presence reminds me that I should be writing, not browsing through Twitter or Facebook! Occasionally, I set him up as a Muse for a scene I'm writing (swords definitely handy here) to help with description and to prompt my imagination.

Anyway, he must be working as I'm already almost 20k words into the first draft of the new book! Maybe more on that, next week!

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

I've finished the first draft!

Phew! This draft of "book 7" (actual working title is "Aeron Returns") is finished! This is the middle book of a fantasy trilogy that I've been working on, on and off, since 2014.

Of course, just because I have a first draft doesn't mean the book is finished. No, I still have work to do on it, but the skeleton is all sorted and most of the muscle and sinew is there. I still need to do more editing before it goes off to beta readers, and another heap of edits, polishes and a proof-read when it comes back from them and the professional editor, but the hardest edit is done.

For me, the writing process runs a bit like this:
Have an idea
Write loads of notes about the idea and come up with a germ of a plot
Plan out the plot
||: Write
Change/tweak the plot :||
  → Come up with a zero draft
Go back through zero draft and sort it all out until I have a decent first draft
Go through it again and sort out all the over-used words and the craply written bits
Send it out to beta readers
Fix the issues they come up with
Send it to a professional editor
Fix the bits they say are wrong
The zero draft of this book was what I had at the start of September. I was coming back to this book after a long time away from it and I thought it would take me forever to get it from tangled spaghetti to first draft. I always find this is the hardest edit to do, but also the most satisfying one. Just over a month ago, I thought I might never untangle it and whip it all into shape and wrote "Help! Please send chocolate!"

But, these characters have been talking to me and telling me their stories for years now. I see so much of their lives that have nothing to do with the book (and sometimes write them down in a separate file, just to get it out of my head). I spend all day (and sometimes night) with them. Getting their stories to make sense is enormously satisfying! Some characters have had more time in the spotlight, some less. Some have died and some been saved. Things I'd been struggling with dropped into place. It's been a tough few weeks, but, boy have I been enjoying it.

Anyway, next for this is to put it aside for a while, before finding and killing all the crutch words and the bits that are crap. What will I work on while this is 'resting'? Planning the final part of the trilogy, of course!

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Tuesday, 2 October 2018


I love doing research for my books. There's always a slight worry that my Google searches look very dodgy, but on the whole, I absolutely love doing the background work for my books. This could be general research (like my scrapbooks - looking for the perfect location for a book, or images of people for characters etc) or it can be more of the nitty-gritty (what is the exact wording of a police caution?).

I've seen a couple of posts recently about writers using mood boards (see here and here for a couple of examples). In essence, the scrapbooks I make are like mood boards, with pictures pasted in and notes scribbled all over them (I wrote here about my scrapbooks). I sometimes keep electronic versions using OneNote, but not as commonly as I have physical versions. I've found that printing things off, either on to A4 printer paper or on to sticker sheets and sticking them into my notebooks works the best for me.

That kind of research all happens near the start of a book. What I've been researching recently has been a combination of of fine details about things (sunrise and sunset times on particular dates; castles in Cumbria; geology of various rocks), and looking for images of long leather coats for men that you could conceal a sword under (that don't look like either the Gestapo coats from 'Allo 'Allo, or something from The Matrix). Today's slightly random search was for "blank autopsy body diagrams". A couple of weeks ago it was "sociopolitical repercussions of Spanish flu" & "what colour boxes are used for paper recycling in Cumbria?"

Every day is a school day...

What's everyone else been up to recently?

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