Some of my characters are created on the fly while I’m writing. Often, they’re ones that show up unexpectedly. Or, I’m so eager to start the novel that I don’t stop to consider who a character is until they’ve appeared into the story.
Dempsey from my Motts series was a character who surprised me. I never imagined he’d appear at all, never mind showing up in three of the novels. He played a far more central role than I anticipated.
Ivy and Tens are both characters who I knew would exist in their respective novels. I just didn’t take the time to develop them fully. I was in full panster mode while writing, so their personalities were created on the fly.
Ah, the joys of being a pantser.
Other characters required more careful thought and consideration.
Motts sprung from her name. I knew before I even plotted out the first book in my Motts Cold Case series that her name would be Pineapple Mottley. I spent weeks fully creating her marvellously quirky personality. She’s one of my all-time favourite characters.
Francis, from After the Scrum, was also developed from his name. I knew I wanted him to have a name that wasn’t gender-specific. The first meeting between Francis and Caddock had already been in my mind before I wrote the first line of the novel.
Of the two methods, I think I prefer the second. My characters who aren’t written on the fly are easier for me to write. But I still love all of them equally.
There were a million things I wanted to do with this novella. And the title was less of an issue than figuring out the plot. It started life as a ‘next door neighbors’ sort of romance that slowly shifted into the second chance romance it is today.
A few things never changed from the beginning. One of the MCs was always going to be a farmer who enjoyed cooking. I think it’s about the only thing that didn’t change.
The location changed.
The timeframe changed.
I was all over the place when I wanted to write this story. But then the idea of two people who’d had this awkward encounter then panicked, being forced to spend time together in isolation, took hold. It evolved a little while writing, but that core concept remained.
So, in the end, unlike many of my other stories, the title was relatively easy to decide on once I’d given the characters names.
I’d started with this idea of Farm to Table.
But Farm to Table isn’t a new concept, and I wanted something a little different.
There is so much advice online for authors. The vast majority of it always seems to be focused on neurotypical authors. It’s something I’ve always found to be quite frustrating.
Much of that advice is often something that is no help to me at all. In fact, I’ve usually found it can be detrimental to my writing process. So I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve found work for me.
I’m not an expert in anything aside from my own process.
1. If writing blog posts feels like too much? Do bullet points.
2. Make a daily to-do lists and if even one thing is crossed off–that’s a win.
3. Do creative work in the morning. I seem to be at my most creative early in the day. Whatever your ‘on’ time is, do the writing stuff then.
4. If editing is causing anxiety, do one edit/one page/fix one issue per day until it’s done.
5. Using Pomodoro Study With Me videos as a way to get things done when I’m struggling to focus:
6. If emails are stressing me out, I close out my inbox. I’ve found the majority of emails can wait. The world doesn’t end if I can’t respond immediately.
7. Boundaries matter.
8. No matter what ‘all the experts’ say. I have to find a way to make social media work for me.
9. Some days, I just can’t write. There’s no shame in taking a break.
I took four days off social media a few weeks ago. I was finding myself completely overwhelmed. Something I’ve always struggled with, but since 2020 it’s only gotten worse. So I gave myself permission to take a break.
I thought I’d share a few things that I learned in those four days.
I check Social Media, Twitter especially, far too often.
I have no need for social media apps on my phone. And I’ve removed them.
A constant deluge of ‘news’ is terrible for my mental health.
The world didn’t end because I wasn’t immediately informed of things happening.
I am in control of my social media timeline. There’s nothing wrong with muting/blocking people and tags. Boundaries are healthy.
The biggest takeaway for me was that I need to be giving myself a break from social media more often. I never realized how often I was just doomscrolling for no reason at all. So I’m trying to learn to set boundaries.
I thought it might be fun to think back over the past six or seven years of my writing career and think about the mistakes I made, especially at the beginning. No one is perfect.
Everyone screws up in one way or another.
I’m no different.
When it comes to writing itself, my biggest mistake, in the beginning, was trying to be a non-autistic author. And by that I mean, I read lots of advice in blogs, books, and online. All of it was geared towards neurotypicals (as is most self-help.)
Much of that advice is great–unless you’re autistic or neurodivergent.
And the mistake I made was trying to make myself fit into that mold. A mold I was never going to be able to fit into. Setting goals and tasks for myself that I was never going to be able to complete.
It led to burn out. Disappointment. And put me into a bad place mentally for a while.
I had to fight my way back to enjoying writing.
The biggest lesson I learned was finding what works for me.
Finding it and accepting that what works for a non-autistic author will likely not work for me. And that’s okay. It’s okay to need a little extra help from my publisher. It’s okay to not be able to do ‘all the must do things to be a successful author.’
It’s been a while since I’ve played with a new set of characters. I’ve been writing series for so long. Just bouncing from one longish series to the next. And I love all those characters, but I’m ready to discover new ones.
One of the first things I always do when creating a new character is find a visual reference. I’m not brilliant an creating an image in my mind. Some people are visual, I am not.
I know it when I see it.
But I have to see it.
So usually, I start by scanning Pinterest or maybe I’ve already seen someone on a TV show or movie or even an AD that has a vibe.
And that’s usually where the character begins to develop.
Nine times out of ten. My characters come face first. Name second. Motts is one of the rare examples of a character whose name came to me first.
I always knew she was going to be Pineapple Mottley.
But aside from Motts, it’s usually face then name.
Once I’ve figured out the face of the character, I begin building out who they are. Their interests. Their personality. I have a list of questions that fill out with a whole host of details about them from what movies they watch to what their favourite curse words are.
The goal for me is to be able to start the first chapter of my WIP fairly confident in who the character is.