From straight pantser to ever so slightly plotting along.

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I used to be a straight pantser.  (Someone who writes by the seat of their pants instead of plotting with an outline, etc.)

Never did anything, not even writing down character notes, before starting a novel. My mind liked it, but my manuscripts became a bit of a nightmare to edit. It’s hard to keep track of characters, plots, and timelines when NOTHING is written down.

And your memory is a bit shit.

Now, I do better.

I plot a little. I’ll never be a true plotter. Outlines bore me to tears. So, I’ve found a compromise that works.

Stage One: Faces, Names and Places

Three things I usually do before anything else is to pick the location of a story, the novel title, and visual references for the characters.

I’m not a very visual person, so I definitely need an actual image to picture while I’m writing.

Stage Two: Build out a Book Bible.

I use thin A5 Muji notebooks and fill out little character questionnaires for the main characters along with notes about family/friends. I also jot down a loose timeline. I find this helps keep the novel on track, but also with writing newsletters and blog posts once I’m done with the book.

Stage Three: Media.

Before writing, I build two essential lists. A musical playlist, my current WIP has a mostly country music playlist. I also create a TV/movie list. I find watching shows or movies based around the theme of what I’m writing can really help me get in the mood.

For The Royal Marine, for example, I watched a lot of Bake Off. For the Grasmere trilogy, it watched Poirot, of course.

Stage Four: Let’s Play Pretend

This is the stage where I’m usually supposed to be giving myself a writing break, but I’m chomping at the bit to write.

Stage Five: Write

Self-explanatory that involves a lot of coffee, sobbing, and hitting my head against the keyboard.

If you’re a writer, are you a pantser or a plotter?

 

Five Reasons to Love Fie

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Fie is one of my favourite characters that I’ve ever written.

Here are a few reasons why you should love him as well.

1. Beard. The Beard. His beard. Beardy bear of a man that he is.

2. His strength and courage facing his fears.

3. Did I mention the beard?

4. His love of pottery.

5. His relationship with Haggard, his service animal and best friend.

And a million other reasons.

Five Ways At War Surprised Me

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I’m a panster (I write by the seat of my pants, usually without a plan at all.) So, in a way, my stories always surprise me.  Here are a few ways that At War with a Broken Heart surprised me.

  1. MacFluff – Did not see him coming at all. I was a quarter into the story when I realised the novel was shifting into m/m/m.
  2. Davet’s uncle – the complexity of their relationship did catch me off guard a little. I had to make sure I got it just right.
  3. Condoms. You’ll understand when you read the novel. =)
  4. All the various familial relationships. There are a lot of complex emotions. I worried quite a bit about getting those the way I wanted.
  5. Fraco. I can’t give away too many details here. *spoilers* But the entire storyline around Fraco broke my heart and surprised me.

 

My Travel Bucket List

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As I’m working on my current WIP, Pure Dumb Luck, I’m thinking a lot about travel. Growing up, we travelled a lot. I’ve lived in five countries and visited well over twenty. But, I still have a bucket list of places I’d loved to visit–or revisit in some cases.

  1. Australia
  2. New Zealand
  3. United Kingdom
  4. France
  5. Norway, to visit my cousin.
  6. Alaska
  7. Singapore, even though I lived there for ten years. I’d love to visit again.
  8. Spain
  9. Canada (Vancouver and Prince Edward Island, especially)
  10. Japan

What’s on your travel bucket list?

How One Line Becomes Fifty Thousand Words

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I can’t speak for others, but my ideas come from a variety of places and almost always surprise me. At War with a Broken Heart was no different. It started with a song.

In my typical autistic way, I listened to Be Still by The Fray about a hundred times. I became obsessed. It even lulled me to sleep for months.

And then, from the vibe of the song, came a single line: “You broke me. You lost the right to put me back together.”

I had that line rolling around in my head for days.

It didn’t fit anything I planned to work on, so I jotted it down in an empty A5 Muji notebook (I use them for my book bibles.)

One line became a conversation.

“You broke me. You lost the right to put me back together.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Well, I hope it made you feel better to finally say the words. I still feel like shit.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You sent me to war with a broken heart.”

The characters hadn’t even been named yet. I didn’t know who said which part. Or if this would turn into a second chance romance.

It didn’t.

And then, Fie Morogh Russell came first. Beardy bear of a man who makes pottery. The painful, heart-breaking words were his. His character clung to my muse.

Very distract and annoying since I was working on a different novel.

Some characters make me work for it. I tug their secrets out like a dentist with a wisdom tooth. Fie flooded my brain with more information than I could handle.

I knew he’d gone to war with a broken heart and returned a shattered soul. He’d lost friends—and himself in many ways.

He hid away with his dog, his music, and his pottery.

But those words wouldn’t leave me.

And At War with a Broken Heart finally came to live with Fie, Davet, and Sid.

It’s amazing how one line of dialogue can spawn a fifty-something word novel.

Quoth the Raven

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(I was going to start this out with, these are a few of my favourite things. But now I’ve got that damned song from The Sound of Music stuck in my head.)

I wanted to share a few of the quotes on writing that I go to when I’m floundering.  This first one from Neil Gaiman is actually pinned on the board above my desk.

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“I am not at all in a humour for writing; I must write on till I am.” ~ Jane Austen

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ~ Terry Pratchett

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ~ Octavia E. Butler

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.” ~ Doris Lessing

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” ~ Neil Gaiman

 

Location, location, location.

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I don’t know how other authors pick locations. But here’s an insight into how I do it.

1. I’ve lived there (or at least visited.)

Some of the locations featured in my stories are places I’ve been which spoke to me in some way.

Windermere/Grasmere in the Grasmere Trilogy is a prime example. The Lake District, in general, is one of my favourite places in the entire world. If I could live anywhere, it would probably be there.

2. Plot Led.

Found You is probably the greatest example from my books. I knew the story had to be set in Florida. The Keys was honestly the only place that would fit what I had in mind for the novella.

And, I fell in love with the Keys while researching for Found You.

CHICKENS!

3. My Bucket List.

Last, but not least, I pick places I’ve always wanted to visit. When I was younger (6 weeks old to 21 years old), I travelled quite extensively. I’ve been to twenty plus countries and lived in five.

I’ve always had a little bucket list of places I wanted to go. And hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to travel again. It’s been ages since I visited another country.

The Sin Bin is the best example of this one. Cornwall is a place that I’ve always wanted to spend a lot of time at. I think we went there when I was a baby, but I obviously can’t remember, so I don’t count it.

Researching the series was great fun for me because I got to vicariously live in the lovely villages that I’ve longed to see.

I’m sure there are more reasons, but those are definitely my top three.

How about you? If you’re a writer, how do you pick the setting of your story?

For readers, how important is the setting?