I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes trying to come up with a blog post that people might find interesting, that won’t get me into trouble or trolled, or isn’t about my dog’s gastrointestinal reactions to the new dog biscuits we’re giving her (it can get quite ‘atmospheric’ in my study at the moment). I could write about my upcoming new book, but I want to save that for the next post. So, here’s a summary of the other things that have been going on at my writing desk lately.
I’ve completed three courses with the Australian Writers Centre: Copywriting, Content Writing, and Freelance Writing. I’m not quite sure where these might take my writing, but at the very least I’m hoping to get some more guest blog post gigs. I’ll let you know how that goes.
I’ve recently returned to my old website on Weebly. I’d moved to Wix and gone for a darker look, but the cost of renewing was more than I was willing to pay. Weebly had a good deal, and my website has had a revamp and is up and running. The bonus to returning is that my old blog is still there, so I get all of that back again! I did think about going to WordPress, but every time I’ve tried WordPress in the past it’s made me cry with frustration. Weebly is better. Weebly doesn’t make me cry!
I’ve been starting to gather more information about the FBI in preparation for re-writing the book I wrote last year. I don’t want to say too much, but it’s a new series I’m planning and I’m pretty excited. I’d love to go on a rant about the accusations being flung the FBI’s way right now, but I’m going to button my lip. I’ll let my stories do the talking.
That’s about it for now. Don’t forget—if you’d like to pre-order a copy of Focus, let me know! You can find out more about it HERE.
Over the weekend I attended an online writing conference, one of those that manifests as a series of posts or videos you can access at will. I dropped in on a few presentations, but there was one that gave me an epiphany of giant proportions. To explain I’ll need to take you back a bit…
First, a couple of definitions, in case you don’t know what these two terms mean.
Pantser: a writer who writes without a plan or plot outline, i.e. writing by the seat of their pants
Plotter: a writer who plots out the story before they start.
When I wrote Roses, I had no intention of letting anyone read it, let alone publishing it. I wrote it with joyous abandon, doing a chapter here, and then leaping forward in time and writing another chapter, and finally cobbling it all together into one story. There was no plot outline, no plan of where it would go, it just went.
Next up was Retribution. I finished Roses and almost immediately began writing the next book. Again, I started with no plot outline of idea of where it would go. I reached about the one third point and came up against a wall. I had no idea of where the story was going or what would happen next. So, I stopped pantsing and drafted a plot line for the rest of the book.
The next book was Seeing Red. This was another one like Roses in that I’d had the story developing in my head for a while, so I started writing with confidence. Then the wall again, followed by a plot outline.
And so it went for all books I’ve written since. Last year when I was writing I really struggled to get the creative flow happening and I vowed that in future I would spend time plotting an outline so that I would have something to refer to when writing. I wouldn’t get stuck any more. It seems logical and would allow me to let the creativity flow.
Then came yesterday’s session with Dean Wesley Smith. His presentation was called ‘Trusting the Creative Process: How to Write a Novel Without an Outline’. I was going to follow it up with another about creating an outline before you start, giving me both sides of the argument of Pantser vs Plotter. I really believed that plotting was the way for me to go, but I wanted to hear what Dean had to say. Also, Dean is the husband of another writer I follow, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who gives out great solid advice, so I knew Dean would be worth listening to.
Well. It was as though he’d been watching my writing process. He talked about how he starts without a firm idea and lets his creativity take over. He talked about hitting the ‘I don’t know what happens next’ wall and how he deals with it. And he said he writes like he is reading the book himself – he doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, and that it’s exciting to write that way. He believes that writers who prefer the pantsing style often hit the wall and give up without allowing their creativity time to come up with the next idea, or next sentence, out of fear. That panic that hits when you get stuck. His advice? Write one sentence. Then write another sentence. And your creativity will take it from there.
I listened to him at it felt like a huge load had been lifted. I like to be organised, but I’ve always found the pantsing style more exhilarating when writing. Writing seems to be the antithesis of the other aspects of my life. I like rules, schedules, and planning—except when I write. I think it’s healthy for me to be able to let go of the need to control things. It feels weird, but when writing, it feels right. It feels joyous. And now I use Scrivener for writing, I can be organised in terms of research, characters, and more – the best of both worlds.
Where to from here? I had already decided I wanted to rewrite large chunks of the book I wrote last year, changing the plot a little and the female protagonist a lot. In the spirit of pantsing, I’ve now archived the book in its entirety and I’m going to rewrite all of it. Okay, it won’t be true pantsing as I do know the basic plotline, but I guess that is now open to change as well.
No fear. Just write.
Do you ever want to say ‘to heck with it’ and just walk away from things? Life can be hard and discouraging. You know what you want, but there’s that wall in the way. The end goal is there, but you can’t work out how to get around/through/past the obstacles in the way? You can’t even really tell what the obstacles are at times. There’s a vague name that groups a whole lot of stuff together and you can’t sort it out to even begin to find a solution. Or someone offers advice that you know you can’t take.
I’ve been sitting at my desk in the study, browsing through Pinterest, looking for an answer to a question I can’t think of.
Yep, I’m trying to write. I can feel the urge to write—sort of—and I know what I can write, but it’s just not coming. Okay, let’s be honest. I could make myself write. I’ve done it before, more times than I can remember. Tonight? I opened the file, re-read the last few paragraphs, thought about what could happen next, and then stared at the screen for ten minutes before shutting it down and opening Pinterest.
I want to write, but not at the moment. I could make myself…and round I go again!
My characters are waiting for me to get on with it and tell their story. The characters in the next book are starting to put ideas in my head. And yet here I am writing about not writing, instead of writing. I procrastinate, thinking about how easy it would be to churn out the books if I was a full-time writer. Wondering how I could possibly find a way to do that. Ponder other income sources that would enable me to quit full-time work and become a writer with a side-business. Not that I would do that, because I have too many responsibilities and, quite frankly, the thought of giving up my nice, secure job terrifies me.
Back to square one. And I still haven’t added a word to the story I’m working on.
Ever wondered what it can be like to write?
Don’t get me wrong—I love writing. I love the incredible feeling I get from creating. But like everything else, there are ups and downs. That’s reality. And there’s always tomorrow. I will, in the end, get myself going. I always do. In the meantime, I will to ignore the frustration and cut myself a little more slack.
Time to check out YouTube.
Post script: Since writing this post there has been progress on the story. Not a whole lot, but it's happening.
I know people change as they make their way through life and sometimes the changes are more noticeable than others. Recently I made a comment to a friend about the changes I’ve seen in myself since I began writing. The change I talked about was how I pay more attention to people’s word choices. I seem to pick up on nuances by noting the choice of words they use. Not always a good thing as at times I wonder about what they mean when really it’s just a sentence and I’m reading more into it because of a word they used. I have to be careful how I interpret things and not become paranoid!
The conversation got me thinking about other changes I see in myself that I attribute to writing.
Man, have I allowed myself to give into my natural introversion! I’ve positively avoid social gatherings and I’ve had to push myself to get out and mix a little more.
Being bloody-minded (not literally - I mean the slang version!)
I’ve always had a stubborn streak and now I employ it even more. If there’s one thing about the writing life that has got up my nose it’s being told what I have to do. At first I listened to the advise and even tried to follow it at times, but now I do what I want, when I want, and how I want, and only seek advise when I need it. Even then I will listen and then go my own way!
This is a big one. I believe in writing from the heart and with passion, and because of this I have allowed my sensitive side full reign. This is great when I’m writing, but not so great when it comes to dealing with the real world. It’s not something I can just turn on and off, so things can get a little emotional at times. I refuse to squash it. It’s a part of me. I just have to deal with it as best I can.
Changing my mind
This is part of the creativity—letting myself change my mind about what I want to do and not beat myself up over it. I am quite goal driven and often have pushed myself to complete something before I start something new. This still happens, but when my mind craves a change, I will leave something mid-project and move onto a new one. Let’s be honest. I turn 50 this year and I don’t want to waste time doing something I’m not ‘feeling’ at the time. So I hit save, and move on.
It’s been a wonderful journey so far, with plenty more to come. If there’s one thing to note about the changes—that’s a real positive—it’s that all my research into crime and murder hasn’t changed me into something…a little more sinister. I’m still nice!
What a couple of weeks it’s been. I’ve launched a book that also completed a series and enjoyed a blog tour with The Code (thanks to everyone who joined in!).
So, what happens next?
Good question. I went back and looked over the goals I set myself for 2018 to realise—with quite a bit of surprise—that I’ve already met them! I’ve sent The Code out into the world, Writing Roundup is going along nicely, and I’ve done a course on book cover design. Not what I expected to find.
In which case, what DOES happen next? Perhaps I should put more effort into my reading list. Or maybe I should write some short stories with a view to publishing the anthology I want to do. Perhaps I could take a break from writing (as if!). I have a book awaiting editing and one I’m working on as well that could be next. Or maybe start a new story? The more I think about it, the more possibilities come to mind.
I guess taking a break is off the list then, or at least a complete break. I do feel the need to step back a little and give myself some space. Launching The Code was more emotional than I anticipated, and I also worry that if I push myself I risk taking the fun out of writing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing it’s that I need to do what feels right at the time. If I’m not writing from the heart, with excitement and joy, then it won’t work. I can push myself, and have done so in the past, but it doesn’t yield the best results (that translates to ‘requires a lot more editing’). It’s not worth it.
The conclusion? I’m going to take a few days to think and consider in an emotional way the options I have. One will stand out—one always does—and then I’ll be off writing again.
For those who missed out on the great posts that made up the book tour for The Code, here are the links, starting with a lovely review:
https://www.facebook.com/SJsBookBlog/May 6 (and on GoodReads - see below)
And the rest:
I’m not really sure where the idea for The Code came from. When I arrived at the end of Secrets Within I knew I had to write a book for Ryan, but the rest is a bit of a mystery. I know it started with the graffiti, but the ideas for the plot came slowly after that. There was a fair bit of staring into space as I mulled over different scenarios I could use. Some things can’t be rushed!
During the writing of Seeing Red and Secrets Within, I became familiar with certain areas of the New London submarine base. One of my tools for research is Facebook. I like to follow Pages that relate to the subject matter and came across the New London MWR Page (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation). There was information on programs run by the base library, located at the Dealey Centre on the base. It was the perfect central spot to set up the crimes—though I have taken a chunk of license with the actual library and surrounds. I had a setting, which did help with the plot.
One of the hardest things I found with writing The Code was keeping track of the plot—what clues there were at each step, the messages, even which day of the week it was. The story grabbed me and ran, and it was hard keeping up. I ended up with a chart of who, what, where, when, clues, etc, I could refer to. Imagine writing a scene where the three investigators were recapping and not being able to clearly remember the details! Once I had it mapped out it became so much easier.
I’ve really enjoyed writing the characters of Ryan and Alex. Ryan has been in the New London books from the beginning, but it was a joy to explore who he really is and bring him into the spotlight. Alex was as elusive to me as she was to Ryan in the beginning. Like the plot, it took time to reveal her personality and I loved her way of driving Ryan mad with her answers to questions. So much fun!
As I wrote in my blog post last month, it is a little sad to be finishing the series and leaving the characters. I satisfied I’ve left them all in a good place and I have so many other stories waiting to be told that I need to move on. It was wonderful to visit New London last year and tour the submarine museum located beside the base. I’d finished the book shortly before I left, and the stay in New London was a fitting way to celebrate the series.
If you have read the first two books, I hope you enjoy the final story. I’ve loved the journey of writing them, but now it’s time to move on.
It’s a topic that’s been on my mind over the last week or so. I’m preparing for the launch of my next book and it’s a real goodbye scenario—it’s the third and final novel of the New London books.
The series is wrapped up and I’m happy with the way things ended, but it is the end. I have no plans to write about the characters ever again and I feel a little sad. I know I can write about them at any time I want to, but when a story’s done, a story’s done. They will go on to lead their fictitious lives and I will meddle with another lot of characters fates instead. They no longer need me, or I them. I guess it’s hard to let go, just like friends when they choose another direction and you part, or the end of a particularly wonderful holiday. I’ll miss them.
There is also a large element of satisfaction. I have written a complete series—not a small thing to achieve. The New London books were unexpected. I knew I’d write Seeing Red, but I was adamant it would be a single, stand-alone book with no sequel. Adamant! And then come that scene in my head of Andrew sitting in his study and getting a call for help from Nell. So much for adamant. I wouldn’t have missed the journey with these characters and there are no regrets.
The final book will be coming out late April and I will make announcements and reveal the cover and story-line closer to the date. Stay tuned!
If you would like the news before it goes public, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter, Writing Roundup.
You know how people say it’s good to learn something new every day? Or the one about every cloud having a silver lining? I was debating which of the two best suited this post and I think both do. The silver lining on a metaphorical cloud can teach me thinks—useful things.
About ten days ago I woke up with a sore eye. Not terribly sore, but red and a bit teary. It became worse as the day went on, so I went to my doctor. After a thorough examination (if my eye wasn’t red before, it was after!) he diagnosed conjunctivitis. He suggested some drops to use, and I went on my way.
Two nights later, I was in bad pain. My eye burned and the upper lid and brow ached. It was as though I’d been punched—not that I really know what that feels like, thankfully. To cut a long story short, I ended up at an eye specialist who took a quick look and diagnosed Acute Anterior Uveitis. More drops, and I’m thrilled to say I’m healing.
And yes, there is a silver lining to this that I have learned from. I’m a writer and I can use the experience one day in a book (probably on a character I don’t like). I’ve learned what it’s like to have extreme photosensitivity (I still have my screen brightness turned right down), doctors poking around my eye, and the fear of damage to my eye causing vision loss. I spent a little time wondering how I would write if the worst happened. Please note I never gave one thought to work, driving, and generally seeing, just the writing (there are audiobooks, so I had reading covered). I learned something useful and turned it into a partially positive experience.
It’s a blessing in some ways to want to store up the information, sensations, and emotions that go with life. Perhaps not so much in the moment when there is pain, physical or emotional, but not all of life’s experiences are like that. I’m slowly getting a little treasure trove of information I can use.
Oh, and if you need the name of a good GP or eye specialist in Hobart, drop me a line!
I have a large collection of books I use when I write. I have books on poisons, forensic techniques, police techniques, real life anecdotes from FBI agents, legal guides, and so many more, and they have all come in handy from time to time. It seems whatever you need to learn about, there’s a guide available!
There are a few books I use regularly to check facts and learn how things work in real life. My favourite 7 are:
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigation
I bought this book as it had several reviews stating it is ‘more useful than private investigator course text books ‘. It covers a wide breadth of private investigation techniques and I use it regularly for the White Rose series of books.
7000 Baby Names
I need to introduce a new character, usually a minor one, and their name is….? A quick flick through my book of baby names and the problem is usually solved. Failing that, I turn to my Facebook followers who always come up with the goods.
Top 10 Washington DC (Travel Guide)
This is a handy reference with maps and general information. Need a restaurant for my characters to dine at? This has the answer.
Forensic Botany: A Practical Guide
This is an amazing book that explains the basics of forensic botany in terms that even I can understand.
Violence: A Writers Guide
An excellent resource for those, like me, who have never thrown a punch.
When that word on the tip of your tongue won’t appear or you’ve already used a word way too many times. This book has a permanent spot next to my laptop.
The Emotion Thesaurus
I may be able to feel what my characters are feeling, but putting it into words isn’t so simple. This book digs me out of that hole every time.
I have a lot of great resources I dip into when I’m writing, and I received another one for Christmas. It sits on my desk at my day job and feeds me information on a daily basis. Yes, you picked it, it’s a calendar.
The calendar is called ‘Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operatives Guide to Surviving Any Dangerous Situation and Being Prepared For Any Disaster 2018 Calendar’. Quite a mouthful, and quite a calendar!
Let me give you an example. Today’s page of the calendar talks about magnetic navigation and how to make a compass. Later in the week there’s information about crossing an enemies border. Even if I can’t use all the information in my writing, its entertainment value is huge!
Here’s a selection of the lessons I have coming my way this year:
Plenty of story inspiration in this lot…
And yes, I’m keeping the good ones for future reference.
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