Category Archives: The Writer’s Imagination

Plots, Sequels and Radio Interviews!

Well, what a lot has been achieved this week… lots of plotting and planning. Four hours each morning with a notebook and I think I am about ready to start my sequel to one of my novels on Monday. Yay!

I have blogged about many things on here, mostly writerly, but not on plotting and ‘idea brainstorming’. I don’t think you can force ideas to come, you have to let them show up. Sometimes they march in without knocking and plonk themselves down in front of you. Here I am! Other times they whisper as you sleep or drift in and out like a tide that you can’t hold onto, you have it, you don’t. It’s a tease until you grab it and hold onto it like a wriggling cat until it settles on your lap.

This week has been enlightening. And it’s been exciting. You just never know who or what is going to show up. The good news is that for all its convolutions and complexities that have to be part of this novel to make it a good sequel, the ideas have come mostly pretty well formed and the new characters even told me their names! I am getting to know them now! While I never planned it this way, I have ideas for the two books that will make this a trilogy — and scope for more later. I had not planned to ‘plan’ the third book but since there is this thing called ‘foregrounding’– the legwork for the next one, i.e. the planting of the seeds — then it makes perfect sense. I now know how it all ends and what has to happen in the third one. I even have ideas for the names of the books. I am excited ❤

So how much do you plan?

Well, not too much. That said, if you were to see my notebook you would say I have it pretty much worked out, and I guess I kind of do. However, the true magic of writing happens when you allow your subconscious to guide you. Plots change. They change because as you write, things need to happen: pacing things! When you read a great novel and a chapter ends with one of those moments: another body is found, someone isn’t who you think they are — you know, ‘the unexpected reveal’, well, I like to think it’s by magic. A lot of these, I think, are not planned. They just happen. I have had a character  walk in and make a statement and I’ve spent the next hours, maybe days, working out why and what it means. Truly. Something in me knew it had to happen, and every time it really was vital to the story, I just didn’t know it when I planned the book! See, magic! Writing is magic. You need to plot and plan, absolutely — but then you need to allow the magic in.

I can’t wait to get writing now.

And in other news…

Cover reveal!

My short story collection is out in July and I will be in conversation with Tony Fisher on BBC Radio Essex this very afternoon from 2 pm talking writing and short stories! Do tune in: here’s the link!

TONY FISHER ARTS SHOW

And, here it is… my cover. Me and my nan! Her photo was taken in the 1930s and relates to the last story in the book, the newest short story of mine 🙂

Because Sometimes Medium

Out July 2019

Launch Event, St Nicholas Church, Canvey Island, July 19th 7 pm, all welcome!

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Tunnel Vision

It was such a great week last week after the ‘new agent news’ and finally feeling as if I knew what I had to do next. So I found myself up and working at 5 am every day, after a break from that for a while, and fully in that zone: that fully immersive state we all relish if we can get in there! It does mean everything else falls away around you as you write, and some mornings I was aware of the hubby speaking until he probably realised I was not ‘in the room’ and off he’d go and next thing a coffee would plonk down beside my computer mouse. I have him well trained!

So edits under guidance completed along with new synopsis and off to my agent. I am now doing something I have never done before. Working out the plot intricacies of a sequel! I had always intended a sequel to this novel (not saying which one yet) but had not quite worked out what would happen. I spent three hours at 5 am scribbling and thinking. I am not there yet but something is slowly emerging! I often find I need to look the other way for a while to see it clearly as if plots like to take shape just out of shot. My mission for this week is to get something together and find my EUREKA plot moment when I realise what it has to say. And to be ready to start writing it!

Writing is a process of many stages.

  • Planning: advice? Never force it; let it come when it wants to, just nudge it along as I do not recommend waiting for your muse either.
  • Writing new material: is the really exciting part and my fingers get a buzz when I am in that zone. I think that is probably the most exciting phase. This is when the true magic happens and often things you could not have planned!
  • Editing: I relish because it helps your work to take shape and become something so much better than that first draft. And if you are lucky enough more magic creeps beautifully in 🙂

 

Many many rounds of edits later it might or might not be ready but it has to reach a point when you MUST let it go and if you have been working on the same thing for too long — rest it and write something else. We can get too close to it. My advice for anyone wanting a career as a writer and intending to find an agent and a book deal needs to let one novel go and work on a new one, especially when new to it. Get a critique, get solid editorial feedback and learn how to improve — but when you have reached that point know when to rest it and work on something new, taking those newly acquired skills with you. Agents want you for a career, not a single book. My fourth novel was the one that was finally deemed good enough to find a publisher.  But nothing is ever wasted because you have something to later work on.

So that is me, just wanted to pop by to report in mid-editing a manuscript for a client!

That is all. Happy Writing! Happy Week!

Books HD

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Short Journeys

I have talked about short stories before and how important they have been to me on this journey to become ‘real writer’… that makes me think of Pinocchio I want to be a real boy… 

I think, all too often, we tend to overlook the short story form, assuming that the real success and I guess therefore the real creativity and even the real money is to be made from the novel that becomes the bestseller that becomes the Hollywood blockbuster… and so on. But short stories have also been made into movies you know. And besides, not all short stories want to grow up to be movies, do they?

I always talk about how I ‘cut my teeth’ as a writer working on the short form, and how important this was for me in terms of developing my style and honing my craft and I have spurts now of still writing short stories and sending them out. When I did that earlier this year I had three successes and two of those placements has resulted in a publication; one of which is now available to pre-order, I was runner-up! So I thought I would share a short extract of that as a teaser with some links…

Thinking in Circles

In order to understand something, we must exist outside it.
We are all made of numbers.
Aged 13, Size 8 shoes, Form 5, the 14.35.
We are all on a journey to somewhere from somewhere else with
our eyes half-closed.
And sometimes we get stuck.

You are standing there. Head tucked down; reminds me of a
penguin. The strap of your big blue school bag cuts across your blazer
and it’s as if there’s a thread attaching your head to your shoes. Not
shiny new shoes. These are scuffed, end of term Clark’s one-size-too-small
shoes; they didn’t buy new shoes. Because of what happened
over the summer.
It’s the thing – the thing no one will want to talk about – but they
will talk about it. They’ll whisper. They’ll pretend they’re not talking
about it.
People say bad news is always better when it happens to
somebody else but even when it happens to somebody else,
sometimes it’s happening to you.
You shuffle last year’s shoes to the front; to the desk you used
last year. And the year before. And the year before that. Soon they’ll
all come in and sit where they always sit and nobody will ask. But
they’ll all know.

They’ll all know because it was in the Echo. It was in the Echo
over the summer. Shock had filled up the kitchen: a line of uttered
Oh Gods.
In the sound you were sure you heard something break.
Not like a snap. Not like an ornament shattering into a million
pieces. Not like that. And not like the jolt of something stopping
suddenly, because that happens all at once. This was like a slow
unpicking along the seams.
It happened because of what happened over the summer. It
happened to your dad when he went quietly mad and your nan had to
move in.
It was in the Echo. Everyone knows. About the thing – not your
dad going quietly mad, or your nan moving in. About the thing. The
thing that happened over the summer.

The train left London at 14.35. The name on the front said
Southend Victoria…

© Debz Hobbs-Wyatt 2017, With Our Eyes Open, Published by Bausse Books October 15 2017

The book is available now for pre-order as an eBook and a paper version will follow in tine for Christmas! I will share the link again!

With Our Eyes Open

Order me…

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Friday Writing Prompt

Inspired by my talk last weekend, and thinking about the close interaction between fact and fiction, here’s a prompt for you.

Take a key moment in history; so something that ‘literally’ stopped the world, not just your world, so let’s say, as is the case in my novel, the death of a president, maybe 911, Diana’s death, Elvis… ? and then write a short piece of ‘alternative history’ as if it never happened. So you will need to use fictitious characters perhaps or make it a memoir piece where the event affected you, but now let us see what happened if something else happened instead… So, for example, JFK Airport used to be called Idlewild and, in fact, this is the name of Mark Lawson’s alternative history novel, if Kennedy had not died as he did and make him the icon he is, would the airport still be called that? In fact, that is the case in this novel; Kennedy is still alive years later. Perhaps juxtapose what might have happened with what did happen, so some of you might even want to write two versions…? I will leave that to you! Allow your imaginations to run wild… and not be idle! See what I did there 🙂 Groan!

Happy Writing!

Happy Weekend!

Happy Being YOU!

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In The Zone… again

Last night I was interested to see in BBC4’s The Brain that many of our day to day activities are not under our conscious control. As we learn and develop new skills, continuous daily action hardwires the brain and brings about physical changes. So patterns that seem to require a lot of skill initially and fire up a lot of neurones, become fixed established brain patterns. This is why things like learning to drive can be challenging but once established and fixed in the brain, you can do it without thinking about it.

It’s how we move so apparently effortlessly, it’s how we do just about anything that we do a lot!

They talked about being ‘in the zone’ where time loses meaning and we just do things, seemingly on autopilot. I love this idea of how our brains get physically changed by things we do all the time. Mum thinks when I work I read fast, when I don’t think I do, but I am guessing since it’s my job I read faster than her and I also spot things I would never have spotted once by training myself to look for errors and incorrect spacing etc.

As I sit here now typing I barely look down at the keys and yet I was never taught touch typing but when it’s something you do every day and have for so long it’s amazing how competent we become.

I think losing myself in the creative flow is the thing I love the most about my writing life. I have struggled a little to capture the beating heart of the new novel but now I know what it is telling me it wants to be I am excited. It’s a process and one that once immersed in becomes a real joy. I wonder which part of my brain has been changed to accommodate the new story and its new characters. I wonder if fictitious characters create neural pathways of their own and implant memories that while not real in the usual sense, are real never the less. Are these pathways any different, I wonder, to real memories?

 

I will leave you with that thought as we draw closer to the weekend. I am adding model to my CV this weekend as I have been asked to take part in a charity fashion show, for my sins! I did think when they asked me to help that I would be needed to proof fliers or the like, but no they meant model the clothes! Now I have never seen myself as a model I have to say and I did say no repeatedly until I had no choice! It’s all in a good cause and I do not intend to strut my stuff on the catwalk (and yes there is one apparently!) too seriously! Me? Come on.

See you next week folks and thanks for reading!

brain

 

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When the self-doubt creeps in…

I was asked how I dealt with doubt. How I dealt with writing something and then thinking it’s pants and wanting to abandon it. What should you do?

Great question from Daniel.

How do we deal with doubt?

Well, self-doubt is another part of process, trust me — and before we start having regular acceptances and even when we do, we all doubt in our ability. We might have friends, writing groups etc.saying this is great but nothing we do finds the work the validation we seek and it’s tough. So there is doubt in a general sense and since rejection is part of process all you can do on that one is to keep writing and keep getting advice — and keep writing. Oh and keep writing. Work through the doubt much as you work through the pain of exercising on top of aches and pains from yesterday’s exercise! It does get easier as you shape up the muscle!

But how about when you are in a project, something like a novel that seems to be going well and then you think — this isn’t working. Start over?

It’s a hard one. I don’t tend to abandon short stories or novels, but I do leave them to rest if they really don’t feel as if they’re working, right now at this time. And often something happens that makes me go back and then usually the distance from it  enables me to see what direction it wants to take. But there are a couple of older short stories I probably won’t go back to. Sometimes you really do have to let go. But if that inner part of you says this is a great premise, worth fighting for, go back and you might be amazed what happens.

The trick is being discerning enough to know something won’t work and time to say bye-bye and knowing when it has that extra something that will get it noticed but either you are not ready to write it or it needs time to settle. And again I truly believe that writer’s instinct will develop the more you write and you will just know. I know I Am Wolf, my feral child novel, has something. I sense it. But I also knew it wasn’t holding together as it should, so when my agent told me what I knew, it proved my instincts were correct. I won’t abandon it, I will allow it to sit and I know when I do come back to it I will find a way to fix it.I just know it is a story that needs to be told. I just need a way to make the reader connect to Amy. She needs time in rehab and then I will go back to her.

Self-doubt has crept in recently with Isle of Pelicans as I still fear the plot isn’t quite there and has challenged me the whole way. So I want to get this draft down (that is always a good feeling) so I can rest it and work on something new now and then come back to it. But I will come back to this one.

What helped me last week deal with doubt was writing a completely new short story that refueled by obsession with writing and it worked. If you haven’t written a short for a while you have this crazy notion you have forgotten how. I know it sounds insane. So now I feel better and the story has been subbed.

Allow stories time to rest and reexamine, but if in doubt write something new. And if it really isn’t working, know when to let go. Nothing is wasted because it’s all part of a long but rewarding process and patience is essential for a writer.

But don’t keep starting one thing and then abandoning it for another or you won’t finish anything. If you get to that stage, take a complete break and don’t write anything for a short time. I don’t tend to do that, but I do know there are times when the words come and the stories work and other times when they don’t. IT’S NORMAL!

Well as normal as life can be for those of us who live inside our own heads!

This is very apt.

Self doubt

Whatever you do — don’t give up!

HAPPY THURSDAY ALL!

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When truth is elusive

Lots of thoughts buzzing this weekend as I made preparations for my talk at the Rochester Literary Festival in ten days’ time. When I wrote While No One Was Watching I realised more than any other work, that truth is not something absolute and is defined by context. Yet we would tend to believe truth is a defined thing: a fact or belief  about something known to have happened. And the lie is considered a deliberate distortion of truth. But when truth is open to interpretation and is in fact really only in the mind of the believer, and a lie is only really a lie if a deliberate act, then is there such a thing as absolute truth?

When it comes to the Kennedy assassination, the quintessential conspiracy theory, truth is perhaps even more elusive. How do you know what  to believe when you have credible books by experts, equally convincing, but saying the exact opposite thing. Is what we believe weighted by how many books we read that say lone assassin versus how many say conspiracy — is that a known entity defined by how many books are actually out there and is that a figure biased by what people actually believe — or is what we think just how many books we happened to read? #random? I mean you can’t read them all? My science brain is kicking in, having worked in research so I know how many credible sources you need to say something might be probable and the errors through biased reading before you even examine the credibility of the source and author bias — I mean, even ‘factual’ books are little more than opinion a lot of the time, not absolute truth.

So I realise that there is truth in history, the known facts — Kennedy was assassinated at 12.30pm CST, on 22nd November 1963 in Dallas Texas as we rode in his motorcade, by gunshot wounds but even when I go to write from an assassin’s bullet I realise we are not moving away from absolute truth — how many assassins? The placement of the apostrophe suddenly becomes significant. So now we enter the realms of speculation and conjecture. Probability in fact!

I amassed huge amounts of information when I did my reading for While No One Was Watching. Huge. Far more than I needed, given the assassination is a catalyst for action and yes it is integral to plot but it is not an assassination novel per se. But the scientist in me has to have all the details. But truth remained elusive. The ‘factual’ books nothing more than conjecture. And while historical novelists receive critique from historians for their ‘bad version of history’; it’s a novel, by definition it’s ‘fantasy’ ; the author executing ‘creative license’ and since it means no one really knows which part is real and which is fantasy, I propose the novelist creates their own version of truth.

Stephen King claims that ‘Fiction is the truth inside the lie.’ I like that. I like that a lot. The novel is, in its purest form ‘made-up’. But, as in my novel and just about most novels you’ll read, it still needs some facets of reality to work. In my case, fact and fiction are woven together so tightly in places you can’t see the join! So the fiction writer is not so much the fantasist but the creator of a different type of truth. The truth of the story and the role of the fiction writer is to make the reader believe.

A recent psychological study said that the way we read fiction and non-fiction is different. We tend to be far more critical about non-fiction. And if we are emotionally engaged and immersed in a story — we are far more likely to believe it. And indeed the writer of the novel has failed if their reader does not believe it, right? The rules are the rules the reader has created; an un-truth in reality, look at the alternative history novels like Mark Lawson’s Idelwild, Kennedy didn’t die that day but the reader will believe that as the ‘truth’ inside the lie — right? Of course they know here he did die. But what if the fictional elements are more subtle than that, a possibility the reader hadn’t considered before that changes his view about the historical truth?

Lydia Collins in my novel is psychic and even friends who confess to initially having reservations about a ‘psychic’ narrator, said by a page or so in they found her beguiling as a narrator and believed every word. So I did what I was supposed to, right? Phew. But what about my suggestions about what really happened that day at the grassy knoll?

So there lies the crux of the question I pose at my talk, this being the case, where the factual elements and the fictional ones are so close together, will my readers also believe, if even for a fleeting moment, that there really was a little girl called Eleanor Boone who disappeared from the grassy knoll and it had to be a plot to kill Kennedy or why else is she still missing?

The question therefore is: Do fiction writers affect what we believe about history?

What do you think? What films/books/plays etc. used real  events and changed what you believed about the real event? (Even if it wasn’t actually true.) I would love to know … for my talk! Please email me or reply to this post! writer@debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk

Have a great day everyone.

Don't forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent!

Don’t forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent! BOOK 

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