Category Archives: time to think

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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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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Getting into Character

I find myself this week back in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco and then climbing the dizzying heights of Pacific Heights and down to Pier 39. Contrasting neighbourhoods. No I have not jetted off to the states again (more’s the pity) but am back in the minds of Frank and Richard in the next novel. It’s already had a fair polish but needs some overhauling and the ending is in my head but not on a page. So here I am back there. What these characters are telling me is I know Frank’s voice really well (ex con, hard but soft) and Rich is more of a challenge as he is a bit of a bumbling prof recovering from a mental breakdown.

So for me to be suddenly back with these guys feels like a real treat. I have done a lot of work on this one but now I think it’s time to get to sorted. It’s pacey and psychological this one, darker too.

Because I’ve been to San Francisco a few times, one in particular on a fact-finding mission for this book, I feel more comfortable than perhaps I Am Wolf where I have never been to Alaska or Moscow. One of things we did in San Francisco five years ago (see I said I had been working on this for a while) was walk in Golden Gate Park, ride the amazing carousel that is in the novel and wonder where a body might be found near the carousel. Yep really. But what you can’t capture from Google earth are smells and the feel of the place. So I also had my notebook and asked what scents I could pick up on — get a feel for the place in the early morning. What I love about San Francisco is the fog, very atmospheric, right?

So I must leave you now to get back into character. While Frank has his issues — and so does Rich although I think your sympathies are with him from the get-go, Frank is the likeable rogue  and so I hope all of that comes across. Well — I will have to make sure it does. Being a writer is like being a character actor.

 

AlcatrazIsland

Have a great Wednesday, y’all!

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Looking back with a smile, looking forward with expectation …

Happy Christmas from The Jet-Set!

Happy Christmas from The Jet-Set!

 

Christmas has always been my favourite time of year and it seems to have taken ages to come this year. I guess with all the excitement of the book launch I already felt as if I’d had Christmas!

It’s been a whirlwind of busyness and now finally after working my little socks off I sent some work off and can sit back and relax for a few days with the family.

I see Christmas and New Year as a time to restore the default settings. The same way I have a day every week when the house is cleaned and the messiness of the week is restored to its rightful place to welcome in a new week, and perhaps the same at the end of the month, but paying myself too so finances are restored. And so the big one is the end of the year — when we all take stock and I get out my new journal and look at my list of goals.

I love the pages in a new diary and the look of a new calendar. I like to write what I have achieved as if I have. It’s something I leaned from The Secret. I wrote a press release announcing my success in finding a publisher long before it came true and I was able to use it!  Now the focus is bestseller, but that’s where word of mouth has to come in and where I need all of you!

For the last few years I have told myself soon — soon someone will want to publish my novel and it finally happened. And what a year 2013 has been — in every sense. And it started right at the beginning of 2013, early January when I had a message on my answer-phone from Parthian Books asking me if my novel was still available. Then it was the waiting game. March 11th was the day I started to dance and have not stopped. It was the day they said we love it and we want to publish it! The very words I had on my wall on one of my positive affirmations.  It was not so long after that I learned about being on the short list for the Commonwealth and then WINNING the Bath Short Story award.

This year I have also been published in three collections as well as having one of my stories in a literary journal.

It will be a hard year to beat, but I’m gonna try. Oh yes.

Of course you can’t expect that every year and I know it will be business as usual when I try to find an agent and a publisher for the next one — but onwards I go. Always believe. Always do what you love, and always celebrate every success, no matter how small. BUT dream BIG. And I do.

This year has seen much sadness in the world, but then what year has not? And Christmas is also a time that reminds of me the dawn chorus — when we have a roll call and remember those who did not make it this year and those we have lost in the past. So for us there will be tinges of sadness, but in all of that you must make sure there are plenty of places for the light to get in.

People live in unrest and war and every day can be a struggle so I am so so so grateful for the life I have. I mean this morning the only thing to irk was a  2-star review, and while my writing is my world,  in the great scheme of things, what is that but a blip, right? I am so thrilled with the response from my novel. I knew the run of 5 stars would not run forever but it interested me this morning to see someone say they thought Lydia was the most boring character ever and had far too much padding so they glossed over a lot of her parts. Then they missed the real crux of the story I guess. But we all have different tastes and you can’t please ’em all. I will accept her opinion with grace. Of course Lydia to just about everyone else is the character they truly loved and couldn’t wait to get back to and the reason we return to her at the end. But if you don’t like books that err on the literary side for depth of character, then I accept opinion is opinion. At least she bought the book.

In the great scheme of things this is what you have to expect in the arts — so long as people don’t think it’s badly written as that would hurt — and for what it’s worth, it’s not. Honest.

So I went to a lovely carol service last night at the church and I think this is the first Christmas in a long time when I have thought about the real meaning. I’m not religious. I am spiritual, however, and while I find it hard to believe in what I can’t see, I think like so many of us, I want to. And I have to say I really enjoyed the service. No matter what you believe, a time to look back and be THANKFUL and to gather close to those you love (and think about those you’ve lost) can be no bad thing, right? And it was all by candlelight.

So I look back at this amazing year with a HUGE smile and my heart does that flippy thing as I look forward to 2014 and write down what will come true then. It will be a GREAT year. BRING. IT. ON.

I will be having a rest from blogging for a week or so to just enjoy ‘being’ and relaxing with the family. So I want to wish everyone who has stuck by me, read my ramblings and listened to me talk endlessly about bookish things and indulged in some glorious self-promo — a truly WONDERFUL Christmas and a SUCCESSFUL 2014, in every sense.

See you soon. Debz x

This was a great year. You wait till you see what next year brings!

This was a great year. You wait till you see what next year brings!

 

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Kindles, tablets and eBooks … we all disconnect when we connect

This year they reckon one of the most popular Christmas gifts will be some form of tablet and I don’t mean Alka Seltzer, although that might be equally apt.

I remember a discussion connected to the Commonwealth Writers last year about children who did not have access to running water but did have phones, and access to eBooks which almost felt as if the basic human right to education was more important than water.  Maybe the need to escape into eBooks is a good thing? While kids these days, and perhaps not only kids, spend more time looking at a screen than engaged in real conversation, I do wonder if perhaps we think we can’t live without tablets more than we think we can’t live without water. But I think you’ll find you won’t get as far without water!

We live in an odd world now and while humans do and probably will continue to mistreat the planet, hurt animals, chop down forests, murder one another, escape in one way or another, be it chemical, the latest gizmo or both, I wonder if this really is progressive or if like evolution we could stop it even if we wanted to?

But progress we do. And with that comes this mentality that we can have it all and we can have it now!

YouTube, Reality Shows, eBooks have the power to make ‘celebrities’. If someone says you’re no good at something or need to work on it you can do it yourself. And lots do. And sadly this also includes some (and once again I say this cautiously) some writers.

There are a ton of books out there, so how you do discern what’s really good and what’s not if it’s all out there, at the touch of the fingertips?

And we can all also offer opinion and anything and we do.

Sometimes I wonder if I like the way the world is hurtling into one huge tablet (God at the other end?) but like I say, what can you do?

I have written a few stories that make statement to the way we live now, including The Theory of Circles that was nominated for the Pushcart. It made me consider this idea of how we can feel as if we need that connection to everyone (even strangers), judge ourselves by the number of followers and retweets, how many LIKES we have, and yet, is any of that real? Hell you can even buy likes! So what odd mental problems are we creating for the future? Fear of rejection based on unfollowers on Facebook? Someone sits in a doctor’s office and says that’s how it all started?  But I didn’t mean to murder my child, I thought it was their avatar in the game we’d been playing? Now the lines between fact and fiction are more blurred than ever!  (I have a story about this too, one that takes Ray Bradbury’s short story The Veld in The Illustrated Man into the next century.)  It seems this need to be connected to everything all at the same time — and yet who are really connected to? Nothing? We disconnect from reality to connect to something else? Aren’t we all doing that now?

A million likes on Facebook or someone to hold your hand in your hour of need? Now there’s a question for the 21st century.

I guess most of us would say we have both kinds of friends — the best of both worlds? Now I don’t diss the social network sites, indeed I am part of them. But is this the future Orwell saw? Is this the stuff the Sci-Fi writers predicted?

Does this make us more connected or less?

How many of you long to switch off, to disconnect and yet you don’t —  is it fear, habit or something else that has you checking your phone every two minutes — come to think of it … where’s mine? Hell, where is it … panic, can’t breathe, what am I missing? Oh phew — there it is. Big sigh.

Don’t laugh. We all do it.

So what monsters have we made of ourselves?

Don’t we really want to disconnect, or is that the same thing as having no water?

At least we have a good book to read on a phone until the water runs out.

Oh and please do download my book on Kindle before that happens.

Paper! Lovely paper ... eBook, lovely eBook? Which will it be?

Paper! Lovely paper … eBook, lovely eBook … Which will it be?

 

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Glowing in the Limelight

A little later than usual this morning as got up and got on — lots done early, mainly house cleaning!

But here I am. I’ve had a crazy few busy days since I came back but three big crits successfully delivered and can now just write today and look forward to my visit from Lee’s parents and my trip back to Essex tomorrow. I have other work lined up too so will get to that before Christmas but nice to relax a little and do what I love the most — WRITE!

I will keep this post short and sweet and leave you with the link from my interview in Glow Magazine!

GLOW

Enjoy!

Keep on LIVING THE DREAM GUYS!

Keep on LIVING THE DREAM GUYS!

 

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The Glorious City of Bath

Winning the Bath Short Story Award (BSSA) this year has to be one of the big highlights. It knocked my socks off to actually win something and with a story  that had some very personal meaning. It seemed other people got it, it resonated on some level and isn’t that what being a writer is all about? So this is a great feeling when you make that connection. Thanks BSSA for choosing Learning to Fly –– read it here! LINK

Jude, one of the BSSA ladies, also wears another hat, that for Writing Events Bath, so when she knew I work with developing writers and my novel was out this month, she invited me to run a workshop on writing a psychological thriller at the wonderful Mr B’s Bookshop. And I love psychological thrillers, and while While No One Was Watching isn’t exactly that, it is kind of and I call it that if I have to pigeon-hole it and of course it uses many of those devices that tap into the psyche. I  grew up reading and being influenced by such books! So I loved putting this workshop together — a pig in literary mud!

And so last week Mum and I did something we never do, we left Dad in charge of the pooch and took a little trip to Bath, and the Hilton Hotel. And what a treat we had!

This time last week in fact we were  getting ready to set off to the station, although sadly it seems like ages ago now! Want to do it again! Want to do it at lots of hotels and places! Anyone else want to hire me? He he …

The hotel, although not quite as aesthetic to look at as the other Bath buildings, is lovely and central and a very short walk to Mr B’s although we did take a rather convoluted route because the girl at the hotel wasn’t sure! But we found it and around the corner at 3,30 we also found Halls and Woodhouse, the cafe where we were kindly treated to afternoon tea by the lovely ladies from BSSA. So nice to finally put faces to names, I met Jude, Anna and Jane and from Writing Events Bath also Alex.

We had a lovely chat about all things writing and enjoyed the delights of an afternoon tea. Then we relaxed on the sofas before it was time to go to Mr B’s ready for the workshop.

 

Writing Events Bath

Jane (BSSA), Debz (some writer apparently) and Jude (BSSA and Writing Events, Bath)

I had not run this particular workshop before, with a specific genre, but as I pointed out good writing is good writing and many of the things we talked about relate to any genre — good characterisation, motivation for action, sharp narrative etc. However I did focus it on what a psychological thriller is, where it fits in the context of other thrillers and the premise of many of these novels. I will do a blog post about this as I think many would find this interesting.

We had a couple of writing exercises, one writing an opening scene or blurb to see if we could capture the essence of a good psychological thriller. And after the break we wrote a scene with tension, after a discussion of narrative devices.

We finished with a Q&A and I even signed copies of my novel, in fact we ran out of books.

People were lovely and many said it had been very helpful 🙂 I hope that what I showed was that it can be done, we can get published if we work at the craft.

I have sat through many workshops and so I did what I thought I would want from a good workshop, it needs to be two-way, interactive and they needed to know I do know what I’m talking about (most of the time!).  So it helps that I work with lots of writers and I know the common errors! And that my novel was published of course!

I had a lovely time! And am so pleased some of the writers that took part have have found me on Twitter and said they’re enjoying the novel and loved the workshop! Phew!

The following day we did a spot of sightseeing in Bath, the tour bus, the Jane Austen Centre and of course some shopping! Although I bought very little.

A nice meal in the hotel that evening, and  then we relaxed in the room.

The following morning at breakfast, who should walk in but Ade Edmondson, who had been performing with his band in Bath that night. I didn’t disturb his breakfast but I was tempted to ask him if he wanted a copy of my book! I didn’t of course!

So here are some pics guys! I wish I was still there now!

 

Bath Abbey (1)

 

 

Bath Abbey (2)

 

That writer person again, who does she think she is?

That writer person again, who does she think she is?

 

Off to talk to the lovely writing group at Canvey Library this afternoon and you can hear me on Sarah Banham’s show on local radio Saint FM from 7pm, here’s the link: SAINT FM

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