More about me- frequently asked questions
Q: How do you plot out your stories before you write?
A: Writing a story is a bit like weaving. You choose a certain number, type and color of different threads (your characters) and start interweaving them. You do this by having them talk, interact and do things which affect each other. The more threads (characters) I have, and the more complicated the pattern (plot), the more I plan it out before I begin writing. Otherwise the book would be quite a tangle by the end and I'd spend ages unraveling it all during editing. If I'm writing something short with no subplots, than I might do no written planning at all.
I write down any ideas for stories in a large notebook I have for the purpose as they come to me. I usually have a name for the book before I start, or soon after. The right title seems to help mould the story together and give a consistent feel as I work on it.
All my stories start off as an idea consisting of a main setting, i.e. a shire in medieval England, and the protagonist plus the second most important character. This second character's interaction with the main protagonist will drive the plot along and create much of the conflict, so they are just as important as the main protagonist. In addition, my initial idea will have a main plot goal. This goal is shared by the main protagonist and my second character, and this brings them together despite their other conflict. In The Heart of Darkness, this goal is finding out what happened to the missing girls and catching the felons. The plot goal is usually very general at this point.
The story will also have a mood of its own. It might be spooky and gothic, humorous and misadventure-filled, or poignant and searching. I have the action in the first few chapters planned out before I begin, and I often have various scenes planned too. But after the first few chapters, the plot develops fairly organically. When I have my main characters and enough scenes, and am feeling the mood of the story strongly, I start. I don't have the ending worked out, although if there is a romance I will normally know if they are going to end up together. I never know who did the crime until well on in the book. I generally do not create Minor characters before writing. As I work, they often just pop up there and then, perfect and fully formed.
Q: How long does it take you to write a novel?
A: It depends on how long it is, how complicated it is, and on whether it is the only thing I'm working at. Beguile Me Not started out as a short story, but just grew like Topsy and a few months later it was a novel of almost sixty thousand words! On the whole, I'm a fairly fast writer. I write quite clean too, so it is tidy and does not require major editing at the end. I think it's harder to sort out something that has serious things wrong with it than it is to write it in the first place. But I do spend quite a bit of time going over details that, although small, are important. Some scenes I go over and over, tinkering until they are just right.
Q: What is your writing routine?
A: I don't have any fixed routine. If I'm returning to something after a break of a day or more, I will usually read some of what I have already written before starting up. Otherwise, I simply turn on my computer and start writing. My main preparation for writing is imagining it in my mind. I will do this for all the major scenes I write, sometimes quite a few times.
Q: Where do you get your ideas from?
A: One thing I don't do is sit around in cafes with a pencil and notepad! Only one of my characters has been based on a real person so far, and I'm not saying who or which. However, all of my characters are based on observations of human nature. I enjoy people-watching, and take a real interest in people and what they do, think and say. There are many places inspiration comes to me from, and it can include films, television dramas, plays, operas, novels, myths, children's books, poems, pieces of music, places I've been...the list is long; if you want to know more about it, go to my blog The Muse and follow it. I blog about artistic inspiration with a focus on creative writing.