Saturday, 21 February 2015

Plot & Character Development, oh and a forgotten FIVE letter word…

Sorry does seem to be the hardest word…for some.

When Elton sang those words, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” I don’t think he would have anticipated just how rare the word would become in the English language. Why is it, when people do wrong and do get caught red handed, they don’t hold their hands up, admit it’s a fair cop and say that underused word – SORRY? Just pause for moment and think of all the recent wrongdoings – Hillsborough, Rotherham, expenses, tax avoidance, and NHS problems – wouldn’t the world be a better place if we just held our hands up and said sorry. It may not make everything right but it would be a start and it is NEVER too late to start.

It totally sickens me that instead of saying sorry, some people try to cover up THEIR mistakes with abuse and blaming the victim. Even worse though are those people who decide to share their wrongdoing by bringing innocent people into the situation, who in good faith believe the lies because the person is so convincing or they don’t know the victim. People can be very persuasive and manipulative when they want to be. However, lies can only be sustained for a short space of time and ultimately the truth comes out. I’ve brought the boys up to understand that making mistakes is perfectly okay and part of growing up. As human beings we learn from our mistakes – or at least the majority of us do. BUT a lie or cover up is far, far worse than the initial mistake.

I found this article a while ago that might explain why some people find it hard to say that five letter word. It is worth a read. I don’t know why people can’t admit they’re wrong? I admit if I get things wrong – the boys will testify to that. I’m not immune to making mistakes but I will say sorry, if it is warranted.

Do yourself and human nature a favour – stop lying, stop hurling abuse, admit your mistakes, say sorry and move on. Quite often an apology is enough. If not legal action will rectify the situation. It really is not hard to say sorry.

Plot and Character Development

In writing, the part I struggle with the most is … CHOOSING NAMES. Pretty ironic when both my boys are named from the movies. Wesley is named after the cheeky character in Moonlight Bay and Lucas George – well I’m sure you can guess who he is named after! Yes, the formidable George Lucas who shaped and massively influenced my obsession with space exploration. I still get goose bumps when I think of the day back in 2001 when I stood on the viewing platform at Kennedy Space Center. Sorry, mind wondered there a bit. Anyway, my nickname is also R2D2, apparently because I have no legs – I do have but short ones!

Anyhow, I struggle with character names at the first idea stage. When I have a new idea, I need to scribble it down as quickly as possible. Menieres has resulted in my memory not being what it used to be so it’s important not to interrupt my thought process with trying to think of names. So at this stage, the characters become man1, man2, woman1 – you get the gist. Once the whole idea is formulated and on paper, I can go back through and take out what doesn’t work, add in new ideas and details, and add character names. The names are so hard – one of the villains in Beyond the Lies was originally Jimmy Saxon but there was already a James in the storyline so he became Tommy because it sounded a rogue name – sorry if I’ve offended any innocent Tommy’s out there.

When selecting names, I try to match the name with the type of character I want them to evolve into or if I need a multi personality character, I choose a name like Catherine so it can take the form of Catherine, Cath, Cathy, Kate or Katie. I have no idea if any of this is making sense or ‘normal’ but by now you know I don’t do ‘normal’.

The character names may change again once the rough draft is completed. This is because I may decide that the character has evolved into someone they were not at the initial ‘naming’ stage so I will change it if it is not right. I am sure you are reading this thinking does she ever finish writing and editing – yes I do, only when I am happy with the outcome. I am not afraid to put my work through the mill, I didn’t with Beyond the Past and that is a lesson learned.

Plot development is part contrived and part as it pans out. With Beyond the Past I had no plan, nothing. I just simply wrote. However, I am a planner. I’ve been organised all my life especially in my former life as an Insurance Broker. I have a professional attitude to writing and want to take it forward and learn. I love to learn. So I have now developed a system of planning and developing an early plot. To be fair, the plot CAN, DOES and almost certainly WILL change during the course of the first draft.

Plots and ideas can come from anywhere. For example, the plot for one of my books developed from driving to school one afternoon. I had been in the house and heard the sirens and helicopters but it is quite a common occurrence where we live – I don’t think it’s any different to anywhere else these days. Anyway, when I drove to school, an alleyway was cordoned off by the Police. Apparently someone had been stabbed. That got me thinking, what would happen if your DNA somehow was found in that alleyway and you had no alibi. Hence the start of an idea. By the time I had travelled one mile I had the twist and turns of a plot in my head. This was the occasion when I wrote the idea on the back of a Tesco receipt – I have small handwriting thankfully. Now I keep a notebook with me at all times!

As you can see, ideas can come from anywhere and develop into a plot line. From there, the character names are devised and the first, very rough draft begins. I’m actually writing two drafts at the moment – ambitious but I love both storylines and they are very different. I am also editing Beyond the Lies and marketing Beyond the Past. Busy but happy.

This week, I am more focused than ever and eager to move forward with my plans. I have lots of letters to write, meetings to attend and in between them I will be continuing to write. If you have ever fancied writing, have a go. What do you have to lose?

Have a great and safe week. Be kind, thoughtful and look after yourself. Don’t forget I’m here to chat, just use the links below:



Sunday, 15 February 2015

How do you write?

I know it’s been a good week when I have written my blog by Thursday and only have to edit it and post it on Sunday. I also have not one, but TWO new book ideas. How was your week?

I am always interested to learn how best-selling authors write, what their thought process is and what advice they give to aspiring authors like me. As you all know by now, I don’t do generic advice. We all are different and I LIKE DIFFERENT.


So how Do I write?

With a pen! And paper of course.


A book starts with a tiny little idea usually when I least expect it – in the middle of the night or driving or sitting outside school waiting for the boys. Driving has its obvious problems in scribbling down the idea! I’m always scared I will forget it before I get chance to put the idea down on paper – a curse of Menieres I’m afraid! In the very early days, outside school I have been known to write ideas on the back of Tesco receipts. Now I’m more organised and keep a notebook in the car and beside my bed.

Ideas can literally hit from anywhere – a conversation in a supermarket, a news story even a line from a singing I am belting out whilst alone in the car – yep, much easier alone than listening to the boys begging me to stop, whilst their ears start to bleed! Some of the ideas will never make print but some will absolutely develop into full blown stories. Two ideas this week have really caught my imagination – two at once! Like buses! I am equally excited about them so much so I’ve put other projects on hold to concentrate on these.

Synopsis and Characters

Once I have an idea, I scribble it down without character names using things like Man 1, Man 2, Woman 1. Girl 1 – you get the idea! This is because I can’t think of new names quickly enough to match the flow of the idea. Once I’ve written the draft synopsis, I go back and add the character names. By the time I have finished, I have a full written synopsis and character list. Then I can start my favourite part, writing the story.

The Draft

Drafts are rough and I mean VERY rough. I always write my drafts by hand. I write every day and sometimes all night too. The beauty of writing is being able to balance it between the boys’ needs although secretly I get very frustrated at having to break off for the school runs (shush don’t tell them!). I use the typing up of the rough draft as my first edit stage.

I can write anywhere – car, cafes, restaurants, at rugby training. I don’t mind noise, I switch off and get into the plot. In fact, people often complain I have ignored them but I simply haven’t heard them. Having tinnitus has helped me to zone out noises otherwise I would be completely insane by now, although I am getting there slowly but surely!

Once the draft is completed, I walk away from it for at least one month, maybe longer if other projects come along. Beyond the Past was written in nine months, it was my first. Beyond the Lies has taken longer due to other projects and marketing work. As I have become more comfortable with my style and my new life, and taken advice from greats like Stephen King, I do intend now to aim to complete the first draft in three months. There’s nothing like a challenge to motivate you.

Nothing is ever perfect first time – remember that. No one ever needs to see your first draft. However, I am keeping my very first drafts of all my novels so I can amuse myself in later life.


My books go through several edits before I even consider letting anyone see them, apart from my sister who has seen the manuscripts in their roughest form.

I am very self-critical and harsh. I am my harshest critic! At least four edits are done before submission:

-          General read through checking continuity and plot
-          Spelling/ grammar
-          Plot edit – add some bites of intrigue, delete insignificant parts
-          Fine detail edit
-          Final read through before submission
Only when I truly believe I have done the best I can do is it sent away. Oh, and I have my sister edit it too. 

I don’t care who you are and how critical you are, you still need a neutral pair of eyes.

Full details of my work can be found on my website

Links for Beyond the Past are on the top right hand side of this page.


How was your week?

This week, Wes went to London to an English Language conference. Armed with money, lunch and an anti-terrorist risk management strategy (I kid you not! Former Insurance Broker + neurotic mother + spy film addict = lecture!), he had an interesting time although the interest was not in the conference! Anyway he came back safe and sound and was not impressed by London at all! True Yorkshire Lad.

It was really heart-warming to hear how much a lovely, young lady is loving her new found interest in reading. She admitted she never realised how enjoyable it could be – a lesson for all of us.

This coming week is the half term break so I will work early, early mornings before the boys surface from their pits. I get more done in the school holidays. We play together but they have time to do their own thing and that is when I work. I am very lucky.

We are having a couple of days out in between jama days. We are going to see the Big 6 movie, I’ve heard it is excellent and then a day trip to the Bradford Industrial Museum. Lucas is currently studying Victorian Times at school so I thought I would take him as part of a holiday project we are doing. I haven’t been to the museum since I was at school, so I’m excited too. 

I hope you all survive half term, if it applies to you. Have a fabulous week and let me have your thoughts, I love receiving all of your comments. If you are thinking about having a go at writing – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

p.s. I've left the soapbox at home this weekend - so many news stories that have rattled me but best calm down first - so the PINK soap box may make its return next week.



Sunday, 8 February 2015

How do you read?

I was going to give writing the blog a miss this week. The easiest things in the world include sitting and agreeing with everything someone else says or allowing people to walk all over you without redress. I hope you all know me by now to know that is not me at all.  By sheer compliance you lose your own identity and principles. I have strong beliefs and will call out injustice and lies. That is who I am. Ann Williams of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign taught me that, along with standing up for your children.

Whether people like it or not is irrelevant really. I decided when I became a parent that, no matter what happened, I would always listen to my children and fight their corner if they needed it. I’m not perfect but I am really proud of the relationship I have with the boys and they tell me everything, and yes make me blush at times! Maybe some information a mother shouldn’t know!

There will always be critics, even more so if you put yourself out there BUT stand by what you believe in. Wes reminded me of this when he was faced with a harsh lesson of inequality this week and he handled himself admirably and with so much dignity. People can lie and they do. People can slate you and they do. So what? It’s because they don’t understand your journey and their journey doesn’t compare to yours. I will continue to fight for the lies that have been told to be uncovered and retracted. The only people that disagree are those that have lied anyway. Stand by your own beliefs and convictions and you won’t go far wrong.

The wheels fell off my week last week - quite literally as my car had to be returned to the garage a number of times resulting in lost working hours which was incredibly frustrating, especially when the work I had done was pre-emptive work before anything did go wrong. The old saying ‘don’t fix it if it ain’t broken’ certainly applied. I almost blew a gasket, I mean ME not the car! Anyway by Wednesday lunchtime I was back on the road and happy.

How do you read?

I’ve taken a break from writing this week to spend time with the boys and to read. I did update my website which you can view here. Since starting to write, I have read less even though advice to new authors suggests you should read more. The trouble is while I’m reading, I’m not writing and while I’m writing, I’m not reading. And on it goes…

I’d be interested to know if any other authors changed the way they read books after they started writing themselves. My reading experience has totally changed. Not the books I choose to read or authors but the way I read them. I now have a greater appreciation of what goes into creating characters, plots, sub plots, the drafting, the re-writing and then the editing. I had not appreciated the amount of work that went into one book before now.

  • I appreciate the language used and the simpler the language, the more the admiration. It is a true art to draw people into a story with very simple language
  • I love the character development and often think how the author came across the character. Was it based upon someone they knew? Did the nasty, evil characters start
    as that or did it develop later? When I started writing Beyond the Past I didn’t have a sinister character, by the end of it I had half a dozen!
  • I love the plot development and appreciate how hard it is to work that plot. I can see the pivotal moments and I do imagine if I had written the book, would I have thought of the same outcome.
  • I am always looking for an underlying plot.
  • Did the author write in the little clues and sub plots during the first draft or after they had written the ending?
  • If it is a Stephen King, James Herbert or John Grisham book, I try to imagine if they had to force the words out or did they flow out in the same way as they did when they began writing. Does the writing show they struggled?

Yes, I really do think of all of this! It’s a wonder I actually manage to finish the book and understand its plot. Well actually, it is the authors themselves that keep me enthralled. I am in awe of their talent. The power of the word!

After I have read a book, I go back and look at readers’ reviews. Yes I am backward in more ways than one!! I don’t read reviews to determine whether I buy a book. I read it because it’s from one of my favourite authors or I like the sound of the blurb. Oh, or I like the book cover. Yes I do think the cover is important. That’s probably why I loved the cover of Beyond the Past the moment I received the proofs. It amuses me how we all have different interpretations of books. I will leave a HONEST review but won't slate or berate an author. That's not me. If I really don't like something I would rather not leave a review than knock someone's confidence.

I do have a kindle but there is nothing like the smell of a new book, holding it and turning the pages. I try to get as many tangible books as possible, finance permitting. I like to support my fellow authors especially now I know how blooming exhausting it is to write, market and for pittance!

I have just finished reading John Grisham The Summons. I love John Grisham, he is my go to writer when I need reassurance and comfort. Two days of living in the south states of the USA and I feel much better. I am determined to move down my reading list in 2015 and I have such a wide selection to choose from.

This is part of my current reading list:

John Bishop – How Did All this Happen?

Peter James – Not Dead Yet

Harry Leslie Smith - Harry’s Last Stand

Ann Cleeves – Dead Water

Laurence O’Bryan – Manhattan Puzzle

Benedict Martin – Charlie Robot

Berlie Doherty – Street Child

Stieg Larsson – The Girl who kicked the hornet’s nest

Stieg Larsson – The girl who played with fire

S J Watson – Before I go to sleep

I’m sure I have forgotten some but this is a start. Street Child is my youngest son’s current class reading. I like to read the books they are reading so I can help him with his homework plus he is so impressed when I can talk to him about it – extra brownie points for me!

Reading John Grisham this week made me realise how much I love reading and I am determined to read these books and more this year. After all I am entitled to a short break each day, aren’t I?

This week I’m going back to editing Beyond the Lies. Well, actually I am re-writing some sections of it. There is too much in it and parts of it I don’t like. I’ll let you know how combining writing and editing with reading other people’s work goes.

Let me know what you like to read…

Goodreads Competition


Congratulations to Natasha Dowse in winning a signed copy of Beyond the Past. It is on its way to you. 

Let’s hope this week is less stressful than last week.  Very best wishes for the week ahead.