Partway Plotter

I don’t plot—well, I’ve tried, but I can never work out what scenes I need until I’ve written the characters and I know how they work. With my first novel Mischief Maker I just WROTE, then did little bits of research as I came to it.

I knew pivotal points, I knew where I wanted to end, and the important stuff along the way, but I didn’t know how I would get there.

I would write meandering scenes where Jamie and Liam would eat a lot and drink enough tea to keep PG Tips in business–all to get the next pivotal point that I had in my head.

This worked and it didn’t. I came up with a few good scenes just by writing, but I cut over 10k of ‘filler’ scenes out once I finished my first draft. By filler I mean chapters or paragraphs that didn’t have a point, they didn’t take the characters anywhere, nor did they help the characters grow. They were merely me trying to pass time to get to the next interesting bit.

Now I’m writing the sequel. And again I know the general plot, know how it ends, and pivotal points along the way, but when I felt myself get to ‘filler’ spots I stopped and instead of writing these I just wrote the next Big Scene.

I know I’ll have to rework them a lot to make sure everything flows, but I also feel like I don’t have anything pointless in it, and it will be a lot easier to write the in-between bits once I know what they are connecting!

I’m not sure about you, but I always like to read writing guides (not that they help much because I’m not a plotter! Plus, my memory is awful so I don’t remember enough detail for it to be that helpful!)

When I was half way through Animal Lark 2, Save the Cat Writes a Novel came out, so I thought I’d give it a go. I have to say I’ve really enjoyed it and feel like it will help me with those pesky fillers as well as keep momentum going.

I carried on writing the chapters I was excited about, vaguely linear, but not too worried if they weren’t when I discovered Trello –I think it was recommended by one of the many authortubers I watch though obviously I can’t remember which one!

I have to say–I love Trello! I’ve used it for my story world and character bios, which is helpful to keep track of the little details when you’re writing a series.

But in a moment of madness I decided to create a board with the steps of StCWaN so I could access them easily and see how Animal Ark 2 fits into it.

Using this method I’ve now got a visual of the storyline, with chapters I feel are important for each section, it’s even colour coded by act and if I’ve written the chapter or not–I’ve actually written more than I thought I have!

I have tried to use Scrivener before, I even brought it for my desktop and iPad but it seemed so complicated to do things I wanted to do quickly and then they both stopped syncing with each other that I gave up; I really liked how you could move chapters around so I was ecstatic that I can do this on Trello.

It’s simple to use, but I can use it on my phone, laptop, iPad and it doesn’t have issues.

I now know where I’m going and have a good idea of what will push the story and my characters along without going too far off track.

I doubt I’d be able to plot like this if I hadn’t already written the first act and didn’t know the characters and world so well.

I wouldn’t now call myself a plotter after so many years of pantsing, then plotting and failing m, but I think I could be called a partway plotter!

What I Write

I’ve written in lots of different genres, horror, fantasy, contemporary; all usually with a dash of romance and a smudging of angst. I adore creating fantasy worlds and characters, but I find I always write myself in knots and when the going gets tough, I let the slutty new idea lure me away.

2018 was a year to try something different. To knuckle down and actually write the contemporary romance I’d spoken to with my friends (The Five). I’d had a tough few years at work which completely sucked my creativity and my ability to read and trying to get back into writing and reading was tough going–it still is to be honest, but it’s getting better. I changed day jobs, now have good people surrounding me and I can finally breathe easier.

So with a slight nudge from The Five I decided to write something I wouldn’t have to create from the ground up–not to say it was easier, but it meant I didn’t tangle myself up quite so much and so my Animal Lark series was born. A series of contemporary m/m romance novels that are linked through a group of friends and the crazy but cute animals they share their lives with.

I have to say that it was just what I needed to unlock the creative dam.  The first in the series was fun to write; and as I’m sure you’ve already guessed if you’ve read previous posts–I do like to write about cute rats!

It’s not that I won’t go back to the fantasy novels that I’m half way through–the characters in them are much to loud and annoying to ever let me ignore them, but while their worlds and stories steep at the back of my mind, I get to write fun contemporary romance set in a make believe town somewhere in the Staffordshire Countryside. And that is kind of awesome.

 

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Lies my Parents Told me…

Or stories anyway. There were a lot in our family.
My childhood was always a place of imagination, play and stories. While my dad would read books to us, The Witches by Roald Dahl a particular favourite of mine (I can still remember how much I laughed when the chef cut the tip of the mouse-boy’s tail).
But my mom; she is the one who would make up stories. As I’ve already written about in a previous post, there were the stories of bogey monsters, of turning into werewolves and howling at the moon, but there was another story. One about ‘The Olden Days’.  That weird, obscure time from before I even existed. I could barely get my head around such a thing!

I’d ask what it was like back in the olden days and she would tell me, in detail how our family lived before I was born.

Back in the olden days when everyone had coal fires lots of people worked down the mines. Including children. In fact, my whole family worked in the mines, my older brother and sister, my mom and dad. Then one awful day there was a cave in and unable to get out my family had to eat rats (rats seem to feature in many of my childhood memories) and then they had to dig themselves out with spoons. It was very difficult and took them an awfully long time which is why they had to eat the rats, otherwise they’d starve!

I pretty much pictured them living in The  Black Country Museum (a living museum with Victorian houses, a canal, and Victorian style shops and school houses)
It was a miracle that they all got out of that cave in to live to tell the tale. The whole family was in on it, each of them adding a small detail and backing each other up.

I should be lucky that none of us needed to work down the mine anymore, and I got to go to school. I believed this story wholeheartedly, until one niggling doubt took root…where was my brother’s best friend in all of this? (He’d stayed at ours for a week one holiday and I felt he should be in these stories as he was practically family now.)
Not one to miss a beat, my mother told me that my brother’s friend was the pit pony–which in my mind made complete and utter sense and all doubts went away. Of course Aaron was the pit pony!

 

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Why do I love rats?

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Draven,  Razorblade, Romance, Ludo & Selkie

When I was ten we visited Somerset, England. I was out shopping with my parents and we saw a punk with a green Mohican and a huge white rat on his shoulder. I was completely amazed and became intrigued by them ever since. I’d had hamsters before, but they definitely wouldn’t ride my shoulder like that!

Then a friend got a rat when we were about 12 and I got to hold him and really see how wonderful they were.

I was  15 when I finally got my first pair of rats (not featured above because this was before I had the internet, and I’ve got no photos on the computer!). I’ve had them as pets on and off ever since. I’ve had them from petshops, breeds, rescues, and they’ve all been such fantastic pets.

They make such wonderful, loving pets that want to play, have cuddles and eat treats. I had rats during my second year of university and they were so sweet natured that my flatmate who was scared of rats fell in love with them.

If anyone is thinking of getting a rodent as a pet, then rats are so interactive, and so sweet.

My current rat, Asher sits on the sofa with me and gives lots of cuddles when I’m writing or watching TV. He loves food, especially banana chips.

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Is this a writing blog…

or just a rat appreciation fan page? (he is pretty cute, right?)

I’m a writer who hates writing about herself. Imposter syndrome, jinxing it, boring, who knows! I prefer to write fiction or about cute animals. It’s much more fun.

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But, despite Jean-Claude, The Rat’s adorable face, I did start this blog to track my writing journey and other musings.

I’ve enjoyed stories since I was a kid and my mom used to make up tales about how me and my friends would turn into werewolves on the full moon and break out of the house to sit on the garden wall and howl, waking up the neighbours.

There was also the bogey monster made up entirely of my friend’s bogies. Our folks caught her flicking bogies at the bedroom door once, and from then on my mom would tell the story of how she would flick bogeys at the door until there were so many that it turned into a bogey monster that loved to eat Red Sauce and children.

It’s no wonder that I wanted to tell stories too! I would rewrite fairy tales, and make up stories about piglets who didn’t want to go to school. My cousin even helped me make a ‘bound’ book to put my dinosaur story in. (I never did finish that story–somethings never change)

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Then as a (pre)teen reading Point Horror and Point Romance I would write stories about the characters, rewrite endings so they’d end how I wanted. Dream Date, Zoey Fools Around and the Heartbreak Café books were some of my favourites. My reading and writing tastes haven’t changed that much–I still love a good romance, occasionally mixed in with the fantastic.

I remember writing stories about TV shows like Heartbreak High, and  Home and Away–this was before the internet and before I even knew that this was called fanfiction (that came later!)

I took more of an interest in writing at high school, but because of my ‘terrible spelling and grammar’ all confidence was knocked out of me and I never thought it was something I’d be able to do. My college lecturer even told me to study English Lit instead of doing  Creative Writing at uni–It was a bit of a blow, but luckily, not advice I followed.

I did study creative writing at uni, I got my BA, and although the course was very much in its infancy at the time, it was something I’m so glad I did. Even though I came out of it with the same thought I came out of primary school with–writing is for other people.

So, I dabbled in getting a few short stories published, online and in local magazines, then work, and life got in the way.  I would write, but never finish anything, I would put writing at the bottom of my priority list and before I knew it ten years went by!

They do say time flies! But, with very persistent writerly friends poking me with sticks I realised I needed to do something if I wanted to be a writer. No one else could actually do it for me. That something was to actually write, and take it seriously, and…finish a story!

So in 2018 I managed to do that. I wrote a  m/m contemporary romance, pitched it at the UKMEET, and I’m so happy that Dreamspinner Press accepted it and will be publishing it sometime this year. I’ve yet to start edits, but it won’t be long now!

I’m excited, scared, still pinching myself because it feels like a dream! I’ve been reading DSP books for over ten years and I’m over the moon to be working with them.  Now I need to crack on with the next book!

 

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How is it 2019?

Happy New Year everyone!
I’m still a little stunned that it’s 2019 already. Surely it was only 5 years ago since I was studying Theatrical Makeup in my first year of college, in 1999?
Time really does fly when you’re…studying, working and getting swept up in real life!
 
So what if my first year of college didn’t lead to a career creating monster make-up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it did help with my love of stories, writing, and put me on the path towards studying creative writing at uni, and lets face it–came in damned handy for Halloween!
2019 is going to be a writing year for sure. I’ve spent over ten years dabbling at writing, wishing I could do it seriously, but never really giving it the time and attention to make that happen. This year I’m putting writing first, without guilt for not seeing family and friends as often. As very wise characters on a very gripping Children’s TV show once sang… Just Say No.
 
I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember; despite going to uni to study creative writing, I never really thought  I could ever be a one. Writing was something other people did, but after nearly 14 years of dedicating my life to other people’s books, to acting like writing was an unimportant hobby, I’ve realised if others can find the time to write, then so can I.
 
So, I’m going to say no, I’m going to stay in, or go to coffee shops and just write, I may forget to vacuum or let the dishes pile high in the sink, but lets be honest–I’d probably let that happen anyway!
 
Have a super Writerly 2019 everyone!