Writing Process

Claudia Carroll: Starting to Write a New Novel…

Claudia Our Little Secret JacketThe blog tour train is here. Today, Claudia Carroll joins me to talk about her process when writing a new book. Her latest novel, Our Little Secret was released by Avon on 8th February. 

Over to you, Claudia.

Before starting any new book, I’d write out a pitch for it first, just a page or so, nice and short. Then I send it to my agent and editor and see what they think. If I get the thumbs up from them, one of my little tips is to write it out as a short story first, nothing that’ll ever see the light of day, it’s just an exercise for me really, to see if the story idea has legs. Sometimes, I’ll start the short story and the fizz will run out of it, in which case I know that it’s back to the drawing board for me. But if the short story leaves me feeling there’s so much more I want to write, but don’t have room for, then I know I’m onto something.

When it comes to plot, I’m a planner and I think every author is, really. I always think that starting off a novel without a plan is like getting into a car without knowing where you’re going…you’ll just end up driving round in circles.

Once my editor, agent and I have agreed on a pitch, then I do a skeleton outline of any new story before I’d even sit down to write a line. It makes life so much easier later on, on the days when I find I’m a bit stuck. It takes me quite a long time to get to really know my characters, so I’d begin by writing out a rough biography for everyone of them, to try to make them as three dimensional as possible, it helps me hugely.

A reader will quickly lose interest if they just don’t like the hero or heroine. You really have to try to layer them carefully so that they really jump off the page. Remember at the start of a new book, you’re asking a reader to go on a 400 page journey with your characters, and particularly your leading lady, so it’s vital to get character right early on.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Blog Tour: Come a Little Closer Writing Challenge

comeclosercoverCome a Little Closer is the new DCI Tom Douglas novel from the fabulous Rachel Abbott and was released by Black Dot Publishing Ltd on 13 February 2018. Today, as part of her blog tour, I have been invited to take part in a writing challenge. 

They will be coming soon. They come every night.

Snow is falling softly as a young woman takes her last breath.

Fifteen miles away, two women sit silently in a dark kitchen. They don’t speak, because there is nothing left to be said.

Another woman boards a plane to escape the man who is trying to steal her life. But she will have to return, sooner or later.

These strangers have one thing in common. They each made one bad choice – and now they have no choices left. Soon they won’t be strangers, they’ll be family…

When DCI Tom Douglas is called to the cold, lonely scene of a suspicious death, he is baffled. Who is she? Where did she come from? How did she get there? How many more must die?

Who is controlling them, and how can they be stopped?


Rachel provided the following writing prompt. The challenge was to finish the story. There were also four things we had to include. 

comecloserGemma had been afraid of the dark for as long as she could remember. As a child, she had blamed the cold, ancient house they had lived in – its endless corridors had too many closed doors for people to hide behind, too many secrets concealed in the shadows. But now there was no excuse. Her flat was modern, open, with huge windows.

It made no difference, though. Each night of the long winter months as she stood outside the block, she imagined all the doors she would have to pass before she reached her own, wondering if the lights in the hallway would be working, or whether they would flicker and go out, leaving her blind in the inky black void. Alone with her fear.

Perhaps she had always known that this day would come. She took a deep breath and stepped into the silent entrance, her heels tapping out a warning that she was coming on the polished concrete floor of the long corridor.

Odd snippets of TV shows and murmurs of conversation bled through as she walked down the dimly lit hallway past the identical black doors belonging to her neighbours. Gemma felt a tinge of envy toward the people inside who were getting the chance to live the mundane. Amy in number twenty-three will be putting her baby to bed. Mr Kennedy in number thirty will be sitting down in front of the news about now, a glass of sweet sherry clasped in his hand.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Novel Kicks Writing Room: What about Bob?

Nove Kicks Writing RoomIt’s story time today.

Your character is called Bob. He likes routine. He likes order and he doesn’t like the unexpected. Bob is the kind of guy who counts his steps on the way to the bus stop and then to his office. He leaves work and counts. He has dinner at the same time every day.
Everything in his life is structured and organised down to the last detail.

One day, he is diverted due to a road closure. He then gets lost. He has not been in this part of town before.

What happens to Bob? You could even put him in a scenario where he walks into a different time or teleports to another place.

Minimum of five hundred words. Have fun with this.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Everything Comes With A Price

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt is about getting what you want but at what cost?

You wake up to find that you are the smartest person in the world. The knowledge you now have will allow you to get everything that you want. Fame, money, power. However, nothing is free. When someone gets luck, someone isn’t so lucky. Write from both perspectives with the two characters meeting up at the end.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Novel Kicks Writing Room: Photo Inspiration

Nove Kicks Writing RoomImages can conjure up a lot of inspiration. 

Google all of the following words – forest, desert, highlands and ocean.

Pick one of the images that appears; the one that stands out the most. Write a story around it. What has it inspired? What has it made you think about?

Don’t edit, just imagine yourself within the picture.

Feel free to put two of the images together if you like.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

NK Chats To: Charles Harris

charles harrisI’d like to welcome Charles Harris to the blog today. Hello Charles. Thank you so much for joining me today. Your first fiction novel is called The Breaking of Liam Glass. Tell me a bit about it and what inspired the idea?

Hi Laura, thank you for having me.

The Breaking of Liam Glass is a crime-satire – not so much a Whodunnit as a What-They-Did-After-It! It follows the twenty-four hours after a teenage footballer, Liam Glass, is stabbed and in hospital in a coma, and the piranhas – the journalists, politicians and police – who all want to use him to build their careers.

The idea came from both seeing the rise in knife crime in our cities that seems unstoppable and also looking at the way newspapers play such a crucial part in our lives, and yet are almost unaccountable. Even the good ones. And to some extent they all can be good at times. It’s easy nowadays to attack the tabloids, but they have mounted important campaigns in the past and it would be a poorer world without them.

In Liam Glass, the central character, Jason Crowthorne, is a young wannabe journalistic piranha who first discovers Liam Glass’ case and realizes this could be his ticket to tabloid heaven. Yet at the same time he is honestly shocked at seeing kids being stabbed and wants to do something that will stop it.

As the story develops, Jason is torn between his better instincts and promoting his own career. In the process, he gets sucked into a dark yet comic spiral of lies and deceit, each step trying to escape the consequences of the one before. And soon discovers that there are bigger and nastier piranhas than him in the sea.


What do you think makes a good main character? Which elements are most important?

There’s no formula – I wish there were, it would make my life a lot easier. It’s like finding a partner – you can specify all the traits you want on Tinder but ultimately it comes down to a certain magic: you just want to spend more time with this person.

Some characters in the novel just arrived, fully formed, and were a joy to write: a nice but dim gym instructor; a local politician who is desperate to get re-elected but has no idea of her own; a put-upon detective constable who makes a single bad mistake and is urgently looking for someone to pin it on.

Whereas Jason hid himself from me and had to be slowly teased out.

Having said that, there are some rough guidelines – you want characters who are full of energy and contradictions, facing big dilemmas yet capable of taking action.

Jason finally revealed himself to be a great person to spend time with, which is a good thing as I lived with him for many years.

His heart is in the right place and yet he keeps doing the wrong things. You fear for him and yet in some ways you long for his comeuppance. In all, he turned out to be a wonderful comic hero to write.


What is your writing process like? Are you much of a planner? Edit as you go?

In theory, I try to plan, but not too much, and then not edit until I have a full draft. But each book tells you what it needs. It’s like sailing single-handed across the Atlantic – you start off with the best of intentions and by the end you’re clinging onto a spar, soaked to the skin and searching the horizon for dry land.


Are you working on anything at the moment that you can tell us about?

I’ve just sent my editor a zillionth draft of a more serious psychological crime story.


Which three books could you not live without and why?

More like three hundred, but currently my top three would be Scoop, Catch 22 and Bonfire of the Vanities.

• Scoop for Evelyn Waugh’s brilliant depiction of the values and contradictions of the newspaper business;
• Catch 22 because every line that Joseph Heller writes both makes you laugh and pins some human hypocrisy like a butterfly on a pin;
• and Bonfire for Tom Wolfe’s ageless and constantly funny depiction of the hubris that led to the social and economic car crash we’re living through today.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Novel Kicks Writing Room: Character Lists

IMG_0447This week, I want to look once again at creating characters.

I have featured a few ways of getting to know your character and today, I wanted to explore that further.

Using the prompts below, make lists as though you were your character. Do it for as many of your current characters as you like.

1. Pet Hates
2. What things worry you?
3. Your idea of a perfect day?
4. What are your wishes?
5. What are some of your favourite books?
6. What’s your favourite word?
7. What would you grab from a burning house?
8. What things would you do if you won the lottery?
9. What were your childhood dreams?
10. What things are you most afraid of?

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Resolutions

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt is about resolutions. 

Your character starts the new year with no relationship and no job. They decide to make a list of new year resolutions and one by one, tick them off the list throughout the year.

Pick one of the resolutions and put your character in the situation where they are trying to complete it. Do they? What happens and what conflict arises?

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Misdirected Festive Post

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt has a Christmas theme.

You wake up one morning to a mountain of post. Some of the post that was meant for Father Christmas at the North Pole has somehow been misdirected to your house. Your mission is to return the post to its rightful recipient. The trouble is, you don’t have a clue where to begin.

Continue the story.


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Novel Kicks Writing Room: Having Faith Whilst Writing

Novel Kicks Writing Room ChristmasPart of the battle when writing is having faith in yourself. 

The internal editor can be a very harsh critic. I know I am my own worst enemy when it comes to my own writing.

Whilst doing National Novel Writing Month this year, I struggled enormously to keep that pest of a nagging voice at bay long enough to get some words typed.

The advice many writers have given when doing interviews for this blog is to have faith and to not get too obsessed with making the first draft perfect.

One exercise I have found to be helpful when I’ve had trouble telling the editor in my head to kindly shut the hell up, is to open a new word document or find a blank piece of paper and just write.

However, the twist is that I close my eyes. It’s quite a fun thing to do.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

12 Days of Clink Street Christmas: Daisy Mae_224’s Traditional Christmas

eBook Daisy Mae - 9.6.17 - v6My next stop on the 12 days of Clink Street Christmas has arrived. Author Daisy Mae_224, the author of Dating Daisy shares her traditional Christmas. Over to you, Daisy Mae_224… 

I’ve decided honesty is the best policy. If you are reading a Christmas blog, you probably expect to read how much I love Christmas. How I can’t wait for it to come round – again. How I love the preparations and the traditions etc… Well – you may just be disappointed.

I really dislike Christmas! And I am not Mrs Scrooge either!

– So now, I’ll try and explain why –

For starters, I’m not religious. I do actually like that part of Christmas however, as that is about story-telling, kindness, and involves the Nativity, children, and singing beautiful Christmas carols. It is rather magical to light candles in a church and sing Hark the Herald at the top of your voice on a cold winter’s evening.

It’s the commercial side of things which are so abhorrent. Somehow we are all caught in a trap of “finding something someone might like.” Also, even those little stocking fillers cost a fortune. And the vast majority, beautifully packaged they may be, will just end up in land fill sites. Having cleared out and downsized from my 6 bedroom house a few years ago, I am in fear of clutter. Never again will I be doing all that!

Let me say up front it’s not so much the cost. I’m a generous person and I love giving things to people and spreading a little happiness. It’s just that when the world is full of starving, poverty-stricken people, how can we the rich of the Western world, be quite so greedy. It makes me feel so uncomfortable. I don’t like opening my presents as I feel so guilty about that. I sit with a pile next to me and watch everyone else open theirs, and I just don’t want to do it.

The sad fact now is that as I am divorced and my parents have died, I can’t think of Christmas as the family occasion it used to be. I miss my parents, especially at Christmas. My children divide themselves up for a day each between myself and Voldemort. There is always a big row about which day is for who, and I dread it.

Then there’s the food. It isn’t a great Christmas to be sweating in the kitchen over an enormous and gastronomically fashionable Christmas dinner. How often have I downed a few gin and tonics one by one, stuck in the kitchen, while everyone else is laughing in the lounge. Because it’s supposed to be such an amazing dinner, it’s very stressful. Mostly they can’t all decide on one meal, so I’m trying to cook a turkey, a ham and a salmon for example, all at the same time. It just doesn’t work! And I’ve never been very good at gravy!

I have to say I like to plan the day so we don’t just “sit around looking at the tea cups!” Last year, soon after the children arrived on Christmas Eve, we went out for lunch at a New Forest pub, following a dog walk on Canada Common. When we got home, we all jumped in Edward’s amazingly hot, clean, sparklingly fresh, hot tub with a few mugs of tea.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

NK Chats To: Isabella Davidson

beta mumHi Isabella, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about what your typical writing day is like? 

Thank you for having me on your blog! My typical writing day consists of waking up to my children’s chatting and playing, getting them dressed, preparing breakfast and taking them to school. Then, when I get back home, I sit in my office and start writing. I am most productive in the morning, when I have a clear mind, and feel the most motivation. After my children come back from nursery and school, I have to find any moment I can to continue writing; after putting them to bed, when they are at activities, and any other moment I can find – which isn’t always easy.


What’s the best and most challenging thing about writing your first novel? 

The best part of writing The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land, was when I felt like I had written a really good passage, and thought people would enjoy it. I once laughed at what I wrote, which is usually a good sign. They say that if you are bored writing then your reader will be bored. You have to keep the writing alive and fun if you want your reader to continue reading. If I can move someone to feel something when they read my novel, that is success to me.

The most challenging? The entire process is challenging! Writing the book, word after word, until you finish typing the last word. Then the editing. And more editing. Then sending it off to agents and publishers. Then, once it has been published, promoting your book and trying to get sales. It is like an intense obstacle course over years.


What’s your favourite word and why?

That’s difficult for me to answer! I don’t have a favourite, I like all words, whether simple or complicated. To me, each word has a purpose, a meaning and a place, so all of them are important in their own way.


What was your writing process like from your idea to final draft? Did you plan? How did you approach the first sentence? 

When I first started writing my novel, The Beta Mum, the story line was completely different than this one and it also had a completely different title. I had a general idea of what subject I wanted to write about – the Alpha mums in a nursery setting in west London – but the plot changed completely after I started the Faber Academy novel writing course. There, I received a lot of input, both positive and negative, and I found a new story to tell. I also learned about writing an outline and now in the future, I will always work with a basic outline. We also learned about writing our first line and our last line and how to make them count. It was an invaluable experience and I learned so much.


What advice do you have to keep motivated? 

Sit on that chair and write. Word after word. Even if it is ‘bad’ writing, it can be edited in the future, but it gets the creative juices flowing and helps you re-enter your world. The worst you can do is not write at all. Even if on some days you don’t feel like writing, you have to push yourself to write. And your first draft is meant to be bad! So don’t worry about writing ‘badly.’


Which three fictional characters would you want round for dinner and why?

Daimyo Toranaga and John Blackthorne from the novel Shogun. It was one of my favourite novels growing up and is an encyclopedia of knowledge about Japan. It is exotic and beautiful and so foreign, I would have loved to be a part of it. I tried to learn Japanese from that book! And one final character on a completely different note, Carrie Bradshaw (from the book Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell), because I think we would be good friends!

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

NK Chats To: Mira Tudor

Mira TudorMira Tudor, the author of Poets, Artists, Lovers is joining me today to chat about her book, her writing process and the advice she has for new writers.

PAL is a fast-paced yet poignant character-driven novel riding waves of romanticism, drama, and wit in a manner reminiscent in parts of David Nicholls’s books (One Day)—and set in the exciting world of several vibrant Romanian artists and musicians.

Henriette, an accomplished sculptor, seems to find more joy in her feminist-inspired work and her piano playing than in the people who care about her. Ela, a piano teacher turned book reviewer, hopes to discover the key to happiness and a more meaningful life through studying the workings of the mind and crafting poems about emotions she trusts will lead her to a better place. Joining them in beauty and blindness is Pamfil, a violinist who dabbles as a singer and lives mostly for the moment and his monthly parties. As they follow their passions, they find themselves on treacherous journeys to love and happiness, and are slow to figure out how to best tackle their predicaments. Fortunately, their lovers and friends are there to help . . . but then a newcomer complicates things.


Hi Mira. It’s great to have you on Novel Kicks today. 

Thank you, Laura! It’s great to be on your blog with you.


Your novel is called Poets, Artists, Lovers. Can you tell me about it and what inspired it? 

I’d been trying to write a novel for years, but it just wouldn’t come together. I was working too much from memories and simply couldn’t find the novel’s raison d’être. And then after putting it aside for a while, I realized in a matter of days that I had the whole story of Poets, Artists, Lovers. I couldn’t write it fast enough.

It’s a nostalgic piece, in a sense, harking back to a time when I was friends with a group of artists who used to hold parties every now and then at their office over the weekend. These parties have inspired Pamfil’s in the novel, but my characters are all imaginary. They grew out of real-life observations, of course, but I surprised myself how much they grew out of my own writing process as well. I say that because when I started writing I already had all the characters pinned down.


What’s your typical writing day like and do you have any writing rituals before and whilst you write? 

I write an average of five or six hours a day (seven days a week), which includes research. I don’t have any rituals apart from drinking all sorts of coffee and tea, but I do need to take walks in order to get some distance from my writing and figure out various things that need to be changed, taken out, or added.


If you could spend time with your characters for a day, what would you do? 

I can’t decide. I would like to go to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe; but also hiking through Ireland or driving along the Rhine Valley in Germany; visiting small towns and vineyards in France or Spain; exploring Paris or London; the list goes on.


Which fictional character are you most like? 

I’m not much like any of these characters. Only the poetry is deeply mine.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Novel Kicks Writing Room: Structure and The Eight Point Arc

Novel Kicks Writing RoomThe structure of your novel is one of the most important things in novel writing.

It’s something I have been really trying to focus on whilst trying to write my first book.

The following is what is called the ‘eight point arc.’ I came across it in ‘Writing a Novel and Getting it Published’ by Nigel Watts. I’ve found this structure suggestion incredibly helpful and I feel it’s worth going though the following list and applying your current work in progress.

Stasis – this is the ‘every day’ in which your story is set. For example, Kat in District Twelve at the beginning of the Hunger Games or Harry Potter in Privet Drive. What is this in your book?

Trigger – this is the thing that happens that kick starts events for your character. This may be something that is beyond the control of your character.

The Quest – this could be something bad for the main character like breaking up with a spouse, loosing a job or a loved one or it could be winning the lottery.

Surprise – this is the obstacles to overcome; the conflicts and the hard choices. It could also include pleasant events but predictable should try to be avoided.

Critical Choice – This is where the character has to make a choice and we see what they are made of. These choices are often hard to make and overcome.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

NaNoWriMo Advice: Louise Dean Says Short Sentences Can Be A Powerful Tool

oldromantic becomingstrangersAs we reach the final few days of National Novel Writing Month 2017, Louise Dean, author and founder of online writing course Kritikme.com joins me to share her insights into why using short sentences is a powerful tool when writing a novel. Thank you for joining me today Louise. Over to you. 

Short Sentences. (BANG!)

Creating Impact.

We can’t always be poetic. We cannot always find a new way of saying things. But if we offer visual images in short sentences, we can create an effect on our readers that is an assault on their senses. Think Bob Dylan.

One short sentence hard on the heels of the last is a highly engaging way to write. It forces the reader into a world that is unfolding with immediacy, speed, possibly danger. Wham. Slam. Bang. Things are happening fast as in an emergency. The story is unfolding. The reader is alert.

Short & Sweet

The most economical short story writer of all time is probably Raymond Carver. With his precise, punchy prose, he conveys in a few words what many novelists take several pages to elucidate. In stories such as ‘Fat’ and ‘Are You a Doctor?’ he writes with understatement about suburban disenchantment in mid-century America.

I’d like to share with you the two things that made his short stories works of art.

  1. At the end of every short story – as in the first chapter of a novel – EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.
  2. Carver’s genius was to incorporate here what happens in the last chapter of a novel which is the narrator is facing life after him or her – THE ANNIHILATION OF SELF.

These themes can be served, should be served, in staccato sentences for great power.

Make it shorter.

‘Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long.’ Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut employs a choral technique from the songbook of modern music too, with repetition of an almost biblical phrase ‘So it goes’ throughout Slaughterhouse-5.

When Kurt Vonnegut uses that sentence again and again throughout Slaughterhouse-5, setting it against the backdrop of one of the worst tragedies of WWII — the firebombing of Dresden — the fatalistic attitude of that short sentence provides a hard contrast to the horrific details of Dresden.

Continue reading

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.

Follow by Email
Book Club
Book Club
Do you prefer to read novels in Hardback or Paperback?