Writing Process

Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Decisions Decisions

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.

You are at a three way fork in the road. You can go left, right or straight ahead. There is no option to go back the way you came.

One road involves a journey into a dense forest that is said to be haunted.

One road will involve a pack of wild wolves which is the animal you are most afraid of.

The last road is said to pass a community of witches and magic.

You don’t know which road is which but all of them eventually lead to the information you need to get home.

Pick a path as your setting and just start writing.

Have fun!

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Combining Characters

Novel Kicks Writing RoomFor today’s writing room, I thought it would be fun to combine characters that up until this point have had nothing to do with one another.

Write a short piece of fiction (max. 1,500) involving your favourite hero/heroine and your favourite villain.

They don’t need to be from the same original story.

A couple of suggestions: Pip from Great Expectations and President Snow from The Hunger Games, Elizabeth Bennett and Voldermort.

The characters meet under stressful circumstances and begin a conversation.

How do they react in this environment? How do they react to one another?

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NK Chats To…Rachael Brown

Rachael BrownA lovely big welcome to Rachael Brown today. Thank you for chatting to me. Your book is called Trace: who killed Maria James? Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired the novel? 

The novel Trace; who killed Maria James? is the story behind my now two-and-a-half year investigation into a 1980 murder cold case. Maria James was stabbed to death at the back of her Melbourne bookshop, the very day she was set to confront her parish priest about the sexual abuse of her younger son, Adam. I learned a witness had seen this priest covered in blood on the day of her murder, and had given a statement to police, but nothing ever came of it. And then I learned exhibits and documents are missing.

So my deep-dive into Maria’s case was born out of two questions; Was the Catholic Church involved in her death? Has Victoria Police – either unwittingly or deliberately – been involved in its cover-up? I reported my investigation through the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s first true-crime podcast, Trace.

While I was convinced my investigation would be betterfirstserved as a podcast series – because its interactivity could help solve the case – the constraints of this medium left much unsaid. So Scribe’s book details the anatomy of my meticulous investigation. Through the dead-ends and discoveries, the tears and the triumphs, I show readers the gritty toll on all those caught up in, and consumed by, this case. And remarkably, despite the darkness, or maybe because of it, this book also says a lot about hope, and humanity’s warmth.

 

What’s your writing process like? Which part was the easiest, hardest and challenging to write? 

I found the process excruciating, both because of the dark material and structural challenges. I fortunately had already completed a lot of the research and transcripts (for the podcast), so much of the heavy lifting was done in 2016. But how to fashion this monster of an investigation into a compelling and clear narrative for readers? I decided to leapfrog between timelines – between detective Ron Iddles’ investigation in 1980, and mine in 2016/17 – planting seeds in each timeline that would be fleshed out in the other. This was the best way to help this 38-year-old case career along, and to highlight its strengths and flaws.

post-it skeleton - startI was a post-it fiend. Blue for Ron’s investigation, and pink for mine. When I looked at  my initial structure, the pink was too dense in the middle. This section was a weighty series of  accounts of sexual abuse, which I worried might be too depressing for readers. But these accounts needed to be in the book, to bare witness to history. So I introduced green post-it notes, representing the podcast episodes and subsequent audience engagement. This was a great way to bring some light into the darkness, and also, to allow readers a glimpse into the mechanics of the podcast medium.

These sections are also testament to my skilled production team, including Jesse Cox, the podcast’s series producer, who passed away in December. Jesse wanted to change the world, and he did, in helping bring people’s creative dreams to life, so these green post-its allowed such personal tributes to be interwoven. Also, I’m told Traceis the first Australian podcast to be turned into a book, of which I’m also incredibly proud.
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NK Chats To: Laura Briggs

EED89F30-BC08-4356-A566-41594D869EB5I am so happy to be welcoming Laura Briggs to the blog today. Hello. Thank you so much for joining me. Your book is called A Wedding in Cornwall. Can you tell me about it and what inspired it?

Hi Laura! Thanks so much for letting me share with your readers about my series of books. This all begin in 2016 when I penned the romance novella A Wedding in Cornwall about an American event planner who finds a new life—and true love—when she moves across the Pond to work at a beautiful Cornish manor house. Readers were so enthusiastic for my heroine Julianne’s adventures in Cornwall that the series ended up continuing for a total of twelve books! Now, as the series celebrates its second year anniversary, readers can buy novellas 7-12 in one special book bundle.

 

What are the challenges and best bits about being a writer? 

Hmmthe challenges for me would be getting the words I type to match the idea in my mind. When I first think of a plot for a book it’s kind of like seeing a movie trailer—all the highlights are easy to picture in that moment. But then, when I get into the finer details and the actual writing it can be hard to find the idea’s full potential sometimes. So that’s definitely a big challenge in my writing. As for the best bits? Connecting with book bloggers and fellow authors and hearing that readers enjoy my work!

 

What’s your step by step process when planning a novel? 

I almost always make an outline. It can be detailed with scene by scene descriptions or it can be as simple as just a list of events that need to happen in the story. But I hardly ever just wing it—I need to have at least a rough idea where I’m going!

 

What elements do you feel need to be there to make a good novel? 

Engaging characters are pretty important to me as a reader. Even if they aren’t the most likeable or sympathetic type, I do need to find them interesting!

 

What’s your approach to editing? 

I usually try to put aside the finished manuscript for a few days. Then, I try to look at it from a reader’s point of view. It’s not easy to see your own work objectively, of course, but it does help to find initial problems with the story.

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A Moment With…Dean Mayes

Artisan heartA big Novel Kicks welcome today to Dean Mayes. His novel, The Artisan Heart is due to be released by Central Avenue Publishing on 1st September.

“Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant pediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organised by Bernadette.

When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia’s southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind.

A chance encounter with a precocious and deaf young girl introduces Hayden to Isabelle Sampi, a struggling artisan baker. While single-handedly raising her daughter, Genevieve, and trying to resurrect a bakery, Isabelle has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his own fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own.

As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.”

 

Dean is himself an Intensive Care nurse and he is with us today to talk about how he portrays Medicine in fiction. 

It is often said that, as a writer, our best writing comes from what we know. I’ve tried to buck that trend over the course of my published works, but there’s an inevitable truth I’ve come to accept – that maxim definitely holds true.

Having been an Nurse for over two decades now – with most of my career focused in Intensive Care – both Adult, pediatric and Neonates – along with Accident & Emergency – I’ve seen things and gained experiences as a clinician that translate well into the realm of gritty fiction. There’s compelling character moments to be found and situations that offer high drama. At the same time, I have to be mindful that I’m writing for a general audience who may not be well versed in the minutiae of medicine. There’s definitely a high wire act to master in writing engaging scenes.

My soon to be released novel “The Artisan Heart” is probably the most comprehensive example of me using my career experience to craft characters and situations.

In the story, we are introduced to Hayden Luschcombe, a brilliant pediatric emergency doctor who has an uncanny ability in diagnosing his patients quickly, efficiently and accurately. He has saved many lives as a result and, as a clinician, he is held in high regard – even if, as a person, he is seen as socially awkward and “on the spectrum” as some colleagues point out in their interactions with him. In one scene, early in the novel, Hayden’s acute sense of observation proves to be life saving for a new-born baby who presents with a stricture of the intestine. In another powerful moment, further on, Hayden correctly suspects a child has been deliberately scalded in boiling water by her parents. During the scene there is a highly charged confrontation between the child’s step father and Hayden that serves to illustrate the variation in presentations to the department and the dramatic circumstances that can spill off from those presentations.

While I won’t blow my own trumpet here and compare myself to Hayden Luschcombe, I did I craft Hayden as an amalgam of my own clinical experiences, working in a busy, inner city children’s emergency department. There are probably two or three other doctors in Hayden, medicos who I’ve worked alongside and watched over the past 10 years. The two examples I cited above are based on real clincial presentations, the latter of which was indeed as emotionally charged as it appears in the novel.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: The Tunnel

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There are two characters in your story. Gender, age, relationship to one another as well as the reason they are standing at the start of a tunnel is up to you.

Set the timer for ten minutes and write in the first person from the point of view of one of the characters. Include setting and dialogue.

Once that is done, set the timer again and write the same scene again but as an internal monologue of the other character. How do they differ? How was writing from different point of view? Was one easier than the other?

Have fun!

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NK Chats To: Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

I’m pleased to be welcoming Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus to the blog today and the blog tour for their new book, The Book Ninja. Hello to you both. Thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called The Book Ninja (I love the title.) Can you tell me about it and what inspired it? 

Ali-Berg

Ali Berg

Michelle-Kalus-Books-On-The-Rail

Michelle Kalus

The Book Ninja is a quirky, romantic, comedic love letter to friendship, soulmates and books! The protagonist of the story, Frankie, is desperate to shake things up – she is frustrated in life and in love.

An author, with a serious case of writer’s block and post-horrifically-bad-reviews blues, Frankie decides to take fate into her own hands and embarks on the ultimate love experiment. Her plan? Plant her favourite books on trains inscribed with her contact details in a bid to lure the sophisticated, charming and well-read man of her dreams. Her journey leads her to stumble across some very wacky dates, some astonishing discoveries, some great literature and, overall, leads her to find herself.

The story is inspired by our community initiative, Books on the Rail, which we co-founded in April 2016 after Ali lived in London and became friends with the co-founder of Books on the Underground, Hollie Fraser. As part of this project, we set books loose on public transport around Australia for people to find, read and then return for somebody else to enjoy. Thanks to our growing team of some 1000 Book Ninjas, who place their own books on their local trains, trams and buses, with a Books on the Rail sticker attached to it, we have over 5000 books traveling around Australia.

 

What’s your step by step process when planning a novel? How do you separate the workload and what are the challenges of co-writing a novel? 

At first we started writing side by side, piano style. Then we realised how difficult that was! We discovered that the best way to write was to, in the words of one of our favourite authors, Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project), become plotters, not pantsers (writing by the seat of ones pants). Before we started writing anything, we came together for huge plotting sessions, during which we would map everything that would take place in each chapter down to a tee. Then, we simply divided the chapters up between us and wrote one each. We passed the chapters back and forth between us to edit and put our writing style into each chapter. We’ve written so closely together that now our tone is basically a blend of the both of us!  So much so, when reading back over the book, we often find it difficult to pinpoint who wrote what!

One of the biggest challenges of co-writing? Well, Ali always used to be a pantser (writing by the seat of her pants). She let the characters lead the story and the plot line, and she discovered what would happen as she went. With two people – it’s a bit tricky to do that. So her writing style has definitely changed quite a lot, from being a pantser to a plotter. We also had slightly different tones when we started writing (Ali is more dialogue heavy, Michelle more descriptive)! But now we’ve found a happy medium and we absolutely love writing this way.

 

What’s your approach to editing? 

Do it. And do it often! Being co-authors, we’re lucky, because whatever we write, it always gets edited by the other person. This means we’re constantly in editing mode. When Ali writes something, Mich will edit it, and visa versa. The problem is, we can’t stop editing – we constantly think we can keep making our work better and better, which makes it hard to let go and finally submit our manuscript!

 

What is your favourite word and why? 

Mellifluous – because it literally means a pleasant sounding word, which is what it is! We love the sound of it.

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NK Chats To… David Joland

DavidJolandHello David. Thank you so much for joining me. Your novel is called The Biggest Idea in the World. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired the idea?

After I sold my business a decade ago, I started investing in other businesses. I met a range of colourful characters, signed an armload of NDAs (Non-disclosure Agreements) and heard a great deal of ridiculous ideas ranging from social networking for Cell mates through to a Phone App for people with no phone.

I decided to take some time out and do something I really enjoyed. After eliminating everything that was immoral or illegal, I was left with writing. I decided to use caricatures of some of those I had come across.

 

What is your writing day like? How do you balance writing with your job?

I’m what’s commonly referred to as a Business Angel, which is someone that invests in businesses when no one else will (at least that’s how it appears to me). It’s not a full-time job so most of my week is revolved around monitoring the investments I have, attending board meetings and listening to excuses of why no one’s achieved what they set out to. Until I made the decision to write, I would have also spent time looking for new ideas and opportunities.

Once I started writing, I was totally consumed by it, finishing the book in just 9 weeks.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

That would have to be ‘squelch’ which I managed to incorporate in my book “…not only am I sweating profusely by the time I get there, but I’m faintly aware of a squelching sound as I walk.”

I love the image it conjures up.

 

Which fictional world would you like to visit for a day and why?

If I had a pound for each time I’m asked that….
It would have to be a city made out of lego. I’d love to wonder round the little streets, climb into shiny cars… and I’m ever so slightly attracted to yellow people.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Adding Another Aspect

Novel Kicks Writing RoomAdding another aspect…

I think this following exercise is a very interesting one.

Take your current work in progress or a published novel of your choice.

Add a chapter that isn’t in your original novel outline or included in the book you’ve chosen. Maybe in the middle or the ending you would have preferred. You can add it anywhere as long as it is a completely new aspect to the plot.

Also, as a little extra challenge, add these items in somewhere:

An inflatable Unicorn

A butter knife

A fifty pound note

An old photograph

A padlock

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Strangers on a Train

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: Strangers on a Train… 

Your character boards a train. It’s almost midnight. The character takes a seat and to begin with, is the only person in the carriage.

Your character falls asleep. When they wake up, there are three other people sitting nearby. Strangers who they have never met before.

One of the characters begins to talk to yours.

What happens next. Are they what they seem?

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A Moment With… Jonathan Whitelaw

Jonathan Whitelaw Author ImageHellCorp is the new novel by Jonathan Whitelaw and was released by Urbane Publications on 5thJuly 2018. It’s great to welcome him and the blog tour to Novel Kicks today. 

Sometimes even the Devil deserves a break!

Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime.

But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…

 

Jonathan has joined me today to chat about research when writing a novel. Over to you, Jonathan.

Research is a vital part of any writer’s work. It’s so vital in fact that it seeps beyond the writing and becomes a part of your life. Like living with a new pet – a dog that constantly needs walked or a cat that’s all over your keyboard, you can’t shake it off.

And it’s just as well really. Accuracy and attention to detail can be the difference between stories being believable for readers and being dismissed as total hocum. So it’s vital for writers to take into account research and how important a role it plays in the overall production of writing and novels.

For HellCorp I was incredibly lucky. The story itself involves a lot of history, mythology and culture from all across society. From traditional Christian tropes to Jewish philosophy, Buddhist culture and even a little Norse folklore, I was totally immersed in something that can potentially be endless.

Just as well that I really, really love research!

As the old saying goes – knowledge is power. That phrase has never really sat well with me. I’ve always found it to be a little on the sinister side of things. It implies that be knowing all you can, educating yourself and being in a position to learn means that you can wield that against others. In actual fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Audition

rp_friday-300x16411111111111111-300x164-300x1641-300x164-300x1641-300x16411-300x164-300x164-300x1641-300x1641-300x164-300x164-300x1641-300x164-300x164-1-1-1-1-1-300x164-1-1.pngFiction 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: Audition…

You are instructed to attend an audition. When you get there, you see many people who look a little like you. This is confusing.

When you get into the room, you feel unprepared. It is now that a piece of paper containing lines from a scene is thrust into your hand.

You discover that you’re auditioning to play yourself in a play of your life.

Write about the audition. POV is up to you.

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NK Chats To… Riley Sager

pseudonymHi Riley. Thank you for joining me today. Your new book is called Last Time I Lied and was released in the UK on 10th July by Ebury Publishing. Can you tell me about it? 

LAST TIME I LIED is about an artist named Emma who went to a fancy all-girl’s camp when she was 13 and watched her three cabinmates leave in the middle of the night. They never returned.

Fifteen years later, she returns to that same camp as a painting instructor, hoping to learn more about what happened to her friends. Nothing goes according to plan. I think of it as my version of “Picnic at Hanging Rock.”

 

What’s your writing process like from idea, to planning, to writing and finally editing?

For me, it varies from book to book. FINAL GIRLS, for example, was a bolt of lightning. From writing to revising to finding it a good home, everything about that book was fast. I’m usually much slower. Once I get an idea, I spend a lot of time thinking, taking notes and trying to figure out how to turn it into a book.

LAST TIME I LIED took twice as long to write because I still didn’t quite know what to do with it even after I started written. Like some of the characters in the book, I spent a lot of time lost in the woods, trying to find my way out.

 

What advice do you have for when you’ve finished your book and want to try and get it published? 

The act of trying to get a book published can be so difficult that it’s easy to overlook the obvious—You’ve written a book! It’s such a huge accomplishment that quickly gets overshadowed by the rest of it. So I advise writers to remember to pat themselves on the back.

There’s a lot of negative involved in trying to get a book published. Rejections come fast and furious. At least they did for me. And I wish I had taken the time to be more proud of what I’d already accomplished instead of agonizing over what I had yet to accomplish.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why? 

Mary Poppins. She’d fly in, we’d go on a grand adventure and when it’s over I’ll hopefully have learned an important life lesson or two.

 

Do you have advice for someone who may be experiencing writer’s block?

I find reading helps. Just pick up a book, open it and start reading. If it’s good, you’ll be inspired to be just as good. But I’ve found it’s more helpful if the book is bad. Because I can tell myself, “If this dreck can get published, then what I’m doing also has a fair shot of making it!”

 

What are you currently working on? 

I can’t say very much. It’s still a work in progress and I’m still trying to figure it out. But it features a very ornate, very famous apartment building in New York City where horrible things happen.

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Blog Tour: The Summer Holidays Survival Guide by Jon Rance

8652DD56-1A0A-4349-8002-E1CB8927B139The brilliant Jon Rance is back with his new novel, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide (perfectly timed for the approaching summer holidays.) 

Two parents. Three children. One senile grandad. Six weeks. How bad could it possibly be?

For teacher, Ben Robinson, the school summer holidays mean one thing – spending six weeks with his kids. This year, however, he also has his father and one very angry wife to contend with. The name of the game is simple: survive.

Ben embarks on a summer of self-discovery that includes, amongst other things, becoming besotted by a beautiful Australian backpacker, an accidental Brexit march and a road rage attack. There’s also the matter of saving his marriage, which is proving harder than he imagined, mainly due to an unfortunate pyramid scheme and one quite large bottom.

But when Ben learns his father has a secret, it takes the whole family on a trip to Scotland that will make or break their summer – and perhaps Ben’s life.

On the last day of his blog tour, Jon has joined me today to talk about his evolution as a writer. Welcome Jon. Over to you. 

Hello! A huge thank you to Novel Kicks for having me on their blog. It’s exciting to be here! So, my new book, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is out and just 99p for a limited time! Today, the last stop on my blog tour, I’m going to be talking about my evolution as a writer. Let’s get started!

For those of you who don’t know me, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is my seventh novel. It all started way back in the heady days of 2011! We had our daughter in 2009 and our son was on the way, and I was a stay-at-home dad. I chose to be a stay-at-home father so I could write. I’d written a couple of unpublished novels, but then I suddenly got my big break. My self-published novel, The Thirtysomething Life, unexpectedly shot up the charts and broke into the Kindle top ten. I was as shocked as anyone. On the back of that success, I got a two-book publishing deal with Hodder and Stoughton and then an agent. My novels are usually comedies that deal with issues like marriage, family, parenting, falling in love, growing up or as it says on my website – author of contemporary novels about life, love, and all the icky bits in-between. I think, to be fair, it’s usually the icky bits in-between I’m most interested in.

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So, now you know a bit about me, let’s talk evolution. My first novel, This Thirtysomething Life, was a diary about one man, Harry Spencer, early thirties, trying to get through the pregnancy and birth of his first child. My latest book, The Summer Holidays Survival Guide, is the diary of one man, Ben Robinson, 44, trying to get through the summer holidays with his family. Evolution? Well, yes. I wrote my new book because I realised last summer, as I was on a six-week holiday with my own family through England and Scotland, how far we’ve all come and how much has changed. I wrote, The Summer Holiday Survival Guide, as an update on my first book. It’s what happens down the line when the kids are older, the parents are older, and all the complications that come with that. It was as much a reflection on my own life as anything else.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Opposites

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: Opposites

Your first character is a shop assistant. They are making it very clear to everyone around them that they are not happy. They are a pessimist.

The customer is having a wonderful day. They are naturally happy and see joy in everything. They are the optimist.

Write a conversation between these two about the weather.

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