Writing Process

Novel Kicks Writing Room – Dear Me

I often wonder what my future and past self would tell me if I were to receive a letter from them.

What advice would I give myself? What would my ten-year old self talk about that is different to my older self?

I find this thought fascinating.

That is why I have chosen this exercise today. Write a letter to you, from yourself ten years in the future. Also write a letter from the point of view of your ten-year old self.

Obviously the advice and content would be slightly different but are there recurring themes?

Set the timer for about ten minutes for each one. Try not to edit, just write.

Now repeat the exercise but for one of your characters.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Talk to Animals?

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction 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: What if I could talk to the animals? 

You have been stuck inside for a few days now. You are on your own with only your pet for company.

One morning, a voice you don’t recognise brings you out of sleep.

Your pet is on the bed with you but there is no one else there.

That is until you hear the voice again.

You turn toward your pet…

Continue the story.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: The Same But Different

Today, I thought we could look at different points of view. 

You have three characters standing together in the same spot.

They are all looking at the same thing. It could be the sky, a building, a pier, another group of people. The situation and gender of your characters are up to you.

Set the timer for ten minutes each character.

Write three different pieces of prose, describing what they are looking at but from each person’s point of view, voice and opinions.

How do they differ?

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: What Curfew?

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction 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: What curfew? 

A curfew has been put in place all over the city where you live. There are patrols everywhere. There’s not a lot that will get by them.

You find yourself defying the curfew to deliver a message on the other side of the city. You must do this by morning.

Write about the journey. Do you and your message make its destination in time and in one piece?

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: The Torn Piece

Happy Wednesday everyone. Today, I wanted to do some more free writing.

The amount of time and word count is up to you.

Today, imagine that you’ve found a torn piece of paper.

It appears to be the end of a letter; a love letter from someone named Paul.

There’s no sign of the first piece.

It says “even though what we have is gone, I would not change the decision I made for you, regardless of the consequence for me. I will love you forever. Paul”

Write the first part. Try and put in as much detail as you can.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Freaky Friday

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction 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: Freaky Friday. 

Your character and their spouse have not been getting along lately.

One morning, you wake up and you’ve swapped bodies. You also currently have no idea how to get switched back.

How does this affect the relationship?

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Inanimate Objects

It’s all about inanimate objects today. 

For today’s exercise, it’s a little bit of free writing but with the following situation in mind.

Write from the point of view of an inanimate object. Maybe something in an antique shop or something in the corner of the room you are sat in.

How old is it? Where has it been? What has this object seen?

Also, you could allow it to have an interaction with a human in which they can understand one another.

Write for at least fifteen minutes.

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NK Chats To… Daisy Pearce

Thank you so much for joining me today, Daisy. Tell me a little about your novel, The Silence and what interested you most about the premise?

Hi! Thanks for having me. A lot of my ideas begin with an image and in the case of The Silence it was the image of a woman jumping into the sea with her toes pointed downward. I’d been reading a lot about gaslighting – a covert form of emotional manipulation – and how easily it could be used to isolate someone from their friends and family.

The two ideas came together almost at the same time. Stella (the central character) is a former child star and I liked the idea of her trying to untangle herself from her former fame.

 

What were the challenges of writing this novel?

Ha. All of them. All the challenges! Time, for one. I squeezed writing The Silence into every moment my daughter was asleep and then again when I forced myself to wake up early. It’s the commitment, I think. Financial, emotional, mental.

Sometimes the story was so suffocating I would happily have drop kicked my computer into the sun. Other than that, you know, it was a breeze!

 

What’s your writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals?

A cup of tea. We live in a cold, cold house and so in the winter I started writing in bed with a hot water bottle so now that is where I write 99 percent of the time. I’m told it’s terrible for my sleep hygiene but I’m stuck in it now.

I work in a library, so I write in between the end of my work day and school pick-up and then again in the evenings. There’s a lot of opportunity for procrastination so I try to be really disciplined.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

This is a great question and I’ve got two terrible answers for it. One, is Nanny Ogg’s cat Greebo from the Discworld novels but only – only – when he turns into a piratical man. The other is all the kids from the Losers club from the novel IT, the people I most identified with as an adolescent.

NK: My husband is a huge fan of The Discworld and I also think he would like to meet Greebo. 

 

In your opinion, what’s the most important thing to remember when developing characters?

Personally, I like to see flaws in a character. Jealousy, anger, bitterness. I need to see them as human and I need to care if they live or die. That’s what carries me through a book. I don’t neccessarily need to relate to them but I do need to know they’re not entirely whole. That helps, for me.

 

Which author has made the most impact on you as a writer?

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Message to Mars

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction 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: Message to Mars.

You win a competition where the prize is to write a message.

The message will be sent to Mars. It’s the first communication from earth.

What would be in your message?

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Wrong Number

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction 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: Wrong Number….

You are at home, it’s the weekend and after a long week, you want to rest.

Your phone pings, indicating a message.

Absent-mindedly, you look at the message and you have to read it a couple of times in order to take it in.

‘You’ve not answered my question. The clock is ticking.’

You stare at your phone, not sure what to do.

Another message arrives…

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Point of View

Today’s exercise is changing POV for your character. 

I am quite excited about today’s exercise and I think it’s great to flip the WIP on its head.

Using your current work, pick a passage featuring your main character. If you’d rather pick a character from your favourite novel, please do.

Now, change the point of view. For example, if you’ve written in first person, re-write in third person and vice versa.

If you wanted, you could also re-write from a secondary character’s point of view.

How did you find it? Did it inspire you to add more to the story and to see another aspect?

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NK Chats To… Helen Taylor

Hello Helen, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about your book, Why Women Read Fiction and what inspired you to write it? 

I have always been fascinated by the fact that the main readers of novels and short stories are women.  Currently we buy (and also borrow) about 80% of all fiction.  Women are the vast majority of members of book clubs, attendees at literary festivals, visitors to libraries and bookshops, and organisers of days out to literary heritage sites like the Brontës’ Haworth Parsonage. Many years ago, I wrote a book about Gone With the Wind, and more recently a Daphne du Maurier Companion, and while researching both these, I was struck by how many women told me of their passion for both writers and their books, and how profoundly they had wrapped words, scenes, characters and settings into their hearts and their own life stories.

They had even called their daughters, dogs and cats after the protagonists (Scarlett, Rhett, Rebecca). So I set out to ask what it is about reading fiction that appeals to women – and I found it offers escape, a special space just for us (‘me-time’), and the opportunity to spread our wings intellectually and emotionally. It helps us through the night, and gives us insights into our relationships and families, as well as the world beyond. Jackie Kay suggests ‘our lives are mapped by books’.

 

Fiction is important to so many people (including me.) Which fictional novel has made the most impact on you and why?

At different stages of my life, particular books have resonated.  As a girl, I wanted to be like awkward, unconventional and ambitious Jo March in Little Women.  As a young student, George Eliot’s Middlemarch taught me about social and intellectual pretentiousness, and warned me never to marry an emotionally stunted man.

As a middle-aged and older woman, I’ve learned about worlds very different from my own through writers such as Ralph Ellison, Eudora Welty and Hilary Mantel. Toni Morrison’s Beloved about American slavery is the most devastating novel I’ve ever read, and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is very dear to my heart because set in a special place of mine, Louisiana.

 

What were the challenges you faced when writing When Women Read Fiction?

I decided to send out questionnaires to women about their reading, and to interview women writers too.  The enthusiasm with which over 400 women responded to my questions and the wonderful material they provided me with, were very humbling, and I had to try to do justice to it all.  Women love to tell you about what reading fiction means to them – ‘a lifeline,’ ‘my best friend,’ ‘the love of my life’ – and all the ways they have found it helped them in sorrow, joy, sickness and health.

Women writers are very aware of their responsibility to, and friendly relationship with women readers, though they gave me angry accounts of being ‘Little Womaned’, as Hilary Mantel put it – reviewed, paid and valued less than male fiction writers.

 

What’s your writing day like and what do you need around you? For example, coffee, tea, music, silence?

Alas, I’m not an early riser, but when I get going (after many cups of good English Breakfast tea) I like to write to music – Joni Mitchell, Kate Rusby, Mozart, Leonard Cohen)- but when I REALLY get going and the writing is flowing, I work in silence.  Those are the most productive and precious times.

 

What’s the first thing you do when starting a new project? What comes next?

I am a slow burn writer. I was commissioned to write a BFI book about the film of Gone With the Wind and I finished it in three months, but usually it takes me years to shape an idea and produce a book.

I had the germ of an idea for Why Women Read Fiction thirty years ago, but I worked on it seriously for about five years. I think it’s a better book for taking so much time.

 

How do you approach the editing process?

Editing is my favourite process of all.  I find research and first drafts time-consuming and difficult, but I love to edit.

Years of teaching students have given me considerable experience here, and I love to spot my own repetitions, clichés, weak phrases and poor arguments – then brutally cut and reshape.  It’s the most creative process.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

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NK Chats To… Nicola K Smith

Hello Nicola, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your debut novel, A Degree of Uncertainty and what inspired the story?

Thank you for inviting me to chat with Novel Kicks, Laura.

A Degree of Uncertainty explores how a Cornish community is being ripped apart by its growing university, with an influx of students upsetting the balance of things and challenging the way life has always been. Some residents — and business people — see it as progress and welcome the expansion. Others feel threatened by the change in dynamics.

Against this backdrop of small town politics, the story is very character driven, exploring love, friendship, loyalty and betrayal. The shifting community pits friends, neighbours and colleagues against each other and reopens old wounds…

 

Do you think character or plot is more important in a story?

I think that’s a little bit like asking which is more important, a bra or knickers… I agree that some books are weighted more in favour of one or the other, but for me, you need both. That doesn’t mean the plot has to be a rip-roaring rampage punctuated with multiple murders and endless twists, but the storyline needs to travel from A to B.

That said, I can really enjoy a book where a deeply plausible character goes on an emotional journey and, in essence, very little happens. But I don’t think the best plot in the world will stand up in the hands of characters in whom readers don’t believe or, worse, don’t care about.

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

One of the two key protagonists is Harry Manchester, a proud Cornishman and successful local businessman who vows to save his beloved community from being overrun by students and ruined by change. Harry is a keen music fan and ex-drummer and he often seeks solace in Queen music, letting the lyrics guide his mood and — in one instance — his actions. So it would have to be Queen’s Greatest Hits. (He also has an incident where his Bohemian Rhapsody ring tone goes off at an untimely moment, but that’s another story…)

 

What was the biggest challenge when writing your first book?

Starting a book is a challenge. I’d had the idea for a while and I began making notes and sketching out characters and plot, but actually writing those first words seemed like a terrifying leap!

I did a ‘Starting to write your novel’ course with the literary agency, Curtis Brown, which gave me the tools to plan and start the book. It also gave me a huge dose of confidence as I was chosen as ‘Most promising student’ on the course, and was rewarded with a one-to-one tutorial with one of the agents. That was a massive shove in the right direction, and the novel began…

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Where do you like to write? Do you prefer silence, do you need coffee?

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: The Room

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction 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: The Room. 

Your character is guided into a room. There are four people already there, sat on two of the three sofas that line the walls.

Your character has never seen these people before…. or have they?

To begin with, no one talks to one another. When conversation begins, things are revealed.

Carry on the story…

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: The Guest Book

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction 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: The Guest Book.

As your spouse is away on business on the other side of the country, you decide to take a weekend away with a friend, staying at a lovely guest house on the coast. Being an hour away from home, it is still nice to have a change of scenery.

The owner of the guest house asks you to sign the guest book.

Whilst doing so, you scan the names on the page and spot that your spouse checked in… the day before.

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