Writing Process

NK Chats To… Amelia Mandeville

mandeville-amelia-imageAmelia Mandeville joins me today. Her debut novel, Every Colour of You is released tomorrow by SphereHi Amelia, thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called Every Colour of You. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired the story?

Hello, thanks so much for having me!

My book follows the journey of Tristan, who is struggling with his mental health, and Zoe, who is the most positive person you’ll meet. It’s all about their friendship as very different people. I think my own personal struggles with mental health made me write this story. I also think it’s important for boys to be able to know that they can cry, they are allowed to not be okay, and talk about it.

 

What is your writing process like from research and plot development to editing? 

It’s different for each book. This one, I spent a little bit of time planning, writing down certain lines I really wanted Zoe or Tristan to say, their characteristics.  Then when I had the ending set in stone, I started writing. The editing was thorough, we did a lot of drafts before it got to my final draft, and I felt it just got better and better. My book would not be how it is, without Abby and Manpreet who edited.

 

Do you have any rituals when writing – a certain place to write, coffee, music, silence? 

Music. I always have to listen to music. I think of my most chapters to myself when I’m driving on my own, listening to a song. There’s something about music. It really just gets me in my zone. Specifically sad, emotional, music.

 

Which author/book has most influenced you? 

I think I always found Veronica Roth so successful, writing at such a young age. And obviously JK Rowling. Despite all those rejections, but her true talent eventually was recognized. I tried to remind myself that whenever I got rejections (I got a lot). I’m not saying I will ever be on the level of JK Rowling, but if she gave up, we would never have Harry Potter.

 

What is the best part of writing and what did you find the most challenging? 

The best part is creating characters that you feel so much emotion and love with, its lovely. The hard part is the self-criticism, and comparison. Also when you hitting a writing block. I really do doubt my writing abilities when I’m in that state of mind. But once you’re out it’s back into doing what you love again.

 

Are you working on a new book? Are you able to tell me a bit about it? 

I am! I’m keeping it secret. But I’m 20 thousand words in, and it will focus on duel narratives again. But it’s a very different story, with a very different situation.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Fairytale Reimagined

Novel Kicks Writing RoomToday in the writing room, I thought it would be fun to write a fairy tale. 

We all know the classics; Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc.

Writing no more than 1,500 words, pick a fairytale and put it into a modern setting.

You can merge a couple if you like.

For example, what if Cinderella worked for a cleaning company and had a lazy manager who was horrible. Sleeping Beauty worked in the city but couldn’t stop falling asleep in important meetings? Rapunzel has a fear of heights.

Have fun.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Five Random Sentences

Novel Kicks Writing RoomToday’s exercise is writing a story. 

Today, I thought it would be fun to take five sentences and put them together into a story. Overall, try to make the piece 1,500 words and spread these out across the whole thing.

The five sentences are:

. He would believe me. I would make sure of it. 

. The pineapples in my grandmother’s house had a mind of their own. 

. Is it just me or did the cat just speak to me. 

. I was getting really tired of this rush hour traffic. 

. Ben knew that robbing the bank was a risk but one he needed to take. 

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Spooky Times

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayIt’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.

Halloween is just around the corner and so the prompt is spooky themed. 

Imagine you are a ghost in a haunted house. You are scared of everything and anything.

It’s 31st October. This is your least favourite day. This is the day people won’t leave you alone.

Write a conversation between the ghost and someone who is trick or treating.

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A Moment With… Sandra Danby

Connectedness by Sandra Danby I am pleased to say hi to author, Sandra Danby. As well as sharing an extract with me today, she is also talking about her latest novel, Connectedness and the origin of her story. 

To the outside world, artist Justine Tree has it all but she always has a secret that threatens to destroy everything. 

Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.

Thanks for joining me today, Sandra. Over to you…

six coffees from above - photo @SandraDanbyWhen I was writing Connectedness, second in my ‘Identity Detective’ series of adoption mysteries, I didn’t realise how much I was writing about food. Then a blogger friend who reviewed the book sent me an email saying I had presented her with a difficult biscuit dilemma.

While biscuits are something that remind Justine Tree of her childhood in Yorkshire, coffee is about romance in Spain. When she arrives as an art student in Málaga, Justine struggles to order a decent cup of coffee.

Then she meets Spanish student Federico who appreciates her difficulty and tries to help. I wrote this scene early in the genesis of the book and recreated it in our local bar in Spain, much to the bemusement of the waiter. I ordered six cups of coffee and tasted each in turn. The result was that I realised I liked café con leche, and my husband chose sombra. This is the coffee scene where Justine meets Federico for the first time.

 

****** start of extract*****

‘No quieres café?’ He looked at her as if she had asked for champagne.

Quickly Justine explained the difficulty she had ordering coffee, and then waited as Federico and the waiter exchanged a rapid dialogue interspersed with lots ofsí’sand no’s and much gesturing.

Finally Federico nodded. ‘Sí, vale.’

The waiter soon returned carrying a tray with six cups on it. Nodding first at Federico then at Justine, he retreated to the restaurant door beneath the shade cast by a large eucalyptus tree and watched.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: From The First To The Last

Novel Kicks Writing RoomWhen you first decide to write a book, we are told that beginnings and endings are important but how you get from one to the other is what keeps a reader interested.

For today’s exercise, use the following line to start (or use one from one of your favourite novels.)

“From the beginning, she was in love with him.”

Write it at the top of the page.

Then, write the following last line at the bottom of the page;

“She couldn’t move. She just continued to hold the knife.”

(Again, feel free to use an ending from a favourite novel as long as it’s different to the one the first line came from.)

Using about 1,500 words, fill in the middle from your first line to the last.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Twenty Questions

Novel Kicks Writing RoomToday, the writing room will be looking at getting to know your character by having a game of twenty questions with them using the questions below. Not everything you write has to end up in your novel but it will give you a better overall knowledge of them and how they would feel and react to things.

1. What do they look like?

2. What do they like to do to socialize?

3. How was their childhood?

4. One thing that really embarrasses them?

5. What group did they belong to at school?

6. What did they want to do when they grew up and what do they actually do for a job as an adult?

7. Name ten songs that are currently on their playlist?

8. Do they drink, smoke, take drugs?

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A Moment With… Julie C. Gardner

Julie GardnerForgetting Ophelia is the new novel from Julie C. Gardner (released today by Velvet Morning Press.) She’s joined me today to talk about her life in books. Over to you, Julie. 

I owe my obsession with reading, at least in part, to my sister Nancy. More specifically to her tonsils. I was seven and my sister was six the year my family drove from California to Texas to spend Christmas with our cousins. On the way, Nancy broke out in yet another of her fevers, her throat swelling up, her tonsils the size of tennis balls. It was a truly miserable situation.

For me.

Why? Because Nancy, who was my only playmate on this road trip, was suddenly quarantined. No more alphabet games in the backseat of our car. No songs or hand-slapping routines.

On a pit stop at my Aunt Elaine’s house in Arizona, my aunt took pity on me and my loneliness, whisking me away to a local bookstore where she bought me The Secret of the Old Clock.

I curled up with my new mystery, gobbling the adventures of this titian blonde named…Nancy.

The love was instantaneous. I wanted to be a titian blonde. I wanted to BE Nancy Drew.

I read every book of hers I could get my hands on. Then the Trixie Belden series. Harriet the Spy. A Wrinkle in Time. Island of the Blue Dolphins. By the time I was ten, I decided to be Judy Blume, not merely devour all her books.

When I was in fifth grade, my parents took me to a bank where they were handing out free copies of James A. Michener’s Hawaii. The book was roughly the size of a toaster. As I announced my plan to read all 1,000 pages of this sprawling saga, my parents chuckled. “Go ahead!” (Of particular interest were the sexy scenes, since I’d recently watched my school’s puberty films.)

By then my sister had had her tonsils removed, and I’d moved on to Little Women, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities. A bevy of classics littered my nightstand and saved me from being completely boy-crazy. (Rest assured, I was still plenty boy-crazy. Just ask Nancy and my parents.)

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A Moment With: Rhiannon Navin

ONLY CHILD PB JACKET FINALOnly Child by Rhiannon Navin has been released today in paperback and I am so pleased to welcome her back to Novel Kicks. Thank you for joining me today, Rhiannon. What’s your writing day/space like? 

The short answer is: never the same. I’m a stay at home mum of three, so I always have to squeeze in time and space for writing between a million other things. I used to think that I needed to create this perfect scenario to get some writing done, hours of uninterrupted time and no distractions. But I’ve found that I actually need a lot of movement while I write. I can’t sit in one place for too long and I have to allow my mind to wander. So, it’s not unusual for me to have multiple writing “windows” throughout the day and each in a different location around the house.

 

What advice about writing would you give to your younger self? 

To start sooner! My whole life, people have suggested that I try my hand at writing, but I never thought that would be something I could do or be good at until I sat down to write Only Child. And then I fell in love with writing so quickly. It’s become such an essential part of my life, basically from one day to the next, and it sometimes feels like wasted time that I spent almost 40 years not writing. But maybe I had to be in the right place in my life to be receptive. And maybe it took the right story to get me hooked.

 

What elements are needed for a good novel?

A good novel to me is one that makes me miss it when I’m not with it. I have to want to carry it around with me even if I know I won’t have time to read it. And I have to think about it long after I’ve finished it. It’s hard to say which elements in a novel have that effect on me. A different voice certainly, one that I haven’t heard before, or a perspective I haven’t considered before. The characters have to be real and imperfect; they have to be people I’d like to meet in real life. I like to walk away from a story having learned something. And if the story made me laugh—or cry!— bonus points.

 

About Only Child: 

We went to school that Tuesday like normal.

Not all of us came home . . .

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Free Write Exercise

rp_writeanything-300x19911-300x1991-300x1991-300x199-300x1991-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-1-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-300x199-1-300x199-1-1-300x199-1-300x199-300x199-1-1-1-1-1-1.jpgFor today’s writing room, I thought it was about time we did a free writing exercise/short story

If you have a subject and character in mind, feel free to write about that or you can use the prompt I’ve included below.

The story just needs to include dialogue, a proper conclusion and be no more than 1,500 words.

The prompt… 

Your main character is in his sixties. He has been in the circus since he was sixteen making his way up the ranks to being the boss.

The circus has just arrived in a new town.

One of the younger staff members gets ill and needs to go to the hospital. A routine blood test reveals something that your character has wanted to keep secret.

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A Moment With…Lynne Shelby

Lynne ShelbyHello and welcome to author Lynne Shelby, whose latest novel is called The One That I Want. She joins me today to talk about her writing process, from idea to editing. Over to you, Lynne. 

An idea for a novel usually comes to me when I’m least expecting it. A sepia photo in an old family album, an overheard conversation on a train, a visit to a museum, have all inspired a story. Once I have that initial idea, I find that sooner or later my main characters appear in my head, demanding that their story be told. I only know the beginning and ending of my novel at this stage, so I make a few notes or at most a rough outline and then sit down at my laptop and start typing, introducing my hero to my heroine and seeing what happens – hopefully sparks will fly! There seems to be a moment when the main characters take over the plot, while minor characters have a habit of insisting on their own sub-plot – or even their own novel!

On a typical writing day, I aim to be at my desk in my writing room by 9.30. Before I begin writing, I read back over everything I wrote the day before to get back into the world of my story, and then, ideally, I write for about three hours, or maybe more, usually producing between 800 to 1,000 words – a couple of hundred of which will probably get deleted in the next draft!

In many ways, my actual writing process hasn’t changed a great deal since I started writing – it’s been more a case of my discovering which ‘tools of the trade’ work best for me as I write. When I was about three-quarters of the way through writing the book that was to become my first published novel, I went back and read it through from the beginning, making brief notes about the plot so far and a rough timescale over which the action was taking place. By then I had a clearer idea of where the story was going, and it was at that stage that I planned future chapters to make sure that the plot and sub-plots were tied up before the end of the book. When I wrote my second novel, The One That I Want, which was published in July 2018, I did much the same, except when I came to read through the manuscript, I decided to make a chart for each chapter with more notes about the events of the plot and each stage of my characters’ emotional journeys, and a detailed timeline. I found this made keeping the plot on track much easier when I came to the next draft, and I now do the same for each book I write.

The other way my writing process has evolved is that I edited my first novel as I wrote it, and also wrote the story in the order it would appear on the page. With my second novel, I edited far less while I was writing the first draft, and when I came to a scene that wasn’t working, I made bullet points for the main events that needed to happen, and went on to the next chapter – which meant I could see where the story was going far sooner.

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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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