Monica Cafferky is joining us with the blog tour for her novel, A Winter’s Sleep. She has made a living with words for over 30 years, first as a journalist and more recently with her supernatural thriller The Winter’s Sleep. Here, Monica shares her tips for making a start on your own novel – “stop thinking about it, just start writing.”
Tip 1: You need to read.
Before you put fingers to keyboard, or pen to paper, you need to know your genre. Read the kind of books you want to write.
If you love spooky stories, it’s Halloween after all, read the classics like Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Or, opt for more contemporary novels such as Thin Air by Michelle Paver or my own The Winter’s Sleep.
Or do you prefer historical fiction? Fill your boots with tales from writers Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick. If romance is your first love go for Sarah MacLean.
What’s important is that you READ. By reading, you will discover how to structure a story in your genre, how to construct a good plot, develop characters and layer in myth. Without these important elements there is no compelling story.
Tip 2: Start writing notes to yourself.
As the story starts to take shape in your mind you will have brilliant (I hope) insights, often when you least expect it – washing up, walking the dog, in the bath. It’s important not to lose these snippets of plot and character. You need to make a note of your ideas because, trust me, you won’t remember them later on.
Ideas are funny things, unless they’re fully formed, and repeated often, they slip away like a balloon in a strong breeze. Write these ideas down in your journal (that you use just for the novel) or create an audio note on your mobile, and then write it down later.
Let the foundation of the book take shape with these ideas, and collect these ideas together. You need to know what your book is about before you start the actual writing, otherwise you will find your story, and your sanity, unravelling around a quarter of the way through the plot.
Tip 3: What’s your character’s quest?
Whatever your story, and genre, the main character will always have a quest – a goal they have to reach to find freedom or fulfil something that’s missing in their life. Often the various characters have the same or opposite goals, which creates the drama. Without drama and tension there is no story.
Think of your favourite book, or film, I include film because the two genres are becoming interchangeable – book/film; film/book. What’s the character’s main goal? Kill the shark (Jaws); Find the missing partner (Gone Girl); Find the Grail (Labyrinth – Kate Mosse, not the David Bowie film); Overcome the ghosts (The Winter’s Sleep). Find your character’s quest and you have the driving force for your story, and the source of conflict and growth. Without growth you have no strong character, no strong character means a boring story. And who wants to read (or write) a boring story?
Tip 4: Anchor your story.
Decide on the place and time – where the story is set and what time period. Time and place help to contain and shape the narrative. For my own novel I chose Saltburn, a seaside town on the North East Coast, a place of high cliffs and remote cottages. Where do you want to put your own characters?
Tip 5: Do you research.
Even supernatural stories have some grounding in truth, Dracula and Vlad the Impaler is a good example. In The Winter’s Sleep, I used some of my own childhood experiences of living in a haunted house, embellished of course, but I really did see things in mirrors and dark shadows in the hallway.
Whilst you might not be delving into the darkness for your novel, you still need to make sure that events or experiences have a ring of truth – from cooking a risotto to flying a plane. Another tip, don’t just rely on Google for the information.
Tip 6: Believe in yourself.
No-one can do the work for you, you have to turn up at that keyboard and write until you breathe life into your book. Remember, though, you’re the one in control – not your characters!
About Monica Cafferky:
Monica Cafferky worked as a journalist for national newspapers and magazines for over 20 years before turning her hand to fiction with the supernatural thriller The Winter’s Sleep.
The inspiration for her debut novel, set in Yorkshire and the North East coast, came from growing up in a haunted house in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
Previously, Monica co-authored three self-help books (published by Little Brown), which have been translated into several languages including: Japanese, Norwegian and Czech.
Monica is a Fellow of the Thomson Reuters Foundation and for five years was a visiting lecturer in journalism. Monica lives in Yorkshire.
About The Winter’s Sleep
A fast-paced thriller with a supernatural twist, The Winter’s Sleep takes the reader on a breathtaking ride from Leeds to the Yorkshire coast in a tale of ghosts, betrayal and fraud.
A handsome husband. A beautiful home. A job she loves. Yet Brigid Raven is drowning in debts and there’s only one way out. Fake her death and walk away from everything she’s struggled so hard to build.
Can she pull off her new identity? How will she survive on the run?
But Brigid has another secret. She can see the dead and now they won’t leave her alone
The Winter’s Sleep by Monica Cafferky was released by Jasper Tree Press is available in paperback (£9.99) and eBook (£2.99). Click to buy.
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.