Tag Archives: Words Written in Red and White

Clarity from Craziness

This chapter is kicking my ass!

I’ve written 6 pages and I might think that it’s all crap. I say ‘might’ because it may just be me and this mood…

It’s a chapter that has a function. It is a rare-book shop, or more importantly, a rare-book shop owner, who is a little shall we say ‘off-the-rails’. This man has to instruct our heroes into the next clue.

I do like writing people who are a few sandwiches short of a picnic. I like the random nature of the dialogue, and how erratic their disposition and thought processes are. This is all good.

But for some reason this chapter isn’t working. It’s supposed to be dark and creepy, and move the plot along. But it feels like it’s slowing the plot down. I can’t quite put my fingers on it…

It’s difficult too because this loopy-man is actually setting up some things for a future book. So I’m trying to get those parts right, whilst not bogging down the narrative with seemingly random and meaningless dialogue. It has to flow.

Maybe that’s the problem, that this chapter has to do too much. It’s a funny one because this man isn’t in the rest of the book, but he has to make an impact. He has to be memorable. But also, he’s actually quite scary.

Our heroes are at the back of this shop with a lunatic – and I use that word because I’ve written him as very unstable – and it feels properly scary. Not in a evil-magical-nemesis kind of way, but more a this-man-is-actually-mentally-unstable-and-anything-could-happen kind of way. And perhaps that’s another failing on my part; maybe it’s too real.

I feel uncomfortable reading it back because I am worried about what this man will do…


Does that mean I’ve done my job right? It should feel uncomfortable; it should feel scary. But have I crossed a line? Am I now in adult fiction rather than young adult? Perhaps it’s the very adult nature of it that isn’t sitting well with me. Perhaps it’s that underlying worry about what this man is capable of that scares me. But maybe only I am reading it like that; maybe I am reading too much into it because I am too close to it.

I think I’ve hit the nail on the head. I think I’ve made it too adult. I think I’ve gone to too dark a place. I have to keep in my mind who my reader is most likely to be. I have orchestrated this novel to be for a specific audience, with a broader appeal so that anyone can read it. But I don’t want to alienate my intended audience…

I am going to attack it a fresh. I’m going to cut it up, because there is some good stuff in there too, and patch it back together before smoothing out the cracks. I don’t often re-arrange chapters. They normally sit as written. But I think this one will benefit from rejigging; perhaps giving the chapter a nicer conclusion, with a bit more hope.

It’s the absence of hope; that’s the problem!!! It feels hopeless and confusing and crazy; the whole chapter feels unhinged, all because Albert is unhinged. But this is a book about Crystal. Crystal needs someone to make things clear, and clarity isn’t often found from a crazy person. Albert has to almost fight for his own clarity, forcing his own foggy-mind into coherent thought; he has to gain his sanity back to help make things clear for Crystal.

That’s what Albert gives. He points her in the right direction. And you definitely should think that he knows more than he’s letting on…

I need to focus the perspective more; bring it all back to Crystal. I think I’m going to have a break now and resume writing later on. I shall return!



I love it when a plan comes together.

My style of writing is to block out the bare bones of a chapter and then when it comes to actually writing it, allowing my fingers to their own devices and indulging in a bit of creative embellishment. Really, its 1 part thinking to 2 parts doing.

1 Part Thinking:

Plan. Write a brief, brief, brief synopsis for the chapter considering the important plot points and really just mapping out the beginning, middle and end. More often than not, I have a place my main character has to end up, and I just plan the steps they take to get there.

Doing #1:

Take a first pass at the writing which is really just turning the synopsis into prose. This doesn’t always feel like you are a competent writer, or even that what you’ve written is particularly good, but it does get the story going. Mostly, my first pass is speech. Getting the talkie bits in gives you a framework for the rest of the chapter.

Doing #2:

Now this is the bit that I love; the heart. This is where I make the story feel. Difficult to explain. I make sure that the chapter is coherent and consistent when it comes to perspective, and try to ensure that I refer back to my main character as much as possible. I also embellish the speech.

I heard a brilliant piece of advice once, when it comes to a character’s dialogue. Basically, if you don’t love every single word that each character says, then cut it. For me, this makes the dialogue easier to write. If it’s half-hearted and just ‘serving a purpose’ then change it and make it right for that character.

It’s also where I feed the descriptions with some much needed adjectives. Pass 2 is all about making the chapter sit in its rightful place in the book and in the landscape that you’re writing about. Describe the scenery, enhance the mood, make the surroundings matter as much as the characters speech and thoughts and feelings.

Of course, this is an extremely general simplification of the process. The ‘1 Part Thinking’ is actually the culmination of years of characterisation, plotting, figuring out twists and turns, back story, research… I could go on!

But what I really love is when in doing the second pass, I write something and connect something that I didn’t know was there, at first. I’ll try and explain…

It’s the goosebump moments. Those rare times when the facts and research and plotting and sub plotting and characterisation and dialogue and setting all merge to create something special.


I always thought that Russell T Davies was very clever in his plotting – and he is! He writes things in that don’t seem important and end up being massively important. He has a fantastic way of linking things that you didn’t realised were linked to begin with. Pockets anyone?

He’s also very good at using the information he has already established to his advantage. So, when it comes to making that link, he looks incredibly clever, like he had planned the link all along. When, in reality, he probably discovered the link was there half way through writing it – “Us Smiths have to stick together!”

Am I making sense?

The reason I bring this up is because I just linked something in my novel which is really nothing more than a happy accident. A fantastic play on words that hopefully, if you ever read it, you will think I was so clever and had planned it all along, when in actual fact, it happened by accident through a bit of research and using what I had already established.

This makes me so happy! For a brief and shining moment, I felt like a proper writer. I even had goosebumps.

Then I read it back, and I gave myself goosebumps again!

It’s these small and clever times that spur me on. It can be awfully lonely and quite isolating working as a writer. You can doubt yourself 300 times a day, and only feel like you’ve done good maybe twice a day.

This is one of those times! I pat myself on the back.

Chapter 11 is finished and I am half way through Chapter 12, as of yet untitled. I hate giving a chapter a title if it doesn’t naturally come to me. That will be next now, I’ll spend days agonising over the name of this chapter instead of writing it.

So to save myself the bother, I’ll name it now: lets call it…

Words Written in Red and White

It’s a working title. But I like it!