28 February 2012


You’ve written zealously for months, your enthusiasm growing as the plot unfolds before your eyes.  Characters, once just names on a page, have come to life and appear to be writing the story for you.  Each morning you wake up with fresh ideas and churn out yet another thousand words before lunchtime.  It’s exhilarating to say the least until, one day, you find it all grinding to a halt.  Your manuscript has sagged in the middle!

Days become unproductive, nights sleepless.  Is there a solution to this dilemma?  The first thing is you don’t give up.  Instead you turn on your determination and treat this as a challenge.

To start with think of your manuscript as a three act play.
Act 1 you are busy introducing characters, the settings they inhabit, establishing subplots and conflict.
Act 2 complications arise, your protagonist tries and fails and tries again.
Act 3 you tie up sub-plots and loose ends, your protagonist finally confronts the villain and all is resolved.

If you look at Act 1, you can see there’s lots to be done establishing your characters, settings etc.  And again in Act 3, you are bringing it all together and finalising everything.  But Act 2 can be difficult because it’s where all the action is.  You have to tell your reader, in a plausible way, how your characters are dealing with their conflicts.  If you’re writing a murder mystery you have to show the workings of how the crime is being solved.  So it’s not uncommon to experience problems.  Your conflict might run out of steam or you find it difficult to solve the crime.

Here are a few suggestions to remedy the situation:
Option 1:  Someone once said to me that embarking on writing a book is like giving yourself a lot of problems that no one can help you with.  That’s true in a sense, but not altogether because I’ve found just talking to someone about plot problem(s), does help make things clearer in my mind.  And the strange thing is the person you’re speaking to doesn’t necessarily have to respond.  They just have to have the endurance to listen to your ramblings until you’re quite finished.  Mothers are the best choice for this task.  If that’s not an option then a spouse or sibling is probably the next option.  Friends, not so good.  You wouldn’t want to do this to a friend!

Option 2:  Take stock.  Think about your characters and your plot.  What’s at stake for your characters?  Is there something about them you have overlooked?  If your plot has come to a standstill, is there another direction it can go in?

Option 3:  Skip over your problem area and write a scene further along.  Sometimes what you write might suggest actions for the scene(s) that have been giving you trouble.

Option 4:  Make things happen.  Create a new conflict/event for your character(s) to be faced with.  And think about how your character(s) will logically deal with this new situation.  If you’re writing a murder mystery, have another murder take place.  This is sure to get things moving again!

Option 5:  Write the finale.  Even if this eventually changes, it might give you a sense of direction.

What are your suggestions for sagging middles?

23 February 2012


by Susanna Kearsley

I became totally absorbed reading The Winter Sea.  Set in north-east Scotland, it tells the story of Carrie McClelland, an author who starts writing a historical romance using her ancestor, Sophia McClelland and the exiled King James of Scotland as its background.  The reader is swept back in time to 1708, at the height of James’s attempt to regain his crown from England, and Sophia’s entanglement in this affair.

Carrie, settles into her rented cottage in the historic village of Cruden Bay where she finds herself surrounded by images of the past, not the least of which is Slains Castle, in 1708, a Jacobite stronghold, and the focal point in her book.  It’s not long, however, before the character in Carrie’s story start to take over her writing with surprising results.

Slains Castle today
If you enjoy reading history mixed with fiction and a smattering of  romance as well as mystery, you will not be disappointed.

20 February 2012


When writing, do you outline, use a storyboard or, as someone put it to me the other day, do you write by the seat of your pants?  A Panster, in other words.  There is, of course, no right or wrong way, it just comes down to what works for you.

I, myself, work in some sort of confused muddle for eighteen to twenty-four months in the hope that I will eventually emerge into the sunlight.  It’s like trying to find my way through a maze.

I’ve never used a storyboard, but I do spend a lot of time drawing diagrams over the backs of my manuscript pages, on serviettes while I’m in a restaurant or coffee shop, and in a notebook I carry with me.  I don’t know whether this pastime helps me sort out my plot problems, but I think it has a therapeutic benefit.  I liken it to watering one’s garden.  It has a calming effect when I can’t solve the mystery I’m writing!  I do create a time line for my characters so I know where they were at the time of the murder(s).  And I keep a table of all my characters’ details.  It doesn’t do to have someone’s eyes change color between page 2 and 22.

What about you?  What are your methods?

13 February 2012


Writing is an all consuming activity, your thoughts constantly with your characters, the settings they inhabit, the plot and sub-plots.  You're virtually in another world most of the time.  One that you have created.  And what happens in that world is entirely up to you.  Such power!  It's rather addictive.  So much so that you can fall into the trap of letting the other parts of your life slip by without your notice. That's a shame because you will miss so much.  And it's why, if the opportunity arises to get away for a few days, you should do so.

It doesn't matter where you go as long as you leave behind your computer, your manuscript and the cell phone.  Just take a good book.  You might find yourself in the South Pacific in cyclone season as I did last week.  Or in the northern hemisphere winter surrounded by snow and ice.  In which case you will need that good book, plus a roaring fire.  Of course, there is the possibility that you're unable to get away.  If this is the case. there's no reason you can't do the same thing.  Close down your computer for a couple of days over the weekend.  Put your manuscript in a drawer where you won't be tempted to look at it, and concentrate, just for the time being, on the other parts of your life.

I guarantee that when you return, you will be refreshed from your sojourn, however short, and your characters, settings, plot, and sub-plots will all be there waiting for you.

2 February 2012


Welcome everyone to Author Interview
Today we have with us, Darlene Jones, author of Embattled.  Darlene lives on Vancouver Island, Canada and spends winters in Mexico.  She loves chocolate and thinks it should be in a food group of its own.  Good morning Darlene! It’s great to have you with us!

Please tell us about your recent release, Embattled.

DARLENE: Ah, my baby! Embattled is the first of a series and features, Em, whose life is taken over by “beings out there, somewhere”.  To add to the problem, the being controlling her is a rookie and, of course, he messes up. Then he risks his future when he falls in love with Em and becomes insanely jealous of her lover.  And yes, they will get to live happily ever after, but it will take four books to get there.
Where did you get your story idea?

DARLENE: I wrote the story motivated by my experiences living in Mali a long time ago. I chose to go the “soft” sci-fi route for the adventure and element of magic that I needed, but at the core it's a love story.

Is there a message in Embattled you want readers to grasp?

DARLENE: Yes. Without moralizing, I'm trying to show how bad war and armed conflict are.
Of all your characters you’ve created, is there one you particularly like? Why?

DARLENE: Well, Em will always be first in my heart, but really I love them all. As I wrote the story it seemed that they became a part of my life and I didn't want to be without them. Laugh – that's why one book morphed into four and who knows if that will really be the end?
Did you plan your characters out before you started writing or did they develop as you wrote?

DARLENE: Some were definitely planned, but others developed and grew along with the story. Tony, for example, was incidental in the first draft, and came to play a larger role as I revised.

What is your writing process? Do you outline or start writing and see where it takes you?

DARLENE: With the first book, I just wrote and played musical chapters as I rearranged the story line, but now I do work from an outline although it's not a detailed one and it often changes as I go.
Please give us a sneak peek at your future books. What’s on the horizon?

DARLENE: Book two will be out in the next couple of months. I don't want to say too much – spoilers, you know, but I think readers will be very happy with the plot line.

How many hours a day do you spend writing? Editing? Procrastinating?

DARLENE: I often feel that I'm glued to the computer. Not just writing and editing, but also marketing now that book one is out. I don't procrastinate most of the time, but, to answer the next question, when I get writer's block, I leave it alone for a while and then suddenly I'll have brainwaves that send me back to the computer. 

And now a bit about yourself.
Do you write full time? What did you do before you became a writer or still do?

DARLENE: I started writing when I was still a junior high school principal so my writing was sporadic. Now, I'm retired and have much more time to write, when I'm not with my granddaughter that is.
What is your favorite genre to read and who is your favorite author?

DARLENE: I read anything that catches my eye and holds my interest. I have a long list of authors I like, including Alan Bennett, Amar Lakhous, Kathy Page...
And I have to ask this.  Please tell us about that camel I’ve seen you riding.

DARLENE: Chuckle. That was in Egypt riding to the pyramids. Seemed the right thing to do. 

Thank you so much for joining us here today, Darlene.  Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers we have not touched on?

DARLENE: You know, it seems there are so many serial killers and vampires and paranormals, etc out there right now. I'd like your readers to know that Embattled is none of that. It's a unique concept that takes readers on a new ride.
Do you have any questions you’d like to ask Darlene about her book, Embattled?  If so, leave a comment here or connect with Darlene on line at:-