A Season For Writing

I’ve recently, after months spent editing and tweaking my vampire novel, started a new WIP. I felt a bit rusty at first, a bit unsure. I knew I could write books, but actually doing so, letting the story pull me along, was something I hadn’t done for a while. So I started slowly, trying not to force it, trying to remember how it felt to let things just flow instead of agonising over each sentence.

A blogger friend once wrote about there being seasons in writing. A season for editing, a season for planning, a season for writing. This resonated with me (well, not so much the planning part, as I’m a dedicated Pantser, but certainly the rest of it). It seems as though I’ve been just come out of very long season of editing and submitting, the wheel swinging around to writing again. I’m very happy about it.

Another blogger friend said recently, and I’m paraphrasing slightly, that I’m at my best when I’m writing. And maybe she’s right. I certainly enjoy creating – there really is nothing like the fire and excitement of a first draft, when the words just flow from my fingers, the story unfurling in my mind. I tend not to write scenes in any particular order – I just start with an idea and see where it takes me, enjoying the revelations that come with each scene, the puzzle of knitting all the threads together.

Way, way back, at the very beginning of my blogging days, I wrote about unearthing stories. This idea was based upon something Stephen King wrote in ‘On Writing’. He described finding stories as ‘unearthing a fossil,’ and, as soon as I read those words, I could see mine. This is what I wrote back in 2014:

Can still see them, poking out from the forest floor, delicate carapaces of bone or polished wood, it’s hard to tell as I unearth even more of them. One is almost clear of the ground, the story complete, just a bit of polishing required. The others are still offering up new discoveries, new aspects every time I look at them, whether it is a change of only a few words or a whole new idea. But the important thing is that I keep looking at them, keep exploring the angles, the nooks and crevices, until the job is done, the story told.

I’ve unearthed quite a few more since that original post, with five books now published and one more written, but the lovely thing is that I’m still finding them. My new WIP is set on the California coast just near Monterey, and I swear I feel as though I’ve been there just from writing about it; I can almost feel the California sunshine.

That’s the beauty of both reading and writing, I suppose – when this world seems a bit too much, we can escape somewhere else. I’m glad this season has taken me back to California – wonder where it will take me next?

How about you? Do you find your writing also falls into different ‘seasons’? Or do you work on everything at once?


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Wild Ride

IMG_0950I tried this whole planning thing. Honestly, I really did. I spent ages making little chart-y things and tables, planning my blog posts and work weeks and monthly goals. I tried writing out chapter lists and character arcs and tying them all together into some sort of marvellous grid that would become a whole big story.

But planning doesn’t work for me.

I’ve always been a kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl. The kind of person who’d rather say ‘I tried’ than ‘I wish I’d tried’, then jumps in and gives it a go. Sometimes this ends in failure. Sometimes it ends in triumph. Sometimes it leads to somewhere quite unexpected.

When I worked for other people I was very organised. The fast pace of advertising meant I had to be, starting the day with a list of things which, despite the amount of time I spent crossing them off, seemed longer by the time I went home. I’ve always worked hard, trying to learn something and take away a positive, no matter how negative the work experience (and some have been quite negative). I don’t like being late for things, I run my household pretty tightly, and I’m quite good at prioritising.

But planning isn’t really my thing.

img_0384I think about the future, of course I do. I have a child and a mortgage and an idea of where I’d like to end up. But I’ve learned that life can pick you up and shake you around like dice in a jar, tipping you out to land as fortune takes you. And so, while I squirrel away my hopes like nuts in case of winter, I’m aware that winter might come in quite a different form than I imagined, and so the only thing I can really be prepared for is change.

See? I can’t even plan this post. I had meant to write about the festoons of post-it notes that have replaced my carefully typed lists, the piles of paperwork and scraps of scribbled notes, all of which have a twisted sort of order in my own mind but nowhere else, a system only my brain can understand. I wanted to write about the fact that, when I tell a story, I can forget about planning any part of it other than the main events, as the characters will pull me along in their wake, typing as fast as I can to keep up with their actions. And that I love, absolutely love, the wild ride of it, the feeling of discovery as the story unfolds around me like the petals of a flower.

IMG_0806But instead my mind and tapping fingers have taken me outside the cluttered confines of my desk, pointing out that planning really isn’t something that’s worked out for me, in many aspects of my life. And that I can waste time formatting documents and printing up checklists all I want, but when the jar begins to shake again I’d better be ready for where I’m going to land. That life itself is wild and organic and that I am a dancing leaf on the wind – I can fight it, try and organise it into charts and boxes, or I can simply go along with it to wherever it takes me, bringing all that I have, all that I am, along for the ride.


Note: I wrote this post yesterday when I was still feeling a little shaken for several reasons. I’m not quite so fey as it sounds – I do work hard and focus on what I want to achieve. But setting concrete plans, beyond a couple of big things, is something that has never really worked for me – as soon as I do so the universe has a way of demonstrating that it has other plans for me…