Stepping Into A Writer’s World

In my recent post, A Season for Writing, I wrote about the fact that I’d started a new WIP set in California, and that I could almost feel the sunshine.

And the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that this feeling of place, of inhabiting the world where my characters live, is the way I know that my story has ‘legs.’

I don’t know about you guys, but I get story ideas all the time. Walking down the street, at the airport, in the shower. Some become stories, but others, for now, remain fragments, nothing more than a few sentences.

I’m not a plotter – I don’t sit down and write detailed plot graphs and chapter plans. I tried it once, but my characters didn’t like it and decided to run off in an entirely different direction. I knew then that it wasn’t for me. I’m envious of people who can plan their books that way – though I love the excitement of flying by the seat of my pants when writing a new story, there are moments when I have no idea what will happen next, or whether I can bring things to a speedy conclusion, and a nicely plotted graph would be very helpful. However, when I can ‘see’ my characters and their surroundings clearly, I take it as a signpost that all will be well.

Instead, when I start a new story, I take one of the little fragments – an idea, a couple of characters, a key event – and I start writing. I don’t think about it too much, because if I squeeze the idea too tightly it won’t be able to race forward, dragging me along with it. It’s quite a balancing act, caring just enough that the story knows you’re interested, but not so much it decides to quit, or run off with someone else. (If you’ve read Big Magic you’ll know what I’m talking about). And sometimes it goes nowhere – I don’t get that magic tickle in my stomach and fingers, I’m not thinking about the characters when I’m out walking. But sometimes, a world starts to spring up around me. Scenes and characters appear, almost as though they’ve been waiting for me to shout ‘Action!’, one scene linking into the next. I find myself thinking about the new story world at odd times, little snippets coming to me. And that’s when I know I’m on my way.

And so it is with this new WIP. I’ve been working on it for a little while, up to almost 10K words now, and I confess I did get slightly stuck at one point, but a chat with my critique partner (which will be another blog post) soon got things going again. And now that I can hear the surf, feel the sunshine and see the streets of the (fictional) town where my characters live, I know it’s going to be okay. That the story will unfurl for me. Because that’s how it’s always been. Whether I’m wandering the green woods of Ambeth, the beach Heaven in A Thousand Rooms, or the near-future world of The Last Raven, as long as I know where I am, I can see a way forward.

And maybe that’s how life is, sometimes, too.

How about you? How do you know when a story has ‘legs’? Are you a Planner, or a Pantser, or something in between?

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.


The 777 Writer’s Challenge

Jacaranda Leaves - image courtesy Wikimedia Commons,  © 2006 Carla Antonin

Jacaranda Leaves – image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, © 2006 Carla Antonin

Today I was nominated by the excellent Ali Isaac to take part in the 777 Writer’s Challenge. Thanks, Ali! I must say I’m enjoying these writing and photography challenges – it’s nice to feel part of the blogging community 🙂

So the rules are: go to the 7th page of your current WIP, find the 7th sentence, and then paste the following 7 sentences into your blog post. You must then nominate 7 other writers to do the same.

Okay, so far so good. However, I’m not going to go to my second Ambeth book (which is one of my WIP’s at the moment). Instead, I’m taking my excerpt from A Thousand Rooms. It’s another work in progress that I’ve yet to finish it completely. It’s about 90% done and then will need a good solid edit, no doubt, but it’s something I’ve really enjoyed writing. Anyway, here it is:

But no, I have to be dead and there’s no-one here and I’m screaming as loudly as I can but I know that I could scream my throat into shreds and nothing will change.

No one can hear me.

This goes on for a while. I sink to my knees, eventually, hiccupping and sobbing, my hands flat on the floor as I lean forward, my hair in my face. Then I sit back on my heels and heave a huge sigh, wiping my face with both hands, pushing my hair back. I don’t feel much better, but I don’t feel worse, either. I get up and wander back into the living room where I sit down on my couch, holding my weight carefully as I do so just in case I go through it. But I don’t, and so I sit there, watching light flicker through the long feathers of jacaranda leaves.

And that’s all you get.

I won’t say too much about the story except that it’s about a woman who is suddenly dead, then has to find her way. As to how she does that, you’ll have to wait and see 🙂

Okay – this is always the tough part, nominating seven more bloggers. If I do nominate you, this isn’t set in stone and you don’t have to do it if you don’t wish to. So (drumroll) the nominees are:

Louise Taylor

Louise Allan

Brittney Sahin

Melissa Barker-Simpson

Stephen Baird

Felicity Johns

Fay Keenan