Archive for the ‘Creative Writing Process’ Category

On Writing The Morrow Secrets

May 26th, 2013

This interview includes my experience of the creative writing process and my favourite writing tips for new and aspiring authors.

This is an excerpt from the broadcast including clips from the Gothic illustrations in the book

The Black Hound in Ragging Brows Forest

 

http://youtu.be/9ZJt4hlNX3w

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008CE93AY

 

http://themorrowsecrets.com/

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Posted in books for 9-14 year olds, Creative Writing Process, Dark Gothic Fantasy, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, Supernatural, The Morrow Secrets | Comments (0)

Gothic Dreams…

September 8th, 2012

Oh I wish I’d had some Gothic dreams, please let me drift off to the land of nod… Last night I couldn’t sleep, plot lines from Book Two going round in my head, characters developing a life of their own, demanding to be in the story… not yet I cried!  Then more eternal questions…How to resolve the conundrums of book one ?

This week I had many good writing days. The words flowed and I became immersed in developing at least three great sub-plots in Book Two but the corollary to that is that I have to write at 1am! Not good for the body clock.. So it goes something like this..I go to bed, try to sleep, toss and turn and these pesky characters flood into my brain… ‘why not have me doing this?’ and ‘what about me?’ ‘ what about letting me back into the story, please, I could creep around Winderling Spires and do this…’! So much so that I have to get up and start writing, bleary eyed and unable to sleep until the wee hours.. Until I can decant my head of all the competing  ideas ( like wasps trapped in a jar buzzing round my brain) and put the errant characters back to bed. They are becoming like small naughty children, refusing to go to sleep until they get what they want!

The Morrow Sisters, Edwina & Sybilla in the Crewel Tower

The Weird Morrow Sisters, Edwina & Sybilla

Those weird Morrow sisters – Sybilla, Edwina, and Agatha have been particularly tiresome in the early hours.

How will they shape the story? Are they a bit witchy? What are their powers?

It’a my own fault. When I started writing, I sought the the wise words of the established writers, their tips about how to develop characters. Their advice was to imagine your characters in any situation, get to know them inside out, even the wicked ones… So of course I did just that and can’t get the blighters out of my head!

Now I’m beginning to understand how writers become obsessed, drive themselves mad… so I either harness the beast or go for a long walk on this beautiful nearly-autumnal day… and put those irritating sisters out of my head… for now. This must be the creative writing process – it has me in its thrall.

 

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Posted in Creative Writing Process, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, How to Write a Children's Novel, Susan McNally, The Morrow Secrets | Comments (0)

The Supernatural : Paranormal Influences on Writing a Young Adult Gothic Trilogy

September 5th, 2012

As a young girl, not only did I adore the Addams Family (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Addams_Family), Bewitched

The Old Dark House of Secrets at Winderling Spires

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bewitched) and the Munsters ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Munsters) but as a teenager I got into the Hammer Dracula movies ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammer_Film_Productions)  in a big way – going to see the double bills at my local cinema on a Sunday Night! Fright Night!

Did this obsession come first or was I predisposed to the cult of the macabre and the Gothic? I have already written about my great aunt who went into a trance and foretold my birth but my mother was also superstitious and this must have rubbed off on me. She would always cross a travelling woman’s hand with silver and take the clump of heather from her, having had her fortune told into the bargain. Looking back she was superstitious about many things… black cats, not walking under ladders and repeating a rhyme on the first day of every month… just for luck. I still carry around a tiny black cat that she gave to me. So I was brought up in a family where the women believed in things they couldn’t explain.

Then as a teenager I had some weird experiences of my own. Once I was levitated by my friends… it didn’t happen to anyone else, only me. I opened my eyes.. I felt weightless and my friends had lifted me about 4 feet in the air. In the summer holidays, when I was 14 or 15 we started to play with a home made Ouija board… it was completely addictive and the results grew more ominous day by day until the outcomes were terrifying. Somehow we began to summon long dead spirits, strange words appeared on the makeshift board and when I looked these up in the dictionary we found that they were black magic voodoo curses. I began to be scared of going into the dining room when my friends weren’t around. One day the Ouija board was moving so quickly, the skies darkened and clattered with thunder and then the lights flickered in the room and we ran from the house screaming. We stopped playing with the spirits after that, I do believe we had contacted something beyond our understanding…

About 4 years later I was alone at my boyfriend’s house and I heard someone making a terrible noise downstairs – it sounded like someone dropping a cutlery drawer onto the stone kitchen floor. His mother, a very down-to-earth farmer’s wife later told me that there were spirits abroad, they were unhappy that the family was leaving the farm after six or seven generations of living there….Then a week later she whispered that something had hurt her arm, grabbing her violently in the dark passageway.. but no one was there, she too was all alone in the dark house.

So perhaps that’s the reason I am constantly drawn to the mysterious, the Gothic and the macabre and books with brilliant sinister twists and turns… a haunted house and weird eccentric characters always adds to the plot line as far as I’m concerned! When writing I become completely lost and absorbed  in Winderling Spires, imagining the secret rooms in the enormous creepy house, the evil shroves and all the dark, mysterious places that Tallitha and her brother are desperate to explore…but of course more is revealed about the macabre Morrow family than Tallitha imagines and so begins her epic journey of mystery and spellbinding paranormal adventure.

 

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Posted in Creative Writing Process, Dark Gothic Fantasy, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, Gothic Influences, Magical Adventure, Supernatural, Susan McNally, Teen Fiction, The Morrow Secrets, Young Adult | Comments (0)

You Tube Video & Radio Broadcast about Writing “The Morrow Secrets”

August 23rd, 2012

 

You Tube Video & Radio Broadcast about Writing “The Morrow Secrets”

The Old Dark House of Secrets at Winderling Spires

 

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Posted in Being An Author, Best Children's Fiction, books for 9-14 year olds, Creative Writing Process, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, How to Write a Children's Novel | Comments (0)

Recommendation for The Morrow Secrets on Amazon in the Fantasy Genre Section…

August 22nd, 2012

I woke up this morning, turned on my emails and did a double-take…. My book title was staring me back in the face… It was there in my In Box as an Amazon recommendation for my book in the fantasy and science fiction genres.

Is this a good thing? Well I guess it isn’t bad… but those of you out there who this has happened to, can you please answer these questions for me:

Does this happen to all books on a rotation so to speak? So does every new author get a recommendation?

The Old Dark House of Secrets at Winderling Spires

If it isn’t all books, then how does Amazon decide which books to choose?

Does this mean it goes to lots of other people who have bought books in these genres?

How often does it happen ( per book)?

Does it result in more visibility?

Does it translate into people actually reading/ buying your book?

Sorry I’m asking all these questions but I just don’t know….

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Posted in Being An Author, Best Children's Fiction, books for 9-14 year olds, Creative Writing Process, Gothic Influences | Comments (0)

Top Ten Self Publishing Tips for Indie Authors

August 19th, 2012

If I had known what I know now about the work involved in self publishing, would I do it? The answer has to be yes but it is so much work,  and you have to be dogged.

So I thought I would give you my top 10 tips about self-publishing.

The Old Dark House of Secrets at Winderling Spires

*The top one has to be get your book edited, professionally. I know that costs money but you don’t want grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. After reading the book through 3 or 4 times you will be unable to see the errors no matter how good your writing is.

* Get a professional illustrator to do your book cover. This is the first thing that your potential reader will see and you don’t want to put them off with an unprofessional approach.

* You have to be very patient and persistent.

*Join all the usual writing and reading sites on Face Book / Linked In and see if they work for you. Join a GoodRead to connect with other readers and writers http://www.goodreads.com/

* The successful Indie writers say that you have to write the next book to increase your presence ( I’m doing it, honestly!)

* You have to have a good website that is updated regularly with interesting content and can attract readers

* Build a blog presence. This will take time and a lot of effort. Build a posting plan of things you want to blog about.

* Be generous with other writers, share experiences, do guest blogs and hang out generally.

* Get on twitter, there are lots of us out there

* Keep up with all the social networking. Join Face Book and Linked In

* Received wisdom from the successful Indie writers out there say that doing things in person do not scale up. This is a global market so extent your reach through the internet. You can always do book signings when you are in print…

There are many more, these just happen to be the ones in my head today!

 

 

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Posted in Being An Author, books for 9-14 year olds, Creative Writing Process, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, Research, Self Publishing, Self Publishing Tips, The Morrow Secrets | Comments (0)

Interview with the Author Jo Marshall Creator of “Twig Stories”

August 18th, 2012

Writing Fiction – Interview with Jo Marshall Author of Twig Stories

 

Jo Marshall

Welcome to the Fantastic Book Blog, Jo….

Jo: Thanks, Susan. I’m delighted to know about your fun mysteries for middle-school readers, The Morrow Secrets, and to be hosted on your blog.  We write for the same age group, and they are great fans, don’t you think?

 

Susan: They are fantastic and wonderful to write magical stories for!

Jo is an author of Twig Stories.  The first book is Leaf & the Rushing Waters and the second is Leaf & the Sky of Fire.  Her third book is due out this Thanksgiving, and that is Leaf & the Long Ice.  Jo is an indie author with Createspace.

 

Q1. Have you always wanted to write? Tell us about your beginnings as a writer.

I wrote my first books when I was five years old about Siamese cats.  I cut up little pieces of notebook paper, stapled them together, and drew all the pictures, too. It took me over 50 years to try doing that again.  And I need a lot of very skilled people to help me do it now. But I always had it in the back of my mind to write and publish one day.

 

Q.2.What has inspired you?

My daughter Ali Jo’s concern about wildlife vanishing in our region inspired me.  She was in 4th grade, just learning about climate change, and worrying about it a great deal.  To help her understand the reality of it, we made up stories about Twigs (stick creatures) fighting events like wildfires, bark beetles, and shrinking glaciers.  We also wanted to find a way to help nonprofits struggling with wildlife protection and forest conservancy.  It’s our pleasure to now share our royalties with organizations involved with those issues and climate change research.

 

Q3. Tell us about your books, what genre are they? Who makes up your target audience?

Twig Stories are ‘eco-literary’ similar to Beatrix Potter’s in that the characters are fantasy set in a natural world.  Our world is the Pacific Northwest – volcanoes, rainforests, glaciers, and beautiful creatures.  Usually kids from 4th to 7th grade find them fun to read.  Adults like them, too, for the stories and conservation themes focused on a warming world and adaptation to it.

 

Q4. How did you come up with the plot lines and create the characters?

Oh, most of that is Ali Jo’s adventurous and funny mind at work.  I took her wild ideas, and enlarged upon them.  Of course, I added more drama and mystery, as I’m sure you did with The Morrow Secrets.  I enjoy reading mysteries, and that ‘puzzle-working’ aspect is definitely a huge part of Twig Stories.

 

 

Q5. Did you take writing classes before you started? Tell us about your creative journey…

Actually, I was the Legal Assistant to two General Counsels for nonprofits at their national headquarters in Washington, D.C. for many years, so my writing was extremely disciplined.  We fought injustices in the world through litigation, but in a dispassionate way with legal suits.  But every night I sat with my daughter for an hour at bedtime, and read stories – funny ones and classic literature – so there was that influence, for sure.  I also read stories 0ne-on-one with elementary school readers as a literacy tutor for about six years, so I learned what kids hated to read, and also loved to read.

 

Q6. What advice would you give to someone who wants to write fiction?

Do it.  No, seriously, writers learn by re-writing over and over, and showing others what they wrote to gain better insights on what they are trying to say, and how they can best say it.  Just do it.

 

Q7. What key lessons have you learned about the creative writing process that you can share with others? (Your Top tips)

Number one is to show your work to others, and don’t have a thin skin about their remarks.  Go back to the drawing board, and start over, if you must.  Second is to write in a routine, but take breaks.  It’s during the breaks that the best ideas pop into your head.  Third is to remind yourself why you are doing it.  It helps when you feel defeated.

 

Q8. Tell us about the publishing route you have opted for? Did you go with a traditional publisher or did you self-publish?

Several agents and publishers were interested in Twig Stories.  None could guarantee the stories would be in print within 3-4 years, or that I could choose the illustrator.  After a few months of the same responses, I removed the manuscript from consideration, and researched the best indies out there.  I wanted my daughter to actually see the books before she reached high school. Createspace was far above all others I discovered.  They had the best royalties (which I share with nonprofits), and they set up the books for me not only as paperback, but also on Kindle.  And they distribute worldwide.

 

Q9. What lessons did you learn from this experience that you can share with others? (Your Top Tips)

Use Preditors & Editors (P&E) as your best research tool to find a decent publisher.  Find out if your book is a good fit for what they offer.  For example, I’m a tech moron, so I have to depend on a design team to set up my books – cover and all.  Also, find their limitations.  Can they do color illustrations?  If you narrow down your list, then do two things: buy a few of their books, and email their authors to ask about their experiences.  One last piece of advice is to read every Community Forum (especially Createspace’s) before you decide.  The best advice if given by other indies.

 

Q10. If you could change one thing to help indie-writers what would it be?

Be prepared for the fact that many stores will not pick up indies yet.  So I’d change the mind-set of ‘book-buyers’ for these stores, and their market.  I’d like them to set up a screening process to consider indies.  Createspace offers distribution worldwide through the big distributors, Ingrams and Baker & Taylor, but whether or not the book buyers will look at an indie book is another matter altogether.

 

Susan: Thank you so much for being a great contributor Jo and every success with your books.

 

You can find Jo’s books here…….

 

Twig Stories website:               www.twigstories.com

Jo Marshall email:                      twigstories@aol.com

Facebook Author page:          http://facebook.com/twigstories

Facebook Book/Fan page:     http://facebook.com/twigstoriesbooks

Amazon Author page:              http://www.amazon.com/author/jo.marshall

Goodreads Author page:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/776363.Jo_Marshall

 

 

 

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Posted in Being An Author, Best Children's Fiction, books for 9-14 year olds, Creative Writing Process, How to Write a Children's Novel, Teen Fiction | Comments (0)

Guest Blogs

August 18th, 2012

Writing Fiction – Interview with Jo Marshall Author of Twig Stories

 

Welcome to the Fantastic Book Blog, Jo….

Jo: Thanks, Susan. I’m delighted to know about your fun mysteries for middle-school readers, The Morrow Secrets, and to be hosted on your blog.  We write for the same age group, and they are great fans, don’t you think?

 

Susan: They are fantastic and wonderful to write magical stories for!

Jo is an author of Twig Stories.  The first book is Leaf & the Rushing Waters and the second is Leaf & the Sky of Fire.  Her third book is due out this Thanksgiving, and that is Leaf & the Long Ice.  Jo is an indie author with Createspace.

 

Q1. Have you always wanted to write? Tell us about your beginnings as a writer.

I wrote my first books when I was five years old about Siamese cats.  I cut up little pieces of notebook paper, stapled them together, and drew all the pictures, too. It took me over 50 years to try doing that again.  And I need a lot of very skilled people to help me do it now. But I always had it in the back of my mind to write and publish one day.

 

Q.2.What has inspired you?

My daughter Ali Jo’s concern about wildlife vanishing in our region inspired me.  She was in 4th grade, just learning about climate change, and worrying about it a great deal.  To help her understand the reality of it, we made up stories about Twigs (stick creatures) fighting events like wildfires, bark beetles, and shrinking glaciers.  We also wanted to find a way to help nonprofits struggling with wildlife protection and forest conservancy.  It’s our pleasure to now share our royalties with organizations involved with those issues and climate change research.

 

Q3. Tell us about your books, what genre are they? Who makes up your target audience?

Twig Stories are ‘eco-literary’ similar to Beatrix Potter’s in that the characters are fantasy set in a natural world.  Our world is the Pacific Northwest – volcanoes, rainforests, glaciers, and beautiful creatures.  Usually kids from 4th to 7th grade find them fun to read.  Adults like them, too, for the stories and conservation themes focused on a warming world and adaptation to it.

 

Q4. How did you come up with the plot lines and create the characters?

Oh, most of that is Ali Jo’s adventurous and funny mind at work.  I took her wild ideas, and enlarged upon them.  Of course, I added more drama and mystery, as I’m sure you did with The Morrow Secrets.  I enjoy reading mysteries, and that ‘puzzle-working’ aspect is definitely a huge part of Twig Stories.

 

 

Q5. Did you take writing classes before you started? Tell us about your creative journey…

Actually, I was the Legal Assistant to two General Counsels for nonprofits at their national headquarters in Washington, D.C. for many years, so my writing was extremely disciplined.  We fought injustices in the world through litigation, but in a dispassionate way with legal suits.  But every night I sat with my daughter for an hour at bedtime, and read stories – funny ones and classic literature – so there was that influence, for sure.  I also read stories 0ne-on-one with elementary school readers as a literacy tutor for about six years, so I learned what kids hated to read, and also loved to read.

 

Q6. What advice would you give to someone who wants to write fiction?

Do it.  No, seriously, writers learn by re-writing over and over, and showing others what they wrote to gain better insights on what they are trying to say, and how they can best say it.  Just do it.

 

Q7. What key lessons have you learned about the creative writing process that you can share with others? (Your Top tips)

Number one is to show your work to others, and don’t have a thin skin about their remarks.  Go back to the drawing board, and start over, if you must.  Second is to write in a routine, but take breaks.  It’s during the breaks that the best ideas pop into your head.  Third is to remind yourself why you are doing it.  It helps when you feel defeated.

 

Q8. Tell us about the publishing route you have opted for? Did you go with a traditional publisher or did you self-publish?

Several agents and publishers were interested in Twig Stories.  None could guarantee the stories would be in print within 3-4 years, or that I could choose the illustrator.  After a few months of the same responses, I removed the manuscript from consideration, and researched the best indies out there.  I wanted my daughter to actually see the books before she reached high school. Createspace was far above all others I discovered.  They had the best royalties (which I share with nonprofits), and they set up the books for me not only as paperback, but also on Kindle.  And they distribute worldwide.

 

Q9. What lessons did you learn from this experience that you can share with others? (Your Top Tips)

Use Preditors & Editors (P&E) as your best research tool to find a decent publisher.  Find out if your book is a good fit for what they offer.  For example, I’m a tech moron, so I have to depend on a design team to set up my books – cover and all.  Also, find their limitations.  Can they do color illustrations?  If you narrow down your list, then do two things: buy a few of their books, and email their authors to ask about their experiences.  One last piece of advice is to read every Community Forum (especially Createspace’s) before you decide.  The best advice if given by other indies.

 

Q10. If you could change one thing to help indie-writers what would it be?

Be prepared for the fact that many stores will not pick up indies yet.  So I’d change the mind-set of ‘book-buyers’ for these stores, and their market.  I’d like them to set up a screening process to consider indies.  Createspace offers distribution worldwide through the big distributors, Ingrams and Baker & Taylor, but whether or not the book buyers will look at an indie book is another matter altogether.

 

Susan: Thank you so much for being a great contributor Jo and every success with your books.

 

You can find Jo’s books here…….

 

Twig Stories website:               www.twigstories.com

Jo Marshall email:                      twigstories@aol.com

Facebook Author page:          http://facebook.com/twigstories

Facebook Book/Fan page:     http://facebook.com/twigstoriesbooks

Amazon Author page:              http://www.amazon.com/author/jo.marshall

Goodreads Author page:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/776363.Jo_Marshall

 

 

 

Posted in Being An Author, Best Children's Fiction, books for 9-14 year olds, Creative Writing Process, New Children's Adventure Story, Self Publishing | Comments (0)

How to Write a Novel: Magical Gothic Adventure Story

August 18th, 2012

I wish someone had told me some of these writing tips before I started to write my trilogy. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way and maybe they can help you in your writing adventure!

* If you think you have a book inside you, just begin, it doesn’t matter if you change it later, at least you’ve started.

* There are no rules about when to write…. only the ones that suit you.

The Old Dark House of Secrets at Winderling Spires

* Write the book you want to write, anything else is too much like hard work – Writing must be fun!

* There are many books on how to write fiction but two that helped me are :

Sol Stein “Stein on Writing” http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stein-Writing-Successful-Techniques-    Strategies/dp/0312254210/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345134804&sr=8-1

Celia Brayfield “Bestseller: Secrets of Successful Writing” http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bestseller-Secrets-Successful-Celia-Brayfield/dp/1857023838/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345134860&sr=1-1

* Always stop when you have more ideas in the “creative pot”, then coming back to the work will be easier.

* Keep reading lots and lots of books! Look at how writers write their books, their use of dialogue and plotting. Watching movies is an excellent way to learn your craft. Screen writers have to get an idea over very quickly, they may only have 90 minutes to tell the whole story so observe their techniques – their spare use of words, how the actors communicate with one another, how tension is built. This “intense watching” of a movie will make you more critical and you will begin to see when a plot line works and when it doesn’t. It’s the same with writing, once you lose the reader they’re gone, they’ve stopped believing in your make-believe. So keep it real, reduce the number of words you use and imagine yourself as the reader… would you be hooked on this character or this scene? If not change it or cut it.

* Don’t give up, even when you’ve had a bad day, remember how good you feel when the writing just flows… you and only you have created that!

* Never be satisfied with the first draft!

* If something jars with you then it will jar with your readers. Listen to your gut instincts and cut it out!

* When you get an idea, sit with it and let it brew inside you like a delicious potion, until it is time to experiment and write it down.

Finally, enjoy the writing process, it’s the best fun ever!

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Posted in Being An Author, books for 9-14 year olds, Creative Writing Process, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing | Comments (0)

How to Improve Your Search Engine Optimisation: Getting Your Book Blog Out There

August 7th, 2012

When I started writing my book I just thought I’d write it, polish it and edit it a few times then post it on Amazon and that would be it!

How wrong I was. Writing the book was fun and easy compared to the marketing and PR needed so that people ( beyond your friends and family) find it. Even then that’s not enough.

The Black Hound from Ragging Brows Forest

So you’ve uploaded your fabulous book on to Amazon, you’ve had some sales then you realise that your book is a tiny little needle in the huge Amazon haystack. How will anyone ever find the book I have written? That’s the BIG, BIG question. This is what some of what I’ve learned so far:

You’ll need a website and it must have interesting content; you’ll need to blog on a regular basis to attract people to your site. You’ll need a blogging plan that covers all the things you want to say to your readers.

How will anyone find your website… you’ll have to increase your SEO (search engine optimisation) How will the google spiders find you? How will you increase your presence? By adding your site to blog directories. I have just started doing this so I’ll see if it makes a difference. This takes a lot of time working out which URL they want in the format they want it.

You must reply to the people who take the time to comment on your blog. You then need to understand google analytics and feedburner, to see what sort of website traffic you’re attracting. Then experiment with different posts. What do your readers like? How much traffic have you got? Which countries are they from? Do they stay on your pages? Which pages? Do they blounce off again…

So you see I didn’t know I had to be a marketing, IT, social networking, analyst. I thought I’d just write my children’s fanatsy adventure and the rest would be history….. how wrong I was!

 

 

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Posted in Being An Author, Better Blogging, Creative Writing Process, Improving your SEO, The Morrow Secrets, Writing | Comments (0)