Monday, 31 March 2014

Plot Holes and Plug Holes - The Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to my lovely twitter pal Emma Greenwood, I’m dedicating this post to talking about what - and how - I write, as part of The Writing Process blog tour.

Emma is the green columnist at Liberti magazine, blogs on green issues right here, and is a writer of YA fiction. She is currently working with Imogen Cooper at The Golden Egg Academy on her Brit Grime teen novel about arson and dangerous relationships. Emma uses ‘method writing’ to channel her characters, which she wrote about for her post on this tour, so you should definitely check that out.

So for the tour, I answer 4 questions about writing, and then hand over to 3 writer friends to post their blog posts next week. Neato.

1. What am I working on?

Right now I’m getting ready for my debut YA novel, BLACKFIN SKY, to be released in the UK. It comes out on 14th May over here, so I’m preparing for this by doing blog posts and interviews, author events and festivals, and generally doing promotional stuff and stalking my book online.

I’m also editing another manuscript and starting to outline a couple of short stories that I’m planning to write over the next month or so, and catching up on my reading.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

BLACKFIN SKY is very much a dark thriller, but it’s also magical realism, which sort of sets it apart right away. Very odd things happen in the town of Blackfin - the Penny Well will pick your pockets if you pass too close to it; failing to salute the haunted weathervane as you pass results in foul weather; and the Blood House might lock its doors if it doesn’t like the person trying to get in. All these things are par for the course in Blackfin, though, and can make it a tricky place to look for logical answers, as Sky discovers when she shows up at school after everyone believing she was dead for 3 months!

3. Why do I write what I do?

I love anything that’s quirky and makes you think, and that’s what I aim to do with my writing. I take my characters on adventures, having a hundred crazy things happen to them that they have to figure out. I hope my excitement as a writer comes through in the story.

4. How does my writing process work?

I’ll preface this by saying that a) I am a control freak, and b) I have a shocking memory. Both those things add up to me being a very methodical plotter.

How I plot:

As the title of this post suggests, I do a lot of plotting in the bathtub. I find a good ceiling-stare is vital for figuring out a new plot, although you can substitute the bathtub for lying on the floor, in a pinch.

By the time my fingers turn pruny, I’ll want to know the overall plot, and the hook of the story – the idea that can be summed up in a sentence or two to snag the interest of an agent, editor, or reader. Once I have this, I begin to outline.

How I outline:

I begin with a new Word doc. (Mind blown, right??) Now, insert five numbered ‘Part’ headings: Part 1, Part 2, etc. In between these, put in at least 5 ‘Chapter’ headings, so you end up with around 25 chapters, separated evenly by the Part headings. These ‘Part’ separators are where I, in my brain, will want to put a WTF moment into my book. They’ll shift around during the writing and editing, but if I at least start with them evenly spaced, it should help with the pacing.

I work to the idea that each chapter is about 3k words long, so if I wrote exactly according to this outline, I’d have a book about 75k long at the end. If you tend to write shorter chapters, add in more Chapter headings in between the Part headings. You see, it’s starting to make sense now, right?

Now, under each chapter heading, write a sentence or two saying what happens in that chapter: ‘Brian gets run over by a bus. Wakes up in hospital speaking Portuguese.’ Something along those lines. Having this guide helps me know where I’m heading as I write, and avoid those chapters where the MC spends 2k words musing on the intangibility of clouds.

The outline shifts and changes as I’m drafting, but I prefer to have it as a steer to keep me from writing myself into a dead end. It’s also handy to use as a basis for the synopsis/pitch when the manuscript is complete.

How I edit:

I use a double-sweep method, which I affectionately call the Peanut Butter Method. The first editing sweep (Chunky Edits) focuses on major plot holes and reshuffling events for continuity and pacing. The second sweep (Smooth Edits) focuses on characterisation, world-building, smoothing out the parts I’ve shuffled and plugged in the Chunky Edits, and then line editing.

I’ll usually read my manuscript aloud to my husband after completing the Smooth Edits to refine the language more, and take out the clunky parts that have snuck through editing.

Then I send my manuscript off to my beta readers – usually 2 rounds, to make sure I cover my bases. If all is well, and I’m confident my manuscript is the best I can make it, I’ll send it off to my agent to work her magic on. That’s it!


With it being UKYA month in April, I’ve been thinking a lot about all things UK…and writing…so all 3 of the awesome writers I’m passing the baton to are from 'ere in’t UK. Their posts will be up on their blogs on 6th April, so be sure to check them out!

Clare Davidson is a character driven fantasy writer, teacher and mother, from the UK. Clare was born in Northampton and lived in Malaysia for four and a half years as a child, before returning to the UK to settle in Leeds with her family. Whilst attending Lancaster University, Clare met her future husband. They now share their lives with their young daughter, a cranky grey cat, called Ash and an insane white cat, called Pirate. 

Check out Clare's blog here: and twitter: @claremdavidson

Simon P. Clark is a British children's author currently living in New Jersey, USA, pretending to be a grown up. He used to live in Japan, has a GCSE in pottery, and does a pretty convincing Gollum impression. His debut novel, Eren, will be published by Constable & Robinson in the UK in September 2014. Simon blogs about writing and his path to publication at He's usually wasting time on Twitter as @sipclark.

Chynna-Blue Scott, commonly known as Blue, primarily writes Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, although she's considering dipping her toe into the Horror genre. Currently, Blue is seeking representation for her YA UF/PNR novel, STRICKEN. She has an unholy obsession with Fall Out Boy, lives for Dexter and Supernatural, and will happily murder anyone who refers to her as 'British'. She's the kind of person you love... once you get to know her.

Visit Blue's blog here: or tweet her @chynnablueink

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