W4 – Life of a Writer

Hi all,

I’ve been getting great feedback on this weekly series from writers and readers, delighted its of some use!

You can play catch up with the previous weeks here: W3 W2 W1

Do you like the new colour scheme on my website? I’m embracing spring, even if the latest storm is anything BUT spring like.

Well, before I start talking about book 5, which is my main focus this week, here’s what else is on!

Author Event

On Thursday I’m off to the big smoke (Dublin) for a lovely evening with my publisher Harper Collins. They are bringing a couple of their authors for dinner, along with a bevy of Irelands writerly folk -booksellers, media, book reviewers and more. I cannot wait!

Creative Writing Classes

I’m about to announce some further creative writing classes in Wexford. Back by popular demand! Do you know, that one of my writers from the last set of classes, finished her novel, got an agent and a book deal! Watch this space for Cat Hogan … So proud. If you want to follow in her footsteps, the first step could be to come along to my classes. Maybe we can strike gold again!

Character Sketches Book 5

Main focus this week is book 5. I managed to get the tag line, elevator pitch and synopsis done as planned last week. They are of course a work in progress, because as I write I know lots will evolve and change, but you have to start somewhere!

I still have a lot of work to do on my character sketches though. I shared last week some of the questions I always ask my characters, to try and understand who they are. But a couple of the main characters are a little shy and are not keen on revealing too much about themselves. I need to dig deeper. Its impossible for me to write unless I know my characters inside and out.

I’m posing these questions in my best Oprah mode, as I try to get inside their heads …

  1. Did you have a happy childhood? Tell me about it.
  2. Who is the most important person in your life right now?
  3. What was the longest relationship you’ve ever been in?
  4. Do you have any obsessions?
  5. What is your biggest fear?
  6. What is your happiest memory?
  7. When you have nightmares what are they about?
  8. What is your biggest secret?
  9. What do you want?
  10. Do you like yourself?

Plot Outline Book 5

I’ve also started work on my Plot Outline. I use Scrivener as a writing tool and what I’ve done is add in my chapters and briefly write what I think will happen in each one.

There are many ways you can outline your novel, but for what its worth, here’s what I do.

I have a notebook and it’s never out of my sight line. I’m constantly brainstorming and as an idea comes to me, I write it down. Some will be used, others will never see the light of my laptop … so to speak. Lots of these ideas end up into this outline. For e.g., I had this idea about ice-cream, clichés and amaretto, (don’t ask!)  that I dreamt up weeks ago. I’m going to use this in a scene about a 1/3 of the way through.

Once my character sketches are done, I now know who my main players are and what their goals are, the problems they need to solve.

Next I need to outline the difficulties and obstacles that my characters will face. Lots of them, by the time I’m done with them, they’ll be wrecks haha. The journey can never be easy, right?

For e.g. in Beyond Grace’s Rainbow, I knew that Grace, my central character, would have cancer. That’s bad enough right? (Trust me, it is, I’ve watched way too many loved ones deal with this disease) But for Grace, she had a lot more to deal with. Obstacle one – She needs a bone marrow donor. Obstacle two – She has a rare blood type, so no matches in registry, so needs to approach her family. Obstacle three – She’s adopted. Obstacle four – Her biological family don’t want to be found. And so on, so on…..

I also need to plot the timeline of the story. Will it take place over a year, a week?

For Every Time A Bell Rings, I wanted Belle’s story to span decades, from the 80’s till now. As I wasn’t writing a tome, I had to be careful that I didn’t confuse readers or slow the pace down by jumping through decades.

When I have a list of the main events that both move my character away and to achieving the central goal, I imagine scenes to go with each. Which characters are in these scenes? What is the big moment in the scene? There has to be one big thing. And that doesn’t mean that a big car crash, the big thing can sometimes be the quietest moments.

One of the big lessons I’ve learnt from working with my Harper Collins editing team, is that all scenes must move the story forward. I can remember writing what I thought was an amazing scene in The Life You Left. But my editor wanted to cut it, because it didn’t actually move the story forward in any way. While it was a nice scene, Sarah didn’t learn anything from it, she didn’t move closer or further away from her ultimate goal as a result of it. Therefore it needed to go. Now I ask myself that question with every scene I write. How does this move the story forward? Does this scene help the reader get a deeper understanding of the characters and their situation?

You see if it doesn’t have a purpose, it shouldn’t be there.


Lastly, I’m spending every evening doing lots of research for a couple of the main plot lines I’m including. Love this aspect, as I learn so much about things I’d probably never get the chance to, if I weren’t writing. I learnt so much about fostering while writing Every Time A Bell Rings, it’s a subject close to my heart now. Don’t skimp on this part of preparation. If you don’t pay due diligence to it, readers won’t believe a word you write.

For me there are a few key ways I research my novels.

  1. Internet
  2. Interviewing people who understand the issue/place/talent
  3. Use my local library
  4. Visiting a place/event

I’ll be setting up meetings and visits as part of my research for the next few weeks. And I know that the time and effort involved in doing this, will make my novel all the richer.

Right, that’s pretty much it for this week. Here’s to a good week for us all. And hopefully wherever you are, you’re not being affected by the horrendous weather.

Chat soon,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.