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Top tips for writing

Given that January is all about plans and looking forward to the exciting happenings in 2023, here’s my rough schedule for this year. I’ll also outline how I organise my writing process, hopefully it has some tips and tricks for you to take away and apply no matter what you do, and some insight into how I write what I write as well.





Organisation

First off, I truly believe that if you want something, you’ll make time for it. Motivation is a fickle beast, it ebbs and flows, but your passion will make changing your habits and shifting your life to make space for it a no-brainer.


So, I get up early to write in the morning. It’s a quiet time, before anyone else has any demands of me, and coupled with a fresh cup of coffee it’s a great way to start the day.


Usually my mind turns over the next scene and the one after that, so I’ll write in work breaks throughout the day. I work full time, but while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, I can usually squeeze in a few lines. Anywhere where you might be tempted to scroll on your phone for a bit, that’s where I’m writing. On the loo, Google docs, I have a good memory for people and places.


Throughout the last two years, I’ve also learnt a ton about myself and how I operate. Quick hack - did you know being mindful of when you're tired pays dividends? It may be more convenient to your schedule to write in the evenings, but what happens when you are genuinely tired? Then it becomes a demand.


Tools for writing

I’m a pen and paper gal turned digital. I utilise Google docs to draft, because I can write anywhere, and have Drive enabled on my browser to work offline.


As I draft, I might go back a few chapters and reread and tweak. It’s a mini edit that’s more like a copy edit, but also helps get me in the groove to write the next part.


Once the draft is done, the fun begins. I download it into Word, then run it through Calibre to make a quick and dirty ebook. The formatting is pants, but that’s not what I’m after by doing this.


I put the file on my Kindle on my phone, and read it again there. The change in format really helps me see it with fresh eyes, especially when I view it in darkscreen. I know some people print out their manuscript to see it in a fresh format, I find this to have exactly the same effect but saving some trees.


I markup using the notes function, usually colour coding to indicate what I think it needs:

  • Red for spelling errors

  • Blue for paragraph formatting

  • Yellow highlighted text for longer notes.

Tonnes of stuff gets caught this way!





Now, then, it’s ready to go off to beta readers. They will give me feedback on story, pacing, what they thought of the characters at different points, and helps me judge whether the book is landing as I wish. Their feedback is such an important part of the process. Usually they point out things I’ve missed entirely, or want to see more of a certain character, or feedback whether a plot point lands for them. I always, ALWAYS make changes based on feedback from my trusted betas, because their feedback makes the story stronger!


Then, it’s time for editorial review. I use these to double check with a professional editor that things are going well, plot, arc, and writing style-wise. The eyes of a professional are vital!


Then it’s time for copy editing, proofreading, and phew! It’s done!


How I write what I write


I write portal fantasy, sword and sorcery or fae fantasy romance for the most part. A behind the scenes look at my process means looking at how I collect experiences to put into my writing.


I always say the story writes itself, and it really does. As long as I have the voice of the characters, they will tell me in no uncertain terms what they are going to do in any given situation. Having said that, I like to try to herd them toward the following three tips:


  • Have a clear idea by chapter 3 what the book is going to be about. Travel to a new land? Work on a particular relationship? Investigate strange happenings? By chapter 3, me and the posse (and the reader!) need to know what this story is going to explore, setting up the dominos, if you like, that we are going to knock down.

  • Strong sense of place. This is something I’m working on, but I want my settings to be vibrant and recognisable. How? By putting elements of sensory experience into scenes without an info dump, and putting in some of my own observations of real places together to give a unique feel for each country or realm.

  • Putting myself in my characters. Strong character voice starts with knowing them really well, and that means letting each character take a little aspect of me. Thorrn is my Have a Go Hero side, the aspect of me that puts my hand up at opportunities. Neri is my cautious, focused side.


 

Tuniel is an interesting one. How much of myself is in her?


Let’s back up a step. The King’s Swordsman series is told from first person perspective, the viewpoint of Thorrn Shardsson (literally a swordsman for the king, King’s Swordsman, yes?) He’s part of an elite force trained to defeat magic by working in units. Magic can be dangerous for the wielder as well as those around them; people born to the gift have to have careful schooling to control their emotions and, as a result, appear unfeeling at all times. It’s why Tuniel earned the moniker “The Cold Mage.” She is Thorrn’s love interest, but over time demanded more and more of the storyline. She’s a powerful character as a stone and metal mage, forging magical armour to protect her friends and developing ingenious engineering solutions to better society, so I had to use her sparingly, but still she requested more of the spotlight. She is strong, independent and driven to use her magic and position in society for the best. Can she really have it all?


This echoes with my own struggles. As a working mum of one, wife to a darling husband, doing my dream job saving the planet (I’m an environmental scientist), there’s a lot that drives me on. Tuniel is as high-flying as I want to be, wanting to make a difference wherever she goes.


But what happens when her main way of doing that - her magic - is taken away from her? This book is a fascinating exploration into what else Tuniel can be that isn’t related to her magic alone, that she isn’t just her job, that she’s not all metal and stone.

 

So there you have it! My tips for writing a fantasy series, which I think can be applied to nearly any writing. Have fun! <3


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