Using Images to Create Atmosphere

During the writing of my current book and the previous one, Danger by Association, I have found a technique that is useful in creating the atmosphere for a particular scene in a novel. I therefore thought I would share it. Here’s an example of how it works in practice:

If you are writing about an abandoned building, for example, type ‘abandoned building’ in Google images and you should be able to view a good selection on your screen. Next, select an image that you feel captures the scene you want to create. If one image alone doesn’t work for you, perhaps you could try combining two different images. Take a note of what you can see e.g. mouldy bricks, peeling wallpaper etc.

While looking at the image, and thinking about the atmosphere, don’t forget to use the five senses. So rather than just describing what you can see think about how the building would feel. Is it cold inside? Can you hear the wind rustling through the eves? What does it smell of – damp? mustiness?

Once you have typed up your notes you will have a good idea of the atmosphere you want to create. Next, put your character at the scene. How does he or she feel about the abandoned building? Why are they there? Have they gone to meet someone? Are they frightened? Are they distressed? Use powerful verbs to describe your character’s actions as they enter the building.

Here’s an example of part of a scene I created in Danger by Association using this technique:


A few more seconds and they were all inside. Rita scanned the room as her eyes adjusted to the gloom. Their makeshift entrance led into a classroom. The place had an eerie feel to it and Rita shuddered.

There were no longer any desks or chairs, but in the half-light she could see cupboards lining one of the walls. The doors of one cupboard were hanging off, its contents spilling out onto the dusty classroom floor. She was surprised the cupboards still contained old books and papers; this seemed to emphasise the state of abandon.

They crept through the classroom and into a long corridor. Here a strong smell of urine assailed them. The ceiling was high with small skylights. This meant that there was more light here than in the classroom, but in the gloom of night it cast strange shadows on the walls, which unnerved Rita.

In the distance she could hear weird noises; a tapping, and a faint gushing sound, perhaps from running water. She also thought she heard the murmur of voices but it was difficult to tell.

Hopefully by following this technique you will write scenes that capture the atmosphere you are aiming for.


Playing with Words

As a writer I love playing with words and I love words themselves. I know – weird aren’t I? Some words I love more than others. With certain words it’s because they have a lovely sound to them. With others it’s because they suit their meaning so well that no other word would quite suffice. There are many words that are so powerful and descriptive that they can transform a whole paragraph. In fact, ‘transform’ is one of the words on my list. Here are some of my favourite words:

Words 1

–         Expertise – It’s like experience, knowledge and skills all rolled into one.

–         Transform – it’s more powerful than ‘change’, don’t you think?

–         Incongruous – I love this one, it’s says exactly what it means.

–         Onomatopoeia – This relates to the use of a word that sounds like its meaning. What I love about ‘onomatopoeia’ is the sound of the word, the use of four vowels together and the fact that very few people can spell it. I can’t think of any other word that uses four vowels together – no doubt someone will put me straight on that point. I believe it stems from either Latin or Greek so there could be other four-vowel words that have been adopted by the English language.

–         Detract – I feel that no one word captures the meaning of this word in the same way. Although you’ll find alternatives such as ‘lessen’, Words 2‘diminish’ etc. in a Thesaurus, ‘detract’ means more than that. For me ‘detract’ makes me think of moving away from something or taking away from something, especially when used as ‘detract from’.

–         Encapsulate – I just love the sound of it. Again, no other single word does it justice. ‘Summarise’ is used as a synonym, but ‘encapsulate’ is more than that; it’s the act of taking all the components and bringing them neatly together as though in a capsule.

–         Retrospect – To me this word means more than just ‘reflection’, it’s looking back but also learning from past mistakes. Again, no other word conjures up the precise meaning.

–         Basically – It’s an excellent opener for a sentence and leaves the reader full of expectation of what’s coming next. It can open up an explanation, a conclusion or a summary. ‘Basically’, it’s a really useful word, but unfortunately I realise that I do tend to overuse it.

–         Divisive – Another powerful word, which was overused on the death of Margaret Thatcher – it was definitely the media word of the week. Now, whenever I hear that word my brain automatically connects it with Margaret Thatcher.

–         Replicate – Sounds more sophisticated than duplicate or copy.

Words 3

–         Proclivities – Means tendencies or inclinations but it’s often used in a negative way so it’s usually the word of choice if someone has perverse sexual tendencies. This word always makes me smile because of my mucky mind. It reminds me of Les Dawson (one of my all time favourite comedians) who said that some words are just funny because of all the connotations associated with that particular word.

Do you have any favourite words? What are your favourites and why? I bet you can think of some that I love but I’ve forgotten about – alas, the middle-aged memory isn’t what it used to be!


Inspired by Dog Poop

It’s often said that writers find inspiration in the most unusual places. One example that sticks in my mind is that of song writer and famous singer Barry Gibb who tells the tale of how he came up with the idea for the song, ‘Chain Reaction’. Apparently he had been sitting on the lavatory and then pulled the chain to flush it (back in the days when lavatories had chains rather than a handle). This prompted the idea, ‘I’m in the middle of a chain reaction’, which is a line from the chorus of the song ‘Chain Reaction’, penned by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees and sung by Diana Ross.


A few weeks ago I was writing a particular scene from my latest novel, which is the third book in the Riverhill Trilogy. During the scene I have an unsavoury character walking through the shopping precinct on the Riverhill estate. I wanted to capture how run-down the estate was and how this particular character fitted into his environment. I had written an initial draft of the scene, but wasn’t quite happy with it. It didn’t feel seedy enough.

I took a break and went for a walk, which often helps to clear my head and make me feel more relaxed. In fact, I often find that when I switch off for a while rather than toiling over a difficult scene, the ideas flow more easily.

Whilst I was out walking, to my dismay, I noticed an unusually large amount of dog dirt on the streets. After recoiling from the filthy mess, an idea hit me. That’s it, I thought – dog dirt. Yes, dog dirt, with flies buzzing round it. This triggered other thoughts and by the time I returned home I had the scene written in my head. I just needed to type it up on the computer. I’ve included the scene below, and hope that it now hits the right tone:


As he progressed through the precinct, Maurice encountered occasional globules of yellowy green mucus stuck to the ground. Its consistency was so thick and slimy that it usually took several downpours of rain to wash it away. Catarrh; a product of pollution, cheap cigarettes and poor diet.

Maurice trudged along, kicking up greasy paper wrappings that had spilt from the overflowing bin outside the fish and chip shop. The wind had blown litter against a small wall surrounding a bogus raised border. Its upper area was now a failed garden full of barren bushes, downtrodden weeds, cigarette butts and the occasional used condom. Among the litter, flies fed hungrily on dog faeces and discarded chips spilling from a carton.

He continued on past the last shop, a bookies. Curiosity made him glance inside; it was the busiest shop on the precinct, crowded, dark and fuggy with the haze of exhaled cigarette smoke and cannabis hanging in the air.

This was his sort of area; a place where the menacing and the vulnerable co-existed.

Book 3 in the gritty Riverhill Trilogy of crime thrillers is scheduled for publication in the summer. I’ll be including more excerpts and background information as we approach publication date.


The Writer Behind the Words

The new Budweiser advert for the American Super Bowl is causing quite a stir. In it, Dame Helen Mirren warns viewers against the foolishness of drink-driving. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: Budweiser ad 2016.

Helen Mirren opens the ad by describing herself as a ‘notoriously frank and uncensored British lady’ while regal music plays in the background. She then goes on to launch an articulate tirade of insults against anyone who drink-drives.

She is the perfect choice for the advertisement; a commanding figure who previously played the starring role in ‘The Queen’. Her delivery is undoubtedly excellent. The words convey the message perfectly while the accompanying video footage advertises Budweiser beer by displaying Dame Helen’s enjoyment of a Bud with burger and fries. The words to the advertisement may even have been written with Dame Helen Mirren in mind.

While she may describe herself as ‘notoriously frank and uncensored’ in the ad, the British press have proudly used a range of descriptions for her including, ‘elegant and eloquent’. But it made me wonder who the person behind the words is. This thought often runs through my mind when watching TV. Something will capture my imagination and I’ll think, ‘that’s a clever bit of writing’.


It’s something that people often lose sight of; behind every TV advertisement, film, drama, documentary, billboard ad etc. there is a writer. Ironically, while actors and actresses are lauded for their performances, the writers who supply their words are seldom mentioned. I checked the media coverage of several newspapers and TV channels for the Budweiser advertisement, yet not one of them mentioned the writer. In fact, they didn’t even mention which advertising company Budweiser had used to produce the advertisement.

So, what other media are writers involved in?

Ooh, just about everything: TV, radio scripts, cinema, theatre, billboard campaigns, mailshots, email campaigns, the Internet and social media. In fact, major companies employ copywriters specifically to manage their social media accounts as well as produce regular blog posts for their websites. Even prime ministerial and presidential speeches are penned by writers; people who are employed to write speeches on their behalf.


If I was to ask you to name the best speech of all time you would probably say Martin Luther King, ‘I Have a Dream’, or the Obama Victory Speech of 2008. But what if I was to ask you who wrote those speeches? The majority of people wouldn’t know. Incidentally, the memorable part of Martin Luther’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was probably written by himself although he delivered it without referring to the text. You can read the full story here: I Have a Dream Speech.

Writers are the people who hide in the background but are behind so many impactful words that many of us will retain in our memories for years to come. Many writers prefer it that way. We are often shy and retiring types, and I for one have no desire whatsoever to appear on the stage. But wouldn’t it be nice if, in circumstances such as the above, the writer received even a one line mention in acknowledgement of his/her input.


The Illness that Impacts my Writing Life

I recognise the signs straightaway. First comes the nausea accompanied by dizziness. The dizziness is there throughout, but sometimes it’s accompanied by a weird, frightening sensation. It’s as though the whole room has suddenly shifted, and I have to grab hold of something to stop me falling over. Then comes the headache. It’s defined as a headache, but it’s much more than that. A constant hammering that won’t go away. An oversensitivity to light and sound. Shakiness. Irritability with everybody and everything. Small tasks become a major chore. Conversations become onerous. And I just want to take to my bed; the only answer to migraine, it seems.

I try not to take to my bed though. I resent the timewasting, especially as these attacks are the consequence of something that is supposed to be a natural occurrence; the menopause. Besides, once is starts I know that I will feel like this every day for at least a week. I can’t afford to waste that much time.


They come in varying degrees; some are worse than others. Yesterday was a bad one, accompanied by a swollen and upset stomach. It lasted for most of the day, and I did take to my bed. I came down later to hang the washing up. Although I was over the worst, I still struggled to carry the basket upstairs. I was so dizzy that I felt as though the weight of it was pulling me over. My husband said I should have asked him to do it, but how could I when he had already done everything else that day?

I’ve been feeling this way for six years. The first year was bad, then I had a break of a year and I foolishly thought it was all over. It came back with a vengeance and I’ve been stuck with migraines ever since, apart from one three month break.

It changes pattern too. For a while I was well for two weeks out of three, and I could pretty much predict when my ‘sick’ week was going to be. Then it went to one week in two. Now I seem to be ill more often than I’m well. My last lengthy spell lasted two weeks followed by a break of just three days. Then I had two days of mild migraines followed by a five day break. Now it’s started again.

Most days I can work through it once I have taken sufficient medication. As I’m typing this, I feel nauseous, my head is pounding and the bright white background of my computer screen is forming strange shapes, which are dancing around on the screen. I also keep making typing errors that I wouldn’t otherwise make so I have to keep going back and correcting them. But I’m determined not to give into it. I have the light on my PC turned down low but it still affects me. I’m waiting until I can take a second Sumatriptan so I can see if I will then feel well enough to tackle some of my book this afternoon.


I’m currently taking Sumatriptan mostly, and 25mg of Topiramate in the evenings. I don’t like Topiramate, and have gradually reduced my intake. It’s an anti-epileptic drug, which seems to make me more forgetful and affects my concentration. Unfortunately, there is no specific preventative drug for migraines so doctors experiment with various drugs until they find something that works.

I have tried various medications but nothing prevents them. I’ve just changed my HRT in the hope that it might help. Saturday I had a lovely day and commented to my husband that I was beginning to feel like my old self. There was a shred of hope that maybe the new HRT would solve the problem. But then it all started again on Sunday.

When I’ve had a bad run of migraine, I become forgetful and my concentration is poor. Then there’s the confusion. I’ve only had one episode of confusion, but it was scary. I take medication for several other health problems – five tablets each evening in all. As I take them I always make a mental check so that I take the right ones in the correct amounts e.g. this one’s Montelukast for my asthma, this one’s Fexofenadine for my allergies etc. One evening I went to take my tablets, but when I read the names on the bottles and packets, they meant nothing to me. I didn’t recognise any of them. It really freaked me out. About two hours later I had a migraine attack. My doctor told me that it was the aura, which presents itself in different ways.


Then there’s the emotional side. When I’ve been feeling ill for days it gets me down, naturally. This illness doesn’t just impact on my writing life but on every aspect of my life. I become short and snappy with my family. I have to cancel nights out because of illness. In fact, I don’t make many arrangements to see friends anymore. It’s a waste of time as I never know when I’m going to be well.

With frequent migraines it’s a challenge to manage my working life without thinking about anything else. It makes it difficult to think straight. It stifles creativity. It takes the pleasure out of every situation, and turns everything into a major chore.

I also become angry. On a bad day I think ‘why me?’ And if a middle-aged, menopausal woman moans about hot flushes, I feel like screaming at her that she ought to be grateful if that’s her only symptom of the menopause. I get angry at smug celebs on TV who boast about how they sailed through the menopause by taking the natural approach. They encourage others to do the same, but how do you take the natural approach when cooking a nutritious meal feels like a mammoth task half the time?


But the determined side of me tries to be positive. It’s only migraine, and it’s menopausal so it won’t last forever. If I’ve had it for six years then surely it must be coming to an end soon. There are many people worse off than me; people with terminal illnesses, for example.

Although it impacts my working life, I’m lucky with my choice of career. I know that I wouldn’t be able to hold down a full-time office job, for example. I’d either be off sick or shouting at everybody in the office to leave me alone. So, I’m fortunate that I work from home, and I can put things off if I’m feeling particularly bad.

As I’m now earning a salary from my books, I’ve cut down drastically on my client work. This is because anything that’s deadline driven is difficult, as I never know when I’m going to be ill. However, with my books, even if I have a bad writing day, I can go back and correct any errors when I’m feeling on top of things.

When I look back at this post I’ll probably cringe with embarrassment at the ‘poor me’ implications. But today I’m at the start of a migraine spell and I’m feeling disheartened at the thought that it might last two weeks again. And I just want to crack on with my next book! If anyone has any suggestions for tackling hormonal migraine, they will be most welcome.


Liebster Award

Big thanks to Brigid at Brigid Writes Things for nominating me for a Liebster Award. The Liebster is an award that bloggers give to each other as a way to promote blogs with less than 1,000 followers. It’s also a fun get-to-know-the-blogger tag!

Liebster Blog Post

The Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the nominator has given you.
  3. Tag 11 bloggers who have less than 1,000 readers.
  4. Think of 11 questions to ask the bloggers you have nominated.
  5. Let them know you’ve nominated them through social media or their blog.

Brigid’s Questions (and My Answers)

  1. Put your music on shuffle. What are the first five songs that come up?

‘Old Fashioned’ by Cee Lo Green, ‘Promise This’ by Cheryl Cole, ‘Last Night a DJ Saved My Life’ by Indeep, ‘All the Time in the World’ by Boyzone and ‘More than a Woman’ by the Bee Gees. Cringe! OK, I admit it, I still play CDs and I haven’t updated my iPod for a while. I’m an 80s throwback.

  1. What’s the last thing that made you laugh really hard?

I go to a Spanish group once a week and we do nothing but laugh although we are supposed to be learning. It’s just general banter, mispronunciations and misinterpretations etc.

  1. What’s something you did in 2015 that you’re proud of?

I published my second novel, and I finally became visible to the book-browsing public on Amazon UK. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it continues.

  1. What’s one thing you hope to accomplish in 2016?

To publish my third novel, which is the third and final part of The Riverhill Trilogy.

  1. Do you enjoy going to concerts? If so, what was the last one you went to?

I’m not a big concert goer. I think the last one I went to was probably Rihanna.

  1. What is one of your favorite quotes?

‘No les illegitimi carborundum.’

  1. What is the weirdest food you like?

Sushi and seafood according to my family.

  1. What book has made you cry the hardest?

I honestly can’t remember a book making me cry but I don’t generally go in for weepy novels.

  1. What was the best day of your life?

The day I gave birth for the first time.

  1. What fictional world would you love to live in (or at least spend some time in)?

None. I’m very grounded in the real world and think that there is enough good and bad in the world without looking for it elsewhere.

  1. If you could meet any author (living or dead), who would it be?

As much as I love reading, I’ve never really thought about meeting authors. I suppose it would be someone like Jeffrey Deaver or Minette Walters but then I wouldn’t know what to say to them other than ‘I think your books are great’.

My Nominees:

Georgia Rose at Georgia Rose Books

Linda Huber at Linda Huber Author

Guy Portman at Author Guy Portman’s Blog

Judith Barrow

Marilyn Chapman at Guernsey Girlie

Katherine Jenkins at Katherine’s Bookcase

Kath Middleton at Ignite Books

Mark Barry at The Wizard’s Cauldron

Geoff West at My Blog

Julie Stock

Pauline Wiles

My Questions:

  1. What makes you happy?
  2. Who are your favourite authors?
  3. What genre do you like to write in, and why? (This one is for writers only).
  4. What are your favourite genres to read, and why?
  5. What was the best day of your life? (I pinched this one from Brigid)
  6. In general, do you think books are best portrayed through films or through the book itself?
  7. What place in the world would you most like to see, but haven’t yet got round to visiting?
  8. What’s your favourite form of transport, and why?
  9. Do you have a writing goal i.e. something that you would like to achieve through your writing? If so, what is it? (This one is for writers only).
  10. What is your all-time favourite book?
  11. What is your biggest passion (apart from writing)?

I just want to finish by saying that if you are unable to take part it isn’t a problem, and thanks again to Brigid for nominating me. Also, please don’t be offended if I’ve nominated you and you have more than 1000 followers as it isn’t always possible to tell.

In future blog posts I will be continuing the theme of Manchester’s historic libraries, with two still to come. I wonder if you can guess which ones they are. Bye for now and have fun with the questions and answers.


Without Reading, Would our World End?

Certainly the world as we know it. And I’m not just talking about reading books, newspapers and magazines, but reading in the wider sense.

Think about it. If none of us could read – what impact would it have on our world?World

Well, you wouldn’t be reading this article for a start as there would be no Internet. All those stunning Internet images would be meaningless without the words to accompany them. So, there wouldn’t be any emails. Perhaps it’s not all bad; at least you wouldn’t be receiving junk. There’d be no junk mail through your letterbox either, or text messages. Just imagine, a world without the Internet. How would we cope?

Oh, but we’d still have televisions and phones, I hear you say. Ah, but how functional would television be with any written scripts to work from? Media – it’s all words in one form or another, often accompanied by eye-catching images, but words are still a fundamental part of it.

Telephones. How would the telecommunications companies operate with limited means of contact? Communication isn’t all carried out by phone. For example, how would they keep financial records if nobody could read the words and figures on the screen or on paper?

CoinsThat brings me on to the financial world. Money would no longer be represented as figures on a screen or in a ledger. Instead it would take on a more tangible form. People would be weighed down by coins as they would be the only representation of money. Notes would be useless if they bore figures as nobody could read them. Perhaps we could develop a method of colour-coded notes. And we wouldn’t be withdrawing money from the cash machine because we wouldn’t understand any of the bright green gobbledegook on the screen.

Supermarkets wouldn’t have names; they’d probably have a logo instead. They’d have to have more staff so they could tell you how many small coins you needed to buy an apple and how many large coins to treat yourself to a bottle of wine. How would they deal with special offers? Two for ones? Three for twos? At least we’d (hopefully) see an end to black Friday.

Travel. How do you know which bus to catch to work when you can’t read the numbers on the front? How do you know which junction to come off at the motorway? How do you find your way to somewhere new if you can’t read a map? There’s always Sat Nav but you have to type in your selections before it will direct you to your destination. You need to be able to read and write to do that.

Work. How many office jobs involve working with words and figures on the screen or stacks of letters and forms? Which industries would survive? Probably the more tangible ones but even they would have to adapt totally to a world without reading.

Books with question mark

Just thinking of a life without reading makes me realise how difficult it must be for those who cannot read. I’m sure there are other ways in which it must impact on their lives. Maybe there are a few things I haven’t thought about. I would love to get your comments on this.


Breaking the Writing Rules

Recently I have noticed a profusion of articles and blog posts by people involved in the publishing industry with titles such as ’10 Ways Not to Begin your Novel’. The suggestions of ‘things to avoid’ include having your protagonist waking up from a dream, prologues, going back in time and many others. The reason they give is that these types of openings are overused and are therefore sure to get your book rejected by publishers.

Clipartsalbum_16620 Books

Personally, I think this reasoning is crazy. Just because a particular approach has been used previously doesn’t necessarily mean it has been done in the same way. Similarly, because the opening to a book is of a certain type, it doesn’t follow that the book will have anything else in common with other books that have used the same type of opener. Of course, to justify their reasoning they often cite that it will put readers off. Really? Are readers concerned over whether or not a book has a prologue, or has the current dislike for prologues got more to do with publishing fads?

When I wrote my debut novel I opened it with my protagonist waking up from a dream. I had been reading books for 40 years prior to publishing Slur and I can honestly say that I cannot recall another book that opened in this way. It may be that I have read one years ago and retained it in my subconscious, but it isn’t as though every other book I read begins with a dream. Certainly dreams have been used to effect in novels, but does this mean that we should put a ban on the use of dreams in case they become overused?

This brings me to the bigger picture: if the publishing industry insists that we avoid openings that they consider are overused, then why restrict this ruling just to openers? Why not put a ban on jaded cops? Flawed heroes? Middle class chic lit full of dating and/or career dilemmas? Romance novels where boy meets girl but fate conspires to keep them apart for most of the novel until they finally end up together? Or, before this latest trend gets too clichéd, why not put a ban on the female cop who thinks she tougher than all the guys, but has a vulnerable side known only to the reader?

The important point I’m trying to make in all of this is that what’s more important than the type of scenario you create is how well it’s executed.

Another ‘rule’ that drives me to distraction is that it’s now become unpopular to replace the word ‘said’ with alternatives. Although we were encouraged to come up with more creative alternatives at school many decades ago (in my case anyway), those alternatives have now become anathema in certain quarters. I can understand how the overuse of alternatives can become jarring, but there are instances where certain words are more expressive than the word ‘said’ and they can convey the mood of the person speaking.


The ‘point of view rule’ is another example that came to my attention recently through a book that I read. This is a rule that most writers follow, and I try not to break this one myself because it can become confusing if an author switches point of view mid-scene. However, in ‘Child 44’ by Tom Rob Smith there are many instances in the book where the author switches POV from one paragraph to the next. Yet, this is a bestselling novel, which has received rave reviews in the popular press. I don’t know whether it was a conscious decision on the part of the author to take this approach, but I found that it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book and there were only one or two parts of the book where it caused confusion.

While there is a lot of good advice out there, which can improve your writing, sometimes I feel that there is too much. It is impossible to take it all on board especially as so much of the advice is conflicting anyway. Too much emphasis on ‘the writing rules’ can make your writing become stilted, so I think the best thing is just to enjoy your writing. Any howlers can be sifted out at the editing stage anyway and if there is any advice that doesn’t make sense to you, ignore it.

Rant over, for now, but if there are any writing rules that irritate you, please feel free to have a moan in the comments below. 🙂

Signed, Rebellious Indie Author.

P.S. My opening for Slur is staying.

Why do you Love Being an Author?

During a recent email chat with an author friend we were discussing how frustrated we become when other work pulls us away from writing our novels. I commented that it was probably because other work didn’t give us the same sense of satisfaction as writing novels. This led me to thinking – just what is it about being an author that is so satisfying? So I thought it would be interesting to try to pin down some of the reasons:

Escapism – When writing a novel you can escape into your own world which can be anything you want it to be. That does beg the question – why is my writing world full of violence, bad language and warped characters, and why does that give me so much satisfaction? Hmmm!

Creativity – I gain a sense of fulfilment in having created something from nothing and I’ve no doubt it’s the same for other authors. Your book is like your baby that you feel proud of and it gives you tSatisfied Readerhat special feeling of having nurtured it from start to finish. A lot of us are familiar with the buzz of holding the print version of our own book in our hands or seeing it on the shelf in our local book store or library.

Reader Satisfaction – It’s lovely to receive feedback from readers and know that somebody has enjoyed one of your books.

Organisation and Planning – In the (non-writing) world of work, good organisation was always one of my strengths and I think that both non-fiction and fiction books require good organisation skills. You have to be able to plan the chapters, and carefully interweave the main plot and sub-plots. Organisation and planning are also important in achieving a good balance with the pacing of a novel. Because of my organised nature I actually enjoy these challenges.

Kudos – If I’m honest it’s always flattering when people take an interest in what I do although I also get a little embarrassed sometimes. Even though there are increasing numbers of people publishing books, it still attracts a lot of attention when you say that you have written and published a book.Money Pile

Huge Potential for Financial Gain – Yes, there’s a golden carrot dangling on the end of that metaphorical piece of string. The trouble is, every time you try to grasp the carrot, somebody yanks the string and you find you’ve got a bit further to go until you reach your reward. But as long as we can see the carrot, we’ll keep trying to grab it.

I’m speaking for the majority of authors, of course. There are some who are already reaping large financial rewards, which provides further encouragement for the rest of us.

Now for the things I don’t love so much:

I don’t think I’m very good at the whole marketing and promotion thing. I’ve never been one for selling myself. I’d rather shy away and get on with my writing but I expect a lot of authors are like that, which is probably why we choose to do what we do.

TimeThe other negative aspect for me is that there aren’t enough hours in the day. This is another one that I often hear other authors complain about, especially independent authors. It would be wonderful if we could devote all of our working hours to writing and have somebody else take care of all the promotion, editing, proofreading and formatting etc. but for most of us that isn’t feasible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. What is it about being an author that you love or are there any aspects of being an author that you’re not so keen on?

Anyone fancy a carrot?


Writing Using the Five Senses

As I have returned to fiction writing after a long break I have decided to brush up on some of the skills I learnt on my writing course many years ago. I have therefore recently been reading a book called ‘Teach Yourself Writing a Novel’ by Nigel Watts. Whilst reading chapter 9, ‘Setting the Scene’, part of this chapter reminded me of something I covered on my writing course. This relates to utilising all of the senses when describing a scene from a character’s viewpoint because this helps the reader to picture the scene i.e. don’t just describe a scene or character visually but also describe how it sounds, smells etc. Perhaps you could be describing a mangy room where the odour is so bad you can almost taste it, for example.

EarOn this blog I have previously described how when I was writing my first novel I became really engrossed and felt almost as though I was the protagonist and was experiencing everything that she was going through. Perhaps part of the reason for that was because I was utilising the five senses. With my second novel I haven’t felt that same attachment up to now and I know that I need to recapture that feeling before I return to it. Hence I am revisiting some of the techniques that I learnt previously.

Another example of utilising the five senses would be if the protagonist was to enter the scene of a burning building. By using the five senses you would not only describe the visual impact but also the sound of the flames, the feel of the heat, the smell of burning flesh or the choking effects of the smoke. Obviously it isn’t always necessary to use all five of the senses but by using a few of them you can add dimensions to your scene. Because this helps readers to imagine the scene, it fits in with that old writing adage of ‘don’t tell, show’.

I was pleased to find an example in my debut novel where I’d taken on board some of the advice I’d picked up in trying to set the scene. In this particular scene the protagonist has just been subjected to a vicious verbal attack in the canteen where she works, as she is one of the suspects in a murder inquiry.


Julie’s first reaction was to flee from the room as quickly as possible, but Norma’s words kept echoing inside her head, and she told herself, “If I run, everyone will think I’m guilty.” She knew that she had to see it through. “I’m going to eat this bloody pie if it kills me,” she told herself. “I’ve got to try to act as normally as possible; I mustn’t let them get to me.”

Consuming the meal was a struggle. Julie had never before realised that eating could take such an infinite length of time. Her muscles were tense and she found it a tremendous effort to eat each mouthful. Her throat was so constricted that she felt as though she would choke each time she tried to consume the bland pie. Occasionally, she raised her head and glanced around the room just to let people see that she wasn’t about to bow her head in shame.

 NoseShe could sense eyes watching her, but each time she raised her head, they quickly diverted their gaze. This caused her to become even more self-conscious. She felt as though her every movement was being noted; the shaking of her hands, the way she struggled to swallow – her face becoming more flushed with each agonising gulp, the way she shuffled uncomfortably on her chair.

A piece of pie then became lodged in her throat and she lifted her drink so that she could attempt to swill it down. Unfortunately, the cup slipped from her shaking hand. She quickly grasped at it and managed to steady the cup on the table, but not before some of the contents had spilt onto her food.

As she replaced the cup, Julie heard somebody clear their throat and a couple of people coughed, as though indicating a break in the tension. She couldn’t face going to the canteen staff for a cloth to wipe up the mess, so Handshe searched her bag for a tissue. Julie only succeeded in clearing up part of the drink with her tissue, so she had to face eating the rest of her meal with her plate swamped by liquid.

She had managed to swallow the lump of Shepherd’s pie whilst her mind had been drawn to other things, and this had encouraged her to quickly devour a few more forkfuls. However, she was still only two thirds through the pie, and was beginning to struggle to swallow it once more. She knew that she mustn’t leave any on her plate, as this might suggest that she had rushed away, unable to face people any longer.

When Julie eventually reached the point where a marginally acceptable amount was left on her plate, she arranged her cutlery so that it concealed the biggest lumps of food. She then stood up and pulled back her chair as calmly as she could, in defiance of her rapidly beating heart and clammy hands. Julie then walked slowly and deliberately from the canteen with her head held high.


Please feel free to share your thoughts about using the five senses in your writing, by adding your comments below.