I’m delighted to have Angela Corner, author of The Hidden Island on If only I could read faster today giving us some writing advice. As I’m still trying to finish my NaNoWriMo project I’m still really interested in getting all the advice that I can and I have to say that I found a lot of what Angela had to say interesting. I hope that you do too!
Do you write every day or wait for inspiration to strike?
One of the things I learned for writing for soaps is that if you get up in a morning and wait for inspiration to strike then you’ll never finish anything. There are days when writing feels easy. The ideas flow, your sentences seem to appear on the page as if by magic, you are ‘in the zone’ and it feels great. But then there are the days when your mind is blank. The keys on your keyboard might as well be in Chinese. The temptation to eat cake and chocolate or even do some house work is almost impossible to resist. It is those days when you have to battle and sweat and just write something. Anything. It will feel like total rubbish, and may well be total rubbish, but you have to force yourself to keep writing. It’s a habit, a discipline. And even on those bleak, painful days you may produce something worth keeping. Or the germ of something worth keeping.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere. From the news, from family and friends, from eavesdropping on conversations on trains, in pubs and in shops. There’s a thing called the creative bubble or the creative cloud. It’s populated by everything going on in the world, locally and nationally. Everyone can access it and draw inspiration and ideas from it. Sometimes people will reach into the bubble, pull out the same things and come up with very similar ideas at similar times. It then looks like people are copying each other when in fact they’ve simply got the same ingredients from the bubble and put them together in the same way.
Using friends and family’s experiences – including the most shocking and upsetting ones – as a basis for stories can be difficult to reconcile. Every time someone confides in you the writer part of you will be thinking of ways it could be made it into a story whereas the ‘human’ part of you will be sympathising and trying to help or console. It’s a conflict that all writers have and it is essential to keep enough distance between real life experiences and what you use in your stories, either by time or by altering aspects of the story. Otherwise you may end up with no friends and lots of family conflict.
It’s a good idea to have an ideas notepad. You might be working on something else but have a new idea. Write it in your ideas notepad for future reference. It’s very easy – and tempting – to have a great new idea and abandon whatever you’re currently working on to start the new idea. It’s the grass is always greener phenomenon. New ideas always seem better than the one you’ve been sweating over for weeks and months. A bit like the excitement of a new relationship. But if you constantly move onto the newest idea you’ll never finish anything. All writers are guilty of it.
Do you plan or make it up as you go along?
All writers are different. Some plan to the nth degree. Others start at chapter one with no idea where they will end up. Most writers are somewhere in between. If you are a writer who has started many books but not managed to finish any then I think planning the structure and major events/turning points is a sensible idea. It gives you a framework and keeps you focused with certain points to aim for. With The Hidden Island I started with a fairly detailed plan of each chapter. This did change to varying degrees as I went along with some aspects removed and others added in. The original plan included lots of flashbacks to Beckett’s previous investigation on the Island but during the writing process I found this slowed the action too much. The other big change to the original plan was the ending. This changed when I was writing the synopsis to send off to publishers and agents. In writing the two page synopsis (easily the most difficult part of novel writing!) I realised the original ending wasn’t working as well as I’d liked and a different ending popped into my head. I put the new ending in the synopsis and then rewrote the final chapter.
My writing day
It’s important, or at least to me, to get into a writing routine. Most writers seem to have a routine that suits them and their lifestyle and mine has had to adapt to changes in my own life. My preferred time of day to write is actually in the evening and on into the early hours. However this routine is not conducive to a healthy relationship! I also struggle to write if anyone else is in the house. Complete immersion in my made up worlds requires no real world distractions. So my writing routine now means writing during the day whilst the house is empty. I have a minimum word count of 1000 words a day. If the writing is going well then I will continue on past 1000 words and keep going until I get beaten by the clock or simply feel too tired to carry on. If it’s one of those struggling days I will write my 1000 words and then stop but I will make myself do a 1000 words however long it takes and however horrible those 1000 words feel.
Edit as you go or just keep going?
It’s tempting to start each new day by going back over what you’ve written the day before and rewriting it. But this can really stall all forward motion. I will edit as I go during the day but once that day’s writing is done, in general, I won’t go back over it the following day. There are exceptions to this – if something really isn’t working, or if I get a lightbulb moment that evening about a new way of doing things or an extra story strand to add. It’s important to keep going and bury any self-doubt until you’ve got to the final full stop, of the final sentence, of the final chapter. Then put the manuscript aside for a few weeks, or months. Work on something else. Start a new book, or at least the research and planning of a new book, before picking up your first draft and beginning the editing process.
The Hidden Island: an edge of your seat crime thriller
Sex. Drugs. Murder.
Hidden behind the crystal seas and beautiful beaches of a Greek Island dark and dangerous secrets lurk. Beckett has had his fill of adrenaline fuelled criminal investigation and with a broken body and damaged career goes to the Greek Island of Farou to head up the Criminal Investigation Bureau. Serious crime is rare, the weather is great and the beer is cold but his ‘retirement’ is cut short when a pagan cult resurrects and bodies start showing up.
With doubts about his mental and physical ability to do the job, a British police detective is sent to help with the investigation. DI Lee Harper is everything Beckett is not – young, ambitious and by the book.
As well as tackling the new case Beckett must overcome the demons from his past.
Family loyalty, power and money are at the source of the investigation where appearance is everything and nothing is what is seems.
Can Beckett and Harper work together to find justice for the victims?
Will the idyllic island ever be the same again?
Sometimes paradise can be hell.
“This gritty thriller is a brilliantly plotted and refreshing read. Angela Corner is one to watch for those who like their books with a bit more bite” Betsy Reavley, best-selling author of The Quiet Ones, The Optician’s Wife and Frailty.