With the first draft of the second book in my crime fiction trilogy off to beta readers, I can rest easy for a minute. Of course, the plan is to begin the third and final book during National Novel Writing Month but… as we all know something shiny and new can always draw us away from the ‘should do’s’ and entice us in other directions.
In common with many writers, I have a stack of manuscripts in various stages of completion. A western romance, a suspense novel, and a YA romance. These manuscripts have been dwelling in digital folders for some time, and I keep reminding myself that they should be revised and edited and then set out into the world. Alas, a new shiny project always seems to take precedence and steers me away.
However, the one shining brightly at the moment is none of these. Rather, it is a prequel to my Rython saga. It will tell the story of how the vengeful witch, Malgraf became such a malignant force. I have mental images of locations, the young Malgraf and her childhood experiences manifesting into story and it is so enticing. I am even thinking which colour I should use for the book cover! As you can see I have a gorgeous blue and green for the other editions, but need a darker feel for the story of the witch, for obvious reasons. A cover always tells its own story and sets the mood for the reader.
So, how do we avoid a new idea? Well, there are several predisposing conditions.
A publishing deadline.
To continue the flow of a series.
Keeping the characters front and center to ensure continuity.
These can help drag you away from a new and shiny idea – but not always. It all comes down to your self control and if you are under a contract. For me, I will explore my new story, jotting down scenes etc. and possibly use part of NaNoWriMo to write it. It will be a novella, in line with the other two editions, so will leave me ‘space’ in November to start the final book in the trilogy. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!
How do you avoid a new story idea? Or do you succumb to the excitement?
August 1st is a holiday here in Alberta, so it was nice to have an extra long weekend. I’m please to day my ‘stalled’ situation in the completion of book two of The Delphic Murders – The Tainted Search – was overcome and I managed to finish the manuscript. It is now in the hands of a few beta-readers. It was such a relief to finally overcome the hurdle. I will let it ‘rest’ for a month and then go back to it for the next round of editing and revision. In the meantime, I have other dormant manuscripts I can return to, but as with all things it may not go to plan. I had a new idea for a contemporary novel and also have the idea for a prequel to the Rython saga. Never a dull moment in a writer’s mind!
As you know I enjoy sharing my responses to writing prompts, this is my latest:
Characters in a Crunch Write a scene or story that includes a character eating cereal. What does a character’s favourite cereal say about their personality?
Rosemary sat at the small round breakfast table, set for one with a place mat, napkin, silver cutlery and a pot of tea with a china cup and saucer to match. She set it every night before going to bed. Everything in its place and orderly. As she looked through the window at the garden, enjoying the fruits of her many hours of labour over several decades, she spooned mouthfuls of cereal into her mouth. As a child she always loved her grandmother’s English cottage garden. Hollyhocks, honeysuckle, roses, and all the colours of the rainbow all in perfect rows. Now, her garden was a joy to her grandchildren, she had come full circle.
With deliberate care she spooned around the bowl to make sure she had a good mixture of ingredients. She didn’t like overly sweet or one type cereal, she found it boring and the sugary treats stuck to her dentures. Over time she had created the perfect start to her day. Bran, fresh berries, oatmeal and a little honey. Her breakfast kept her regular, gave her a portion of fruit and filled her up. When she stayed with family, she took her ingredients with her, just to ensure she didn’t have to suffer store bought cereal.
Rosemary enjoyed short stays with family but had to resist tidying and organizing when she did. People lived in such chaos! Her home was picture perfect and that is the way she liked it. Orderly contents in cupboards and closets and a check list for everything. With the last scoop of her cereal she patted her lips with the napkin, then took the crockery to the sink, washed and dried everything and put them away.
I’m in the unusual position of having the potential to celebrate two Mother’s Day’s. In England the day is celebrated in March, however in Canada it is celebrated in May.
I wondered why this was the case, so did some research to find out why there are two dates. The Mother’s day in the America’s is a 20th century invention by a woman called Anna Jarvis. Her mother organized women’s groups to promote friendship and health, and was also a human rights activist during the Civil War of 1861. Anna wanted to celebrate her mother in a memorial service and did so on 12th May 1907. This was her late mother’s birthday. Within five years virtually every state was observing the day.
In England, Mothering Sunday was not originally to celebrate mother’s per se, but began as an explicitly religious event of the 16th Century, with no connection to mothers at all. The word “mothering” referred to the “mother church”, which is to say the main church or cathedral of the region. Thus the date falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent three weeks before Easter Sunday.
I was treated to supper and received this lovely calla lily.
The rest of my weekend was spent walking Sammie, editing book two of The Delphic Murders and reading.
What did you get up to?
What are you reading?
My current read is The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser. Blurb: Mary Swan Middleton has always taken for granted the advantages of her family’s wealth. But a tragedy that touches all of Atlanta sends her reeling in grief. When the family maid challenges her to reach out to the less fortunate as a way to ease her own pain, Mary Swan meets Carl-and everything changes. For although Carl is her opposite in nearly every way, he has something her privileged life could not give her. And when she seeks his help to uncover a mystery, she learns far more than she ever could have imagined.
Mandy Eve-Barnett is a multi-genre author writing children’s, YA, and adult books full of adventure and surprising twists in plot and genre. Her passion for writing emerged later in life and she is making up for lost time. With nine books published since 2011, she indulges her muse in creative fiction as well as freelance writing, which you can learn more about at https://tailoredthemedtosuit.wordpress.com/
Mandy regularly blogs at www.mandyevebarnett.com and is a writing community advocate. As secretary of her local writers’ group, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County, and past secretary of the Alberta Authors Cooperative, as well as past-president of the Arts & Culture Council, she lives her creative life to the fullest. She hosts the WFSC monthly writing meetings and also creates writing prompts for their website. She has presented on various writing topics at conferences and seminars. Originally from England, Mandy now resides in Alberta, Canada. You can find Mandy across social media and her books through all the online purchasing sites and her publisher, Dream Write Publishing.
What genres do you write in?
I write multiple genres, as I follow the story rather than a genre when I write. As the characters and story develop it becomes clear which audience and genre the narrative fits into. This is a personal approach, as I have to feel my way through a story rather than conform to a structure.
Tell us a little about your work for adults
I use my life experience and interests to give my writing authenticity even though it may not seem evident within the story itself. For example, my novella series, The Rython Kindom and Rython Legacy are set in medieval England. I regularly visited historical sites when I lived in England so can draw from those experiences and learnt history. Another novel, Life
in Slake Patch, is a speculative fiction story set in an alternative future with a matriarchal society. The seed of the novel idea came from a heated discussion on the perceived place of a woman in our patriarchal society. I feel these themes not only draw in but allow my readers to relate to the story’s basic theme even if they are not consciously aware of them.
What about your books for children?
I have always been fascinated with the magical and mysterious – fairies, dragons, fantastic creatures, as well as the natural world. These two themes are the foundation of my children’s and young adults’ stories. I want my younger readers to love the world they live in, to cherish the flora and fauna within it and to experience a sense of magic. No matter the setting of the story, or the characters within it, there is always companionship, and the message to be true to yourself and those around you.
What are your sources of inspiration?
Goodness, as I have said earlier, everything and anything. It might be a conversation, a photo, something I read or interests I want to explore within a narrative. Dreams also give me ideas or topics, or even a scene I can use within a story. I keep my mind open to influences around me.
Are you involved with your local writing community?
Very much so, physically (when we could!) and virtually. I am the current secretary of my local writers’ group, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. We host three monthly (currently virtual) meetings – writing circle, kids creative writing workshop and Poets in the Park. I host the circle meetings, create the Saturday Writing Prompts on the website, and assist with the planning and organization of our two main annual events. Our Spring Writers Conference and our Fall Words in the Park – author and artisan sale and promotion, in conjunction with Alberta Cultural Days. Within this group I found my people, so to speak. I am also a writing community advocate on social media supporting and encouraging other writers. I am happy to share my experiences and knowledge to help others.
What are you currently working on?
I am in the midst of a detective trilogy, The Delphic Murders. I have book one in third draft and am writing book two. Most of my writing is free flow but with this current project I learnt to become a plotter planning separate and multiple arcs, which has been an enlightening exercise. The trilogy spans three Canadian cities and a elusive killer.
You also offer a variety of writing services, don’t you? Can you tell us a little about those?
I am versatile freelance writer drawing from a wide-ranging life experience from twenty-six years as a business owner, working within the medical field, parenting and relationships, extensive travel, and beginning a new life on another continent. I am able to communicate ideas, notions and information on a wide and unlimited range of subjects to ensure I deliver clear, creative, and compelling communications for my clients. It has been a pleasure to create projects for my clients from a magazine article to ghost writing a hybrid marketing book.
So where can people find out more about you and your books?
My blog is the best place to find everything about me and my writing: www.mandyevebarnett.com. I am also across multiple social media sites so I’m easy to find.
One of the main questions I am asked is how do I write and what is my process. It may seem like a simple question, but it results in a complex answer that maybe wasn’t expected. Every writer has their own process, but it is normally split between writer called a panster (free flow) or plotter. A plotter has note cards, sticky notes, a story board, or some other framework they utilize to plot and plan the narrative. The panster (free flow writer) does not use any method, although, they may jot down some notes, such as character names and relationships, settings and continuity points as they write.
I am a free flow writer and always have been (until recently, I’ll get to that shortly). I tried to use the ‘romance format’ once, which resulted in the one and only time I had writer’s block, so never again! I will try to explain as best I can my process here, so here goes.
When an idea forms in my mind resulting from a prompt, an overheard conversation, a life experience, a photo or object, a dream or something else, I either let it brew in my mind to see if it will gather momentum or it propels me into writing several paragraphs. Gradually characters form, a setting materializes, and an initial story emerges, whether I ponder or write the idea. There is no specific plot or storyarc at this point, just the first instance of the narrative.
As the idea takes hold of my imagination, I allow the story to tell itself, sounds weird, I know, but it really does flow from mind to fingertip. I find it’s best not to force the narrative, but let it take its own pace. On multiple occasions I have thought the story will go in one direction only for it to go in a completely random direction. This for me is the fun of writing not fully knowing where the characters will lead me. As I write, the story plays like a movie in my head, I ‘see’ the settings, the characters, their lives and just like a movie have no idea what will happen. I do, however, become familiar with my characters, their backstory, motivations and personalities.
Some may say my writing process is actually ‘automatic writing’ but it is not, I do have ultimate control over the narrative adding my viewpoints for upcoming scenes and character development – I just don’t force or coerce my Muse, but allow the flow to come. I hope that makes some kind of sense, as I said it is difficult to explain the inner workings of a writers mind.
As I mentioned earlier, I usually write free flow, that changed when the idea for my detective trilogy, The Delphic Murders came to me. The initial idea was like a lightning bolt – three female detectives, three Canadian cities and their murder investigations. I even came up with the three separate book titles in quick session. An Elusive Trail (Book 1), The Tainted Search (Book 2) & Killers Match (Book 3). This resulted in my having to plan each book for timeline, character descriptions, plot arcs and the relationships within each book. This was a new technique for me and I was able to gather information on how to do it properly from various sources. I found a new skill to add to my writing repertoire!
Do you have a question for me about my writing technique, or how I develop an idea? I am more than happy to answer your queries.