Confessions of a Writaholic

I’ve been going through old posts with the thought of organizing them better for those who visit A Writer of History and came across this one I wrote in 2012. The thoughts seem just as relevant today as they were then.

A week or so ago, I wrote myself a note containing a single word: writaholic. At the time, I had been reflecting on how obsessed I’ve become about writing. The truth of the matter is that I could write every day for most of the day and enjoy almost every minute of it. Sometimes, in fact, I feel the words churning inside me, clamouring for release.

While out walking, I craft sentences to describe something I’ve seen. While driving I plot some twist or turn in my stories. While washing the dishes or gardening or standing in the shower, I think of changes required to further polish a chapter. When I’m not thinking or working directly on writing, I’m devising a new blog post or a way to gain further insights from the historical fiction survey I’ve recently completed or I’m musing on how to connect with others in the field of historical fiction or in the more general field of publishing. And on and on it goes.

I haven’t been writing that long – about four years now [update to 13 years] – and I wonder if it will always be this way or whether I will eventually settle into a less compulsive pattern. If you have any wisdom to share, I would be grateful.

Note: the photo was taken in Japan. The tiny twists of paper represent people’s wishes for good fortune.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available on Amazon USAmazon CanadaKobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Take Off Your Pants – Libbie Hawker’s advice

One of our special guests at the HNS North America 2021 conference was Libbie Hawker. Libbie is a prolific and excellent writer with many novels to her credit. A recent favourite for me is The Ragged Edge of Night under the pen name Olivia Hawker. But I digress. Libbie put on two master classes, one called Take Off Your Pants and the other called Making It In Historical Fiction. Both were very well attended and received.

Libbie’s master class, Take Off Your Pants, was based on the advice packed into her book by the same name. The subtitle is “Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing”. After writing my first novel by the seat of my pants – what folks call a pantser – I adopted an outlining technique cobbled together from a few sources such as Elizabeth George’s Write Away. But Libbie’s advice has added another important layer that I plan to incorporate in the next novel (whatever that is!)

During the three-hour class, Libbie spent most of her time taking us through the outlining technique using a simple document which she develops for each main POV character.

What stood out for me?

  • the notion of specifically identifying the main character’s flaw, something that is a deep, personal flaw and a source of tension for the MC; something that makes interactions with others difficult
  • the need for the main character to recognize and acknowledge his/her external goal
  • finding a way early to to display the MC’s flaw
  • defining an ally for your main character who is someone that helps the MC at their most difficult moment and forces them back onto their path; someone who has power to move the MC’s heart; someone they always say yes to
  • the external goal is something a main character will obsess about, a goal that will compel them throughout the story; a goal that will push the story forward
  • identifying a theme that will help determine scenes that should be in the story; a unifying concept for the book that isn’t too broad and sweeping and that applies to all main characters in the novel

Libbie uses the outline to help build pacing into the novel and to create the sense of urgency that keeps readers wanting to find out what happens. With more than one main character, Libbie encourages writers to use different colours for each character so that when you weave the beats together, you can see which character is carrying the story at which points of time.

This is a very cursory look at Take Off Your Pants. Based on the master class, I feel there is something in Libbie’s book for every writer no matter what stage you’re at in your career. I’ve already purchased my copy!

Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker ~~ When it comes to writing books, are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?” Is one method really better than the other?

In this instructional ebook, author Libbie Hawker explains the benefits and technique of planning a story before you begin to write. She’ll show you how to develop a foolproof character arc and plot, how to pace any book for a can’t-put-down reading experience, and how to ensure that your stories are complete and satisfying without wasting time or words.

Hawker’s outlining technique works no matter what genre you write, and no matter the age of your audience. If you want to improve your writing speed, increase your backlist, and ensure a quality book before you even write the first word, this is the how-to book for you.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available on Amazon USAmazon CanadaKobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

The Story of a Novel – an idea takes shape

A few weeks ago, I wrote about beginning a new novel. That post – The Story of a Novel – featured four research books and two potential plot ideas. Having now read Double Cross by Ben MacIntyre – unfortunately, not his usual page turner – I’ve dipped into The Paris Game searching for clues about Charles de Gaulle’s whereabouts during WWII, and read several chapters of The Longest Day, which seems to be superbly written. The life of an author has its perks.

All the while, the laptop beckoned.

Two weeks ago, I could no longer resist the temptation to set down some ideas for Claire’s story. Not surprisingly, there’s no title yet. Just a glimmer of how the plot might come together after I realized how many novels feature soldiers, spies, code breakers, and everyday British people involved in World War Two. What if, I thought, Charles de Gaulle and other French leaders were to play a role of some sort in this new novel?

Hmmm. And that prompted more thoughts and more digging around to see if I could construct a timeline of de Gaulle’s whereabouts from 1940 to 1945 and develop an understanding of the role the Free French organization played during the war. I wish I could read French, as I’m certain I could find other sources explaining the French perspective.

Where has all this noodling led?

In one document, I’m building a timeline of de Gaulle’s whereabouts. For example, on November 29, 1940 de Gaulle does a radio broadcast on BBC from London. I don’t know what he said, but I plan to find out. On January 24, 1943, he’s in Casablanca with Churchill and Roosevelt and General Henri Giraud, a fierce rival for leadership of the Free French.

In a second document, I’m jotting plot points for how Claire might get involved with de Gaulle and where all that might lead.

Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post

Early days, of course. Just a very rough shape at the moment – like a sculptor making the first strikes on a piece of marble.

I’ll be back with more developments.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.