The Benefits of Creating a Playlist For Your Draft Novel #Writers #WritersLife


Are you bored with your playlists?

Are you struggling to connect with your draft novel?

Why don’t you bring your draft novel to life with the help of a playlist?

This gem of a writing tip actually works and there are so many benefits.

I struggled to return to my draft novel after putting it aside for eight weeks. It took me weeks and weeks to re-connect with it. I thought the magic and euphoric feelings that I experienced with the first draft would come back in a flash – they didn’t!

After a few solitary walks in the rain, many hours of frantically messaging my writer friends and some desperate Google searches, I decided to try to recreate the atmosphere of writing my first draft. This involved sitting in the kitchen, with a slab of chocolate, a lot of strong coffee and listening to music.

When I think back to those joy filled days of writing my first draft there were some songs that I seemed to play regularly. So I made a note of them.

After doing this I thought about my characters and chose a new song for each of them. This is a really fun thing to do with your characters.

I ended up with 10 songs and I created my playlist! To condition myself I started playing it regularly. Within a few days I was getting a ‘goosebumps’ feeling every time I listened to it and soon I was at the kitchen table tapping away. Trust me on this – it really does help you connect with your draft!

Here are some other benefits:

  1. When you are not writing you can listen to your playlist in the car, on the bus or walking home from work. This really helps with thinking things through and solving issues.
  2. It can help spark your imagination. I have had so many ideas come to me whilst listening to my playlist.
  3. The songs you choose for your characters help with characterisation. It is like the music brings them to life.
  4. Switching on your draft novel playlist gets you into the writing zone in a flash.
  5. With a gruelling creative project like a writing a novel you need to create a happy place in your mind which you can go to when times get tough. Music helps you create this place.
  6. It can feel like you are making your own movie when selecting tracks for your draft novel playlist. This gets you a bit fired up about your draft.
  7. The playlist will keep you going even when you want to stop writing.
  8. It can bring on a writer dance or two..

The only downside is that in the future you will never be able to listen to your playlist songs again without thinking of your draft novel. So your draft novel better turn out to be a success!

Here are 3 songs from my playlist for ‘Instructions For Falling In Love Again’:

Please let me know which 3 songs would be on your draft novel playlist!

Have a great day!

PS: For my serialised chicklit podcast character Roxy Collins there is only ONE song on her playlist – The Weather Girls – ‘Its Raining Men’.  Yes!! Put that umbrella away Roxy!


Writers: How to Tame a Wild Character #MondayBlogs #Writer #AmWriting


I love wild and unruly characters. You know the ones who just want to have a good time, the ones who refuse to do what you want them to do, the ones who do not let you into their head or the characters who take us off on wild goose chases.

Of course it’s never the author’s fault that their imaginary friends are running riot….um…no…fault lies with the unruly characters! Yes!

Sometimes you do need to take control of your rebellious literary offspring.

Here is my guide on how to tame your wild character:

  1. For the really wild ones who like a good time – ask yourself whether you are living vicariously through your characters?  Are you getting carried away with living life through another’s eyes? It is a tough question to answer but worth a consideration. Some of my unruly characters like to enjoy themselves a bit too much (fake bakes, dating mysterious men and doing really bad karaoke) and sometimes I wonder there is a bit of me living out life through their eyes. Sigh!
  2. Admit that an unruly character is a sign that something isn’t working. Gasp! This is not easy especially for those of us who struggle with admitting we are wrong. Put aside your ego and ask yourself whether your mischievous character is trying to tell you that something is wrong with your plot or your ideas on characterisation.
  3. Switch POV. I like to take a scene with a character who refuses to do what I say and rewrite it with a different POV. This can throw up some really interesting results. It feels like a load of extra work but viewing them from a different perspective helps you understand them better, which in the long run might help you control them.
  4. Let them have their way for a scene or two. This is not easy, especially for those of us who are literary control freaks. Basically you tell your wild character to do whatever they want and you see where it leads you. It may help them get something out of their system or in my case you could end up spending a few days eye rolling at them.
  5. Undertake a character questionnaire. I hate to say this but when characters are unruly it does mean they are not developed enough. My favourite questionnaire is this one which has 156 questions. Nothing escapes this gem!
  6. Do they have enough conflict or pain in their fictional life or do they need more?  Are you really challenging them or is their behaviour a result of them having too much free time on their hands? Give them some more pain! This works a treat and brings the unruly ones into line. Dig out your notes on their backstory and see how you can crank up the conflict. That will teach em! Sigh!
  7. If they still won’t listen – rewrite them! I have had to take this sort of decisive action with one of my characters. She was given a lot of warnings and still refused to do what I asked.

If these 7 tips don’t work you can always try…sending them straight to bed with no TV or Twitter!

Have a great day!

Photo: Pixabay

The Writer’s Wine Break #SundayBlogShare #Writer #WritersLife


I am a big fan of the Writer’s Wine Break!

There are several stages:

  1. Writer Suffering. The Writer’s Break always follows a long period (a couple of hours, an hour or in some extreme cases – a good half hour) of writer suffering. The writer is in a form of literary hell; they despise their writing, Twitter has gone silent on them, their latest plot is sagging, they have a raging post-it note addiction, but can’t find their pack of post-it notes and they are starting to doubt whether they will ever become a future  bestselling author. Whilst they huff and puff in Writing World loved ones will be busy creeping off to bed as it is late. Loved ones would rather go to sleep than sit and watch their beloved writer have a creative breakdown over a lost packet of post-it notes and a half finished draft with a weak plot.
  2. Wine Search. Things will reach a low point as the writer will come to the conclusion that if they can’t find their post-it notes, to plot out their novel on the wall, they might as well quit writing altogether. After a few tears the writer will look up and experience the ‘wine lightbulb’ moment. Yes – wine could help alleviate this literary pain! The writer will start to imagine opening a lovely quality bottle of Shiraz and be able to almost taste it slipping down their throat. They know that wine could save them from this creative hell. Keen to hang onto their writing career the writer will leave their writing desk gasping “wine….I need wine..”  and hurry over to the wine rack.
  3. Wine Desperation. Things never go to plan in Writing World. The writer will reach the wine rack and their smile will disappear. The only bottle left will be a cheap and miserable looking bottle of wine. From the label alone the writer will start to fear the worst. It might as well come with the following description #paintstripper. Cue the writer’s wail “where’s the quality stuff gone?”  Writers have short memories – sigh!  In desperation the writer will grab the bottle, a glass and race back to Writing Corner.
  4. Writer’s Wine Break. After a few mouthfuls and some face pulling (over the bitter taste of the cheap plonk) the writer will start to feel like someone is sprinkling ‘magical literary fairy dust’ all over them. After reading some of their current draft they will let out a soft moan of literary pleasure – they have the makings of a literary masterpiece!  If only literary agents gave out their personal numbers for writers who, after a couple of glasses of wine, felt like doing a quick pitch late on a Friday night – sigh! The post-it notes will magically reappear and the writer will let out a joyful squeal. The writer will consume more wine and their raging addiction for doing something creative with post-it notes will return. In a flash they will be up out of their chair frantically scribbling, posting notes to the wall and at the same time taking swigs of wine. Soon their entire novel will be plotted out and the writer will have made some key changes. They will stand back, wipe the sweat away from their brow, pour another glass and whisper “wow….so beautiful…its a work of art!”  Fuelled by the cheap wine the writer will then start to write some ground breaking stuff. Oh my goodness glorious words will pepper the page and the writer will be making sounds like “Mmmmm” and “Oh yes…I sound just like Hilary Mantel!”  This is the magic of a Writer’s Wine Break – one minute you are a normal writer with some plot issues and the next (after a few glasses) you are sounding like Hilary Mantel! Sigh! 
  5. In the Cold Light of Day. The next morning the writer will make an appearance. With a cough, a groan, a scratch of their head and a “I must have eaten a bad crisp last night! the writer will shuffle downstairs and come face to face with their….wall of post-it notes and half a page of ‘amazing words’.  Things created on a Writer’s Wine Break may seem like they are ‘ground breaking’ at the time but in the cold light of day they can appear very different. Some of the post-it notes will be legible and some will be hard to read. The ones where the writer gave up on words and turned to drawing dodgy looking stick people (if you have never done this – you haven’t lived!) will bring on some sharp intakes of breath and a lot of head shaking. The writer will say things like “good grief what’s going in chapter 26…what are those stick people doing?” After a strong coffee and a couple of headache tablets the writer will return to Writing Corner and make a promise to….never buy cheap wine again!


Have a fabulous day folks!

Photo: Stocksnaps

Author Interviews @SueAuthor #Author #Writers #WeekendBlogShare

Author Interviews-2

Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews. 

Each week I get to interview an amazing author on what it was like for them to write their book and the challenges they overcame. I also get to glean some useful writing tips and find out what authors are wearing these days whilst they hammer out their books.

Today I am very excited as inspirational author Sue Hampton has agreed to come and sit in my red chair.

Tell my readers about yourself and the book / books you have written

I’m an ex-teacher, now an unusual professional author because I have 27 titles with 6 small publishers, for children, teenagers and adults and across genres. I’m also an Ambassador for Alopecia UK, having lost all my hair 35 years ago. My latest book, RAVELLED, is my first short story collection (for adults).

When did you write your first book?

The first title published was the historical adventure SPIRIT AND FIRE in 07 – “enthralling” said Michael Morpurgo – but the first story I wrote was THE WATERHOUSE GIRL, a children’s novel built around an eleven-year-old character with alopecia. I held it back, even after Michael Morpurgo called the manuscript “beautifully written” and once I’d found a publisher, because while I still wore wigs my baldness was a secret and the book would blow my cover. It was published once I decided to own my hair loss – and to share, when I’m booked by schools or adult groups, a message about diversity, identity and respect.

How long did it take to write your first book?

I wrote THE WATERHOUSE GIRL over an intense five weeks but then returned to it years later and edited, expanded and reworked it, bringing in a whale and more humour. This process took a few months.

What was your motivation to write your first book?

I’d wanted to be an author since the age of 6. As a primary teacher I needed powerful stories to read at Story Time, and well-written stories to illustrate techniques and everything words can do. Some of the books on the classroom shelves inspired me, like Morpurgo’s. Others fell short. I was approaching 50 when I decided to make it happen, and my subject, exploring through a fictional character my own experience of alopecia, was the obvious one for me. It was therapy but Daisy Waterhouse also changed my life – when I realised she was the person I wanted to be. It earned me the role of Ambassador for the charity and enabled me to support others but I never imagined that outcome.

What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?

I’ll answer that in a career-so-far context! I have learned to adapt my style again and again as I’ve explored different genres, and with one YA title, THINNER THAN WATER, I had to accept an editor’s stripping back and chopping of my default literary flow when writing (in close third person) about a streetwise urban teenager called Kim who is self-defined by toughness. This worked, because the other teenage protagonist is as different from Kim as she could be, so because Fizzy’s chapters have a fluid, dreamy musicality and spirituality in their tone and vocabulary the contrast is sharp and effective. Encouraged by this success (I’m not talking sales but in my own critical judgement) I decided that in my adult novel FLASHBACK AND PURPLE I would use four distinct voices, each with a register, style and perspective. That’s quite a challenge, but challenge motivates me. I’m not interested in series. There are so many kinds of story, which is why I’ve now written a collection of them (RAVELLED).

Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?

I don’t get writer’s block. I occasionally lose heart but never for more than a day because my husband, Leslie Tate, is an author too and talking to him usually shifts things on. Together we appear (we get booked by writers’ groups, reading groups, libraries, U3As and run Berkhamsted Live) as #authorsinlove and we support and sustain each other. I don’t think I would have survived the brutality and injustices of the book world without him! He’s gifted and we believe in each other.

Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?

Generally I let my characters lead because whatever the audience or genre they are at the heart of every story. In the case of SHUTDOWN, a futuristic teenage novel, I knew what the big climax would be before I began but had to find my way there. Sometimes with children’s adventures/mysteries I have to stop around two-thirds of the way in and plot out the remainder to ensure that I hold on to each strand and don’t leave any of them hanging. When I write adult or YA fiction the process is usually freer, allowing the story to develop organically from character, with the exception of RAVELLED because short stories make certain demands that must be met rather fast.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The joy of falling in love as a writer with characters I know more intimately than real people, and the intensity of the commitment to them and their story. And the joy when any reader experiences that same thrill, whether that reader is a child in a school (I’ve been to 600) a Facebook friend I’ve never met or an author I respect.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

The business. That means the whole idea that a book is a product, success is defined by sales, celebrities draw big advances for books they don’t write, and profile matters more than talent. All of that can leave authors like me without big publishers feeling needy and even on occasions humiliated, as during the Waterstone’s signing where a guy walked in, read the sign and said, loudly and sarcastically, “Oh, wow, Sue Hampton’s here.” Pause, different voice: “Who the hell’s she?” No fun for the author shrinking at the table. I also hate self-promoting.

Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?

Yes, for the reasons above. I hoped that praise from Morpurgo, Beverley Knight and, in the case of RAVELLED, many respected and established authors, might earn me a contract with a big publisher and enable me to reach more readers. The disappointment when a big break crumbles can be tough. I suppose belief that I have something to offer as an author keeps me trying – and that desire to improve, to challenge myself.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I used to run down the corridor early each morning as a teacher and work until 11:00 at night so I’ve had enough stress, thanks! No targets or regimes but I’m an early riser and may start writing before most people are at work. It varies. I take time out and as I also spend some days as an author in school leading writing workshops, aiming to inspire.

Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?

Well yes, checking Facebook and Twitter and book orders before I start writing but that’s part of the job really. I’m quite disciplined but the key thing is that once a book has started to roll there’s nothing I’d rather do than write it.

Which is more important – plot or characters and why?

Characters. I don’t read plot-led fiction so I rarely write it. I’m more interested in characters, their interior lives and dramas and their relationships. My children’s novels need plenty of action of but I begin with characters and they determine it.

What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?

  1. It’s tougher out there than any writer thinks it will be and luck is rare.
  2. There may be a difference between compromise in dealings with editors and surrendering identity or integrity – but there may not.
  3. Publishers all function differently, like species, but small ones may well be more respectful and less controlling than the big boys.

How do you manage social media as a writer?

Usually with half-hearted reluctance. I hate being bombarded by authors myself. I try to exercise judgement and restraint and I won’t pay to be marketed. However, I’ve just paid two lovely students who’ve set up their own company to make a promo film for RAVELLED because in it I can share my ideas about writing as well as extracts from the stories – and be bald and bold of course.

Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?

Write what you want or need to write but read widely and critically too. Be inspired by the greats and earn from them. In my case those are George Eliot, Tolstoy, Dickens and Virginia Woolf in particular but also, in contemporary writing, Carol Shields, Anne Tyler, Marilynne Robinson, Susan Fletcher, Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth Strout. The children’s writers I admire most are Morpurgo of course, Malorie Blackman, Alan Garner, Leon Garfield and Geraldine McCaughrean.

Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?

Yes. I have a notebook for when ideas come to me. Most do generate books.

What do you wear to write?

Big earrings, tops of many colours but nearly always red, leggings usually. I have author outfits which are smarter but equally vivid variations and may involve heels or dresses at times.

If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?


Hey Sue – great interview! 

  • Wow that must have been amazing when Michael Morpurgo said your book was ‘enthralling’ and ‘beautifully written!’ 
  • I loved how you decided to ‘own your hair loss’ and share your experiences with others. So inspirational! 
  • Anyone who can write a book over an intense five week period is a super star in my eyes!
  • I can relate to falling in love with characters and I agree its one of the best things about being a writer. 
  • I love your writer fashion – big earrings and red leggings! 

Thank you🙂


If you are an author and would like to appear on my blog please get in touch. 

photo credit: <a href=”″>the chair in the attic</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

How to Spot a Writer in a Supermarket #Writers #WritersLife


As a writer you might prefer to do your food shopping online. Buying food online is a great way to procrastinate as you get to feel like you are doing something important (food gatherer) and it takes you away from writing. Trust me when you are trying to avoid writing your novel it can take hours browsing through every single food item an online supermarket site has to offer.

However, there will be some occasions when you will be forced to venture out to a supermarket (Wi-Fi on the blink / forced human interaction).

I believe a writer can be spotted in a supermarket and this is definitely worthy of a blog post.

So, here is how to spot a writer in a supermarket:

  1. The writer will enter the supermarket looking puzzled (scratching head or chin). Their loved ones will have been complaining for days about the empty food cupboards and the writer will be keen to resolve this situation. However, the writer will be asking themselves what’s more important – “my first chapter sounding amazing or food in the house?”)
  2. They will be dressed in normal writer attire:
    • Pjs, or
    • Comfy clothes, or
    • A tweed jacket (the writer’s fabric of choice), with an elaborate ruffled shirt, a colourful scarf (to reflect their creativity levels) and finished off with a stylish beret. Sigh!
  3. The writer will be seen clutching a very long food shopping list (food supplies started to run low when the writer realised their first chapter needed more work. First chapters can mess with a writer’s head causing real life to grind to a halt).
  4. Seconds into their food shop the writer will get distracted by the book aisle. They will be seen muttering stuff under their breath and pushing their empty trolley towards the shelves of books. After a good half hour spent browsing through the books, making some remarks about the quality of some of the books on offer, shaking their head at some of the opening chapters, they will chuck a few books into their trolley (no true writer can leave a book aisle without making a purchase or two) and wander off into the food section.
  5. Writers will be the shoppers ‘circling’ (like vultures) the cheese and wine aisles. I can’t think why a writer would be so drawn to these supermarket aisles. After a good half hour spent circling the writer will chuck in a few blocks of cheese, plus a couple of bottles of wine. (The decision on whether they go for red or white wine will be dependent on how they feel about their latest draft. If they are feeling positive and upbeat about their work they will be opting for a light, refreshing, sparkling white wine. On the other hand if the thought of their draft makes them feel emotional and depressed they will plump for a heavy and mind numbing red).
  6. Once the important items have been put in the trolley; a couple of paperbacks, a nice Stilton and a full-bodied, robust bottle of Shiraz, the writer will take a look at the remaining food aisles and stifle a yawn.
  7. The writer will then be seen scooting up and down the other aisles, chucking in whatever comes to hand or catches their eye. Their loved ones will just have to make do with whatever is in their shopping bags. The writer will look like they are keen to get home at this point.
  8. The writer will make a quick dash up the chocolate aisle as their  secret ’emergency chocolate’ supplies will be running low. The writer will be seen chucking in a few ‘slabs’ for good measure and muttering stuff about the importance of sugar in the creative process.
  9. Before they head for the checkout the writer will get a strong urge to go to one last place – the coffee and tea aisle. That new idea they had about their draft, on the way to the supermarket, will need caffeine hot housing in the next few days so its vital tea and coffee stocks are replenished.
  10. In the queue for the checkout the writer will be seen staring into space and dreaming about going home to write (whilst sipping wine, nibbling on cheese and taking a nap when it all gets too much for them).

I LOVE being a writer!

The moral of this tale is….never send a writer out to a supermarket to do a big food shop.

I hope you all have a fabulous day!


Photo: Pixabay

How To Accept That Some People Will Never Understand Your Creative Life #MondayBlogs #writer


This is a tough one to accept and it has taken me a long time to get my head around this.

If you are a creative person there will be some people in your life who will never:

  • Understand why you spend hours creating stuff that is unlikely to go anywhere.
  • Share your creative enthusiasm for your creative projects.
  • Understand why you are cartwheeling around the garden after receiving one tiny bit of positive feedback.
  • Ask to read or listen to your work.
  • Get your weird and wonderful creative ways.
  • Be able to relate to the buzz you get inside when your creative work is being shared or liked.

These are the ones who say stuff like “I don’t understand why you do all that writing!” or “have you just spent your whole day writing…why….are you depressed?”

Just because they don’t get your creative life doesn’t mean they are bad or cruel. They just don’t understand.

No matter how many hours you spend trying to explain your creative tendencies or excitedly telling them about your latest project, they will still cast you that puzzled or horrified look.

It can sting a bit when you realise that not everyone is as goofy happy as you about your creative projects. 

The important thing to remember is that it’s actually ok for people to not understand your creative ways. If we were all the same life would be pretty dull.

Here are some things to consider when accepting that some people will never understand your creative life:

  • As a creative person you will always be a mystery to some people. This is actually a good thing and you should always strive to remain a mystery. Keeps people guessing about what you will do next. 
  • Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. You can’t force others to like what you are doing or have created.
  • Each one of us has different talents and skills to offer the world. As Walt Whitman said we are all here to ‘contribute a verse’.  Being creative (either through writing, blogging, podcasting etc) is your way of contributing a verse. These people are also contributing a verse in their own special way.
  • If you are a true creative person (i.e. not doing it for the money or future fame) then you will know that your creative side is a huge part of who you are as a person. It’s not something you can change or switch off and anyway why would you?
  • According to this article Neuroscience confirms that highly creative people think and act differently than the average person. Our brains are hardwired in a unique way! This means that some people are going to think we are from another planet.
  • We are addicted to the thrill of creating stuff and its a hard addiction to break. To the outsider our creative addiction can look pretty scary.
  • Being misunderstood comes with the territory of leading a creative life.
  • There is a place in the world for all of us.

The sooner you accept that not everyone in your life is going to understand your creative life the better!

So, stop wasting time on trying to make them understand why you spent the entire day rewriting your fourth chapter with only a couple of breaks for coffee and biscuits.

Move on and focus your energies on creating!

Have a fabulous day creative people! 

Thought I would finish with a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic. 





The Writer’s Cake Break #SundayBlogShare #Cake #Writers


I love a Writer’s Cake Break!

The Writer’s Cake Break might go something like this:

  1. Literary graft. You have been at the literary coalface for sometime, hammering out paragraphs and clocking up an attractive word count. Loved ones have had some much-needed peace and quiet, whilst you have been busy writing your own version of War & Peace. Living with a writer can be sometimes chaotic and there are days when the house can feel like a hotbed of literary emotion. I think silence makes loved ones go a bit peculiar and do things they might later regret.
  2. Unexpected Treat. You are interrupted by your loved one and before you have time to shout at them for disturbing you they present you with a gift – a cake! They inform you that whilst in the cake shop they started thinking nice stuff about you. These thoughts led them to buying you a cake based gift. They then tell you to come and enjoy some cake with them and if you are really lucky they will make you a cup of tea.
  3. No Time For Cake!  You roll your eyes and tell your loved one that you have no time for cake! Serious writers do not take cake breaks. The last thing you need to be doing now is stuffing your face with cake! For goodness sake this penultimate chapter is not going to write itself. The last few chapters have been a breeze and you are on a roll! Your loved one shrugs their shoulders and leaves the cake on your desk. You exhale loudly, go back to writing and think about all the sugar-coated calories contained within the cake.
  4. Cake Seduction. Being seduced by a naughty looking cake has to be one of life’s pleasures. The cake’s pretty icing starts to glisten in the light and you get a strong urge to touch it. Your nostrils are tickled with its wonderful cake aroma and soon you are a drooling mess.  Instead of staring into space like you normally do when writing, you find yourself gazing at the cake. Taking decisive action you snap yourself out of it and tell the cake to stop flirting with you!  You also inform the cake that you are a serious writer who doesn’t have time for cake breaks. Plus you know how batty you get if you have a load of sugar. If you entered crazy sugar fuelled writer mode now you can kiss goodbye to the rest of the morning. This is when the cake decides to play dirty! It makes its icing start to melt in front of your eyes. All you can see is soft gooey, mouth watering icing!  Oh you naughty cake!
  5. Cake Break. You glance at your writing; making a note of the difficult paragraph to come, the plot hole you have just discovered and the nagging voice inside your head about that weak main character. You glance at the beautiful cake and make a quick and irrational decision – stuff the bit about being a serious writer! Sometimes a writer needs to enjoy themselves and eat cake! You grab the cake and shove it into your mouth. Oh my goodness it tastes so good! You let out a few soft moans of cake pleasure and once it’s gone you spend some quality time ‘finger mopping’ up the crumbs…all over your draft / laptop. Twenty minutes later the cake’s sugar hits your bloodstream. If only your loved one had not got carried away with the peace and quiet. Your loved one groans as you let out a squeal of excitement from writing corner. A few minutes later and you are seen cartwheeling around the garden. Your draft is amazing and a Booker Prize contender! Half an hour later and you are weeping on your loved one’s shoulder claiming that your draft is a big pile of crap.

The moral of this sugary tale is – do not disturb a writer whilst they are writing and if you going to interrupt them – for goodness sake don’t give them cake!

Have a fabulous day!


Photo: Adobe.

Author Interviews Julie Archer @julieoceanuk #Author #Writers

Author Interviews-2

Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews.

These interviews are fab! I get the chance to interview some amazing authors about the journey they went on with regards writing their book. I get to glean some insight into their writing life and find out what has worked or not worked for them during the creative process.

This week I am super thrilled as author Julie Archer has joined me. Her book is about the world of rock music and love triangles! As you can imagine I am beside myself with literary excitement over this book.


Hey Julie!  Thank you for being here today. 

Tell my readers about yourself and the book / books you have written

Hello Lucy and all your readers!

I live in lovely Dartmouth in Devon with my husband and two cats. We moved here almost eighteen months ago and I still feel like I’m on holiday!

As well as writing, I also run my own business support services business, providing administration and recruitment for small to medium sized companies. Oh, and I work part time in a book shop!

Cocktails, Rock Tales & Betrayals is my first book. It is set is the work of rock music with a love triangle at the centre of it. But there is a happy ending!

When did you write your first book?

My first attempt was during my teenage years when inspired by the Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High books, I attempted my own take on that. I still have the rejection letter somewhere…

Julie – OMG I was obsessed about Sweet Valley High books for years during my youth! I couldn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t move us to America and let me live out my fantasy as Elizabeth. Good grief I had so many dreams about handsome ‘Todd Wilkins’. Sigh!

How long did it take to write your first book?

I have said that Cocktails was two years of hard work. Being totally honest, it was six months of hard work followed by a year of procrastination, then six months of hard work! Having said that, there are parts of Cocktails I wrote about ten years ago that were stripped out from a previously unpublished novel.

What was your motivation to write your first book?

I wanted to write a book that I would read. And I’ve always created characters and stories. Maybe that has something to do with being an only child and having imaginary friends…

When we moved, I found a bunch of notebooks with character sketches and possible plotlines. Lovely, but all of them written when I was about fifteen! And I’m a very different writer now.

Gasp! I had imaginary friends as a child too. I am lucky as mine have stayed with me though.

What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?

Um, procrastination is definitely one. Like when cleaning the bathroom or having an empty washing basket is waaay more important than writing another 1000 words. And realising that everything I’ve written is utter rubbish. Or realising that my editor identified a totally unbelievable part of the plot and I had to completely rewrite a good quarter of the novel. I’m lucky that I have a pretty amazing support group in the Writer’s Playground and we can all share our issues. There’s usually another writer that has been through exactly the same thing and can give good advice. Or offer virtual cake.

Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?

See above! My chums in the Playground are amazing!

Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?

Probably a bit of both. I have an outline or an idea in my head and work with that. But I don’t plan to the nth degree when I start out, things tend to develop as I go along. Sometimes you end up changing characters in a scene because they work better than the original ones and you didn’t plan for that.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

I’m not sure yet, I’m still trying to convince myself I am a real one! But seriously, when someone says they have enjoyed what I’ve written and want to read more, that feeling is amazing.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

The insecurity. And by that, I mean constantly thinking that you’re not as good as everyone else, you don’t have as many five start reviews as they do, unfairly comparing yourself to other writers… Then I try to remember what I’ve achieved.

Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?
Not yet…although as me again in about six months!

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

If I have a day when I’m solely writing and nothing else, I have a lovely writing desk in our spare room that was a Christmas present from my husband last year and that’s where I’ll be. I’ll start around 10am and work through until around 1pm, have some lunch and start again around 2pm. However, I’ve scribbled notes and plans while at work in the bookshop – and then had to make sense of them later!

Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?

Of course! Find me a writer who doesn’t… I try to set little targets or do small word races and then reward myself with some Instagram or online shopping time. Or if it really isn’t working, I’ll just give up and go and do something more constructive. Like ironing.

Which is more important – plot or characters and why?

Probably characters. As I’ve mentioned before, I have always created character sketches and I think they have shaped how a plot has gone because of their mannerisms or how they would react to a situation.

What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?

  • Just keep writing – no matter how hard it is sometimes, just write something. You can’t edit a blank page and even if it’s (to quote Charlie at Urban Writers) gloriously craptastic you can always work with it.
  • Get a good support network – sounds clichéd, but without my chums in the Writer’s Playground, the guys at the Six Month Novel programme, the Dartmouth author community, other writers I met on writing retreats or at literary festival workshops, I don’t think I would have got this far.
  • You can do it yourself – every writer dreams of the publishing deal and the big bang launch. When you start to get rejections, it’s hard to see past that. But, again through my network, I discovered that it’s totally possible to self-publish and get the recognition you deserve. I had a choice to go assisted or pure self-publishing. I chose the latter and, so far, don’t regret it.

How do you manage social media as a writer?

Badly! I’m coming to terms with using it for “Brand Me” rather than just posting pictures of my cats or the success of my football team (Spurs, in case you were wondering. And no, there hasn’t been a lot of success…). But also not being too “salesy” and just spamming my timelines and feeds with “Buy my book!” posts.

Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?

I’d probably relate it back to the learnings – keep writing even if you find it tough and get a good network around you. Also, don’t be afraid to ask others for help and advice. Without that, I wouldn’t have self-published and I’d still be waiting for that big break. Write the things that you’d like to read, not necessarily what’s popular now.

Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?

Yes. At the start of this year, I couldn’t write anything, I didn’t think I had the time or the inclination and anything I did write was rubbish! I ended up going on a bit of a writer’s detox with prompts and wrote something every day for a month. Some days it was ten minutes, some days it was half an hour. But it got me back into the habit of writing again and that helped.

Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?

There are around nine book ideas floating around at the moment, some are just titles, some are vague plots, some are characters. I “try” to focus on one thing at a time though. So, yes!

What do you wear to write?

Now I can write at home whenever I want to, it varies. But mostly jeans and jumpers or t-shirts (depending on how cold it is in our house at the time!). One of my favourite t-shirts has “I just want to drink coffee, create stuff and sleep” on it. I try to wear that when I need inspiration! I have also said that I will channel my inner Barbara Cartland one day and wear a pink ruffled affair and have someone hand feed me chocolates as I dictate to them…

If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?

Twitter: @julieoceanuk
Or you can pop into the Dartmouth Bookseller on Foss Street and say hello!

Lucy, thanks so much for having me!

Fabulous interview Julie, I really enjoyed our chat!

  • I love how you say your book was ‘six months of hard work followed by a year of procrastination’. That made me smile! 
  • Your support network sounds great. Writing is hard and we all need people supporting and encouraging us. 
  • I can relate to the insecurity bit. I think you are right to look at what you have achieved!
  • Nine book ideas – you poor thing :-) 
  • Yes channel your Barbara Cartland and come back to write me a guest blog about it – would be such a giggle to read! 

Thank you so much for a great interview!


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If an Online Dating Site For Writers Existed… #WritersLife #Writers


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Have you ever found yourself wondering how an online dating site for writers could work? Don’t worry – I got this topic covered!

I think an online dating site for writers is a great idea. Luckily for me, my loved one has not yet traded me in for a younger model, grown tired of my emotional breakdowns, creative tantrums, hormonal fluctuations, frequent use of a shrill voice and my inability to reduce the ironing pile to a more manageable level. However, that doesn’t stop my mind from thinking through this gem of a business idea!

I am sure writers would want to date other writers. Can you imagine dating someone who understands your editing pain, lets you off the housework when you need to focus on your first chapter and gives you constructive literary criticism during pillow talk?  I know…it sounds like the making of relationship bliss!

An online dating site for writers probably exists somewhere in the world, but here is how I think an online dating site for writers could work:

On the site you would use the following date search criteria:

  • Genre. If you were going to date another writer you would want to know what genre they write in. My own view is that dating a writer from the same genre could lead to issues. Can you imagine how much unnecessary emotion there would be on a date between two romantic fiction writers?
  • Work in Progress Status. If you are going to start dating another writer I think it is essential you know what stage they are up to with their current project, as this gives you a good indication of their mindset. If you see a writer status of ‘enjoying writing my first draft’ you know your date is going to be up for some romantic fun. We can all relate to those goofy happy days when writing a first draft!  On the other hand, a writer status of ‘just shelved my 86k word draft!’  might encourage you to quickly choose someone else or swipe in a different direction.
  • Creative Likes. Useful for making small talk on that first date. Writers could add stuff like ‘I love writing flash fiction – it really gets me going!’  or  ‘using bad clichés is one of my guilty pleasures – mmm.. naughty but nice!’
  • Creative Dislikes. I think it is important you know what annoys your date on the literary front. Can you imagine if your persistent grammar issue was one of their pet hates?
  • Social Media Usage.  I think its essential to know your date’s social media usage. Can you imagine having a healthy love of Twitter and your writer date not even having a Twitter account?  I think there would be the following tick boxes for a writer to describe their social media usage; rarely use it, occasionally use it, a frequent user and obsessed. Obviously we would all be imaginative with the truth and tick the ‘occasionally use it’ box. Sigh!
  • Average Amazon Review Rating. I think some of us ‘competitive – even when in a relationship’ writers would go get this info ourselves, so it saves us a job.

Everyone would have to complete a profile or ‘About’ section. As this is a dating site for writers I think the dating profiles would be very imaginative and LENGTHY. Writers generally struggle with forms which have tiny text boxes.

Writers could use their ‘author photos’ as their profile pics so you could get an indication of how much tweed they choose to wear.

So, there could be romantic hope for this fictional writer below:

‘A lonely historical fiction writer seeks literary fun and frollics with another writer, preferably someone who writes Gothic or vampire fiction.  They are hoping to find someone who shares their love of editing, likes tweeting and is not afraid to be very strict with a red marking pen!


Good luck out there to all those writers looking for love!

If you want to read more of my innovative ideas (sigh!) check out these posts.

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Have a wonderful day!


How To Really Get To Know Your Characters! #MondayBlogs #AmWriting


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Do you want to know how to really get to know your characters? The answer is simple.

Pretend you are having coffee with your fictional character!

I have been using this role play method for sometime and I think it has really improved my second draft. My reviewers in November might disagree…

The thought of doing some character development can make some writers groan, as they view it as a boring writing chore. I will hold my hand up and admit to this. 

For a long time I have been more focused on plot, as that is what excites me. In my head character development was just a tedious couple of hours writing lists of facial features. Ugh! 

After a couple of bad draft novels I realised (the hard way!) that characters are so important to a story and it is the nuggets of character detail which really bring a story to life. 

There is so much more to character development than just physical features. You have to get inside their fictional heads and understand how their emotions work. 

So with this method, you visualise having a coffee with one of your characters. Treat it in the same way as meeting a new friend.

Pretending you are out having coffee is a really fun way of making this process interesting.

Plus role play is great with a real person but with an invisible person – it takes your enjoyment up to another level!

Ok so let me run through how this amazing technique works:

  1. Find a quiet table in your home and make some good, strong coffee. The stronger the better! 
  2. Open up a blank notebook and have a pencil on hand. 
  3. Sit down at table and visualise your character sat opposite you. Imagine you are both sat in a coffee shop. Take a moment to just sit and stare at what you have created. 
  4. Scribble down what facial and hair features your eyes would pick up on if you were sat opposite them. 
  5. Next think about smell. Would they be wearing a strong and over powering aftershave (sigh!) or perfume? Have they washed recently?  Write down everything that springs to mind about smell.
  6. Once you have sorted physical appearance think about body language. If your character was sat opposite you in a coffee shop how would they be sitting? This says a lot about them and their current mental state. Are they sat looking all defensive with arms crossed or are they lounging in the chair. One of my characters would be ignoring me and eyeing up the ladies in the coffee shop. Bless him – he has a wandering eye! 
  7. Write down what you think they would order in a coffee shop. I think this says a lot about a character. One of my characters always goes for a herbal tea as she struggles with her emotions.
  8. Ask your character how they are feeling. A good character will be a little bit troubled and be showing signs of unease (looking towards the door and avoiding eye contact). It is important to think how this conversation would play out. What would they tell you first? What would they focus on?  
  9. Think about how your character would talk over a coffee? Would they talk fast or slow? Would they pause a lot or struggle to finish their sentences? 
  10. As you talk things through write down as much as you can about how they would view their troubles. Do they blame themselves or others? Can they see any light at the end of the tunnel?
  11. Ask questions about the other characters in their lives. Think about the reaction you would get across the table if you mentioned a certain character’s name. My character with the wandering eye would probably go a little quiet or try to change the subject if I mentioned the name of my female character.
  12. Ask your character how they plan to spend the rest of the day. This is important as you need to know how they hang out in their spare time. My male character would probably be grinning at some pretty lady across the coffee shop so this would give me a good indication on how he plans to spend the rest of his day. Sigh!
  13. At the end of your coffee session think about how your character would leave the table and say goodbye. Would you get a heartfelt hug and would there be an offer to meet up again for coffee? Or would they just mutter something and walk off. 

This simple method means you are left with PAGES of notes on your character.

You then weave all this wonderful character insight into your draft.

For noting: if a loved one asks you why you are talking to yourself or nodding at some invisible being just remind them that you are a writer. They will soon forget about their initial “my goodness she’s clearly nuts!” reaction.

Have a great day and if you have a spare hour or two – suggest that you and one of your characters meet up for a coffee!