Thursday, 28 September 2017

Laura Wilkinson's Writing Toolkit

WRITING TOOLKIT gives you an idea of an author's writing process through the tools they use. The tools can be anything (real or virtual) that they think is essential for their writing - serious, fun or even a fetish (that they're willing to own up to)! 

I am delighted to welcome 




An idea
One with legs. I have lots of ideas but they don’t all have legs or those that are strong enough. Thinking a lot is part of being a writer and why gazing out of a window constitutes work. Sometimes.

A notebook
Stationery, I love it! There’s a fantastic shop in the North Laine here in Brighton; it’s great to go in and dribble over the exquisite notebooks even when I don’t need another one. I have a new notebook at the start of a new project in which I pour every thought and idea – regardless of how bonkers they seem. I keep it by my bed at night. It’s easy to believe that when we’re struck by a ‘brilliant’ idea, we will remember it because, well, it’s brilliant. I have learnt to my cost this isn’t always so. Write everything down is one of my rules. Alongside my novel notebook, I have an ‘everyday’ one, which I carry everywhere, transferring to another book when I’m home – and another for my editing and mentoring jobs, plus a spare.

My writing den
Until March of this year I worked in whichever corner of our average-to-small sized house I could squeeze into: my bedroom, the dining room, the living room. My husband is a musician and carpenter; my eldest son plays guitar, my youngest piano, so I am forever tripping over instruments and gear. I work best without distraction or noise so it’s a pleasure and privilege to escape to my den. I find a beautiful space conducive to creativity and I wonder now how I ever managed.

Post-it notes
As you can see I am a huge fan of post-it notes of all sizes and colours. I use them to map out a narrative – not immediately, I’m not that much of a planner. It’s something I do once I’m around a third in. Commonly, I begin a novel knowing where the story kicks off and roughly where it might end, though I will often be surprised by my characters who lead me down a different path to the one I anticipated. I use small post-its to tag a MS once I’ve done ‘the big read through’ – different colours mean different things: yellow to cut or move a scene, blue where the major plot points are and so on. I use them to write character essence quotes and stick them around the screen; I write useful maxims like ‘action not activity’ on them and stick them around the screen and on my desk. I’m surprised I can see the screen at all by the time I write ‘The End’.

Microsoft Word
I have friends who swear by Scrivener and I did try it for a month. There was a lot I liked about it – the ability to move scenes around quickly and easily for one thing, the cork board another – but in the end I reverted to Word because the MS looked so ugly when pieced together for printing. I am sure with more time, I could learn how to prettify it but I was up against a deadline. I worked as a journalist and copywriter before turning to fiction so Word has been one of my best working friends since the mid-90s and I am so used to it and competent with it too that it’s hard to abandon. I cannot imagine writing a novel long hand. Notes I write in pencil but in terms of an actual narrative – novel or short story or article – nothing seems ‘real’ till it’s before me on screen

No internet
My attention span often resembles that of a feeble-minded gnat. Social media is both my best friend and worst enemy. When the den was finished I decided it would be an internet free zone. Of course, I can access the internet on my iPad and phone and will do for the teeny-tiny research points… but not having access on the desktop does help me focus.

Tea and cake
Plenty of herbal tea (and the occasional mug of builder’s) keeps me going, along with ‘reward’ slabs of cake: Battenberg, French Fancies, Fruit, Lemon Drizzle. As long as it’s sweet I’m sorted – which is more than can be said for my waistline during intense periods of writing. I adore my teapot, cup and saucer set gifted from a dear friend.

A blanket
Clothes are not important to me when writing (very important otherwise – I love all things concerning fashion and style), though I do wash, brush my hair and slap on make-up sometimes. But my blanket… that is important. I have heating in my writing den but I do not possess the best circulation in the world and get cold easily.  Sometimes I don’t move for hours. My blanket is my saviour. That and fingerless gloves in winter.

These are some of the drills, screws and ratchets I use for writing. But everyone’s toolbox – or shed – is stocked differently. Thank you, Vicki, for having me over on your fabulous blog. I can’t wait to read about others’ preferred instruments!


About Laura Wilkinson
Liverpool born, Laura is a taff at heart. She has published six novels for adults (two under a pseudonym) and numerous short stories, some of which have made the short lists of international competitions. Public Battles, Private Wars, was a National Museum of Wales book of the month; Redemption Song was a Kindle top twenty. The Family Line is a family drama set in the near future, looking at identity and parenting. Her latest is Skin Deep. Alongside writing, Laura works as an editor & mentor for literary consultancies and runs workshops on aspects of craft. She’s spoken at festivals and events nationwide, including the Frome Festival, Gladfest, University of Kingston, The Women’s Library and Museum in Docklands. She lives in Brighton with her husband and sons. 

Find Laura on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @ScorpioScribble

About Skin Deep

Published by Accent Press (15 June 2017)

Publisher's description
It’s what’s inside that counts…
Art student and former model Diana has always been admired for her beauty but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.
Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything; Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.

Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within.
Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what's on the outside counts for so much?

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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Writing rituals and traditions by Phoebe Morgan

I am delighted to be the final stop on the blog tour for The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan. Today, Phoebe talks about her own writing rituals and traditions. The Doll House was published by HQ Digital on 14 September 2017.

Writing rituals and traditions
By Phoebe Morgan

I usually write best in the evenings. I like to have (depending on the mood and the sort of day I’ve had!) either a good cup of tea or a glass of red wine, and I’ll either seat myself at the table in our living room or (I know, it’s bad) in my bed. I find it easier to write if I am comfortable (hence the bed) and therefore I can’t distract myself with things like my back hurting or my chair being uncomfy. That’s if I’m writing at home. With The Doll House, I actually did a lot of the writing in cafes – there is a crepe place in Angel Islington, which is my favourite because it has lovely yellow flowers on the tables, and I spent a weird amount of time in Pret by Leicester Square as well when my offices used to be over that way.

When I’m writing, I can’t have any music or podcasts on – I used to be the same when I studied at school or at university. I don’t mind the sound of people talking in a café, but I can’t have headphones playing because it just distracts me too much. If I really need to get some serious word count going, I have to put my phone in another room so that I don’t fiddle with it (I’m terrible for playing with my phone). I have to train myself to leave it in the other room for an hour or so at a time, and that’s usually when I can actually be most productive.

If I’m writing at home, I quite like having a candle lit as it’s softer than a light and can be quite calming. I usually have a notebook and pen to hand to in case I need to scribble notes down for future scenes, and I can then refer to my character notes as I go too. I do keep little lists in my iPhone as well, when I’m out and about – most of which I look back on in utter bafflement. For example, looking now at one from when I was editing The Doll House, it says: court case, rich girl’s shoes, her face flushes, repetitive is terrible when they’re in the loft, high chair, remove full stop. Not particularly helpful to anyone other than me, and not always then. I write little observations as well if I see something interesting in a café or wherever – recently on holiday I liked the way a sailboat was trailing across the sea so I made a note saying ‘boat white line.’ Not overly coherent!

I really admire authors who get up at the crack of dawn and bash out 2000 words, but I’ve come to accept the fact that that will probably never be me. I write as much as I can around a full time job, and when I get into it, I love every minute – especially if I’ve gone for the red wine rather than the tea!

About Phoebe Morgan

Phoebe Morgan is a commercial fiction editor as part of Avon at HarperCollins publishers working on crime, thrillers, women’s fiction and saga. She started out in publishing working as a non-fiction publishing assistant.

Find Phoebe on her website and Facebook page and follow her on Twitter - @Phoebe_A_Morgan

About The Doll House

The Doll House
By Phoebe Morgan
Published by HQ Digital (14 September 2017)

Publisher's description
You never know who’s watching…
Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.
But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…
How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?

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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Snow Sisters by Carol Lovekin - Blog Tour

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for Snow Sisters by Carol Lovekin. Snow Sisters was published by Honno Press on 21 September 2017.

Snow Sisters
By Carol Lovekin
Published by Honno Press (21 September 2017)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher.

Publisher's description
Two sisters, their grandmother’s old house and Angharad... the girl who cannot leave.
Meredith discovers a dusty sewing box in a disused attic. Once open the box releases the ghost of Angharad, a Victorian child-woman with a horrific secret she must share. Angharad slowly reveals her story to Meredith who fails to convince her more pragmatic sister of the visitations, until Verity sees Angharad for herself on the eve of an unseasonal April snowstorm.
Forced by her flighty mother to abandon Gull House for London, Meredith struggles to settle, still haunted by Angharad and her little red flannel hearts. This time, Verity is not sure she will be able to save her...

My verdict
Snow Sisters is a wonderful book, with beautiful writing and eerie and haunting prose.

This is a ghost story filled with magic. A story of relationships, mothers and daughters and family dynamics. A story with a mystery at its heart. It ticked so many boxes and I couldn't put it down.

Meredith and Verity have had a very unconventional upbringing. Home schooling, a dysfunctional mother and an absent father who they know little about , set in an isolated house filled with memories and ghosts. This highly atmospheric book is a gothic tale set in April, with snow clouds threatening overhead, bringing a sense of unease but also natural beauty.

It's an enchanting and addictive read filled with stunning descriptions of people and places. Descriptions that filled my heart and stimulated all of my senses, bringing people, nature and surroundings to life. So many passages that I wanted to read again and again, filled with amazing imagery that will stay with me.

The characterisation is outstanding, with several distinctive voices - Verity, Meredith, their mother Allegra (who is almost a ghost herself with her lack of empathy and her emotional distance from her daughters), grandmother Mared (the main female role model for the girls) and ghostly Angharad (who is determined to be heard - and then seen). No major male characters here - this is definitely a book about women.

The story itself is quirky, different and off-beat, with poetic writing. Although it is a ghost story, it feels very believable. Angharad seems as real as Meredith, Verity and the other characters. It is sad in places and pulled at my heartstrings and yes, I did shed a tear or two by the end.

Snow Sisters is a book that's so easy to get lost in. A perfect book for escapism on cold wintry nights. I highly recommend that people read it so that they can feel the magic too.

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