Today Val Penny, author of the wonderful, much acclaimed new novel "Hunter's Chase", stops by to talk about her writing process. Read on and be sure to grab your copy of the book, available now on Amazon.
Author contact details
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Article about Plotting in Novels
Plotting is central to writing a novel, but it is a highly individual process. No two authors plot in the same way. Some plot organically while others plot in a very orderly fashion. Many writers even plot differently from one book to another. Some write scenes: hundreds of scenes that interest and excite them and then they stitch the scenes together to from the novel. While others visualise the way the book will take shape using dozens of bits of paper laid out on their desk or even on the floor. It must be important to make sure the windows are closed if you plot this way!
Some authors use tree diagrams, spreadsheets or mind-maps to plot and there is software available to download on line for this.
However you plot your novel, the goal is the same, to allow the journey it is about take that will last several months on the road with a novel. It is important that you, as an author, choose between the 'organic' and 'orderly' methods of plotting so that you are comfortable that your choice works best for you and the book you are setting out to write. I plotted my first novel 'Hunter's Chase' organically but, after attending a course run by Sue Moorcroft at last years' Swanwick Writers' Summer School, I plotted the sequel 'Hunter's Revenge' using diagrams and spreadsheets. Neither is wrong. Both have strength and weaknesses and either can be successful for crafting a novel.
Writers who follow an organic way of plotting, approach the outline largely as a form of awareness of the story, rather than as an actual document to be followed strictly. Many view the the outline not so much as a planning device but more of an analytical tool that helps strengthen the final draft by indicating the flaws in the story-line.
Some authors begin with an idea and just jump in to tell the story. They write steadily and regularly until they have written tens of thousands of words. Then they go through the organic draft and delete large chunks and add other pieces until the final manuscript is complete.
Other authors, like Sue Moorcroft, plot meticulously and there is no doubt that plotting an outline is hard work. However, having undertaken an outline on 'Hunter's Revenge', I found myself into writing my novel with confidence. I was happy that one chapter followed another in a sensible sequence. My characters retained their identities. Of course at the end of the first draft, there were flaws, but I found I was able to repair those readily.
Whether you plot organically or in an orderly fashion, the important issue is that you can tell the story to your readers and that you, and they, are satisfied by your novel.
Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her first crime novel, 'Hunter's Chase' set in Edinburgh, Scotland will be published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. She is now writing the sequel, 'Hunter's Revenge'.
Today I’m speaking to Lin, who is the main character from Heidi Catherine’s novel, The Soulweaver. She’s had a few unusual experiences that I’d like to find out more about.
Hi Lin, I’ve heard that when you look out of your bedroom window, you see a forest. How is this possible for someone who lives in the middle of Hong Kong?
I suppose I must see what I want to see. It’s just a game I’ve been playing since I was a child. Where you might see buildings, I see trees. You might see people below on the pavement, but I see possums or wallabies. You might hear traffic horns, but I hear birds calling out to each other. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always dreamed of living in a forest. It’s almost a surprise to me each day to open my eyes and see that I live in Hong Kong. I hope to find out why this is happening one day.
You also dream of faces you don’t recognise. Who do you think these people are?
Again, I have no idea. They are western faces, with fair skin and hair. So different to the people I am surrounded by each day. It’s just another thing I don’t understand. One face I dream of quite often is a boy with blond hair and a scar running down his face. It almost feels like he’s trying to talk to me sometimes. I just wish I could hear what it is that he wants to say. Maybe then I could find out who he is.
How did you learn to speak English so well?
Well, of course we learn it in school, but my parents also own a convenience store not too far from home and tourists come in there all the time. I love talking to them and watching American sitcoms on the little television we keep behind the counter. I picked up the language very easily, which for some reason annoys my parents. They think that I want to be like one of these western tourists. I’ve tried to tell them it’s not because I don’t think my family is good enough – they are! It's just that somehow I don’t feel like I belong.
Tell me about your friends at school.
I don’t really have any friends. The other girls think I’m strange. I just don’t see the point in the conversations they have or the games they play. There’s so much happening in the world – forests are being cut down and people are starving – and they’re more interested in talking about what they’re going to wear on the weekend. I don’t get it, just like they don’t get me. So I keep to myself mainly.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to go to the woodlands and draw the faces from my dreams. I started doing it thinking it would help me to make sense of all of this, but so far it hasn’t. In some ways it’s made it worse. I look into the eyes of these people I’ve drawn and I know so well, yet I’m certain I’ve never met them. Especially the boy with the scar on his face. He’s so familiar. I just can’t place where I know him from. It’s like I recognise him with my heart rather than my eyes.
Thanks Lin. Good luck with the drawing and I hope you figure out who all these people are one day soon!
Heidi Catherine can be found on Facebook, Twitter or on her website. Her debut novel, The Soulweaver, is available for order now. She also has a free prequel novelette called The Moonchild, which introduces you to two of the main characters from The Soulweaver in the lifetime they lived before the book takes place.
To buy The Soulweaver: myBook.to/thesoulweaver
Writer of ghosts and devils and all things of mythological genesis. And sometimes, those things have a sense of humor...