A Day In the Life of a Writer, Author Talk

20 Ways to Make Progress on a Self-published Novel Without Actually Writing


English creative writing tutor, author and poet Sue Johnson. Sometimes it is hard to settle to the process of writing, says Writing Magazine creative writing tutor and indie author Sue Johnson. No matter how interested you are in the story you want to tell, or how keen to self-publish it, for various reasons you’re not in the right frame of mind to sit and write. Some call it writer’s block.

Don’t despair! There’s a lot you can do that doesn’t involve picking up a pen or a mouse. Try some of the following ideas to kick-start your writing. You’ll have some fun, gain new insights into your characters and their surroundings and discover new twists to the story.

  • 1:Create a collage of the sort of clothes and possessions one of your characters may be surrounded by. Is there a story behind one of the items? Don’t write this down – just explore it in your mind for now.
  • 2: Follow your character into the bathroom. Do they prefer a bath or a shower? Are they in and out of the bathroom quickly or do they take a long time?Copy them. If your heroine always starts the day with a rose scented bubble bath, then try one yourself.
  • 3: How do they move? Do they stride out briskly or do they amble along? Are they easily distracted by the sights and sounds around them, or do they walk slowly with their gaze fixed on their mobile phone? Try moving like them for half an hour. What is it like?
  • 4: Try one of their interests, or spend some time talking to someone who knows about it. Aim to get an idea of the jargon used or any special language or ‘in jokes’ associated with that particular interest.
  • 5: What perfume or after-shave do they use? Find a department store with a large cosmetics department and have some fun trying the different fragrances.
  • 6: If possible, visit the place where the story takes place, or take a virtual tour on the internet. Create a collage or pin-board from old magazines or photos. Talk to someone who has been there. Ask about sensory detail – colours, sounds, smells and textures. Buy something that is special to that place as a reminder.
  • 7: What sort of music do your characters like? Do they/did they play an instrument? Borrow some of that sort of music from the library or look in charity shops for CDs. Choose a ‘signature song’ for your story. When you start writing again, play it each time you sit down to work. It will help to form links in your brain with the story and make the writing process easier.
  • 8: What colours do they like and dislike? For instance, does a particular colour remind them of a sad occasion in their life – for example maybe a character was wearing something red when they received bad news and have considered the colour to be unlucky for them since then. As another non-writing exercise, pick a colour and see how many shades of it you can think of in one minute. For instance: Red – crimson, scarlet, carmine, pillar-box …
  • 9: What sort of vehicle do they drive? If it is something modern, then have a look round a car showroom. You might get the opportunity to test drive something! If your hero drives a tractor you could ask a local farmer if you could sit in one – or ask a stately home if it would be possible to sit in a carriage as research for your historical novel.
  • 10: Does your heroine have a passion for shoes or handbags? What do they keep in their bag? Is there anything surprising in there?
  • 11: What sort of food do they eat? Is this their choice or something forced on them through circumstances? For one day, eat the sort of food one of your characters would eat – unless it’s something you’re allergic to or really dislike!
  • 12: What work do they do? Look for interesting occupations where your readers will learn something about a different way of life. (Some editors call this ‘value added’). If the occupations ‘clash’ then this could make for a series of interesting situations – you could have a tax inspector or an antique restorer with a dodgy past.
  • 13: What medical problems does your main character have? Is there something you could research and discover more about? Think of ways that this could provide an extra plot twist.
  • 14: Follow your main character into their bedroom. What sort of bed do they sleep in? Who with? What colour and texture are the sheets? What was bedtime like when they were a child? Did anybody read to them or tell them stories? Did they share a room with anyone? Are they afraid of the dark?
  • 15: What is their handwriting like? Do they carry a pen with them? What sort of pen? What colour ink do they prefer? Are they right or left-handed? Are they computer literate? Do they carry a mobile phone?
  • 16: Do they have a daily newspaper or regular magazine? Which one(s)? Do they enjoy watching films? Which films have made the greatest impact on them? Choose one and watch it.Did they visit the library when they were young? What sort of books did they like?
  • 17: Visualise the events in your story. Close your eyes and ‘watch’ the story from beginning to end as if it was a film.
  • 18: Alternatively, take your story for a walk, preferably somewhere similar to one of the settings you are using. Visualise your story as you walk. You may find this develops into a regular routine and helps your fitness and concentration.
  • 19: Think about the possessions your main character has. Go shopping (charity shops are great for this) and buy something they would like – or that symbolises the novel. Keep it on your desk or in your workroom for added inspiration. For instance, when I was working on my novel The Yellow Silk Dress, I found an amber necklace in a charity shop similar to the one owned by Kelly, the heroine.
  • 20: Get ready for action. Draw up a work schedule. Make sure this is realistic – don’t expect the impossible. It is better to set a lower daily quota of words and exceed it rather than constantly fall short. Set up a file on your computer with the working title for the story. Buy a lovely new notebook. Tidy your desk – clear any clutter. Decide how you’re going to celebrate each landmark on the journey towards “The End”.
Originally posted on ALLI (Alliance of Independent Authors)


A Day In the Life of a Writer

Essential Quotes on Character Creation~

character chart
image found on Google

Ahh, creating characters for your story. It’s my favorite part of the writing process. Figuring out what makes them tick, and their thought process, is what will drive your story forward. As the writer, you should know things about your characters that may not be revealed in the story. You must live with the characters you have conjured up; spy on them, and be sympathetic to their flaws. Even if no one else is. Below is a list of insightful quotes on character creation from writers, editors and agents.

You must learn to be three people at once: writer, character, and reader. — Nancy Kress, quote from the book Write Great Fiction – Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint 

Let’s face it, characters are the bedrock of your fiction. Plot is just a series of actions that happen in a sequence, and without someone to either perpetrate or suffer the consequences of those actions, you have no one for your reader to root for, or wish bad things on. — Icy Sedgwick, quote from He was a man of good character

Even if you find the bad guy generally repulsive, you need to be able to put yourself so thoroughly into his shoes while you’re writing him that, just for those moments, you almost believe his slant yourself.  — K.M. Weiland, quote from Maybe Your Bad Guy Is RIGHT

Great fiction is fueled by bad decisions and human weakness. — Kristen Lamb, quote from Great Characters–The Beating Heart of Great Fiction

The “difficult” female character can—and will—do the shocking, the unexpected and, as a consequence, will give your story an immediate jolt of energy. She is the character who doesn’t fit the mold. — Ruth Harris, quote from 5 Ways “Difficult” Women Can Energize Your Writing and Make Your Fiction Memorable

Readers understand intuitively that people are not what they seem. —Jan O’Hara, quote from All Hail Dilemmas: Why Your Characters Need to Make Tough Choices

Characterization requires a constant back-and-forth between the exterior events of the story and the inner life of the character. —David Corbett, quote from The Art of Character: The Five Cornerstones of Dramatic Characterization

The one common thread in all of the books that are falling apart on my shelf? Characters—flawed ones with desires and needs who spend most of the story tripping over their weaknesses in an effort to get what they want. — Becca Puglisi, quote from Getting to the Core of Character Motivation

Complexity is an indispensable ingredient of life, and so it ought to be with the characters we create in our stories. —Stavros Halvatzis, quote from How Paradoxes Deepen Character

Be clear on every character’s agenda in a scene, and the agendas in conflict. Before you write take just a moment to jot down what each character in the scene wants, even if (as Kurt Vonnegut once said) it is only a glass of water.

— James Scott Bell, quote from the book How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript (aff.)quote-agendas1


Check out the complete list on Writingeekery

Author Talk

My Writing Process- Blog Tour

I want to thank my good friend and fellow writer, Adam Ickes for inviting me on this “Writing Process Blog Tour.” If you haven’t already, check out Adam’s great horror shorts Zombie Tree and 101 Tales of Terror.

I read my first horror novel in 7th grade- Pet Sematary by Stephen King and never looked back. 

The dark and macabre, the strange and unknown has always captivated me. Why? Well, I believe there is very little separating us all from shadow and light, sanity and lunacy. And since those malevolent little thoughts constantly haunt my mind, I decided to explore them, because they won’t allow me to subdue them. And although my stories may be a little disturbing, I assure you, I am not. (My husband disagrees).

My debut horror anthology “This Way Darkness” will be available May 2014. 

What am I working on?

I am in the editing process of my short story anthology This Way Darkness and I am currently working on my second anthology. Yes, it is horror. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t how to answer that question. There are many people out there when they hear Horror they automatically think blood and guts. I don’t necessarily go for gory but I try to write stories that will cause the reader to say, “Hey that’s definitely possible”, and because it is, the reader becomes afraid.  

 Why do I write what I do?

 I don’t know, because I’m strange? That’s what my husband said after reading one of my stories. I remember as a child hearing the Twilight Zone theme music and being entranced by it. I knew something scary and cool was about to happen. Then I read Stephen King’s Pet Semetary and I loved the fear I felt. I wanted more. Horror makes you feel trapped. It causes anxiety. And yet the reader/viewer does not want out. They hang on, sometimes forgetting to exhale, waiting to see where they will end up. 

 How does your writing process work?

When I get a story idea I create a vision in my head, a movie so to speak,  and ask myself “Would I pay to see this?” If the answer is yes, I write down a sentence. Sometimes I can write an entire synopsis but that’s rare. Then I plug headphones in my ears and listen to music that gets my imagination flowing. John Murphy, God is an Astronaut, Emarosa to name a few.  I can write some days for hours. Other days I can only write for an hour.  It’s a slow process, sometimes painful. But I love every minute. 

 Next week, the Writing Process Blog Tour continues with

Adam Booth-

Adam is the author of zombie horror THE END. THE END is one woman’s account of the end of her life, her family and everything, and is a unique and acclaimed take on the genre. Adam is based in Shropshire in the UK but hopes to travel both far and wide shortly and his second book, a gothic horror provisionally called ALISON, is scheduled to be released this Summer. www.thefirstmanscrapbook.com.
adam booth




John F.D. Taff-
John F.D. Taff has published more than 70 short stories in markets that include Cemetery Dance, Deathrealm, Big Pulp, Postscripts to Darkness, Hot Blood: Fear the Fever, Hot Blood: Seeds of Fear and Shock Rock II.  Over the years, six of his shorts have been named honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror.  His first collection of short stories, Little Deaths, was published in 2012 and has been well-reviewed by critics and readers alike. The collection made it to the Bram Stoker Reading List, has been the No. 1 Bestseller at Amazon in the Horror/Short Stories category and was named the No. 1 Horror Collection of 2012 by HorrorTalk.  Taff’s The Bell Witch is an historical novel inspired by the events of a real-life haunting and was released in August 2013. His thriller Kill/Off was published in December 2013. His novella collection The End in All Beginnings will be published by Grey Matter Press this summer.  More information about John F.D. Taff is available athttp://www.johnfdtaff.com


  John F.D. Taff


Wendy Potocki-

Wendy Potocki lives and writes in NYC. If that isn’t scary enough, she writes in the genre of horror. She feels creating good horror is an art form. She religiously devotes herself to pursuing it over hill and dale — and in the crevices of her keyboard.

Named one of the Top Ten “New” Horror Authors by Horror Novel Reviews, she has seven self-published novels. Book trailers for many of her works may be found on her official website http://www.wendypotocki.com/. Her newest frightmare is THRILL. It’s a non-stop chillfest and has been attracting a lot of attention. Her next planned projects are The Witch’s Stone, The Virgin, One Night in the Woods, and ZaSo, a Gothic tale of horror. Please subscribe to her mailing list for updates and giveaway information.

In her spare time, she loves to go for long walks, drink Starbucks Apple Chai Lattes, make devotional offerings to her cat named Persephone and be stilled by the grace, beauty and magic of ballet.