Sunday 28 August 2016

Isle of Wight Virtual Mini Book Festival - Introducing Diana Kimpton

What a weekend it's been. So many wonderful authors and lots of interesting posts and great books, but it's not quite over yet as there's one more author who has been waiting patiently for her spot. Lovely readers, I'd like to introduce you to Diana Kimpton.

Diana is the author of more than forty books for children including her Pony-Mad Princess series which has sold over a million copies worldwide. She is a long-standing fan of Doctor Who, and is old enough to have watched the very first episode the very first time it was on TV. However, she has never met an alien of any shape of size. Two of her most recent titles are:
There Must Be Horses, a young adult book about an emotionally damaged foster child and an equally damaged horse. 

Alien Sheep: a funny fantasy about an alien who comes to earth accidentally disguised as a green sheep. 

 Fantasy books aren't normally my thing but I think Alien Sheep sounds and looks amazing. Don't be surprised if you see a review for this on my blog in the not too distant future! 

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Having written so many successful books it's fitting that Diana has chosen to talk to us about plotting. For all of your aspiring writers out there I think you're going to enjoy this one.

                                        Plotter, Pantser or somewhere inbetween

It took me a long time to learn to create stories. I started by trying that technique where you develop the characters, put them in a situation and see where they lead you. It came highly recommended by lots of people but it didn't work for me. By the time I reached chapter 3, my characters were wandering off saying “Don’t think much of this story”.

I soon discovered that I needed to decide on the end of my story before I started writing. Once I knew my destination, it was easier to plan my route to reach it. But most of my stories still didn’t work, and my first novel rejected by a publisher because it had “a weak plot and a flat ending”. That comment shattered my confidence so I decided to study how stories work. Soon my head was filled with terminology like three act structure, turning points and inciting moments but none of it helped me write better stories. There’s a big difference between analysing an existing story and creating a new one. 

The big breakthrough came when I read a book called “How to Write for Animation” in which the author, Jeffrey Scott, demonstrates how to use a step outline to develop a script. I felt like jumping up and down with excitement: I'd finally found a plotting technique that worked for me. With the help of this powerful tool, I didn’t have to create a storyline from beginning to end – I could work in any direction I liked to create a very rough outline and then jump around, changing and developing any section I wished until I'd created a fully fledged story full of twists and turns.

As the name suggests, a step outline is a list of the various steps in a story. I create mine using a numbered list in word. This allows me to add or take away steps and to rearrange them if I wish. It also lets me see the shape of the story so I can spot places where the motivation isn't clear or the pace is slowing and fix them before I start writing. It’s so much easier to make drastic changes to a plot at this stage than it is after I’ve completed the first draft.

A step outline isn’t a chapter breakdown. I never add the chapter breaks until I’m actually writing the book, and sometimes I don’t add them until I've reached the end. This leaves me free to make each step as short or long as it needs to be. I have learnt the hard way that dividing the story into chapters before I start writing results in me cutting steps short or padding them out to make the breaks fit where I originally planned.

Nowadays I always use a step outline without creating a story, but I don’t always use it in the same way. With There Must Be Horses, I worked out a rough outline first. Then I wrote the first chapter to help me discover the voice of the story and decide whether to write it in the third person or the first. After that, I created a detailed step outline plus character back stories for Sasha, Beth and Joe. 

With Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan, I created a very detailed step outline before I wrote anything but, when I reached the middle of the book, I realised my plot wasn't working as well as I hoped. There was too little action in the second half and too little tension. So I went back to my step outline and redrafted it to deal with the problems. My editor really liked the end result so I must have got made the right decisions. 

Using step outlines has taken me from that original “weak plot and a flat ending” comment to creating many successful books, including my Pony-Mad Princess series which has sold over a million copies worldwide. I recommend giving the system a try – it might transform your writing too. 

If you'd like to know more about how I use step outlines to create plots, you can find out more here.

I hope that's given you all some food for thought as they say. If you'd like to find out more about Diana you can find her website here and you can get a free story if you sign up to her mailing list. 

I'd like to thank Diana for taking the time out of her busy schedule to stop by today. It's been wonderful having her here and I hope you've all enjoyed it too. I'd also like to wish her every success with her Amy Wild books in Japan.

Isle of Wight Virtual Mini Book Festival - Introducing Vanessa Wester

My penultimate guest today is Vanessa Wester, author of The Evolution Trilogy amongst others.

Vanessa Wester is bilingual in English and Spanish, since she was born and raised in Gibraltar. With a degree in Accountancy & Law, she initially worked for two leading accountancy firms, before she changed career and became a secondary school mathematics teacher. Over the past twelve years, she has devoted her time to the upbringing of her children, whilst giving up a lot of her time to help voluntary organisations. Vanessa developed her writing bug in 2010 and has not looked back since. Her main published work is ‘THE EVOLUTION TRILOGY’, which is comprised of HYBRID, her debut novel, followed by COMPLICATIONS and RETURN. In addition, she has compiled an anthology called FIRST DATE (Love & Regrets). She has also published, and included stories in, six anthologies to raise money for fantastic causes, such as Gurnard Primary School on the Isle of Wight. Writing is one of her passions, reading the other. The day she decided to start writing her ideas down she found another way to lose herself in a book, whilst finding an outlet for her imagination. It is the best way she can think of to escape from everyday life.

Photo courtsey of Vanessa Wester

                                                Finding your character...

I was asked if I wanted to be a part of this "Isle of Wight" Blog Tour and thought it was a great idea. What I did not know was that life would take over and give me hardly any time to consider what to say. But actually this is a good thing because when talking about book characters or an MC I think time is not always on your side.

When an idea for a story comes along, different authors get inspired in a range of ways. Some see the character clearly, others a place, others a plot. There is no such thing as a formula - although some would argue there is. The best books are those that do things differently and explore boundaries both in topics or concepts.

But a character name is SO important. At least, I think it is. There have been times when I simply could not connect with a book because John did not feel like one, or Sally just needed to toughen up! The thing is that once a character has a given name, you can't imagine a different one. 

This leads me to how I personally chose mine. For my first main novel, HYBRID, I used a name I had always liked - Steven. But, even then I had readers say this name should be Stephen. I was thinking of the American version that can be shortened to Steve... even though I never did shorten it in the entire Trilogy! My female MC was Caitlin. Why? I have no idea. I can't even think of why I thought of this name. I have a feeling I checked out my book of baby names and this one stuck! The other characters names just popped into my head on the whole, but I did have to do some research for some of the foreign ones.

Here I have to make a confession - I muddled up countries! My characters were going to come from Norway and then I changed it to Sweden but forgot to change the names... I apologise now to anyone offended!

Because I had characters from different nationalities I had to mix it up and even ended up with a powerpoint presentation to keep updated on the names, places, etc. Plots are hard to keep a tab on, but I find names more of a struggle. I think I once wrote a short story where at the end Tom became Jerry! Ha ha. Luckily, my sister was quick to find my flaws and pointed it out.

For any budding writers out there, my advice would be to use a name you are comfortable with but to take into account your audience. I guess in different languages you could alter the name to suit a culture better? Saying this, Darcy will always be associated with Jane Austen and Edward with Stephenie Meyer so be wary to use a name that has already been used before. If in doubt, make one up! You are writing a book after all.

I hope this helps and keep reading... what is your favourite MC? Mine is Elizabeth Bennett- strong, feisty, and full of spirit.

My favourite character is Adam in Flowers For The Dead, he's an unusual choice as he's a serial killer but his heart is in the right place. Tell us about your favourite MC's in the comments below.

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Caitlin Chance and Steven Thorn are about to discover that life does not always go in the direction you envisage. When they first meet, they are overwhelmed by an irrational attraction. First love strikes when you least expect. Unfortunately, Steven has a secret past that is destined to reveal itself. Soon he will become a stranger to everyone and his new life in Brazil will begin.

People like him are not meant to live amongst normal humans.

The wheels are set in motion for his radical upheaval. But, love is a powerful thing and the connection forged between Caitlin and Steven is not easily broken. Steven will have to disregard what he is and where his loyalty should lie. Everything is possible at an unforeseeable cost. Decisions have to be made and rules will be broken.

From the University of Southampton to the depths of the Amazon jungle in Brazil, Steven and Caitlin will discover that in the game of love, destiny is always the winner...

If you'd like to find out more about Vanessa or connect with her you can find her by using the links below:


I'd like to thank Vanessa for stopping by today and for taking the time to write a guest post. It's been great having you here.