Motherlove: My Miscarriage Story

I never thought that miscarriage would be a part of my story. I have known death – I knew it from the age of nine when I lost my father – but losing a child, even if that child’s life can only be counted in days of conception not days on earth, is a new kind of grief.

It is howling with pain as you clutch the phone after that final dream-killing call; it is a blunt knife twisting in your womb; it is blood, so much blood. It is your traitorous body expelling the one thing you wanted more than all. It is feeling life, a life you made, slip out of you when you’re trying so hard to hold onto it.

Miscarriage is a savage injustice, a disruption of the natural order of life. A woman’s womb is made to create and sustain life. When that primal process fails, you have failed. You failed in what should be the most basic function of being human.

But as I have learnt, having a child is not easy. And it’s not a God-given right by any means. If anything, the fact that anyone is born at all, that we are all here living and breathing, is a miracle.

I have been blessed with one miracle, who is now a chatty five year old who loves Spiderman and pizza and comes home from school each day to tear around the house in his superhero costumes. He tells me on a daily basis how beautiful I am and that I am the best mummy in the whole world. When he was a baby, his smile was enough to bring tears to my eyes, and almost six years on, nothing has changed.

His birth was not without complications but my first pregnancy was trouble-free. By the time the second pink line showed up on the stick after three months of actively trying, I was about ready to tear my hair out in frustration and impatience. Nobody told me that falling pregnant would be so hard.

Turns out, nobody told me a lot of things when it comes to motherhood – like the fact that babies do not naturally sleep without settling, that all settling techniques do not work on all babies and most don’t work at all. I was never told how difficult it would be to make and drink a cup of tea, or finish a meal, or finish anything, after the birth of my son. I was never warned that sleep deprivation can be a form of torture and that giving birth can cause flashbacks and severe anxiety.

I had no idea that becoming a mother would explode my old life so much that I wouldn’t believe I could ever pick up all the pieces to make myself whole again.

Maybe these things can’t be told but must be learnt. Either way, I took the betrayal of my sisterhood hard. Some of my friendships are beyond repair. With no-one in my corner, I had to form new friendships. These new mummy friends became my lifeline, but none of them knew I was battling debilitating postpartum depression and anxiety. It was a private battle waged within the walls of my home and the confines of my mind.

I chose what I thought was the kindest thing – to not have anymore children. To be one and done. To bring my child up to a point of independence and then to reclaim myself. This decision had no bearing on my son, who was and is the light of my life. A sweet, kind, brave boy who I am immensely proud of. Our bond was strong from the very first moment I was aware of his presence in my body.

That’s the thing about motherlove. It is instant and everlasting. It’s a love that is etched into your heart and encrypted into your soul at the moment of conception.

Motherlove, this powerful and mysterious force, was responsible for overriding my reasonable, logical thought processes. It was no longer within my power to choose whether or not to have anymore children. By the time my son turned three, I’d become a mushy maternal mess filled with the biological longing for another child.

At this time, I thought overcoming postpartum depression would be the hardest thing I’d ever face. I thought just making the decision and preparing myself for after the birth was enough. I was wrong.

I became pregnant after three months of trying, just like with my first pregnancy. It felt so right. I loved the changes my body was going through, sure signs there was a baby on board. I knew before it was time to test. A blissful, complete knowingness. When the second pink line came up, I actually high-fived my husband. We did it!

Later, after my loss, self-hatred set in deeply when I remembered that moment. I’d been so fucking naive. So smug. So excited that I’d told all of my closest friends and given up my gym membership. I was ready to be fat and happy and pregnant.

And now I was empty.

When I was young and thought I knew everything, I believed a miscarriage would be relatively easy to overcome. After all, the kid obviously wasn’t meant to be born. There was something wrong with it and nature did the kindest thing by disposing of it. I believed it would be easy to move on. Sure, it was sad, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Just make a new one.

I didn’t know then that the extinguishing of a life I’d made would be so painful that at times I’d wish for my own life to end.

And I didn’t know then that it could happen more than once. Or that it may never be possible to “make a new one”.

Wishing and dreaming, longing and hoping and trying. These are good things. There are so many more once your baby is born: loving so much you think your heart might burst; living in a house filled with laughter and stuffed with toys; everyday moments struck with wonder.

But for all the joys of motherlove, it can also bring the worst heartache a mother will ever endure.

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How to Edit and Proof Your Own Writing

I love this post from Michelle Taylor over at Southern Dreaming. It’s amazing how different our work looks from different perspectives – reading aloud, printing out and reading backwards. I always find so many more errors in a hard copy that I never saw on the screen.

Southern Dreaming

Proofing and editing my own writing is a daily practice and necessity for me. I write for a living, but writing also happens to be my personal passion as well. Through trial by fire, and a fair amount of research, I have refined a self-editing and proofing process that will make your content more captivating and error free.

1. Make Proofreading and Editing Two Separate Processes

The first mistake I made when I began this journey in self-editing, was confusing the definitions of ‘proofreading’ and ‘editing’, as most people use these terms almost interchangeably. While editing digs deep into analyzing and improving your content, proofreading is the final stage of polishing and refining the minor details such as punctuation and misspellings.

The way I formerly self-edited looked like this- moving sentence by sentence through my work, revising content, trying out new ideas, and scanning for grammatical errors all in the…

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Creating the Story Landscape

This is the fourth post in the My Novel Writing Process series. Find the others here: Overview || The Story Idea || Creating Characters

So now you have a rough idea of plot, maybe a few key scenes, and the characters are coming to life. The next most important step is setting. This doesn’t have to be a long process but bringing to life the story world is just as vital as fleshing out the characters who live there.

Discovering the Setting

I usually let this happen organically – maybe the setting is the first spark for your story, like it was with my trilogy The Cloud Sisters. When I listen to country music, I imagine rolling hills and wide open spaces. This imagery inspired me to begin writing a series of books on an all-girl Australian country music band.

Or perhaps you’ve visualized the setting from the start and the description of it comes easily for you. It could be somewhere familiar, like your hometown or a city in your state or a favourite holiday destination.

Setting can also become a character all of its own or can be chosen deliberately to portray wider themes. The setting may even be the story, like for example if your character is adrift in the ocean after their boat sunk, or they are incarcerated in prison, or trekking through a blizzard.

You might even be writing about a place that is purely your invention, like in the fantasy and sci-fi genre. There are countless articles, books and blog posts on world-building out there to guide you. The great thing about world-building is the freedom to let your imagination run wild, as I found when I was working on a dystopian novel. (Still in first draft stage but I may get back to it eventually!)

Collecting Details

Many writers (like the Australian author Di Morrissey) undertake research trips where they stay in exotic parts of the world and write about it. This is great if you can afford it, but your setting does not have to be exotic to be interesting. For example, I find city alleyways, abandoned houses and forests intensely beautiful and inspiring. Story ideas immediately spring to mind in these settings. And if the setting is too foreign to my own experience, I find it difficult as a reader to visualize it.

Of course, it’s easiest to evoke the setting if you’ve been to the part of the world you’re writing about – it’s simply a matter of recalling details – but I don’t think it’s necessary.

That’s because we have the internet.

With a bit of online research you can begin to till the soil of your story landscape and maybe even pluck out a few new story threads. Do an online search for the city or area where your story is set, read through statistics, look at Google images, immerse yourself as much as possible.

Look for unique details. What do the roads look like? What does the air smell like? What does the sky look like in that part of the world? Does the sun set in the east or west? Are there special hidden places? What do the locals do for fun?

Keep in mind too that town or city names in your story can be fictional but based on real places you have visited. This is my favourite method – that way, accuracy isn’t as important as describing a place that is innately familiar to most readers (or at least your target audience) and thus easily imagined. Everyone (or at least, most) people have been to small towns and big cities.

Once you have a visual picture of the setting, describe it in one page or use a Prompt Sheet like the one at the end of this post.

Helpful Tools

I’ve mentioned the beauty of Pinterest before in this post on creating characters, but it’s just as useful for settings. I have a board just for setting ideas. Visualizing a setting is imperative to describing it and making it come to life for the reader. Even better to have visual cues in front of you when composing the first draft to place yourself there while you write.

Google Earth is also a fun tool to use. Search for any address in the world and Google Earth will take you right there. Although I don’t use it a lot, it’s surprising to see places at ground level. You can get a better idea of perspective and see things that you may have missed. It’s also a good way to check for accuracy.

I hope these tips have sparked a few ideas. If you’re looking for a formal guide to creating setting, you might find the following Prompt Sheet helpful.

SETTING PROMPT SHEET

Name/Country/Region:

One paragraph description:

Places that will feature in scenes:

Unique attributes of the setting:

Season/Weather/Topographical information:

Sights/Sounds/Smells:

Significance of the setting to the characters:

The role of the setting in the story:

The Pilot Light

Last night I won $100 on a poker machine. Not a lot of money, but the most I’ve ever won. My friend Sam and I – who I haven’t seen in months – were having a good catch up, giggling and drinking and high-fiving. It was fucking cold in there but we sat at the machine and watched the numbers ticking up. It was exciting, a moment of fun in an otherwise shitty day. Shitty month, shitty year. After my two recent miscarriages, not a lot makes sense in my world anymore. It’s harder to have fun, to laugh, to escape painful feelings. Not a lot makes me smile.

But last night was fun. Fun for fun’s sake. Turns out fun is not a guaranteed thing. Just like with my miscarriages, the bottom can fall out at any moment.

We couldn’t work out how to use the stupid card thing. The money is put on a card which is then cashed out. After much fumbling about, we finally worked it out and took it to a cash-out machine. Sam put the card in the wrong slot. It really was a stupid card thing. Luckily there was a helpful lady hovering who could tell us how to work it.

“Just take it to the cashier,” she said after the card was spat out again. We left and took it to another cash-out machine. The balance was zero.

Uh oh.

We took it to the cashier and the balance on the card was still zero. I knew immediately that that helpful woman with the weird eyes had robbed us. Thinking back, I should have known the machine would spit out a ticket not cash.

We were a little tipsy. We went back to the poker machine and tracked down service. I went to get more drinks. I felt like I was gone a minute but when I got back my friends were looking for me. Sam had bad news – the staff could give us nothing but would look into it. We’d lost our winnings and there was nothing to show for it.

It struck me then that this is how it feels to miscarry. I won, but I didn’t. The evidence was all there but somehow I lost the prize. Didn’t just lose it – I was robbed of it. Right from under my nose. I was taken from the highest high to a crashing low, life once again cutting me off at the knees.

When I fell pregnant in January, I took it for granted that my baby was guaranteed. That come September I would become a mother for the second time. The pee sticks told me, the blood test told me, my body told me. I was pregnant, carrying a precious new life. How easily that spark was snuffed out. My child’s life was nothing more than a flickering pilot light, a fragile withering thing that could be taken out by the slightest breeze. Where did that breeze come from? Why couldn’t I protect it? How did I lose it? These are questions that will never have answers.

I might get my winnings. The staff might really “look into it” and resolve it. Or they might not, and my loss may never be recovered. And I will have to learn to live with that.

The parallels continue on. Life will always contain loss and injustice and theft and unfairness. There is no guarantee of fair treatment, or that our lives will be free of pain and suffering. This was never promised to us but it kind of feels like the birthright of being human. So all we can do is fight, and when we’ve fought hard enough and strong enough, know when to let go.

Life Stories

The bit where life gets in the way…

I wanted this blog to solely be about my writing journey. But writing is inextricably intertwined with life – you can’t have one without the other. Life inspires writing and is inspired by it. And the only way to write well is to live fully and wholeheartedly.

You might get your heart broken along the way, but there’s no better way to express pain than to write your way out of it.

I’ve been a long time fan of memoir and, at one point, I longed to write my own. My decision to study psychology straight out of school came from my deep-seated desire to know my own mind and to work out why things had happened to me and what effect they had left on me. I also felt a strong need to help others, to guide them, to fix them. I felt like I had something to teach or to tell, I just didn’t know how to go about it. So the first logical step was to become a psychologist.

My journey to not becoming a psychologist is a story in itself, suffice to say, even though life had thrown a lot at me, there was still so much more to face. But something that has never left me is the desire to know and to tell. I was a writer first, scribbling from the age of 8, starting a diary at 9, and falling in love with writing in my teen years. At different points over the years it has been my saviour, my escape, my downfall and my obsession.

I still keep a diary, writing several entries a month. I kept writing when my son was a newborn and I was a sleep-deprived new mother, finding the compulsion to record my strange new life too strong to ignore. It was a need I put above sleep and sanity because I felt it was necessary for my soul. Now when I write it is less about recording my days and more about the nuances in emotion I face on a daily basis, the weekly rollercoaster ride of moods, my struggle for balance in my life. I write also to purge myself of toxins that keep me from working on my fiction projects (which I can’t help but see as the real work) – the surface mind crap as well as the unexpected life events that occasionally spin up to throw me into turmoil.

Life stories are important. Writing them can be vital. It is the method by which we share what we have learnt with people who may be stumbling in the dark. It is the way we honour our experiences and the people who have graced our lives. We grow when we can put our stories down into a physical form – when we are able to tell the world “This is what happened to me”. Sharing life stories is cathartic and empowering. It’s also scary as hell and is apt to leave you feeling vulnerable, but ultimately it builds strength.

So many of my life stories have remained hidden, even from the people closest to me. By writing them, I shine a light into their dark corners, and by sharing them, I make them glitter like stars.

Here is where I will begin to publish my Life Stories. You can find them on the tab at the top of the page.

 

Game Changing Writing Advice: Sentence Starters

Such simple but very effective tips and tricks here! I’m sharing this so that I can remember it always. Thank you blogging community and Amy at Blissful Scribbles.

Blissful Scribbles

A while ago I wrote a post asking you lovely bloggers for advice on how to stop using He, She, Character Name as sentence starters. I am so overwhelmed by the level of guidance and support I received from that post. To check out all the incredibly helpful comments click here

As promised, I’ve collated the information and have put together a brief list of the advice I received. These tips are game changers.

Use Deep POV – Anna Kaling Author

One sure way to avoid using too many pronouns is to write from a deep point of view. Rather than acting as a distant narrator, write as if you are feeling and seeing through the eyes and body of your character. Here is the brilliant example of this used by Anna Kaling in my comments section –

Shallow POV:

Jane listened to Andrew drone on about his day…

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Writing My Way Free

After taking an unintended and unexpected hiatus, I’m in a reflective mood. My goal to finish rewriting my first draft (the week before last, I think) did not happen but only because my personal life took over from my creative life. But it has proven to me again that my creative spirit is the lifeforce that sustains me. It’s my anchor point, the place I can find my way back to and know for sure nothing will have changed.

When I’ve taken a big break in the past, I begin to panic that I’ve forgotten how to do this. That I’ve lost the ability to write or that whatever magic was responsible for churning out words has left me. This is something I need not worry about. All it takes is getting past the internal censor again (who feeds on these little breaks) and just to begin again. To pick up where I left off, wherever that may be.

One of the best writing books I have read is by Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self. I started working through The Artist’s Way at a time in my life when I had lost my own way. I was stunted in all areas of my life: emotionally, spiritually, creatively. I felt stuck in a job far below my career aspirations. I was also clinically depressed.

You could say I wrote my way free. Or rather, through writing I found a gateway back to myself. Inspired by the exercises in The Artist’s Way I rediscovered not just my love of writing but my lust for life itself. Through completing regular Morning Pages and journaling, I learned to express myself again. I also learned to listen. 

Morning Pages is an exercise in purging, in learning to tap into the creative flow by simply plugging in and writing whatever comes to mind for a set amount of pages. It helps to keep the writing pump primed as well as purging oneself of all the mental noise that can block up the creative process and cause writer’s block, artistic deprivation (not allowing yourself to write) and other problems.

There is one exercise that seemingly has nothing to do with writing but is all about recovering the spirit. Scheduling pleasurable activities: actually making a list of things I’d always wanted to do, big or small. Walking barefoot on the beach, visiting bookstores, planning a holiday. 

Depression had shrunk my world and I’d stopped doing anything for pure enjoyment. The list reminded me of what I liked and what brought me joy. It allowed me to be kind to myself, to treat myself. Coincidentally (or maybe not) this activity is also recommended for people with depression. 

Two big things happened: I recovered from depression (also with professional help), and I started writing again. Writing for fun, writing just for me. I fell in love with creating and living all over again. 

I know I will finish my book. The same way I know writing is and always will be my happiness, my cure and my life purpose.

Creating Characters

This is the third post in the My Novel Writing Process series. Find the others here: Overview || The Story Idea

A story could not exist without characters. But a good story contains interesting, well-drawn characters who appear three-dimensional. The trick to creating characters who appear real? You have to believe they are. You have to see them flaws and all, and be willing to pick apart their personality, to hear their voice and to lend them unique characteristics.

All of these details come from observing and interacting with other people. You might also be inspired by characters in books, movies or even songs. The inspiration for creating characters is everywhere; in every conversation you have, in how you view yourself and others around you.

I love to create characters. I love choosing names, hair and eye colour, body type, ulterior motives, weaknesses, conflicts. But it can easily be made a chore by filling out detailed character charts, dissecting everything from the character’s past to what they like to eat for breakfast.

It’s not necessary to know everything about a character before you start writing their story – the magic is in how they slowly reveal themselves to you as you write. They start showing quirky behaviour, they say things you never imagined they would and do things you hadn’t planned. They start running the show and if you listen hard enough and go with the flow, they may even tell you how the story will end.

Free-Write a Character Analysis

Having said that, I think it’s imperative to spend a little time getting to know your characters. Picking their brains rather than inventing characteristics that you think will please the reader. My background is in psychology, so I am naturally curious about how people tick and what happens when things go wrong. Villains and disordered personalities fascinate me as much as beauty queens and heroes. I like to make characters a little unique in some way by going deep into why they do the things they do. What they fear, what makes them sad or angry. What they are fighting for.

I do this by free-writing. Using a Character Prompt Sheet as a guide, I sit down and think about who this character is that I am seeing in my mind. It’s a stream-of-consciousness exercise – letting the character tell me who they are. I write in block paragraphs but not dot points.

In this analysis, we are focusing on how the character feels about, and interacts with, other characters in the novel. We are letting them divulge what their secret motives and desires are. We may touch on their past experiences and their childhood to get an idea about where they have come from, as well as how they’re living their life now – their job, hobbies, what they do with their time. It’s all about being an amateur psychologist, delving into their personality and life philosophy.

The freedom of the Character Prompt Sheet is that all of the questions do not need to be answered by the time the exercise is finished. It’s simply a list of things to begin to ask when creating your characters. Some sections may be more relevant than others.

The Character Prompt Sheet

There are many examples out there, but this is the list I use in my novel writing process. I hope you find it helpful. Use it as a starting point in creating your own list of prompts if you like. I adapted mine from Elizabeth George’s excellent writing reference Write Away. 

PHYSICAL
Name:
Birth date/age:
Star sign & meaning:
Height/weight/build:
Colour hair/eyes:
Physical peculiarities:
Gestures when talking:
Gait:
Voice:

BACKGROUND
Birthplace:
Educational background:
Sexuality/relationships:
Best friend:
Enemies:
Family (mother, father, siblings etc):
Hobbies:
Occupation:

PSYCHOLOGY
Core need:
Pathological manoeuvre:
Ambition in life:
Positive/negative aspects of personality:
Social persona:
Laughs or jeers at:
Philosophy:
What others notice first about him/her:
What character does alone:

PROMPT QUESTIONS: Personal History

What is the most difficult thing my character is struggling with right now? How does that struggle give them one problem they must solve? Who or what will stand in the way of the solution they seek?

Will reader like/dislike character? How will they view this character?

Does he/she change in the story? How:

Significant event that moulded the character & one that illustrates the character’s personality:

One-line characterisation:

Character Casting

If you haven’t been able to see your characters by now, the Prompt Sheet will have helped you. Now that you have more of an idea of who your characters are, it’s time to try to find a visual representation of them.

Who are you imagining as the main characters in your novel? Do they resemble an actor or actress, a public figure, someone you know, or are they simply invented? Scout out pictures to use as a visual aid when writing the first draft.

Good old Dr. Google image search is great if you know the person’s name. Pinterest can give you a more detailed search and throw up some good pics of young women with brown hair, for example. If you still can’t find what or who you’re looking for, free stock photo websites like Pexels and iStock are chock-full of beautiful images for all types of characters.

I have a Pinterest board for The Cloud Sisters and all my characters are there (including many of my hero who I have a little crush on…)

Here’s Heath Howley (the delectable model Christopher Mason):

HeathH

 

And Elodie McAllister (an unknown stock photo model):

Elodie Mc

If you use Scrivener, you can plug these photos into your project using the Corkboard feature. I do this with only a select few images as I still find Pinterest easier.

The most important ingredient in creating believable, intriguing characters? Have fun and enjoy playing with it!

The Final Push

I’m nearing the end of rewriting Enchanting Elodie. Plot-wise, we are in the midst of the crisis or major setback and approaching the climax or final push. It feels a bit like rounding the bend in a marathon and knowing the finish line is over the hill. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there.

This is where things can get sticky.

I’ve never been much of a runner, but nearing the end of something brings about conflicting emotions in me. I’m exhausted, I want to quit, but I know if I keep going I will have the satisfaction of completion. And sometimes there is a final burst of energy when I can push myself a little bit harder.

So I’m going to set myself a deadline of finishing the second draft of this manuscript at the end of this week. This is not going to be a long drawn-out last leg. I’m sick of almost-but-not-quite being done. I probably only have about ten more scenes to write, so if I can do at least one a day, I should be done in a little over a week. Totally do-able.

I totally agree with the theory of writing drafts quickly before the spark winks out. With Enchanting Elodie, I’ve managed to sustain this spark for close to two years. I was well on my way with the first draft when I went on a 2-week overseas holiday, which threw my writing mojo completely. But when I got home I made myself sit down at my desk and I started again. I’m glad I did because the story took on a life of its own. Similarly, when I finished the first draft I was tempted to let it languish and start on a new project. There seemed to be so many problems and issues I didn’t know how to fix. I faced a tough decision: run the race again, or start training for a new one?

Maybe it’s all about perserverance, or resilience, or maybe just commitment, but after going through the process once, I knew what to expect. And I had material to work with. It was like a do-over: this time, I got to tell the story I meant to write. The kinks naturally worked themselves out when the story started to go in different directions, and characters began to act more like themselves and make better decisions that all made the story smoother.

I know I will finish this book, and I know that when I do I will have a finished (albeit unedited) piece of work that I am proud of. I just need to give myself that final push.

The Story Idea

This is the second post in the My Novel Writing Process series. To read the first post go here.

Often I would sit down knowing I wanted to write but not knowing what I wanted to write about. Now I know that the process of novel-writing begins before you turn up to your desk: it begins with the idea. The spark, the situation, or the character that intrigues you, the thing that makes you want to follow the path to see where your characters end up.

I know when I have it by the feeling inside me: my heart will skip a beat, I will feel that creative energy burning in my mind, the butterflies start up in my stomach. An idea must excite you. You will need that energy to burn bright to fuel the long process of drafting and then re-writing a novel. And then you have to take time to develop the idea, tease it out, follow the threads. You keep asking yourself “What will happen next?” because that is what you want the reader to do: to keep turning pages to find out what happens next.

You do this by brainstorming. This concept was popular in class when I was a kid, and the word always made me think of the image of a brain on fire with ideas. All it means is that you keep the story idea alive and cooking by turning your mind to it every now and again. Feed it with conscious thought and your unconscious will go to work. I brainstorm best in the shower and when I’m driving. It’s amazing the way your unconscious will continue to collate ideas and grow the story even when you aren’t aware of it. You will begin to have those a-ha moments when a tangled plotline finally unloops itself. The story will begin to have a life of its own.

The Big Overview

Free-writing is the best way to tap into this unconscious process. After brainstorming, free-write about the story idea. Begin with “The book tells the story of…” Write as if you are a spectator in the present tense ie: he does, she says. This can be as long or as short as you want it to be. Just follow it until you run out of story. List any scene ideas as they come to you, some plot points or turning points, and how you envision the ending. During this process, you may begin to hear the character’s voices and what they say. Include this dialogue.

Expanding the Story Idea

Once you have your big overview of events, grab a fresh sheet of paper or a new file on your computer and plonk yourself right in the middle of the action. Live out the story step-by-step. Try to keep this brief, about 3-5 pages. We are not writing a detailed outline (we’re pantser-plotters, remember?) and we are not going to include every scene. Just write what you see happening, the scenes that may unfold. Sketch it out a little by writing about where we are and which character’s head we are in. You can skip around and brush over unclear parts, but the idea is to get down the main beats or pivotal points of action that keep the story moving.

Start asking yourself about the relationship between the characters and observe their interaction and conflict. Again, include dialogue if it comes to you. If it’s relevant to the story, you can also go back in time to detail past events that may be impacting on, or leading up to, the main events. This is helpful if you have flashbacks or past life threads.

Now read over all your notes and tease out plot threads, then list them in dot points. Write down what you see as being the main plot and sub-plots. For example: the main plot may be about a woman’s search for her missing sister, who she hasn’t seen since childhood. A sub-plot may be the woman’s deteriorating marriage which has compelled her to seek out her sister again. Then you may have a series of flashbacks about the events that happened twenty years ago surrounding the sister’s disappearance.

In the next post, we will begin to flesh out our characters.