Tag Archives: plotting

What’s the opposite of writer’s block?

1239877Writer’s insomnia. That state when you’re on a roll, the story is flowing – but there are holes and questions (there are always holes and questions) and ‘oh hey’ moments and ‘is that plausible’ moments. And they all get together in your head and shake you awake at 2am. You think you’re getting up for a wee and a drink of water. But no. They ambush you, make you listen, pour words in your ears.

It’s fabulous. I LOVE this story. (It’s still called WIP – that’s Work in Progress for those not in the circle.)

Meanwhile, a huge storm built up to the south of us, complete with mammary clouds, thunder and lightning. Fortunately, we got to enjoy the spectacle at sunset – but didn’t have to face the fury of the storm.

Impressive, it was. Share photos, I will.

sky3

Sky1

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Strands of scenes and planetoids of plot #amwriting

hs-2007-26-a-640_wallpaperWhoever told you that writing is easy lives on a different planet to the one I inhabit. Words don’t flow from my fingertips, even when I’m in the zone. I get there sometimes, hunched over the laptop, tapping away until I run out of ‘what happens next’. I look up and an hour has gone. Or maybe two. I’m happy to get down one thousand words a day, delighted to do fifteen hundred and right chuffed to break two thousand. Three thousand is usually a bridge too far for my arthritic fingers. They complain at me and demand overtime or (even worse) go on strike, so I find it’s better to call it a day and start afresh in the morning.

What I can’t do is write before I know where I’m going.

And that basically means I’ve walked around the garden, spruiking my dialogue to any tree or bush or passing bird willing to listen. Sometimes that’s an impossible hurdle. I know I want that scene where there’s the big confrontation, but I want THIS character to be there, and I can’t quite see how I’m going to make that happen. So I pull a weed, tell myself I really ought to trim that new growth, promise myself to get out there with the glysophate. And oh, it’s low tide and the sea will be calm – where’s my camera? And no writing gets done.

Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? I’ve got nine novels out there – NINE. I can DO this. I know how. Don’t I?

So I tried to work out which book had been easiest (easiest – huh) to write, and why. They were the ones where I had a pretty good notion of a plot because they were based on real events. To Die a Dry Death, and Kuralon Rescue. Oh – and A Matter of Trust was pretty easy, because I wrote it a writer’s eon ago, so mainly it was just editing. Well – rewriting, really. I’m good at that.

How had I written the others, though? Morgan’s Choice at one hundred thousand words and more? Morgan’s Return? The Iron Admiral? Starheart? I’m not a plotter. But I’ve just outed myself as being not quite a pantser either, so how?

Through many drafts. Many chapters written and discarded, others written and changed so much they didn’t look like the original. I wrote about that journey with the Iron Admiral books. And – here’s the epiphany – I DIDN’T WRITE THEM IN ORDER.

That is, I didn’t start at the beginning and keep going until I reached the end. I wrote the chapters as they occurred to me, and went back and edited to fill in the scene transitions, or bounced in my chair going ‘oo oo oo’ because I’d thought of a nifty new plot idea. I used Word to write each chapter in a document, then arranged the chapters in the order I wanted. And re-arranged them. And tossed one out and rearranged again… you get the picture.

So I’m going back there. I’m writing the scenes as they jump out and slap me on the bum, and as I do that those floating strands of scenes bump into each other and weave together and coalesce until I have a veritable solar system of planetoids of plot circling my head. It’s kind of the SF equivalent of the little red engine.

I think I can

I think I can

I think I can

I KNOW I CAN

Twenty-five thousand words written. I won’t say I’m on a roll, but the floating strands of scenes are starting to collide.

Woohoo.

At last there’s a work-in-progress

canstockphoto19778842It has been far too long since I last published a book, although it was this year. For anyone waiting for a new story about Morgan’s Misfits – sorry, but it will be a little while yet. Those of you who know me would be aware that I believe in the Muse as much as I do the Easter Bunny and Father Christmas (that is, when it suits me) But I do believe that when the writing just won’t come, it’s because there’s something wrong. Frankly, I couldn’t see where the story was going. The characters wouldn’t talk to me – wouldn’t even look at me. So I abandoned the Morgan’s Misfits story. I’ll get back to it when the characters come to find me. And they will. Oh, they will.

Meanwhile, I’ve embarked on a new Ptorix Empire story. Someone once suggested they’d like to hear a bit more about Senior Commander Butcher, who is Admiral, then Grand Admiral Saahren’s aide de camp in the Iron Admiral books. And why not?  So I had a quiet word with him, asking what happened after the decisive battle between the Ptorix and Confederacy Fleets off Qerra.

It seems he finally got that promotion, the chance to captain a Confederacy battle cruiser. He’d been in command of ships before, of course. Patrol ships, a cruiser. But this had been his life long ambition: captain a battle cruiser. While his new ship is in refit, Butcher takes leave on his home planet of Validor. He hasn’t been back for twelve years, hasn’t lived there for twenty. Six months ago, after ten years of marriage, his wife divorced him. He’s at a loose end, looking to pick up the pieces of his life. One piece he’s kept an eye on is his first love, Tarlyn. She’s a member of the ruling clan in this matriarchal society, related, if not directly, to the current queen. She suffered a bereavement not too long ago. Her husband died in a boating accident. She’s way out of his league in the social hierarchy on Validor, but he’s never forgotten her, and lately she has been haunting his dreams. So first day back on his home planet, Butcher turns up at a public festival celebrating the arrival of Humans on Validor. The queen and her court will be there. He might get a glimpse of Tarlyn…

That’s where the story starts. Validor has a large Ptorix population – as much as sixty percent. And as we’ve seen on our own planet, winning a war doesn’t necessarily build bridges. There are old scores to be settled, and new hatreds can blossom. On both sides.

I have an idea where Butcher and Tarlyn will lead me, and I think I know what the ending will be. But it’s all subject to change without notice. Hang in there. I’m hoping to get it out there in a few months. And no, I haven’t thought of a title yet.

What writers can learn from reality shows

Dessert EmiratesReality TV shows seem to be endlessly popular with the TV viewing audience. They pop up constantly, perhaps with a different name, different skills, but always they’re contests. Big Brother, Survivor, Master Chef, the Block, the Biggest Loser – and my all-time favourite, My Kitchen Rules.

Let me make it perfectly clear that I no longer watch these shows. I watched a couple of seasons of Master Chef because I love cooking shows and Master Chef actually had a few episodes a week where they went into the details of cooking. The rest of it, however, is a cooking contest. Which brings me to My Kitchen Rules. I imagine a similar show exists all over the world. In Australia, one pair of contestants, both amateur cooks, is chosen from each state in Australia. The couples can be married, gay, sisters or brothers, friends or whatever turns you on. The season starts with each couple hosting all the other contestants and the judges, for a dinner party in their own home. The contestants and the judges all score the meal. After all the ‘at home’ meals have been done, there’s an elimination process where some people drop out. Sorry if I’m hazy. You see, I loathe this show. Sure, I was sadly disillusioned to discover it wasn’t a cooking show. I hankered for Nigella, or the Cook and the Chef, Two Fat Ladies, the Naked Chef. What I got was a contrived game show.

In one of my biennial visits to the doctor I came across an article in a women’s magazine (I hate them, too – a doctors’ visit is the only time I ever look at them), a My Kitchen Rules tell-all. Well, gosh, Mouseketeers. Oh you thought the people cooked in their own homes? No.An awful lot of houses in Australia don’t have a separate dining room. We tend to prefer open living. But the home used for the set had to have a separate dining room so the couple cooking could be sequestered in the kitchen while the others talked about them. That, of course, but more pressure on the cooking couple. Unfamiliar kitchen, unfamiliar stove. And you know all that bitchiness and trash talk? The contestants are told what to say! Yes, it’s true. And, I have no doubt the fuck-ups are orchestrated, too.

So what does all this have to do with writing?

Everything, my friends.

I’ve already alluded to the importance of setting. Make sure your setting supports what will happen. Think about how the setting can aid some characters or put others on the back foot.

Choose your characters carefully. In MKR the contestants are selected with group dynamics in mind. Have a look. There’ll be the nice couple everyone hopes will win. The pompous know-it-alls who are critical of everyone else. The bitches (usually women) who often provide the tag lines for tomorrow’s show and who everybody hopes will get eliminated. (Quite often they last a loooong time to keep the tension going.) Then there’s the devious couple who’ll do anything to win, like voting down a spectacular meal so the rival couple’s rating falls. There’s the super confident couple who break under pressure (when the custard boils over or the kitchen paper catches fire in the oven or the lamb’s undercooked). And there’s the couple who come across as irritating or vaguely obnoxious but who blossom and grow during the show.

Tension is a vital component. In every episode there will be a minor crisis (contrived). For example, people having to wait two hours between the entree* and the main course. Or a couple who make cheese on their farm at home, so they cook a meal with cheese in every course. (Needless to say, one of the diners will hate cheese, or be allergic.) Or a contestant more interested in having his trousers pressed than letting his wife get on with preparations for dinner.Later, couples who have been eliminated will return to give their opinions. They’ll be the pompous lot and or the bitches.

Conflict is king. There will be trash talk at the table, conniving about what votes to give… and so it goes. So MKR (like all these shows) is about conflict – which is what good stories are all about. The characters are carefully chosen to show (!) this conflict and given lines to say. Then as the show progresses the tension between the contestants is heightened by throwing in ever-increasing problems, such as the mishaps in the kitchen. Later, the couples are thrown into situations they haven’t encountered before, like cooking for a crowd at a bush fete, or something.

Take note, writers. These shows are enormously popular for a reason. A year or two ago my husband and I were on a small bus delivering people to their cars at the long term carpark. On board was a group who had flown up to Brisbane to watch Big Brother, and they talked about their experience. I could not believe the commitment these people had to the contestants in a TV show. They hated some, loved others, wanted some out. THAT is the sort of emotion you want to get from your readers.

Although, of course, there will still be some people who HATE what you’ve done.

 

* an entree in Australia and most other places is an appetiser. I have never understood how Americans can refer to what we call a main course as an entree.

The picture at top left is of dessert in Emirates first class. It was delicious.

Learning from the masters – Isaac Asimov’s “Caves of Steel” #amwriting

1954 Hard back cover Doubleday

1954 Hard back cover Doubleday

This is the first of a series of posts I’m writing about what we (as writers) can learn from the works of published authors.

I’m in the process of re-reading Isaac Asimov’s first robot novel – The Caves of Steel. In a nutshell, this book is a murder mystery, a police procedural set in the distant future. Humanity has expanded to fifty worlds, but Earthites are not welcome in the erstwhile colonies, which are now independent entities, with small populations and many, many robots to do the hard work. On Earth life has become increasingly regimented. Most people live in enormous, domed cities (caves of steel) where efficiency is the order of the day. No more private kitchens, few if any private facilities like bathrooms. Living space is earned. The higher a person’s classification, the more room they can have, the more small privileges they can attain. A hand basin, for instance, is a much sought after luxury. Transport is via automated walkways and people are crowded together. In this pressure cooker world, robots are resented, seen as putting people out of work and consequently lowering their status.

There is on Earth one small colony of expatriates, called ‘Spacers’. By their own insistence, the inhabitants are sealed off from the rest of the city, isolated in what you might call quarantine in an area known as SpaceTown The Spacers are trying to encourage Earth to use robots but (as mentioned) it’s not a popular idea. Then a murder is committed in SpaceTown – a Spacer killed by a Human. The Spacers send a robot to partner a Human policeman to solve the crime. But he’s no ordinary robot. Daneel Olivaw is indistinguishable from a human Spacer. Thus starts an unlikely partnership between Elijah Baley, a human detective who resents robots as much as the next man, and the Spacers even more, and Daneel.

Enough said. If you’re a sci-fi fan, you’ve read the book; it’s a classic. But as I’m reading, I’m analysing and admiring.

Bear in mind the book was first released in 1953 as a serial.

That’s sixty years ago, so yes, it is dated. For a start, the population of Earth thousands of years in the future in the novel is set at eight billion, with the planet apparently creaking at the seams. Now, in 2013, Earth’s population is rapidly approaching eight billion and although all is not well, we’re nowhere near the dire straits described in Asimov’s novel. People still smoke, technology is not what we might expect. But such small niceties aside, the society Asimov has portrayed is detailed and utterly believable. His city (which in the novel is an extension of New York) reminds me of an extrapolation of the suburbs of Hong Kong, with its towering apartment blocks. It’s easy enough to see cars eliminated and replaced by walkways. And regimentation and segregation is (I believe) part of the human psyche. So is prejudice against anything different, like Spacers and (particularly) robots, which put people out of work.

Dr Asimov had a Ph.D. In chemistry but throughout his life he read history, and I think his portrayal of another society in this book is based on his knowledge of history, as well as a logical extension of what existed at the time of writing. Cities were going up, the amount of living space for an individual was going down. That’s still the case today. Communal kitchens, bathrooms and latrines were the norm in earlier times and it’s easy to see the efficiency in that approach. One can also imagine the importance of ‘privacy’ in a world where there is none, and Asimov’s story is peppered with small details which underline that fundamental truth. Even the story of the biblical Jezebel has its place.

The establishment of a quarantined enclave for the Spacers is particularly clever. I have no doubt Asimov noted from history that where Europeans interacted with native peoples, diseases were transferred both ways. Native populations had no answer for infections like measles, influenza and cholera. In the same way, Asimov’s Spacer colonies have no answer to the teeming infections on Mother Earth. So the easy planet-hopping of space operas might be a tad unrealistic – although Asimov himself had plenty of planet hopping in his later books.

Why does this book work so well, particularly given its age? Because the society portrayed is detailed and the characters act in accordance with their backgrounds. Yes, there are times when the author dwells on backstory and description but it’s usually done in the right places. Although the thread running through the story is solving the murder of Doctor Sarton, in a way the solution is less important than the chase itself. Asimov uses a Spacer robot to reveal all the little foibles in human society and also to illustrate his famous Three Laws of Robotics. Really, although the murder is the glue that ties the plot together, this novel isn’t a simple murder mystery.

As a writer, I’ve taken two things from this book.

  • Make your society detailed and believable and embed your characters in their setting
  • Use conflict to illustrate behavior. Teaming Lije with a Spacer robot – incorporating two things he hates – gives plenty of room for making points

It seems Hollywood is making a movie from the book. I hope they do a much better job than they did in Fantastic Voyage and I, Robot.

I welcome comments from others who have read the book. If you haven’t, if you want a print copy, try the local second hand bookshop. Or try the Amazon link.

 

Linnea Sinclair’s “Hope’s Folly’ – SFR the way it ought to be

picture of Hopes Folly coverI’ve recently read Linnea Sinclair’s novel Hope’s Folly. Twice. I tend to do that when I really love a book, getting details I missed the first time around. If you’d like to read the book’s blurb, you’ll find it here.

Yes, I suppose this is a review. But for me, it’s also a statement of what works in science fiction – for me, personally, which, let’s face it, is what a review is – a subjective point of view. This is a writer I admire – right up there with my all-time faves. So let’s do the review thing. But if you’re a writer, take note of how well this story has been built.

Hope’s Folly is a love story, set in a time of political conflict and approaching war. The human Empire is being run by Tage, who has usurped the power of a weak and failing Emperor. Tage has decimated the ranks of the Admiralty, replacing senior fleet officers with people more likely to dance to his tune. But not everybody is going quietly. A rebel Alliance has risen to oppose Tage. Amidst the turmoil, the two alien species in the Galaxy see their opportunity to expand their own borders.

When the story opens we meet Admiral Philip Guthrie, who escaped the purge of the Admiralty by the skin of his teeth. He’s 45 years old, with a shattered right leg healing slowly and the weight of the deaths of many colleagues on his conscience. Tage used Guthrie to plan his purge. Now, Guthrie is determined to join with other Alliance leaders to build a new fleet and defeat Tage’s Imperial forces. But the Empire wants him dead and the Farosians want to capture him to swap him for their own leader, who Tage has imprisoned. On top of all that, Guthrie’s new flagship is a very old ex-fleet cruiser which was disarmed, decommissioned and used as a freighter, and he has to enlist a crew from wherever he can, knowing some of them will be plants.

Lieutenant Rya Bennton is the daughter of Guthrie’s captain and mentor, back in the day. A 29 year-old Imperial Security assassin, she turned rebel when her father was killed in that purge. She’s no dolly bird, tall and built with curves and a lovely ass – and a spare thirty pounds she could afford to lose. She remembers meeting Guthrie when she was a pudgy 9 year old and he was a 25 year old lieutenant who showed her how to fire a laser pistol. She, like Guthrie, has a love bordering on obsession with hand weapons. The description when Rya first sees Guthrie’s Norlack laser rifle is a wonderful piece of innuendo. In this scene, too, we see the connection between the two, the way they think alike.

“Is this,” she asked hesitantly, “what I think it is?”

“What do you think it is?”

“Norlack 473 sniper, modified to handle wide-load slash ammo.” There was a noticeable reverence in her voice.

He pulled the rifle out, hefting it. She had a good eye. Norlacks weren’t common. But recognizing it was modified for illegal and highly destructive charges … Then again, she’d seen it in action. “It is,” he confirmed, amused now by the expression on her face. It had gone from reverence to almost rapture.

“That is so totally apex.” Her voice was hushed. “May I,” and she glanced shyly at him, her eyes bright, spots of color on her cheeks, “fondle it?”

He stared at her, not sure he heard her correctly. Then he snorted, laughing. Fondle it, indeed. He handed it to her. She took it, cradling it at first, then running her fingers lovingly down its short barrel. Sweet holy God. He didn’t have enough painkillers in him to stop his body’s reaction to the smokiness in her eyes, or the way her lips parted slightly, the edge of her tongue slipping out to moisten them, as her hands slid over the weapon.

Ahem. Back to the review.

The love story between these two is gorgeous. Rya keeps insisting she has a huge crush on her commanding officer – that’s all. What would he see in her, anyway? And that thirty pounds… Guthrie keeps realising that not only is he too old for her, but he has a duty to her father’s memory to protect her, not lust after her. He also has to get his almost defenceless ship past Farosian raiders and Imperial warships, regardless of Rya and a broken leg. But circumstances fling them (often quite literally) together in what used to be Rya’s father’s ship as Guthrie tries to build a cohesive team from a bunch of disparate people who don’t know each other. And one of them is a mole.

So why did this story grab me and not let go?

Because it’s so real. In Linnea Sinclair’s universe the ships are not run by all-powerful artificial intelligences. To me, they’re not much different from what we have now, with engine rooms, weapons systems and the all-important environment systems all run using computers but with people running the show. Guys get to cut code, hack, mess about in the systems. The ships have blast doors. The pipes gurgle and knock, metal pings as it cools, or creaks and groans. Everything smells – hot engine oil, leather, soap, food, hair. The ex-freighter has a ghostly smell of oranges that comes and goes. And then there’s the cat. Captain Folly, who comes with the ship, leaves white fur all over the place and prefers women to men.

The people are real. Guthrie is tall, smart, the son of a rich family (which has its own drawbacks). But he’s not a superman. He makes mistakes, has his own foibles, calls himself a Galactic-class ass on more than one occasion. I’ve mentioned Rya’s issues with her weight. She’s also impulsive and not much good at saying ‘sir’. The secondary characters are just as convincing, ordinary people forced to cope with extraordinary circumstances.

The politics is real. I have a history degree and these things matter to me. I can see the Empire disintegrating in this way. If I were to be asked for a similar situation in our recent past, I’d go for Stalin taking over in the USSR.

As always with Linnea Sinclair, things move apace – except for the opening chapter, which I enjoyed more the second time around. This is the third book of a series and the first chapter orientates the reader, I guess. From there on, the author works on the basis of ‘if things can go wrong, they will go wrong’. Guthrie’s relationship with Rya plays as an underlying complication to all the other issues the two face. Take out the romance, and yes, you’d still have a great story. But man, you’d miss out on soooo much.

Oh, and before I finish, I must mention the sex scenes. They’re not many and they’re intense, steamy and sensual, but not a how-to manual.

I loved this book, I loved Philip Guthrie. He is very definitely my kind of man. Sigh. I’m too old to be a fangirl. Five stars. But you knew that already.

So that’s the review done. What can I learn as a writer?

  • Make the cause worthwhile – things people will lay down their lives for.
  • Engage all the senses.
  • Introduce a bit of quirkiness (the cat and the oranges).
  • Use humour.
  • Make sure ALL your characters are real people, with a mix of strengths and flaws.
  • Keep the pace up.
  • When your heroes are in trouble, pile it on.
  • Introduce the unexpected to add twists – but don’t suddenly introduce cavalry without the reader knowing it’s out there.
  • And probably other things like great use of words and getting into a character’s head.

Anything else you’d like to contribute?

Using real history as a plot. Not as easy as it sounds?

Picture of Historia

From Wikipedia

It’s time to start a new writing adventure, face the cold, blank screen and begin. For me, it’s the hardest part of the whole process – the empty page. Once something – anything – is down, words are written, then you can read them back and change them, because the thought is there, translated into words.

In a way, this book should be easy, because I know the whole plot. It’s based on historical fact, a real life drama translated into a whole new setting. But is it really so easy?

Sure, I know what happens, but the essence of a good story is not the dry-as-dust facts, it’s the WHY. Why did the characters do that? What was their motivation? It’s the difference between learning a bunch of dates in history class, and learning the story of what happened.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. My first published novel was historical fiction, a dramatisation, if you will, of real events, acts carried out by real people. You can find out more about the book here. The point, though, is that working out why something happened at a particular time isn’t always easy. In a history book you can write that the bad guys delayed their attack for a month. It’s a fact. It happened. But fiction isn’t like that. You’re in your character’s head. You have to have a very good reason why he would delay his attack. Your readers will demand it. As the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. And it’s true. Your plot must be plausible, you must write the events so they make sense in every way – in how your characters speak and react, what they wear, what they believe or fear.

I had to take all those things into consideration when I wrote “To Die a Dry Death” and believe me, at times it wasn’t easy. This time, I’m not going to be writing a dramatisation, using the real people in the real setting. I’m grabbing a story from history and setting it in a Galaxy Far, Far Away, a Long, Long Time in the Future. In that respect, the journey will be a little easier. But I know it won’t be as easy as join the dots or colour by numbers.

Have any of you done something like this? What was hard? What was easy?

Series and sequels – what’s the difference?

Today I’m guest blogging at Devon Ellington’s site, talking about sequels series and all things related. I’d love to know what you think. http://biblioparadise.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/series-sequels-greta-van-der-rol/

First create your trail (then your hero can follow it)

(© Greta van der Rol)

I’m busy finishing a book. It’s that one about the tigers which I’ve mentioned before and it’s a paranormal romance with some thriller type smuggling elements. So now I’m back to basics. If a substance (in this case tiger parts) is being smuggled, how does the chain work from living tiger to retailer of Chinese medicines or tiger pelts? Because if I don’t know, how is my hero supposed to unearth the trail?

Mind you, I can only find out so much from the net about how these things happen. A search will show you how tigers are killed by poachers. It isn’t pretty. But from there, the skin, bones and organs have to be transported out of the country. I made up my own trail – shonky medical labs, bent airport freight handlers in several countries, dealers, couriers. It’s a money trail; it always is.

Are you wondering about that picture up there? At low tide, water runs down the beach into the sea, creating a myriad of channels. Some go somewhere, others disappear into the sand.

A bit like smuggling, really.

 

NOW what do I do?

Picture of a tigerWriting’s not an easy job. Some people can write a book in a couple of months – or less. They just sit down and the words flow out of their fingertips. I’m not like that. It’s a hard slog, especially when I try something different.

Somebody sent me an email about the plight of tigers in the wild. Their numbers are dwindling – fast. Humans hunt them for their skins, their teeth, eyes, bones, organs. Despite the Chinese government’s best efforts, it’s hard to persuade people their thousand-year-old traditions are crap. Powdered tiger penis isn’t going to help your erections, guys. Try some viagra. It’s sure to be cheaper.

Anyway, I’ve always had a penchant for tigers. I was born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger and they are such magnificent, solitary beasts. I thought I’d try writing a paranormal romance starring a tiger. I wasn’t keen on trying a novel. I thought I’d do a short story and see how that went. I sent a draft of about 15k words to a couple of friends to see if it was eyewash or something worse. Given words of encouragement, I edited – and added ten thousand words in the re-write. I sent that version to my most trusted beta reader – who responded with ‘loved it – read it in one sitting, where’s the rest?’

Um.

I thought it was finished. She obviously didn’t. So would I just fiddle about with the ending, tie a few things up – or would I venture forth into the ocean of storms and try for a novel? Twenty-five thousand words is somewhere around a third or a quarter of a novel. I would have a loooong way to go.

I’ve been using the story for an editing course I’m doing and it’s given me some ideas. I’m pretty much decided I’ll try for a novel. I’ll have to do some plotting and planning, introduce extra characters and many, many new scenes. But I’ll give it my best – and when it’s finished, any profits I make from the book will be donated to a tiger charity, such as David Shepherd’s initiative.

What about you? Do you have it all planned out in advance, or do you twist and turn as events catch up with you?