I hear voices …

I look back to a few weeks ago when I was struggling with starting to write my third novel and I can’t believe how easily it’s all coming together now. I was having trouble finding my main character’s voice – an oft discussed writerly problem – and one that can really slow the writing down.

What I was trying to do was write the novel from start to finish and of course writing a book never works like that for me. I usually write bits and pieces all over the place until I hit about 10,000 words, and then all of a sudden things begin to happen more sequentially. So I have let go, once again, to the chaos of it all and – surprise, surprise – writer’s block is a thing of the past.

I have a great book that I find incredibly useful when I begin writing a novel. Pulling this book off the shelf has also helped to flood my notebook with words. The book is The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman and I used it when writing both What is Left Over, After and Bodies, my second book. The sections that I find the most useful are his first two chapters on Characterisation: The Outer Life and Characterisation: The Inner Life.

A lot of how-to-write type books have character checklists, a quick list of questions, rather like a job interview, that you are supposed to ask of your character and then you are suddenly supposed to know them well enough to want to spend the next couple of years invading their most private thoughts. Lukeman’s book is different. It asks you questions about your characters that go beyond the surface and into their blood and bones and souls.

As I was working my way through his first two chapters I kept finding myself writing scenes that simply flowed out of what ever I may have been jotting down about my character’s heroes or vices or whatever. Now I have a number of scenes completed plus three pages of scene ideas which I can’t wait to write – I don’t usually have such a large number of potential scenes to work with when I begin writing a book.

I found writing my second book to be much quicker and easier than writing my first. I’m hoping this list of scene ideas means that writing the third will be even quicker and easier than writing the second. Or I could just be lulling myself into a false sense of security. And speaking of the second book, Bodies, I’m hoping to have some exciting news to share about that next week …


  1. marlish glorie

    Hi Natasha!
    Ripper blog!
    And just great to hear that your writing is powering along, and very exciting too!
    I reminded of what Jennifer Egan had to say about writer’s block.
    She felt writer’s block was a fear of writing badly. And that better writing only happens with subsquent drafts. Neat hey?
    Keep up the good work Natasha, and waiting with baited breath for next week’s installment! And I’ll definately check out The Plot thickens.
    P.S. Jennifer Egan is an American author who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year with her novel A Visit from the Good Squad.

    • I love that quote and absolutely agree with it – my writers block is all about my fear of writing badly, which I do when I haven’t quite got my head around my main character. Which is why I much prefer redrafting – it never seems so bad once you reach the end of something, does it?

  2. Hey Tash,

    Great to hear that your third is coming along! And I’ll definately check out The Plot Thickens – I need all the help I can get (Elan’Dth is continuing to crawl along, but I still haven’t got one of my characters voices and he’s got to start some chemistry with the main =S )
    Does this mean you’ll soon be launching Bones?! =D

  3. Great post! I will have to pull out my copy of The Plot Thickens and reread it, since it’s been a few years. I am midway through my third novel, and I have definitely found it easier going in terms of plot development. I hope yours continues to come together smoothly!

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