Taking Writing Risks

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
Franz Kafka

As writers, we can come up with some unique ways of looking at the world.

A man wakes up to realise he’s turned into a monstrous insect. A man attempts to interact with a strange, unknowable bureaucracy. Kafka imagined unconventional ways of interpreting the truth of reality.

We too have a unique perspective on the world. It might not be as bizarre as Kafka’s, or in many cases, it might be even more so.

Either way, merely own it. Don’t hold back—explore your ideas to their fullest degree. You can pull it all into shape in the, undoubtedly long editing process.

So just for now, follow all your crazy ideas as far as they’ll take you.

Today, let your book take an unexpected turn. Have you been wondering what would happen if your character said something extreme, or if they were faced with an unforeseeable plot twist?

I’ve discovered I’m drifting off into the Pantser’s world. So, take the risk and do it!

Have a Routine to Writing

I’ve had a great start on an idea for a novel. I’ve got nearly thirty-two thousand words into it.

And then I got another new idea for a more exciting project and that is reffered to as, ‘The Shiny New Idea Syndrom’.

I have five or more unfinished novel starts on my computer. I call them my skeleton stories, and I do ask, occasionally, if they will ever be covered in some flesh and have some guts.

Henry Miller seemed to have the same issues. As he was working to finish his first novel, Tropic of Cancer, he wrote a set of eleven commandments to keep himself from racing off into every new novel idea.

“One: Work on one thing at a time until finished,” Henry Miller directed himself.

“Two: Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’

“Ten: Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.”

As you’re writing, I’m sure you’ve discovered more ideas for all the other projects on which you could work. Maybe you’ve considered some short stories you could write, or blog posts you could craft, or even other novels.

Those are probably all great ideas to have on hand. So don’t forget them! Write them down in that notebook and pen you always have on your person.

But, don’t get distracted from your current project: writing this first draft.

There will be time enough when you’re finished with this to play around with your hundreds of other concepts. But, if you make it a habit to quit a project halfway through, you’ll never finish any of the books you want to write.

I’m now set on a daily schedule that helps me write five thousand words a week. Unquestionably, some busy days come along and keep you away from your work, but make up for them within the same week.

Time Limits


Unfolding your novel within a tight timeframe is one of the most significant methods for developing suspense. Whether your protagonist is in a one day race against time like Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code or has a total of 61 hours to rescue the day like Jack Reacher in the novel by Lee Child, putting your protagonist on a ticking stopwatch will likely make readers turn more pages.
Traps to be cautious of in a time-focused path to writing crime fiction, or a short story, like my last published story ‘Newton’s Second Damn Law’. One is that effective suspense requires some set-up. If you have ever been through an extended period of very high stress, you know that there comes the point where you begin to disengage from the situation to reduce stress. The same thing can happen with fiction. It’s seldom useful to sustain a constant mood of highest-level suspense for the entire duration of a novel. Giving your protagonist a short period to solve a problem is an excellent approach to building suspense but be sure to create contrasts. Downtime offers readers a chance to take their breath. It can even calm them into a false sense of security as you construct the next surprise that will leave them more interested and invested.
The other issue you must deal with is the implication of having something unfold in a short period. Your protagonist could be on the run for 48 hours, but is there time to drink, eat or sleep? If not, what effect will all this have? As I’ve said in previous blogs; be sure that you do not reach beyond your readers’ suspension of disbelief.
Providing your character with a limited amount of time to solve a problem is a great way to build suspense, but you can place constraints on your protagonist that increase tension in other ways as well:

Different limits

Writing crime fiction that transpires in a limited physical space is another efficient way to create pressure. 12 Angry Men, is set in a one room with the jury of a murder case for the whole of the 96 minute movie. Stephen King explores this in some of his novels: trapped in a car by a rabid dog, is in Cujo, a woman and her son and Gerald’s Game handcuffed to the bed is a woman. The principal characters in the Elizabeth Engstrom novel ‘Lizard Wine’ are snowbound in the car with a menacing ex-convict.
It is also possible to challenge your character in other ways, too. The protagonist of King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon cannot find their way within the woods. If your protagonist is in a different country where they cannot speak the language or has run out of money, what happens? By reducing the possibilities available to your main character, you will create suspense.

You Need to Write Every Day – Despite Not Getting Paid

I’d written and published four journal papers, a few conference papers and a PhD Thesis containing forty thousand words, but I still had a lot to learn about writing fiction and a long novel.
I hadn’t tried to find some time outside of work to write every day, as other things were consuming my needed time.
I told myself my novel would keep until tomorrow and that I could write at the weekend when the time was less important.
When I finally had the guts to sit down in front of the blank page and do my work, I could barely remember where I left off, as I didn’t know about outlines and I was just pantsing the story.
It took too long to pick up from where I left off the previous time. If I missed a weekend writing session because of, unknown things always interrupt, that meant I went an entire week without writing my novel.
I needed a daily writing routine that I could fit in around my job and my lifestyle, but I didn’t have that essential structure implemented in my life.
Then, along comes a short story competition that is inexpensive to enter and you get feedback from the judges. I had to write a short story limited to 1500 words about one person that was the only one to see an alien. I found the contest, entered it and realised I only had one week to find a scenario and write the first draft so it could be submitted for a week’s workshop where myself and the other contestants would read each others story and critique. It took hard work to generate a story and edit, critique and submit. If I had been writing every day, then things would have been more natural and fluid in reading my work. The more you do something, the more it becomes natural.

The Day is Yours to Waste or Use

I’ve often woken up, checked email, bought books on Amazon, phoned the Gas and Electricity company about my bill, organised meetings, and arranged everything else but write 500-1000 words wasn’t on my list.
If I’m lucky, I’ll hold an hour left to write just a little.
So, I tried looking at myself in the mirror and telling myself, ‘Don’t be lazy, just work harder’.
Self-talk is kind, here’s the stark, painful truth:
When I put writing last, it’s unlikely to happen at all.
It has taken me a year to comprehend that when I’m writing a book, it’s the most critical thing I need to do every day (apart from looking after myself).
It’s my job to reduce interruptions and distractions like the internet and put writing first.
Before some email.
Before the social media sites.
Before the news.
And sometimes before a breakfast meal.
When was the last time you set writing first?

Handling Time in a Novel

  1. A character’s interior perception of time passing may be the fact that a role has an internal sense of time. He or she is waiting for something to occur, is in the middle of a busy activity, or is idling around doing not very much. Write a scene in which the character goes from resting quietly to frantic action and pay awareness to how you make the time knowledge speed up. What happens to the length of your sentences? – They shorten as the pace picks up.
  2. As an exercise in building setting details which evoke time: Time could be a season of the year, like Autumn or a time of the day. Details are a fabulous way to make these time points clear: is the sun or the moon rising during the day and setting? Are there Christmas ornaments on street lights or are the daffodils just growing out of the soil?
  3. Shifts from scene to scene. An ultimate way to register time is by use of the time word in your scene changes. It can be as easy as, “The next day. . .” Or, perhaps you want to be specific: At precisely 8:20 am, Brian opened the front door. The time words at the beginning of scenes orient the reader to exactly when the event is taking place. It’s good to keep the reader familiarised. This means you are thinking like a writer.