I write the sequel to Nephilim Quest 1. Rolli the Somali cat helps. The result: a whopping amount of purrs and typos… But when a cat wants to be noticed, there’s nothing you can do. Better admit defeat and take a little break…
I’ve been asked when will the next part of the Nephilim Quest come out. Well – as soon as I get the plot planned and transferred into a timeline and from there into chapter plans. Only then shall I start writing. Still, when the plot is planned beforehand, the writing itself doesn’t necessarily take very long.
Just to show you the first step in planning: I have collected all the things that need to be addressed in the next book into a mind map (using Scapple). Here is the photo of part of it. (Yes, only a part). The cells are connected with dozens of arrows, showing which characters are affected by which events. I calculated this took me about 20 hours to make (and I already had many notes done before, never calculated how many hours they took before I decided to do a mind map)- collecting the details from the first book that need to be written about in the next book.
776 notes in all – ready to be transferred to the timeline which I will then turn into chapters.
I think this shows you cannot really just write whatever comes to your mind if you are writing a series. Planning is the key… And writing is a lot of work – satisfying, fun, demanding work.
And here’s the pic (sorry, it is blurry for a purpose – don’t want to reveal too much of the coming book yet)
As it is I have a day job and try to find time for my writing work in the evenings and weekends.
Most days I don’t have a chance to write uninterrupted for longer periods of time, and I have noticed that if I wait until I have a whole hour to spend, I won’t get much writing done. (But when I do find a longer period of time to use, I so enjoy those delicious hours when I can simply concentrate on writing)
I wrote my first book (Nephilim Quest 1: Shadowhunter) mostly in fifteen minute spurts. Where ever I could steal fifteen minutes or more. Some say that at least half an hour is necessary to write, but it seems my mind is such that I can write a short while, maybe even a few sentences, and then do something completely different, and return to the story even hours later and write a little more – without losing track where I was in the story. Maybe that is something women have learned to do in their ordinary life. Multitasking, if you will.Embed from Getty Images
While writing the book I was at the same time writing my final essay for the Egyptology studies at the University of Manchester. That was something I really had to concentrate on and sometimes I felt that my brains were in a knot with all the information in front of me I would need to condence into a logical presentation.
That is the moment when I changed to writing the novel. My poor brains, trying to make a sense of a dozen books and tons of notes about Middle Kingdom fortresses in Nubia, sighed with relief. Really. It was like going to a mini holiday – spending a few minutes writing out of my imagination. After a short free writing spurt like this I found it much easier to return to the academic writing.
Maybe this the reason I wrote the book so fast… It took me two months to write the first draft. Then I spent two months fattenig the story up, if you will, as the first draft is always rather.. erm… skeleton-like. During this second round of writing I had more time in my hands, having finished the essay so I could enjoy longer periods of writing time. (The editing time after this took over a year – I had not set any deadline to it and enjoyed seeing the story come to life as a result of careful editing.)
Writing like this taught me the value of even fifteen minutes of free time. On a coffee break. Before making dinner. While waiting for something (be it a doctor’s appointment or waiting for friends to arrive to dinner – I love to have friends over to eat). Using a notebook, tablet or phone. Just a few sentences. They do add up.
Also I use a dictation app on my computer. It takes a short while to get used to dictating your story – you have to “see” the story in your mind while you speak it, but it certainly makes writing the first draft a lot faster. And I feel it also makes your story flow better right from the start – at least if you have the tendency to return to what you have just written and tweak tweak tweak… (I’m one of those people) You may tweak your story to death if you don’t give it first free rein to run from start to finish first – you may simply get bored with your story when it doesn’t seem to proceed. A little editing is ok, but don’t try to make your text perfect right from the start.
If my memory serves me right I remember reading that we speak five times faster than we write. So if you don’t have much time in your hands, you might try dictating your story. It seems many established authors are beginning to dictate their stories because of the speed.
For full time authors writing time is easier to arrange, but for those of us who have a day job, using every opportunity to write even a little is important. If you are on a deadline, it is important to plan as much as you can on your calendar – how many words do you need to write per day, when should editing start, when the whole story should be ready. Well planned is half done, as the saying goes.
Is it stressful, using your short free moments to write? Well, I don’t find it to be so. After all if writing is a passion, it does not feel like a chore. (And if it does begin to feel like that – take a break. Really. Let your mind have a rest, it does need it once in while.)
So if you have a laptop or tablet, take it with you and write during your child’s hobby lessons. Or carry a notebook with you and scribble a few words down while sitting in a bus. Use a dictation app on your phone and talk while you walk (no one sees that as odd anymore – they just think you are speaking on the phone). Cut down the TV-time if you are serious about your writing. (I think TV is one the biggest time robbers there is).Embed from Getty Images
If you cannot write but have free time, then go through the plot of your book in your mind. Imagine you are explaining it to a stranger. What your characters are doing and why. What motivates them? Who is the antagonist? What motivates him/her? I just did that this morning while preparing to go to work, and telling the plot of a story in real sentences to myself suddenly solved the end result of the story I am currently writing. (No, not the Nephilim Quest sequel – I still have some planning to do on that one. This is a story I made a very crude plan of at first and am just writing a thousand words a day – keeping my writing skills alive while I prepare for the next part of Nephilim Quest.)
So, be it fifteen minutes, half an hour or a while lucxurious hour – the important thing is to keep on writing.
I decided to finally start the interview pages I had intended to do for months now. All my time went into learning how to self-publish my first book so this had to wait.
But now I had the time to finally begin. As the first person to interview I chose my editor, Miriam Bibby.
I had read about the importance of an editor all the while I concentrated on writing my book and then doing the first edit myself. So on a theoretical level I knew it would be important to have a professional editor.
Then, one day I sat there, having done the first round of edits, and knew this was the moment. Whom should I choose? Where could I find an editor who would be professional, whom I could trust? At the moment I was not a member of ALLi yet so I had no professional organisation to turn to for advice (The Alliance of Independent Authors, if you wish to know more, click on the logo on the right ride of the page).
And then I suddenly knew whom to ask for the task. Miriam Bibby! I had “met” her (via internet) during my Egyptology studies at the University of Manchester. She was a published author and had an excellent command of English. She had done editing jobs.
As I had nothing to lose, I wrote to Miriam and asked if she would be kind enough to help me. I knew she was busy with her horses and writing her own books, but I was lucky – she agreed to work on my book.
And this is when I really understood how a good editor can make a book better… No, how a good editor can make a book. Period.
I had planned my story line, generally speaking. But then new characters just jumped in without asking me, and the story began to write itself into unplanned directions. As a result the first draft was a bit of a muddle. Two wonderful people had read the first draft and encouraged me enough to believe that people would really want to read my book. But it needed developing.
And oh boy did we develop it… Miriam made me re-write, change the order of chapters, write more, introduce many of the characters much earlier in the story than I had originally done. Her comments were right on target and I knew I was working with someone whose passion was the story itself, who wanted to make it shine.
It was a lot of work, but I had decided I would do whatever necessary to make the story the best it could be. We emailed chapters to each other, commented, tweaked, deleted, rewrote… And on 31st of January this year Nephilim Quest 1: Shadowhunter was published. (By clicking on the link above you can read the first 25 chapters – what better place to check the quality of the writing and editing.)
The whole pre-publication process of a book was a completely new experience to me. But oh boy was I the luckiest wannabe author out there when I found Miriam to work with me. I understand now what an inseparable team an author and her editor are – yet many people forget the role of the editor when they read a book. No first draft is good. It can be pretty horrible, actually. Refining it into a good novel doesn’t happen automatically. It is a lot of work, sometimes quite painful work when you have to “kill” the words you were so proud of in the beginning. But making the book the best it can be doesn’t happen without an editor. I now have the greatest respect for these “invisible” professionals to whom we and our books owe so much.
Here is Miriam’s interview page for you to read. If you need an editor, I sincerely recommend her. I only ask you won’t take all her time – I need her for my future books!
So the day is the big day. My book Nephilim Quest 1: Shadowhunter is now live on all the major e-book stores. I have been working on it for about two years, and was planning basically just to check this morning that the book really was live all those stores.
I did not have the time to do so before my husband had already risen from bed and checked. He came to give me a kiss and announced: “It’s live on iBooks!”
And then I was in for a treat. People had been asking would I have some kind of publication event and I wondered whatever for. (I’m not much of a party animal) Just another day in my calendar. Lots to do.
My husband was making breakfast while I wrote a letter to my preview team, letting them know the book could now be reviewed online. And then I headed for a cup of coffee.
What awaited me was not a cup of coffee champagne breakfast. Yes. Champagne, strawberries, newly baked bread, scrambled eggs and delicious coffee. He said this day was worth it – poured champagne on the glasses, and pronounced he was so proud of me.
I have the best husband ever…
Oh my goodness – my first review…
A stunning and magical debut novel!
Length: 561 pages Publishing: 31 January 2016
Dana’s best friend Kitty has died in a car accident, and the only ray of light in the misery is when her grandmother appears in her spiffy red sports car to cheer her up. At the same time a nightmarish shadow appears to hunt Dana and she has to flee from her ordinary life with grandma, who turns out to be something quite different than what Dana had thought – a Huntress of Shadows.
The truth about her ancestry is not an easy thing for Dana to accept – she was deliberately created to perform a task, to find something that should stay hidden, or it might threaten the world of humans as Dana knows it. Her existence is tied to the myth of the Nephilim, the descendants of angels, and her…
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Ok, so some people who have read my book Shadowhunter asked how I came up with the idea of the buffer zone around our world, and interacting with the “other side” through dreams. Not to mention life continuing after death.
Well, I have often seen precognitive dreams and even received information on how to do things – information I did not have read about before.
For example if I see a dream where fish or seals are swimming in the air, I know someone is about to make their transition from this physical existence. I have seen beforehand events that happened the next day – the exact place and event, even though everything was a mirror image.
And once I had a dream where I walked in a forest and came to a little hut. I knocked on the door and an old man opened it. He welcomed me in and said he would now show me a special painting technique. He showed me a black and white painting he had made, and then how he layered thin layers of color on top of it, bringing it to life with vibrant colors. I tried to technique the next morning with a horse painting I was working on in acrylics, and to my surprise it worked perfectly. Only later did I learn the very technique is called the grisaille- technique. I had never heard of it before.
People who have died often come to my dreams, and the fun thing is that they are younger and more vibrant every time they appear. The encounters are brief, but I always feel good after such a dream.Embed from Getty Images
When I was younger I studied interpretation and translation at the university, and by accident ended up doing interpretation in a rather surprising environment – an English medium had arrived to where I live, to give a public demonstration, and the lady who was supposed to interpret for her caught the flu and had no voice. Someone knew me and asked if I could help them out. Well, I have to admit I was pretty curious about mediums, and so I agreed.
I was expecting a dim-lit room with a skull and a crystal ball and the medium wearing a turban, but instead I found myself in an ordinary lecture theater with a completely normal looking lady and ordinary people filling every seat. The medium began to talk and deliver messages from the “dead”, and I was totally surprised on how exact the messages were.
I interpreted for her and other mediums as well a few times, and they did not fish for information. Actually they told the clients were not to tell them anything, it was their job to deliver the information. I also got a message from someone I had known and the medium told the exact way this person had died. There was no way she could have known this beforehand. And all the messages from the “other side” were loving and encouraging, never dictating what the one still living here was supposed to do with their lives. The messages emphasized the fact that we are to make out own decisions in life. And that life continues after the doorway of death, and those who have already walked through it are still obseving our lives, and loving us.
So, these kind of experiences from my own life had an impact on Shadowhunter when the story began to form in my mind years back, and so this story has a buffer zone where the dearly departed can come to interact with us, and where dreams can be used for these interactions. The actual visiting this buffer zone in physical form is all imagination, though.