Stationery · Uncategorized · Writing

Plotting, pantsing – and somewhere in between

Like many writers, I like to read about the process other writers go through when they set about creating something, whether that’s a novel, short story or anything else. I think there’s always a desire to wonder if another person’s system might work that little bit better than your own and result in better work.

In particular, I’ve been quite interested in the debate between plotting – setting out a novel in its entirety before embarking on the project – and ‘pantsing’ – flying by the seat of your pants and telling the story as you go, because these are very different methods of working.

Now that I’m working on my second novel, I thought I’d share my method and the ways in which it has changed in case it’s of interest to anyone starting out.


My first effort at a novel in 2011 was completely ‘pantsed’. It was for NanoWriMo, so this was more out of necessity to beat the clock than out of a conviction that this was how I would work. Unfortunately, it was also completely pants and hasn’t seen the light of day since. I still like the idea, but the execution was so poor that reading it makes me embarrassed.

However, it was my first novel and it did get me started on the road to publication, so at least it was a beginning.


My next attempt was a YA story I’d had brewing for some time and for whatever reason, I decided to follow a method that involved carefully planning each chapter and writing a synopsis before I started.

This really appealed to me – but it didn’t work. I found that writing in this way removed all the happy surprises that usually come about as I construct scenes and make my characters interact. I also found I was unwittingly trying to rush each chapter to get on to the next point on the list. These factors killed the creativity for me and the novel stalled indefinitely.

Back to pantsing

When I first decided once and for all in 2016 that I would work on the story that became Revolution until it was finished, I was back to pantsing again. I sat down at the laptop or notepad and just kept writing. This time, I wasn’t going to abandon the project – but it did result in some quite major challenges.

The first was that the novel was shorter than I wanted it to be (around 40,000 words) and it didn’t contain any action from the baddies’ perspectives, which made it feel quite sparse and more like an outline than a proper novel.

And the other thing was that there were some pretty major plot holes. Characters in two places at once? Check! Never-ending days and then inexplicable night-times despite bright sunshine just a scene before? Yep!

This had the effect of making the editing process extremely lengthy and arduous – in fact, I was pretty much unpicking it and remaking the novel from the foundations up again. So, while pantsing did result in me finishing a novel and brought about some very fun passages and writing sprints, I didn’t especially want to do all that again.

Somewhere in between: writing perfection (for now)

So, based on all of these experiences, I have created a new system that seems to be working for me on the second novel. I discovered that I don’t like to know too far in advance what’s going to happen – but I do like to have an idea of where the next couple of chapters should be headed. I want to know the ending, but not necessarily all the steps that will get me there.

I also wanted to work directly on to the laptop because I can keep up with the speed of my thoughts, but know I’m the kind of person that needs some kind of paper system to stay on top of brainwaves, chapters and other paraphernalia.

Therefore, I bought a traveller’s notebook and created a main notebook insert, a folder for loose notes and put a jotter in the pocket at the back. I started with brain-dumping all the ideas I had for the novel in the jotter, which I find helps my mind make connections and brings the story to life.

I then started writing the first chapter in a Word doc on the laptop. When I was finished, I used a single page in the main notebook insert, headed it ‘Chapter 1’ and wrote bullet points concerning all that was going on in that chapter, including characters involved, settings, etc, on that page.

Finally, to prevent me being apprehensive about the next writing session and having to look at a blank page when I started the next chapter, I went back to the jotter, scribbled ‘next’ and then brain-dumped all my thoughts about what I wanted the characters and the plot to be doing next.

Each session, I repeat the process, meaning my notebook is getting pleasingly full of synopsis pages and my jotter has plenty of useful nuggets that I shouldn’t keep forgetting by the time the next time I sit down.

It sounds complicated explained like this, but it isn’t – and best of all, it’s working for me. I’m about 21 chapters in now and I’m getting the satisfaction of knowing enough about what’s going to happen next to keep me from worrying , but also enjoying the fun that comes from having the story lead itself.

If you’ve been struggling with finishing projects, maybe a change of methods or a little work on figuring out what might help you blast through to completion could help – just like it did me.

You can find Revolution, my first published novel, here if you’re in the UK and here if you’re in the US. Happy writing!

Uncategorized · Writing

I finally did it – my novel is published

It has been a long time since I last posted and I had been talking about how long it takes to edit a novel. It was absolutely ages. I knew I would be self-publishing and I wanted it to be the very best it could be before I even considered sending it out into the world.

Well, after several more passes and a lot of fixing broken plot points (including one scene in which a character was discovered to be in two places at once), I finally finished.

I’m pleased to be able to say that my first novel, Revolution, is now available via Amazon in both ebook and paperbook format.

You can find it here if you’re in the UK:

And here if you’re in the US:

Revolution is a crime thriller that should appeal to fans of James Patterson and if you read it, I sincerely hope you enjoy it.2


Editing novels takes aaaaages

The last time I wrote about my writing here, I was about to start reading through the first draft of my crime thriller novel with a view to completing a second draft.

Well, the good news is that I did this. I sat down with the manuscript in hand and a notebook to record notes, and I read through it all as though I was a reader coming to it for the first time. And the other good news is that I didn’t absolutely hate it.

This was a real revelation for me. Obviously, it was a first draft and there were the associated problems you’d expect – gaping plot holes, clunky sentences, characters butting into conversations with comments apparently unrelated to what the others were talking about – but I found I actually still liked the story. I still thought there was something in there worth putting out for other people to have a look at (maybe even enjoy!).

So, next I started a new document on the computer and began cutting and pasting each individual chapter so I could rewrite it, bit by bit. And that’s where I discovered: this takes ages. Forever. A ridiculously long time. It came as something of a setback, because (having never got this far before), I’m used to working quite quickly. Once I’ve stopped procrastinating and applied my derriere to a chair, I can actually write pretty fast and sometimes even be pleased with what I’ve done, especially when it amounts to a good few sides of A4 from a single session. But this? It was slow, it was frustrating and it left me fearing this book will never see the light of day!

However, not to be defeated, I looked around online and found that some of the biggest authors were saying it can take more than twice as long to rewrite and edit each section as it did to write it. It’s supposed to be more laborious because you’re fixing that initial flurry of creativity and trying to shape it into something better.

So, I’m going to plough on. I’ve redrafted a few more chapters and hopefully improved them. I’m still aiming for self-publication by around November. But with this new advice in mind, perhaps I’d better try and tackle a few more sections per week if I want to meet my goal!

Cardmaking · Stamping

A quick card (in theory)

I’m back with another card today, although it was actually made as part of March’s create-fest for my Nana to give to one of her friends.

In theory, this was a quick and easy card made with stamps and patterned paper – although I am a Grade-A faffer, so it took me much longer than I expected. Does anyone else do this? I go off to my desk with a simple idea in mind, then take an age to choose a stamp, then want a particular colour of paper and can’t find another piece to match it, and so on until before I know it, I have been gone a very long time.

Anyway, it did come together eventually:


Card pic 2

I stamped the butterfly in black Memento and coloured it using a waterbrush and Distress Inks. I then used Nestabilities and my Cuttlebug to cut two circles from green and black card and mounted the butterfly on top using 3D foam.

Next, I covered a scalloped-edged card blank in pink checked paper and stuck a strip from a sheet in complementary colours over the top. Finally, I used a pre-printed sentiment, affixed the butterfly topper front and centre and added some crystal Stickles to the wings to finish.

There was an added bonus with this one, as while choosing the butterfly, I discovered a sentiment stamp stuck to the back of the packaging which I had thought was lost long ago. Hooray!

I’ll be back soon with more creative projects that may or may not have taken me hours to do.


Editing a first draft – time to see if the novel makes any sense…

It’s my ambition to get a novel published at some point in the not-too-distant future, and I have been working (very slowly) towards this for a while now. Books have been started and abandoned, ideas have been jotted down and ditched … I just haven’t been very good at finishing anything. However, a little while ago I got fed up with this and realised that in order to ever have anything published, I’m going to have to finish it and actually send it out into the world. Ideas are no good if they stay in my head, no matter how much like bestseller material they might seem.

On January 1st 2016 (while my daughter was having the longest daytime nap in the world), I started writing a thriller-type story and I made up my mind that this would be the one that I will see through to the end. At first, I decided I’d self-publish it by Christmas 2016, but I think that was a bit of a far-fetched idea and when I wasn’t ready by about November, I reasoned that there was no point in rushing it and publishing a story full of stupid mistakes. So, I slowed down a bit and although I finally finished the novel in autumn last year, I went back and started thinking about the self-editing process … and that’s where I  stalled a bit.

I think I was so sick of the whole book that the thought of having to read it again all the way through and realise what a giant pile of rubbish it was put me right off. I haven’t done anything with it since.

However, in the interest of sticking to my plan and seeing it through, I have now galvanised myself into action and am ready to start editing  – and then tackling a second draft. I have read countless articles on self-editing and second drafts online and I have looked at and then talked myself out of buying how-to books off the internet (“Just do it and stop reading about it” was the theme of the talking-to on this occasion).

I know it will probably be bad, but I’m hoping there are nuggets of occasional goodness in there that will keep me going. I hope the plot makes some sort of sense and doesn’t read completely differently to how it went in my head. I hope the dialogue isn’t clunky and the characters completely unlikeable. I hope to have something done with this book by the end of this year.

Wish me luck, and I’ll let you know how I’m getting on…

Cardmaking · Stamping · Uncategorized

Making cards in March

It has been a busy month for cardmaking so far – not only have I been making cards to give myself, but I’ve also been making them for family members to give to other people. I’ve had to make a special schedule in my Dokibook and Filofax to keep track of them all!

The first was for my Nana, whose birthday is today. I used the Summer Blooms stamp set from WPlus9, which I absolutely love because it’s so versatile and always produces really great cards. I stamped the images on white card, then inked around the edges with Distress Ink in Spiced Marmalade. I then rubbed on some Distress Stickles in Wild Honey for extra definition around the picture. Finally, I mounted the whole thing onto a yellow card blank and added some white Liquid Pearls at random to finish.

Summer Blooms card

The second card was for me to give to my cousin Nicola, whose birthday was also today! I stamped out the letters using an Artemio alphabet set in yellow dye ink from My Favorite Things, then cut them out and mounted the white rectangle onto yellow card. I then stamped the Penny Black Duckling in black Memento and coloured it in with alcohol markers before fussy cutting around the edges. Next, I cut a panel of green patterned paper from an old K&Co stack and stuck it down the left-hand edge of a scalloped-edged card blank. I stamped the Happy Birthday sentiment in the right-hand corner, adhered the ‘cousin’ panel centrally and stuck the duck on using foam pads. Finally, I added accents using Liquid Pearls.


The next card was for my mum to give to my Nana and used the lovely Altenew Vintage Roses stamp set. I stamped six roses in varying shades of red and pink, followed by some leaves in green, then cut them all out. I created an embossed panel in white pearlescent card using a Cuttlebug Divine Swirls folder and adhered it to the front of the card, then arranged the roses and leaves over the top. I added a die-cut sentiment slightly to the right and stamped ‘mum’ underneath using Altenew’s Calligraphy Alpha set. Finally, I inked around the edges of the card in pink for definition and added rows of Liquid Pearls (can you tell I’m obsessed with those at the moment?!) as accents.

Vintage Roses card

Finally, I made a card for my mum to give to my cousin, going for a simple yet blingy design. I cut out a panel of pink pearlescent card and adhered it to the bottom of a scalloped-edged card blank, then adhered a piece of Die Cuts with a View black and white patterned paper over the top so just the edges showed. I then stuck a strip of fuchsia washi tape across the middle and put a die-cut sentiment over the top. Next, I stamped the cat, which is an old Papermania image, and coloured it using grey Promarkers, I adhered it to the card using foam pads for dimension. Finally, I stamped ‘niece’ in pink using Altenew’s Calligraphy Alpha set and added a row of yet more Liquid Pearls to finish.


Phew, that’s all for now! However, I do have quite a few more to make for the month, so I will very likely be back with more pictures soon.

Planners · Uncategorized

5 ways a paper planner could help you get a better night’s sleep


We’re all pretty obsessed with sleep. How much we’re getting, how much other people are getting, how little we can manage on.

However, that’s quite understandable when you think of the impact a lack of sleep has on us. For those who really struggle to drop off, or who wake up at 4am and then can’t nod off again for hours, it’s really no laughing matter. Not only can it leave us irritable and not really ourselves, but it might even be dangerous if we’re affected to the extent that our reaction times are reduced when we have to drive or operate heavy machinery.

The interior design brand Hillarys recently published a graphic showing where in the world is struggling with sleeplessness the most, based on the number of tweets about the subject. The worst-affected nations at the time of writing were the US, Brazil, Argentina and the UK – and the map only includes data from the people who were talking about their insomnia, never mind those who were suffering in silence. There are likely to be millions of people lying awake on any given night, wishing they could do something to get them off to sleep.

One of the most-cited reasons for sleeplessness is worrying about the never-ending list of tasks you’ve got to do. In our always-connected world, it can feel as though we’re always under pressure to be doing something, and that’s not conducive to restful nights.

If you’ve got insomnia, then the chances are you’ve tried all sorts to help you rejoin the land of nod. But what if getting on board with a recent, really simple trend could help: creative planning?

This is currently huge news in the world of crafts, with personal and A5-sized organisers flying off the shelves and brands like Filofax enjoying a resurgence. But there is evidence to suggest that planning, bullet journalling, or whatever you want to call it might do more than scratch an itch for creativity. It could help you get a better night’s sleep.

Here’s how:

1. Writing things down can help you remember them

If you keep a planner by your side and write down your to-dos or reminders in a list, you may be more likely to remember them. A 2014 study at UCLA, published in the journal Association of Psychological Science, found that students who take physical notes are more likely to remember information than those who transcribe them into a laptop. That might mean that your planner notes are more likely to remain fresh in your mind than a quick reminder tapped into your phone – and that means there’s less chance of you sitting bolt upright in bed at 3am because you’ve realised you’ve forgotten something vital that you should have done for the next day.

2. Noting things gives your brain room to breathe

A popular technique in modern planners is the brain dump, taken from an idea conceived by Getting Things Done guru David Allen. It involves jotting down every task and project you need to address, whether that’s buying bread on the way home or pitches for a client at work. The idea is that our brains can only deal with so many things to remember at once, so clearing them out and putting them on paper allows our minds to relax – and perhaps even sleep at night. Seeing what you actually have to do can also help you to put your to-do list into perspective and see that you are getting through it – it isn’t really a mile long.

3. Being creative distracts busy minds

We’ve all seen the phenomena that are adult colouring books and knitting, but they’re both popular because they encourage relaxation, mindfulness and winding down at the end of a busy day. If you like to be creative in your planner, as many people are right now with stickers and decorative layouts, it’ll work in the same way: you’re keeping your mind busy and distracted with something calm, rather than letting it roam off in a million directions as you try to concentrate on TV. This can help you think more clearly and reduce stress hormones that keep you awake.

4. Journalling can reduce stress

You don’t have to journal in a planner, but if you do, it could help to make you happier and reduce your worry levels. Many people are now adding a single line each day to their planners about what they’re grateful for, something that can easily be done before you go to bed and could put you in a more positive, less anxious frame of mind. Studies have shown that keeping a journal can help with processing worries and putting them into perspective, as well as with improving sleep time and quality, so it’s perhaps worth a try in this context to see if it can have a positive impact.
5. Planning reduces screen time

Research has found that the blue light emitting from tablet, phone and laptop screens can have a detrimental effect on our sleep because it stops us producing sleep hormones that help us nod off. If you commit to putting your devices down earlier each night and instead plough that time into organising your planner and tasks for the next day, you should soon start to see the benefits; even if your phone isn’t stressing you out, you can’t argue with the biology behind this theory.

Planning on paper might at first seem like a chore and a step backwards, given the technology available to us today. But if it helps you get a better night’s sleep, you might find yourself converted in no time – and finally checking ‘get more sleep’ off your to-do list.