Do you ever get stuck?

It was a refreshing experience today to take part in a speed networking event for school pupils aged 14-15 years. The event was organised by the Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Education Business Partnership.There were twelve young boys present (and one teacher) from City Boys School in Portsmouth.  They were bright, polite, enthusiastic and asked intelligent questions about my novels and how I write. 

The questions they asked me included: where do you get your ideas from?  How do you plan your novels? Do you ever get stuck?

And here is an abbreviated version of the answers I gave:

Where do you get your ideas from?

Anywhere and everywhere. Locations, overheard conversations, newspaper and magazine articles, the tales people tell me. Ideas can come from anywhere and are never a problem, the hard part is turning them into plots that will last for 80,000 to 100,000 words.

How do you plan your novels?

I write my plot lines in pencil on recycled A4 paper, held together with treasury tags. The research I do is added to this.  I also work out my character outlines in pencil usuing spidergrams.  I manage to draft the plot lines usually to about chapter six or seven and then get stuck, so I leave it there and begin to write the novel directly on to a computer.  As the characters develop they begin to come alive and their actions and motivations often then drive the plot.  Then it's back to the plot outline to flesh it out further and do more research while continuing with the creative writing almost at the same time.

Do you ever get stuck?

Yes.  When I do I return to my plot lines and characters and ask myself some questions, for example, what if X does this instead of that where would that take the story? Or what would X really do in this situation?  Do I need to do some more research to help me develop the story?  Should another character be involved in this story? I just think over various options and go down various avenues until I come up with one that works.

I'm hoping to post some photographs from the event when they are sent over to me, next week.

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