Outline -> Scenes

I’d finally figured out a long summary / synopsis of my story.  I felt like I had it all figured out.  I started to write, then I got stuck.

It turned out that my outline explained what was happening well, but I had not worked out how to tell that story solely through dramatic scenes.  There were some scene ideas that had sprung into my head fully-formed, and that was great, but often the outline gave more general explanations of why things were happening, or statements like “G & B meet and are attracted.  It is very romantic.”

These statements are functional in an outline, but then I sit down to write and think – what on earth are they going to do?  I don’t know.  All I know is that I don’t want it to be this:


My latest task has been to convert the first half of my outline for book 1 into specific scenes, each allocated to a POV character, and so I have been giving some thought to this process.

What does a scene involve?

The difference between a clear scene and mere outlining of your plot is that a scene involves specific things visualised in a specific place, so that you could theoretically pick up a camera and film a scene, and you’d know where and what you were filming.

It is the how, what, where, and why of a moment unfolding in time.  It is the difference between ‘A & B meet’ (outline),  ‘A and B meet at an art gallery’ (the hint of a scene but still pretty much just outline), and ‘A is displaying her art at an avant-garde gallery opening in her last chance to get a break before she’s broke.  She finally get a patron,  and also meets B, who is posing as a work of ‘street art’ to get free canapés’ (scene).

Scenes have to accomplish more than be specific:

  • to be justified, they have to also involve a change that impacts the plot (if you write genre fiction, you will be advised to cut any scene which does not have this quality);
  • to be dramatic, they have to have stakes for the main character and involve a change that advantages or disadvantages the character;
  • they immerse you in the experience of being there by involving most of the five senses of the POV character and being limited to that character’s viewpoint and knowledge;
  • a mood / tone for the reader (eg. funny, scary, romantic, melancholy, exciting, eerie etc.);
  • they have a setting (time and place, sense of space, lighting, temperature, cultural context, significance to POV character); and
  • your characters arrive at the scene in a particular mood, in a particular state of physical health, wearing particular clothes, and with particular objectives (for their day/life, not because they realise they are in a scene, obviously).

Devising scenes to work together

It gets more complicated.  When you end up telling these scenes in order together, you want them to vary dramatically, visually, emotionally etc.  If you have some breathless action scenes, you’ll want to intersperse them with some scenes for everyone to catch their breath.  Your characters should have reversals of fortune – mix up the scenes where things go well and things go badly.  If you have multiple POV characters you want to make sure all of them stay in the story, that the timelines for their scenes make sense and fit together – that is to say, you’ll want to think about continuity.

You’ll probably want to include some early scenes that foreshadow later scenes so that your story builds in a purposeful way.  Hopefully your outline gave some thought to the general structure, but likely there’ll be some gaps, particularly in terms of what specifically happens to advance the subplots.

My process

I first sketched my scenes on Scrivener (which has recently been upgraded and now allows you to arrange your virtual index cards along different plot lines – I have done 3, one for each of my POV characters):

Scrivener layout.jpeg

Each of these ‘cards’ has a more detailed scene or notes attached to it.  I had a number of false starts where I developed some subplots that turned out to be overly complicated to illustrate some minor points.  I have a ‘plot heavy’ story where I’m trying to advance the stories of three main characters, so I needed to make sure that most of my scenes did double or triple duty.  I had to abandon some scene ideas which merely advanced a single aspect of the story.

I chucked down ideas I had for scenes which sounded interesting.  Then to devise the remaining scenes, I jotted down what situation the characters were at the start of this section of the story, and then what situation they were in at the end.  This gave me a bit of a road map of what I was aiming for.  I made notes of anything they had to accomplish in the middle, then I came up with ideas for specifically how they could accomplish those things that seemed en route from their starting situation to their end.  It took some trial and error.

Then I refined what I had on Scrivener by transferring summaries of each scene to physical index cards, fixing details as I went.  I laid these out in order (the colours indicate the POV character, and the shorter first column is a brief opening when the characters are younger):25443023_10157060748553569_328478798931880242_n-1.jpg

Next I blu-tacked these to the wall behind my computer, arranged chronologically and by character:25550480_10157063481503569_2559499043439235188_n-1.jpg

I then added smaller cards to note where the subplots appeared.  I colour coded these using washi tape (which is basically thin, decorative masking tape you can get in a variety of colours and patterns).  The cards with the yellow bands running along the top is a sort of uniting subplot around the family’s political situation.  Here is a close-up:


The events on the cards take place over a couple of years.  This meant I would be going through changing scenes, and the characters would be ageing noticeably (being children), so I devised an impromptu calendar (numbered for the years of the current King’s reign) and made a little chart showing Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and how old each of my main characters are as the years turn:


This then allowed me to quickly add notes tracking the season and how old the characters were in various scenes:



The idea of laying it out like this is to help me easily see how the scenes fit together.  I can   consider each subplot separately and check it has a logical progression.  I can check continuity issues when I’m switching POVs and moving forward through time.  A novel is such a big project it can be easy to get lost in it, whereas here I can easily see where everything fits.  If I don’t get all these scenes written over the next couple of weeks, it gives me a clear map that can keep me on track even around all the other distractions of life.

Visualising my WIP

I keep thinking my WIP is so much further along than it actually is.  I keep writing words, but it’s like they pour into some black hole of completed novel underestimation.

For a more realistic view of where I’m at, I colour coded the chapters on Scrivener into three categories: first draft written (dark pink), first draft partially written (light pink), and first draft in synopsis (white), and it came up like this:

TLT ProgressI had actually written Part 1 in its entirety, but once I got to the back end and also started getting some feedback, I realised certain things had to change, so I’ve removed the words that will no longer work (they’re safely tucked away), and interspersed what’s left with notes about what will need to be written as a replacement.  The complete Part 1 I think should be a little under 30k.

Part 2 is pretty close to finished.  It just needs some minor tweaks.  Part 3 should be roughly as long as Part 2, so that’s only about half done.  Part 4 has a lot of short chapters, because they start getting shorter as we get to the finale, so I’m going to guess I’m aiming for 30k there too.

This started off as such a simple story, a fairytale for my daughter about three sisters working together to survive a deadly Labyrinth.  But turns out I am incapable of not complicating things.  Now it’s a crazy, 500 page, action-packed, YA mystery puzzle adventure about the politics of fear.  It’s still for my daughter, just for when she’s a bit older.

In other efforts at keeping the story straight, I have done this to my study wall:

TLT wall


That’s all the key points in my story laid out chronologically, with the stories of the 3 protagonists and the subplots running horizontally through.

Here’s a closer shot of the first bit.  I’ve stuck in images where I’ve been able to find any that help me visualise the characters / settings / moods:

TLT Wall 1


What about you?

Do you do anything to help you visualise or track your writing?



Writing About Magic: Book Review

shutterstock_180802175I’m working my way through a collection of books about writing and sharing the results here. Today’s offering: Writing About Magic by Rayne Hall.

In summary

This is a concise introduction to writing magic in fiction. With a focus on examples from actual real-world cultures, it is pitched more at those writing paranormal fiction rather than secondary-world fantasy. Hall’s ideal audience is probably someone who enjoys paranormal fiction and wants to try their hand at writing their own story, but is not sure how the magic should work or how to weave it into the story.

Pick up this book if you’re after a smorgasboard of ideas with a focus on traditional presentations of magic and magic-users. Even if you’re looking to develop something more original, there is no harm in getting the lie of the land, and no reason you couldn’t take these ideas and give them your own twist.  At $3 for the Kindle edition, it’s not going to break the bank.

That said, before you go ahead and purchase this book, there are a few little issues I might mention…

Who gets to be a magician?

merlinChapter 1 is about creating a magic-user’s personality. Ms Hall points out that magician characters typically have one or more of the following attributes: intelligence, good memory, creative, self-disciplined and focused, patient, highly trained, specialist, musical, spiritual, studious, well-organised and methodical, introverted, ethical, sharp senses, descended from magicians, psychic, magical day job, and a pet.

As a laundry list of stereotypical magician-y traits, this is pretty spot on, although I query the advice that sticking to this list will improve your story. Won’t it, by definition, give you a stereotypical magician? Might it not be more interesting to mix things up?

Take the British TV series Misfits. The premise of the show is that magical superpowers are bestowed on a bunch of teen offenders with almost the exact opposite of every quality listed by Hall. Thanks to a sharp script and excellent performances, Misfits shines as an example of the value of looking past the stereotypes and treading new ground.


That said, Hall herself poses an astute question about whether the attributes of a magician are similar to the attributes of a writer, and to think about why this might be. (I have an answer, though I’m not sure if it’s the one Hall has in mind.)

Magic Systems

Onto Chapter 2. If you write fantasy, it is worth knowing that some readers are looking for an interesting, intricate, and original magic system as a primary feature of a story. Popular author Brandon Sanderson has built a career on showcasing his abilities on this front (and talks about his approach in these essays).

Ms Hall delves straight into some typical terminology and features of magic systems in Western cultures. I’m not sure if she intends it, but this chapter could be equally entitled: did you know that fantasy was traditionally written by privileged white men?

Topic 1: High magic and low magic. High magic apparently brings status and is typically practiced by upper class white men, while low magic practitioners are ‘female, networked with other women, with little education and little time for study, poor and good at making do’. Hall isn’t going to touch that any further except to point it out. Instead she moves straight on to Topic 2: black magic and white magic, a topic obviously not at all loaded with an uncomfortable history of race and Imperialism.

Definitely not going there.

In three paragraphs she sidesteps this giant elephant with: ‘Most real magicians find [the notion of black and white magic] laughable’ (ahahaha <- nervous laughter) and suggests that calling oneself a ‘white magician’ is just done occasionally by cleverly deceptive magicians because it is a ‘good look on business cards’.

I’m not sure what she makes of fantasy’s iconic White magician, Gandalf the White, who inexplicably appears with all New and Improved Whiteness, presumably after Gandalf the Grey popped himself through the spin cycle with some enzyme-powered Omo. Pretty sure Gandalf’s Whiteness was meant to be a straight-up statement of virtue and wisdom. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe Gandalf was just supposed to be selling snake oil. Maybe after the War of the Ring, Gandalf opened a used horse and cart dealership, and for all that he talked up Shadowfax, the rubbish horse went lame a few days after a gullible customer rode it out of the stables.

Now Brighter, Whiter, and Definitely Not Imbued With Awkward Racial Connotations
Now Brighter, Whiter, and Definitely Not Lugging Around Awkward Racial Connotations

(Sidebar: I love Lord of the Rings. It is a cherished piece of my childhood and a masterpiece, but I’m not going to try and pretend it’s perfect. Saruman might have been doing the White Wizard business card thing, but Gandalf was meant to be the real deal.  And I know, the whole white/black thing can mean night/day quite apart from the racial connotations.  Nevertheless, it is an inescapable feature of the novel that not only are the Good Guys are White and come from the West, and the Bad Guys are Dark and come from the East, and appear with Orientalist trappings.)

Having very carefully not discussed white and black magic, we zip through ceremonial magic, natural magic, religious magic, alchemy, traditional witchcraft, wiccan witchcraft, necromancy, shamanism, ancient Egyptian magic, folk magic, and voodoo. The detail of each is brief, and unhelpfully defined in terms of the aforementioned traditional cultural lens, but is still a great starting point for getting you thinking about different possibilities for magical systems.

Next up: mix and match to create your own magic system. Ms Hall turns to an interesting discussion of terminology. For example, she suggests that ‘warlock’ literally means ‘oath-breaker’ or ‘traitor’, which is an interesting tidbit I hadn’t heard before. More dubiously, she proposes:

‘Witch’ is not a female wizard, and ‘wizard’ is not a male witch. Witches and wizards are practitioners of two very different magic systems.

I can only deduce that Ms Hall’s childhood predated Harry Potter.

That’s pretty much all this book has on creating magic systems, which was disappointing. I would have expected that Designing an Original Magic System 101 would be a core topic to cover in a book on writing about magic. I expected some discussion of basic ideas such as: Don’t make magic a free ride – ensure that there are limitations and costs to using it.


A so-called ‘witch’ unacceptably failing to understand that formal education is just for boys.

Chapter 3 looks at how your magician acquires their skills or what I might describe as magical pedagogy. (Sidebar: Now I really want to write a short piece called Magical Pedagogy). Harry Potter crops up here but I’m still not convinced she’s read it. Either that or she spent the whole reading experience mumbling: This is outrageous! Witches and wizards are completely different things! Women only get to be underappreciated backyard earth mothers. Who does this Rowling woman think she is?

The take away point from this chapter is that Ms Hall is really fixated on traditional gender roles doesn’t like characters stumbling into their powers without training.

I know what she’s getting at. Training = effort. The risk of a character obtaining powers without training risks a plot where your characters simply wave a magic wand to make their problems vanish. They don’t earn their dramatic victories. However, sudden power acquisition can work just fine when this does not solve the story’s dramatic problems.

For example, in Carrie by Stephen King, the titular Carrie is untrained in her telekinesis, but she doesn’t need training in order to go ahead and wreak havoc. In the stage musical Wicked!, Elphaba acquires a grimoire which she can instantly and instinctively use, but this makes her situation worse because it makes her a valuable commodity to people who want to control her power for their own ends.

Executing Magic

Chapter 4 deals with specific ideas for executing magic, and this is where we glimpse some of the considerations that you might want to build into an original magic system. She looks at potential sources of magical energy, and some rituals, although it would have been good to see some strong original examples of executing magic from contemporary fantasy fiction.

For example, in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, magic is executed by characters consuming and then ‘burning’ controlled quantities of particular metals, which allow interactions solely with metallic objects. Burning one metal allows metal to be pulled towards the user, another allows it to be pushed away, which plays out in the story in some fascinatingly acrobatic fight scenes. There are inbuilt limitations because the needed metals are in limited supply, and most characters only have the capacity to use certain metals.

Fan art of Mistborn by the talented Shilesque
Some awesome Mistborn fan art by the talented Shilesque (http://shilesque.deviantart.com/art/Mistborn-Vin-and-Kelsier-531814692)

Another example is the Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, which has two similar magic systems premised on using runes to manipulate the ‘wave of possibilities’ and select an outcome to occur. One system developed by an aggressive warlike culture requires the users to focus their magic through the use runic tattoos on their bodies and small drawn symbols, the other system developed by an artistic culture dance and sing the runes. What works so well in these books is that the magic helps develop and highlight the culture clash which is central to the premise of the novels.

How to look fabulous

Skipping over chapter 5, because this is really just more on executing magic, we come to Chapter 6: Costuming and Equipment.

Here we learn about robes and…

That’s it. Just robes. Ok, robes and nudity. This is not the Vogue of magical fashion. A few accessory suggestions are offered, but they are of the typical wand and crystal variety.

shrek cartoon closets
Vogue Fantasyland.  Would this have been so hard?

Wording spells

Some new stuff in this chapter, because we get into the language of spellcraft, although not very deeply. She notes the use of alliteration, repetition, assonance, consonance, and meter, and gives some examples, my favourite of which is: Cower, computer! By my command, you shall crash no more!

I could have done with that one the other week.

The rest of it

There are a few more chapters: correspondences, love spells, sex magic (a topic with food for thought like: ‘solo sex magic with masturbation would be more practical, but it has less plot potential’), magical weapons and warfare, healing and protection, illusionists and charlatans, magic in the future, and my favourite, magical ethics.

There is great plot fodder in the magical ethics chapter, from the discussion of the scope of an ethic not to harm anyone with magic, to examples of villainous ethics such as ‘never torture someone on a Sunday.’ How can you put a character’s magical ethical principles to the test? What if they make human mistakes? How does magic change the balance of power in the society? Are magicians known or secret and why?

At the end of the book, there are a couple of examples of Ms Hall’s own fiction. The short story was fun once I got past the criminal amounts of exposition crowded into the dialogue. (Ms Hall has either not encountered Hemingway’s ‘Iceberg Theory’, or cannot resist showcasing the magical system she has developed for the story, even where those details are superfluous.) The excerpt from her novel, Stormdancer, is a much better example of how to draw on your developed magic system in order to incorporate telling details into a scene.

What do you think?  Do you have any favourite advice on writing about magic, or favourite examples of stories that do it well?

Image of magical book from Shutterstock / Evgeny Atamanenko.

Tash McAdam on Killer Verbs, Buffy, and RPGs as Literary Bootcamp

I love a good action thriller, by which I mean the kind of book you hold white-knuckled, promising yourself at 2am that you’re really, seriously going to put it down after this chapter, just as soon as the character’s out of mortal peril, only to find at 4am that you’re 80% of the way through so you might as well finish it, and then at 6am emerge from the final chapter in an oh-look-its-morning-how-did-that-happen daze. I know it’s a good book when my book hangover feels like a real actual hangover.

Crafting action which keeps tired eyelids prised open is a skill. But what exactly makes it work? And how do you learn how to do it?

Author Tash McAdam

Luckily, I had the opportunity to chat to author Tash McAdam. I persuaded Tash to share some tips and tricks for crafting the action in your story.

Alex: Hi Tash, thanks for submitting to being grilled here on my blog. So, let’s get onto the questions. Your stories are non-stop action thrillers. What do you aim to deliver to the reader with this sort of story?

Tash: As a reader, I’ve never had much patience for slow pacing. I hate getting bogged down by huge reams of description and world building. I like a quick start to the book—one that plunges me head first into events—so I’ve always been a huge fan of working the world building into the action bit by bit. That is what I aim for in my own books—fast pacing and edge-of-your-seat tension with things revealed as and when you need to know them. Lots of action within the world and character building done inside the action itself. Although my editor will tell you I often fall into the trap of ignoring world or character description in favour of flat-out action, and that’s something we work on together.

Alex: People sometimes think of action and drama as separate types of writing, and I think this might be because sometimes we see movies with random action sequences inserted between the dramatic plot points. But what a thriller is supposed to do, and what your story Blood in the Water does well, is convey the drama through the action. Can you talk about how you devise a story that does this? What films/books/authors do you look to as examples of telling a story through action?

Tash: In films, you can’t hear people’s thoughts—no internal monolog, except for specific examples. So there’s no simple way to expose those behind-the-scene processes. Screenwriters are dependent on physical action.

Slam by Tash McAdamOne of the best things about writing novels is that all the action comes through the lens of your protagonist, especially in first person, so we get that internal monolog, and interpretation of events. The reader gets a constant stream of great insights into what is happening. So while you have the action going on, you also get to hear the character’s thoughts, which bring out the emotion and drama. It’s something that movie-goers miss out on.

Personally, I tend to draft out my story without much character voice and then go back and really put myself into the shoes of the main character. I like to have them question events and try to figure out what’s happening. And then my editor tells me: ‘More emotion! What is he thinking? Why did she do this?’ and I add those things in as well. I think the way I write allows me to smatter the character voice into the events as they progress, rather than sort of taking a ‘break’ from the action for a huge character thought-reveal every few pages.

As for films and books that tell stories through action? I’m a huge fan of Brent Weeks (http://www.brentweeks.com), who definitely goes for character-driven action, always telling you just enough to make sense of things without dragging you out of the moment. You should definitely check his work out if you like fantasy.

I’m not a huge movie person, but I can think of lots of TV shows that walk the line very well, but I watch too much TV, so I’m moving on now in case this turns into a list of my favourite shows!

Alex: How do you go about working out the logistics of a fight scene? For example, do you do research? Do you have training? Do you map it out or act it out or does it just unfold naturally?

Tash: Fight scenes are tricky! I have a lot of training, which helps. I started doing karate when I was a little kid, and I have a couple of black belts to my name in that. I’m also an adequate boxer, archer, and sword fighter, and have dabbled with a variety of other hand-to-hand disciplines. My accident-prone nature is also an asset when it comes to writing injuries from combat.

On top of that, I’m lucky enough to have a girlfriend who doesn’t mind getting up and acting out scenes with me when I get stuck, which is very useful! I do sometimes wonder what our neighbours think, though. ‘Here, now, take this and hit me in the throat, and then I’m going to body slam you into the bed. Alright, how did that feel?’

Some scenes are more difficult than others, and I had to get more into physics than I thought I would for writing telekinetic fight scenes, because keeping everything consistent is really important to me. I have nerdy friends who I have check particular things, and my sister is a doctor, which is pretty much the most useful thing possible.

Artistic grunge effect portrait  of a Young female hero fighting and holding a gun and wearing camouflage clothes
Hallie from Warp Weavers by Tash McAdam

Alex: The story is narrated by Hallie, who is not herself a fighter. Why did you choose her as the POV character for the action, as opposed to one of the more experienced fighters or multiple POVs? What challenges did this present?

Tash: There are millions of books with main characters who are fighters or wizards, and weavers are the stand-out skill set in this series, which makes it a bit different. I also have a tendency to get far too detailed in fight scenes, and I think if I wrote from a warrior’s perspective I would get bogged down in logistics. Readers are more likely to understand the roles of a warrior and a warlock, as they are essentially familiar. I want to tread some new ground.

Blood in the Water is a prequel to my series, Warp Weavers, and the main character of the series is a weaver, not a warrior. Weavers are also the most magically complex within the mythology I’ve created, so having characters narrate the story from that background makes it more accessible, I think. Warp Weavers is a really layered universe, with a lot more going on than initially meets the eye, and later in the series it pays off to have a weaver in the driver’s seat.

Alex: One thing I love about your story is how your characters react like real, contemporary people to all the bizarre stuff going on around them, and have an awareness of pop culture. Your character’s on the way to likely death and says, “Sorry, I react to abject terror with inappropriate nudity and jokes. It’s something I’m working on with my therapist.” It reminds me of a lot of Joss Whedon’s stuff. Firstly, are you a Buffy fan? And secondly, how do you coordinate Hallie’s smart-arse dialogue with the action so it doesn’t undermine the urgency/seriousness of the situation?

Tash: Huge, huge Buffy fan. Anything by Joss Whedon, really. Buffy was a major influence on this series, as, although I—love—the show, I often got irritated with the logistical fallacies. What if there was an apocalypse in Japan? How would she get there? To me it’s unrealistic that one girl could ever be in the right place at the right time, every time. Warp Weavers actually sprang to life, fully formed almost, from a single thought about Buffy. ‘What if the Watcher’s Council actually trained wiccas to work with the Slayer, and gave them a team instead of isolating them?’ I started thinking of a place that would train them, teach them to work together and give them the tools they need instead of hoping they figure it out as they go. And thus, the Protectorate, where the teens train, was born.BloodintheWater

Beyond that, I love quick dialogue and banter, and Hallie is the first character I’ve written that I’ve really tried that with, so I’m glad it worked for you! My editor is a huge help in cutting out parts that destroy the tension, and suggesting tweaks of emotion to really add impact to the snark.

Alex: You write with a lot of strong verbs. For example, even before the fighting starts you don’t just write that your characters got into a car, you write: The other van door shuts, the engine revs, and I’m shoved into the person next to me with the force of acceleration as we peel out of the garage. Is this something you have learned to do, or something you focus on in the editorial process?

Tash: Ooh, I am so flattered! I think that if the writer is putting in the mundane and obvious, they should do it in a way that keeps the pace up and doesn’t trip readers back into reality. Looking at that sentence you’ve quoted, now I wish it says ‘The other van door slams’ instead of ‘shuts.’ To answer your question, this is both something I do naturally and something I’m learning to do better. I’m an English teacher, and a lot of my students have questions about verbs and adverbs in their creative efforts. There’s been a lot of backlash against adverbs in fiction, and how it weakens writing, etc., but I have mixed feelings. I always tell the students the same thing: If you can replace a verb + adverb with a stronger verb, do it. If you can’t, don’t. But if the adverb doesn’t really change the sentence, leave it out. ‘Says loudly’ becomes ‘shouts’ or ‘yells,’ and ‘walks quietly’ becomes ‘sneaks’ or ‘creeps’.

When I’ve finished drafting, I go back through my work and try to raise the bar for the verbs I use, because that adds tension and variety to the writing, but I lean toward the hyperbolic and dramatic in everyday life, so I definitely land on strong verbs just by my nature.

Alex: Can you talk to us about some of the other choices you make to help bring the reader into the experience of the action? (eg. in terms of word choice, sentence rhythm, tense, use of particular sentences, close POV etc)

When I was a teenager, I was part of an online RPG called Steelsings (Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series, if anyone cares), and we wrote in third-person present. As a promising young writer, I was trained up by scary mentors with high standards, so that’s what I default to. If you go back to my earliest fiction efforts as a child, I wrote in third-person past, because that was ‘normal.’ But from the age of fifteen on, everything is in third-person present. After SLAM was criticized for my tense choices, I changed the entire first novel of Warp Weavers to first-person present, because we decided that it would be easier on the readers. Present tense is definitely enjoying a spate of popularity, too, but they are all in first person. There are a few successful books in third-person present and maybe one day I’ll be able to go back to it, but as a newbie author I don’t want to put people off.

I think my love of the English language helps me out with word choice, as I don’t like repeating words at all, and have the vocabulary to back that up, most of the time. (Although I do find myself particularly enjoying a word and using it over and over again. Like ‘edifice’ was my favourite in SLAM. I had to ctrl+f for that at the end of every chapter!)

For format, my editor calls me out if I repeat the same sentence rhythm, so that’s more her than me. But when it comes to particular sentences, we do disagree a little. I have a tendency to go into a sort of stream-of-consciousness state when my characters are under high pressure, and she always points it out. We’ve butted heads over some of my favourite sentences in the books, but I respect her opinion a lot and we tend to compromise pretty easily. Interestingly enough, a sentence she wasn’t convinced about that I fought for has been pointed out as a favourite by four separate readers, and as a problem by three, so I guess it’s a case of to each their own. If I ever get famous I will be very interested to see what quotes people pick out of my books, for sure!

Alex: I think you might find out soon enough! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I really appreciate it.

Tash: You’ve asked some great questions, some of which made me think about my own writing in a way I never have before.

Alex: Excellent. Good luck with the writing!

If you want to check out Tash’s writing, there are two YA novellas, both of which I can highly recommend: SLAM and Blood in the Water . Tash’s first full-length novel, Maelstrom, will be released by Glass House Press in February 2016.  You can visit her website at http://www.tashmcadam.com.

Image of Hallie by Mathias Rosenthal at Shutterstock and Tash McAdam.  All other images provided by Tash Mcadam.

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