Beautiful Books 2017

It’s October, and that means NaNoWriMo is almost upon us! It also means Beautiful People, the monthly meme hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In, becomes Beautiful Books, where we talk about our current projects or what we’re planning to write during November.


What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

COCKLE SHELLS & SILVER BELLS is a YA contemporary fantasy inspired by The Secret Garden, with supernatural themes, LGBTQIA+ characters and a remote seaside setting on the North Yorkshire coast. It’s a combination of a few ideas I had scribbled in my notebook, some for a YA contemporary about a girl who moves to a quiet seaside town and falls for the girl who works at the local ice cream parlour, and some for a modern Bloody Mary story. I started piecing it together about six months ago when I thought I was finished with my other MS, THE FAIR QUEEN, and was outlining for Camp Nano in July.


Describe what your novel is about!

My MC is an orphan who, on turning 18, inherits her family estate on the North Yorkshire coast. There, she comes across the charming but mysterious housekeeper and groundskeeper, a petite, mermaid-haired firecracker called Dillon, a sassy cat with a bizarre habit of turning up at opportune moments, and a friendly ghost with the key to her family’s secrets.


What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

I’m hoping to combine the atmospheric moodiness of classic novels by the Bronte sisters, like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, and whimsical fantasy elements of books by Maggie Stiefvater. I was initially hoping to venture into YA contemporary, but my fantasy heart wouldn’t allow it, so I had to throw in a few magical bits and bobs!


Introduce us to each of your characters!

Marie ‘Em’ Haigh – Em is 18 and an orphan, she grew up in Provence, France until the age of 10 when her parents were killed in a car accident and she moved to North Yorkshire to live with her great uncle Archie on his farm. She’s pretty isolated and self-reliant, having been home schooled on the farm. She writes gender bent Pride and Prejudice fan fiction on Tumblr and her friends are all either online or fictional. Until she meets Dillon…

Dillon Thackeray – Dillon is a petite, curvaceous lesbian with pastel coloured mermaid hair and an array of neon running gear. She works at the ice cream parlour during the holidays, and goes to university a couple of hours away during term time. She’s a confident and outspoken girl with big dreams and an even bigger heart.

Clemence – Em names Clemence ironically (it means mild and merciful). This cat couldn’t be any saltier, but ultimately she helps Em find some pretty crucial information and leads her to various important items throughout the story. She’s sort of like Em’s spirit guide, but with added sass. Plus I just really like the name Clemence, like Clemence Poesy.

Billy and Maggie Partridge – the Haigh family’s resident housekeeper and groundskeeper. They come with the house, but there might be something more to them…

Ghost boy – I haven’t decided on a name for my spook yet, but he represents Colin, the boy with vitamin D deficiency in The Secret Garden. I haven’t fully outlined his role in the story, but I’m thinking something along the lines of a twin brother to Em’s father who died in childhood and was never spoken of again because it was too painful for the family… Any suggestions on this front would be gratefully received!


How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

I’m a proud plotter, so I have a document full of notes, character bios, summaries of the chapters/acts etc. I do quite a bit of research before I start drafting, I choose names that mean something, either by googling baby name meanings until I find what I’m looking for, or naming characters after famous/fictional people who they share something in common with. Then, especially for Nano so I can keep track of where I am up to, I create a spreadsheet with thirty or more scenes or important events that I need for the story. I find that outlining quite rigorously helps me to keep writing even when I don’t feel motivated, and if I want to skip ahead to a juicier scene when I’m not in the mood, I can come back to where I was later.

Also, lots of tea or coffee and snacks, and breaks to walk the dogs and give me a chance to think through plot holes! Getting some fresh air and walking in nature does wonders for writer’s block.


What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

All the spooky scenes where the ghost is messing with Em, before she actually discovers him. I’m hoping to give it a real Woman in Black vibe up until the point she meets the ghost and realises he’s just a young boy with no intention of hurting her, and he didn’t mean to scare her, he’s just been alone for so long. You’re really going to feel for this ghost, guys!


List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

A beautiful, imposing manor house on a cliff’s edge, overlooking the North Sea.

A cutesy, vintage ice cream parlour full of cold treats and warm hearts.

A secret beach filled with cockle shells that feels like the edge of the world, but is actually where Em’s life really starts…


What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Em is looking for two pretty conflicting things at the beginning of the book. She wants independence and to stand on her own two feet, she feels like she’s got a lot to prove after her parents’ deaths when she was just a little girl. She wants to make them, and her uncle Archie, proud. But she also wants to learn as much as she can about her family and feel closer to them, hence why she decides to move into Haigh Manor, leaving the farm. Unfortunately, most of her family are dead, and Archie is a pretty reticent old man with secrets of his own (he’s Em’s grandmother’s brother). Plus, Em’s social skills aren’t exactly up to scratch, she struggles with social anxiety and moving from one remote house to another does nothing to change that.


How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

She opens up a lot, thanks to Dillon, and learns to accept her quirks for what they are. She finds a new passion, makes some great friends, and discovers more about her family history than she could ever have imagined. At the end, she’s a more mature, confident and content person. Plus she might fall in love…


What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

The overall theme is hopefully going to be self-acceptance, Em is going to go through a pretty huge journey of self-discovery and growth that should give readers the feeling that she’s found herself in some ways. There’ll still be a way to go before she’s completely happy and comfortable in her own skin, but by the end of the book it should be clear that she’s headed in the right direction.


That was so much fun! I hadn’t thought this much about CS&SB in months, and digging deep into the story and my characters has really given me a boost for Nano next month. I’m looking forward to reading more about all your WIPs, let me know in the comments if you’re taking part in Nano, and add me as a buddy, my username is lyndleloo!



Beautiful Books 2017 Lyndsey's Book Blog


Caring for plot bunnies

In today’s post, I thought I’d talk about something we have all done battle with at some point in our writing lives – plot bunnies.

We’re well into week three of Camp Nano, and I’m just under halfway to my goal of 35k words of draft two for The Fair Queen. So, naturally, I’m being besieged by plot bunnies.

Now, the most important thing when you’re in the middle of a big project is to not let the plot bunnies distract you from your work. You might be losing momentum, struggling to stay motivated and finding your current work-in-progress boring – we’ve all been there! But, writing isn’t all about the shiny and new sparks of inspiration, sometimes it’s about hard work.

That said, what do you do when a brilliant idea pops into your head whilst you’re busy working on something else, or not in a position to sit down and start writing?

Caring for plot bunnies.png

Make a note

If you’re a smart and sensible writer and human being, you will have one of two things within reach at all times – a notepad or a mobile device. If not, grab any stationary surface and inscribing implement (your sleeping cat’s back and an electric razor are not recommended).

Write it down.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a 300 word synopsis or a single phrase, write that idea down right now. You will not remember it when you come to sit down and write later, I can almost guarantee it. How many times have you been to the supermarket and thought “I won’t make a list, I know what we need”, and come home with everything but the one thing you went for? It’s not just me. Write that line of dialogue/character name/plot twist/cover design idea down.

Make it legible

Hands up if your handwriting is terrible? Some of you are probably thinking “I’m a writer, my handwriting is carefully crafted calligraphy, how very dare you”. Well, I’m not one of you, and I’m sure I’m not alone. There have been many times when I’ve come to read my own handwritten notes, usually quickly scribbled, and had no clue whatsoever what they said. Don’t let this be you, do not waste your beautiful plot bunnies by scrawling your notes in chicken scratch that not even an FBI handwriting expert could decipher.

Write in all caps if that helps you to read it later, draw a picture if it’s easier than describing your mental image. Just make sure you will know what the hell you were talking about later.

Proper care and feeding of plot bunnies

It goes without saying that you should keep track of all your notes, use a separate page or document for each project or for ideas that have no specific purpose as of yet. This will help when it comes to raising your plot bunnies into fully grown WIP rabbits (I just made that up, can you tell?).

If you’re between projects, or need a break after completing a first draft or round of edits, then now’s the time to whip out your notes and get turning those plot bunnies into fully-formed ideas. Lay out all your notebooks and open your phone or laptop to your document of notes (I use OneNote on my phone, it syncs to my laptop so I never lose any ideas). Now start trying to connect words and phrases together to make a story concept.

Maybe you’ve scribbled down a couple of great character names, pop them into Google and see where they originate from, which era they suit best, and what characteristics they are associated with.

If you’re a visual person and have a collection of photos saved in your phone why not mine these for potential locations, architectural details and scene prompts? Then, see which of these might fit together with your other ideas. Maybe you’ve got a photo of a gorgeous sunset over a plaza in southern Spain from that holiday three years ago, an elaborate fountain from a Turkish bath, and a dress you’ve always dreamed of buying – could you combine these ideas to create a scene, or even an entire story?

If you take care of your plot bunnies, they’ll take care of you by providing endless inspiration for new writing projects.

Hunting those wiley wabbits

Not sure how to get started collecting plot bunnies? It’s really simple, you just need to make it a habit to write down any little sparks of inspiration you get throughout the day. Carry a notepad and pen, even if you always have your phone on you – for some just the action of handwriting a note can set the muse free.

When you’re out and about, take notice of the little details around you and take a quick photo or jot down a word or two. Listen in on other people’s conversations (subtly, don’t be that guy) and write down any turns of phrase you like or find interesting, record accents you want to use or even steal plot points from real people’s lives. You’ll be amazed at the places inspiration can spring from if you just open your eyes and ears and pay attention.

And there you have it, you’ll be farming an entire herd of plot bunnies in no time, and you’ll never struggle for something to write about. What are your tips for finding inspiration and keeping track of all your ideas? Give me your advice in the comments, I’d love to hear how other people do it!



Caring for plot bunnies Lyndsey's Book Blog