I’m now at 17,000 words in my current novel, a psychological thriller set in coastal Dorset, rural Sussex and West London. Having struggled with a recent bout of writer’s block, I feel I’ve finally solved some of the structural problems regarding plot.
Some tips regarding plot and writer’s block:
- Jot down ideas that come to mind as you read your manuscript
- Keep lists of story questions and refer to these if you don’t know what to write next
- Establish the motives governing the behaviour of each leading character early on in the writing process
- Take a one or two day break from writing if necessary
- Read a novel in the same genre
Short Excerpt from Chapter Nine, Neil’s viewpoint
All nights are bad, but some worse than others. Tonight’s one of the more difficult nights. Pippa sleeps beside me, but apart a couple of hours of disturbed sleep I caught when I went to bed earlier, I’ve been awake since two o’clock in the morning, too churned up to relax after finding the train ticket among Katie’s precious photographs. The heat is overbearing, coming from inside the bedroom as well as from outside the house. I’m surprised that Pippa can sleep in it.
Tonight, a part of me is back in the old village in Sussex where the eight of us lived as neighbours once. Me, Aileen and the girls. Bill, Lizzie and the two boys. Only Bill, Dawn and I keep in contact now, although Bill occasionally meets up with his older son, who has issues of his own to contend with. No word on the younger boy. After it all happened, we sold up. I returned to London with Dawn, and Bill and Lizzie moved a short car ride away from the village where our two families had formed close ties, to another village almost identical to the first. I can’t understand how he can possibly bear to stay in the region.
Pippa murmurs in her sleep, but doesn’t awaken.
I swallow hard. More than twenty years have passed since the death of my first wife, but it is all still too raw for me. And once again, I’m running…running from the silence that hangs heavily, like a fog, in the cottage next to Bill and Lizzie’s…running down the garden path to the woods at the back of the cottages, shouting for Dawn and her mother, branches crunching under my boots. Aileen I yell. Dawn Where are you? They don’t answer me. The afternoon light is fast fading. Bill, Lizzie and the boys are out: I’ve already checked at theirs. Rusty leaves litter the ground, damp from the frost, and an icy chill sweeps through the air, clinging to my donkey jacket. When I reach the top of the grass mound by the fields, I notice a trail of footsteps next to the fence and a crumpled up packet of cigarettes.
And then, I see her face down in the water. And I know at once that it is too late to save her. But there is no sign of Dawn. She has vanished, like Katie.
I hurry back to the cottage to contact the police.