Tag Archives: Writing

June 4, 2014

Matthew Luhn’s story structure workshop

Filed under: Getting published,Writing — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 9:33 pm

Last week I went to Matthew Luhn’s one-day story workshop in Melbourne. It was part of a three-day event on animation, set up by Pixar. Yup, the big guns!

I was pretty excited. It’s not very often that an author gets to do ‘professional development’ after a certain stage in their career (usually publication). You see, most courses are aimed at emerging writers—fair enough, that’s the students I usually get in my classes too. In fact, it was partly because I’m teaching so much these days that I thought I’d rock up to the event and see what one of Pixar’s Story Supervisors had to say about story structure. It’s always interesting to hear how other story pros approach their work. Matthew’s resume includes all three Toy Story movies, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, Cars, Ratatouille, UP, Monsters University and Toy Story of Terror. That’s a pretty good rap sheet :)

The morning focused solely on story, so it was this part that was most relevant to me, and that I thought I’d blog about. I find that often with story and character, it’s not that the content itself is new or provides some revelation, but it’s how it’s expressed.

As an example, I really liked the way he expressed the story structure:
• Exposition
• Inciting incident
• Progressive complications
• Crisis
• Climax
• Resolution

Of course, we often/usually see the words ‘climax’ and ‘resolution’ in story structure theory and the ‘inciting incident’ is part of a couple of plot breakdowns including Blake Snyder’s 15 beat sheet (mentioned in the Catalyst ‘beat’) and film’s eight sequence structure. But still, I like the simplicity of the expression above.

I also wanted to share some of Matthew Luhn’s character approaches and notes. I particularly liked the way he talked about showing your character’s passion and at least one major flaw during the exposition (story set up). The inciting incident is then usually about taking away that character’s passion or them committing to trying to achieve that passion. Nice, huh? I watched The Incredibles the other day with my kids and saw this story-character relationship. The hero’s passion was being a superhero and that was taken away from him when he was sued and the government relocated all superheroes under secret identities. He was no longer allowed to use his powers, in fact, he had to hide his abilities. Matthew’s example in the workshop was UP. Carl’s passion was his wife and their house was an extension of their relationship and all he had left of her. In UP, his house was going to be taken away.

It also got me thinking about my current work in progress. Interestingly, I went the other way around. I could easily identify my inciting incident but I hadn’t traced it back to her ‘passion’. Yes, I’d looked at how it (the inciting incident) would affect her, but not as a direct relationship to a ‘passion’ and therefore needing to set up that passion early on. I’ve just re-written the first chapter, brining her passion to the fore.

The second half of the day did focus more on animation stuff—composing story boards, cinematography in animation (camera angles), etc. Incredibly interesting but probably not that useful in the day-to-day life of an author.

Still, the day was definitely worthwhile and the timing was good, because it got me fired up again for my current work in progress! And Pixar does rock.

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December 9, 2013

NaNoWriMo round up

Filed under: Events/appearances,Writing — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 1:51 pm

It’s official…NaNoWriMo is done for 2013. This was my second time attempting NaNoWriMo and I’m afraid that once again I fell short.

Instead of meeting the 50,000 word target (or my personal target of 30,000-40,000 words), this year I managed only 20,212  words.

I have excuses, of course. Who doesn’t? But the truth is there were two days I had put aside for intensive writing sessions (two full days, the only full days I get each week) and instead of putting my foot on the accelerator I went for the brake. I’m still not sure why. Yes, it’s a crazy busy time of year for me. My daughter’s birthday is on 6 December so there are always celebrations to organise. I also went to the Clare Writers’ Festival from 29 November – 1 December and was busy preparing for that in the last week of November. (The Festival was fantastic, by the way!)

Also, the writing didn’t seem to flow as easily for this book (book 2 in a YA series) as it did for the first and I even wondered if the fact that I actually did some plot planning BEFORE writing made things worse. Instead of writing free-form, I was writing the scene I had designated as the next scene in Scrivener. But surely plotting should help move my writing forward, not hinder it.

The bottom line is I hit the brakes for some reason. But the good news is I got 20,000 words done of my next novel and if I hadn’t been pushing myself with NaNoWriMo perhaps it would have been a much less productive month.

Not sure yet if I’ll sign up in 2014, but I’m determined that one of these days I will do NaNoWriMo and actually finish it. Perhaps not when I’ve got a 2yro at home though       :)

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September 5, 2013

A celebratory month

Filed under: Getting published,Writing — Tags: , , , , — PD Martin @ 9:21 am

September is already a month of celebrations for me…and we’re only five days in! And maybe that’s why this blog is a little late, going up on 5 September instead of 1 September.


The first celebration was literally on the first of the month, when a large group of people gathered in the Yarra Valley to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. It was a fabulous day and Dad had people from all different aspects of his life there.  We had a lot of speakers – yet everyone was so unique with wonderful insights that the day didn’t feel ‘heavy’ with speakers. In fact, it was fascinating. We had 14 people all up!

And 1 September was also Father’s Day, so we started the day with breakfast for my husband and presents from the kids.

everybreath01September is also another big celebration for me. As some of you know, in 2010 I started teaching at Writers Victoria. This month marks a huge milestone in my role as a writing teacher, with one of my students entering the ranks of  ‘published author’.   Congratulations to Ellie Marney on the release of her debut young adult (YA) novel, Every Breath – the novel she was working on in my 2010 class!

I have to say, it’s extremely rewarding to see one of my students’ manuscripts come to life not only on the page, but then on the bookshelf. The official launch is next week, but it is in bookstores now. Congratulations to Ellie, and I hope she’s the first of many of my students to break into this crazy world!

About Every Breath (from the back of the book)

What if Sherlock Holmes was the boy next door?

Rachel Watts is an unwilling new arrival to Melbourne from the country. James Mycroft is her neighbour, an intriguingly troubled seventeen-year-old genius with a passion for forensics. Despite her misgivings, Rachel finds herself unable to resist when Mycroft wants her help investigating a murder.

And when Watts and Mycroft follow a trail to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den – literally. A night at the zoo will never have quite the same meaning again…

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October 25, 2012

Lost in translation

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Writing — Tags: — PD Martin @ 10:10 pm

Question Mark Key on Computer KeyboardAbout a year ago I came up with an idea for a new novel. It was the kind of idea that kept eating at me, kept calling to me “Write me”. I knew it was an idea I’d get to sooner rather than later, that it would ‘jump the queue’ in terms of the projects I had planned. This is the order I’m supposed to be doing things in:

  1. Books 2 & 3 in my Guardian and Wanderer series (Pippa Dee)
  2. Book 2 in my new “RB and The Committee series” (as a follow-on to Hell’s Fury)
  3. Another mainstream drama project (I was hoping to have an agent and a sale by now for my first mainstream drama novel, but alas it hasn’t happened yet).

Then, and only then, would I move onto this ‘new’ idea, something that’s completely different again to what I’ve been writing. It’s a post-apocalyptic YA thriller/action adventure.  I know…I’m all over the shop.

However, when I was in bed at night, I’d literally think about scenes from this book. I’d see and hear them in my head, compose the sentences and dialogue. I had the character down — a tough 18 year old who’d been imprisoned since she was 10 because she was a ‘danger to society’. But I didn’t write any of these scenes down. I trusted my subconscious and conscious to let the idea brew, to fully form. But now, I’m not so sure…

I’ve finally answered the call of this book and put all of my 1-3 points above on hold. After a little bit of initial but essential research, I started writing last Thursday. In fact, it’s the first thing I’ve written since we collected Liam in Korea a few weeks ago. And I am also aware that my writing stints are going to be an hour here, an hour there, and then one full day (Thursdays).

Now here’s the problem. The book isn’t coming out at all like it’s been in my head for the past year or so. The main character, instead of being a kick-ass bad-ass chick with a major attitude problem, is turning out to be a young woman who wants redemption for ‘her kind’, who wants to prove she can do more than only destroy society. But I just don’t know. Is the book lost in translation or is this how it is meant to be, how it always would have turned out even if I’d answered its call twelve months ago, or even six months ago? It’s not that I’m not happy with what I’ve written so far and I am only 5,000 words in so it’s hard to tell. But still, why is it so different to what I’d envisaged?

So, now I have to decide…should I go with the flow, what’s coming out on the page, or ditch my 5,000 words and start again trying to be true to the original vision?

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August 4, 2012

Just do it

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Writing — Tags: , , , , — PD Martin @ 2:00 am

I’ve always been the kind of writer who LOVES applying expressions like this to my writing…

  • Just do it!
  • Bum on chair!
  • Focus!
  • Never surrender!

I eat those phrases up for breakfast! (Sorry, I know that’s way too many exclamation marks, not to mention clichés, but they need to be there.)

I’ve also been lucky enough that I’ve never really suffered from ‘writer’s block’. In fact, the hard-ass part of me says writer’s block is self-indulgent. Now, I’ve probably got loads of readers (well, the authors) up in arms at this point. I know there will be lots of people who disagree about writer’s block.

The thing is, I’m not saying there aren’t days (or even weeks) when writing seems harder than normal—sometimes WAY harder. But, I’m a practical kind of girl, so I either write through it (eventually it starts flowing again) and edit later, or sometimes I move projects all together. That way, I’m at least writing. Besides, at this point I know I can finish a novel, so it’s not like I’m going to wind up with loads of unfinished manuscripts. It’s just a temporary focus shift.

I did this earlier this year. My plan for 2012 was to finish my mainstream drama novel and then while I was querying agents, I’d work on my Pippa Dee novels as part of my ebook strategy. But after I sent my mainstream novel to Beta readers, there was one problem I simply couldn’t decide how to solve. There was one character who everyone disliked. But what to do with her?

So I guess that was kind of writer’s block, but it didn’t feel like it because I decided to move on to my Pippa Dee novels while I waited out the decision. I could let it tick over in my subconscious. No way was I going to let it interfere with my productivity. Told you I was practical.

So I focused on The Wanderer and Grounded Spirits and once they were finished and up on Amazon, I moved back to Crossroads and Deadends. Two weeks ago I finally finished the editing process and started querying agents. Remember my blog on the writer’s rollercoaster?

Anyway, obviously the querying process has taken up a chunk of time over the past two weeks, but I still feel extremely unproductive. And I’ve been bringing out the big guns, internally telling myself to:

  • Just do it!
  • Bum on chair!
  • Focus!
  • Never surrender!

But, to no avail. Well, not much at least.

However, it’s not writer’s block. In fact, when I do spend time on my current work in progress (the follow-on to The Wanderer) it flows very easily and I’m excited by it. But for some reason I’ve really been letting the distractions rule these past two weeks. Facebook, emails, scheduling Amazon freebies, and who knows what else? Where have the days gone?

And there have also been some days, when I haven’t felt like writing or trying to write at all. I mean, the rest of this year I’ve been eating lunch at my desk to maximise my work time. Seriously! With Grace starting school in February this year and my shift to ebooks, this has been my year for working hard.

So what’s going on? Where’s my bad-ass writer gone?

I think part of the problem is when I finished Crossroads and Deadends I was conflicted about what to work on next. My 2012 ‘project plan’ says next in line is The Guardian Arises, book 2 in my Wanderer and Guardian trilogy under Pippa Dee. Problem is, sales of The Wanderer and Grounded Spirits have been such a small percentage of the sales of my PD Martin stuff, that I’ve realised that middle grade/YA fantasy novels aren’t the most popular ebooks. So, from a financial point of view, I probably should work on the follow-up to Hell’s Fury, but that book will take me about six months to write, whereas I reckon I can write The Guardian Arises in six weeks, especially because I’m already 20,000 words in and it’s officially middle grade so will probably be around 50,000 words.

Something’s gotta give.  I think maybe the answer for me is to go away for a couple of days without internet. That’d sort me out!

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June 7, 2012

Dialogue woes

Filed under: Pippa Dee,Writing — Tags: , , , , — PD Martin @ 3:12 am

I’m currently working on a novel set in Ireland. I’d like to give the reader an idea of the Irish accent without confusing them.

Now, here’s the thing. I know most books on writing say NOT to actually write in a character’s slang or accents (or to do so very sparingly). And when I’m teaching dialogue, this is the guideline I suggest budding writers follow. But now I’m going against that advice and actually writing the accent. So I need your help :)

Below is an excerpt from chapter 3 of Grounded Spirits, my next Pippa Dee novel, and I’m keen to get your thoughts. I have flagged the main pronunciation difference in the actual book (as it’s written below) and am wondering if this is enough. I should also say it’s a young adult novel so it needs to be clear for younger readers, too. This is the main character’s first encounter with an Irish person – an Irish woman in her 50s who works at the hotel where she’s staying.

From Grounded Spirits © Pippa Dee 2012

Suddenly Fiona felt a warm breath near her ear. She jumped, letting out a little yelp, and then spun around to face the breath’s source. No ghost, just the waitress. In stealth mode, obviously.

“So you’ve seen her, den,” the waitress said.

Fiona noticed her thick Irish accent, including the “d” instead of a “th”—“den” instead of “then”.

“’Tis one of our resident ghosts, so dey say,” the woman continued.

“A ghost?” But not the one Fiona had seen yesterday … if it had even been a ghost, of course.

“Dey had a scientist in and all. See de face … doesn’t even exist in terms of paint. Like actual paint,” she whispered, leaning in toward the painting with Fiona. “According to de expert, ’tis de same pigment dere, as dere.” The woman pointed to the different shades that formed the face, careful not to touch the surface of the painting. “But ’tisn’t de same color, ’tis it?”

“No.” Fiona’s excitement was building. “A scientist examined it? Really?”

“So dey say. Wasn’t here myself.” She paused and looked up. “I’m Maggie, love.” She held out her hand.

“Hi. I’m Fiona.” Fiona shook Maggie’s hand. Maggie’s accent was a little difficult to follow, but Fiona had tuned into it enough that she could understand. And obviously every word that started with “th” was replaced with a “d” sound.

“Fiona…” Maggie smiled at her. “Dat’s a grand Irish name. Do you have Irish folk in yer family, den?”

“Yes, three generations ago.”

Maggie nodded, and then they both stared silently at the painting.

Maggie broke the silence. “Do you like ghost stories?”

“I’m getting a bit old for them now, really.” Fiona knew that she looked a lot younger than she was, and she hated it.

“Ah, yer never too old.”

“But you don’t actually believe in them, do you?” Fiona asked.

“Believe in ’em? I seen ’em wit me own eyes.”


“Of course.” Maggie raised her eyebrows. “Dis hotel late at night…dere’s nothing else to explain what goes on. ’Tis ghosts all right. And more dan one, I’d say.”

First the boy in the window, and now this face? Could it really be that the Old Ground hotel was haunted? The building was old, ancient even, that’s for sure.


I posted this on Murderati and got some great response to these questions: So,  did you find the dialogue confusing or clear? Did the written-in accent add value or distract you? Finally, was it good that I pointed out the “th”/”d” thing twice or overkill?  I’m looking forward to everyone’s thoughts.

FaceFINALBy the way, this is a closeup of the face from the painting the characters are talking about. It’s a real painting! Spooky, huh?

Note: In case you’re interested, the Irish language (Gaelic) doesn’t have a “th” sound and this characteristic transferred when the Irish started speaking English— and it’s still part of their pronunciation today. My husband is Irish and “th” becomes either just “t” or “d” depending on the context. So it’s dis instead of this, dere instead of there, Tursday instead of Thursday, etc.

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February 14, 2012

National Year of Reading

Filed under: Murderati blogs — Tags: , , , — PD Martin @ 3:49 am

PrintOn Tuesday 14 February I launched the National Year of Reading at Kew Library. As the City of Boroondara’s ambassador for the National Year of Reading, this was my first official duty. Below, I’ve included some of the things that I spoke about in my speech.

First off, I was lucky because I always loved reading. I didn’t need Harry Potter or fancy ebooks on iPads to engage me – I just needed a book. Sure, there were books I loved more than others, books that I read over and over again. Childhood greats like The Wishing Chair, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Famous Five and Nancy Drew come to mind. But pretty much any book would do me. I’d devour them, keen to move on to the next story, or the next book in a series.

So, what did I love about books and reading? Some people talk about the feel of a book, the feel of turning pages. But for me, although my childhood reading was solely hardcopy based, it was never about the feel of a book, it was about the words on the page, or more specifically about where the book would take me. You can pick up a book and be anywhere in the world, or not in this world at all. Whether it’s reading about a cop in the US, a bodyguard in England or reading about the hobbits travelling to Middle Earth, books take you somewhere else, give you another experience. Sometimes that experience can be grounded in reality or what might be possible, like crime fiction, drama or even romance stories (although many would argue they’re not based in any realism at all!). And at other times, the world you’re transported to is fictional, fantastical. Whether it’s travelling with Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter to Narnia or following the lives of Bella and Edward in Twilight, these books take you to another world, a world that is appealing, interesting or intriguing in some way.

Reading’s also about emotion, about how a story makes you feel. Reading has the ability, the power to take you on emotional highs and lows. You can be inspired by triumph, moved or heartbroken by tragedy or drama, intrigued and challenged by a whodunit or you can simply get away from it all with an escapist read. These escapist reads could come in the form of classic fantasy novels, horror books, paranormal stories or even romance. And while some people like the more literary style of writing and others prefer a good vampire book, it’s all reading. And it’s all story telling. Sure, it’s changed a lot over the years. Originally it was people telling stories around campfires or ‘drawing’ stories. Then, as we evolved, stories became about the written word rather than the spoken word. They were about reading, not listening. And now, well in some ways we’ve come full circle with audio books that allow people to listen to stories, but they’ve also evolved to another level with ebooks. Our kids may read online, and via ereaders or i-Somethings, but they will still read. In fact, I think ebooks give these technology-savvy generations the ability to combine reading with gadgets and hopefully that will lead to an increase in the love of reading, and most importantly of literacy.

Reading is also ultimately why I became a writer – I think why anyone becomes a writer. Authors love hearing and reading stories, and most importantly we love telling our own stories.

However, I do have a confession to make. My reading is currently in a massive trough, which actually started when I got published. Like many authors, I found myself juggling tight deadlines and reading non-fiction research books instead of reading for pleasure. Plus I became a mother soon after I became published, which meant juggling the dual acts of motherhood and writing; and I’m also one of those authors who prefers not to read while writing. These things add up to not much reading.

However, I am inspired to read more this year. Inspired by the National Year of Reading, and by my role as an ambassador!

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December 8, 2011

Too good to be true?

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Uncategorized,Writing — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 11:17 pm

While I’ve never been one of those writers who paces for hours to come up with one sentence or spends six months planning out every detail of a book before I start writing, I’ve still always thought of writing as hard work. It is hard work.

CB064552Sure, there’s the fun stuff…writing in your pyjamas, the long commute from bedroom to study, tax-deductible trips to various destinations for research and/or promotion (although you have to be able to afford the flights in the first place), not to mention sitting in a café and writing. And sometimes cake does need to be involved! I don’t think anyone can argue that the above perks of the job are cool…way cool.  But it’s still bum on chair, thinking, creating and writing. And while it’s tempting to get up and procrastinate every time the flow stops, it’s not something I do.

In a post some time ago, I mentioned that I was working on a new book that’s not crime fiction. It’s not even a thriller or remotely related to my past work. I’m still getting my head around what I’d call it, but I think ‘mainstream fiction/drama’ is pretty accurate. The book is about relationships and how people deal with different traumas. I’m also entering another new world, using multiple viewpoints. And some of my subject matter is tense and issues-based…controversial, I guess.

keyboard1I started writing this book at the beginning of the year, and then it was on hold for months as I took corporate gigs to pay the bills. I started on the project again in October and soon found myself zooming through it. My writing week is often very fragmented as I fit it in around being a full-time mother (to a pre-schooler) and freelance writing gigs. But I’d find I’d have an hour to write…and write 1,000 words. And every Saturday I have four hours to write while my daughter is in classes. The last two Saturdays, I’ve written 5,000 words during each of those four-hour blocks. Two productive sessions, to say the least.

So, a couple of weeks ago I found myself asking the inevitable question. Is this too good to be true? Can writing really be this ‘easy’? Am I writing dribble that I won’t be able to edit into shape? I’m a write first, edit later kind of girl, so that’s fine. But will my bare bones be barer than usual? Or is it because the subject matter is close to my heart? One of the characters is experiencing something that I went through about eight years ago and I’m finding it easy to tap into that character and the others too for that matter.

I know my fellow Murderati,  Gar, wrote a post two weeks ago with pretty much the polar opposite sentiment of this one, and I think that highlights the different working processes of writers. But then I’m still left with the question: Too good to be true?

This feeling is compounded by the fact that I came to this project after six months off my own writing altogether, then writing a thriller that I found incredibly hard-going. The writing didn’t seem to come naturally to me and I wasn’t sure if it was the idea/characters or the fact I’d had six months off fiction writing. This new project certainly provides a stark contrast to writing the thriller.

So now I’m torn between two polar opposites.

  1. I’m writing what I’m “meant” to write. (Although this sounds a little cliché or dramatic…or something.) The flow and ‘ease’ is just an indication of that.
  2. It’s too good to be true.

Obviously the proof will be in the pudding. I’m now 70,000 words into the first draft, so the end is nigh and soon the major, major editing will start. Then I’ll have a better idea of how bare the bare bones are.

In the meantime, I wanted to throw this out to the Rati. Does good writing HAVE to be a hard slog? And if it flows incredibly easy, is that too good to be true?

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August 24, 2011

Back to my roots

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Writing — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 11:15 am

My Murderati blog on my creative roots…

Today I want to talk about the amazing feeling of going back to my roots. I’m not talking about my literal roots (i.e. my birth place or the birth place of my family), rather I mean my creative birth place. The time and place when I first decided I wanted to write.  Here are some hints:




Yep, you got it! Paris.

On Monday we arrived back from a three-week holiday. Our main ‘objective’ was my sister-in-law’s wedding in Ireland, but we also had a glorious five-day stopover. It was around March this year when my husband told me that he’d finally found a great deal to Ireland that would save us loads of money…“but do you mind going via Paris?” he said with a grin on his face. Needless to say, I was one happy woman!

So how and why is Paris my creative birth place?

I mentioned in my first Murderati blog that while I was into reading and creative writing in my primary school years, once I got to high school I ended up focusing on science and maths — maths, applied maths, physics and chemistry were my elective subjects. As a complete contrast, my other subject was physical education, with my main project on dancing. You see, I had danced pretty much all my life, and loved it. Anyway, while studying psychology and criminology at university, I was also taking lots of dance classes, around 30 hours a week at one stage, and also did acting and singing lessons. Over the next couple of years dancing petered out and singing took over.  I finished my psychology degree and started studying music. Then I took time off from school and worked a bit before travelling.

I was 21 years old when I took off on the typical Aussie pilgrimage…backpacking around Europe. I went with my boyfriend for four months and it was on this trip that my creative spark burned brightly. My boyfriend at the time was (and still is) a photographer and he was also a gifted artist. So it was natural that we’d hit many of the artistic hotspots, including Paris. What can I say, I fell in love immediately. Was it the incredibly impressive buildings? The many artists who had been born or studied in Paris? The ambience of the place? The history of the place? The answer is, of course, all of these things and so much more. Coming from Australia, all our buildings and architecture is relatively new (like North America). And there’s something about the sense of history that oozes from every inch of Paris (and Europe) that’s inspiring and exhilarating. It drives me to create. And that feeling was there again on this visit. I mean, look at this:



But back to my first visit to Paris…Within a few days in Paris, I wanted to write. I wanted to write my own lyrics for songs, I wanted to write poems, I even wanted to write a book. I tracked down an English bookstore in Paris and bought their one and only book on creative writing. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was quite large (a university text book rather than a mass market paperback) and of course being an English book in a French-speaking country it came with a high price tag. But it was worth it.

A couple of days later, I found myself in the magical Rodin gardens. My boyfriend was drawing the amazing sculptures (like many other budding artists around us) and I was writing in a newly acquired notebook, with my creative writing text book at my side. We spent hours there (twenty years ago!) and so this trip I had to go back to the Rodin museum and gardens.



There didn’t seem to be quite as many people sketching the sculptures as last time, or perhaps my memory has simply amplified the numbers I remember from my first visit. But the whole place still triggered that creative impulse.

Then there’s the food. Let’s just say, I ate a LOT of baguettes in five days, some not-so-nice French wine and some gorgeous French wine, loads of cheese (yummy and so much cheaper than here in Oz) and a few treats from gorgeous patisseries. I have a major sweet tooth, and passing shops like this sent my heart racing!

P1020895From this particular place I tried the Opera cake and it was divine.

The ambience of the restaurant and café culture is stunning, and we also did the pre-requisite visit to the Louvre. To me, every part of Paris is inspiring.

Now I’m back, safe and sound, although still a little jet lagged and with an annoying cold. But who cares…I was in Paris!

I’d like to say I can launch back into my writing, the creative spark burning incredibly brightly. But unfortunately, I’ve got two ghost-writing gigs on the go, and two corporate jobs. But while I’m doing those the subconscious will no doubt be ticking over, ready when I return to my new book again. And then I’ll be channelling Paris!

PS The wedding was fabulous too, and Grace was the perfect flower girl!

PPS I forgot to say…Paris is also where my husband proposed to me, 13 years ago!

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April 17, 2011

Write what you know…or maybe not

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Writing — Tags: , , , , — PD Martin @ 7:07 am

Copy of my first Murderati blog…

This is my first Murderati blog and I’m really excited to be part of the gang – some great authors here!

You’ll see from my ‘tag’ that I’m “The Aussie”; however, while I am an Aussie my books are actually set in the US. But more about that later. Given it’s my intro into Murderati I thought I better actually introduce myself :) before I dive into the main part of my blog, which looks at writing what you know.

I grew up with a love of books, and was particularly drawn to fantasy and whodunits. I graduated from Nancy Drew and Famous Five (remember them?) to Agatha Christie at the tender age of eight and in grade five I wrote my first crime novella.

From there I went on a bit of a detour into maths and science, which led me to psychology at university. At this time I was also singing (yes, something totally different again), and through singing and songwriting I rediscovered my love of writing. But it was not an easy road!

After writing three unpublished young adult novels, I decided to try my hand at my other early love, crime fiction. The result was Body Count, my first published novel. Now I have written five novels featuring Aussie FBI profiler Sophie Anderson and one ebook novella.

So, now that you know a bit more about the newest addition to Murderati, I thought I’d focus on something I didn’t do when starting my crime fiction series…

There’s an old adage that’s often talked about when you start writing: Write what you know. It’s great advice, however, things don’t always go to plan!

Body Count is based on a dream (well, really nightmare) I had many years ago. In that dream, I was investigating the deaths of some friends. I was me, but I was also some kind of law enforcement officer. When I decided to turn the nightmare into a book, the first decision I had to make was about my protagonist. Would she be a cop? Crime-scene tech? What I was really interested in was criminal psychology; and so I decided to follow my gut and make my heroine a profiler.

My next step was research, which revealed that profiling wasn’t used nearly as much here in Australia as it is in other countries. It also seemed that the FBI was leading the way when it came to using profiling as a law enforcement tool.

So, now I had an FBI profiler (and ex-cop), but I’ve never been a cop or a profiler. My only link to this world was that I studied psychology and criminology at university. And to top it off, I was setting my book in the US, but I live in Australia.

So much for write what you know! At least my main character is an Aussie!

In many instances research can bridge the gap, including talking to people who are working in the field. It’s an invaluable step when you’re NOT “writing what you know”. The location can be tricky too, even with the wonders of Google Earth and Google’s street view. While these are amazing tools, it’s not the same as actually being there.

I’ve been to America several times, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to visit every location I’ve written about. Body Count was set mostly in Washington DC and Quantico, with a few scenes in Arizona. I managed to get to both DC and Quantico, but not Arizona.

The directions feature of Google Maps is also a great way to add in a sense of place – you can talk about your characters driving down particular streets and highways. Of course, the risk is that while Google Maps says to take certain roads from point A to point B, the locals might say something like: “You’d never take the I-10 at that time of day. Are you crazy?”

Google’s features are certainly fantastic tools for novelists setting their books overseas, and it also helps that I’ve got a few friends who’ve married Americans. So when I need to check an expression or a suburb in LA that ‘fits’ with my character, I’ve got people to call on.

I love visiting the States, and during my last trip I had great fun scouting out different locations for abductions, body dump sites, etc. That trip was to L.A., where my third, fourth and fifth books are set. And I also took extensive photos and video footage of one of my locations for book 5, Kiss of Death. I even posted some of the pics and video footage on my website for readers, as part of my ‘case file’ forKiss of Death. One of the videos is below – it shows where my victim was attacked and the trail she would have been running down. Please excuse my commentary!

So, while there are disadvantages of NOT “writing what you know” I think it’s still possible to make it work. And on the plus side for me, any time I visit the US it’s tax-deductible!

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