Planning a new book

 I am at the planning stage of a new book. The premise has been agreed with the publishers, so I can go ahead. The next stage is to assemble the characters because it is the characters, their actions and reactions that drive the story forward. I can't do any of this until I have decided on their names (even if they are changed later).

For the hero and heroine I need to know how old they are, their physical attributes, family background, where they live, what they do for a living, character traits, likes, dislikes, beliefs, but most of all what drives them to do what they do.

Once that is established, there is a supporting cast, parents, siblings, lovers, husbands, neighbours, friends and enemies. I might not have all these to start with and some I might discard as unnecessary.

I need the setting, country, town, village, UK or abroad. I might have a real village in mind, but I'll give it a fictitious name, probably near a real town so that I can be more flexible if the plot dictates a change. Sometimes I'll visit places, but I find that they never look or feel as they must have done in the past, so I tend to rely on personal stories and memoirs of people in my chosen era. In the case of my WW2 books, I have my own memories of what it was like to live through it.

Next comes a plot outline and time line of actual historical events which are important to the story which I link together. If there are any unusual weather patterns during this time I make a note of them. I don't want to write about pouring rain if my characters are in the middle of a drought. I must also remember the seasons and how that effects the characters' lives, especially in a farming community.

Then I decide when the story is going to start. It is usually some defining moment in the plot, followed by a little back story of how we arrived there. The scene is in my head, vivid and waiting to be set down. Until that stage is reached, I don't write a word.

I know other authors work in a different way, some start with and idea and a blank page, but that has never worked for me. I don’t stick slavishly to my plot, sometimes my characters dictate otherwise and I usually go along with them because to me they are real people behaving in the way real people would. Forcing them in line rarely works.

The biggest problem is finding a title that everyone agrees on. I can't start without a title so it is given a working title which is almost inevitably changed. I say almost because A Different World was always going to be called that.

What the new book is going to be called I have no idea.