Episode 46 — Planning for 2021

I’m blaming Lily (pictured) joining our family as the reason for failing NaNoWriMo this year. Although, it’s not over yet so who knows.

In this episode, Mariëlle and I talk about the process of business planning for 2021.

Yearly plans serve different purposes. They are a tool to moderate expectations or to increase productivity.
Any plan must be flexible for those unexpected curveballs life throws at us. Ultimately, a new plan allows for a period of reflection.

In the next episode, I will ask expert planner, Mariëlle, questions about her Kanban Board to discover if there are elements that might be useful to a tentative planner. So, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I will ask her.

#44 – How to Plan a Novel

Most successful novels abide by the rules of story structure if they are going to hold the reader’s attention. They generally have 3 Acts:

  • Beginning – inciting incident and the point of no return.
  • Middle build – the protagonist faces a series of challenges and obstacles.
  • Ending – the protagonist succeeds or fails or a combination of both.

Some authors use structure to plan out a novel from the start, while others use it to edit a story after they have the first draft. Some knowledge of story structure is innate, but a deeper understanding of what makes stories work will improve any novel.

The writer needs to tap into their creativity both in writing into the dark and during the planning process.

Suppose you get stuck while writing. Try a different method. What have you got to lose? At the very least you might find out something about yourself.

For more information and to try out lots of different structures, check out  story planner.

#43 – To-Do or Not-to-Do NaNoWriMo

As November comes upon us, Mariëlle and I talk about the pros and cons of committing to NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. As an advocate for NaNo, Mariëlle tries to convince me to give it a go this year.

“What people say they want and what they’re willing to work their ass off to get are two different things.” Hugh MacLeod


A large part of getting where you want to be involves:

1) knowing why you want to get there, and

2) being realistic about how you’re going to get there.

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer. Set your timer to five minutes for each of the following questions:

What do I want?

Why do I want it?

What do I need to do to get there?

Now you’re clear on this, have another look.

Is this realistic?

How much will you have to sacrifice?

Is that worth it?

If yes, go for it. If no, take another 10–15 minutes to reflect on what would make your goal more realistic and what needs to be adjusted for it to be worth it, too.






# 42 – Writing After a Break

The picture is of Mariëlle’s inventive vision board, aka, her wardrobe. Isn’t it fabulous!

In this week’s episode, Mariëlle and I talk about writing after taking a break.

“I don’t know why taking time off has to be emphasized so much to writers. No other profession seems to advocate doing the same thing every day without fail, even if it kills you. Even God took a day out to rest after six days of creating, so why can’t you?” Joanna Penn.

Do you take enough breaks from writing? Or do you feel guilty for every day you don’t get to write?

In Episode 53 of Diving into Writing, Marielle and I talk about our experience of taking a break from writing and what worked for us when it was time to get back to writing.

There are benefits from a period of distance from your project. For example, it can become clear how to fix problematic issues.

An enforced break, such as due to illness, is different from a holiday? But, whatever the reason, it’s crucial to get a feel for the story again. That might involve re-reading what you’ve written and jotting down comments or observations about the whole story. After all, novels are enormous and bring together many elements, they can quickly get out of hand. One way of taking back control is to find a way to capture the whole story. 

Mariëlle’s Exercise

Taking breaks, from anything, is essential to our functioning. The trick is to be mindful of how you take them and why. What do you intend to gain from being away for a bit?

Think of the last time you took a break from your writing. Now ask yourself: Was this a conscious decision, or did it just happen? How did you feel before, during, and after your break? Was it easy or hard to get back into your writing? Was the break long enough, too short, too long? Take a few minutes to reflect on your answers.

Depending on your results, you might want to answer the following questions before taking your next break:

  1. Why do I need this break?
  2. What are my intentions for this break?
  3. When, where, and how am I going to pick up where I left once I’m back?

Should we write every day and if the answer is yes, how does that fit with the belief that we need space from our work to be objective?

#41 – What Motivates Authors to Write?

Something inspires an author to write a novel. Perhaps they have an idea for a story that demands to be told, or their mother was a writer, or they want to prove to that teacher that they have what it takes to do it.

Whatever their initial motivation, if they are going to have a chance at finishing 80,000 words and go on to write a second and third, they need a good deal of inspiration. What helps them to succeed?

Every successful author can identify some of the things that helped them to complete a novel. Some suggest having a writing space or going outside to find inspiration. Some write in the morning or only at night and some can write anywhere. But, what motivated them in the first place and what keeps them writing now. 

While it is essential to have internal motivations, such as, needing to tell a story, or joy in creating characters that have something to show the world, external motivators can help sustain writers in the long term. Glowing reviews and sales can be powerful motivators.

Listen to Mariëlle and Lucinda discuss why they started writing and how they continue to publish regularly.

Mariëlle invites you to consider:

Who are you writing for? Yourself? Your great-great-grandmother who never had the chance to become a writer? That inspiring elementary school teacher who never stopped believing in you? One of your parents, or both?

Grab a notebook, open a new document, or use the white space below. Set the timer to 20 minutes and ask yourself who you want to reach ‘The End’ for. Whoever it is, write them a letter— also if it’s you! —and explain to them why you have what it takes to reach that finish line.

#40 – Finding an Editor

This is the first episode of the brand new Diving into Writing podcast, featuring Mariëlle Smith as your host.

While I talk about my experience as an author finding an editor; Mariëlle, as an editor, gives us some pointers for finding someone that meets our individual needs.

For more comprehensive information, including the different types of edits available, check out Mariëlle’s blog post at M.S. Wordsmith. 

We’d love to hear what you think to about the episode or any of the subjects discussed. 

#38 – Endings

Endings are arguably the most important aspect of a novel as readers are left with an impression and a sense of satisfaction, or not. If you search for information on ending a novel, you will discover lots of valuable advice from authors who have struggled with similar issues before you. 


In this episode, Anna and I talk about our experience with endings. I talk about my current struggle, which is to find an end to my current trilogy. 


One of the most difficult aspects has been writing an original ending that meets readers expectations, while being original and surprising. I also seem to have picked up too many characters and each of those characters have character arcs that have to be addressed in some form or other in order to satisfy the reader. While it’s true that not everything needs to be tied up in a tidy bow, you do need to leave your readers with a feeling of satisfaction. After committing hours’ time and attention, they want the burning question that has motivated them to read to the end, answering


We talk about how the genre you write determines what elements readers expect in their novel. That’s the easy part. It is much more difficult to do that in an innovative way without making readers feel they’ve read the scene somewhere else. 


Get in touch if you want to share any of your own tips for ending a novel or story. We’d love to hear from you,

Lucinda Pebre x


#37 – Sex Talk

In this week’s episode, Anna and I talk about our experience of writing sex scenes. What works and what doesn’t.

What makes a good sex scene?

We share our opinion on how to write a believable and intriguing sex scene that people want to read. I talk about the importance of detail and seeing the scene from a different point of view.

Anna talks about her favourite scenes in books and reads a passage that conveys meaning.

We discuss the importance of being comfortable with what we are writing and of the necessity of reading lots of books. Choose the ones similar to what you intend to write. It is essential to research, whether in person or through reading and talking to others.

We talk respect and the danger of portraying abuse as a regular part of a relationship.

We identify the importance of building up to the sexual act itself and finding a way of seeing the scene from a unique angle.