Monday Methods : N.O.A. Rawle

Virginia Wolfe longed for a room of her own and a £100 a week/month. As a 21st century writer and mum these things are essential still a consideration, but not so much as time of one’s own. With all the pressures of work and family responsibilities squashing me into a warped distortion of what I would be if I lead a life of leisure, we just had a little more time I think time to one’s self is the essential thing any writer needs. I have choices along the lines of: write at 2 am or zombify the kids with a DVD or a new game for the tablet, abandon all those essential tasks like cooking/cleaning/marking (I’m a teacher in my other life). I know these are not the best mothering/living/teaching techniques but when deadlines are drawing in, and then emergency measures must be taken!


Then there’s the silence. Ok, so headphones and instrumental music or songs I’ve heard so many times that I am not distracted by the lyrics will work most of the time, but there are moments when you just need silence to write in.

The space and the place are of no consequence (I perch in the corner of a room with a desk smaller than my laptop and work still gets done) but time and silence really are golden.

Monday Methods – Noir by Graham Wynd

Cover by S. L. Johnson
Cover by S. L. Johnson

by Graham Wynd

If you write noir then you know the murky streets where darkness and rain seem nigh on constant. When Monday rolls around it’s just another day and you face it with a hangover more often than not. The slug of whisky in your coffee is just enough to stop the shakes and the dame that rolls into your office looking too slinky for the daylight reminds you how you got into this state in the first place.

But she’s got that one thing you need: a story. That’s the real drug. You can sit at your battered Underwood—issued to all would-be noir writers at the inception of their careers—and open a vein as Red Smith suggests, but blood only gets you so far. You need a narrative to lasso your reader and drag them along behind you.

If you’re writing noir, you need atmosphere too. It helps if you have the kind of heart that’s heard “too many lies” because after all “one more tear won’t make no difference to the rain”. Your heart has to yearn for something it’s not likely to get, yet that goal has to be close enough to your grasp to make reaching for it irresistible. That’s what keeps the shadowy streets, rainy nights, cool dames and dangerous guys from slipping into cliché.

It helps if you have an ear for dialogue. You can go plain and hard, like the Continental Op, but once the bodies pile up you find yourself spitting out phrases like, “This damned burg’s getting to me. If I don’t get away soon I’ll be going blood-simple like the natives.” You have to feel isolated, like you can’t trust anybody really, even if you need to relax once in a while. Every description reminds you that death lurks behind every transaction. The Op hears things like, “Polly De Voto is a good scout and anything she sells you is good, except maybe the bourbon. That always tastes a little bit like it had been drained off a corpse.”

If there isn’t the risk of death, the stakes aren’t high enough. Sit down and list your characters: figure out what they want and how they suffer and see where the lines cross. Make them doubt every step of the way—make them also think they’re the one who’ll get away with it, that they’re ahead of the game.

And make them suffer. Make them all suffer. Take another shot of whisky. You’re bleeding now.

Graham Wynd

A writer of bleakly noirish tales with a bit of grim humour, Graham Wynd can be found in Dundee but would prefer you didn’t come looking. An English professor by day, Wynd grinds out darkly noir prose between trips to the local pub. Wynd’s novella of murder and obsessive love, EXTRICATE is out now from Fox Spirit Books; the print edition also includes the novella THROW THE BONES and a dozen short stories. See more stories (including free reads!) here.

FS4 Missing Monarchs ebook 72ppi

Monday Methods : Kim Bannerman Space

For the return of Monday Methods, Kim is exploring three areas of importance to her over three mondays. First up Space. 

Monday Methods – Space

Writing demands that I seek out a place – a humble spot on the earth – that provides the necessities of creation: a table, a window, and a cup of coffee. This spot can be private, such as my office, or it can be public, such as the cafe down the street. Both have their advantages. But they must have those three items, or writing will fail.

The table is for my computer to sit upon, and the window is for my eyes to gaze outside at the passing world when I stop my incessant typing to think. If I’m writing in a public space that has no window, then my glazed and day dreamy eyes magnetically drift towards another coffee shop patron, and that’s just uncomfortable for both of us.

“I’m sorry, yes, I AM staring at you, but I’m not really LOOKING at you. I’m just imagining ways to kill someone. No, wait! You misunderstand — I’m writing a mystery — oh, please don’t have me kicked out again…”

In a public space, I’d rather watch mountain bikers ride passed on their way to the trails; in my private space, my window looks out over the forest, providing a clear view of an old hemlock tree where a couple of ravens have built a nest.  Private space also provides the helpful access to books aplenty, while public space provides rare moments of chitchat with friends who drift passed. Both of these are benefits. Books are awesome. And socialization, well… it’s helpful to remember that not all of my friends are imaginary.


The final piece in the puzzle, coffee, is most important.

If ever I questioned Pavlov’s research, I have only to look as far as my coffee cup to see, the man was on to something. One sip of joe and my imagination is whirled away to far off places, my fingers start to tippy-tap the QWERTY dance, and my characters come to life. I hear them, you know. They wake to the taste of a good dark roast, and start jabbering away in my head. Tea won’t cut it, and neither will hot chocolate – they symbolize other times, other functions. Tea is for family gatherings, hot chocolate is for wintertime, after snowshoeing. Drinking either of these beverages only confuses my subconscious.

Coffee is the starting pistol. Coffee is the clang of the gates opening. Coffee is pure magic.

When it comes to writing, the space I inhabit is the foundation of creativity and can’t be ignored. Over the years, I’ve had four offices and visited hundreds of coffee shops, but I’ve grown to love a few, and sometimes, they even become cherished settings in a story. I’m not picky about which coffee shop I visit, but it must have those three things: table, window, good coffee.

Where do you write? What elements do you need to spark the fire in your head?


Monday Methods : Alec McQuay

Alec’s book ‘Emily Nation’ is officially released in paperback TODAY! Post apolcayptic Cornwall, an alcoholic assassin, a mysterious benefactor…

emily nation

Now here is Alec with a Monday Method for you all.
Monday methods!

I thought I’d start by summing up my writing environment in one neat little picture. In the background you can see what I like to call organised chaos, but what everyone else at work thinks of as an unholy mess. They’d probably be right, and if I had to submit a metaphorical picture of the inside of my brain, a big heap of bits of paper, probably teetering on the verge of falling over and crushing me to death, would about do it. I’m not the organised kind in anything that I do. You want a wedding planned for next June amidst the softly swaying trees of rural Pembrokeshire? Nope, can’t help you. Oh, the shit just hit the fan, the doves are attacking the guests, the priest is stuck at the bottom of a well, the venue (a busy roundabout) is on fire and you have to get married within the hour or you’ll turn back into an ornamental bedside lamp? Well hold on to your fucking petticoats,  you’ve come to the right place…


I’ve got a full time job, two kids, three cats, a dog and more hobbies than I can shake a stick at, and I still find the time to write. That doesn’t make me special though, if you ever find yourself at a convention (try Edge Lit in Derby, tis a good ‘un) you’ll find out this is quite close to the norm. We all have our ways of getting it done, and this is mine. It’s all about controlling my environment, and the way I do that is really simple. I stay up really late when everyone else is sleeping, pour myself a huge brew the colour of Black Beard’s shaded parts, crank up the tunes to FUCK YOU, EARDRUMS! type levels and get typing. A lot of people can’t write to music; personally I find it’s best to avoid anything you’d normally sing along to, avoid rap as the music is heavily dependent on the words and, for preference, opt for a band with a vocalist whose indecipherable singing you can’t understand anyway. Keeps the distractions to a minimum, but you can still stop to shred an air-guitar solo every now and then. That’s a given. There’s no-one around, I can’t hear anything that I didn’t put there to be heard and the whole world is kept at arm’s length while I try and turn the internal chaos into something resembling a story.

Sometimes it actually works.

Monday Methods : Phil Thorogood

The Most Important Tool

In the past year, I have been a rider of dragons, a war-weary veteran, a brilliant but slightly psychotic rogue, and a genetically-enhanced post-human killing machine. Before you back away slowly, keeping eye contact and trying not to make any sudden movements, I’ll let you in on a secret – you’ve probably been some of those too. At the very least, I guarantee that you’ll not have been yourself at some point in this past year.

What I’m talking about is a writer’s most important tool; not a word processor, as some of you might answer that question. Not a notepad constantly on their person, nor passion, or even an editor (sorry editors), though they are all admittedly important in their own rights. The tool I’m talking about is super compact, totally mobile and (hardly ever) runs out of power. I am, of course, talking about the potential of the human mind, or more specifically, imagination, one of the most underrated gifts we are all given.

from 'How to Train your Dragon'
from ‘How to Train your Dragon’

Now, some of you will claim not to have an imagination, or that someone you know doesn’t own one. I put to you that that claim is false. What happens when you think of what to have for dinner tonight? When you plan an outing to the zoo with your friends or family? While you’re reading a good book? Imagination happens. Whether you actively realise it or not, all the time you are imagining things, and it is this gift that a writer makes use of the most.

As a writer, we imagine what would happen to X if they chose not to Y, as everyone else would expect them to. We wonder how the world would be different if historical events hadn’t occurred. Not only this, but we rely utterly on imagination even after the story has been written – when a reader picks it up, we count on their imagination to conjure up the action that we have penned, and they trust us to lead their thoughts into the realm of fiction.

So join me, now, in petitioning the government to make this day World Imagination Appreciation Day! …or just take a moment every now and then to acknowledge the gift that we are all given, either’s good.

Monday Methods : Chloe Yates

Monday Methods

Chloe Yates


  1. Wake Up
  2. Wander around the house in my nightie trying to remember why I’m here.
  3. Existential misery.

    Puss knows existential misery
    Puss knows existential misery
  4. Cup of tea.
  5. Exercise (with varying degrees of success. There’s a lot of sitting)
  6. Wonder about showering. Sit at desk while wondering, check FB, peruse pointless articles, get distracted by a new episode of whatever Real Housewives is running (because I’m shallow), finally reminded to shower by the distinct whiff of me.
  7. Lunch
  8. Cup of tea.
  9. Remove damp towel from still slightly damp body and realise it’s already 2pm and I should have started work hours ago. Also realise that I’m standing in front of the office window and the blinds are not shut. Smile and wave at neighbours, exit office.
  10. Take ages agonising over what to wear for no reason at all other than it being a convenient procrastination opportunity. A writer should never miss one of those.
  11. Decide to buy only black clothes in the future. Think about nice black clothes.
  12. Dress
  13. Cup of tea.
  14. Sit at desk.
  15. Open Word.
  16. Stare at it.
  17. Cup of tea.

And so it goes.

I’ve never really thought about myself as having a “method”. Madness doesn’t count, apparently. There are no particular rituals, no self-flagellation (ok, that one’s a lie), no special foil hat, no Hail Marys and a shot of Tabasco before I hit the word mines. Last night, however, I was chatting to a gentleman who wanted to know about my work. He asked me about my process et cetera, and it occurred to me that I do actually have one… sort of. When I’m writing a short story, the original tale is always completely different to the final product because I rewrite it and rewrite it until it’s done. Sounds basic, I know, but it took me a long time to learn that words are not concrete, plans are not set in stone and clichés can be useful when your brain’s running on slow (like now). Turns out, words are malleable – they serve you the writer, not the other way around. They’re your clay not your boss. Reworking my work (ahem) is my method.

Secondly, no matter how shit bollock crazy a story may be, it’s always based on something concrete, something I’ve researched and used as a jumping off point. No matter how far away from it a story might end up, it’s always inspired by something I’ve found in the “real” world.  Plus, research is another excellent opportunity for procrastination. Brucie bonus.

So that’s my terribly sophisticated method and its revelation has undoubtedly rocked your tits off. Research, write, rewrite, rewrite… Plus yellow legal pads, pencils and a lot of scratching my arse, natch.

Monday Methods : R.B Harkess

My writing day starts absurdly early, thanks to my partner who I have to taxi down to the train station at the ungodly hour of six in the morning. Having said that, it does mean I am sitting at the

kitchen table, ready to start, by about 6:30. Things tend to go something like this.

Open Mac, log on

Realise I forgot to make tea

Put kettle on

Log back on to Mac

Open Scrivener

Kettle boils, make tea.

Log back on to Mac, open the right scene.

Dry cat off, because it raining and he’s just come in soaking wet and jumped up onto my lap.

Log back onto Mac, compose thoughts, ready fingers above keyboard

Try to stop the cat, who is now hungry, from stomping all over the keyboard

Feed Cat

Log on to Mac — make note to extend the screensaver time-out

Type twenty words

Dry the other cat, who has just come in soaking wet…

not the author's cat
not the author’s cat

And so it goes on for about an hour. Eventually they get bored with harassing me and settle down, and I can finally get around to some real writing.

At the moment, I’m working on the third and final book of the Warrior Stone trilogy (as yet unnamed). I used to say I was more ‘pantser’ than ‘plotter’, but these days I’m not so sure. I start off needing to know all the backstories, what the motivations are, and some fairly detailed notes on any new characters. All of this is done pen on paper, preferably with my special ‘writiing pen’ that my partner gave me about 20 years ago. From that, I go to what I call ‘scenes’; two or three lines, like ‘Somebody tried to kill Claire by….’ or ‘Claire is at the hospital with her parents. Stuart comes in and they…’ (You didn’t actually expect I was going to tell you what happened, did you?)

From there, its time to transcribe everything into Scrivener, and then I start filling in the blanks. In this phase, first draft, I’m doing the equivalent of scribbling in pencil so fast I can hardly make out what I’ve written. This is one of the most wonderful parts of the whole writing process to me. It’s like giving birth to the story; quick and rushed and exciting and at then end of it I know if I’ve got something I can work with.

There are some that say being a plotter takes away the fun of exploring the story as you write it. All I know is that since I started plotting, I’ve finished every novel that made it as far as a list of scenes, and that I have a drawer full of 20-30,000 word false starts I didn’t plan first.

Happy writing


Monday Methods: K.A.Laity

We are looking for posts for Monday Methods and Foxy Fridays all year so skulk members please let me know if you have something. – Aunty Fox

The Magic Elixir

What would you do if I told you there was a guaranteed magic potion that could improve your writing, sharpen your mind and boost your general health for only pennies a cup? Furthermore, I will not ask exorbitant prices for this secret, require you to join a cult (though if you’re of a mind to may I suggest this one) or endanger your health and well being for the coming months! What is this magic substance?
You may be surprised to find it is easily obtainable — often in your corner shop! You need not look high and low, not need you set off on long journeys in uncomfortable circumstances to secure it from a holy man on a mountain top after many months of fasting and meditation. You need not learn a secret handshake, attend a seminar or even complete a course.
What is this magic elixir I speak of?
Why nothing less than humble cup o’ tea. With only a plain cuppa by my side I have written umpteen novels, short stories, essays and scripts. I have written under several names in several genres and I’m by no means done yet. I have projects galore for the coming year that will astound you with their complexity, audacity and sheer perspicacity. Or at least make you chuckle now and then. And how will I have done it all and have done it in the past? With TEA!
What’s that you say? Bait and switch?! You already drink tea and it has had no magical transformation upon you? Then you’re drinking it wrong! Are you pouring boiling water over a fine bag of dried tea leaves? Maybe you have chosen the wrong tea. Hie yourself to the nearest tea shop and begin a thorough examination. Everything from assam to darjeeling to keemun — or if you prefer a green tea, or jasmine or gunpowder. There’s even herbal teas that are not in fact really tea but various herbs, twigs, socks and some kind of tiny animals (so I hear) but if that’s what you want to drink, it still counts as tea.
What? You’re already drinking tea? And not magically writing loads of stuff? Huh. Maybe it was the writing every day and making it a habit that has led to me producing so many books and stories.
But I’d bet on the tea.