Hot notes and cold coffee


sequelI spent the day trying to drink a hot cappuccino. This was a difficult feat considering what I was doing in the cafe for about 2 hours – plotting the bulk of the sequel to a novel.

The ideas flowed, but the coffee did not. I’d dash down half a page of notes in a burst of inspiration, then spend too long crossing out and adding in, scribbling notes in the margins. Then I’d reach for my cup and find its contents were on the wrong side of lukewarm.

“Another coffee, please!”

Character arc, exposition, !cliffhanger!, plot hole? – the faint glimpse of a possible resolution.

Sip. Damn!

I ignored the coffee and reread my four-page outline.


I can get another cappuccino anytime. Brainstorming a sequel must be done when inspiration is hot…



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Book cover


  1. johanna buchanan · · Reply

    Hi Mark, I’m really interested in your four page outline. This is something I’m working on for my second novel too. For my first novel I just wrote whatever came into my head and ended up with what felt like a million drafts but I eventually came up with a story I was happy with and published it for Kindle last November. This time – just for the exercise – I’m taking a planning approach – one paragraph of what’s it all about Alfie, then a four page outline, (like yours) then characters bio’s and settings and finally a scene list. This will all take me until the end of August and then (apparently) I will be able to write 2,000 words a day of my novel and it will all work out as if were a third draft! It’s something I found on-line called the Snowflake technique which I’m insanely infatuated with right now (but I get crushes on things like that from time to time.) Are you doing this too – or just idling the day away drinking coffee pretending to be writing?

    1. Hi Johanna,
      Firstly, congratulations on beginning work on your second novel! Today was my first day setting aside a couple of hours with pen and pad (and coffee) to outline the book. I got a rush out of it, just like I did when I was nearing the end of writing the first one.
      Secondly, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve both struck on the idea that we can’t just ‘wing it’ with the sequel. I, too, wrote Mrs God by just tapping away and letting the characters mould the plot. Redrafts involved major revision and the filling of plot holes. For the sequel, it seems once you’ve created your universe you’re restricted by its laws of physics. You don’t have carte blanche, but you DO have room to broaden the scope and add new characters. I especially like the idea that I can invert everything without breaking any rules – an upside down triangle is still a triangle, right?
      I haven’t heard of the snowflake idea. I have seen JK Rowling’s chapter plan and toyed with graphs before but they only ever got in the way. My four-page plan basically teases out the major events/scenes. It’s a spine add bones, muscle, flesh and clothes on later. I may pinch your suggestion about character bios but I don’t want to plan too much, right down to between scenes or vast exposition. On Book #1 I quite enjoyed not knowing what was going to happen next, and liked even more that if the WRITER didn’t know what was going to happen then the READER wouldn’t have a clue.
      Also, when I eventually sit down to write Draft #1 I don’t want to handcuff myself with a target word count for each day. I want to enjoy myself and have fun. If I’m under pressure then it will feel like work – and work is not fun!
      I’ll keep the blog updated to let people know what’s happening… hopefully I’ll get to enjoy some hot coffee along the way.
      Best of luck with Book #2!!

  2. johanna buchanan · · Reply

    Yes I loved that idea too – that if the writer didn’t know what was going to happen then the reader wouldn’t have a clue. Until one day the writer didn’t have a clue either! Which is why I’m going the planning route this time. Good luck with the book – I’ll check in and see how you’re doing.

    1. Thanks Johanna,
      Will check how yours is coming along too!

  3. lauraeflores · · Reply

    I enjoyed reading the comments on this blog post 🙂 Fun post in itself too.

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