Striking the Right Balance

Author Annette Young

by Annette  Young

Have you been watching the new BBC drama Strike – The Cuckoo’s Calling? Written by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling, it’s a 3-part series and as a huge fan of the books, I was particularly interested in how they would turn the story into a short series considering the audio version is incredibly long.

Whether you have read the book or, just like a good crime drama, there are important points to note. Although the plot has to be strong, and it actually is, characterisation is all-important in these types of books and must be strong so to portray well on the screen. There has to be something a little different about the protagonist and there is.

In the books, I liked Strike, the craggy-looking and sounding private investigator. Admittedly, the audio version has a wonderful narrator in Robert Glenister but even so, he comes across as likeable, eccentric and with quite a few demons of his own. His flaws no doubt make him believable and the fact that he is a veteran soldier and had lost part of his leg in an explosion makes him vulnerable and yet, displays great inner strength too. It’s this mixture of traits that make readers buy into him.

I was pleased to see that even in these shortened episodes, they had managed to capture these traits and you couldn’t help but root for him and for his new, obviously capable secretary who appears honest and more than a little competitive. It’s her inner drive that takes her from being his temp secretary to someone who plays a significant role in the murder investigation. This is clever characterisation.

It’s not always easy to create two eminently likeable characters who gel together as well.  Even though the drama misses out the important disharmony between the secretary Robin and her fiancée, where jealousy about her association with Strike becomes an ugly conflicting emotion between them. The dramatization is still strong regardless.

If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do. If you are watching it, try to consider how you would turn one of your stories or novels into a TV series, picture your characters on the screen and you will also gain an idea as to how much you know them.  This is a key aspect for any writer. Know your characters inside out and consider what will make your readers like or dislike them.  If you can visualise the characters and the scenes as if watching a TV drama, while writing, you will be able to make this become a positive habit.

Writing a Murder Mystery? Get Inside the Mind of the Victim


Author Annette J Young

by Annette J Young

A murder mystery story takes many forms. It requires forethought and careful planning to tie all the threads of an in-depth plot together. Each aspect is important. Many people focus on the murderer but what of the victim? You have to understand their importance within the story too. In my own novel, I decided that the victim would die right at the start of the book, my aim was to create impact and drama hooking the reader from the opening pages. Compassion for the victim and for those who were left behind were built into the story so that the reader could share the sense of disbelief and grief. In other novels, the reader follows the victim, sometimes growing to know these characters, unaware of their impending and untimely demise. When they have grown attached to the character, death creates shock and a sense of loss.  

If you are planning to write a murder mystery, then careful planning is required. What do you want the reader to feel at the time of the death? Are you trying to shock them or to make them feel the loss of this character in a deep sense or, perhaps a mixture of the two? They may not feel an attachment to the victim, or, equally, the moment of death replays in their minds over and over. In addition to the reader’s needs, you must also consider how the victim feels before death. Are you weaving suspenseful situations around them? Are they being followed or watched from the shadows? Have you created tension and drama?  If you can create an emotive game of cat and mouse, the reader will be hooked.

To write a good murder mystery, you must slip into the mind of the victim so to create beautifully written passages that evoke tragedy, fear and intensity. Imagine walking down an isolated and poorly lit road late one night. Your senses will be heightened as your eyes search the shadows for movement. Your ears will strain for the sound of someone stealthily creeping nearer and your mouth will become dry and you’ll swallow nervously, muscles tightening as you prepare to run if you need to.

A victim’s fear will grow if you play on the fears that we all experience. Imagine yourself in your house late one night, you are alone and suddenly, the lights are extinguished unexpectedly. As you peer into the darkness, you hear noises that are new and unknown. You can’t decipher them, is it a door opening as an intruder enters your home? Perhaps you hear soft footsteps on the stairs and the creaking of a loose floorboard. If you can imagine yourself in these situations, you’ll tap into the sensation of fear and be able to relay all the tension and suspense to the reader. 

When you write a murder mystery, you need a good understanding of the plot and how the characters all play an integral part. Think of them as actors learning their lines moving across the stage at your direction. You are creating a world in which one or more of your characters experiences an unnatural and even painful death. Don’t just write that they have been murdered, live it, breathe in the tension and feel the fear if you wish the reader to do the same.


Do you want to write a murder mystery? Take a look at this blog post: Step Inside the Mind of a Killer

Murder Mystery Novel

Interested in reading a compelling and deeply evocative murder mystery? Buy the book from or

Writing a Novel – Stereotypes and Boundaries

Writing a novel

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

When I started writing my novel Who Killed September Falls, I had the image of my two main characters firmly planted in my mind. I knew that I wanted September to be wildly beautiful but flawed within her own personality and she had to have the perfect foil, Arianne Tawnison who was the loyal friend, the side-kick who recognised her role within the friendship but who gave willingly and gained much as a result. I wanted September, (Sepi) to have a Latin heritage although she was British, so she could be feisty, passionate and indiscreet, and by contrast, Arianne was sensible, sensitive and transparently honest.

I am a firm believer that you should write about what you know or have experienced, and base your story on solid foundations, pushing back the barriers in ways that stretch the imagination, extending those characters, yet still allowing them to be natural and realistic in their thoughts, feelings and actions.

By the time I came to write my novel, I had lived and breathed both characters for quite some time and had played out various scenarios in my mind. I knew the novel was going to be a murder mystery, but it couldn’t just be that. It had to be about the people who played their part. The characters had to be larger than life, they had to  be emotional, to be able to feel raw pain and to be unable to hide it.

I  also wanted to break down the stereotype that many people have of us Brits, and I say this tongue in cheek because I am sure that there is a definite perception of the  stiff upper lip and that we muster on despite intense heartbreak and emotional turmoil, our lips may quiver slightly but that’s all.  In my mind, I just knew that Arianne wasn’t going to be able to be that tough. She was facing the shock and terror of hearing that her best friend had been brutally murdered. I put myself in that situation wondering what I would feel, how I would cope, questioning how I could recover from such terrible news. As I sat contemplating my writing plan, there was no doubt that I was going to put her through the mill and she was going to feel alone, isolated in her grief and would shed never-ending tears the more that she learned. Arianne suffered the pain of suspected betrayal, faced acute fear and experienced the purity of love which served to comfort and shield her, but throughout, she stuck to her mission with dogged determination and resilience.

I suppose writing those types of scenes made me really consider my own emotions. I don’t like to cry in public and I have never liked to show if someone has hurt me, so I had to turn the tables on Arianne and make life so raw for her that she had to grieve and experience the multitude of emotions that threatens to envelop when someone close to you dies. As she cried, I sat at my desk and cried too. Since the novel was published, I have had many people tell me that there were times in the novel when they cried over the intensity of the emotions and I’ve had others tell me that Arianne certainly didn’t seem like their idea of a British woman and that she seemed to really struggle to get over her loss, so maybe I achieved what I set out to do.

My novel became the murder-mystery with emotion. I created a slice of real life and took two very different women, threw them both into a very dark place which resulted in dire consequences and created a complex mystery with a myriad of twists and turns that took Arianne into emotional places and situations in which she floundered. My ethos was that no-one truly knows how to deal with grief in real life, so I wanted to capture all those dark emotions as a result.

When I started writing my novel, I had no idea of how powerful those emotional scenes would be for me as the writer. I think that Arianne Tawnison really came to life for me because I stripped back the barriers and allowed those raw emotions to live. I think that breaking down the stereotype also enabled me to move more freely in a creative sense. Although September experienced hatred and tragedy, Arianne has evolved and her character has become so powerful that she lives on in a fictional sense in my latest series, Secrets at Cranridge Manor. It’s good to be able to bring her back from those dark depths and to give her something new to focus on.

So when you start writing your novel, consider carefully where you want your characters to end up. How can you break down barriers to make your characters believable? They need to feel real to you so that you can portray them convincingly to others and if they are strong enough, you may be able to breathe life into them at a later date.

Who Killed September Falls?


Interested in reading Who Killed September Falls?







Or take a look at the new series starring Arianne Tawnison…



Buy Part One here:

Series - Secrets at Cranridge Manor











Winning Writing Competitions – Yes You Can!

Competition Success

Author/Editor Annette Young

By Annette Young

Writing competitions – they are a unique way of firing up your enthusiasm for the written word and sending your skill level to crazy new heights. Receiving notification that you have won a writing competition is pretty special. It’s like having your Christmas and birthday presents wrapped up in one sensational moment. You feel good. No, you feel great. More than a boost to your self-esteem, more than an eureka moment – what am I going to spend all that cash on? It’s confirmation that your writing skills are pretty good.

You can be a prolific writer and you can have the best technical writing skills in the world but it doesn’t mean you are going to win any writing competitions – why? Because to win writing competitions, you have to enjoy it. You have to look at the competitions that are on offer and think wow, I really want to have a go at that. Those with a theme are often easier if you are just starting out, or, if you just like having a trigger to springboard your creativity to new heights.

Having a passion for the written word is vital. Enjoying that brain pulsing moment when you take an idea and run with it and find out that hey, it’s a pretty good idea, well, that’s a great moment. You have to be able to live and breathe writing. To stand at the sink tackling the washing up when really, your mind is far away solving mysteries in the Caribbean, or enjoying an illicit preview of your characters clandestine affair.

But more than excitement, you have to be prepared to knuckle down and actually do the work. You have the ideas, you’ve narrowed them down, then you need to find your starting point. Depending on your word count allowance, your starting point might be very close to the end, but decide on this first of all and then let the words flow. Make the opening sentence dynamic. Choose your words carefully, make every one count. Just because you are a competition writer, it doesn’t mean you don’t embark on the whole re-writing element of the game. Change it, shine it, polish it. It represents you but don’t sit on it, doubting it until after the closing date.

Entering writing competitions enables you to put yourself out there. You are endorsing your work and saying, here I am. This is what I am about. Although your work undergoes a judging process, you, the writer are not judged. We know all about the writing journey and often, it starts with writing competitions like ours. The main element to winning is to enter in the first place. It’s as simple as that. You will never start to know how good you are until your work is circulating, doing the rounds. If faced with rejection, take another look at your submission. Could you have improved it? If yes, tweak it, save it and then submit it to another writing competition -assuming the story-line fits. When you write with determination and dedication, you will see  your work progress in leaps and bounds.

So can you win writing competitions? Yes, you can, you just have to dream up a captivating idea, enhance it, write it and then send it.

Marketing Your Author Website


Author/Editor Annette Young

by Annette Young

As an author, it is imperative that you have a website and start building your brand, but it’s easy to fall foul of unscrupulous marketing practices if you are not 100% certain what you are doing. Having fresh content added to your website regularly is important and will help keep your dedicated readers coming back as well as ensuring that Google and other search engines will start to notice your site.

For any author, there is no getting away from social networking and as many authors are going the indie-route these days, any marketing falls solely at the feet of the author. Even with traditional publishing now, the more the author can do to get the word out the better.

As an author myself, I know the importance of having a popular website. Take the Creative Competitor site for instance, in the last few months, visitors have trebled. I am sure this is because I promote the site and content regularly and I always try to make the articles and posts informative. If you are designing your author website, think in terms of simplicity. Marketing and design are both important but I know authors who have spent a fortune on having the most whizzy of designs but in user terms, frankly, it’s too annoying to wait for pages to load. Think always of the user experience. This will also stand you in good stead for search engine placement. Why? Because Google, (who let’s be honest runs the show) change their algorithms regularly with the visitor in mind.  So, fresh content, easy to read and informative equals quality in their eyes.

If you have searched the web in recent years you may well have come across poorly written articles all geared up towards high density keyword placement and it ruined the articles. If you are not sure what high density keyword placement is, good. Don’t bother. Just write your blog posts with your readers in mind. Keep it fresh and entertaining. Some people will mention back-links to you and will offer you their services, do not fall into this trap. Some savvy but not so honest marketers went the way of the paid back links but they were not genuine links and Google soon saw through this new little ploy to beat their latest rules.

Also worth considering is whether people can view your site easily on their mobile devices and tablets, so if you are looking for a website theme currently, keep this in mind. Mobile access is likely to exceed  access via the traditional desktop or laptop devices.

For 2014, Google has specified that good quality content written by authors with specific expertise will be a main focus (my words, not theirs) so in which case, become an expert in  your area and, if necessary, pull in the services of other experts to write pieces for your blog.  Content always has and always will be king, but fresh and quality content will always beat tired, old recycled articles- even if they are well-written. When you have your website in place, make the decision to add new content several times a week. If you start with a dedicated plan of action, write blog posts, or add excerpts from your books and do this each week, your site popularity will soon build. It doesn’t have to be just blog posts or articles of course, use video, PowerPoint and social media clips to keep the content fresh.

Never forget why you are setting up your website and what you are offering to your visitors. You are a writer, so enjoy the craft of writing for your readers. SEO – search engine optimization is important, but just as important is having your vision and providing tantalising snippets of information that will keep your readers coming back. Make your site a popular one and you can bet that the search engines will find you.

If you need help promoting your books, ask us. We provide a professional but affordable marketing service for authors globally.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

Author/Editor Annette YoungWith the sad demise of actor/comedian Rik Mayall recently, it got me thinking about how we conduct our lives and play out our dreams. We think that we have all the time in the world to achieve our goals but the harsh reality is that we don’t. Although it’s easy to see that Rik Mayall more than achieved in his 56 years, many of us don’t and we need to question why.

Some people have a passion in life and strive forward determinedly, others may have opportunities presented to them but even so, the secret to success is that these people clutch those opportunities with both hands and do not let self-doubts or time restraints hold them back.

We are all guilty of procrastination. There are times when I feel the urge to do anything bar write. Tiredness, stress or even the enjoyable social aspects of life can actually all get in the way of our true path. This post isn’t a stark reminder of our mortality rather, a reminder that if you have a dream, don’t wait, get on with it.

There is nothing more painful than regret and knowing that you could have done so much better. Although my passion is writing, the message here can relate to all goals in life. No-one knows what lies ahead of them. Life is rosy and longevity may seem certain when your health is good, but health and circumstances can change rapidly. As much as it will be terribly painful for Rik Mayall’s family, he leaves behind a multitude of visual reminders and he will stay alive in the memories of all who admired him, what aspects of your life will you leave behind? How would you want others to remember you? If you have a dream, writing a novel, a play, or even getting a short story published, don’t think about it, or dream about it, do it. Start now and know that you put your heart and soul into something that is important to you.

None of us want to think ‘if only’ when our time is up.

Writers – Why You Should Sweat the Small Stuff

Author/Editor Annette Youngby editor/author Annette Young

As a writer, you have to build up a vivid picture for your reader. You might have a definite plan in your mind, but unless you can transfer those thoughts and paint those images with words, capturing them forever within the plot, your reader will not grasp the story as comprehensively as you would like.

I am lucky where I live in that the Pyrenees Mountains provide a huge source of inspiration for me. I look out of my window and I see snow-capped mountains, I turn my head in a slightly different direction and I see the rising tower of a church spire peeking from the green shrouded scenery of a small French village opposite me. I am surrounded by the picturesque scenery that provides me with the inspiration I  need, someone else might become inspired by being surrounded with people, or dynamic architectural designs that form complex concrete structures. It doesn’t matter where you are or the things that you see, being able to immerse yourself in your own environment is the most important aspect as is, having the technical skills to relay this information in a compelling way to those who read your work.

I went for a walk the other day, climbing higher into the foothills and I followed little roads that meandered through farmland and valleys. Having re-developed my love of bird-watching, my idea was to see as much wildlife as I could but as typically happens when I walk, I start think. I think about new characters, settings, possible locations and create descriptive scenarios in my mind. At one point, mesmerised by the clusters of striking flowers that adorned the hedgerows, I thought about the work that goes into creating just a small passage in any book. Importantly, it has to be accurate and revealing. There’s no point my just writing about yellow flowers, it means nothing to the reader really, I would have to say the clusters of vibrant flowers that rose on stalks from the rough and tumble grasses and how the Great Yellow Gentian draws the eye to its significant form.

A writer should always check their facts too.Find out what month a particular flower blooms and to ensure that they do actually grow in the location chosen. It’s important because someone is bound to know and as a writer, you can lose credibility if you get it wrong. Similarly, if I say I watched as a kestrel hovered high over the freshly cut crops hunting for prey, I have to ensure that in my area, kestrels are resident. Although this is a fairly safe bet, there will be examples that are revealed as obvious mistakes if you are not careful.

This is especially important if you are writing about a particular place. I remember providing published novel samples to my writing students at college one day. The excerpt was  from one of my favourite authors and I loved her descriptive passages that held the power to conjure up balmy summer nights, or dreamy beach scenes in tropical island paradises. At least I did until one student said that those particular flowers described did not bloom during those months. She knew the area well and was adamant as a gardening enthusiast that she was right and who am I to argue the point? It certainly gave me food for thought. Creative licence goes a long way but for a little bit of research, a fictional novel can still be accurate and actually come alive for the reader.

So do I think writers need to sweat the small stuff? Absolutely, especially if they want their work to seem credible. We all want to possess the writing skills needed to paint vivid imagery with our words, so why not take inspiration from the world around you, or at least, do the necessary research if you are writing about an area that is unfamiliar to you? It can make all the difference.

Want to Publish? Then Publish Something Good

Author/Editor Annette YoungI have been known to rant a bit, but then I believe passionately in writing and those wonderful feelings of satisfaction achieved after writing and publishing something worthwhile.  Being an author is not easy. Your best work is often the result of laboured productivity where you have to wrench painful, emotional or difficult experiences from deep within and to share them with the world. You put your heart and soul on the line every single time you have something published.

Writing is hard work, you face rejection, you feel the brunt of reader feed-back, you are filled with doubts at times about your own skill-set, oh and the road to making a million is a long and trying one. In short, there are mistakes and set-backs waiting to be made every step of the way.

Self-publishing is a wonderful resource and although some still shy away from self-publishing, I say accept and embrace every single opportunity to get published that you can. If you make mistakes, accept them but don’t stop writing or publishing your books. There’s a global audience just waiting to read your words.

It’s important to be clear however that indie publishing is not a ‘get rich quick scheme’ or, a way to haphazardly create books that have not been created with love, care and attention. If you are going to publish, then publish something good. Why would you not spend the same time and effort with an ebook as you would with a traditional book? The only difference might be that you have a smaller word count with an ebook, the quality of words should be the same.

Understanding why you want to write as well as who you are writing for will certainly help you to have a definite plan of attack. If it’s just some fuzzy idea of being an author, then forget it. Have some pride in your work. Plan your book, live and breathe those words, and have a definitive message to share.

Having work published is akin to leaving a part of you behind long after you have given up your grip on life.  It’s a way of being alive forever, at least in the eyes of the reader who will want to know more about you. Just imagine your book being read 50 years from now, new dedicated readers who desperately wish you were still able to write….or not, depending on the quality.

So think about the end result. Do you want the reader to put your book down and think wow? Do you want them to feel informed and satisfied by the content? If you think about your book from start to finish then they will. If you are an author who thinks that using indie publishing is just a way to churn out any old rubbish or to make a bit of cash then you will simply leave the reader feeling disappointed and cheated.

What type of author do you want to be?

Writing the Murder Mystery – The Power of Emotion and Realism

writing the murder mystery





When I started writing my murder mystery book – Who Killed September Falls? I embarked upon a crazy challenge to complete it within one month and while this was a self-inflicted deadline, I didn’t want to lose the essence of it being a good novel either. My preparation was to focus on the characters and to have a fair idea of the plot. For me, the characters are pretty much the most important aspect of any book; I knew that they would have to drive the plot forward and that some aspects of my story might change as a result. So I was prepared to be flexible and to amend sections as I wrote, if that was needed.

I was aware that I had to consider the needs of the reader too, engaging them meant creating vivid scenes and planting strategic hooks that would keep them turning the pages. I wasn’t just writing for my own pleasure, but for the reader too. Creating powerful characters is important irrespective of genre and for me, it was vital that I created a powerful and unbreakable connection between Arianne and September.

For those who have not read the book, it starts with the murder of September Falls, so the plot unfolds with her best friend Arianne Tawnison desperate to find out more about the senseless killing so that she can come to terms with it. As with any fatal crime, those that are left behind experience their own sense of hell and Arianne could not move on after the death of her childhood friend. There were too many unanswered questions and a killer still on the loose.

My idea was that through the eyes of Arianne and other characters that had been closely linked to the victim, September’s personality and traits would come to life but often in conflicting terms. In real life, our perceptions of people and events change substantially. It made sense to me that Arianne would discover a great deal more about her friend following her death and from very different viewpoints. I was really keen that the reader would feel the connection between the two friends but also to experience the sense of bewilderment that must come from experiencing a tragic loss. Human emotion was the key to my connecting with the reader and because I was writing the story often with tears in my eyes, I wanted the readers to feel that rawness too.

So not only was it important to bring the emotion to life, but to also plant the seeds of doubt in the readers’ mind too. This meant really getting to know my characters and understanding what made them tick. I planted little red herrings that I hoped would make the reader think and would lead them astray but I also planted genuine clues. I wanted to create the mystery and tension and suspicion that would occur if you are investigating a dangerous situation. Arianne knew that she was taking risks but having received and read the personal journal that September had sent to her just days before her death, it was as if her friend was directing her from beyond the grave.

So, I had characters that interacted and that forced the story forward, I had emotion and I had intrigue and mystery and I also had a fairly grisly murder to start the whole thing off. I was pleased with the novel and its subsequent success, and there is nothing like receiving personal feedback as to how the story had gripped those who read it. I learned a great deal from the process and I will take a slightly different approach with my next murder mystery book – the sequel Who Killed Kendra Laine? But the essence will always remain with character development.

Watch the book trailer here.

Who Killed September Falls


Buy the book here – Amazon UK  or Amazon US