How I sit down to write my stories – a guest post by Susan Mac Nicol



Today’s post was written by guest blogger Susan Mac Nicols, author of recently released Double Alchemy. Of course I LOVE the title! Here is Susan to share a little about her writing process:

Often one of the questions people will ask is me is ‘How do you write- do you have a real idea when you sit down which direction the book is going or do you just type and make it up as you go along?’ The answer to this so far has been the second approach.  I’m not one for plotting in too much detail. I have a few set guidelines I use when I begin and I’ve noted these below.


Characters – I outline about ten lines of the character

  • DOB – Month and year. That way I don’t trip up on their age J
  • Physical appearance – hair, eyes, body shape, anything distinguishing like Cade’s nipple piercing
  • Profession -Cade is an anthropologist
  • Where they work –  geographically and the type of place -museum, office, restaurant etc.
  • Some basic character traits – I actually use star signs to do this so I choose their DOB based on what I think my character is going to be like. Quinn for example was always going to be a Leo both in physical appearance and nature. I had this idea for him being King of the Jungle.


  • If family is going to play an important part in my character’s life, then I’ll jot down a couple of sentences about each of them. Name, sex and a brief description of why they are in the story.


  • My stories usually have the main location in mind when I’m setting the story – for Double Alchemy it was Hampstead Heath in London. Quinn has his house there, the magyckal Sprite pond is there and it’s also where Quinn and Jomo have their office.
  • Other locations I write about arise as and when I need them. The Clapham Common Fairground for example, because I wanted the rather nasty Jeremy found at a local funfair.
  • Scotland was important as Cade is studying the Picts for his dissertation and this is where they originated.


  • I’ll then write about one A4 page of the plot. Very basic details – where they meet, what happens when they do, what I intend happening as they develop, and how the story needs to develop. It’s a very brief skeleton that I use to at least remind me where I want to get to.

Then I sit down with laptop on knee on my couch in the corner of the my lounge, write the first sentence and it all takes on a life of its own and begins to knit together. The characters develop quirks, frailties, strengths and senses of humour, and really become their own people.

It might not work for everyone. I know people who take an inordinate amount of time mapping out their stories using techniques like the Snowflake method.

I do know that for the book series I’m writing, I am going to need to be more organised and structured as writing a series of six books all moving on from one another is a challenge. I bought some story writing software called New Novelist V3 to help me do this and so far I’m pretty impressed with it. It’s very easy to use and as I’m a visual person, this meets my needs.


 Susan Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, UK, and left for South Africa when she was eight. She returned to the UK thirty years later and now lives in Essex. Her debut novel Cassandra by Starlight, the first in a trilogy, was published last year by Boroughs Publishing Group in the US. Sue’s latest story, Double Alchemy is her fifth m/m romance.

 Sue has written since she was very young, and never thought she would see herself becoming a Romance writer, being a horror/psychological thriller reader all her life. But the Romance genre is now something very close to her heart and she intends continuing the trend.

 Sue is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Romantic Novelists Association here in the UK.

 Susan Mac Nicol is also author of The Magick of ChristmasConfounding Cupid, Cassandra by StarlightTogether in StarlightStripped BareSaving AlexanderWorth Keeping and Waiting for Rain.

Social Links: Website | Blog Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads Pinterest

Here’s summary of Double Alchemy:

Powerful yet tormented modern warlock Quinn Fairmont must initiate the silver-eyed Cade Mairston into the world of witchfinders, Withinners, and what can happen when two men fall truly, madly, deeply in love.


 Double_AlchemyIn modern London there lurks a warlock, Quinn Fairmont. Dangerous, powerful, tortured, sharing his body with the soul of an ancient Welsh sorcerer, Quinn is never alone—and never wholly himself. He fights against all those who would exploit his kind. He takes pleasure where he can find it.

In the forest of Hampstead Heath, Quinn’s hometown, Cade Mairston appears to him like a waking dream. Lithe, lean and silver-eyed, he evokes feelings in Quinn unlike any other: lust with true affection, immediate and shocking. Cade is clearly more than he seems. And yet, if a man of the world, Cade is innocent. He knows nothing of warlocks, witchfinders or Withinners. He knows nothing of what he is, what he might be, or what he might feel. For him, the story is just beginning. Magyck, peril and passion await.

I’m part of a blog tour arranged by Virtual Writers. You can click the banner to find out more about the tour and to discover other interesting book bloggers. Susan’s book can be found here.
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Sanderson Summer Course – no charge!

On July 8, Brandon is releasing a 2013 lecture series. Incredibly, there is no cost. There is some work and commitment involved, so read the description first, then get yourself over to his site and register. And if you haven’t finished the 2012 series, you’d better get right on that!