A very odd turn …

October 25th, 2015

Those of you who have read The Keepers trilogy will probably remember that Goldie was often guided by a little voice in the back of her head. It led her into trouble and out again, and once she got over her distrust of it, she relied on it a lot.

One of the reasons I wrote about that little voice is because I believe very strongly in instinct. I think it’s something most of us have, if we will only listen to it. My instinct isn’t a nice clear little voice, like Goldie’s, but it generally lets me know pretty quickly if I’m doing something that’s wrong for me. And I ignore it at my peril.

I use my instinct a LOT when I’m writing. It tells me if I’m working on something that my head likes but my heart doesn’t care about, and vice versa. Because of course a good book needs both head and heart – it’s such a long journey from first idea to finished manuscript that, if part of me isn’t enthusiastic, I’m probably not going to get to the end.

This last week, my instinct has been shouting at me. ‘Your main character is BORING! BORING BORING BORING!’


That’s not good.

But it explained a lot of the uncertainty I’d been feeling about the plot. And it’s better to find out now, when I’ve only written 20,000 words, than when I’ve got a whole draft.

So I thought about it for a while. Where’s the energy in this story? Which parts am I excited about? Which characters are busting to do more?

And the answer was: That character who was just an afterthought, who was only going to come into the story once or twice. That boy. HE’S interesting. I want to know more about him. And that other girl, the one with the chicken. She’s interesting too.

I suspect this story is about to take a very odd turn. I’m going to chuck out most of what I’d written, and most of what I’d plotted. And I’m going to see what happens. I WAS aiming for a first draft by Christmas. Now I’m aiming for a new outline by Christmas. In one way it feels like a big step backwards.

But at least my instinct is happy. πŸ™‚

30 thoughts on “A very odd turn …

  1. Amber-Kate says:

    Hehe instincts come first πŸ™‚

  2. Amber-Kate says:

    It’s good to know that the book is written to the best of
    your ability though because you have a dumbfoundingly
    stunning writing ability, and I can’t wait for another book
    to come out :)!

    1. Lian says:

      Always to the best of my ability. πŸ™‚ Though sometimes the process is a bit fraught! (And ‘dumbfoundingly stunning’ is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about my writing. I shall bask in it. )

  3. Amber-Kate says:

    Yes, instincts always help to improve little spots and give advice (so does Rodney, by stepping around the parts he does like, and plonking down for a nap on the parts he doesn’t!) When you come up with a new idea, how do you work out where to slip it in, without restarting? Your writing is very dumbfouningly stunning so you are very welcome to bask in it πŸ™‚

    1. Lian says:

      The main thing to remember with a new idea is cause and effect. So just because you think it might be cool to have a murder (for example), you can’t just dump it into the story and expect it to fit. Everything has to happen for a reason. e.g. Maybe someone cheats a colleague out of money. As a result the colleague threatens to report them to the police. The dishonest person is already on bail, and if they get reported they know they’ll go to jail. So they murder the colleague.

      So X happens, which causes Y to happen, which in turn causes Z to happen. That’s cause and effect, and it’s really important when you’re writing. EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON! πŸ™‚ If you don’t have it – if the murder just happens for no reason – your story becomes unbelievable.

  4. Amber-Kate says:

    Ah ha and then during the lead up, the reader gets interested and wonders what will happen. Thanks very much, I’ll keep that in mind when I’m writing. Thanks!

  5. Amber-Kate says:

    So when your fitting in a new idea, I guess your have to go back and adapt the story so it flows with the new idea. Which means (correct me if I’m wrong) that you have to go back and make an X to cause Y to cause Z! That’s very useful thank you!

    xx Amber-Kate

    1. Lian says:

      Yes, exactly. You’ve got the idea now. It helps to make little charts with arrows showing what makes what happen. πŸ™‚

  6. Amber-Kate says:

    Ok I’ll do that, and maybe I can pin it on a corkboard to so it’s there if I need it, thanks!

  7. Caitlyn says:

    Hi Lian

    I have really never understood instinct, but if you say it’s like a voice in your mind, then instinct must be very useful when writing!!

    So, now that you’ve ‘changed’ your main character, is your instinct happy? It’s much better to know you’ve put all you can into your main character then realising to late that you could’ve emphasise something more, or change something that you later found didn’t make sense.

    By the way I have a school assignment, where we have to do a biography on an author, and I am interested to do it on you. My only problem is that I can’t find all the dates and events and I was wondering if you could help?
    Also, Did you ever find the soldier from WW2?

    Well, I’ve burdened you enough with my questions, so I might stop here


    1. Lian says:

      Hi Caitlyn, apologies for the slow reply – for some reason your comment didn’t come through in my emails, so I’ve only just seen it. Instinct is a tricky thing – sometimes it speaks so quietly that we don’t hear it. We have to practise listening, practise being very quiet and waiting to get a hint of what our internal self wants us to do. It took me a while to learn it, but I got there in the end.

      And yes, now that I’ve changed my main character, my instinct is very happy! And I’m finding the outline is falling into place fairly easily, which it wasn’t before. So these are all good signs.

      There aren’t any dates on my website – but it you want to put up your questions here I’ll try and answer them. And no, we never found the soldier!

  8. Caitlyn says:

    Okay, then, here they come

    Which series are you must famous for?

    When were you arrested? And how long were you imprisoned for?
    When did your scuba diving incident happen?

    When did you start and finish writing the Museum of Thieves, City of Lies and Path of Beasts? Same with Icebreaker and Sunkers Deep. When is your new series due to come out?

    When did you go looking for the Japanese Soldier?

    Do you have any quotes that are special to you?

    (there will probably be more later I just can’t think of anything else at the moment)

    1. Lian says:

      Hmm, interesting questions! I’m most famous for the Keepers trilogy. I was arrested in March 1980, when the Hobart City Council made busking illegal. I was locked up at police headquarters for three hours, then released on bail. I was never imprisoned because when we went to trial the magistrate threw it out.

      My scuba diving incident happened near Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, in 1975. The search for the Japanese soldier happened a year later, near a small village called Ulagunan, about 30 km south of Rabaul.

      I finished Museum of Thieves in 2009, and it took me three years to write so I must have started it in 2006. I started City as soon as I finished Museum, and it took me 18 months. I started Path as soon as I finished City, and it took me 18 months too. I started Icebreaker as soon as I finished Path and it took me a year. I then spent 6 months trying to write a prequel to Museum of Thieves, only to find I couldn’t get it to work. So then I wrote Sunker and it took me 9 months – that was way too short but I had to get it finished quickly to fulfil my contract.

      I have no idea when the new series will come out – I don’t even have a contract for it yet – haven’t even started writing yet! Just plotting at the moment. At a guess, I’d say the first book will probably come out some time in 2017. But before that, the third book in the Hidden series is due in the shops in January 2016.

      Any quotes that are special to me – you mean quotes from other people? Here you are:

      Emile Zola: “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.’
      Cynthia Heimel: ‘When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.’
      Andre Gide: ‘One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.’

  9. Caitlyn says:

    Thanks, so much
    I’ll tell you how it goes, when i get my assessment back


  10. Amber-Kate says:

    Wow, thats really cool, I love the quotes, and the time it takes to write the stories really shows with how indepth they are

    1. Lian says:

      They’re good quotes, aren’t they. I have them stuck on my cork board to remind me when things get tough.

  11. Caitlyn says:

    Hi Lian
    sorry to bother you but I wanted to know what year you studied Earth sciences in? and what year did you become an actress?
    Also, I really enjoyed the quote by Cynthia Hiemel. It’s actually true!

    1. Lian says:

      Yes, that’s a great quote! And one I have to keep reminding myself of. πŸ™‚

      I studied Earth Sciences between 1969 and 1973. Graduated in 1973. I studied drama in 1987/88, then worked for a small professional theatre company (Salamanca Theatre Company) from 1989-91.

  12. Caitlyn says:

    Thanks Lian
    I’ll be getting my mark today wish me luck!!!

    1. Lian says:

      Fingers and toes crossed for you, Caitlyn!

  13. Amber-Kate says:

    I had my writing test the other day and my writing instincts really came in handy telling me what ideas were good and what words to use. We had to write a story about a given picture where the were some people walking through an old oak forest and my instincts helped my to narrow down a good narrative for the picture, I think I did pretty well and I can send you my story once I have the results back πŸ™‚ Reading this post really helped me to listen to that little voice and come up with intriguing ideas πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  14. Cecilia says:

    My name is Cecilia, I am 12 years old, and my class has just finished reading all 3 books in the keepers series. They were so good, you are so good at writing! Now we have to do a report on 1 of the characters that was randomly selected for us. I was really hoping for Broo, Mouse, or Sinew, (my favorites!) but no, I got the Fugleman (my least favorite

    1. Cecilia says:

      Oops! Sorry! I have a few questions about him since I really need an A on this report.
      1.) Why does the Fugleman and the Protector hate each other so much?
      2.) How did he become the Fugleman? What did he do to get that power?
      3.) Did you always know he was going to be Harrow? Why did he become Harrow in the first place?
      4.) Does he care about anyone? Even just a little bit?
      And just out of curiosity, why does Guardian hope care about pleasing him so much? Is it because she’s afraid of him?
      Thank you so much!

      1. Lian says:

        Hi Cecilia, thanks for your nice comments about the Keepers series – I don’t blame you for wanting Broo, Mouse or Sinew for your characters – they are among my favourites too. As for your questions, how about you give me YOUR answers first, then I’ll add anything I can.

  15. Cecilia says:

    Hello again,
    I realize now that my message might have kinda sounded like I was trying to get you to write my report for me. I was NOT, just to be clear!

    1. Lian says:

      Haha, I did think that. I’m glad I was wrong!

  16. Cecilia says:

    My teacher said that it had to be from a credible source, and I thought that the author of the books was a pretty credible source!
    1.) you mention in the first book about how the protectors birthday was pretty sucky, and maybe something like that had happened multiple times which made her realize “oh hey my brothers kind of a jerk”
    2.) maybe he started out as a blessed guardian, and they liked him enough to put him in that position.
    3.) maybe it was a way of venting anger. Most people listen to music or read a book but he (being an overall terrible person) gets it out by hurting other people.
    4.) I’m going to go with no?
    Thank you!

    1. Lian says:

      I’m awfully sorry it’s taken me so long to reply, Cecilia – for some reason my website has stopped notifying me when I get messages, so I only saw this when I came to update the page. I guess it’s probably too late for your report now, but I’ll answer anyway. I like your answers, and agree that I am a credible source. πŸ™‚
      1. Yes, the example of the birthday is the only one we get to see, but I think it’s a fair guess that this sort of thing happened a lot, and that’s why the Protector hates the Fugleman. As for why the Fugleman hates the Protector – I think some of it is because she’s his older sister, and he wants to be the most important one. But also maybe because she’s one of the few people he can’t fool.
      2. Yes again. And being such a manipulative person, I would guess he cheated quite a lot to get elected.
      3. No, I didn’t always know that he was going to be Harrow. At the end of the first book I knew he was going to go somewhere else to rebuild his power, but I didn’t know where he would go or who he would become. I think it was mostly a way of setting up a power structure that he could use to hurt Jewel.
      4. And Bingo, you’re completely right. He’s a psychopath, basically, and the only person he likes or cares about is himself.

      As for Guardian Hope, I think she’s in love with him.

  17. Caitlyn says:

    Hi Lian,

    Sorry, I haven’t said anything for a while, but the reason I haven’t told you what my mark was, was because the teacher was busy and I only got my mark today. I got a B+!

    By the way, you were telling me before that you tried to write a prequel to the Keepers, did you ever try again??? and what were some of your ideas.

    Thanks, I hope I didn’t let you down with my mark

    1. Lian says:

      Hi Caitlyn, personally I think a B+ is very good! Well done, I hope you were pleased with such a good mark. No, I never did go ahead with the prequel. It felt too much as if I was treading on ground that I had already walked, and trying to force things to happen instead of just letting them happen. Over and over again I find out that that is not a good idea. And no, not going to tell you what any of the ideas were – I might recycle them in another story. πŸ™‚

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