The essence of time – Guest Blog by Isabella Muir

Much is written about writing.  If you are a fiction writer you could end up spending the equivalent of a working week – every week – garnering useful tips and critical guidance.  We are encouraged to focus on the story arc, on fleshing out our characters and ensuring we include exquisite detail to make our story come to life.  We learn the importance of plot and theme and setting, and how selecting the right point of view can make the difference between success and failure.

When I worked on my first novel, entitled The Tapestry Bag, I found all this advice immensely valuable.  However, I would like to add something else into the mix.  Whether you are a ‘plotter’ – setting out your detailed story board before writing a word – or a ‘pantser’ – someone who writes their first draft, by the ‘seat of their pants’ – there is one other element of preparation that I would highly recommend.


The timeline!

Of course, it is important to know the year your story is set in, but a detailed timeline is so much more than that.  When I read through an early draft of The Tapestry Bag I could see all the incidences of ‘yesterday’, ‘tomorrow,’ ‘next week’, and so on were progressing the story forward. However, when I worked through the complete manuscript I realised that I’d started my story at a point in the calendar that resulted in my protagonist, Janie, having to go to work in her mobile library van on Christmas Day!


Clearly, something needed to change.

I decided to set out a detailed timeline on an Excel spreadsheet.  The internet is a wonderful thing.  I was able to download a calendar for 1969, the year my story is set in.  I mapped out each chapter, noting the passage of time, making sure that my characters were not at work on a Sunday, and not having their lie-ins when they should have been at work.  Reflecting on the timeline also helped me to determine the likely weather pattern, so that Janie and her husband Greg were appropriately dressed for July sunshine, but prepared for autumn when September came around.

As well as the chapter breakdown, I’ve used Excel to keep a track of the year and month each of my main characters were born. This means I can see at a glance how old each of them is when the story starts and ends, but also how old they were when key events occurred – the Second World War, for example.

Having this timeline was crucial when I wrote the sequel to The Tapestry Bag, entitled, Lost Property.  As the new story unfolds my characters prepare not just for winter, but for the end of a decade; a decade that brought significant social change.


Each author will have their own approach to preparation.  As well as a detailed timeline, it’s important to know your characters inside out.  Completing character templates helps us to think about not just their physical attributes, but their likes and dislikes, their hopes and fears.  I have brought each of my characters alive by selecting a photo that sums up the person I perceive them to be.  Just do an internet search for ‘middle-aged man 1960s’ for example, and you can browse through likely candidates.  The photo may even inspire you to add something into your story that you hadn’t anticipated, perhaps they wear glasses, or have a bald patch, or a straggly beard.  These visual prompts help to bring your characters alive as you plot and plan your way through the story.

And now, with my detailed timeline, I can keep a diary of events for my characters.  I’m certain that my Excel timeline has already made my writing life easier.  It’s another resource in my writer’s toolkit that I can adapt and develop so that I am ready for the next novel!

Which resources have you found most helpful when writing fiction?  Share your favourite tips and techniques by adding a comment below.

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This guest blog has been written for us by Isabella Muir

To find her on social media, click on the links below:

Twitter: @nofixedabode123  and @janiejuke
Member of The Author Lab: a writers’ collective:

Remember Sharing is caring so please feel free to share this article with friends and family

Like my Page page on Facebook

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Taryn Leigh

Taryn Leigh is the Author of Perfect Imperfections, which is currently available from AmazonWaterstonesBarnes&Noble, Exclusive Books and where all good books are sold.

Nanowrimo – one year on! Guest Blog by Isabella Muir

One year ago I accepted an invitation.  I didn’t know then it would be an acceptance that would change my life.  Perhaps that sounds a little dramatic?  Nevertheless, when I look back over the last twelve months and catalogue the differences, it feels like a fair assertion.

The invitation came from Authorlab colleague, Chris Paton who writes as Christoffer Petersen ‘How about joining in with Nanowrimo?’ he asked me.  Back then, I didn’t know much about the forum that encourages authors to write up to 50,000 words during the month of November.  The forum works on the basis that online writing buddies support each other through the ups and downs of putting together the first draft of a novel.  Chris and I spurred each other on.  During that month I worked to complete a novel I had started for my MA in Professional Writing.  The novel, Forgotten Children, had itself been forgotten and it was a good feeling to re-immerse myself in the plot and get to know the characters.  I didn’t achieve my 50,000 words, but by the end of the month I had got into the habit of writing daily.  More than a habit, that daily writing became a comfortable addiction.

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By Christmas 2016 I had finished the draft of Forgotten Children and sent it out to friends and family for comment and feedback.  But I wanted to keep writing.  In February 2017, while strolling along a beach in southern Spain with my faithful Scottie dog, Hamish, I had an idea for another novel.  Continuing my daily writing habit, I started drafting.  Then in April, Chris suggested we commit to Campnano, which works in a similar way to Nanowrimo.  With a daily target to push me on, I managed to complete the first draft of The Tapestry Bag.  During the spring and summer I beavered away drafting and re-editing until I was ready to send The Tapestry Bag out to the world.


While writing The Tapestry Bag I got to know my key character, Janie Juke, very well.  So well, in fact, that I realised she deserved a series of stories.  Janie is a young and unlikely librarian who has a passion for Agatha Christie novels and sees herself as a budding Hercule Poirot.  The Janie Juke crime mystery series is set in the late 1960s in Tamarisk Bay, an imaginary seaside town, modelled on my home town of St Leonards-on-sea.  As Janie goes about her library work she discovers many of the characters in this sleepy resort are not quite what they might appear.  She cleverly weaves her way through a puzzle of clues, unwrapping secrets and challenging lies.


The second Campnano in July helped me to complete the second in the Janie Juke mystery series, Lost Property, where Janie is approached by a Second World War pilot to track down an old friend.  In Lost Property Janie teams up with local journalist and friend, Libby Frobisher, and between them they delve into the past in order to solve the mystery.


My daily writing habit continues.   Over the last twelve months I have learned a lot, but there is still much to discover.  I have taken the first few steps along a path that I liken to an apprenticeship – with each chapter, each blog post, each book review – I am trying to improve.  Words are tricky, but they are wonderful too.  They open up new worlds for readers and they create healthy challenges for writers.

So, twelve months from Nanowrimo 2016, what is my plan?  You’ve guessed it.  I’ve almost completed Nanowrimo 2017 and who knows what the next twelve months might bring?  I’ll let you know!


Have you had a successful writing year?  Let us know what writing challenges you have set yourself.

This guest blog has been written for us by Isabella Muir

To find her on Social Media, you can follow her here:

Twitter: @nofixedabode123  and @janiejuke


Member of The Author Lab: a writers’ collective:


Remember Sharing is caring so please feel free to share this article with friends and family

Like my Page page on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

Taryn Leigh

Taryn Leigh is the Author of Perfect Imperfections, which is currently available from AmazonWaterstonesBarnes&Noble, Exclusive Books and where all good books are sold.


Amazing Reading Nooks

I am a self confessed book lover. Especially those old books, that smell stale and their pages are yellowed. For me they have character, and tell stories not just within the pages, but also of the people who’s hands have lovingly held them.

As sweet as books may be to a Book Lover like myself, it is sweeter still to have the dream space in which you can relax and read your favourite novel undisturbed.

So here are my favourite reading nooks. Some Classic, Some modern, and some even to encourage your kids to read

For the Classic Lover

This spot is old school classic, cosy and comfortable. Perfect for those winter days with a warm blanket thrown over your knees


For the adventure seeker

This is perfect for kids, but also for Adults who want to feel like they are in their own unique space up away from it all


For the Outdoor Lover

This is perfect for those who want to be inside, yet outside at the same time. Its serene and tranquil.

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For the Trend Setter

These are for those loving something new and trendy, yet still comfortable. Something for your friends to say WOW to when they walk into our homes

For the lover of a Secret Hide Away

These are great places of escape, where you not only escape into the pages of the book, but you also escape into your own secret hide away

For the Kids who are learning to love to read

This is for our next generation, who will cherish what we hold dear. A lovely way to encourage them to read


So go out there and make your own haven where you can put your feet up and escape into the pages of another world for a few hours. You deserve it!


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Taryn Leigh

Taryn Leigh is the Author of Perfect Imperfections, which is currently available from AmazonWaterstonesBarnes&Noble, Exclusive Books and where all good books are sold.

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Recently I had the pleasure of reading Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

Synopsis :

In an alternate United States, love has been declared a dangerous disease, and the government forces everyone who reaches eighteen to have a procedure called the Cure. Living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Portland, Maine, Lena Haloway is very much looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life. She watched love destroy her mother and isn’t about to make the same mistake.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena meets enigmatic Alex, a boy from the Wilds who lives under the government’s radar. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

To start off I must say I absolutely love the cover! This revised cover edition is much better than the original and really caught my eye.

Besides loving the cover, I absolutely fell in love with the book! Dystopia novels are not something I usually read, but the concept of Love being declared a dangerous disease, definitely made me explore further.

Lauren Oliver has an amazing talent. She almost writes in a style devoid of love in this book, to emphasise the theme. I found myself so drawn to this world as I could feel it and imagine it in every word, every description and the lack of emotion in her way of writing.

The idea that Lena was about to have her procedure made you start hoping for some way out for her from page one. Being a hopeless romantic myself I definitely was of the school of thought that, should I be in their position,  I would have definitely wanted to go to The Wilds instead.

Discussion Points :

This book definitely raises some interesting points and I thought I would list some things I found myself discussing with others, that I would love to discuss with you too.

1. If you had to choose between living a life incapable of feeling love, or living a life devoid of any luxuries in order to at least feel love. What would you choose?

My view to this was that I would really struggle living in the Wilds without water and electricity etc, but if I was with someone I loved it would make it all worth it. 

2. Do you think that this Dystopian novel hints to the fact that we are currently being controlled by our governments to think or feel a certain way?

My view is that mass media seems to lead our thinking on certain topics in particular directions. So to an extent I think how we view things is being influenced. 

3. Were there things about the novel that seemed far fetched or not believable?

My View: Yes I felt that if a breakaway society existed, they didn’t necessarily have to be nomads or jungle dwellers. I’m sure they would have been intelligent enough to create a good comfortable society. I would have loved their world to sound better than the current controlled world, but in some aspects it sounded worse.

Overall I must say I loved this book and I went on to read the next one in the series.

Although it’s classified as a Young Adults novel, I think it raises some real interesting concepts that we will all love to explore.

My Rating 


Definitely a must read for me
This book is available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle Formats.

There are also more books in the Series that you will love to explore. Each written in its own unique style and adds more pieces to the puzzle.

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Taryn Leigh

Taryn Leigh is the Author of Perfect Imperfections, which is currently available from AmazonWaterstonesBarnes&Noble, Exclusive Books and where all good books are sold.

Book Secrets you didnt know

We all love to read our favourite books. Yet there are those secrets we rarely hear about, and its those little things we love to know.

So here are a few just for you! …

Secrets of Thirteen Reasons Why


Not every character in the series is in the book.

When the writers brought the 288-page book to life as a 13-hour series, they had to expand the world of the story with new characters.

“I think of the book as this outline of Hannah’s story, and then from that, the writers of the series — with Jay’s blessing — added so many details and plots that allow the viewer to unpack the story to a greater extent,” Hannah said. “The new characters help out flesh out this world.”

Her character Stephanie is among the new additions, which meant Hannah was acting from a clean slate. She’s one of Courtney’s best friends and “a ditzy take on the typical mean girl,” Hannah explained. “When I got the breakdown for this character, it was funny because the script just said, ‘Stephanie (pretty, dumb.)’”

Read more from the source here

Secrets of Perfect Imperfections by Taryn Leigh

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“Edward’s character in the book is actually inspired by my real life husband. Also the mention of Wuthering Heights in the book is a hint towards my husband, as Wuthering Heights is the very first book he gave me when we had just started dating.

One day we were walking in a flea market, and he picked up a used copy of Wuthering Heights sold by a book merchant, and bought it for me. He then took me to the park, and sat playing with my hair as I read the first few chapters. He won my heart that day!”

Secrets of JK Rowling, Author of Harry Potter


JK Rowling finds ways to bring elements of herself into her books.

She and Harry Potter share a birthday, July 31st. She is reported as saying that Hermione is a bit like her when she was younger, and her favourite animal is an otter—which is, of course, Hermione’s patronus. Plus, both Dumbledore and Rowling like sherbet lemons (Rowling said that the wizard’s “got good taste”).

Read more from the source here

Secrets of Karen Swan, Author of Christmas at Tiffany’s


Karen Swans real name is Karen Anne Swan MacLeod

Much as she loves her very Scottish name, Swan had to drop the MacLeod when she started writing blockbuster fiction since the shorter name suited the flamboyantly embossed covers of her saucy books,

“I’d always written as a journalist as Karen Swan MacLeod. Dad’s family name is actually MacSwan MacLeod, so we’re very Scottish. I think Karen Swan sounds like a made-up name for someone who writes sexy, romantic novels”

Read more from the source here

Remember Sharing is caring so please feel free to share this article with friends and family

Like my Page page on Facebook

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Taryn Leigh

Taryn Leigh is the Author of Perfect Imperfections, which is currently available from Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes&Noble, Exclusive Books and where all good books are sold.