Keeping track of who, where and when in your story

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I’ve been writing crime fiction and psychological thrillers for ten years now. I’m currently writing women’s fiction ‘up-lit’.

One question that comes up regularly is: do you know what you will write before you write it? My answer is a resounding yes! I am a plotter. I like to plan.

Initially, I was reluctant to plan as I thought it would somehow crush my creativity. As my writing practice developed I realised that, for me, plotting and creating is not an either/or situation. Rather, it is a balancing act.

I have learnt that my psychological thrillers are multi-dimensional and complex…


Five things that showed me how good the world really is

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Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

I am not naturally a feel-good person. In fact, I am an old cynic. I am not a fan of memes or affirmations even though I know they promote positive thinking. I need to see ‘the difference’ being made.

In March 2020 I remember thinking that lockdown would change people. I am a psychologist and I watched and waited as people tried to make sense of isolation and restrictions. I watched people’s reactions to wearing face coverings and working from home. …


Playing the time economy can turn your life around

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

The one question that stumps me is ‘What do you do?’ At parties or networking events or seminars or just down the pub, it’s one of the first questions people who don’t know me ask. I won’t bore you with a list of all the things I do, that’s reserved for those who proclaimed that ‘I would never amount to anything’. Suffice to say I am an executive psychologist author!

So, when I have finished reeling off my daily activities and the concepts around them, the next comment is usually, ‘How do you find time to do all that?’

Headless Chicken Mode

I…


A short story about the desperation of poverty and the richness of love

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Photo by KE ATLAS on Unsplash

I choose the practical pumps that sit beside the patent work shoes in the hallway. This is not a journey for heels. No. This path is worn into my muscle memory. Every sinew resists, but I pull on the plimsolls and tie the frayed laces.

The bags are in the kitchen cupboard waiting for me. I hurry through and choose four. Three Sainsbury’s and a Waitrose. The small part of me that still fights this asks who am I kidding? It’s a rhetorical question, I tell myself as I fold the bags into tiny triangles.

At least I don’t have…


I thought I knew who I was — but I really didn’t…

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I take a lot of pride in knowing myself — as a health psychologist and a writer it’s in the job description. Reflexive thinking is the close examination of your biases and preferences then putting them aside to present an unbiased argument. But months out of my busy life have shown me that I still had a lot to learn about myself:

  1. I didn’t even know what colour my hair was. I’m 58 years old and I have two jobs. As soon as a sliver of white appeared I ran for the box colour and slammed it on — after…


It’s your primal brain reacting in the face of danger…

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Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

As a health psychologist I talk a lot about anxiety and how much low level fight or flight stems from our primal brains. COVID-19 is one of the only times in your life that this kind of anxiety is appropriate.

The fight or flight reaction to a threat is produced by the sympathetic division of the automatic nervous system. It produces symptoms that are really our brains and bodies preparing for a major trauma — one that we might not survive. This is controlled by the primal brain in the hindbrain and the medulla.

These symptoms include everything you may…


This virus can affect our lungs but we can also use our lungs to our advantage.

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Photo by Valeriia Bugaiova on Unsplash

Lots of people on my social media timeline are anxious at this difficult and uncertain time of Corvid-19. As a psychologist I have tools to help with anxiety and my first line of defence is 7–11 breathing. It sounds new-agey and a little bit twee — and because the Coronavirus can cause shortness of breath and is respiratory a little scary to talk about breathing.

But it works as it activates both psychological and physical responses that help to calm panic and anxiety. …


How does your % reaction stack up?

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Photo by Victoria Strukovskaya on Unsplash

World news always affects me. I have, I hope, over the years, developed a global conscience that allows me to empathise with people I have never met. Or: a humanity. Along with this, I have tried to develop the breadth of understanding that values and respect the ways people live, even if it doesn’t align with my own particular values. But not everyone has and it shows in their reactions which, in turn, shape their emotions? How does your % reaction measure up. I’ll ask you again at the end of this article.

Finding Empathy

I first noticed this on September 11th…


The fine line between narrative and therapy

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Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

I’m a psychologist as well as a fiction writer. At a conference the other day someone asked me if I thought that a novel was an example of a psychological narrative and if it was therapeutic to the writer and/or the reader.

The word narrative, used in the context of describing language, is broad-based and therefore complex. The word is used in both literary terminology and in psychological language and although the dictionary definition is ‘a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious’ the word has different depths of meaning in these different contexts.


What I do when I stop writing

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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

I press send on the email with my latest novel attached that will wing its way to my agent. While I wait for her to read it a get back to me, I look up from my laptop.

The feeling of relief that is almost instant after writing ‘the end’ is, almost instantly, replaced by an odd range of emotions. I am sure it is different for each author, but mine go something like this.

  1. This is brilliant. I have finished a novel. I have written ninety thousand word roughly in the right order. I have edited it many times…

Jacqueline Ward

Novelist, journalist and psychologist from Manchester, UK Tweet me @jacquiannc | email books@jacquelineward.co.uk

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