Morton S Gray shares her writing process

Today I’m delighted to welcome fellow Choc Lit author, Morton S Gray, to the blog. Morton’s debut novel The Girl on the Beach won Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition, and I’ve been waiting to read it ever since. At last the time has come; the novel was released across all ebook platforms on Tuesday. Here’s the blurb:

img_2666Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.

For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …

But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.

If, like me, you’re hooked, you can find links to all the relevant online retailers on the Choc Lit website.

In celebration of her novel’s launch, Morton’s kindly agreed to share her writing process here. (I’m delighted, as I’m always very nosy about how other writers work.) Over to you, Morton!

My Writing Process

Writing novels is a strange occupation. Each person seems to have their own way of doing it and there really is no right or wrong as long as it works for you. Clare asked me to talk about my own process, so here goes …

My novels usually start with something very simple. It can be a picture, a memory, a news headline or even an overheard snatch of conversation. Whatever the spark, it plays around at the edges of my mind for a while, until I get a name. For my debut novel, The Girl on the Beach, it was a couple of news articles and an art competition at my son’s school that gave me Ellie Golden, an artist, for my heroine.

Somehow, when I name my main character, there’s no going back. From the time the character has that unique identification, I’m on a journey of discovery, a voyage to find out how that character arrived at the point when I became aware of them, where they will go next, who they will meet, where they will end up and why.

I write contemporary romantic suspense novels, so once I have one protagonist, be it hero or heroine, I have to journey through my words to find the main foil for this character and then the minor characters surrounding the pair. For The Girl on the Beach, my hero, Harry Dixon came into the story very quickly and Ellie’s son, Tom, plus her best friend, Mandy, followed shortly after that. I then have my cast, almost as if I’m auditioning for parts in a play. Mostly, these characters arrive in my head fully formed in terms of physical appearance and characteristics, but sometimes I trawl pictures until I find someone who looks just right, so that I can describe the character in the book.

I’m the strange woman sat in the corner of Costa café at seven thirty in the morning, sipping a skinny flat white, with toast topped with honey going cold on my plate, as I scribble word after word into my notebook. When I begin a new novel, the pages of my notebooks fill so fast, that I often can’t keep up. I’ve been known to burst out of the shower, so desperate to get words down that I write on the inside of toilet roll tubes. I also wake in the night with plot ideas burning at the front of my mind and type them into my phone underneath the covers, so as not to disturb my husband.

When I’m really in writing mode, it’s as if the book is downloading before my pen. It truly is a magical feeling. I love the work of Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame and she wrote a book called Big Magic, in which she talks about ideas swirling around us looking for a human partner to bring them into the world and at times that is truly how this creative process feels to me.

If I do find myself stuck on a plot point, I use spider diagrams and “what if” scenarios to free my thinking. I’ve even resorted to penning letters to my character and then writing the reply. I don’t think it matters how you do it, as long as you get to move forward with the plot.

I often wish that I wrote my novels in a straight run, but I find I write bits from all over the book as I go along. The only problem with this method is that I finish a first draft with something resembling a jigsaw puzzle. The editing process can be longwinded and frustrating as a result, often involving copious use of post it notes and printouts. However, the advantage to this way of working is that I’ve already completed a thorough first edit, deciding what to keep and what to discard, before the novel is in a “read through” state.

So, that’s my writing process. I don’t claim it’s perfect, but it seems to work for me. I’ve tried more rigorous plotting, but my characters always seem to have other ideas and go their own way anyway, so these days I let them have free rein. Read my debut novel, The Girl on the Beach, published on 24 January 2017 by Choc Lit to see what you think…

That’s fascinating, Morton. I seem to remember hearing that PD James wrote the scenes for her novels out of order too. Thanks so much for visiting and all the very best with The Girl on the Beach.

More on Morton

morton-orangeMorton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K.

She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen, the plot of which closely resembled an Errol Flynn film. As with many authors, life got in the way of writing for many years until she won a short story competition in 2006 and the spark was well and truly reignited.

She studied creative writing with the Open College of the Arts and joined the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme in 2012.

After shortlisting in several first chapter competitions, she won The Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition in 2016 with her novel ‘The Girl on the Beach’. This debut novel is published on 24 January 2017. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon.

Previous ‘incarnations’ were in committee services, staff development and training. Morton has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina Acupressure Massage and Energy Field Therapy.

She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.


Twitter – @MortonSGray

Facebook Page – Morton S. Gray Author

Links to purchase “The Girl on the Beach” can be found on the Choc Lit website.

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