When writers panic!

Roughly speaking there are two types of writers.

One group is planning a plot ahead of time. They make a 2 page- (or a 10 page-) chapter summary, and once finished, they write a book according to that outline.

Many thriller and murder or mystery authors, write like that. You need to know who the killer is to properly set up your clues.

Another type is called discovery writer. Previously they have been called “pantsers” as in they write by the seat of their pants, without a guideline or a plot. The naming has changed but the main point stays in that these writers discover what the story is about while writing it.

Of course, it won’t surprise you that plotters don’t waste many words (paragraphs or chapters). They know from the start what is going to happen.

Discovery writers don’t. 

They get surprised by plot twists the same way as their readers later on when they read it for the first time. But because of this, discovery writers blunder many chapters.

I am a discovery writer.

Why am I telling you this?

After finishing 90 000 words on my current work in progress, which accounts to about 450 pages, I read it through last weekend for the first time. And I realized that one third needs to be deleted.

I don’t need to point out how extremely painful this realisation was.

I was, in fact, panicking.

However, after having a few sleep-it-overs, I gathered my wits and wrote down the plot – discovery writers actually DO have a plot but for the most part it is subconscious – therefore figuring out which pieces are good, which I need to kick out and which pieces I still need to write.

Having it done on flash cards really helped me!

Someone smart once said that the problem is not if you fall. 

The problem is if you don’t get up again.

But, with this kind of a story – and I actually quite like it, if I may humbly say so myself – needs to be finished 🙂

On a side note, during the autumn school break, my family and I went to visit our family in South Africa. It has been 10 years since the last time we were there and it was wonderful to see our family and the country again.

We also took time to visit Kruger national park and if you are interested in a short overview, check out the video here.

Casting call: Castles apply here

With 55000 words on my new book, I am about half way there. I don’t know what’s with historical books, they always seem to be so long. Didn’t quite plan it like this, but as I write, I realize there is still so much that needs to happen. And don’t worry: this will be all in one book. Even though it’s long, I won’t split it. 

Btw DOE was meant to be a trilogy from the start, just as this one is envisioned as a single book.

As you know from my previous emails, the writing time at the moment is not only spent by typing words on my laptop but as lots of research too. 

I know that the second part of the book needs to happen in a castle, and Switzerland has many of them, one of the most famous ones you might have seen is Chateau de Chillon, at the lake of Geneva. However, since I know the first part of the story will be happening in Rapperswil, also known as the City of Roses, Castle Chillon being 250 km away is too far for my protagonist to reach. Even on a horse.

Chillon Castle - Wikipedia
Chateau de Chillon

So I went for a search to find another castle which is a bit closer, and found one that could fit: Castle Lenzburg, some 70 km away. I knew about this castle from many years before because the train I used to take from Zurich to Basel (which was my daily commute when I did my doctorate) passed just under the hill where the castle is situated. Seeing it from below it looked fabulous, but I never actually went in to check it out. 

However, with this specific task in mind, I recently did a tour, with a special mention of the early 18th century, so I can fit it into my story.

Schloss Lenzburg | Switzerland Tourism
Lenzburg Castle

For many centuries, the Lenzburg castle belonged to the Habsburg family but from the middle of 15 century (1444), Canton Bern took hold of the Castle and a large area around it which was from then on under the influence of a local bailiff. They would come from the aristocratic families of the city of Bern (which is a capital of today’s Switzerland) and they would govern the castle and the surrounding area for about 4 to 6 years, until they were replaced by a new bailiff.

Habsburg family, also known as the House of Habsburg, is one of the most prominent dynasties in Europe, which held the reign over the large part of Europe from 11st (1020) until 1918 when Charles I of Austria renounced his role in state affairs. One of the most famous individuals most people know about is Maria Theresa (1717-1780), who held the power over 40 years, and was “allowed” to be a ruler only because her father Charles VI made a decree that the daughters are allowed to take the throne (as opposed to being handed to a male heir of a brother or other cousins). 

Maria Theresa

The other daughter you might know is Marie Antoinette, who married Luis XVI (when she was 14 btw), and who had an infamous ending in the French Revolution, taking the “punishment” of all the royalty before her.

But as I said, the Castle of Lenzburg is at the rule of Bern at the time the book takes place, and the Habsburg family owning only patches of land of Confederatia Helvetica (CH, today’s Switzerland). Still, they will appear somewhere at some point 😉 

Castle Lenzburg turned out to be a gold mine for my story. It has several houses, which were not all built at once, but in 18 century all of them were already there, the last one just being assembled. It has the most fabulous knight house (Ritterhaus), the Clock house, the baroque Bern house, the bailiff house, with a stunning garden overlooking the city of Lenzburg, a large courtyard with a single tree that looks like a crooked hand reaching out of the ground (in winter!), and a dungeon with a two cells and variety of torture weapons. 

All in all, this was exactly the castle I was looking for!

Lenzburg Castle (Schloss Lenzburg), Switzerland
Castle Lenzburg courtyard

So the castle Lenzburg took the role for the second part of the book 🙂

And the story continues… 

To use ChatGPT or not to use ChatGPT, that is the question

I was planning to change the blurb for the “Swift Escape” for a while now. If you look at the genres where Amazon places it, it falls under tech thriller. This comes from the fact that people who picked up that book normally read this kind of genre. And also from the fact that it is a thriller dealing with a new biological weapon, and spy intrigue, and science mystery, and so on. However. One of the strongest sub-genre it actually should fall into is a romance. And yet, it doesn’t. 

This presents an issue, and I’ll explain why:

A reader who loves thrillers will love the intrigue and mystery in “Swift Escape”, but they won’t like intimate romance moments at all (and I know this because of the reviews).

But a romance lover will love the romance bits a lot, but they won’t mind the thriller parts. Romance lovers can roll with thriller, crime, drama, paranormal (especially paranormal!) and history. As long as there is romance and HEA 😉

So basically I am in a wrong genre and that means people don’t see my book.

Why such a big intro?

Because of the ChatGPT.

With the big bang of ChatGPT, I know many authors are re-writing their blurbs with the help of an AI, making it better, making it more salesy. And it makes sense more than one might think. You see, for some unexplainable reason, writers can write a novel of 200,000 words within a few months or years, but then struggle when they need to put down only 200 words for their blurbs. And most of them turn out not to be the best sales pitches either. (Writers are generally horrible sales people)

So, yes, getting help does make sense.

But here’s where I see a problem. Not only in getting AI help with blurbs but in writing books in general (go check the internet and you’ll see there are already many how-to YouTube videos where people explain how to write a book with the help of an AI). And if you check this podcast from TheCreativePenn, you will learn that Tim Boucher published 60 books in the matter of 5 months (https://lostbooks.ca ).

Let me repeat that because I could hardly believe it myself.

From November 2022 to March 2023, he published 60 books.

And then there is a long pause where I’m looking into the distance and I am pretty much stunned and I don’t know how to continue.


…to compete…

…with that?

I decided some years back that I cannot compete with the “super-writers” who publish a-book-every-month. How do they manage to do that I have zero idea. But good on them. 

I can’t . 

I know now that I need time for a story to mature in my head first. And then there is lots and lots of research after that. Which needs lots and lots of time. So, yes, my books take minimum two years. Minimum. 

But, with the dawn of the ChatGPT, the book-a-month goes out the window too. Now, it will be a-book-a-day. Or perhaps several of them.

Maybe not quite yet – as the AI writing still needs editing step – but soon. Because the AI is getting better by the second. 

And now comes my question.

If we give the writing to the AI, what is left for us?

What is left for me?

If we give illustrations not to the artist on DeviantArt but to Midjourney – and let me tell you, the stuff that comes out is mind blowing – what is then left for creative humans to do? Because I always thought if humans can do something really well, creativity is it. A lot of manual and statistical work can and will be taken away. But art? 

I will not be able to compete with an AI generated content. Not by a long shot. It will be generated too quickly. Who will wait 2 or 3 years to read my next book?

Now, does that mean I should stop writing? 

This AI topic threw me in a deep well, made me question my decisions, my strategies, my books and my future in writing. It made me think a lot about creation and about already created content. 

It made me think of art.

What is art? 

Creating something out of nothing.

But does AI create something out nothing? No. Or certainly not yet. It uses all the creative work available on the internet and mixes it and jumbles it into a new content. Which of course begs the question of a copyright. If AI uses a photograph, or a painting, or a music composition, or a book, to twist it into something new, the copyright and ideally any kind of royalty payment should go respectively to the original creator.

But it doesn’t. 

Hopefully that will be changed with time.

Also, there is a certain fear the unknown.

When radioactivity was first discovered, the people thought it was amazing. You can see your own skeleton, you can check how well a shoe fits your foot by looking at an Xray screen, you can even make jewellery out of a radioactive material. Until it was discovered that it wasn’t so amazing after all. 

Technology ahead of ethics.

But then again, when computers just started being made, many people were afraid of it. They feared that it will take their jobs. And it did. But it created many more new ones.

So which of the two extremes is the AI?

Should we be afraid of it? 

Or should we embrace it and ride the wave?

I think what terrifies me the most is the fact that all the software engineers who are involved into making AI curcuits say they don’t know what is happening inside. They don’t understand how it actually works. It just does. And that automatically means lack of control. And also lack of consequences. 

If a human makes a crime, we place them in jail. 

Bad behavior – bad consequence. 

Other humans learn.

But what kind of “jail” consequence can we place on an AI when we don’t even know what it is afraid of, or what is it that it doesn’t want?

But I ran away from the conversational AI, our ChatGPT.

Let me get back to the point: the blurb of the “Swift Escape”. 

I wanted to write the new blurb, make it more romance-y, make it clear that it is the romance readers who should be interested in this book rather than thriller lovers. And though I am certain I am not the best person to write this sales pitch – a professional copywriter or ChatGPT would do it much better (as I said, I’m a lousy sales person), I still want to do it myself. 

Because I love creating, and I find the creative process rewarding.

And so I did it. 

And to prove to you that I actually didn’t use ChatCPT, I made a screen video recording as I did it.

If you want to see it, check the link here. And – please don’t mind my grammar mistakes: I am not a native English speaker.

I would love to hear what do you think of ChatGPT and AI in general. Where do you think this will take us?

Writing rules: The three act structure and when to break it

I was about to write about the new years resolutions (and I think I still will, some time later), but something got my attention just recently, so I thought to discuss that instead.

You might know that one of the classic rules in writing (including theather, TV shows and movies) is a „three act structure“.

In short:

Act One introduces the hero and their motivation.  We (readers/viewers) get to know their everyday life. We learn who our hero is. Then an inciting incident needs to happen to move the protagonist out of their comfort zone. Frodo needs to leave the Shire so that the story can happen. If he stays in the Shire, there is no story. Or there is, but it is very short.

Act Two increases the stakes. The danger becomes a lot more frightening or an obstacle much bigger, in this phase. Neo learns from the Oracle that he is not The One and he is given a chance to save Morpheus, but needs to sacrifice himself.

Act Three is the final confrontation and resolution between the hero and the villain or the antagonist, and it ends in resolution, where the hero comes out victorious or in some other way changed. Luke destroys the Death Star despite all odds.

The three act structure was originally introduced by Aristotle Poetics in 330 BC and further strengthened by Syd Field in 1979 in his Foundations of Screenwriting. The three act structure remained a milestone for the last 2 millennia, with film producers being so rigid that they expect an inciting incident on a page 25 of a 100 page script, and if they don’t see it, the script goes straight into the bin.
But here is the fun fact. 
Aristotle didn’t make up the three act structure. He described it based on the plays he had witnessed during his life, realizing which plays were successful and which weren’t. Clearly the three act structure was – and still is – successful. 

But think about it for a moment. 

Aristotle was analyzing the plays and theatre pieces he witnessed and then described what he saw. That means that the three act structure existed before Aristotle described it and that play writers of the time were doing the three act structure spontaneously because they felt this was the best way to tell a good story.
Now, a lot of writers follow this structure because they read time and again in all sort of craft books that it works. Plot your three act structure and you’ll have a story. Don’t plot a structure, and you will fail. So many writers do plot their stories in three act structure with specific beats in each. We are taught to do so. And for many writers this is exactly the right thing to do.
But I encountered an issue with this process in the book I am currently writing: I discovered that it hinders me. 
I followed all the rules: I made the scenes, I made the beats, I got my three act structure. But every time I wanted to start writing the novel, I got stuck. The words didn’t flow. I wrote many thousands of words but it was such a struggle, I had to pull the letters out like taking out a bad tooth. It took ages and it simple didn’t sound good. 

I have tried it three times. And each time, I got stuck. First I figured that the reason must have been that I needed more research (and partially it really was so). I can’t write about the 18 century if I don’t know enough about it. So I kept doing research.
Lots of it!
Then I gave it another try.
And it failed again.
After the third try, I came to a conclusion that the book is not meant to be written. 
Or at least not yet. 
(This actually does happen quite often: famous writers like Neil Gaiman and Dan Brown had to leave their work for years before they could come back to it and finish it.)
I thought maybe this is that type of a book.
But I decided to try one last time.
This time, however, I changed something.  
And – to show respect where it’s due – I was inspired by a Becca Syme book  Dear Writer, Are You Intuitive? She talks about a type of writing where a writer discovers the story, discovers its three act structure without specifically plotting it (but the three act structure still happens naturally! Remember, the ancient play writers did it spontaneously on their own before Aristotle came. It is possible.)

So that is what I did: I let my inspiration take the steering wheel. 
And guess what?

It worked!


The words just poured out, from my Muse through my fingers onto the white page.
No effort.
No pressure. 
Just flow.
I am back on track, and that makes me immensely happy!

Sometimes – and this is not only with writing – we need to learn to trust our intuition. And more often than not, it will tell us the truth.
What do you think about this? Do you ever trust your intuition? Did you reject it and afterwards realised you should have listened to it? Or did you listen, and it might have even saved your life (as in, don’t walk down that empty alley)?

Let me know your thoughts! 🙂

How to deal with bad book reviews

Every author will face it: bad reviews. Some more, some less, but in all cases they will hurt. Bad reviews come mostly because your book came into the wrong hands: that reader wasn’t supposed to read your book but based on your cover or summery they thought they are and they read it. So, a large part of potential bad reviews can be avoided with careful considerations when deciding on your metadata: genre selection, book covers, blurbs and such. But even if your metadata is spot-on, you will still end up with some readers that were never meant to pick up your book in the first place. Here is how I dealt with mine.

The book that changed my life

For many life changes, one can point to a specific event that was pivotal for that change in life’s direction. In my case, it was a book I read more than ten years ago, and also something that the author mentioned in one of her interviews.

Check it out!

How many of you like “Twilight”?

Take care and stay safe!

Author vulnerability No.1: Fear of rejection

I think I can talk for all authors when I say that each and every one of us fears that our work will be disliked, that people won’t respond to it, that it will leave them unaffected, especially if we give heart and soul into our creative work (which is pretty much always). I succumbed to the same fear so much, that I unpublished some of my work due to the response. And then, I had a good talk with a very clever person who taught me some wisdom 😉

Check out my short stories: www.tarajadebrown.com/books

A word about gratitude, love and recognition

A long time ago, my mother in law told me that there are three components to happiness. Looking forward to something, to love and be loved, and to be recognised and acknowledged by others. Today I will focus on the last one: recognition, and what does recognition mean for a writer.

Three (energy) stages of book production

A few weeks ago, I promised I will tell you about three stages of book production. This was related to my “silence” before I had published “The Mind”, and for all of you who wondered why this was, here is the answer 🙂

Check out my new Vlog to find out what the phases are and which one I prefer the most!

My interview at NFReads.com

  • Please introduce yourself and your books!

Hi, everyone! I’m Tara Jade Brown and I write romance novels in a wide range of settings, from fantasy and historical to sci-fi, contemporary and post-ap: whichever I need to make a specific story happen.

Although love stories are the spines of my plots, each of them holds a mystery that my protagonists, and my readers, need to decipher.

I love building mysteries for my readers, and I often use my educational background to do this: I have a master’s in genetics and a doctoral degree in neuroscience, so I draw on these concepts in my books. And I try very hard to make them exciting!

My latest novel is called The Mind, which is a sequel to The Senthien, a science fiction romance where a woman and a man, divided by five thousand years and belonging to enemy galaxies, fall in love.

Continue reading “My interview at NFReads.com”