Tag Archives: Writing

When writing’s a chore, get in the game!

I’ve blogged in the past about keeping irons in the fire when it comes to your writing, and it is indeed good to have a few projects on the go. These don’t all have to be novels though! When building a believable world seems like it’s the world away, the last thing you’ll be wanting to do is try to dream up another!

That’s why I have a mental list (but you can physically write one, if your a list type) of projects to work on. When I was finishing off my novella I was also Dungeon Master with a group of friends who love the escape is of a good old RPG! I started off by running a pre-written adventure, and loved it so much that I wrote a sequel to it myself. I got great satisfaction from seeing the party negotiate the dungeons and forests I’d mapped out, fight monsters I’d thrown in their path and bring some of my NPCs (non-player characters) to life as they met the part in any number of situations. If you’re a gamer yourself, writing your own adventure is a great way to keep those creative juices flowing and try out some of your imagination’s creations on a captive audience!

Another thing on my list was lyrics, though you could easily create some poetry or just catalogue your free-form thoughts. Being in bands, I’ve found it’s always useful to have some spare lyrics lying around, even if you’re not the singer!

Short stories are great too! If a crazy idea fleetingly pops into your head while sat in front of your computer – don’t let it pass and just run with it and follow where it goes. The short story format is great because you don’t have to worry about creating lots of characters or excessive world-building. It’s just about capturing that burst of imagination you had in an effective way.

And lastly, you could do what I’m doing now – just blog! There’s sure to be something that’s on your mind, and it’s always rewarding to get it out there and get some opinions. It’s a great way to share your knowledge too.

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Always have another iron in the fire

Aside from the (very) rare flash of inspiration which has produced a short story or a lyric, I’ve always been a methodical plodder, a workhorse doggedly sticking to one project through fear of distraction. The problem was, ‘sticking to it’ for me meant hammering away intensely for a bit, then leaving it for a few months because life got in the way. Hardly living life at the literary coalface.

Sound familiar? Maybe you know who all your characters are, what they’re going to do and how everything turns out, but you’re procrastinating over that first edit or beta read submission, fearing it might come back tattered, bloody and full of holes.

After finishing the first draft of my novella, this was me. I felt like I’d done all the creative stuff, but still needed something to keep me occupied when the editing stage got a little bit much. So I started a ‘no pressure, just for fun’ project; something I could chip away at in between bouts of editing and worrying. I found this really useful, because it kept my creative juices flowing while I was wearing my editing hat. Because my mind was still in a creative mode, I think it helped me resolve a few things with my main manuscript, and I also managed to create something new along the way. (In my case, a novelisation of a Dungeons and Dragons adventure I’d written for my players.)

If you haven’t tried this, why not give it a go? Who knows, your ‘just for fun’ project may end up growing some serious legs and scurry off to enjoy a life of its own. But if dragging out the toolbox for another bout of world-building sounds like too daunting a prospect, no pressure. Just write a bit of your own fan fiction and take some of your favourite characters on a whole new journey. The world’s already there, so just have some fun exploring it.

Another approach is just to write. It doesn’t matter what it is, just stream-of-consciousness musings, some poetry or maybe even a blog like this one.

So go on, add a few more irons to the fire and see what you can forge.

Photo by C D-X on Unsplash

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*SPOILER ALERT*

It’s so much a part of our modern-day lexicon these days. Indeed, I’m hoping you read past that one, or else this blog would be rendered completely pointless!

Thanks to social media, and the internet in general, the latest film or book can be pulled apart, mercilessly dissected and strung up for all to see as soon as it’s released (and quite often before). Who among us actually wants to know all that stuff, if it’s something we’re passionate about? Why would someone, presumably of a like mind to us because they’re into the same kind of things, want to ruin it for everyone else? Is it just a power-crazed keyboard warrior mentality, that they have the power to put a downer on someone’s day, or is it that they’re simply just truly rubbish at keeping a secret? Is the irresistible urge just to blurt out what they know, like the knowledge is just too much for their brain?

I guess I’ll never really know what makes that kind of person tick.

Because I never went in search of my Christmas presents as a child.

I don’t want to see behind the scenes.

I don’t read blurbs for books or films.

For me, it’s always been about keeping the mystery alive. But why? Is this me desperately scrabbling for that lost childhood innocence, or merely just seeking out a bit of escapism? OK, contradiction time. I said I don’t read blurbs, but I was faced with writing one for my novella. Not everyone’s weird like me, and let’s face it, I can’t expect people to part with a bit of their hard-earned if I don’t tell them just a little about what they’re getting themselves into!

So, I gave them just one tiny stocking filler, one little sneak-peek behind the curtain. I think self-publishing has taught me a lot of things, but the willingness to dangle the ole’ literary carrot was one of the most important ones. When it comes to your blurb, it should do two things:

1) Entice the reader

2) Not give too much away.

It’s sometimes a fine balancing act. Even now, (only after I’ve finished reading a book, obviously!) I read the blurb, and quite often think that it’s giving too much away. But well, that’s just me. I enjoy being whisked away on the journey and never try to guess the end, so my way suits me fine.

Your readers however, may want a couple of the key map points laid out to help them on their way. That’s fine, but just make sure you don’t lay down too many clues as to where the treasure’s hidden.

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Change of seasons, change of format?

If you’re anything like me, your inbox has been mercilessly bombarded of late with ‘end of summer’ ‘back to school’ and ‘last of the summer savings’ emails, heralding the inevitable change of seasons that happens every year, but somehow seems to catch us unawares.

I think reading is tied in to all this. ‘Summer reads’, ‘holiday reads’ ‘curl up with a good book’ are all phrases you’ve no doubt seen or heard numerous times over the years. They’re emotive though, and this recent flurry of in-box activity got me thinking. What’s the ideal book format for the time of year?

The humble paperback is synonymous with summer. It’s more portable and less valuable, so if it succumbs to a poolside splash or some scuffs of sand, big deal! It weighs less and is smaller so easier to carry around. An oily fingerprint from your sun tan lotion can add its own story to the existing one, reminding you of where you were when you read it.

You’d be less likely to take your hardback, dust-cover volumes away with you though. After all, you probably reserve this more pricey format to add to the collection populated by your very favourite writers. Though they’re far less practical, I do like hardbacks. Aside from the pages staying open much easier, there’s something instantly scholarly about them. For me, the idea of ‘winter reading’ conjures up images of Holmes and Watson, combing through musty old volumes from the Baker Street archives by lamplight in a bid to track down their latest adversary. Oh and they look great on the shelf too!

Then there’s Kindle. Whether it’s the device itself or through an app on your tablet, the e-book format has made millions of books available to everyone, everywhere. No need to agonise over which book to take on holiday with a digital library at your fingertips. Of course, it’s great for self-published authors too, and – here comes the plug – it made my novella available instantly to anyone around the world.

An audiobook is certainly your best friend at bath time. No book-drop mishaps or steamed up glasses for the short-sighted here. Of course, they’re great for car journeys, park runs and gym workouts too, making them the perfect choice for any multitasker.

Whatever format you prefer, losing yourself in a new book is the perfect way to ease yourself into autumn.

Let me know your favourite format in the comments!

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Shameless self-promotion

Self-publishing is as much about promotion as it is writing, which is why I’m not ashamed to admit that this blog is a bit of promotion for my new novella. “Wow” you may be thinking, “he got the link in early on just then”. Well, yes, guilty as charged. But why not? Any aspiring writer who has a Twitter account will no doubt be familiar with the #ShamelessPromo hashtag, and everything that comes with it. Making self-promotion shameless is important because, lets face it, who is going to help us if we don’t help each other?

Without the marketing weight of a successful publishing house behind us, we self-published authors need as much help as we can get. Sometimes, that means shamelessly helping ourselves too, which is just what I’m doing here. There are loads of useful resources out there on promoting yourself, so you really don’t need any advice from me, but I’m going to give it to you anyway!

  • Set up a blog
    Yes this is blatantly obvious but it bears repeating. It’s easy these days to set up a basic blog using for example, WordPress to get it looking exactly like you want it. If you enjoy delving in to the graphs and stats of SEO, even better, because there’s plenty of ways to keep track of how your site is performing. Remember, your blog is your personal platform to waffle on about anything you want and yes, promote your stuff.
  • Test the water
    If you’re not ready to take the plunge into the near-bottomless ocean of online publishing, why not self-publish some short stories, or older work that never saw the light of day? You can host it on your own site, or on any site for authors and readers that lets you upload your own stuff. This is a golden opportunity not only to get valuable feedback from people who love to read, but it can give you a little experience in promoting your writing.
  • Network
    Spend any length of time on Twitter, and you’d be forgiven for feeling discouraged by just how many people are doing exactly what you’re doing. It may seem like everyone is a budding author these days, with their own tale to tell and story to sell. Don’t let that put you off. Really, it’s no different than walking into your favourite book store and seeing all the latest releases lined up side-by-side. Some people like one thing, others like something else. It’s the way it goes and helping to promote the work of others, and them returning the favour is all part of networking. The more people you follow, the more you’ll learn.

So, there you go! I’ll end this #ShamlessPromo blog with a shameless call to buy my book!

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You don’t always have to box off

Believe me, that was a hard heading to write. I’m the kind of person who likes to box things off and get one thing done before starting another. It makes me feel good because I’ve achieved something and not left any loose ends. It doesn’t always work that way with writing though.

Sure, you want to get that novel finished above all else. You want to commit dedicated time to it and not procrastinate. I get it. But I’m guessing that if you like writing, you’re an imaginative person and you’re always getting random ideas. These could be a scenario, a sentence, or even just a bit of dialogue – it doesn’t matter. Write them down. Make sure you keep a notebook for all your random ideas and don’t worry about keeping them spinning away while slaving over your main story.

This is great for two reasons. Firstly, you’ll have a few ideas floating around, which is always rich food for the imagination. Secondly, it’s a brilliant solution if you’ve set aside time to write but you’re hitting a literary brick wall with your main project. That time will never be wasted, because you can pick up on one of your other ideas and see where it goes. You may develop a storyline for a sequel, or a whole new series. You may even dream up something so amazing that it becomes your new main project. Lots of fantastic things have grown from the germ of an idea, and your next idea could be one of them.

So, don’t be afraid to start something new and keep all those plates spinning. Great things could happen.

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Now’s the time to read and write

OK, you may argue that any time is a good time to do one or both of those things, but hey, let me jump on the Corona virus bandwagon for just a short time.

While it’s important to keep track of everything that’s going on and all the latest updates for the sake of our own health, it’s also important not to get bogged down with feelings of foreboding and desperation. Our own mental health is as important as our physical health and if we don’t keep our minds occupied in these times of social distancing and self-isolation, we risk putting ourselves at serious harm.

I realise that’s easier said than done in a lot of cases, but finding the time to read and treating yourself to a little escapism really can help. (Just stay away from any post-apocalyptic epics if you’re feeling particularly susceptible!)

It’s also a great time to start writing that book you’ve always wanted to write; you know, the one you spend so much time procrastinating over. If you’re in a situation where you have a lot of time to yourself – get writing. Now is the time. Not only will it keep your mind exercised and active, but it’ll help your well-being by just having your mind on something else for a while.

Of course, life goes on. Don’t lock yourself away expecting to churn out 100,000 words in a couple of weeks. Plan your day, get a routine. Work in some writing time. This could be the moment you finally get started. Or maybe you’ve already written a book and are putting off the dreaded re-draft. Again get stuck in while you can, and grow your next novel some legs.

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What is a book?

No wait, hear me out. Still there? Good.

If you’re reading this you’re probably looking for a little more than a literal answer, so here goes.

These days, books can take many forms. As well as a good old-fashioned charity shop find or a crisp new release hastily picked up from the airport newsagent before your flight, there is of course everyone’s favourite space-saver, the Kindle. Or indeed, the Kindle app if (like me) you’re slumming it just a little.

Delve into the world of online publication and you’ll have so much choice, you won’t know where to start. I’m guilty of perhaps not reading as much as I’d like to, but having dipped my toe into Amazonian waters, I discovered a few things pretty quickly.

Firstly, self-publishing makes it easier than ever before to get what’s inside your head out there for the public to enjoy. And if they don’t, well that’s their problem. At least you did it. This doesn’t have to be the 1000+ word fantasy epic you’ve been slaving away at for half your life though. These days, books take many forms. Your story may be great but you just find yourself wanting to get it over a little more quickly – that’s fine. In the world of self-publishing nobody looks down their nose at a novella.

It doesn’t even have to have a narrative either. From stream-of-consciousness ramblings and specialist cookbooks, to collected essays and structured how-to guides, pretty much anything can be a book these days.

So, get that idea out of your head and onto your screen and before long, it’ll be on everybody else’s screen as well.

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It’s fine to sit on your first draft

After months (maybe years?) of sketching out ideas, procrastinating, fleshing out characters, developing plots, then procrastinating a bit more, you’ve finally got your novel finished. Well, the first draft of it anyway. So what to do now?

It’s safe to say that nobody ever got their first draft published, so the next logical step is your second draft. The important thing is here though, don’t rush it. After all, it took you this long to get here didn’t it? Sit on your first draft for a while. Leave it alone. Don’t look at it and try not to think about it. Go off and write about something else – maybe that short story idea you’ve had simmering away in the back of your mind for a while, or even just another blog post.

This will make it much easier to look at your writing objectively when you do get to your second draft. After being immersed in your book’s own little world for months, you need some time to purposely forget some of the detail, so when you do come back to it, you’ll find it much more easy to notice all those parts you want to develop or change. And, because your brain has still been creatively active, but in different ways, you’ll be able to look at your book with fresh eyes. Who knows? Maybe something else you write may trigger off an idea on how to fine-tune that character who in your heart of hearts, you still have niggling doubts about.

Read as much as you can, too. It’s a great way to improve your own writing. Obviously I don’t mean you should go and steal someone’s idea, but you’ll subconsciously absorb lots of things you don’t even realise. After all, what you read for most of your life shaped you into the writer you are today, and you probably didn’t even know it! When you think you have your final draft ready, send it over to me, and I’ll put the finishing touches to all your hard work!

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Filed under Authors, Books, Editing, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

On Communication

man wearing brown suit jacket mocking on white telephone

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

Communication is at the heart of what we do. I’m communicating with you right now, and you’ll probably communicate in several ways today without even thinking about it. Whether you’re replying to that email, accepting a LinkedIn invitation from someone that you’re desperately trying to remember, or making a call to organise an appointment, you’re communicating.

It’s ironic that in today’s age of multiple communication platforms, where news is immediate and everyone can share their opinions in an instant, poor communication is still a massive problem. Ask any employee, middle manager or company executive and they’ll likely agree that poor communication is always high up on the list of gripes. It sounds completely obvious, but communication is a two-way street.

If you’re not interested in using that article I pitched to you, just tell me. Communicate with me. I won’t be offended, because I know you get loads of submissions. Just let me know where I am, so I can ask someone else. And if you can’t get round to doing that job on my house, communicate with me – I understand that work can get on top of you. If you’ve decided you’d rather edit your book  yourself, I get it. Money’s tight – just let me know. OK, so you can’t meet up next week, just communicate with me. I won’t be angry (for long, anyway). We can do it another time. Just let me know a little earlier than the night before.

You get the idea. It’s really nothing more than common sense and the same logic can apply to everything from a simple get-together with friends to a make-or-break meeting. So, whether you’re wading through a sea of freelance submissions or really don’t think a job’s worth taking on, communicate. Everyone will be better off for it.

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