It’s interesting the differences you find in each writers voice. Naturally it comes down to language and how it is applied, but something that is glaringly different between authors is the level of detail used in writing.

I’ve discovered that I am not a detail writer. I cannot spend pages waxing lyrical about the scenery or describing a characters thought process down to the miniscule moment-by-moment experience. I also don’t enjoy reading those sort of stories. It may be that I’m a product of my generation, craving fast action and swift plot progress. Whatever the reason I’ve accepted this point as just a matter of style and just as I enjoy reading/writing plots that race along at lightning speed, I know there are others out there that enjoy it too. That is my target market. Not that there’s anything wrong with detailed stories at all, though I have repeatedly read that if something doesn’t add to the story then it should be cut. If the intricate pattern on the drapery is not significant to the plot, then why spend an age describing it in detail? Unless of course your character has a penchant for patterns and simply must stop and admire the drapes before moving on to other things.

The level of detail used in a story directly affects the overall length of the book. My book could have had double the word count without any change to the plot or the characters. The feel of the story would be very different if I were a detail writer. Instead I like to leave just enough for the reader to form an impression and then let them fill in the blanks themselves. That is precisely what I love to do when I read, let my imagination add in the parts the author has not described. Perhaps it’s the nature of my personality that I constantly imagine and create and build upon the picture that's presented. For every reader who likes to do this there will be a reader who prefers to have the entire thing laid out for them, so there is nothing wrong with either method.

There is just one thing writers must bear in mind, you can find all sorts of articles on the internet about how long a book should be, what sort of word count you should be aiming for depending on what genre you are writing. If you are looking to capture the interest of a traditional publisher then it is probably sound advice to follow, as I’ve heard some publishers (stupidly) reject work just on the basis of word count – Ouch. You may have written the masterpiece of the century but it doesn’t make it past the starting gate because you’re a few thousand words over or under the industry standard. It’s utter madness, in my opinion. Then again, when you consider how many submissions they receive on a daily basis, I suppose it’s no surprise they’ve come up with some arbitrary rules to cut through the bulk. So, if you’re a detail writer and you’ve knocked out a novel of 200k words or more, perhaps you need to give it a good edit before sending it off to publishers or perhaps consider cutting it into two books. If you are lighter on description and find your book is around the 50k or under mark you either need to add a lot of detail or consider marketing it as a novella.  If you are unwilling or unable to do either of those things then the answer is simple. Screw the traditional publishers, consider an indie house or self-publish. After all, a story is as long or short as it is.

Happy writing.


As a writer I love to mark my progress. It seems a silly and almost juvenile thing to throw a parade for every thousand words written, but that is how I know I’m getting somewhere. When you hit that first thousand words it’s a magical thing, and every thousand word increase after that represents a step closer to a completed first draft.

Some writers might like to look at smaller goals, and feel a sense of achievement for one hundred words completed. Others might go for really big goals and throw up a cheer for every ten thousand words. Maybe some don’t look at their word count at all and just feel happy whenever they finish a certain chunk of writing. Whatever works for each person we all do it in some way.

As an accountant I’m obsessed with numbers… oooh look I just hit the one hundred word mark on this blog, nice. Anyway, as I was saying I crave the completion of small steps and sometimes I even chart progress on a spreadsheet (I have a spreadsheet fetish – odd I know). It helps to ground the work as well as showing you how and when your peak writing times occur.

If I were able to write full-time, I would be aiming to hit the big numbers on a daily basis, 10k is a good goal so I’ve read. I think the most I’ve ever managed in one day was around 8k, which is phenomenal. It helped that I had a really clear vision of that section of the book on that day. Other days it comes in fits and starts, but every day that the word count goes up represents progress in some measure.

I’m currently on track to complete 3… maybe even 4 novels in one year. Considering I’ve never manage to complete anything of significant length in the past 32 years, I’d say this represents some kind of turn-around.  I can only hope my determination holds out indefinitely, and if you’re a writer too then I hope you can achieve the same (if not more!)

Happy writing.


It’s a great thing, to sit down and just let the story flow out of the ether. Some days you can use this approach and let the page (screen) fill up with oodles of good stuff. Other days you manage just one or two sentences then sit there staring at the page wondering why the muse gods are mocking you today. If you find the mocking days are usually more frequent than the good days, then you need to change your approach.

It might sound like a stupid thing to say, but before you sit down to write you have to know what you’re going to write. “I don’t plot!” I hear you cry. Ok, that’s fine, I’m not saying you have to know where your story is headed in fine detail, but if you want to get your daily word count up then you need to start the writing day with some basic goals in mind.

For example, you could simply want to move your character from A to B in the next few pages. Or have a pair of characters engage in a conversation that reveals something to one or both of them. Alternatively, you might want to introduce a new character or setting somehow. Whatever it is, when you start to write, start out with a goal in mind. Then - and only then - will you be able to actually knock out some words on the days when your muse is in hiding.

Relying on your muse to be at your side every day without fail to fill your mind with wonderful scenes and witty banter for your characters is a doomed tactic. Trick your mind into thinking that you’re free-flow writing with small goals.

Happy writing, get that word count up!

The Hump

A camel has one. I’m told I get it at least once a month. Some roads have them to slow people down. None of these are the subject matter for today’s post.

If you have ever sat down to write anything of length, then I’ll wager you’ve experienced ‘The Hump’. I am not talking about writers block, which I consider to be a different kettle of fish. Writers block happens when you don’t know what to write. ‘The Hump’ happens when you know damn well what you’re going to write, you just-can’t-do-it.

Call it apathy, call it laziness, call it Irene, call it whatever the hell you like. It exists. Sadly.

Can I give you an easy way to get around it? No.

Can I give you a painfully horrible way to get around it? Yes. Why is it painfully horrible? Because it involves sitting your backside down – UNPLUGGING from the internet – TURNING OFF the TV and mobile phone and any other distractions and just fucking writing.

If you scream “I don’t wanna” at this point, then ok. I’ll give you a small respite. If it’s that bad, there is nothing wrong with taking a break. A short break. Two days tops. Why? Any longer and the apathy will make a nest in your brain and start breeding baby apathy creatures with wings but they can’t fly. The Apathy Dodo. You don’t want those, no matter how cute they sound. So, go take a couple of days off and come back to me. I’ll be waiting…

You done? Good. Go back and do as you’re told and sit down, shut off from the world and start typing. New sentence.

“Character X woke up, the first order of the day - trying not to sneeze. He’d been sleeping so long and drunk so much Dodo juice the night before that his bladder was at bursting point. The little fleck of dust on his nose had just reached the top of his list of enemies.”

Do it.

Go wake up your characters. They’ve been sleeping too long and they won’t thank you for it. Once you climb over that awful hump, you’ll find the nice slidey part the other side (shush ‘slidey’ is totally a word).

Happy writing.



Dear writer

So you’ve been doing this writing thing for a while, maybe years. Yet you frequently find yourself stuck in the same place. You get halfway through your novel/novelette and you lose steam. Perhaps you can manage to finish a short story, but you struggle with anything longer. You tend to get lost in the plot or worse still you’re bored of your own work. Don’t fret if this sounds like you. It happens to us all.

You have a stack of unfinished projects. You’ve tried different methods, obsessive outlining v.s. go-with-the-flow. Your ideas are good, some of them are brilliant. So why then, are you so prone to apathy?

I can’t claim to have a cure for all your ills. I can’t offer a lifetime guarantee that the following suggestions will turn you into a prolific and successful writer. At least I’m not asking you for any money for my advice right? So here are my thoughts to help you through things:

#1 – Forget your plot – shift your attention

Characters should be the focus of your story

I could wrap this blog post up right here, but I guess that would be a little lazy.

Think about your favourite book(s) and then try to pinpoint what made that story stand out to you. I’d be willing to wager that the answer will be a certain character.That is what makes good stories memorable, above all else.

You can have a vibrant setting, intricate world building, and/or an elaborate plot, but none of those things will carry a story if you don’t put equal or greater effort into building your characters. The people in your story are what your readers relate to; we’ve all built interesting mental attachments to imaginary people. If you want to write a book that people love, or even just a story that you love yourself, then you need to focus on the people within your story.

#2 – Do the groundwork

Know your characters

Each character needs to be as unique as each person in real life.

Build a character biography for each person in your story. Start with the basics, hair colour, eye colour, name, age and so on. With minor characters you can stick to these points. For your bigger players try to include things such as; their biggest fear, their happiest memory, what they do when they’re nervous, their secret passion e.t.c.

Some of these things may never make it into your book, but what is important is that you know these people inside and out. Only then can you have a hope of writing them in a convincing manner.

I’m not saying you can forget about all the other elements. After all, Sherlock Holmes would be a very dull man if he didn’t have any interesting cases to highlight his brilliance as a character. You have to write interesting people with interesting skills and fascinating flaws, even ‘ordinary’ characters with no skills can react to an exciting adventure in an interesting way.

The minute you shift your focus, you’ll find yourself wanting to find out what happens to them, how they get out of tricky situations, who they fall in love with or anything else that you chose to throw at them through the journey. If you are interested, then your readers will be interested too.

#3 – Remain consistent

Character for sale – I forgot his name because he’s not important (may not actually be a ‘he’)

You’d be surprised at how easily you note one person having blue eyes in chapter three and by the time you get to chapter twenty they’ve ended up with brown eyes (unless of course you’re writing fantasy and a change in eye colour is part of the plot somehow – this would be allowed!) Or a similar mistake such as having a character mention that he can’t swim at the start of the story, then at the end you have him skilfully doing strokes up a raging river. You may miss it in the edits, but I promise your readers won’t and if you lose them on the details, then you’ll lose their interest.

This goes back to the idea of having a character bio for each person, but if you really can’t do that then you must be prepared to edit rigorously.

A fellow author told me he made the mistake of writing identical twins into his story with the names Terry and Kerry. It’s a wonderful idea, but awfully tricky in practice. He described his woes of reading through the first draft and finding that he got completely muddled up with the names and the traits of each brother and spent a lot of time and effort trying to unmuddle it in the editing.

So be straight on who each character is and what they can or can’t do and if something changes be sure to explain how or why that is.

#4 – Nobody’s perfect

Hero for hire – Can do anything and everything and never puts a foot wrong

There is no such thing as a perfect person.

If you’re going to tell me that your story involves a race of aliens who have evolved into a perfect set of people then good luck to you. I am going to tell you that they are boring.

Readers relate to character flaws more strongly than they do character skills. One of my favourite heroines has an amusing need to clean everything, bordering on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Did I just say a disorder was amusing? I meant no offense to anyone who suffers in real life. In literary form it is funny as the character leads a band of miscreants working outside of the law who invariably wind up living in dirty and unsanitary digs, meaning our leading lady spends an inordinate amount of time trying to clean up.

Your characters cannot be perfect. There must be a balance to make them interesting. Think of your own flaws. Perhaps you’re great in bed but terrible with romance (or vice versa). Maybe you can shoot the centre of a target whilst blindfolded, but you’re deathly afraid of spiders. What if you’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve accidentally clipped the corner of your car on that awkwardly placed wall at the end of your drive (who put that stupid wall there anyway?) Readers crave these little moments where characters show them their vulnerabilities. So don’t deprive them of that.


Synopsis: Put more effort into your characters than you currently do.

I hope some of these points will help you in your quest to finish writing a novel.