I Hate It

It’s been a long while since I waxed lyrical on my own website. I feel like a neglectful parent, leaving my spawn to fester in the abyss while I drink wine and pretend life doesn’t suck. Thankfully it’s just a website and not an actual child otherwise it would have been taken into care and I’d be in jail by now.

Anyhoo, there is a reason I’ve been neglectful. A similar thing has happened to my writing. I guess I’ve hit that dreaded period of “writers block”

*spits onto laptop*… eew

I’ve had it before, and as almost any writer will know it SUCKS. But for some reason this time has been worse. It’s not really that I can’t write, I can write I have just developed an unhealthy attitude towards my own work. I hate it.

I can blame any number of things, perhaps I’m burnt out from writing and publishing 6 novels and 4 short stories in an 18 month period. I guess that was a bit much. I was working for a long time on a reserve tank of “fuck you” juice. I work well when given an unhealthy dose of ‘bloody-minded reason to do something’ just to spite someone. God I sound like a hateful person, but there it is.

Perhaps it was the shock of putting the work out in the world and then having actual real people purchase, read, and offer their opinions on it. At last glance all six books are still holding out at the 4.5 star mark on amazon, which is pretty good going considering the quantity of ratings that have racked up. I should be pleased, but as an eternal pessimist I still habitually pour all my focus into those minority low ratings, the ones we authors aren’t allowed to mention or complain about for fear of appearing ungrateful… *grits teeth and refuses to comment further on that touchy issue*

It was almost inevitable that at some point it was all going to go horribly wrong. So here we are. I can’t write because I hate my work. It’s not that I don’t think it’s good, I mean, within the realms of my limited literary skill set, it’s good, but I hate it.

I have three books on the go at the moment. I hate them all.

I get this gut-wrenching feeling when I open a document. As if I’m opening the door to a relative I don’t like, there’s nothing wrong with the relative, I just have an irrational temperament towards them.

I can write, and I do on a regular (although reduced to my standard) basis, but only after I force myself over that initial hateful hurdle of frustration and anger. I’m looking forward to the day when I can genuinely fall back in love with the process of writing. At the very least, I am hopeful that those days will return. I long for the 10k days, the chapter complete days, the OMG my character did that? days, the tears when someone dies days. I want it all back. I miss it. I miss it enough to push through these hateful times in the hope that those days are nearby. Maybe I’ll turn a page and find them again. All things are temporary, and such vicious hate can only be sustained for so long.

Has anyone else out there experienced this? What have you done to overcome it? I’d love to hear from you, and as always, write on

Magic in Fantasy

I’ve read a lot of fantasy stories, some of them are good, and some are are awful. The thing I’ve noticed about the good fantasy stories is the care an author takes when they build magic into the narrative.

It is far too easy when you have magic in a story to use it as a crutch - a get out of jail free card for when you’ve written your characters into an inescapable corner. This can be the definitive Deus Ex Machina answer to any problem. Character on the verge of death? Fix it with magic. World is about to implode and kill every living thing? Just say abracadabra and wave a wand. That is when fantasy stories start to go wrong.

The best approach is to consider magic as a form of physics. For a writer to lay out what things magic can do in their story, and perhaps more importantly, what it cannot do. Magic with rules is far more believable than unlimited magic.

To offer some examples, I’ll begin with the Harry Potter universe. It is filled with magic, it being the very essence of the story, however, JK Rowling was careful to build in rules. Spells that only last for a limited time. Potions with side effects. There are many spells that help the characters out of certain situations, but they are specific and have various other uses rather than one-time band aids.

To pull from a classic, consider Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Gandalf and his buddy wizards use magic, but their strength is limited, even Sauron's magic is restricted - I guess being stuck as an eye at the top of a tower will do that to a guy. In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, magic is more often the cause of trouble than it is the solution.

The history of magic in folklore is fascinating for anyone who wishes to look into it. There is a wealth of ideas around, some more known than others.

When it comes to writing a story that contains magic it is important for the writer to focus on the system they wish to use. Who can use magic? Is it just a certain set of characters or is it open to everyone in your world? How is magic obtained? Is it naturally occurring, a sort of inherent magic gene, or must someone study and learn it, or even obtain it through some foreign object (finding a hidden chalice or magical orb or similar). The rules are paramount. You need to decide if magic can affect the physical (making objects fly or change shape) or mental (mindreading) and stick to your own rules.

When I chose to include a magical element in the steampunk series, I sat down and wrote out some basic structures. There are two kinds of magic in the world, one is caused by ingestion or injection of Anthonium, a rare element. The element is actually a poison and if taken in too large a dose it will kill someone, but just the right dose and a person gets some unique physical abilities, such as enhanced healing, becoming impervious to heat, or invisibility (only one ability per person). The other magical component comes from priests studying a specific branch of the religion of my world. They can obtain the skill to build illusion objects, such as an orb that can change the physical appearance of something. Very skilled priests can perform a sort of mind-link to another person. These elements, while important to the story, are very limited in their nature. I didn’t want to have magic devices all over the place giving the characters easy answers to the problems that come up.

Taking time to build the structure for magic in your world is how you make magic appear “real”, and more believable.


Write on



Sounds fake doesn’t it? The fear of success. Who in their right mind would fear such a thing? Well therein lies the issue, it’s an irrational fear and by definition, if you have it, you aren’t in your “right mind”. It’s a new one I’ve discovered that I have. I’m close, so burningly, ball-achingly close to finishing the steampunk series. There is but a heartbeat, a few pages, some mere explosive splurges of imagination onto the page remaining before I can call this series complete. And yet these last few chapters have taken longer and longer to pen. It’s not that I don’t know what to write – I’ve had the ending plotted out for some time now. It isn’t that I don’t have the motivation to write. It is that I have a fear of finishing.

To a writer, their books are like children. We give birth, nurture them to maturity, provide them with everything they require to gain life and then at some point we let them go out into the world. Just like a parent does with their grown children, we can check in on them periodically, see how they are doing, maybe give them a boost (think marketing) to help them out once in a while, but really, they are beyond our reach. We have done all we can, and can only hope that they don’t fall over so far that they never get up again. Is this the reason I’m struggling to write these last few pages? Probably.

There are other factors to consider. What do I do once I’m finished? Well, I have my other series of course, and I intend to write many more things, but there is no doubt that this epic monstrosity of a world that I’ve created will leave a gaping hole in my life when I have no reason to go back and visit it any more.

I don’t want to let go.

I don’t want to finish the series. I’m afraid of losing it.

Just like a reader who falls in love with the characters in a book – so to have I fallen in love with these products of my imagination. I don’t want to say goodbye to Larissa and Holt. I think I might cry when I write the last few paragraphs containing Cid. I can’t let go, and some part of me is fighting back, drawing out the process. I’m like a mother standing at the school gate for hours after my kid has gone inside. It hurts to say goodbye.

So to any fellow writers who have found themselves in the same position, please let me know how you cope with such a loss when your books are done? Because right now, I need some reassurance that I’m not going to end up curled in a ball screaming “I CAN WRITE BOOK FIVE”…

I really need to finish this series, and quick!

Write on! 

Writing to market

Hello fellow authors, and newly discovered reader friends.

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post on writing. What with the launch of The War, and a few other things going on in the background, I’ve let my bloggityness slip (what? That’s a word…)

Anyhoo, as I think I’ve mentioned before, I have slowly come round to making a conscious decision to treat writing as a career move. What I’ve realised, however, is that this is a business. If I am to have any chance of earning a living through writing, then I need to shift my approach. As much as my steampunk series has had success, and as much as my erotic fantasy series is gaining traction, they will never give me enough return to jack in the day job.

The reason? They live in the realm of fantasy.

There is a reason that a lot of publishers won’t even consider fantasy novels. I used to think it was snobbery, and while I do still think that is part of the problem, the far bigger issue is profit. As much as there is a market for fantasy books – and a growing market at that – it is not a particularly viable market. If the publishers can’t make a profit in a sector, then they won’t even attempt to enter it. Have you noticed in bookshops, that the crime section often takes up a large chunk of the store, the romance section takes up another prominent position and then you get to the fantasy section and it’s teeny in comparison?

Trust me. It pains me – as a proclaimed fantasy author – to say that fantasy is nothing more than a poor kid nipping at the heels of the fat and wealthy genres. I want to take every reader who refuses to read fantasy and lock them in a room, force them to read some of the best fantasy fiction books until they love it or starve to death. Fantasy stories are my first true love, and that will never change. I will always write fantasy. However, in order to position myself better in the literary world, I need to broaden my horizons and my first adjustment in that regard is to attempt to write to market.

Which market, I don’t yet know. I still need to complete the steampunk and the erotic series and do a lot of research on the subject. Then I will make a choice. I know my strengths as a writer, and I know my limitations, but I’m fairly confident that I can adapt my voice to fit almost any genre. Perhaps for every big market book I write, I’ll allow myself a vanity project – a step back into the fantastical to appease the muse.

Above all, the key to success is to have the flexibility to adapt and change, especially as an indie author.

There is no shame in writing to please the masses; after all, we want to please our readers don’t we?

Write on!


Have you noticed how much your mood affects your writing – or even your ability to write?

We had some bad news in our family yesterday, not devastating end-of-the-world type news, but it was bad enough to cause stress. When I sat down in the evening to write I just couldn’t. My mind froze up, my chest hurt and my fingers wouldn’t work. I’m a curious mix of pent up aggression and utter lethargy with nothing in-between. It will get better, things always do. It’s the natural ebb and flow of life. You get the highs and the lows with a whole bunch of grey areas in the middle. The writing works best during the grey areas I find.

There is the school of thought that one can use the harsh realities of life and take that into their manuscript. If you can manage to channel your anger and upset into the plot and characters, then it’s almost guaranteed to come out as a much grittier and realistic version of what would be written during a chilled moment. Similarly, when going through a period of good news and happy feelings, you can pump that word count up and pen some uplifting moments in the book.

I find there is a fine line between using real-life mood to enhance a story, and the real-life mood getting in the way of actually writing the story. Right now I’m unable to write. The emotion is too raw and the stress of the moment is too recent. The sensible part of my brain knows this will pass, all I need is a bit of patience and to stay mindful of anxiety levels, and hopefully in a few days I can get back to it.

To all my fellow writers who may go through something like this in the future, all I can advise is this-

Give yourself a break. You’re only human. If you can channel the stress into your work then do so, otherwise close the document down for a while and focus on yourself and your loved ones.

Even the foulest mood is temporary, and the biggest setback can be overcome.

All you need is time.

Write on!

Multiple Manuscript Madness

Life can get a bit hectic at times, with a full-time job, a family, a house, bills, garden, renovation, kids activities and a second career. If you take a step back and look at all the things you manage to do in a day, week, month and year, you might find yourself a little shocked. I know I do. It might seem mad then to actively work on multiple writing projects at the same time.

I currently have three manuscripts in the works - two full novels and a short story that may well stretch to ‘novella’ status by the end of it. Add to that the blog posts, both my own and the guest posts I seem to frequently commit myself to, plus all the marketing and businessy side of being a writer (you know, that boring bit that no-one likes to talk about) and it’s a wonder that my brain isn’t melting out my ears on a daily basis.

If you’re the sort of person who can only focus on one writing project at a time, then this probably doesn’t apply. If you’re like me, with a gazillion different things flying around your head that just keep demanding to have your attention and if you don’t concede to those demands then you wind up miserable and unable to produce anything then these tips might apply.

Set a limit

As I said, I have three things that I consider to be active projects. There are about ten other things that I have buried at the back of my head somewhere that can come to life when one of the three is complete, but I’ve been working with three things on the go for a while now and it works. Start with two and then work your way up to a number that you feel comfortable with, but make sure you limit that number or you become at risk of being a starter but never a finisher.

Don’t fight it

Seriously. If one day you want to work on project A but the characters from project B start chattering away, then listen to them and work on that one. This can get a little tricky if you have committed to writing a piece to a deadline – in that case I can recommend that you always work ahead of the deadline. Say you need to hand in something by 1st June… aim to get it completed by 1st May, just convince yourself mentally that the deadline is a lot sooner and that will allow for the days when your brain won’t comply to your plan.

Switch it up

The best thing about having lots of projects on the go is that there is no excuse for writers block. If you get stuck on one then simply shift your focus to another. This allows for constant productivity and almost eliminates the days sitting around mourning the fact that you can’t write.

Get organised

Have a good filing system on your pc so you can find whichever document you need within two clicks from the desktop. Wipe out the frustration stage of not knowing where that piece you started three weeks ago was saved.


Above all, make sure you write every day. A hundred words or so is better than no words. A thousand words is better still, regardless of which novel you add to.

Write on!


“I’ll write a book.”

You know, it sounds nice doesn’t it? Like something one does to pass the time. A hobby. A pleasure. Maybe for some people it may be just that. As easy as a walk in the park on a warm spring day. No stress, no pressure.

Only it isn’t that. Far from it. Most writers write because they are compelled to do so. Like some junkie drug addict, the need to write something is constantly pecking away at you until you obey.

Writing an entire novel is not a walk in the park. You can chug out page after page, chapter after chapter, but only if you have good discipline.

It is all too easy to make excuses not to write.

“I’m not inspired today,” we tell ourselves.

“I have writers block.”

“The dog ate my manuscript.”

That’s fine if you want to do that to yourself. Go ahead. Keep making those excuses. It won’t get the novel written though, so don’t come complaining to me when you’re three months down the line and no further towards your dream.

How do I do it? I push through those days when I don’t feel like writing. I might only knock out a few hundred words or so, but I write something. Every.Single.Day

It takes discipline, hard work and determination. The self-doubt is always there. The bad days will come and go. The only way to get past them is to write on regardless.

If you truly have a passion for writing then you can do this. If I can do this, (and I’m a generally lazy person) then anyone can.

The next time you find your hand wandering towards your phone or tv remote instead of typing words on your book, then stop. You can play on the internet after writing 500 words. You can carry on the lengthy text conversation with your friends after writing 200 words. You can binge watch The Walking Dead after writing another 2000 words. AFTER. Not before, not during.

Any excuse you may give is petty and pathetic. Do you want to write a book? Then stop giving in to temptation and go write it, because no-one else will do it for you.

Write on! 


I recently completed a five thousand word short story for an anthology. I used to only write short stories until last year and since then I’ve really only written novels so it was interesting to go back to writing shorts. It is certainly a different discipline, you have to cram everything in, keep the interest, build character and have a well-rounded story in but a few pages. Something I’ve noticed in short stories that take them from being merely a glimpse into a small scene and turn them into a more complete story is theming.

By this, I mean when an author introduces certain themes in from the very beginning and subtly keeps them up throughout, it helps to tie the story together. For example, the short story I just completed was about a fireman (the guy who stoked the fire of a steam engine) who is on a journey which ends with him flying off on the back of a dragon. Throughout the text I have several themes in place. The colour black – the fireman is coated with soot, the people on the train are all dressed in black and the dragon is a black beauty. Also the theme of fire is prevalent though not profuse. Finally there are themes in dialogue, the instructions that the engineer barks at our hero at the beginning of the journey are the same words the fireman uses to command the dragon at the end.

Now I’m not saying that I’ve written the best piece of literature in the world here, but I’ve had good feedback from it, and I’m as sure as can be that the theme’s therein are a large part of its success. The trick is to include themes without making them obvious. You can’t simply keep repeating one concept, themes need to be weaved into the narrative subtly, they need to be seamless to work.

You can take this approach and apply it to novels as well, keeping themes spread throughout a book helps to tie one chapter to the next, one character to another and to bring the whole book together. A good example of themes in books – specifically in character – is the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, drugs and alcohol are consumed frequently by our hero. The theme of justice through use of intelligent deduction rather than heroic muscle power, Holmes does not rush around town beating up the bad guys, he outwits them at every turn.

Alternatively, if you prefer a more modern example then let’s look at Harry Potter. Arguably the largest themes in the books are love, family, and death. For a more subtle theme, consider that none of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers last more than one year in their post.

Themes are important in stories and the very best writers will include them without even knowing they’re doing it. It is easy to go overboard though, so take heed.

Write on!


A lot of writers are introverts. I speak as one of them – in the extreme (no offense but I much prefer my own company to that of almost everyone else on the planet save for two special people and my cat).

It’s an interesting trait of introverts to be very self-aware. It’s almost a disability in some respects, you become conscious of yourself at all times, you give pause to the myriad of possible outcomes for each choice you make, especially in conversation, to the point where you end up saying nothing because you can’t decide on the most suitable comment. Underpinning this is a fear. A fear of failure and of judgement in the negative. Add an unhealthy dose of anxiety and occasional severe depression and you end up with an interesting cocktail of a psyche. It’s a wonder I manage to achieve anything sometimes.

Picture this

Someone asks you how your day was-

My extroverted friends will say something like this: “great thanks! I achieved loads and had a good chat with a friend for hours, she told me she’s pregnant isn’t that wonderful…”

The introvert will run through an internal analysis: (internal musings) “my day was mediocre, nothing much happened. I can’t say that because it will sound dull, but I don’t want to make something up because I won’t come up with something believable and then I’ll have to remember the lie. I could mention the fact that the coffee machine is broken but they may assume that by me mentioning it, that I was in some way responsible for it, so I’ll just forget about that.” - an uncomfortable silence fills the space between the questioner and the introvert until finally they manage to say “fine thanks.”

Why am I mentioning this? Because that state of hyperawareness and over-analysis is pervasive. Especially when it comes to writing. We read and re-read and doubt, and judge and condemn our own work with reckless abandon. It’s never good enough. After all, how can someone who can’t even engage in a casual conversation without bringing themselves to the brink of a meltdown, possibly write anything of worth?

I’m a published writer. I’ve had inexplicable success with my writing, and yet I still doubt my ability. I still read what I wrote yesterday and think it’s awful and wonder why I bothered. That self-doubt is debilitating and depressing and the spiral continues until we either give up or learn to ignore it to some extent.

Of course, I’m sure the rare breed of extroverted writer does this too, so if that’s you, please don’t think I’m excluding you. Oh dear, now I think this whole blog post is not good enough, people won’t like it and they’ll think I’m talking shit. And they’ll be right because I do talk shit. I should just give up this whole thing…

Write on, it’s the only way to escape your own craziness for a time.




You know what I most often get stuck on when I’m writing? Details. I don’t mean details within a scene, how it looks or what’s going on. I mean thematic and plot details. Allow me to clarify with an example:

character (a) has problem x, y, and z,

character (b) needs to do 1, 2, and 3,

character (b)’s item 2 conflicts with character (a)’s problem x and z

if I allow character (b) to achieve item 3 then that will screw up problem y for character (a)

This is an oversimplified version of what I’m talking about, but you get the gist.

Now, I know there are programs in the world that have been designed with issues such as this in mind, that writers can use (*cough*, scrivener, *cough*) but I don’t need/want a computer to resolve things like this for me. I have always simply done it in my head. That was all well and good for a short story, novella or even one whole book. As I near the end of the full length trilogy, it’s becoming trickier to keep a tight handle on everything.

That’s the thing that plagues writers, we introduce all these elements into our stories, all these layers of conflict which makes for an entertaining read (we hope) but are a nightmare in reality. It’s like having a bunch of beautifully crafted kites in the air at one time while a hurricane blusters past and you try in vain to not let your strings cross and keep all those creations from crashing down into a tangled mess. It’s exhausting, frustrating and sometimes depressing.

What’s the solution? I don’t have a simple answer I’m afraid. I tackle it by doing frequent re-reads, going over and over what I’ve already put in place to ensure I remain consistent. Sure, an editor should be able to pick up on places where a writer misses something or makes a mistake, but I don’t like the idea of handing off responsibility for that to someone else, that’s just sloppy and lazy in my opinion.

So, if you’re a writer then feel free to share your advice on how you tackle such complications in writing in the comments, I'd love to hear other peoples approaches.

Write on!


I’ve been struggling with a chapter in book three for weeks. It’s not like me to get so stuck. I know the action that I want to happen, but for some reason my brain has stopped effective communication with my fingers. I think there’s some kind of war going on between them that they haven’t told me about. It’s like having two naughty children who have declared each other mortal enemies over some small spat and there is just no talking to them.

I’ve tried it all

– I’ve ignored the book for a few days hoping I can come back to it refreshed

– I’ve physically forced myself to write even though I know the words are awful and will need a heavy edit

– I’ve tried reading a new book to see if that will spark the imagination.

None of it has helped.

I don’t want to call this writers block, because as I said before, I know what to write, I know what happens in the scene/chapter, I’m just struggling with the ability to write.

Then I had a mini breakthrough. A small nugget of character dialogue popped into my brain and I know precisely where it belongs, right at the end of the chapter. So I wrote it, leaving a big gap between the linear parts that are done and the bit I’m working towards. All I have to do is fill in the stuff in-between. Now I have that goal to work towards it feels as though a fog has lifted and as soon as I have the time to focus on it properly (preferably without being bleary-eyed from a lack of sleep), I know I’ll be able to move on.

So next time you’re stuck, try the back-to-front approach. Write the end point of a scene/chapter/entire book and with any luck it may clear the miasma of ineffectiveness.

Good luck

Write on!


I had a great idea for a blog, then something came up, life happened I guess and because I hadn’t written my idea down POOF it was gone. But thanks to my lovely brain, I have this little remnant of a reminder. I remember that I had an idea, I just have no idea what the idea was. It’s like some metaphysical taunting thing that my brain does to me on some subconscious level. No matter how hard I concentrate, the golden nugget of wonder just won’t come back.

Most writers have a sort of love-hate relationship with their brains. Some days your incredible brain gives you oodles of good dialog; it unlocks some great plot or can even come up with an entire epic story concept. Other days you’re lucky if you manage to get your underwear on the right way around. Why is this? Who knows.

What I do know is that I really need to start paying attention when I come up with ideas and no matter what, I need to drop everything and write that shit down, because otherwise my evil little brain will forget all about it then laugh at me while I pitifully attempt to think of it again. If you’re a writer, then I can offer this advice to you to. Whatever it is, no matter how small, write it down.


Write on.


Anyone can write. I don’t care if you have a low grade ability for English (or whatever language you speak), or if you’re dyslexic, or have a master’s degree in writing, all it takes to be a writer is imagination. The rest comes with time, patience and practice.

Not everyone can write successfully.

It’s a lonely profession. As much as there are writers forums and groups and we join and share our progress (or lack of) and discuss all manner of writery things, when it comes down to it, when we’re sat staring at a blank page or screen, the author is alone. Doubt creeps in through the little cracks in the corners. You can get to the end of a three hundred page epic and think, “boy, what a crock of shit and waste of time.”

You spend half your time with a crippling fear of failure and the other half worrying about success.  On occasion, when you’re not stressing over these things, you manage to drop a few words in. Writing is hard work. There are days when all the plotting you’ve done falls to pieces. When you realise you’ve got a gaping great hole in the middle - DESPAIR! There are times when you want your character to do something or go somewhere but you can’t seem to make it happen naturally – DISASTER! There are times when you realise the whole section you’ve spent ages writing needs to be cut completely taking your word count back to where you were three weeks ago – WHY DON’T I JUST QUIT NOW?

Writing is torture. It’s a horrid experience from start to finish with the occasional nice bit in the middle where everything goes right. It does very little for your self-esteem and while we spend hours daydreaming about being the next JK Rowling or Stephen King, the reality of our situation is dreadful. There are too many of us flooding the world, writing our hearts out. No matter how good you are, there will be many more who are better and even they struggle to make a success of it.

Why then, do we subject ourselves to it over and over? Are all authors would-be masochists? Possibly. Do we enjoy the suffering of the process? Not really. But you know what’s worse? Not writing.

I can’t not write. It’s like a drug. There are words inside my brain scratching to get out and if I don’t write them down then I feel sick. That doesn’t mean I write all the time, no matter how much I want to, there are times where I can’t write a thing. Those are the really bad times, when you want to write but for whatever reason, you just can’t. Writing impotence. Not fun. Writing hurts, but not writing is worse.

Blood sweat and tears are our bread and water. No-one tells you that. After all, who would dare admit to such pain and anguish?


Hollywood has sold us a dream. Ever noticed how almost all the movies that come out have a rather formulaic plot? There’s the conflict, the characters, the love sub-plot, the bad guy who adds to the conflict, the build-up of tension, the near-fatal moment where we think all is lost AND THEN it all resolves nicely just before the credits roll. Even if a few beloved characters are killed along the way, even if half the world is destroyed, even if the original goal was not achieved, somehow it gets turned around and the audience is left feeling all warm and fuzzy as if all is right in the world.

Now, I know there are examples where the formula is switched up and turned on its head. I know there are prime examples of unhappy endings, but the vast majority still follow this formula to this day. Consider, then, do books do the same?

I believe (generally speaking) that they do, and there is a very good reason for it. We engage in hobbies like reading and watching movies to immerse ourselves in a fantasy world. We want horror movies to frighten us, while in reality we sit comfortably with popcorn in our laps. We want a romance to make us feel all smooshy inside even if we’re lonely in real life. What we don’t want is to invest time and money in something that leaves us feeling confused and/or depressed at the end of the story. We want to leave the characters behind with a smile on our faces as we slowly return to reality and waddle off to our real lives in a daze.

Consider this when you’re writing your story. You don’t have to have a happy ending, but what happens in the end will be the last moment your readers experience in the world you’ve created, so make sure it’s meaningful and worthwhile, give your readers something to remember and send them away feeling fulfilled and gratified. You can do this, even with a sad ending if you put enough care into it.


Write on!


Have you ever noticed how supposedly impartial news articles are utterly biased? I don’t read newspapers, haven’t done for years. They are generally filled with hateful opinion pieces that contain very little actual news. I occasionally catch up on what’s going on in the outside world by glancing at the BBC, but even they have their fair share of agenda pushing claptrap.

You know the one that really gets to me? When they say ‘Government U-turn on issue X’. It’s sensationalism at its best. If you look at it from a sensible point of view, what they are saying is, the Government originally had idea X, they looked into it and decided that it was not feasible nor cost effective in reality and therefore no longer wish to pursue it. That is how I would expect the Government to act. To blindly push on with your ideas without regard to their usefulness nor effect on others is how dictatorships are born. However a headline of ‘Government acts in a reasonable manner on issue X’ won’t make sales.

This use of language to twist how an idea is presented is utterly relevant to writers. The way we tell the story directly reflects our opinion of it and is how we try to guide our readers opinion. If we were to write in an entirely impartial and unbiased manner the work would read as though it were written by a robot. I think it’s important to consider the meaning between the lines of your work and how it presents to others. This way you know who you are likely to attract as a reader (i.e. someone of like mind to you) and who you are likely to repel.

Let’s say you have a character of ‘loose virtue’ in your book, if you consistently refer to him/her with negative language or even if you use your other characters to place that negativity onto that character for you, then that is the opinion you are trying to push onto the reader. Consider:

“Aaron is a complete slut, the first thing he does in the morning is trim his man bush to look tidy for whichever female he’s going to boink in the evening”


“Aaron is a free spirit, he loves all kinds of women... frequently”

The difference is subtle but the resulting spin is markedly altered.

So be careful what language you use in your work, it speaks volumes about you the writer, and your characters position on certain subjects and will ultimately project onto the reader in one way or another.


Write on!


Let me tell you about a ... uhh ... friend of mine. She was sitting on the toilet, minding her own business, doing her... business, when someone stuck their head around the door and started screaming really important information at her. I...she... had never got off the toilet, flushed, washed her hands and run back to her computer so fast in all her life.

That, dear reader, was an attack of the muse. To non-writers, the concept of a muse must seem like a bizarre imaginary friend that creative types carry around with them. I suppose that’s true in a way. Let me tell you though, that friend, is temperamental at best, often shows up at inconvenient times (see above) and if you throw them a party - put everything in place just the way they like it and dress yourself up all pretty, you’ll be disappointed to find they don’t turn up.

There is a reason my muse popped up whilst I was ‘otherwise indisposed’. I believe that inspiration sits on a very fine edge between the conscious and subconscious. During those moments when you are awake but not really paying attention to anything, you’re just functioning at a base level of awareness, running on auto-pilot, and your mind regresses into some hidden cave full of treasures. The vast majority of my plot and character revelations occur whilst I’m in the shower. Something about the white noise of the water, the soothing feel of getting clean and the utter bliss of warm water sends my mind into writer mode. My poor husband is learning not to speak to me until after I get out the shower and sit down at the laptop to frantically type up the shit I’ve just thought of. I get irrationally mad at him if he distracts me; it’s as if being brought back into the real world will cause me to forget something important in my imaginary world. Actually it’s not irrational to get mad, because that does happen. I’ll wager most writers have had that moment when they wake up in the middle of the night with some amazing revelation of story that they simply needed to act on and write down.

The trick is to try and replicate that state of mind during the times when you are sat with the document open – or pen in hand – ready to write. No easy task, granted. How to achieve that will vary from person to person. I like to listen to some calming instrumental music and zone out. It also helps to take a long walk or just sit quietly for a time with a blank mind.

The muse is a fickle creature, but when he/she wants to play it feels like you’re opening the best present ever on your birthday. Best of all, it’s free.


Write on.


I’ve read a good number of books. Some are fine, some are awful, a rare few are brilliant. I’ve taken a lot of time to think about what things make a book “good”. Of course it’s an entirely subjective issue as no two people appreciate the same things in the same ways. I adore Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, I know other people who just can’t see the appeal of them. So it’s difficult to pin down the exact elements that make a good story when readers have such a diverse range of likes and dislikes.

However, there are a few things that need to be right to take almost any book from blah to wow, I’ve already discussed the first and I believe, most important thing in previous blog posts – character. Another, equally important issue that is inextricably linked to character is emotion. I’ve written a good number of stories over the years that had interesting plots and good dialogue, but … they were shit. It has taken me far too long to figure out why. Only through reading a number of stories and analysing what it was that made them a thrill to read, did I start to notice what I was missing. Emotion.

Before you roll your eyes at me and say ‘oh here comes some rubbish about how every book needs a romantic subplot’ that is not what I’m talking about. We humans are emotional creatures. Emotions even exist in other species in ways that are observable and probably more complex than we can comprehend. Human beings live on an emotional level from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep – and even during sleep through our dreams. The most level-headed and detached people in this world are often the hardest to understand or make for the most terrifying people that exist.

As a reader we are actively (though not often consciously) seeking to empathise with the characters in a story and you can only do that if the author shows you how the characters feel through their experiences. Note I said ‘show’ not ‘tell’ this is a classic case of the old adage. I could write ‘Bob felt a bit peeved as Jill spoke’ which falls flat, or I could write ‘The sound of Jill’s voice was drowned out by the sound of Bob’s teeth grinding together’ – this is a rather unsubtle example, it could still be improved, but you get the point.

I often get hung up in the plot and the flow of the story and I have to go back and edit in the character emotions afterwards and only then does the story start to become something much more than just a bunch of people going through the motions.

So the moral is, your characters think and feel everything that is happening to them, don’t deprive your readers of those inner thoughts and experiences. Show the emotion.

Happy writing.


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!