Monday, 12 December 2011


Share your thoughts and highlights on e-books you have read over at readmill, an online community of curious readers.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Weave Magazine

Here is a link to website of Weave Magazine.  They publish Art, Poetry, Fiction and Non-Fiction.

Actually, weave is in my list of top ten words.  Weave.  Love it!

Jeannie Lynn Paske features on the cover of the latest issue.

Just write, write, write...

How do you win the war of the words?  Little by little.  Write everyday.  A page, a paragraph, a sentence. In the end it all adds up.

Don't be daunted by that looming 90,000 word peak.  You won't conquer it in a day.  Be patient.  Take it in stages.  Just don't be tempted to settle in one place for too long.  Keep moving forward.  A sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter.  Words, words, words.  One hundred, one thousand, ten thousand.  Every word a little step closer to the summit.  And then one day...

Just write, write, write...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

10 Xmas Gifts for a Writer

Dear Father Christmas

For some time now I have been telling people that I am a writer.  Now I need to look the part.  Perhaps you could help by bringing me one or more of the lovely items below!

P.s. Sherry and mince pie on the mantelpiece as always!

  1. A Pen.  Montblanc would be great, but that would suggest I am a commercial success, so perhaps a Fisher Space Pen from would be more fitting.  A style icon and indestructible.     
  2. A notebook for capturing all my ideas (why do they always arrive at 3am?).  For this the only option is Moleskin.  There are plenty of styles and sizes to choose from at
  3. For spelling on the move a heavy dictionary and thesaurus just aren't practical.  But if I had a Kindle I could download both and have all the spellings, definitions and synonyms I need at the tip of my fingers.
  4. An ipad
  5. A really great bag to carry all this paraphernalia around.  Perhaps something from or
  6. A Panama Hat to really hammer home the point.  Try
  7. A huge bag of self-belief!
  8. No aspiring writer should be without The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.  Find the 2012 Edition at
  9. Similarly a subscription to Writing Magazine would make a perfect gift.
  10. A publishing contract.  Sort that Father Christmas and I'll see to it that no-one ever questions your existence ever again!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

How Many Drafts?

I thought it would be interesting to follow up my previous post with a Publisher's view on rewriting.  After all, these are the people we are trying to impress. 

Stewart Ferris, interviewed in Writing Magazine (December 2011) has this to say:  '...there are no such things as writers; only rewriters.'  He goes on to break the process down into ten stages:

Draft 1 - Type out the rough version of your whole book

Draft 2 - Tighten structure, fill in plot gaps

Draft 3 - Develop character

Draft 4 - Improve dialogue

Draft 5 - Work on language and imagery

Draft 6 - Restructure parts of the work

Draft 7 - Add layers of conflict

Draft 8 - Improve the crucial opening pages

Draft 9 - More work on character development

Draft 10 - Proofread for mistakes

I'm currently on my third draft.  I'm working on developing character, but also restructuring parts of the work and tightening the structure.  I'm not sure I could split out the editing process as above; it feels a bit regimented.  But then again, perhaps that's what I need!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Write or Rewrite?

What do you find easier: writing or rewriting?  For me it's the rewriting.  I like nothing more than tearing into the previous day's work, pulling it apart and making improvements.  It's a forensic process and extremely cathartic.  Every time I sit down to write I find that my impulse is to rewrite first and then move onto something fresh.

This may be counter-productive.  It may explain my slow progress.  I think though that I will end up with a very tight third draft.

I also find that when I'm writing something fresh I get some good forward momentum, but I'm never happy when I read over the material the following day.  So out comes the red editing pen and I reshape and revise until I feel confident with what is on the page.

I'd love to hear your views on this.  What comes most naturally to you:  writing or rewriting?  What tips do you have to share?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Exciting news for Authors


Check out this new website:  Unbound is a new (well, rediscovered) way of getting books published.  Now an author can pitch a book idea and then potential readers can support the proposed book.  If there is enough support the book will be made.

Go to the web site and view the great introductory video for a full explanation!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Happy Hallowe'en

Time once again to share the scare as Hallowe'en is upon us!

...and that's exactly what Neil Gaiman is proposing with his new initiative, All Hallow's Read.  He wants to start a tradition of giving away a scary book to someone at Hallowe'en.  Get the full details here:

All Hallow's Read

...and in the spirit of that I thought I'd treat you all to a painful slice of Horror flash fiction...

One of Four

I am one of four shadows that watch you.  I am there in the dark.  In the corner of your eye.  You pretend that I do not exist.  But I am here. 

We all are.  The breath on your neck.  The slightest parting of your hair.  The flicker of movement.  The briefest sound. 

Listen!  Did you hear?  The other three are content to watch, but I want more.  I want what you have.  Life and light.  I am on the move, reaching out of the dark, out towards you and…

Yes!  That’s right.  Stand up.  Now you see me.  Don’t look away.  The moment you do, you’re mine.  I am swift and I am vapour.  Our physics match.  There is no escape.  So sit back down. 

Sit right there and pray.  Frozen.  Fearful.  Waiting for my next move.  The clock ticks on…

When it stops you’ll be gone. Tick, tick, tick, stop…

And you are one of the shadows now.  One of four.  The darkness in the corner of my eye.

Friday, 28 October 2011

e-book publication in 10 steps

Smashwords  Product Details   

Here's a quick 10 step guide to e-publishing - just the bare bones and a few useful websites.

  1. Fact or Fiction?  Practical subjects are the way forward if you want to make some quick cash.  See
  2. Research your subject - to make sure it's not been done to death already.  You don't want too much competition.  See both and
  3. Structure - give each idea its own chapter and keep it simple.  A good guideline would be 10 chapters with 10 clear points under each heading.
  4. Short and Sweet - It's an e-book so it doesn't need to be encyclopaedic!  15-70 pages is an acceptable range.  Publish small and often.
  5. Editing - Love it or hate it you won't get anywhere without editing your work.  If you prefer someone else to do it for you, there are people out there who will do it for free.  See and
  6. Image is King - They say never judge a book by it's cover, but your cover image can affect your sales by as much as 25%.  It needs to be strong, relevant to your subject and simple.  You could hire a designer for around £60.  See
  7. Set the Price -  Kindle allows you to set your own price (dependent on size of the book) and the price you set determines the amount of royalty you receive.  You get 70% for books priced between £1.49-£6.99.  Either side of this earns you a 35% royalty.  My advice - be realistic about what you are selling and think about what you would expect to pay for it.
  8. Website - build a platform for selling your book.  Give potential customers a taste of what you have to offer.  Including the book's table of contents could boost your sales by up to 28%.  See
  9. Distribution - You need to get your book out there.  Upload your book on the Amazon Kindle site and smashwords.  See and  Also set up a paypal account for when the big bucks start rolling in!
  10. Network - It's all about building a platform for yourself - website, blog,twitter, facebook, linked-in - and letting the world know what you have for them.  You can also enter discussions in relevant forums.  How about releasing a teaser of your work?  See

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Doctor Who

How The Doctor Changed My Life (Doctor Who Short Trips)

Here's a link to the Doctor Who anthology that I contributed to.  I didn't realise you could order it from Amazon.  It's even got a 5-star review.


Obsolete World

You will notice a new link in the Wonderful Distractions side bar.  This is Obsolete World, the blog of artist Jeannie Lynn Paske and the beautifully sorrowful creatures who populate her forgotten land.  I was drawn immediately to these wispy, ethereal beings and the sparse sunset landscape that they wander through.  I imagine they all have a good story to tell. 

Hope you enjoy the site as much as I do.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Man Booker Prize News

Follow this link for news and reactions to the result of the Man Booker Prize 2011, plus reviews of all six books short-listed for this year's prize.

If you haven't read Julian Barnes' winning novella The Sense of an Ending yet I can assure you that it is well worth your money and your time.  Great characters, great structure, great ending.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Fitter, Stronger, Happier

Well, somehow it's still summer.  Better late than never, I suppose!  Apologies for the lack of posts in recent weeks, I've had my head down and focused on writing the novel.  Progress is good.  I've also been catching up on a bit of reading - which is like filling up with petrol for writers.

I recently finished 'What They Do In The Dark' by Amanda Coe, a story about the loss of innocence set in 1970's Doncaster.  All credit to Amanda, I've never read a book as fast as i read hers.  Why?  Because it was truly engrossing and because I knew from quite early on that something disturbing was going to happen at the end.  A bit like the car crash that you can't help but look at, I had to find out what would happen to the characters.  And they were thoroughly believable characters too.  Amanda's name may be familiar to some - she has also written scripts for the Channel Four series 'Shameless.'

You'll also see a link in the Wonderful Distractions sidebar to the website of Myke Gray.  Myke is one of Britain's leading Personal Trainers.  I thought this site would be helpful to anyone struggling with the work-life balance, whether they be a full-time writer or not.  Myke has a great philosophy on life and well-being.  His site is completely free and offers exercise videos and meal plans.  Please take a look if you are wanting to make a positive change to your lifestyle.

Until next time.  Come back fitter, stronger, happier!  

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Why Should Anyone Care?

Click the link below to read an article by Science Fiction writer Cory Doctorow.  Here he poses the question 'why should anyone care' about the stuff we write?

It's interesting to consider the processes and considerations that go into the purchasing decisions of readers. How do we catch their attention?  How do we project our fictional worlds onto the public conscience?  How do we sell the creation of our imaginations?

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Progress Report: Third draft. Chapter 5

Somewhere out there is the end.  The place where my final draft rests.  That shaft of light breaking through the darkening sky is hope.  It's telling me not to give up.  It's telling me that the iron sea of doubt is the trickiest obstacle I have to conquer.  Those mountains in the distance can be climbed; their peaks puncture the clouds and their summits are sprinkled with success.  Bring me my swimming trunks of self belief.  Bring me my crampons of determination.

September 4th.  Third draft.  Chapter Five.  Fifteen weeks until Christmas.  Tick tock, tick tock.  Feeling the pressure.

I'm going to try working in two week blocks (see blog entry How long does it take to Write a Novel? - 16.07.11).  Two weeks on each chapter to redraft and edit.  And I'll post fortnightly updates on my progress detailing any frustrations  / tips / life-changing discoveries. 

Back in two weeks with a report on chapter five.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Fragments, a.k.a. Henry

I wrote 'Fragments' back in 2008, shortly after writing for the Doctor Who Anthology, 'How the Doctor Saved my Life.'  I was on something of a roll back then and the story, which was called 'Henry' at the time, was accepted for a short story print anthology that was to be published by a Science Fiction website.

Alas, it was not to be.  The website encountered some difficulties and eventually closed, my hopes dying with it.  Looking back it was probably a blessing in cruel disguise.  The shape that 'Henry' was in at the time I would probably have cringed to see it in print.

Anyway it was duly filed away in my documents and all but forgotten about.  Then a year later I stumbled across it, gave it a dust down, tidied up a few passages and sent it off to a couple of online magazines and print magazines.  They all rejected it.  Ouch.  So away it went again, into the folder of broken dreams.

It wasn't until I'd released 'Rose' on the Kindle that I started to think about 'Henry' again.  I knew there was a good story in there, it just needed to be carved out from that rough draft.

I edited without mercy.  I cut the dead wood, the pretty but meaningless passages, trimmed away the fat until it was two thirds the original word count.  Nice and tight.   Then I edited it again, and from the smoking embers 'Fragments' emerged.

The cover image for 'Fragments' is something I'm rather proud of - a Heath Robinson moment, if you like.  I was scratching my head trying to add text to a photograph when it struck me - why not re-shoot the image with the text in it?  That cover is made up of three elements; A4 paper, a blue paperweight and a torch.  Simple but effective.  Okay so my name's a bit wonky, but I think perfection is overrated.


'Fragments' is now available for immediate sampling and sale in multiple ebook formats.  Click on the link to sample now.

And click here to see my Smashwords profile.

Monday, 15 August 2011


Here's my side project, 'Fragments', a sci-fi short story about a poor old chap called Henry. 

Henry's a widower, living alone by the sea, minding his own business when one morning a blue bottle appears
in his bathroom and turns his life inside out.  As one set of memories fragments, another set emerges, but which life is real?

'Fragments' is available for Kindle now, and I'll be posting more over the next few days about the process of writing a short story and getting it ready for digital publication.  Watch this space...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Side Projects

...are a major distraction.

How do you fit it all in?  Writing a novel, blogging about it, tidying up short stories for potential digital release, keeping up with your reading - books and magazines, day job, oh, and having a life in between.

Answer:  Clone yourself.  No, but seriously, why is life so full of distractions?  Don't know.  But there's always something that needs doing; something that diverts your time away from the thing you should be doing, the thing you want to be doing, the thing that feels like it will never be finished.

I wish I knew the secret, I really do.  All you can do is keep pushing on.  Work out how much spare time you have and divvy it up between the things you have to do and the things you want to do.  Even if it's just an hour a day on your novel at least you'll be moving forward at a consistent pace.  Then slot the other projects in around that.  For example an evening might look something like:

  • 6pm - 6.30pm:  Eat
  • 6.30pm - 7pm:  Read Writing Magazine (for example)
  • 7pm - 8pm:       Write novel
  • 8pm-8.30pm:    Make corrections to novel, or work on side project
  • 8.30pm - 9pm:  Write blog
  • 9pm - Bedtime: Have a life!
Sometimes I try and squeeze 30 minutes in before work - just making corrections to the previous day's word count.  Those are the days when I don't iron my shirt!

Once you settle down to write, try and get into the zone and stay there.  Make sure you have everything you need with you, so that you don't have to keep getting up from your computer or writing desk.  (I have a little fridge in my study now for water and chocolate).  Try and keep that connection between artist and art.  Live the words you write.  Feel them, taste them, smell them.  Get inside your character's head and run with them.  They're the only people who should be distracting you when you write!


Will the graffiti artists get a long sentence? Grammar Man corrects these crimes against the English language, but the L in 'language' should not be in capitals.

Finally, a superhero we can all believe in...Grammar Man!  I hope he keeps a bag of apostrophes handy for all the poor shop signage up and down the country.  And restaurant menus - they're often the worst offenders.

If I have one criticism it's that he's made more of a mess than the original graffiti.  Perhaps in future he could do his corrections in chalk, or now that he's established and in the public conscience, maybe he could sign off with a simple exclamation mark!  We'll know it's you, Grammar Man.

Keep fighting the good fight, innit isn't it !

Saturday, 16 July 2011

How long does it take to Write a Novel?

A year?  Two years?  Five?  A lifetime?

I wish I knew.  It's taken me about two years to get to where I am now; beginning a third draft and preparing to make some big changes.  My biggest problem?  Having to write part-time; snatching a couple of hours in the evening, getting up early at the week-end, making notes on the KLM city hopper as I chase around the endless white corridors of food factories.  I find it difficult to maintain consistency in ideas.  Far too often I will cook up something that I really like and try and make int fit into the story.  Or I forget a character's motivation in a particular chapter and end up making them do something meaningless, or completely out of character.

Concentrate on character and make notes as you go along, even if its' just a brief synopsis of each chapter that you can glance at every time you sit down to write.  With this third draft I am really scrutinising the previous day's work, making corrections, checking that my characters are being true to themselves, thinking about the plot and how events early on will shape the rest of the story.  I think I may have found my style of writing.  Hey, I'm a beginner after all!

So how long does it take to write a novel?  Flicking through this morning's Telegraph 'Review' supplement I came across a critique of Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.  The author set himself the challenge of writing a novel in a year.  That meant he had two weeks to draft and revise each of the book's twenty-six chapters, whilst holding down a day job as a Financier.  Supposedly he received an advance from his publisher in the region of £100,000.  The stuff of dreams.

Is Rules of Civility any good?  I haven't read it so I can't pass comment.  The reviewer gave it three stars and accused it of feeling 'a bit second hand...'  Still £100,000 for a year's work - you've just bought yourself the time to write something even better.

I think to write a novel in a year you have to believe in your characters from the get go.  For me that suggests that you've spent some time thinking about them, shaping them in your head, not to mention having done some considerable research in the background.  Perhaps I'm wrong.  Maybe I'm a little envious.  I'll keep pushing on until my novel is ready.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Kindled! (And other snippets)

Yes.  Kindled.  Set alight.  Well sort of...

I took the plunge and swallowed a bit of pride and allowed the contentious Kindle to settle between my fingers.  Have I been converted?  Um, fifty-fifty.  It's not a book, which may seem a very duh observation - what was I expecting? -  but that was my first emotion as I began to read from it (The Once and Future King, T.E. White).

What I don't like about the Kindle:

  • You can't smell the pages (come on, we all do that!)
  • I don't know what page I'm on - only what percentage of the book I've read.
  • I can't flip through the pages in an absent-minded fashion or rest the open pages over my eyes as I nap in the beautiful British sunshine.
  • I still need to turn the bedside lamp on to read at night.
  • I can't chuck it across the room when I get frustrated with the plot/characters/denouement.
  • I can't use it to remedy a wobbly table
  • Okay I'm scraping the barrel now!

What I do like about the Kindle:
  • If i suddenly decide I want to read let's say...The House at Pooh Corner then I can download it to my Kindle in little more than a minute (without embarrassment).  Perfect for our 'have now' society.  Instantania!
  • I can hold it, I can lay it down on the table, I can prop it up, any angle, and the pages don't flop shut.
  • When taking a flight I needn't use up my baggage allowance on books - I can have all that in just 200g (approx - I used my kitchen scales)
  • It meant I could buy my short story (yes, I know, I bought my own short story - someone has to - available now at if you're interested!)
  • The author portrait screen savers are a nice touch.
  • Actually there are quite a few things i like about the Kindle.

But the Kindle is not a book, and for me it will never replace the pleasure of penetrating the hardcover of my favourite author's latest; of wandering the aisles of a good bookshop (especially the second hand ones with hidden gems in every darkened nook and cranny); of that moment of deliberation, torn between wanting to preserve the integrity of a paperback whilst at the same time having an overriding desire to break its spine and fold the pages down flat.
The Kindle, for all its worth, will never smell like a book, it will never feel like a book, and it will never read like a book.  Like good tea sipped from fine china, words are best enjoyed on paper.

Even more exciting than the Kindle was the arrival of the Writer's and Artist's Yearbook 2012.  If you don't own a copy of this then put it on your shopping list or go to your local library and get a hold of it.  Aside from containing the most up to date directory of contacts for the publishing industry it is also crammed full of advice from established and first-time authors of all genres, commissioning officers, agents and publishers.  It offers support and encouragement to people like us who are striving to get our manuscripts out there.  It's big and red and shiny!  It smells great!  I love it!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Back in Business

After a fantastic Wedding and a well-earned break it's back to the serious matter of trying to make it as a professional writer.  More on that in a minute.

First, as promised, a quick wedding snap

It was an amazing, whirlwind day with lots of pacing and palpitating, but mostly deep joy and happiness.  I think i finally relaxed in to it after my speech, and then it whizzed by, just as everyone had warned us.

Anyway you didn't click on blog of whispers for wedding advice (or did you?), so here's a bit of an update and some thoughts on conflict (not marital!).

For some time now I've been struggling with Amy's character.  She just wasn't coming alive on the page and the conflicts she had felt forced and superficial.  I think i was trying to make her conform to the plot rather than letting the plot be driven by her actions, hence she's been walking around with her arms tied behind her back.

So I've made a bold decision and taken her character back to the roots to give her a second chance at life - and this time she gets to call the shots!

I also realised in revisiting those first couple of chapters that i have failed to resist the urge to tell rather than show.  There's a lot of information in those first pages that doesn't need to be there.  Stuff that should be revealed gradually and subtly.  By tweaking and restructuring I've managed to use subtext to tell Amy's story and build her character.  But a character is not much without.............


Conflict creates a need for a solution and by exploring the character(s) attitude towards the conflict and the way in which they come to a solution gives us the basis of a plot.  That plot should drive towards the resolution of the initial conflict.

Along the way that initial conflict may generate secondary or tertiary conflicts, which gives the story its subplots.

Conflict can be physical, emotional or spiritual and caused by love, hate, religion, money, politics, sporting affiliation, musical preference, the choice between red or white wine with a meal, in fact any important or trivial decision to be made between two characters.

Good conflict creates tension, suspense, suspicion, anger, upset, and ultimately relief.  Some characters create conflict knowingly, even deliberately, but others can create conflict unwittingly, simply through seemingly innocent actions, maybe because they are not aware how others view them or feel about them, or because they don't know what is expected of them. 

Monday, 2 May 2011


How can it be May already? I started this blogspot just before Christmas, the week the snow came (and kept coming), and now it's May 2nd, there's blossom in the trees, frogs mating in the pond, and in nineteen day's time i'm getting married!

Big news, well not for me - I've known for some time now - but for anyone who didn't know.  It's exciting, really exciting, and i just wanted to share it with you, just this once.  And maybe I'll post a couple of pictures after the Honeymoon, but that's it, i promise!

And time, time is eating away at Amy, though she doesn't realise it, trapped in her own past with nothing to do but see what things could have been like.  I've given her a sweet shop (a metaphorical one) and she's determined to try one of everything before it closes.  But surely that will have its consequences...oh yes!

And Mr Roberts, stranded in a foreign land in a time gone by but still determined to find a cure for his son, a determination that will lead to...a great big spoiler, so i'm not going to say anymore.

I'm concious that the end of May was my (second) target for completing the second draft, and i'm currently just over half way through.  What i'm most afraid of is the process dragging on for too long.  I don't want to rush this second draft, but i do now need to focus in and set aside some time every day, something that has fallen by the wayside this last month.

In other news a big thank you to the three people who have bought a copy of 'You Were a Rose' via Kindle, and thank you for your very kind and encouraging comments.  If you have time, i would be most grateful for a brief review on Amazon.

Monday, 18 April 2011


You Were a Rose

I've had a go at self-publishing!  I've published a short story on the Kindle Direct Publishing site.  It's extraordinarily easy to do and it feels great to click onto Amazon, enter the story title and see it there, available to purchase for 86p.

As for royalties, I'll receive a princely 26p (35% before VAT is added) for each digital copy sold.  I don't think I'll be an overnight millionaire, but i might have enough for a pint by the end of the year.

So if you have a Kindle and want to find out if I'm actually any good, follow the handy link in the side bar and part with a little loose change.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A Promise of Summer

Hopefully the week-end weather is a sign of things to come.  At least hold out for all the upcoming Bank Holidays.  Please!

Though it is a distraction from writing for those of us who pass over pen and paper in preference of the keyboard.  It's not easy to see the screen when the sun is blazing down.  I did manage to get around this last year by rigging up a parasol over the outside table - though this invariable leads to brown legs, white face syndrome.  I suppose there has to be some compromise - can't have it all.  Better perhaps to stick to early morning or late evening writing sessions and treat the sun in the manner to which it has become accustomed; paddling pools, barbecues and litres of after sun!

I've been reading 'The Craft of Fiction: How to become a Novelist,' by Jonathan Falla this week.  It's just been released by Aber Publishing (ISBN:978-1-84285-104-3) and i found it very useful for identifying areas for improvement in my own work.  It covers off Character, Plotting, Narrative structure, Landscape, Dialogue, etc,etc, and there is also a good section on editing.  Well worth a look (albeit another distraction!).  I've also put up a link to Jonathan Falla's website for anyone who is interested.

Finally, i did promise to put up my final entry into the Microfiction competition.  Again, it wasn't a winner, but hey-ho that's the game.

Dangerous Liaison

Without shoes she was stealthy.  Out into the early morning dew she crept, leaving her lover to dream of Parisian nylons.  She’d left those behind too.  A lasting memento for him.

She checked her watch and wound it forward one hour.  She imagined him waking; basking in the glow of the previous night’s passion; preparing his story for the boys.  She smiled.  Uniforms were smart, but they didn’t make men clever.

She opened the briefcase, just to be sure, and ran her finger across the Ministry of Defence document marked ‘Top Secret.’

All’s fair in love and war, she thought.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

A Busy Week!

That was a busy week of writing.  And a much needed break from editing the Book of Whispers.  Coming back to the manuscript this morning with rejuvenated spirit and the mindset of telling a story in just one hundred words has helped me outline chapter twelve, as well as drill right to the heart of the story between Amy and her best friend Jane, and the underlying conflict between them.  Hopefully, this will in turn open up both of their characters so that they really come alive on the page.

I hope some of you had a go at the Microfiction competition.  I think the final day of judging will be on Monday, so I'll post my Friday effort after that.

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Final Day

It's the last day of the Microfiction competition.  I've had one last stab at it.  Can't be any worse than last night's woeful entry.  My only excuse is that i wrote it in under eight minutes. (No, i know...there aren't any excuses.)

Here's my attempt from yesterday.

Forever Young

Alice was perfect in every way. The lips and eyes drawn in an aspect of perpetual expectation, her cheeks pinch-able, her skin without a blemish in the glow of the reading lamp.

Margaret gathered her up and dressed her in the white play suit she had lovingly knitted. She fitted the little hat over her head, and she lay her down in the cot.  Warmth had long since left the sheets, but Margaret's love remained. The new Alice was unbreakable and forever young.

If only her daughter had been made from the same synthetics.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

More Microfiction

It's a creepy doll this time.

As promised here's my entry from yesterday.


It was dark. Stuart limped along the rough track to the lake, hounded by his father’s ragged breath, the strap of the hold-all rubbing painfully against his bruised shoulder.

The water was placid. He took the jar from his bag and released the Fireflies with a defiant smile. They swarmed, iridescent, above his head, a small part of his childhood in each of them.

‘Where d’ya think you’re going?’ his father slurred.

‘Nowhere,’ Stuart said calmly. ‘I’m not a child anymore. And it’s time I stood up to you.’

He didn’t flinch as his father took off his belt.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Wednesday's Image

I've entered again today.  Have you?  If you have, let me know how you get on.  I'm happy to publish your entries here if you're willing!

Microfiction Competition

As promised, here's my entry from Monday.  I didn't win, but I'm sure i was well placed!!

Emily and the Rose

It was too hot for studying; too hot for anything but lying in the long grass and waiting for Richard.  Emily clung to the rose he had gifted her; brought it to her nose; inhaled its subtle perfume.

She heard him approach and closed her eyes.

‘Emily, come with me please.’

It was the head master.  She followed him, trembling, to his office.  Richard was there already, his tweed jacket open at the front, his face pale, flanked by two Policemen.

She gasped suddenly, their secret confirmed in that breath.  The policemen nodded and led Richard out.

Writing an interesting story with complex characters and plot twists in one hundred words is not easy (state the obvious: 1). is a really good exercise in telling a story through subtext, and it helped me better understand they way subtext enhances a story and why it is so crucial.  With a tight word limit, you have to choose your words carefully, and craft sentences so that they tell more than they seem to tell at face value.

For example, instead of stating that Emily is a school girl, i make reference to it being too hot to study.  I then reinforce that later by using the word headmaster.

What drives the story though is the knowledge gaps.  In this case Emily knows more than the reader.  She knows that Richard is her teacher, and that what they are doing could land them both in serious trouble.  We assume at first that she's waiting for her boyfriend, but when the head master arrives and she follows him trembling to his office, we start to realise something is wrong.  Then the description of Richard with his tweed jacket and pale face suggests that he is not another pupil, but someone of senior years.  The presence of the policemen reinforces that.  Finally, Emily's reaction, that gasp, confirms the suspicion that this is an affair between teacher and pupil and can only end one way.

I didn't have a go at Tuesday's competition, but here is the inspirational image anyway.   Good luck to anyone entering today's competition.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Did you enter?

I did!  I just made the 7pm deadline too.  It's quite a good exercise to come in from work, go to the computer and put out a story in 100 words (apologies, i put 1000 words in my last post!)  My entry is called Emily and the Rose.  I'll post it here after the results are announced tomorrow.

Remember, this competition runs all week.  37 people posted an entry today, so why not have a go?  The odds are good!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Short Story Competition

Cambridge Wordfest highlights a Short Story competition running from March 28th to April 1st.  Each day of that week the website will display an inspirational picture, such as the one above.  Entrants are asked to write a microfiction piece of no more than 100 words that has some link with the picture.

Full details of the competition are available from the website

Definitely worth a pop!

Progress Report

I'm approaching the half-way mark.  I'm just drafting an outline for chapter twelve, the end of which marks half-way in terms of word count.

Some of the chapters have been a hard slog; others have only required a little tweak - a bit of tidying up, better, more convincing dialogue, clearer descriptions.

The story is following two main threads; Amy's attempts to lead a more interesting life, and her History teacher, Mr Roberts' desperate struggle to find a cure for his son.  Mr Roberts' story is progressing well.  I like the direction his character is taking, there is some dark stuff here, and he's about to be introduced to the 'Big Bad' of the story.  Amy on the other hand is making me work hard.  Her character is complex.  I'm trying to take a girl who has spent most of her childhood in the shadows, avoiding conflict, holding back her potential, and shape her into a bold character who is ready to question everything and grab life by the horns.  She should just explode out of the page - all that pent up frustration, all that trapped energy, all that lost time to make up for should be spilling out.  But it's not quite happening yet.  Perhaps I'm still holding her back.  Perhaps i don't quite understand her yet.  Perhaps I'm making her a slave to the plot.  Well stuff that.  It's time for Amy to rise and break free from my mind.  It's time for her to breath on her own, to write the story that she wants to tell.  It's time to make me her slave!

I feel better already.  Chapter twelve is Amy's chapter and will see some real development of her character as she faces a series of challenges.  She'll grow, she'll learn, she'll see the world in a completely different light.

Blogging can be so therapeutic.

On a separate note, I'd like to thank everyone who has chosen to follow my blog, and for your comments and feedback.  I'm looking forward to the time when i will be ready to submit my manuscript to Agents, so that i can feedback to you my experiences - good or bad!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Groups of Three (and an Orange Tree)

I spent the week in Italy,
With scenery like this orange tree,
To stir some deep emotion in me.

It almost made up for the fact,
That my luggage had been left back,
On an Amsterdam airport baggge rack!

But then on the morn of my return,
My stomach began to squirm and churn,
Leaving me clinging to the cistern. 

Okay, so maybe not the greatest poem ever penned - loosely based on the terza rima* format, though really each line should have 10 or 11 syllables - but i didn't want to spend three heavy paragraphs explaining the details of my trip last week.  It boiled down to three key elements; my lugggage arrived a day later than i did, Italy was beautiful, and on the morning i flew home i was struck down with a stomach bug.

The power of three!  Three is a magic number!  Bad luck comes in threes!  Groups of three are seen a lot in writing; the three act play, for example.  For the poem above i had three main points to make, hence three tercets; a beginning, middle and end.

Groups of three are a really useful tool for the writer.  They are a fast and punchy way of describing a character or location...

 She was pale-skinned, plump and ever so timid.

His bedroom was typical of any teenage boy; clothes strewn about the floor, air thick with the smell of bad feet, and a half eaten sandwich peeking out from under the bed.

Groups of three allow the reader to build a quick picture of what is being described.  Any less than three and the picture may be incomplete; any more and it could become cluttered and confused.  Groups of three come in really handy when editing your work.  You can use the principle to de-clutter your manuscript, or to beef up any limp descriptions.

Remember though that this is not a hard and fast rule.  There will be times when a group of three simply won't fit.  The best way to tell is to read your work out loud and listen to the rhythm.  If it feels clunky then change it. 

*To put some sense to the seemingly random threads of a trip to Italy and groups of three, it is the Italian poet Dante who is credited with inventing terza rima, though it has also been used by English poets including Chaucer, Milton, Shelley and Auden.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


People always ask 'what's your book about?'  I hate that question.  I do my best to avoid answering it.  My trick is to look to the floor, shuffle my feet and mumble something about it being 'not quite ready' or 'hard to explain in a couple of sentences.'

Wrong, wrong, wrong!!  Because if i can't explain it in a couple of sentences then how am i ever going to be able to pitch it to a potential Agent or Publisher.  And who's going to want to read something that 'hard.'

What it comes down to here is confidence in my story.  I sometimes worry that if i explain the premise to someone they will laugh, or pull a face, or worse still say 'hmm, have you thought of doing it like this instead?'  None of which is good for the writer's fractured ego. 

If you are in a position where you are not sure exactly what your story is about then don't panic just yet.  You may have finished your first draft and have a narrative with beginning, middle and end, but the true heart of your story has yet to reveal itself.  Go back to your central characters; examine them, question them, challenge everything they do because the real story comes from them.  What are their goals and can they achieve them all over the course of the story?  What relationships do they form and how do they develop and change?  What do they learn about themselves and those closest to them?

Now I'm going to attempt to answer the dreaded question.  This is a taster of the Book of Whispers...

Amy often wonders what life would be like if she had been bolder in her decisions.  Her father runs a small provincial museum on the verge of closure, unless he can find an attraction that will pull the crowds in.  Her History teacher, Mr Roberts, is desperate to find a cure for his son's rare illness. 

There is a Book, a mythical tome, old as time itself, which could hold the answers to their prayers.  But that is not all that it holds as Amy and Mr Roberts soon discover.  At its heart is an evil waiting to be released... 

Saturday, 5 March 2011


April 2011
 Blogofwhispers is featured in this month's edition of Writing Magazine, in the Writer's News section.  Centre page!

Hello to anybody visiting as a result of the article.  I hope you enjoy the content.

I've been a bit bogged down at work recently, but don't worry, there's plenty to come.

I pressed on with chapter 8, deciding it would not be productive at this point to go back over the first seven chapters.  The story needs to move forward at all times, and so do I!

Sunday, 20 February 2011


I'm close to completing the re-draft of chapter seven, the end of which sees the characters embark on the next stage of their journey.  There is a shift in location and tone.  So the decision I am faced with is whether to call a halt at this point and review the first seven chapters, or to press on with the story.

I don't particularly like the idea of going back, but it could be beneficial to check at this stage for any holes in the plot, characters doing things that don't fit, relationships that don't click, and so on.  No major re-write, more a re-familiarisation with the text.  And maybe i could write an updated synopsis for the story so far.

But it could be detrimental to the writing process.  It could act as a barrier against any natural evolution of the story.  If the first seven chapters become something fixed - in the can, so to speak - then what room is there for development in the latter stages of the story?

Writing is re-writing.  That statement is so true.  I can already see the improvements in plot, character and narrative compared to the now rather shaky first draft. But how far do you go?  Until it's ready?  And how do you know when it's ready?  Will it ever be ready in the eyes of the author?  It is a craft, like Carpentry, though wheras the Carpenter has a design to work to; a chair, a table, objects that have fixed form and recognisable geometery, the author is working from an idea.  He or she must shape it as they see fit; writing and re-writing, adding and taking away until it feels right.  Knowing when to stop is a skill in itself.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


I've changed the settings so that anybody can leave a comment on my blog now, not just registered users.  Please let me know what you think, or post any questions, thoughts, feelings, observations.  How are you all getting on with your own particular projects?

Look forward to hearing from you!

Normal Service Resumed

What a contrast to last week-end!

All back to normal now, or as normal as it gets when you're attempting to write something worthy of publication.  As i briefly mentioned last time out, i'm going to overshoot my rather ambitious deadline.  What was it i said about being realistic?  So i've decided to follow my own advice and have nominated May as the month of second draft completion.  (To be reviewed mid-April!)

I have, however, reached a significant milestone today.  I am, in terms of word count, a quater of the way through draft two.  I must admit, i thought it would be easier than it has been.  I was happy that my story was in pretty good shape.  I mean it was, is a good story with beginning, middle and end, however i have caught one or two of the main characters doing things without any real purpose or motivation.  In places nothing but the gusting wind is pushing the story along, and in questioning everything that my characters are doing they have revealed hidden qualities.  This has meant that most of the chapters have required wholesale changes and thorough re-writes.  Of the twenty-two and a half-ish thousand words that draft two currently stands at, about two thousand of them have survived from the original draft.  That's approximately ten percent.  On that basis, of the remaining sixty-seven and a half thousand words, roughly sixty thousand of them will be brand new.  Yikes!

But it's better to be honest and upfront about these things.  There's nothing to be gained from burying one's head in the sand.  It's going to be tough, and it's going to take time and perseverence, but the ultimate goal is to produce a piece of writing worthy of publication.  Something that people will want to buy.  It was never going to be easy.

I bought a book recently, the Writer's and Artist's Yearbook Guide to Getting Published by Harry Bingham.  Harry has authored five novels and two non-fiction titles and is the MD of the Writer's Workshop, which is the UK's leading editorial consultancy.  It's a very honest and realistic book that pulls no punches.  I'll admit i read some sections and felt a bit depressed.  The opportunities out there are few and far between; the financial reward often meagre, but that is offset against the sense of achievement of being published, of having people read and enjoy your work.  If anything the opening passages of the book remind you why you wanted to be a writer in the first place:  Because you love to write, of course!

So far i've only read the section on preparing a manuscript for submission to an Agent.  It offers a lot of really sound, common sense advice on covering letters, the synopsis and manuscript formatting.  It is interspersed with advice from Publishers, Agents, PR consultants, and even a Reader for Conville and Walsh who chillingly refers to himself as The Gatekeeper.  I fully recommmed this guide to anybody who is serious about getting published.  The ISBN is 978-1-4081-2895-4. 

Monday, 7 February 2011

And then...

A happy resolution!  Jess is back, we've found her, and our world has turned again.  Despair has turned to elation.  Searching has turned to fussing and stroking.  Worry has turned to relief.  Flash, bang, no warning, barely a chance to draw breath.  That's life, and life is the greatest drama of all!

So it's situation normal and we can get back to the process of writing.  I'm working on chapter 5 right now.  My end of February deadline is out of the window.  Reality bites back.  The new deadline is the beginning of May. 

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Missing Cat

A terrible thing happened yesterday afternoon.  We took our cat, a beautiful black Burmese, to the local vets for some innoculations and to be micro-chipped, so if she was ever lost she could be traced back to us.  It was all going so well.  She behaved herself in the vets, she didn't make a fuss.  And then as I was taking her back to the car tragedy struck.  The front of the carry cage came loose and she bolted along the road and into somebody's garden.

We spent the afternoon searching.  We printed 'Missing' posters.  We went from house to house in the immediate vicinity, talking to the neighbours, calling her name, rattling bags of her favourite treats.  We were out doing the same thing this morning.  People in the neighbourhood have been really kind.  They've spoken to one another, they've passed on our details, they've given us hope of finding her.  One gentleman phoned us this lunch time.  He had a cat in his garden matching her description.  But when we got there she had moved on.  So close.  Such hope and expectation.

I know this is a blog about the process of writing, and i know i promised to keep it that way, but what i wanted to share from this experience is how suddenly the world can turn.  One second i was happy and proud carrying her back to the car.  The very next second she was streaking away down the road.  The last i saw of her.

Tragedy happens in a heartbeat.  There is no warning, no build up of tension.  It grabs you and it holds onto you until there is a resolution.  You can't take a break or step outside of its sphere.  It fills your entire world.  We are in its grip right now and the world won't turn again until we find her.  For now we will jump at the phantoms that open and shut the cat flap, we will dash for the phone everytime it rings, and we will dream at night that we have found her.

I hope by my next post that we will have a happy resolution.

Her name is Jess.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Break it Down

What have i done this week?  I finally finished Chapter Two.  It's not perfect and it will require more work in the next draft, but it is a vast improvement on draft one and explores the characters as well as pushing the story forward.  Big tick there, and a big sigh of relief.  I thought i'd never escape its clutches!

Work has taken a lot of my energy this week, and i've only managed one session at the gym, which has left me feeling a bit sluggish.  Weeks like this can make writing seem like one extra chore.  Just another thing that MUST be done.  It can be off-putting.

That's why it's important to break everything down.  First of all break down the day into work, well-being and play.  I'm not saying that everybody should make regualr trips to the gym (though it doesn't do any harm), but you should take some time to move your body.  Working all day in an office and then writing all night is a very sedantary lifestyle.  It can also become quite monotonous.  It's easy to say, perhaps not so easy to execute, but find some time to jog, cycle, swim, dance, walk, jump on the Wii Fit, anything that raises the heartbeat for half an hour.  It will break up the day, it will loosen your joints and muscles and it should help to clear your head ready for an onslaught of creativity.

This week i have learnt the importance of breaking down each chapter.  Like the story, each chapter should have a beginning, middle and end, and the same goes for each scene within the chapter.  I've managed to get through Chapter Three at a good pace by breaking it down into individual scenes and then breaking these down into beginning, middle and end.  On each occasion i have asked myself what the purpose of the scene is, how it fits into the plot, how it progresses from problem to resolution, and how it develops the characters.  This has enabled me to make some important decisions, to remove some paragraphs that don't move the story on, and to reshape the scenes so that they have a greater dramatic impact.  It's much easier than reading through a whole chapter and trying to re-write it from the outside.  Break down that wall of text and then start chiselling out those beautiful cherubs.

Next up, Chapter Four.  I will need to pick up the pace if i'm going to hit my deadline of mid-February!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Stuck in the Mud

Chapter Two.  Oh Chapter Two.  It's enough to make me weep.  Not the quality of the writing, but the frustration of not being able to get past it.  It's so crucial to the development of two of the characters and the state of their friendship and what impact that has on the rest of the story that i've been going round in circles trying to find the answer that will unlock the door and allow me to march confidently into Chapter Three.

I think i may have it now.  I think.  But i don't want to say anything in case i frighten it away.  It's so timid and fragile right now.

I tried a couple of techniques to get me back on track.  I tried writing down the things tht needed to happen in the chapter on individual index cards.  But i abandoned that.  I tried sitting in a quiet space and thinking about how the chapter might take shape.  But my mind wandered.  I tried not thinking about it at all, hoping a flash of inspiration would come to me out of the blue.  But then i just forgot what i was meant to be doing altogether.

In the end i simply fell back on route one.  Write something.  Write anything.  I let the character talk to one another, do stuff together, exist, and from that the chapter started to emerge, and the elements of the story that i needed to get across were in amongst all of those words.  I only had to chip away at them and sculpt them into something coherent and palatable.  It's by no means a finished piece, but i am one step closer to progressing to Chapter Three, and hopefully i can still hit my deadline.

When in doubt just write it out!

Sunday, 9 January 2011


There's nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.  Though my own attitude to deadlines used to be oh i've still got ages until that needs doing, which would inevitably result in churning out something less than average the night before and foolishly thinking ha, beat you!

I've given myself a deadline for completing the second draft of my novel.  The end of February.  This is based on the length of time it took me to re-draft the prologue and first chapter, and a quick assessment of the amount of work required on the remaining chapters.  In its current shape the book has a prologue and twenty-five chapters.

As i've said, i believe deadlines focus the mind.  But it is important that any deadline is realistic and achieveable.  If i were to set my deadline as the end of January, as great as it would be to have a second draft completed so quickly, I would fail to hit that deadline and that failure would leave me feeling demoralised.

As with writing to a daily word count when compiling the first draft of a novel, it is equally important to know what time will be allotted to the re-writes.  Decide a time frame for each day.  At the moment i aim for two hours every evening, plus two hours on a Saturday and Sunday morning.  With other committments it isn't always possible to give as much time as you might like, so sit down the night before and plan the time in.  Even if it's just twenty minutes on the bus to read through a chapter and make some notes in the margin!  It all counts.

I suppose what i have found is that it is important to keep the story fresh in your mind at this stage; to be as familiar with the plot and characters as you can.  The chapter synopses help with this, but nothing beats doing a bit of work on the novel everyday.  Get immersed in your world and start challenging everything your characters do.  Don't just accept at face value that because you've already written it that's the way it has to be.  If something doesn't sit right then get rid of it.  Don't be precious about losing words, you'll pick them up somewhere else.

I finished the second draft of my first chapter yesterday.  It threw up a really important lesson about having an awareness of the world outside the one you are creating.  i.e. reality.  Somethings have to happen, because if they don't your story will lack credibility.  My protagonist Amy is in her last year at school, and i decided that the story would take place in May.  All very well.  So i wrote a first chapter about Amy in school, attending her lessons, etc, etc, with an important scene that takes place during a Drama lesson. 

Spot the obvious mistake?

May marks the beginning of the exam season in the UK, and by mid May, which is when the story is set, Amy would be on study leave and therefore not required to be in school unless she had an exam to sit.  She most definitely would not have a Drama lesson (unless it was a rehearsal for an exam).  So the chapter as it stood required quite a big re-write.  However i still wanted the action to take place in school.  Amy needed to be in certain places at particular times for the story to make sense further along.  I also wanted to establish Amy's friendship with Jane and i needed a specific setting that was central to the formation of their friendship, a setting in which they could both be themselves.  So i had them meet in the school library for a revision session.

As a consequence i have a much altered chapter one, but much altered for the better.  It leaves me a bit of a headache as far as chapter two is concerned as this chapter is also based around the school day.  But it's a challenge i look forward to, and i've a good idea how i'm going to tackle it.

Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year, New Challenge

And i couldn't think of a better one than writing the second draft of a novel! 

It's 2011 and it could be a great year.  In fact there is a particular thing that will make it a great year for me, but that's a private matter and this is a blog about writing, so...

I had a go at re-writing my prologue.  There were a couple of minor plot points that i wanted to amend so that events further into the book made better sense.  I also wanted to sharpen up the prose and give the opening to the story the right injection of pace.  It took about three hours to re-write and I'm fairly happy with the result.  Of course that is still no guarantee that what i have written will make the final cut, but psychologically it felt like a big step forward!

Later on today i'm going to have a bash at chapter one.  I already know that this is going to look completely different in the second draft.  There are specific things that i want to establish about the protagonist, Amy, and her relationship with her best friend, Jane.  I also want to move the action to a different location, so there is a bit of work to be done.  It will probably take a couple of days, especially with having to go back to work tomorrow!

You know, another of the great things about this blog (for me) is that i can write about the things that i intend to do, such as the changes to chapter one above, and if i forget what i'm meant to be doing i have an account of it all here.  There's no escape!  In fact it's going to be really useful as a guide.

Before i go, one other thing to impart is that i have started a completely new document for version 2 of the novel.  I'll cut a chapter from version 1, paste it into v2, rework it and then save it as v2.  That way i won't be overwriting the original document, which for me would get too confusing.