Tips for Writing a Distinguished Novel

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So today folks I’m gonna be talking about how to make your novel stand out while maintaining a high standard of quality. I’ve got four great tips for you so hopefully this will help when writing your next novel.
1. Generally writers know enough to put in senses beyond just sight and sound. It’s always great to read about a character who notices the hot, pungent stench rising from the iron-wrought furnace that lingers over factory after a full day burning, or the weightlessness of a new silk shirt on his shoulders.
Publishers love all five senses, but they want and expect more. They want physical influence that deepens not just your setting, but your characterizations.
Here’s the key: The best authors use body language in their narratives. It must go by so smoothly it’s almost unnoticed. Yet it absolutely gives texture and depth to your work. When it’s missing, fiction feels flat.
Begin by reading up on body language. You’ll find that two things are at the root of all of it: anxiety (or lack thereof) and hidden desires. Dwell inside your characters and sense how they feel in any given situation (and why!).
2. People behave rationally only sometimes; the rest of the time we take stupid risks and do other things we can’t explain.
Publishers know this well, but because they don’t want readers to have to work hard to believe a premise or a plot they will insist on believability. And when they do, frequently their objections have to do with a character’s motivation. The trouble is, if you bow to this and have your characters behave totally rationally at all times, you’ll write boring, stale fiction.
Here’s the key: Human weirdness follows patterns we can all relate to (or at least understand).
One of the biggest is that love—or sex, at least—makes people irrational. We throw over the picture-perfect millionaire for the rough-around-the-edges dirt biker with debt; we lie to our faithful wife on the phone while meeting the secretary in a motel. Which goes to show that if you incorporate a strong enough motivating factor—even an irrational one—you can easily establish a plausible reason for erratic actions on the part of your characters. And those characters are far more motivating to read about than those who always behave rationally.
3. Publishers don’t look for authors who put restraints on their work for the sake of delicacy. Here’s the key to avoiding that: Not-pretty has two meanings here: a) topics that are not attractive, like racism or incest, and b) the way you write.
Most people shy away from darkness or at least keep it far in the background, but as an author you must be willing to dwell there, see it truly and explore it before you represent it.
I advise going back to your childhood years—the primal times before we really knew right from wrong, and before we were strong enough to defend ourselves from evil. Try to look through the eyes of the impressionable, innocent eyes that cast everybody in the same light until you were given a reason to view them as scary or different.
4. Finally, booksellers ran surveys that showed authors core customers to be well educated and fairly well to do. This wasn’t odd: Educated people tend to like books, and their income tends to enable them to buy books.
Still, some aspiring authors sometimes dumb down their work because they’re afraid of alienating the vast masses of potential customers they imagine they should be writing for. But you don’t need to—the average folks are smarter than you may think.
Here’s the key: Don’t underestimate your readers. If they like to read the sorts of books you like to write, they’re right up there with your core demographic. And dumbing down your work can be doubly disastrous, because if you do, publishers will not be able to relate to it.

So hopefully some of my advice will help you to grow as a writer and will give you things to focus on with your next draft. I look forward to meeting the people influenced by my site and thank you again for reading.

Critical Mass

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Critical mass is commonly defined as the amount of fissile material needed to sustain nuclear fission. It’s an interesting concept and one which doesn’t have to be reserved for that alone.

It could also refer to the point in any situation where something acquires enough momentum of its own to become unstoppable.

And I’m there again now.

Many years ago, back in the time when I struggled to write a letter home after a month spent crossing the Pacific ocean, I never got to that stage with any words put on paper. As long as I had written a bit I was happy, relieved to have done it. I used to get long interesting letters from my wife and family and wondered at the apparent ease that they were produced.

I watched as my wife would spend an hour or two writing to people, it seemed to flow, like a river and I asked her about how she did it. “I’m in the zone,” she said, “and it just comes out.” I never really understood at the time, ‘lucky her,’ I thought.

Fast forward….. I’m writing now, I don’t know where the inspiration came from, one day I just sat down and started typing.  And I found that as I did so, just occasionally the story would flow like I had seen in Yvonne’s letter writing sessions. It just kept coming and in the end, I had written things that I didn’t remember thinking or planning.

And that brings us back to critical mass.

In every idea there seems to be a certain mileage, sometimes I will write a thousand words, or two thousand and realise that the idea had nowhere else to go. It’s a Short Story or a Flash Fiction. That’s not to say that it isn’t any good, it just is what it is, complete and that’s fine.

Sometimes it just keeps going to twenty thousand words or so and then a strange thing happens. It develops a life of its own and nothing you can do stops it as it carries on. You think it’s done and another idea springs up to extend the plot or amplify a chapter. It starts to write itself, all you have to do is keep pressing the keys. Before you know it you’ve passed another ten thousand words almost without expending any effort.

My present work is one of those stories.

That’s critical mass and it’s wonderful.

Beta Readers

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Hi everyone, today’s post is about beta readers and why they’re such an important part of writing and publishing.
A beta reader gives you feedback on your finished manuscript, so you can adjust it before you set it loose on the world and they pick out issues such as grammatical mistakes, plot holes and unreasonable character arcs.
I’ve heard a lot of people saying beta readers aren’t important but getting another opinion is one of the foundations of the book industry. Publishers have been doing the beta reader thing for years, they just don’t call it that.
Beta readers have a tough job really as they have to relay problems with clarity, consistency and pacing issues to the author while also helping you match your target audience to the book. Aside from all this, your beta readers will usually be the ones to define the genre of the book. For these reasons, you should never overlook a beta reader.
 So here are my tips for finding beta readers:
1. Find folks who are likely to be impartial in their feedback. Choosing your wife or best friend to be a beta reader will often result in inaccurate and overly positive responses. You need the truth. This is your masterpiece here.
2. Find people with tact, because while you want honest, constructive feedback, you don’t want a soul crushing review of your work.
3. Choose somebody who likes the genre but hasn’t read your book or seen the notes. It’s easier to pick something apart if you haven’t seen/heard about it 4000+ times
4. Choose somebody who understands the urgency of publishing and won’t forget that they’re meant to be beta reading your books until six months in.
5. Pick somebody who can accept a deadline for when you’d like the manuscript back (within a reasonable time period). The worst thing is being three months away from publishing and having beta readers who still can’t give you genuine feedback past chapter three.
6. Don’t expect beta readers to accurately clean all of the grammatical mistakes out of your work. Often they aren’t being paid and even so, it can be easy to miss things when you’re reading a book and focusing on other aspects. You should still pay for an editor.
7. Finally, don’t pick up beta readers who do it just for money (if you’re going to pay them). The best folks to be reading your work are the avid readers; people who love stories. A good example of these people would include other writers. Swapping work back and forth can help your foresight and knowledge grow.
Hopefully, some of my tips today have helped you in selecting your beta readers and have convinced you that it is important. A story should be polished before it becomes a book. For one example of that, you can download Ribbonworld HERE.
Thanks for reading and we’ll see you here again soon!


The best laid plans.

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The best laid plans




It doesn’t matter how much I plan which of my projects I want to work on, the voices in my head that give me inspiration always seem to have other ideas.

I started 2017 fully intending to get on with the sequel to the Rocks of Aserol, failing that I had another part finished work to complete, one that had been in my head for a long while and had about 10,000 words already written. Both were coming along nicely.

BUT, after I finished Andorra Pett and got a good response from my editor, I realised something. Reviewing her notes meant that I read the book again and when I did I saw that there was scope for a sequel, which had never been my intention before.

Even though Andorra will probably not see the light of day until later this year, there was no rush for a sequel to a book that I hadn’t even finished yet. Or was there?

The trouble was; the plot was so blindingly obvious to me at that point that I just had to write it down. Which I did, just so that I wouldn’t forget it. I wrote about four pages of notes to be exact.

Now I never normally work this way, I just get the initial idea and write, the story develops as I go along and the end is as much of a surprise to me as I hope it is to the reader.

But this story has taken over, I’m on it every day and I think I will have it finished in record time. Meanwhile, the other work languishes.

Which just goes to show, when it comes to inspiration, you can’t make any plans, there is a voice in my head that refuses to get in line and wait for their turn.  A bit like Andorra herself, she is loud and demands attention. What have I created?

Andorra Pett and The Oort Cloud Café will be published later this year, try Chapter 1 HERE.

New Beginnings

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Hello everyone, and welcome to my first blog post of the New Year. The topic today is new beginnings, and it focuses not just on your characters, and the start of their journey, but also on my fellow authors, and the beginnings we can face ourselves. Let us begin.
Characters: Now, it is incredibly difficult to be an author without having at least one character, I would risk saying it is impossible, although I don’t doubt a more clever soul than I will prove me wrong. Every character has a beginning, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be their birth or beginning of their life, instead it’s the first moment they appear on the pages of your book. I like to call this moment the inciting event, the moment in your characters live when something happens that changes their lives forever, so much so that they can never go back to what was. This can have lots of different forms, anything from the traditional (and somewhat overdone) farm boy leaving home to be mentored by an old guy with a stick, to the more unusual, such as an ape having his first conscious thought. If you have a character in mind then I strongly suggest working out what inciting event would drive these characters forwards in the story, it doesn’t need to be dramatic, but it does need to have an impact on the characters’ life.
New Authors: Now that I have stretched my creative mind so much, its time to look towards the technical side of this business. For new authors, who have just written their first book perhaps, I would suggest taking a risk in the new year. The process of submitting your book to a literary agent, or a publisher, can be a frightening ordeal (even the bravest writer quakes at the thought), but it is always a risk worth taking. It might seem easier to self-publish, and that is a noble path for an author by itself (one I walk too), but I would always encourage authors to make that attempt at submitting first. In all likelihood, it will come back as a no, every published author in the world has a long list of rejection emails, but if you never take that chance it will never happen. The worst thing that can happen is you’ll have an extra few months to prepare your self-published platform and a no from a literary agent. The best thing is that you’ll have experience of that part of the publishing industry and, you never know, it might just be a yes.
Old Authors: that is to say, experienced authors, not necessarily your age. I will always suggest taking a similar plunge, even if you are getting quite successful as a self-published author, but my advice is in a different vein. It can become quite comfortable, especially if you are writing a series of books, to stay within the same characters, the same world. The space you have created is something familiar, you know it’s ins and outs, and writing is easier there. Although building on a series is always a good use of time, I would also suggest writing something new. This new thing needn’t be a full novel, maybe just a short story, but flex your creative muscles and try something outside of your comfort zone. A different genre, a different point of view, and a plethora of other examples are arrayed in front of you. As a new years resolution, give one of them a try.
That is it for my musings, for today at least, but this year has me quite inspired already so you can be sure I will return sooner or later with more advice and tips on writing. Until then, have some fun and remember to polish off any spare Christmas food, diets can’t begin until all the temptation has been safely eaten

Happy New Year

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It’s that time of year again, the time when we all look back on the last twelve months and look ahead to the next. Review our achievements and disappointments. I hope your 2016 was good and that 2017 will give you everything you need.

Personally, I published two books this year; I also finished writing three novels; one that had been on the go for a long time, one that was a recent idea and one that was totally unexpected.

Now I’m in that strange limbo where I’m waiting for the first impressions of my creations from my beta readers, it’s not a nice place to be, will someone else share my vision? Have I explained it properly? And all the other doubts that creep in. But comments are important and I have the power to change in response to them.

And looking forward I still have four novels part written, five if you count the short stories that I write when inspiration deserts me for the novels, there are nearly enough for another collection.

But the one thing that I don’t do enough of is marketing, and I think that lets me down in a big way. After all, if my writing is good, and the reviews suggest that it is, so why don’t I shout about it.

I was always told when I was a child, “don’t be boastful or a show-off,” and I think that colours my attitude to marketing, it’s a fact that we are all prisoners of our pasts and that’s something that we have to overcome.

So my new year’s resolution is to up my game when it comes to telling people about me and my work, now I just need to decide who’s advice to follow, everyone seems to be an ‘expert’ with their own methods and ‘fool proof system.’

It all starts with presence, I need to get my name out there and become recognisable. So I’m going to try to become a little bit more visible. Ahead of the publication of Myra in March I’m offering a free novel for the month of January. And my chosen one is Ribbonworld.



It’s been on sale a while and is selling reasonably well, it has good reviews and deserves a wider audience.

To get your FREE copy, just click HERE

Holiday Author Tips

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Hi everybody and welcome back to my website. Today I’m going to be offering you some tips on keeping your author profiles active over the holiday season.
 Obviously, as an author you don’t want to lose your voice over the holiday season when everybody is distracted so the first thing you can do is remember to update your website and social media profiles. Make sure people are still noticing you/talking about you. Here’re a few tips on how to do that.
 So first of all, pre-schedule posts for the upcoming fortnight. Nobody really wants to spend their days over the holiday period so the less work you have to do when that time arrives the better. The biggest bonus to this is the free time you’ll have, and if you find yourself bored with a spare hour or two in that time, you can dedicate it to writing instead of posting to your page.
 The next big tip here is to create some content or some kind of release that you can schedule to come up on a certain day, like a Christmas day offer for example. You can queue posts on almost all social media sites and by doing so can have everything go up at once, linking to each other. Plus, a Christmas day offer on a book or some content for loyal fans will warrant a bit of a buzz about your work and keep your name fresh in people’s minds come the new year.
 Obviously, it is the holiday season so people don’t want to feel harassed so make sure if you’re a daily blogger as an author, to tone it down and maybe cut out a day or two over the holiday period. Not only will this ease the strain you feel but other people won’t get fed up of seeing you when they’re loading their media feeds for Christmas related content with friends and family.
 Finally, remember not to stress yourself out. It’s your holiday period too and if you don’t get up as much content as you wanted to, so long as you remain active online you can afford a more relaxed atmosphere than the rest of the year. People will expect as much over this period.
Hopefully you folks all have wonderful holiday times and return to the website on the 27th for the next update.
Thank you for reading.


Deano’s Grill and a date for your diary.

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Last week, an interview I did for a fellow author was posted, you can find it HERE

I have also got the manuscript for Andorra Pett back from my editor. Fortunately, she liked the change of style and could only find a couple of plot holes and inconsistencies, so after I’ve sorted it out I will be offering that up as a beta read. The interesting part is that whilst I was walking along the cliffs yesterday I had an idea for a SEQUEL, we’ll have to see where that goes but I’ve already got 2,000 words of it down and have a rough idea of what might be going to happen.

In other news, the artwork for Myra will shortly be off to my cover designer, here it is in its entirety. The artist is the amazing Vicki-Lea Boulter.

Pretty impressive isn’t it? It almost seems a shame to put words over it. You can see more of her fantastic artwork HERE.

Now that we are at this stage, the production process really starts, I have the manuscript ready to be formatted as paperback and epub versions, ISBN numbers allocated and everyone is set up for work in January. All things being equal, we are on course for publication in March.

Save the date, March 15th.

A Winter’s Tale

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I wondered about writing a Flash Fiction for Christmas, and that got me thinking about how you would celebrate on a different planet. Or even if you would. The date is really just an artificial construct that has grown up due to the physical characteristics of the planet, and events have been fitted into this pattern over millennia. But if you were somewhere else, say you were on a planet with a solar year of 480 days, set light years away and remote, you would have to start again. And that threw up all sorts of questions.

That all seemed a little complicated for what was meant to be a bit of lighthearted storytelling. There was probably enough there for a novel. I only wanted to write a Flash so I set it a little closer to home and made it a bit more familiar..


Maybe you were right


The crew had drawn straws and Martine had lost. I hadn’t bothered, I was happy to stay and let someone else go.

It wasn’t as if I had anyone special to go home for and I honestly couldn’t be bothered with Christmas, all the commercialism and repeat movies, it was for families and kids. The rest of the crew were on their way back to Earth for the holidays, I was the one who was stopping in orbit to watch the shop with the reluctant loser.

I hadn’t been lucky with that, or so I thought. It was typical; Martine was the one person that I had hoped was going home; she was the one who was stopping. I reckoned that the psychological profilers had slipped up with her when they had selected the crew. If I could have chosen someone else to share the fortnight with before the new crew arrived, it wouldn’t have been her. She was the awkward one.

Still, we had to make the best of it.

“Why did you offer to stay?” she asked me, as we watched the shuttle depart, “Don’t you have any family on Earth?”

A lot of us were unattached, the agency preferred it that way, there was less potential for problems as far as they were concerned.

“No,” I said, “and before you ask, I’m not bothered with all the festive stuff. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to enjoy being up here.”

“With me?” she finished. “I know we don’t really get on but I don’t want to have a lousy fortnight with you and a load of Bah Humbug bitching.”

She smiled, she had a nice smile, it was a pity that it hadn’t been on show more often.

“Truce?” I said. She smiled again, “I hope so. Let’s have a Happy Christmas.”

We were in low orbit and passed the whole northern hemisphere twice a day. As there were only two of us we had plenty of work to keep us busy. And as the time had passed we started to get on much better. She opened up, she was very upset to be here, and not because of me. She told me that she loved Christmas and all the festive activities with her family. Her enthusiasm got through to me and I even started to see why people celebrated. I dropped my Scrooge persona for her sake; it was bad enough that she was here without me making it worse.

We had agreed to stop work on Christmas Eve and relax for forty-eight hours, apart from the essential safety stuff. The agency had supplied us with vacuum packed festive treats, but to be honest liquidised mince pies weren’t exactly enticing. But as we couldn’t have crumbs floating around in the cabin everything was made to be eaten through a straw.

As the day drew to a close we chilled and watched the night creep across Europe, we could see the snow clad peaks of the Alps, the sky was cloudless and the twinkling lights of the cities made a living map.

“We’re in a perfect position to watch,” Martine said as we sipped our non-alcoholic festive drinks, at least that was what it said on the pouch. It tasted like spiced apple juice to me. We were strapped in to stop us bumping around; even lifting the drink to our lips was enough to change our centre of gravity and move us around the cabin.

“To watch what?” over the last few days I had got to know her better, she wasn’t really awkward, just quiet and intense and I had to admit the profilers had got it right after all, it was me that had been out of step. I had learned to get on with her and was glad that she had stayed. Her reply still surprised me though.

“To see Santa on his sleigh, we have a perfect view.”

I thought that she was joking, “We could film it; record it,” she carried on; “prove it once and for all.” Surely she was a bit old for all that?

“It would all be a bit of a blur,” I said, joining into her train of thought, “he would have to move really fast; all those houses in one night.”

“My nieces would love it though,” her eyes shone, “they still believe. I think I still want to, because of them.”

“I think we all want to believe,” I said, “it’s better than the real world with all its cynicism.” Had I really just said that? It showed how much being with her had changed me.

There was a rattle from the hull, we had grown used to the occasional piece of dust or whatever bouncing off us, relative motion meant that it was unlikely to do us any serious harm but this sounded like a lot more than usual.

Martine looked at me and raised an eyebrow, “a few bigger pieces, perhaps we should swing the cameras around and have a look.”

“Perhaps its reindeer,” I said, she leant across and punched me on the arm.

“Don’t mock,” she advised; a flash of the old Martine. “Just when I thought you were going all mellow.”

The station suddenly rocked violently from side to side, Martine screamed, or perhaps it was me. All the loose objects bobbed around, creating a blizzard of motion, it was like being in a snow globe that had been rapidly shaken.

“What was that?” I shouted over the wailing alarms.

“There,” she pointed through the port, heading away from us towards the centre of a sleeping Europe was a dark shape. It must have been moving fast, it was already glowing in multiple colours from the heat of re-entry, green and red and gold as it hit the top of the atmosphere.

We both unstrapped and floated around the cabin, cancelling alarms, catching and stowing all the floating objects. As we competed to grab things in the confined space we kept bumping into each other. It turned into a game and we couldn’t stop laughing.

The last alarm to cancel was by the airlock, as I pushed the button, silence fell on us, broken only by Martine’s breathless giggles. I happened to glance through the inspection window.

“Did you put them in there?” I said.

Martine floated across to me; she looked through the clear panel at the collection of coloured boxes sitting on the deck.

“Maybe you were right about the Reindeer?”

Sci-Fi Sans Sustenance

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Todays Post


So today I’m going to be talking about how to write science fiction with consistent themes and motives and how to retain sustenance in your work.
Now, they say Quality over Quantity which is absolutely sound logic when writing a novel, but unfortunately many of us at one time or another has felt that we’ve needed to flush out a story with additional scenes and/or extended dialogue when we feel something is missing, but then feel that something isn’t quite right. So if you are in the process of adding to a mostly completed novel, don’t just start writing ideas down. Take a look at your world building and decide if there is any information that makes any part of the story work that might be missing, or decide if your characters developed in larger leaps than you wanted. Once you’ve identified what you’ve missed or where the book needs work, then you should be able to find a point within your story where some world-building content or character development could fit in comfortably.
The next thing that’s incredibly important is to make sure that everything that happens in your science fiction story works precisely as the world you’ve built would allow it to, and if it doesn’t it needs a reasonable explanation as to why. The worst thing in sci-fi is when a universe doesn’t consistently make sense. Make sure to follow the rules you have set out.
As well as the above points, one major point is to keep a track of where your story is going and what needs to happen at certain points in your story so you don’t have tangents of irrelevant narrative that doesn’t properly fit into the surrounding plot. It’s easy to go off track if you don’t pay attention to what you’re writing and keep in mind how it will affect the plot.
Finally, make sure that when you’re writing your novel that you don’t fall into any overused tropes. Examples of these include using Deus Ex Machina to save your character’s last minute, or killing off characters that just come back, or having a massive and senseless plot twist like making the villain the protagonist’s father. Doing so can quickly turn your book from a potential bestseller into yet another book that reads more like fan fiction than a novel.
And on that note I’m done for today, but if you want to read some smashing science fiction try one of my books here.
Take care ladies and gentlemen.
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