Category Archives: Writing

From the beginning to ‘The End’ (working title)

This is the first true post as I begin to write this non-fiction book relating the creation of a novel. Every non-fiction book I have read from historical biographies to Butcher’s Copy-Editing has an introduction. It gives the author their first chance to say hello and to give a flavour of what their book will be about, what it will cover and how they plan to go about it.

I wanted to give my prospective readers a chance to get an idea of what they could expect and to learn a little about the bloke who thought he had something to offer.

If anyone has any ideas on what else they think should be covered in the Introduction please leave me a comment and if I like it, I will include it and give you credit in the acknowledgements. Thank you.

Introduction and Biography

What prompted you to buy this book? What do you want to get out of it? Do you think it will help? It will. Help that is.

This book isn’t about the formula of writing a novel and the mistakes that you will make if you don’t follow a prescribed method. There are a thousand books available covering that approach; some free, others reasonably priced and many ridiculously expensive. There also some excellent books that adopt different approaches; whether it is free form writing where a looser ‘empty your soul on to the page’ approach or instructions on how to write and research non-fiction. If that is what you are looking for then scan your local bookshop or the Amazon website and convert your cash into advice.

This book is about a journey taken by a writer describing how he creates a work of fiction from an initial idea through to publication. I am the writer and I wanted to describe the process that I am going  through when I write my novel. For me this is a very personal approach as it lays open my own ideas and philosophies on writing and creating fiction. I want this book to be read as a way to write a novel, not as the only way to write a novel, it’s a way that works for me and I hope that my approach helps by giving you a blueprint to write the story inside you as well as offering ideas and practical advice.

When I write I need the comfort of structure and planning to ensure that I am not faced by a blank page with no idea what to put on it. The plan changes, they always do, but those changes will add depth and texture to the story and improve the finished novel. By having a plan, a detailed plan, I know the direction in which the story is heading, what will happen at a given point and how each scene will affect the story as a whole.  My plan is only the initial view of how I expect the story to progress, the changes are what will allow the story to develop within the original framework.

This very structured approach to writing I know won’t suit everyone. Stephen King believes that plot is best forgotten but situation is important. He also says, ’I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all of our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.’  Conversely John Irving says, ‘know the story—as much of the story as you can possibly know, if not the whole story—before you commit yourself to the first paragraph….If you don’t know the story before you begin the story, what kind of a storyteller are you?’

This book will lead you from your initial first glimmer of an idea, testing the idea, planning in detail, first draft, rewriting and more rewriting, from there to editing, cover design and on to publication, both traditional and indie. It is a blueprint that you can use time and time again. Using it as a guide when writing your early works to a reference as your experience grows.

I hope you enjoy the journey.


Simon is a novelist, proofreader, copy-editor and blogger. This will be his first non-fiction work which he is writing alongside his second novel: The Impact of History. His first novel is available through Amazon as an ebook, Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased). Click here, to buy it.

A book on the process of writing a book, using a book I’m writing …

Sorry about the title but I couldn’t think of a more descriptive way of describing what I want to do.
I am in the very early stages of planning a novel I have called ‘The Impact of History’ which is part historical, part thriller and part …well you’ll have to wait and see.
The non-fiction book that I will be blogging as I write will run concurrently with the novel and will use the novel for its examples and screenshots to illustrate the various sections of the book. I’m a little stuck on what to call it as I feel it is a different approach to the normal ‘how to write a novel’ books. For the moment I’ll call it ‘From the beginning to The End’.
I want to go through the entire process that I use, from the idea to the finished product and beyond to the marketing and promotion of the book. Each part of the process will be chapter length and offer idea’s, screenshots of my work in progress and a look at the resources on offer to make the writing process as streamlined and uncluttered as possible.
The first section is on the origin of your work of fiction and how you can develope a simple idea into a strong multi-faceted novel. This project will begin next Monday and I will post each week on my progress on both books and share where I’m up to and how the process is going. I look forward to sharing this experiment with you.

You’ve got your idea … What next?

The idea has arrived and it’s beautiful. You know this is the one, the idea that will transform fiction writing, film production and theatre. You are twitching to put pen to paper and get cracking with the great British/American/Australian novel. Before your keyboard is reduced to a charred and tangled mess by the ferocity of your typing you still need to test your idea to ensure it will have the staying power that you are sure it will have.

When I have those moments of blind panic as I stare blankly at the screen, wondering how my main character has run out of things to say and do, the idea for the story is pathetic and my anti-hero has decided he/she wants to be fucking nice, then I wished i’d taken my own advice and scribbled a few bullet points down first. Outlining gives you the time to take a breathe after the first rush of enthusiasm and excitement is falling away. It forces you to ask a few questions about your idea and honestly decide if it is any good. Not just any good as an idea for a novel, a short story or flash fiction, but whether it is worthy of your time and effort at all. Some idea’s will appear to be great and will be amazing. Others appear at first glance to be fantastic, but are in reality shit.

I can only describe what I do when I scribble an outline down and how I think it through. Here goes:

In each section I just write a few lines; enough to remind me how I wanted the story to flow and to help identify if there is enough there. By now I also know who I am planning on writing for, their age group, gender and the planned genre of my story. However the best laid plans of mice and men…


How you want the story to open? This section sets out how you see your stories opening and how you see the beginning shaping the rest of the story. Do you start from the beginning? From the end with the remainder of the story going back in time to set out how you get to your opening pages? In the middle of the action, thrown in at the deep end? Your choice, make it.

Mid Section

These sections are the meat of your story, where you develop your characters, bring in other story lines that complement the main flow of the story. You can cleverly introduce character back stories, introduce some red herrings, some twists and turns. These sections are where you can have a lot of fun. Don’t forget to keep your eye on the end – that’s what you are building towards.


This is my favourite part. you’ve chosen how you want to begin your story, you have developed the story and the characters keeping an eye on the final part and now you show how inventive you have been. The twists and turns that will keep your readers intrigued until the end. You can make your ending as lively or as intense as you want, it’s your story.

These three sections will go a long way towards helping you decide how you want to structure your story and what format you would like it to take.


I’ve recently completed my author page on Goodreads and one of the things that I can do is answer writing related questions that are posed by other readers. That forced me to think about the processes that I have gone through when I wrote Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased) or indeed any piece of significant fiction.
The starting point of any work of fiction is the germ of an idea that sparks passion. By passion I mean the desire to invest the time in exploring an idea and deciding if it merits your time and in what format. Is the idea strong enough to be a short story? Flash fiction? Or is it a idea that can be developed into a novel length piece of work.
Take the time to look carefully at your ideas and analyse in which format they would work in and deciding if you are passionate enough about the ideas to move them forward. The majority of ideas that flash into your head as you sit at your desk or commute to work, you will decide are not good enough. The key is spotting the ones in which you can get excited.

The advice in years gone by was; ‘write what you know.’ This intimates that if you are a keen knitter and a housewife, the only fiction you can write with any hope of believability is the adventures of a knitting housewife. Rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish. In a digital age the majority of us have access to a world of information through the internet. We can write as spies, killers, aliens from a distant universe or should we chose, as knitting housewives. Our options are limitless.
Ideas for our writing are all around us and come from some unexpected places. I am planning and plotting my next novel at the moment and the idea for it came from a flash fiction prompt from WordPress. The point is that ideas are all around us and your spark will be very different to mine.

When I need a starting point I look to my interests. What do you do with your life? Are you a gardener, climber, chef, art lover or bibliophile. Can any of those areas be incorporated into your next piece of work? What genre of books to like reading or listening to? What films do you enjoy and are willing to pay money to watch? These are the important questions that will help unblock your psyche and give you a idea that could be the basis of your next work.

Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased) – published!

Today is a strangely odd day and also a day in which I feel extremely proud. My first (completed) novel has been published on Amazon as a Kindle download. It isn’t getting the benefit of tweaks by a publisher’s art department or promoted in the national press by an enthusiastic marketing department; it just has me. This book has taken six years to plan, research and write, a year or more of repeatedly rewriting it and then a number of months involved with cover design, proofreading and ultimately publishing my book.

I have learnt so much about the craft of writing, the determination and the sheer bloody mindedness of putting bottom onto chair and typing one word after another, day after day. The whole process has been hugely enjoyable and i have discovered the pleasure that can be gained from creating something from scratch, polishing it and finally presenting it.

The next part of the process; marketing my novel, will involve be another steep learning curve. I hope with the resources of Amazon to assist me and my own determination, I can sell a few copies and discover if my book is the jewel I believe it to be.

If you’re interested in having a look the link to the book is above.

Bespoke Book Covers

Peter from Bespoke Book Covers has done a fantastic job and the kindle version of my book cover is complete. Have a look below and let me know what you think. I am hoping to have the book uploaded to kindle by the first week of October.

Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased) 15 September 2014 KINDLE

Synopsis and cover letters

Okay, this is the question. How is it possible to condense one hundred and twenty two thousand words down to two double spaced pages of A4? And now for the tricky bit, for it to tell the same story as the longer version so that your reader can glean a flavour of the story? I was amazed at how hard it was.

I had spent a few weeks viewing the task with a degree of trepidation and finding excuses not to begin. I couldn’t avoid it any longer. The book was completed, seven versions, and now I needed to send it out.

Creating a synopsis I discovered takes practice. My first effort was too long and detailed. I had written a chapter by chapter plot line that told the story, but in far to much detail. Attempts two, three, four and five were improvements, but still too long and too much detail. I turned to the internet, our new font of all knowledge and discovered it had the answer, actually many answers.

Reading the thoughts of agents and publishers who are the recipients of our endeavours, they all wanted the same thing. Brilliance, an undiscovered gem that would catapult both the agent and the author to the pinnacle of Sunday Times bestseller list and leave them there. If that were not possible they would settle for a synopsis that showed them that the author could take a story and keep it interesting, coherent and gripping over the course of a hundred thousand words. Could the author continue to deliver beyond the three sample chapters. I have learnt that an agent will read the sample chapters and then the synopsis. If the sample had promise and the synopsis sounded interesting i stood a chance. Oh also nearly every agent wanted us to spell their names correctly…

Now the covering letter. I nailed this in under ten attempts, an improvement of sorts. the essence I gleaned from my font of all knowledge was that the letter was three short paragraphs. The first paragraph was a very edited version of my story, the second an explanation of the genre and what is unusual about the book and finally a brief biography on me and the type of fiction I enjoy.

The samples synopsis and covering letters have been despatched and so I wait in hope of a response, any response.

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

For a writer, all writers, this book should be required reading. Robert McKee, a screenwriting genius wrote the foreword for the book. Robert McKee said,
‘Steven Pressfield wrote The War of Art for me. He undoubtedly wrote it for you too, but I know he did it expressly for me because I hold Olympic records for procrastination.’

Procrastination is the enemy of us all. In his book Steven Pressfield calls this enemy Resistance. Resistance is elicited whenever an activity requires something of us. For instance, the pursuit of writing or painting, education of any kind, diet or health regime. Or as Pressfield say’s, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favour of long term growth.

His book then goes on to characterise the forms that Resistance can take. In part two he talks about combatting Resistance and the difference between an amateur’s approach and a professional’s approach. A lovely quote is from Somerset Maugham. When asked if he wrote to a schedule or only when inspiration struck he replied,
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” He’s a professional.
This book has had a bigger influence on me than any other. It has helped me, forced me, to complete my novel. It keeps me working even though there are a thousand other things I would rather do and most importantly it has allowed me to realise that it is a privilege to do what I do: write, but I have to remember that I have to do my work everyday to keep Resistance at bay.

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How do I market my book?

The book is finished. The cover is commission and is underway. I’ve sent out queries to three agents, but I’m a realist. They are awash with novels from first time hopefuls of every age group, genre and level of ability. The slush pile is feet deep and growing deeper every day. I think my chances of being plucked from obscurity is slim.

So, this puppy isn’t going to sell itself, but as a person who is at best an inexperienced marketeer, what is the best approach. I have Facebook and have started posting at least daily, (, I’m on twitter, but need to be more tweety than I am at the moment ( and I’m on tumblr, but don’t do anything with it other than my blog posts go there automatically ( I need to build my audience, attract more followers and generate interest so that when the book is ready to go on sale i will have a group who might be happy to spread the word.

Two things i will be doing to encourage people to read the book is firstly, prior to it’s launch, make the first chapter available on this blog for people to read and pique their interest. Secondly, the first week after it’s launch all downloads of the entire book will be free.

If you’ve any ideas of effective marketing strategies please leave a comment.

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Ghosts – part 1

An odd title for a post you’re probably thinking. I agree, it is. Bear with me. My recently completed first novel, Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased), has a main character who is a ghost. But why did I choose a ghost?

The idea came to me when I was recovering from a serious heart problem. It is at moments like these that you begin to consider your own mortality. I had a lot of thinking time on my hands and I began considering what there was after death. Is there anything after death? I came at these questions initially from a quasi-religious perspective. I’m not overtly religious, but I do believe there must be something rather than just emptiness, but what?

If there is ‘something’, that then leads on to the question, is this ‘something’ a homogenous mix of everyone? Good and bad? Or, as it is generally asserted, there is a division; good people upstairs to heaven, bad people downstairs to hell. What then happens if you weren’t supposed to die? You hadn’t reached your predetermined death date? If you had been expected to remain alive on earth for years longer? Potentially you would have a lot of loose ends that hadn’t been tied up. Unfinished business.

This was where my story began. One of my main characters had been killed before he should have been. Inevitably he had unfinished business, in his case a lot of unfinished business. Therefore as a relatively good man he went to limbo.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionaries definition of limbo is: ‘A region supposed in some beliefs to exist on the border of Hell as the abode of the just who died before Christ’s coming and of unbaptised infants’. As limbo is also viewed as a fictitious place or mythical place and by Roman Catholicism as ‘the place of unbaptized but innocent or righteous souls (such as infants and virtuous individuals)’, I felt vindicated in using limbo in my story as a place that those with unfinished business go to. They remain in limbo until their unfinished business is resolved and then continue to heaven. I have assumed if you’re bad enough for hell you go straight there.

In my next post I will cover how I view limbo in my novel.

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