Category Archives: Thinking

2013 – a look back, but not in anger



It’s been a bit of a mixed year for me.

On the positive side, I had two successful #100kwords100days challenges (January and July), and a successful NaNoWriMo. At the time of writing (December 30th), I’ve written 409,575 new words this year. Not all were fiction – the ‘rules’ of #100kwords100days allow for blog posts and planning to be included in word counts. But that’s still a good total for one year.

On the negative side, I didn’t publish anything this year.


One of my aims this year was to complete a selection of dark Christmas-related tales, and to publish them in time for the Christmas

But … I wasn’t pleased with them. Soseason. I did this – I created ten new short stories, at around 21,000 words in total, which I was going to bundle with three previously-released short pieces which had a Christmas theme. Some of them worked, but one or two didn’t – they weren’t strong enough stories, and my writing wasn’t the best. So I shelved the project. I didn’t delete it, and They Will Return, with tough rewrites to sharpen up the writing. Depending on the situation when next Christmas trundles alone, I will either publish them as a collection or release them for free as singles. Watch this space.

The bottom line is – I’m not going to release my writing unless I think it’s the best it can be. The quality of the writing is more important than any seasonal-related marketing strategy. I only wish that were the case with some other self-published writers.


I’ve completed 3 long works to “draft zero” status – a 65,000 word crime story, and two thrillers at 45k and 47k each.

But therein lies the problem. I love writing, I love the buzz I get from creating new characters and situations. But, before 2013, I was a terrible finisher. I never really completed anything but short fiction. So one of my goals for this year was to finish some long fiction, and I’m pleased I’ve been able to do that.

However, I’m still not completely happy with my stories. At the time of writing, I’m not sure whether they’re going to be edited, or put to one side. All is not lost, and I have good news in my “2014 – look ahead” post, coming soon, including a new life for a piece of writing that’s over ten years old. NaNoWriMo 2003, your time is up!


Late summer update. Busy busy busy.

Tonight, I had cause to log in to my WordPress account, in order to comment on a friend’s blog. No problems occurred, but I did look at my blog, and saw that the last item was posted way back in early April. Ugh. Bad blogger.

As a way back in, I’ll give you an update on what’s happening. Summer is happening, that’s what. For once, the UK, and especially the Eastern side, has been bathed in beautiful sun for what seems likes weeks on end.

Which makes it hard to write.

It always seems that there’s something else that needs doing, whether it really needs it, or whether that need is perceived. Gardens need tidying, planting, cutting back, mowing, watering. Summer houses needed to be built, which necessitated quite large changes to groundworks in the back garden. Social events had been organised, and enjoyed.

Cycling happened. A lot. I rode from London to Paris in less than 24 hours. That was fun. Shortly, I’m going to be riding from Shenfield (bottom of Essex), through Harwich / Hook of Holland, to Bruges (or Brugge, if you’re Belgian). And back again. There’s various other cycling-related things going on, too, either watching or actually doing. And a new bike has entered the collection, which is lovely and a joy to ride.

Oh, and I’m doing #100kwords100days again.

The group seemed to have an appetite for more of the pain and anguish, although word counts have been somewhat down on the winter version. I suspect others have the summer distraction thing going on, too. This one runs from the 1st of July through to early October, when we’ll breathe a sigh of relief before girding our loins ready for NaNoWriMo.

I’m writing about the end of the world again, albeit this time in a fairly small area in the USA. But there’s death and destruction going on, forces unimagined by man (or woman), and I have a strong female lead. Again.

On word counts, I’m somewhat down on the target. I’m at 41,579 for the story and 48,435 for the challenge (the challenge includes blog posts and other creative writing). I am supposed to be somewhere near 66,000 words right now. My rolling average word count per day is creeping up and is now 734 words per day, which is pretty good, and I need to write an average of 1,517 words per day between now and the end of the challenge to reach the 100k.

More importantly, it looks like I’m going to finish this work. Mr. Work In Progress might actually get to finish something (unlike the other 17 or 18 WIPs which lay unloved on various parts of my hard disk).

And how has this been achieved? I think it has been achieved with more structured planning, clear and interesting characters, a vision for the whole story from start to finish, and using the classic 3 act / 8 sequence structure, often used in film making. I’ve been able to keep my story on track, writing scenes (In Scrivener, of course), and kept the plot rolling along.

I also have an outline for another long piece, which may end up being my NaNoWriMo project. When this story is complete, I shall put it away for preliminary editing, and take up my crime short novel series. I really would like to get 2 or 3 of those written before the end of the challenge.

Wish me luck!

Please! How can I sell more of my books?

money-bagI’ve been writing for over 40 years. Okay, so for many of those 40 years I was working for a living, having children (not literally), and generally being too busy, or lazy, to write, but I’ve taken writing much more seriously over the past ten years. In that time, I’ve written getting on for three-quarters of a million words. I’ve submitted short stories and flash fiction to online publications and competitions. I’ve been part of writing groups, where my writing was subject to open, honest, and sometimes harsh critique. I’ve completed (‘won’, if you will) eight NaNoWriMo’s. That’s 400,000-odd words right there.

So, I get quite grumpy when I see questions from writers asking “how can I market my book?” “How can I sell more of my books?” “What’s the best way of using Twitter and Facebook to market my book?”

Quite often, these questions are from people who’ve written one book. No writing CV. No other writing success. They’ve written one book, and they’ve read how some writers (Amanda Hocking, John Locke, J.A.Konrath, Michael J. Sullivan, Louise Voss/Mark Edwards, Stephen Leather, Bella Andre, et al) have made a ton of money from self-publishing, and they want some. They think all they have to do is write one book, upload it to an online bookstore (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iBooks, Smashwords), and promote the hell out of it, spamming Facebook groups, endlessly Tweeting about it, and generally getting on everyone’s nerves. And then they think there’s something they’re not doing, some magic bullet which, once they’re told about it, will rocket their book up the bestseller charts, earning tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

I used to avidly follow the posts in the Writer’s Café section of Kindleboards (i’m not going to give you a handy clicky link – if you can’t be arsed to drive Google to find it, then you’re not serious about this), and it was a great place for the new self-publishers. Writers shared successes, with numbers, and dollars, and what they did, and how they did it. Now, most of those fascinating self-publishers have gone away, tempted by the Big K – Kudos – that a ‘proper’ publishing contract can bring to them. And I don’t blame them for that. Publishers are in business for one thing – to make money. And if they can sign up a writer with a proven record of selling huge quantities of books, then they’ll come a’ running, with cheque books open. But the rest have got pretty tired of the new members. “I’ve written a book, and uploaded it to Amazon, but sales are disappointing. How can I improve my numbers?”

I’ll tell you in the next blog post, coming soon.

New Year Proposals

I don’t do resolutions. The dictionary definition of “resolve”: to come to a definite or earnest decision about.

I have intentions – things I would like to do, to achieve, but if I don’t, I wont feel bad or upset with myself.

Anyway, here they are:

1. Do 100k in 100 days.
2. Write 500 words before looking at Facebook
3. Do River of Stones in Jan 2012.
4. Write at least one piece of short fiction each week.
5. Produce 3 novel-length pieces of work – 100k100days, finish something else, and NaNoWriMo in November

All these are achievable. I’m not going to make empty promises about losing weight, exercising more, or any of that nonsense.

Let’s see if, by this time next year (2012), I’ll have kept to these. What are the chances?


Well, I have to make them sometimes. My NaNoWriMo piece is probably the best one I’ve written. At least, it’s the only one I haven’t hated. I think it really ‘has legs’, and I definitely want to finish and edit it.

But … (you knew there was a but coming, didn’t you?)

I already have “Buried Threat” half finished, and I feel this is more worthwhile completing before the NaNo thing (called “Footprints”, BTW). And I am inspired by Michael Connolly’s Harry Bosch short stories – collections (3 per book) are out on Kindle at  Angle of Investigation and Suicide Run. Both very recommended. Anyway, I have a couple of Connolly-like shorts in the wings, which are desperate to see the light of day. It’s a busy time to be a writer.

Procrastinating, prevaricating, postpone, put off, prorogue (yes, it is a word) and other things beginning with P

I’m the worst. I love writing, I love creating new characters, new situations,, new plots. But I also love interacting with people. Since the advent of social networking, I have spent far less time writing that I have Tweeting and Facebooking, and since when does a noun automatically have the ability to become a verb?

I have three problems which ‘stop’ me writing productively:
* I get distracted easily
* I get overwhelmed by the tasks I want to complete
* I never seem to find time to write.

I came upon two great blog posts recently. The first was from Clair King, recently signed to Bloomsbury for her first novel, and it talked about puppies. Not nice ones, though. You should read it. it’s damned fine .: Claire King’s Blog :. She talks about “puppies”, interrupting your thought processes and work. This is one of the key points:

So the idea is to train the puppies. When you notice a thought popping up which is not the ‘in and out’ of breathing, you do not pick it up and cuddle it, let it lick your nose. No. You say ‘Hello, puppy. I’m busy right now so sit down. We’ll play later. Sit. No, sit. Sit!’ And you go back to thinking about your breath.

So that’s stage one. Understanding what the problem is.

When I got a new laptop, I was pleased that I could use the new whizzy one for all of my internet stuff (30-odd tabs open in my browser at all times – nuts or what?), and the older one could be used for writing! Brilliant! And to encourage myself, I’d turn off the WiFi on the old one, so when I was officially “writing”, I couldn’t meander around the internet. FAIL! What do I do? I have my writing laptop open, new work in progress, little edit window for things I need to check up on later – and my other laptop open behind, showing Facebook and with Tweetdeck running in the background. D’oh! Not good.

So now we come to me being overwhelmed by the number of tasks. I have several projects in my head right now, and several more projects that I would love to work on, if only I could spare the time.
And then I read another great blog post from Dean Wesley Smith .: Dean’s Blog :. One of the key things I picked out of that post, though:

So if a person spent 15 minutes per day and wrote 250 words, that person would finish a novel in one year.

Now, if that person spent 1/2 hour per day on writing and created 500 words per day, they would finish 2 novels per year and be considered prolific by many people.

Write 1,000 words per day, or about an hour, and in 270 days you would have finished three novels. And that means you would only have to do that five days a week to write three novels per year. In other words, it doesn’t take many hours to be considered prolific.

Wow! What? This really struck home with me. I can type pretty fast – my NaNoWriMo stuff gets typed at around 1,000 words an hour, so I’m right on the money, according to Dean.

And here we come to the third problem. I can’t find time to write.

Why not? Well, by the time I set myself up, get all my notes together, make a cup of tea – well, there’s just not enough time to write anything meaningful.


I’m trying to find at least two hours free so I can write properly, but that’s never going to happen. For one, I have a very busy life. And for another, I get distracted at the drop of an email notification. So what to do?

The answer is in three parts:
* I’m to put all distractions to one side. They’re not important. Well, probably not. Don’t be checking social networking and email and RSS feeds and book sales every ten minutes.
* I must stop putting self-imposed timescales on everything. Write when I have the time, and don’t get overwhelmed by trying to finish something too soon. The book buyers will be there tomorrow, and they’ll be there for years after if I write well.
* I need to get used to writing in small doses. Accept that I’m unlikely to get two hours without any interruptions, and write for half an hour.

I think this will work. If I only concentrate on one project at a time (I know, obvious, but I get enthusiastic), I won’t get overwhelmed, and the books will come out when they come out, when they’re finished and when I’m happy with the writing.

And now I’ve finished this blog post, I’m just going to make a cup of tea, feed the dog, check … well, at least I’ve written for half an hour without stopping.

Why do we write?

Authors write stories because we have stories to tell. The story is there, inside us, It burns us, gnaws away at our stomachs, until it is written.

So here we are, early in 2011, and the ebook revolution is well under way. Previously unpublished authors are selling thousands – no, tens of thousands, of books per month. Previously published authors are raking over their back catalogue, putting out novels that are either out of print, or novels that their publisher didn’t want.

And then we check the results. Under the old publishing models, we had little or no access to our sales numbers. We wrote the book, the publisher put it out there, and we checked our royalties when the publishers informed us. Now, we have unprecedented access to our sales figures and our royalties several times a day – heck several times an hour even, if we so want.

We discuss why our books aren’t doing as well as we had hoped; we trade information, we swap links, tell our stories, offer help; we read of marketing strategies; we agonise whether $0.99 or $2.99 os the “sweet spot”, the right price, the best way of maximising revenue or gaining readership.

But hang on a second. Why do we write? We write because we’re authors, and we need to tell the story, yes? Isn’t there a danger we’re becoming sales and marketing executives, public relations personnel, publishing technicians and industry gurus?

There’s more than enough evidence to show that the more publications we have out there, the more copies we sell. But it’s not a linear relationship. Just because you sell ten copies a month of book A, it doesn’t mean that adding book B will add ten more copies a month to your sales. It’s not linear, it’s exponential. You’re dealing with buyer psychology here. They see your solitary book, they wonder if you’re a ‘proper’ author. They see three, four books, they think “accomplished writer”.

So why aren’t you writing? Come to think of it, why am I not writing?