My Writing Process

524682_3579410844542_1463531215_nI was recently invited to take part in the ‘My Writing Process’ Blog Tour by Anthony Lavisher and, um, kind of forgot. It’s been busy times of late, with lots of projects on the go, much editing to do, and preperations being made for Project Hush-Hush (or Project: Greyhound, as Jon Cooper called it — I may end up using that term). So, since I tend to neglect my blog a lot I thought it’s about time I did something new and thus will now do my part of the ‘My Writing Process’ Blog Tour…

Q1  What are you currently working on?

A book titled The Forgotten Son, which will be the first novel in Project Hush-Hush, which means I can say very little about it as I am contractually obligated to keep all details to my self.

 Q2 How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Genre is neither here nor there; at least not for me. I do not write to one specific genre. Every piece of fiction I write blends different genre in the hope of creating something a bit more original. Even my Space: 1889 & Beyond work is not really steampunk. There’s elements of horror, of issue-based drama, all sorts. I guess that’s how my work differs; I don’t stick to one genre, I write what I enjoy reading, I write about people. No matter what kind of story I’m writing, it’s always about the people. And that includes Project Hush-Hush.

Q3 Why do I write what I do?

Heart-Book-15Because it’s honestly what’s in me to do. I don’t do it for fame or fortune (which is just as well, as writing is not the best way to make a living), I do it because it’s what I love to do. I love to develop stories, to make commentary on the world I see evolving around me. I love to explore the nature of our lives, to explore what makes people tick.

 Q4 How does my writing process work?

I usually say I don’t have a process, but as time goes by I’m realising I actually do. Taking The Forgotten Son as an example, I start off with a core idea. A concept that interests me. I look at similar books and stories from other authors, other TV shows, to see what’s going on out there, and wonder in what ways I can do it different. Then I start looking at the characters I’ll be needing. In my most recent works the characters are pretty much chosen for me, since I tend to work with series a lot, and so as such I’m often in the position of already having established characters to write for. Fortunately, these characters tend to be creations of mine anyway, since it is I who devised and edit the series’ in question. Project Hush-Hush is different, as I’m given a set of characters that I did not create, but in this case they are characters I know very well and so am looking at ways I can develop them, add to them, make them fresh and new. Once I know the basic cast, I start to research. In most cases it’s period-specific things, since I do seem to write a lot of period dramas — be it the early 1890s or the late 1960s. It is important to get the small details right, to be able to paint a broadstroke picture, so that the work feels like it belongs to the period in which it is set. Such research is ongoing, and continues throughout the entire writing process, as along the way I will continue to come across things that I need to research. Be it something like the British Army ranking system or the orbital pattern of the moon.

The writing itself is, for me, the easiest part. Once I get into the book (which will take me anything up to a week), I find myself wanting to know what’s happening next and so I am inclined to focus more and more on the book, often to the exclusion of social interaction. I tend to edit as I go along too; I will re-read anything I wrote in the previous sitting (be it all of the previous day’s work, or simply the work written only a few hours before), and while re-reading I will edit and tighten up, thus by the end of the first draft I’m really up to second draft status.

Once I’m relatively happy with it, or am aware of an approaching deadline (one of the best incentives for cracking on with the work), I will send it on to my editor. Which is the most fun and daunting as you just never quite know what feedback you’re going to get.

horizons2mediumQ5 What’s new from you?

Nice of you to ask. My latest piece of work is a co-authored novel called Horizons of Deceit Book II which is, as the title suggests, part two of a story. It opens up the third season of Space: 1889 & Beyond and was co-written with Jonathan Cooper (who wrote book one). It’s available from all good e-book sellers, although I think you should all go and buy it direct from the publisher, Untreed Reads Publishing.

As for what’s coming next, well it’ll be The Forgotten Son. Again I can’t say much about it at all really, as the series will not be officially announced until December sometime. However, due to the nature of the project, I think I shall be posting a lot about the process and development of this book (and by extension the entire project) over the coming months, so check back for further updates and, if you’re lucky, subtle hints. 🙂

And that’s it from me on. I’m going to nominate Sharon Bidwell, and, to give it a different spin, comic artist Simon Williams

Writing the Winning Short Story

festivallogoOn August 2nd, Laura Foakes and I spearheaded the forthcoming Candy Jar Book Festival at Cardiff Central Library, talking about some of the best ways to write a short story with a view to winning the much coveted spot in a published anthology. Alas, as with these events, not everybody was able to attend and several asked me to share my Top Ten Rules; so here they are…

  1. Inspiration: What inspires you? With a short story it can be something mundane, something small. Something you see, something you hear, or perhaps something you read that makes you wonder ‘where would I have taken that idea?’. Find one central idea, and build your story around it.
  2. Heart of Your Story: Explore your motivations, determine what you want your story to do, then stick to your core message.
  3. Few Characters: You simply will not have room for more than one or two round characters. Find economical ways to characterise your protagonist, and describe minor characters briefly.
  4. Limit the time frame when you write a short story: Though some short-story writers do jump around in time, your story has the biggest chance of success if you limit the time frame as much as possible. It’s unrealistic to cover years of a character’s life in twenty-five pages (even a month might be a challenge). By limiting the time period, you allow more focus on the events that are included in the narrative.
  5. Ever Line Must Count: The short story requires discipline and editing. Every line should either build character or advance the action. If it doesn’t do one of these two things, it has to go. Keep descriptive passages to a minimum; you don’t have time to be expansive. Use description as pointers to help the reader paint their own picture, don’t do it for them.
  6. Perfect first and last line: Hook the reader with the very first line, and leave them with a final line they won’t forget easily.
  7. Cliffhangers: Don’t give a resolution; leave the reader wondering what comes next. End on a major twist.
  8. Experiment: The short story is a great way to play around with style and form; to try something different. Don’t necessarily go from A to B to C, etc. However much you experiment with form, though, remember something has to happen in the story (or at least the reader has to feelas though something has happened). Things like conflict and resolution achieve this effect. Don’t be afraid to blend genres. Remember, there is very little that is original in storytelling these days, but it’s how you blend the elements that can give a sense of originality.
  9. Shorter Is Sweeter: Resist the urge to go on and on. With a shorter short story, you will have more markets available to you and thus a better chance of getting published. When given a word limit for your short story, always aim or the lower end of that limit. Editors will want to fill a book with as many stories as possible, and so will often be looking for the shorter submissions.
  10. Craft A Strong Title: This can be one of the most difficult—but one of the most important—parts of writing your story. How do you find inspiration for a great title? Have friends read your story and note which words or phrases strike them or stand out. These excerpts from your text just might hold the perfect title.
Laura and I giving our advice at Cardiff Central Library
Laura and I giving our advice at Cardiff Central Library


Additional Hints

  • Reworking Old Stories: If you have old short stories, pull them out and dust them down. Look over them again, and see if you can do something new with them.
  • Write Popular Genres: Write short stories featuring the fads that cycle around. Vampires, zombie, werewolves, ghosts, wizards, etc. Write them and put them aside, then when each cycle comes around again you have a short story all set to submit to anthologies.
  • Look at Publisher’s Output: Consider the publisher you’re submitting to. What else do they publish? Target your story to best suit the publisher.
  • Unbiased View/reader (not family or friend): If able, find an unbiased person to read your story and give you an honest view. Despite the best intentions of family and friends, you will not receive an unbiased view. ‘My mother is my worst critic.’ – don’t believe it!
  • Read Out Loud: Read your story out loud, to somebody else or to yourself. If you stumble over sentences then they’ll need rewriting. Reading out loud will also help you see how natural the dialogue is.