Which genre should I pick?  They all look so good, but which one suits me best?

Like shopping for clothes, you will not know which genre is best for you so why not give them all a try?  Some you might want to rule out straight away.  If you are drawn to horror or a murder mystery, writing comedy might feel awkward for you.  However, know that the definition of each genre is not immovable.  You can add an element of romance to your murder mystery.  For example, your detective could fall in love with one of the suspects.

Maybe you want to add some humour to your horror novel, which is where dark or grim humour comes from.

Genres are great for letting your audience know what to expect before buying the book.  Yet we are seeing books coming out that defy the genres that are traditionally laid out.  You could be the next author to combine two or more genres into something incredible.  The only way to find out, is to do it.

Some of most beloved authors defied the genres they were best known for.  The only way they felt they could do this was publishing under a pseudonym.  If it is too much for you to release material in different genres under the one name, why not give yourself a new one?  After all, no one remembers Samuel Langhorne Clemens but Mark Twain is another matter.


Arrggh, what do I write about?  First I’ll put pen to paper and go…….and……go…….okay, stay where you are then.  If I stay here long enough something is bound to come out, right?

Well, it doesn’t always work out like that.  Sometimes the muse/writing fairy, call it what you will, is having a day off and forgot to tell you.  It’s enjoying itself in the sun while you’re sat inside on a rainy day trying to come up with something enticing, something which draws readers in and has them hooked until the end.  Only, it’s not happening.

Sometimes these things clear after an hour or so.  Sometimes it can last weeks on end.  So what do I think stops us from writing? Fear.

Fear of failure and fear of judgement, self-inflicted or otherwise.  Fear that one day someone will come along and say ‘What a load of drivel’ and I’ll say ‘You’re right’, but I’d be wrong.  You see, it is only their opinion and unless you value the person, then their opinion is meaningless.

As a writer, you need to be thick-skinned and pig-headed.  You’re not going to rock everyone’s world, which means that someone will hate what you write.  The only person’s opinion that matters is yours, the rest is just a bonus.  So now that the fear demon has been fought off, what do you write about?  I propose that you write nonsensical gibberish.  In other words, write anything which pops into your head.  Here are a couple of examples;

Every garbled pillow eats a good biscuit before bedtime, or so I’m told.

This megalomanic loves eating chocolate apple cores wrapped in sensuous plastic uniformity.

This is called free writing.  It doesn’t need to make sense, nor should it be punctually or grammatically correct.  It just is what it is, writing in it’s purest form free from any restriction, rule or law tying it down.

So next time you get stuck, why not give free writing a go and see what you come up with.  Happy writing!


Rituals are used by writers to make ourselves feel comfortable.  We sit in a favourite chair, we start writing at the same time every day, or at least we hope to!  Perhaps we used a favoured pen or pencil.  For all you newbies out there, these are the tools writers used before computers.

So what are my rituals?  Well it depends on what I plan to do.  When writing a story, I type on the computer and I usually start around 6p.m. on most evenings.  There are several reasons for this; I live in a small flat, so I do not have the space.  I type nearly twice as fast as I write and I can look back and edit my work safe in the knowledge that I can make a copy when I wish.  I start writing at 6 p.m. because my brain has finished dealing with the thoughts of the day and is ready for something different, something imaginative, something taxing.

On smaller pieces such as character profiles, plotlines, short stories and such, I like to lay down on my sofa with a pen and a piece of paper.  Using both methods, I feel I can relate to the past and the future.  There is something so natural about writing with a pen, and yet writing on a computer is more convenient.  Maybe one day I’ll favour one over the other, but for now, I’m comfortable with the way things are.

There is one thing that both rituals require; I value quiet when I’m writing.  I’ve tried writing when there is noise around, but I work better when the place I am in, is devoid of noise.  As there are no anechoic chambers near me, I have to employ other methods to reduce noise levels.

Now that I’ve told you my rituals, why don’t you tell me what you do?  I’d love to hear how other people approach the same problem.

It’s perfect as it is

Yeah, right, of course it is.

The first time you do something, no matter what it is, will end up being perfect, right?  As anybody with any life experience will tell you (in a polite way), is no.  This is the basis for editing.

When you have created your masterpiece, you might want to go back and take another look.  Don’t do it straight away though.  Give yourself some time away from it, so you can see it with fresh eyes. Then you can spot the mistakes you’ve made; words missed, poor punctuation, grammatical errors and other such mistakes.

Next, and this is where you go into more depth, look at the language you used.  Is this what you wanted your characters to sound like?  Are the sentences too long?  Tip; try reading dialogue out loud.  If you’ve run out of breath or get stuck on a section, it’s probably too long.

The next issue is a little more subtle; does the balance feel right between descriptive language and dialogue? This is tricky as it depends on the individual writer.  We all have our own writing styles.  Some are descriptive heavy, like Tolkien for example.  Others prefer to paint a basic picture of the world at that point in the plot and are happy to leave it at that.

Finally, look at what you have written and ask yourself; is this the best I can do?  In the heat of the moment, we need to get the writing down on the page.  Yet when we look back, it seems to be lacking in sophistication.

Editing is like digging a mineral from the earth, washing it and then cutting it to make it into a jewel.  The raw beauty looks great, but there is nothing so inherently beautiful as a cut diamond.



No, not that, anything but criticism!

So we writers (at least me, anyway) are a sensitive bunch, especially when it comes to others giving us feedback.  We love to be praised for what we have done, but it hurts on a deeper level when someone pulls it apart and shows all the things that are wrong with it.

Now this sort of feedback depends on many factors such as; personal feelings at that moment in time, relationship with the person giving the feedback, how they are giving the feedback, where they are giving the feedback, etc, etc.  Some feedback is particularly unhelpful, e.g. it was..(insert four letter expletive here).  Okay, so you don’t like it, but WHY don’t you like it?  What was specifically wrong with it that you didn’t like?

Then there are those people who will tell you what they liked, then what they found wrong, finally ending with something nice.  This is useful because it does not leave the writer a quivering mess unable to write a single word for the next week or so.  Constructive criticism, as it is now called, helps highlight areas for improvement.  After all, we are only human so we succumb to human qualities.

If you are a fledgling writer, why not try your local writer’s group?  These are your peers and so they will know when you are being lazy, or rushing to get it finished.  Generally, they have taken some heat for their own work so they know how much it can hurt, if delivered incorrectly.  If meeting people is too much for you, why not join an online community?

What you must remember is this; the best criticism is there to help you become a better writer.  It is not there to destroy your confidence.

And finally, criticism is only one person’s opinion.  It is up to you to decide whether to make the changes.


I’ll do it in a bit

‘Well I could do it now, but this needs my attention.’  ‘Oh this is more urgent, so I’ll spend my time doing it, I’ll do my writing later, when I have time.’ ‘I only have half an hour, I can’t give my writing the proper amount of time needed to really get into it.’

Do any of these sound familiar?  Maybe you have your own ways of putting things off, but I think most of us do it.  Procrastination is something that we all do and yet we don’t intend to do it.  Writing is a victim of procrastination because we feel that we need to give it time to work.  Or at least, enough time to do it justice.

Writing, is just like any other hobby.  You can give it as little or as much time as you wish.  Do not be afraid to give it ten minutes here or half an hour there.  Maybe on the commute to work, you can let your mind wander and consider names for characters.  Perhaps a scene could be fleshed out.  Brushing your teeth is a mundane task that we all know how to do, so that would be a good time too.  Just remember to put the brush back when you’ve finished.

Of course, the best time to do it, is when you are most relaxed (something which I will talk about in a later post) as this is when you let your imagination off the leash without even knowing it.  But, you can always find times and places where you are not busy or stressed or anything else.

Imagination is like a shy animal.  It cannot be forced out of it’s burrow, it has to be left alone to peek it’s nose out by itself.  When it is happy, then it will come out to play.  Of course, the more you show that it is okay, the more it will do it.  Before you know it, your imagination will pop out again even after a disturbance, such a phone call or a doorbell.

If that doesn’t work, try and incentivise writing.  Say to yourself, I’ll do this thing I enjoy after I’ve done some writing.  You’ll get a double whammy; you’ve done some writing and you get your reward.

Whatever you do, enjoy it.


Current Projects

You may be wondering what it is I do with my own time, well I shall tell you.  I have started on writing a new story.  All I shall say for now, is that it is a spy thriller and is set in Syria in 2012, not long after the Arab Spring.

So far, I have completed three character profiles and am well into the fourth.  A basic layout has already been laid for the first five chapters, but it needs improvement.  Other than that, I’m not willing to say.

What I can also say though, if the thought of a new story is not exciting enough, is that I have a new short story which will be posted in a couple of days.  It is called ‘The Humans Are Coming!’.

The third fundamental pillar of writing

And so I come to the third and final pillar of writing; the plot. There are essentially two ways to tackle the plot.  You can either write the plot out beforehand, or you can go with the flow.  Each option has it’s advantages, and depending on the sort of writer you are, it will help the writing flow.

The first option, is to write the plot first.  This can be achieved in a couple of ways, either to write it out completely, or chapter by chapter.  Having the entire plot set out in front of you, can look intimidating, especially if you are prone to veer of track once in a while.  However, the plot is just the basic framework which the story can be guided around.  The beauty of writing, is that you do not have to stick to the plot, it is entirely up to you.

Be warned though, veer too far from what you are trying to say, can cause plot holes to appear later on.  Sometimes they are easy to fix, others could potentially lead to re-writing half the story.  If you veer away, be mindful that you are able to bring it back again.  These moments of inspiration need not be feared, as they can turn the story in surprising ways.

Chapter by chapter plotting allows for a sense of freedom that would not otherwise be found using the complete method.  A feeling of excitement can be had when about to start a new chapter. Writing without a plot is more risky than with one.  You are far more likely to wander off the beaten path and yet, as I have already discussed, these can lead to some wonderful gems.  Characters that do something surprising, or where new secrets are revealed can hook the reader into wanting more.

Like characters and the world, if you plan on writing a plot, make sure you spend some time on it.  Write down a list of characters appearing in a chapter.  Write down a paragraph, at least, of what you’d like to happen in that chapter.  Then answer these questions; what are the implications for the story and how does this move the story on? They may sound similar, but they are subtly different.  For example, an implication would be that the story moves to a different place.  In doing so, it brings the characters to the place where you want the action to take place.

All three pillars, characters, the world and the plot, put together will help create the best story you can write.

The second fundamental pillar of writing

For my second post, I thought I’d talk about one of the three most important aspects of writing; the world. Like characters, worlds need to be formed and shaped into something believable.  It can be as nonsensical as you wish it to be, just so long as it feels right for your characters.  Anything that can be dreamt of, can be used.

From an alternate reality that is different in only one point to ours, to the bizarre, anything is up for use.  If something happens in your world, you must know what the consequences will be.  I believe that it is this that pushes most writers to use the ‘modern day’ world.  We all know what would happen if someone were kidnapped or murdered.  But what if the consequences were different?

Perhaps kidnapping someone could gain you access to a secret society.  Falling in love could be seen as being alien and punishable by public humiliation.  Or perhaps it is something less prosaic than that, what if, we discover that we are not on Earth after all but some other planet, light years away from ours? And who said that the characters have to be human?  By changing the species, you would change their entire world and how they interact with it.

Cows could be the dominant species, demanding that we milk them three times a day on punishment of death.  What would be the point of cities and nations if we were unable to advance beyond the Milking age? Whatever world you chose, spend time fleshing it out.  Don’t be afraid to get things wrong.  You are the creator and only you know what it right and what isn’t.  All you have to do is make it and convince others it is true.

The first post!

And so here it is, the first post to my brand new website.  What could I possibly say in this post which could help others the most?


One of the fundamental pillars of writing, is characters.

Before you even start your story, you need to consider each and every character you wish to have, even if your story is one page long.  As a writer, you need to understand what the character looks like, what they like, what they hate, what their family is, what their political affiliations are, what religion they are, what is their job; basically, how do they fit in the world?

You need to know each character like you know your best friends.  That way, you can write about them with an authenticity that you would not normally be able to achieve.  You know these people so well, that they rarely surprise you.  Of course, it is up to you to decide whether you want them to do something out of the ordinary.  But, without knowing what that ‘ordinary’ is, how can they be different?

Your characters need to feel and sound real.  They also need to be different from each other, as well as you.  At some point, you will notice that they begin to sound like mildly alternate versions of yourself.  Sure, one or two could have some of your traits in them, but not all.  If they all sound the same and act the same, it is time to take a step back and look at things again.

Observation of the people around you (not necessarily your family, friends and work colleagues), will help you to understand the multitude of characteristics that are out there.  Don’t be afraid to watch others, just don’t make it too obvious!  For some reason, many people do not like to be stared at.