Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Writer’s Cry for Help

There comes a time when every writer needs a helping hand.On Now

It ain’t an easy business, we all know that. You wouldn’t do it unless you loved it, loved it more than any other job in the world. And there are still times when, even with this job you love, there’s nothing you’d rather do than just give up. Those times come along… well just about very day in fact.

It’s the odds you see, the damned odds. Get an agent, that’s the only way to get your work accepted by the ‘big’ publishers. But how to get an agent – why, have a history of healthy, reliable book sales of course! It’s the ultimate catch 22 of the writing world, and there’s only two ways to beat it; a) write something so in-your-fikkin-face amazing that the agent has to accept it or b) assemble a portfolio of writing success that proves to your prospective agent that people will buy your work.

Whilst achieving point A would be nice, the random variables of luck and personal taste make that one too unlikely a means of publication, at least for first-timers. That leaves me with only option B with which to break the deadlock.

To that end, since January 2011 I’ve been seeking to build up a writing CV, compiling enough successful small works to actually add a bit of credence to the ‘my storwie is amazing, plz adopt me’ query letters. At the time of writing I’ve got eight pieces of short fiction published here and there, but none of it really screams ‘thing guy’s totally the next J K Rowling!’ Until now.

Well, okay, even with this thing I’m not going to be the next J K. Buuuut… Since they accepted my story in November of last year, Jukepop Serials have been my biggest gig. The fantasy tale I’m writing for them, entitled Werekynd – Beasts of the Tanglewild, is approached the 40,000 word mark. That’s just a lil’ shy of full novel status. Being able to list Werekynd and Jukepop on my CV is a big boost, yet there’s an ever bigger one up for grabs. What if I could rightfully claim that Werekynd was the most-read of Jukepop’s 150-and-growing database of excellent serials?

This is where you come in, patient reader. NOTE: THIS IS FREE AND ONLY TAKES A MINUTE You may recall these events last Novemember  That was when Werekynd first went live, and I asked you all to back the story with your votes. You did so, and for that I’m forever grateful. Now, just as I pleaded for assistance to get Werekynd on its feet, now I must ask you to support me as it winds down. With roughly ten chapters left to be written, it’s time for anyone who is able and willing to pile in and vote. If I get the support I did last time, I may be able to break Jukepop’s record 2,500 vote barrier. But I can only do it with your help. Here’s how to go about it;

First you need to register;  ‘Uh oh,’ I hear you say. No, don’t worry. All you need is your email and a password, standard stuff. If you voted last time you’ll already have an account so skip this part! And there are NO SPAM EMAILS after you’ve confirmed registration. After you’re signed in, go to this link or search “Werekynd.”

Scroll to the bottom of the page. See the little button that says + Vote Chapter? Click on it. Then go to the next chapter, just to the left of the vote button, and click the + Vote Chapter button on that one too. There are 29 chapters, so do it for every one and you alone can garner me 29 votes! If you voted during the last push you probably already voted for Chapters 1-8, but 21 have been added since then, so you can get me 21 more votes each!

And if you feel bad for blindly voting for someone when every other work on the site is probably actually better, don’t worry. You can vote for as many serials as you want (just not multiple times on the same chapter).

I really need your help, and your friends, and your family, and your pets and your slaves (though, actually, if you’ve got any slaves that’s probably illegal, so you might want to think about turning yourself in to the nearest police centre, But not before voting). If you can get me anything, it’s really, really appreciated. Even just sharing this about will help hugely.

Finally, let me give you one big, heartfelt, writerly THANK YOU!


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Do You Even Lift – Wordcounts and Workouts

Admit it, there’s only one way to change your body, whether it’s losing that midriff podge or adding a little bulk to your coveted tricep flex. Likewise, there’s only one truly effective method of boosting strength and stamina and no, it doesn’t mean just running for the paper once a week instead of walking.

The key to mastering your body is hard work. Nothing more, nothing less.

Writing is the same, identical in fact. Everyone has writing muscles. It’s how frequently you use them that determines how healthy and strong they are. Exercise and discipline are as important for developing your writing as they are for developing your body.

When I was just a young boy (to be fair really not that long ago) I remember reading an interview with premier sci fi author Dan Abnett. In it he stated that one of the first things he did with his day was write 3,000 words for whatever project he was working on. Every day.

At the time the thought of belting out 3,000 words in a few hours made me twitch with unease, and to be honest it still does. But someone starting out their training regime doesn’t go for the biggest weights straight away, and likewise I know that despite the effort I’ve put in over the last two years I’m really only starting out on the lactic-pain-burning path of my authordom workout.

I aim for a thousand words a day, every day. That means my writing muscles aren’t great, but the discipline is there, and over time my endurance will build up. And trust me, as a writer you need endurance, Stamina is key. Ultimately you should be willing to take 1,000 poorly written words a day over 500 better ones. That’s just how the job works, because if you’re writing without intending to redraft, you’re writing to fail. Those 1,000 words can be trimmed down to 800 and enhanced, and at the end of the day they’ll be better than the puny 500.

So push your writing limits. Feel the writing burn. When you do feel it, you’ll know about it. I’ve twice written over 50,000 words in a month, 1667 words a day on average. To think that’s barely half of Mr Abnett’s daily quota makes me realise just how puny my writing muscles still are, but if I keep working I know they’ll grow.

Eventually I’ll be a lean, mean racing snake of a writer. And so will anyone who puts the hours in. Hopefully next week we’ll be exploring some of the individual writing exercise you can do to get those literary muscles toned.

But until then, get out there and wordkout!


(^ sorry)


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On Fields of Glory

Hougoumont, today and in 1815

Hougoumont, today and in 1815

That was the title of one of the two compendiums I lugged across the Channel to Belgium last month. The other was “The Waterloo Companion.”

If there’s any doubt as to what this overdue post is about, allow me to dispel it right now. Anyone who follows this humble writing blog should know of my love for history, and if you don’t then, well… I love history! I was therefore suitably excited when my parents let on that they’d bought tickets to Waterloo, Belgium, for myself and my girlfriend by way of a 21st birthday present.

When I told them I was going to ‘Waterloo,’ most people assumed I was headed to somewhere in London. Their un-knowledge, whilst annoying to any history fanatic, is understandable – the small Belgian town that was immortalised by the world’s most famous battle has since become the most common place-name on earth. Waterloo-wannabes can be found in their dozens on every continent. There’s even a Waterloo Place a kilometer north of where I am in Edinburgh, dominated by a gloriously huge statue of the Duke of Wellington (his head free from any cone. This isn’t Glasgow after all).

The Haye Sainte on the day of the battle and today - also almost unchanged.

The Haye Sainte on the day of the battle and today – also almost unchanged.

The name is famed with good reason, for to paraphrase historical novelist Bernard Cornwall, if I’d invented the battle of Waterloo from scratch for a novel, I couldn’t have made it more dramatic. Two vast armies, led by a pair of the greatest military minds in human history, in a showdown that marked the end of one era and the beginning of another.

It’s the sort of thing that first captivated my imagination, and holds it hostage to this day. Visiting that ‘field of glory’ just a little south of Brussels has been a life ambition, so as a 21st birthday present there could have been none better.

Yet as I instantly learned, there was and there is no glory at Waterloo.

It has been 198 years since the battle. Never was so much blood shed over so little a space. Over eight hours around 57,000 men and 10,000 horses were killed or maimed in a space barely 2000 meters square. Along with its many other accolades, Waterloo was history’s most horrible slaughterhouse. Yet you wouldn’t know it today.

Bar the construction of the vast artificial hill known as the Lion Mound, the battlefield remains almost unchanged – gently rolling, incredibly muddy Belgian fields, bisected by a busy roadway. Gazing out over those fields during our visit, there was no glory in sight. The place was quiet, sunny, very still. The air was heavy with a weight you can only empathise with if you have felt it. It is the human understanding of what occurred here, the crushing burden of both history – beginning and end – and the tens of thousands of very individual, personal tragedies that occurred again and again over the soil beneath our boots.

The battlefield is eerie, and desolate. I’ve visited many in America – some virtual fairgrounds, packed all year round. I’ve also stood upon the moor at Culloden, in the highlands, more times than I count. That too has a eerie sense of loss about it, but there is no feeling of abandonment there – the vast (and excellent) visitor’s centre dispels that.

Yet at Waterloo, famed across the world, there seems relatively little by way of commemoration. The museums and panoramas which do exist appear understaffed and unattended. Strangest and most disconcerting of all are the two farmhouses which stood on the day of the battle, and still remain today. Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte were the scenes of the most brutal fighting in 1815 – only 40 of the latter’s 400-strong German garrison escaped, whilst many hundreds of French died in the constant attacks on Hougoumont. Yet today there is very little memory of those tragedies – only a subconscious agony, felt in the musket-ball riddled stonework and the derelict, sagging walls. The places seem abandoned, and it appears that anywhere else these buildings would have been ideally converted into museums commemorating the loss of so many.

Yet at Waterloo there is little commemoration, and certainly no glory. Only the suffocating weight of a past that captures imaginations to this day.



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