The NaNo Novel Mix-Up

On the 1st of November, 2012, I began writing the first draft of what would later become Dead and Buryd. Since then, every November I sat sat down and written the first 50,000 words of the next Out of Orbit novel. I fully expected it to happen this year too, the final book for what would hopefully be my 5th year of completing the challenge.

Only, things didn’t quite go the way I wanted them to. With only two days between the release of Rack and Ruin and the beginning of NaNoWriMo, not to mention my 30th birthday and various outings, the end of October loomed before I’d written a single word of coherent chapter planning for the final book in the Out of Orbit series.

Instead, I decided that this NaNo would be a mish-mash of stories. I would chase the shiny ideas and see which ones stuck. I would finally finish writing Meat, the second book in the Teeth series. I would start something brand spanking new and not give a thought to who was waiting for it to be finished.

Because, since I’ve started selling my books, that is a monumental level of stress, one that I haven’t completely figured out how to deal with. Knowing that readers are waiting for the next book in the series is scary. You know they liked the first, and now the next has to be better, and better, and … Okay, I need to stop and take some deep breaths.

I love writing sequels, there is no doubt about that. With the world already set up, the characters familiar in my head, it’s easy to jump into the action and make things more complicated than ever before. I like the mess, and I like the well worn shoes of a series.

But, I also love writing something nobody knows about, knowing that it’s just for me and it doesn’t matter if I stop halfway through and don’t look at it again for six months. I like letting ideas stew in my head, to be forgotten and remembered at inopportune moments (like when I’m trying to finish something else.)

So, I threw the rules out of the window. I’m not actually trying to write a novel this November, I’m writing bits of lots of stories. I’m currently at 32,000 words and there are 4 distinct novels in there. I’m getting to the end of a chapter and then switching. I’m writing for ten thousand words straight on a single idea because I’m enjoying it so much. I’m going to write some Out of Orbit, but when I get there is when I get there.

I’m doing the NaNo Novel Mix-Up, and maybe, by this time next year, I’ll have one or two of them out there with readers so that they can join the stress of the great unwritten sequels.

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Sowing the Seeds of Book Buildings

G.R.R Martin once classified writers as gardeners or architects. Architects plan where every beam of character will go, how every wall of plot goes in a building, before they lay the first brick of writing. Gardeners, on the other hand, plant seeds and nurture them to grow.

When it comes to the great plotting verses pantsing debate, I mostly sit on the plotting side of the fence. I will often have ten thousand words of chapter planning before I write the first word on a manuscript. I know that things will change slightly, but I know my beginning and end. I like to think that I’m on a road trip. I know where I’m going and how I’ll start, but I’m perfectly willing to take detours if I get stuck in a traffic jam.

I am also writing this knowing that what works best for me is simply that: what works for me. Where I plan, others make fantastic books by writing and seeing where it takes them. Hell, sometimes I do that too. My first book in the TEETH series was just that, me writing and seeing where it went… for the first ten chapters. After that, lost on a road somewhere, I realised that I might need a map if I wanted to get the rest of the way.

When I started Meat, the second book in the TEETH series, I plotted the first 15 chapters of the book and then began writing. I was starting with a new set of characters, and while I knew the ending, I needed to figure out how the traffic was flowing before I cemented my journey in SatNav.

I’ve now written 21 chapters of this book, and the last 6 have been by me plotting as I went, always getting myself to the next rest stop before pausing to figure out the next leg. I realised that, while I’d come a significant distance, I was lost, and in order to make the rest of the journey, I’d need to back track a little.

What this meant in writing terms was that I needed to start at the beginning. By writing more than half of the book, I now knew that one of the new POVs I’d been writing was redundant for the second half of the novel. I also realised that my final destination was actually further than I’d originally planned. So, I restarted my plot. I took out the redundant POV via the chapter plan, and re-planned those chapters to be written into scenes by the POVs I would be keeping. This meant that, due to my POV hopping, I was losing 5 chapters. As TEETH: The First Bite was 25 chapters, I wanted to keep MEAT: The Second Serving at roughly the same.

Here is the funny thing. Even though I thought I was completely lost, by re-plotting my route, I realised that in fact, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I’d been around a few too many roundabouts, taken a few too many stops at motorway service stations, but it had actually led me to where I needed to be. I just hadn’t realised it.

In the last two hours, I’ve written out the chapter plan for the last 8 chapters of the book and everything fits perfectly into place. Beams I’d put in place are now centrepieces for a room, and seeds I’d sowed without thinking are growing into fruitful trees.

So, G.R.R Martin, I agree with you that Architects and Gardeners play a big part in writing. However, I don’t think you have to be one or the other. I think you can be both, whether at the same time or in different drafts of the same project. You can build your main plot and let the vines of subplots grow around it. You can be an Architect for one project and a Gardener for the next.

So, I think I’m going to take my experience of designing book-buildings, and I’m going to make a greenhouse to grow all those wonderful seeds.

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Rack and Ruin: Tours, Covers, and Blurbs

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a post here, which admittedly is due to a number of factors including crazy work schedule, writing a hell of a lot, and attempting to get Rack and Ruin, the third book in the Out of Orbit series, ready for release, and I have a lot of exciting tidbits to tell you all today.

Rack and Ruin will be released on 29th October 2015. Yes, I am releasing it on my birthday, the third book to celebrate the end of my third decade.

Obviously, there are a lot of steps in getting a book ready for release (and to turn 30,) and as we come towards the end of September, I’m getting most of that work back so that I can share it with you.

The print formatted version is coming back from a fantastic proofreader, Rachel, within the next few days, everything is set up for eBook formatting, and today, I am very excited to have received the cover art back from Design for Writers. Once again, they have done a fantastic job in adding to this little brand of mine.

Rack and Ruin cover

Additionally, I also have the blurb from my fantastic editor, Andy Lowe.

“You ready to break out of the cage, little bird?”

Georgianna Lennox has been released by her keeper Edtroka, who has sided with the Cahlven, a technologically advanced race exiled from her home planet hundreds of years earlier.

When Edtroka disappears, Georgianna and a group of rebel friends are forced to embark on a dangerous scouting mission behind enemy lines.

As the Cahlven’s true intentions become clear, Georgianna and the rebels hatch an audacious plan to turn the Adveni’s most powerful weapon against them — at a terrible cost.

To celebrate the release of the book, Faye Rogers is helping me organise a blog tour involving interviews, guest posts, and reviews of the series. If you would like to take part, please follow this link. You can review the first book or the whole series, however you choose!

If you’d like to review Rack and Ruin but are not interested in the blog tour, you can get an Advance Review copy by contacting me personally on chelecooke[at] and I can send an eBook format of your choice by the end of the week. Please note that reviews should be posted by 29th October 2015. 

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The Idea-Space Continuum and other Writing Science

Every summer, my quiet little halls of residence job goes crazy. Ninety percent of the students move out and we become a low priced hotel to anyone and everyone who wants to book. This means weekend shifts and the office being open until 10pm. It means more temporary staff and training and… let’s just say that things get very busy. The problem I find is that the busier I am, the more ideas I have for stories. I have never suffered writer’s block so heavily as my 8 month stretch of unemployment when I had all the time in the world. Looking back on it, I know that I should have bashed my head against a wall until something came out, but shoulda, woulda, coulda.

In the last month alone, despite a crazy work schedule, one book in editing, one being written, and three more in chapter plans, I’ve had two new ideas now fighting for attention.

So, I started thinking about this and how it makes sense biologically. The harder we work our brain, the more we can use it without tiring it out, like any other muscle. When it comes to physics, however? There we find things get a little… messy.

The Idea-Space Continuum, instead of using Space for 3 dimensions and Time for the 4th, as found in the Space-Time Continuum, uses Imagination, Current Projects, and New Ideas for the first 3, and Available Time for the 4th.

If time is a positive large number, we end up with something along the lines of:


As Available Time gets shorter, Imagination jumps into overdrive. The more projects you have, the more imagination. Soon, we find that instead of solving for Time, we solve for Imagination instead because who knows if time will continue in its decline and we won’t have enough to write all these new imaginative ideas down.

So it ends up looking like this:


When things get especially bad, we might as well just throw logical algebra out the window.


Then, of course, you have Writing Relativity. Now, we all know that E=MC² when we’re discussing science, but what about writing? How does the mass of a project change our propensity for ideas?

So, taking the equation E=MC², we’re going to replace Energy with Creation of Ideas, Mass with Mass of current projects, and Speed of Light with Available Time.

Therefore, we get:

Creation of Ideas = Current Project Mass   X  Available Time²

We can also explain this via black holes. According to science, time slows the nearer you get to a black hole (or any massive body.) Imagine your Imagination as a black hole… Let me tell you that the closer you get to your imagination, the further you delve into it… your available time seems to disappear as well.


All in all, even ignoring my odd scientific references,  my point here is that the more work we have, the more our imagination kicks into warpspeed. Soon, we find ourselves in the middle of a pile of projects and not enough time to get through them all.

And relatively, scientifically or otherwise, we find ourselves more or less than, screwed.

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Kicking and Crying in Marketing and Editing

The Kickstarter for book 3 in the Out of Orbit series has eight days to go. If you’ve been considering supporting this and getting some goodies and some exclusive stuff not to be found anywhere else, now is the time.

I’ve learned some funny things during this kickstarter campaign. The first being that I absolutely hate the hard sell. I’m not good with marketing in that way. Mostly, I sort of amble along and attempt to be interesting and/or funny. Sometimes I manage to do both at the same time but even that isn’t really enough when you’re going and asking people to donate to something. I’ve had to drag myself kicking to put up posts reminding people about the kickstarter because, on the whole, it’s not something I’m good at. I’m better at the random updates and little insights into my life and my writing. Certainly something to improve on if I was going to try this again.

One of the more encouraging things I’ve found is that I enjoy making videos. I’m not particularly good at it at the moment and I end up with more bloopers than I do usable material, but I have fun doing it, and that’s the main thing. Maybe, when I have more time, I’ll start doing more videos on other topics.

Even outside of the kickstarter, I’ve been incredibly busy this month. My nephew was born yesterday, so I’m very excited to go and visit my family this weekend. His name is Henry, which not only gives him the nickname Harry (as confirmed by my sister) but his initials are HP. As a big fan of the Harry Potter series, this gives me a dorky sense of excitement and I am sure many Harry Potter gifts will ensue.

Mostly, however, I’ve been editing. Rack and Ruin goes to the editor at the beginning of July and I’ve been working like a mad woman to get it ready. In most cases, it’s just line editing but there has been the occasional rewrite to bring it up to a standard I’m happy with.

What I’ve learned here is that I need to stop reading ahead. I love the story in Rack and Ruin and once I’ve finished going through a chapter, I often continue reading. The problem with this is that there is quite an emotional sequence of chapters in this one, and being a sap, I have found myself tearing up more than once, unable to continue editing.

So, for the next few days, I’ve resigned myself to only doing one chapter at a time. I can’t work continuously for hours the way I’ve been doing so far because I know I’ll get too emotional.

I think the lesson here is: Get emotional during the writing, but detach for editing.

Not entirely sure how well that will go, but I’ll let you know once I’ve done this section.

Have a great week everyone, and once again, if you’d like to get a pre-release copy of Rack and Ruin, not to mention some great extra goodies including a short story not planned to be released until next year and some exclusive bonus chapters you won’t get anywhere else, please back the kickstarter campaign. For only £10 you’ll get the entire Out of Orbit series plus the extra content. Bargain!


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Said is not dead!

Every couple of months or so a slew of posts, infographics, and articles wing their way around the internet claiming that ‘Said is Dead’. Now, I don’t know exactly how many funerals the web-browsing collective have held for the apparently dearly departed but each one has been without a body in the coffin. Said, I’m here to tell you, is alive and well!

So, let’s start at the beginning.

When referring to the term ‘said is dead’, people are claiming that ‘he/she said’ shouldn’t be used as a tag for your dialogue and that instead you should use other more exciting words. These ‘Said is Dead’ers believe that other terms such as exclaimed, commented, answered, replied, etc, will spice up your dialogue and make it more interesting for readers.


Dialogue tags should not be used to spice up dialogue. If your dialogue needs spicing up with grumbled/reasoned/taunted then your dialogue is not working hard enough. You are propping up your prose on flimsy legs instead of letting it stand and speak for itself.

If you’re writing great dialogue the reader will know whether your character is angry, upset, happy, just by what is between the quotation marks. The tag ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ is unobtrusive, used mostly to say who is speaking, not how they’re saying it.

Let’s take an example here. This is from my upcoming novel, Rack and Ruin.

“You needed me, Olless?”

“Yes, Sir. There is some disagreement over the course of action here on Os-Veruh.”

“Has something happened to change your current situation?”



“Mr. Grystch, what do you believe has changed?”

“The Adveni have been amassing their troops. They’re sending Agrah here if they’re not beyond the borders already. Before long we will be surrounded.”

I have taken out all tags here and yet the meaning behind this conversation is still clear. You can see the coolness of speaker 1 and the polite manner of speaker 2. You can even see the annoyance of speaker 3. The only reason to add dialogue tags here is to keep up with who is speaking.

Let’s see it again with the tags included.

“You needed me, Olless?”

“Yes, Sir. There is some disagreement over the course of action here on Os-Veruh.”

“Has something happened to change your current situation?”


“Yes!” Edtroka said as he got to his feet.

He turned to look at Edtroka and clasped his hands before him in the same manner as Olless. His eyes were the palest grey Georgianna had ever seen.

“Mr. Grystch, what do you believe has changed?”

“The Adveni have been amassing their troops. They’re sending Agrah here if they’re not beyond the borders already. Before long we will be surrounded.”

So, I lied a little. There was one tag. Only one tag to indicate that someone else has joined the conversation. The sentence of the character turning to speak to Edtroka indicates that this is who will continue the conversation.

Now, let’s try it one more time with some exciting words.

“You needed me, Olless?” the projection asked.

“Yes, Sir,” Olless replied meekly. “There is some disagreement over the course of action here on Os-Veruh.”

“Has something happened to change your current situation?”

“No,” she admitted.

“Yes!” Edtroka disagreed as he got to his feet.

He turned to look at Edtroka and clasped his hands before him in the same manner as Olless. His eyes were the palest grey Georgianna had ever seen.

“Mr. Grystch, what do you believe has changed?” he pondered.

“The Adveni have been amassing their troops,” Edtroka stated. “They’re sending Agrah here if they’re not beyond the borders already. Before long we will be surrounded.”

As you can see, by adding in these exciting words, we’ve actually drawn the attention away from something that was already perfectly clear in the dialogue. In fact, sometimes these new tags make things downright confusing. Edtroka is disagreeing with Olless over whether things have changed, but Yes is rarely a word we see alongside ‘disagreed’. Instead of spicing up the dialogue, we have made it clunky and have completely covered up the original flavour.

That’s the problem with spicing things up, do it too much and you mask the wonderful flavours that were there already.

Am I saying that you should never use another dialogue tag? No, of course not. But sometimes tags aren’t actually needed at all and 75% of the time, ‘he said’ is more than enough just to keep your reader on track with who is speaking. To be that silent little signpost to lead your reader along without distracting them from what they really want, to follow the story.

For reference, because sometimes a different tag is needed, here is a list of synonyms for the word said, but my advice: use them sparingly.

Don’t believe that said is nowhere near kicking the bucket? I asked some other authors what they think about said being dead…


“Unless used sparingly and for particular effect, anything other than ‘said’ sounds amateurish.” – Barbara Scott-Emmett

“I think it’s serving the same purpose it always has as an invisible building block. You don’t necessarily notice when it’s there, but you do notice when someone needlessly breaks their back avoiding it.”Nick Bryan

“Said doesn’t interrupt the reading experience. Lively words draw you into their meaning and away from dialogue, which unnecessarily bloats a good passage. Dialogue should explain enough that lively words aren’t required. I now use said regularly, having been one of those lively word users in the very beginning” – Eliza Green

“‘Said’ is invisible, employed so speech slips sideways into readers’ minds. ‘Ejaculated’, ‘divulged’, ‘spat’ etc signal dull dialogue to me.”Josa Young

“Said is invisible to the reading eye, but in audio books it can get annoying really fast.” – Pauline Baird Jones

“Most effective of all is when you don’t say “said” or “exclaimed” or anything of that sort, but can run your dialogue bare of any such tags – though this approach needs to be handled with care so as not to avoid confusing the reader as to who exactly said what.”Debbie Young

I slung aside a book I was reading recently as it uttered, spluttered, emoted, sighed, expostulated, interjected, pronounced, equivocated, murmured, offered, managed, revealed, observed, prevaricated, interrupted and confessed – in the opening chapter and I took to counting them rather than experiencing the book. On top of this it was adverb heaven – I just couldn’t take it. This was a US trad published book. Long Live “said”!Clare Flynn

” “Keep It Simple, Stupid” fits especially well with dialogue tags. The more convoluted you get, the easier the message is lost.”Samantha Warren


And, as always for this month, if you want to read more of Rack and Ruin, you can support my Kickstarter campaign!




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The Long Game

I didn’t intend on writing a blog post until next week with the kickstarter for Rack and Ruin taking up a lot of my time. However, this topic has been coming up repeatedly with my close friend over the last fortnight and I wanted to address my thoughts on it coherently.

When talking about ‘The Long Game’ in fiction, I am referring to the overall story arc of a series. Whether we are talking about a series of books, seasons in a television show, or a series of movies doesn’t matter though I believe that some of these mediums face a much more difficult challenge.

Last night I watched the final two episodes of ‘The Following’, a thriller show surrounding FBI agents as they try to capture a serial killer and his cult following. At least, that was how the show started. Joe Carroll (played by the ever fantastic James Purefoy) was a Edgar Allan Poe obsessed serial killer captured some fourteen years before the first episode. He escapes prison and uses a cult of aspiring serial killers who have been in contact with him through his time in prison to terrorise, well, everyone.

The first season of the show was astounding (in my opinion.) It was breakneck and had that same skill G.R.R Martin instilled in Game of Thrones in that you couldn’t count on your favourite characters surviving just because they were classed as a hero.

Then, season 2 came. It just makes me want to sigh. The show was still good, don’t get me wrong, and as I’ve already said, I watched it through to the conclusion of season 3. However, there was an element that I’ve seen with a lot of television shows that consistantly pisses me off… and that is that they ignore the long game.

Television shows are picked up by the season for the most part, and we have that wonderfully edge-of-our-seat period each year where we wait to see if our favourite shows get to live another year. We’ve all suffered the losses of our favourites way too soon (RIP Firefly anyone?) Unfortunately, we’ve all also seen our favourite shows extended into their own demise.

I see the same problem with books and movies. Money makers are extended past their shelf-lives just to make a bit more on the next installment and good stories that don’t immediately earn are cut off before their time.

Now, I understand that companies need to do things that make them money, but this complete aversion to the long game is belittling their fiction. Story arcs run for a season before they wait on tenderhooks to see if they get to create a whole new arc. When it comes to fiction based around the destruction of ‘the big bad’, this can be horrendous.

Imagine, if you will, that after defeating Voldemort, something Harry has been working towards for seven books, JK Rowling released a new Harry Potter novel with a new villain, a villain who was bigger and badder than Voldemort even though we’d never heard of them. Thie villain belittled Voldemort’s war and throughout the book left us wondering why the hell it took 7 books to defeat him, seeing as he was clearly such a tool.

Some series can make it work. Buffy the Vampire Slayer did this wonderfully, but Whedon also knew where to stop. Supernatural on the other hand? I love the storyline, but goddamn I think it should have ended a good few seasons ago.

The Following had the same problem. They had an absolutely wonderful villain in Joe Carroll. He was charming and psychopathic in a way that made you want him to be captured and also want him to win at the same time. He was doing something unheard of in creating a cult of killers around him. However, come season 2 and 3 and it turned out that every serial killer and his dog had accolites willing to kill and die for them. There were leaders of groups mocking Joe for being pathetic and too obsessed with fame. They completely belittled this almost impossible fight by giving you a bigger and harder one to fight next.

With the fact that television shows are booked per season, I can understand that they wanted to give fans a satisfying ending in case they weren’t picked up for season 2. However, the price of a satisying ending for the season is a satisfying show. I, for one, would have much preferred it if season 1 had been more about catching Joe’s lower accolites, taking away his defences before moving onto the people who organised the following whilst Joe was in prison. (I’m looking at you, Roderick. Killed off too soon.) Have Joe organising things, causing terror, but ultimately staying safe until the last season.

Or hell, catch him in season 2 and use him in season three to round up the rest. (Which, admittedly, they did touch on using Joe to help secure other killers.)

The point here is that by writing a single season at a time, the long game is damaged and belittled.

So, why am I writing about this? Because the same thing happens in books. Authors keep successful series churning out books past the sellby date because the series makes money. Authors of a book series are dropped from publishing houses because book 1 didn’t make a million right off the gate. We are becoming a planet of single season watchers and it kills me. Fantastic and imaginative original stories are being cut short because we don’t put the effort in to keep going. The brilliance of a shorter arc is belittled and degraded by the continuation of money-makers.

It disappoints me.

So, yes, I will write Out of Orbit for 4 books (with some short stories aside) and then I will stop. I will write Teeth for the story I have planned and then I will stop. Even if I release a book and the first volume makes me very little, I will keep writing that series until the end because who knows, maybe book 5 will be the one that brings fans.

I’m not going to drop a story because it doesn’t make a million in a month. I’m not going to drag out storylines that have used up their plot, slapping in new characters and new ‘big bads’ just because people like the hero.

I’m going to write a story for as long as it takes me to tell that story. I’m playing the long game.

Have a good Wednesday.

Don’t forget to check out my kickstarter for Rack and Ruin, the 3rd book in the Out of Orbit series.

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Out of Orbit Book 3 and Kickstarter!

Things have been rather crazy for the last month or so. I’ve been writing, editing, and promoting as well as my day job and a holiday in Wales with my family. As it turns out, even playing with my two year old niece helping hold the cue, I can still win a game of pool.

Meat is continuing on Wattpad and running along nicely, but what I really want to talk about today is Out of Orbit 3. Yes! I’m finally talking about it. It’s been a long time coming and I’m really excited to be able to reveal the title of the coming book…

Book III in the Out of Orbit series is going to be called, *insert drum roll if you like*


This is the third book of four and you’re going to be seeing the return of some of your favourite characters as well as some new people to love and loath.

To get Rack and Ruin to release, I have made a Kickstarter project. This will pay for editing, cover design, promotion, and rewards that people get for backing the project. There are some absolutely fantastic rewards, some of which I can’t wait to get my hands on myself. You also get to have a look at an exclusive preview of the Prologue of Rack and Ruin. So make sure you head on over.

You can’t leave this Kickstarter without a pre-release copy of Rack and Ruin, so if you’ve been following the Out of Orbit series, backing this project is a great way to continue reading before anyone else.

– You also get to see me talking about Rack and Ruin and the kickstarter project after about 25 failed attempts of recording a video. I might just release the bloopers if we raise enough money.

So, I hope you’ll check out the kickstarter, and I’d really like to know who you’re most looking forward to seeing in Rack and Ruin. So leave a comment below. It’s going to be a fun ride!

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Dead Stress under Deadlines

I had a very exciting day yesterday. Instead of groaning as I received yet another spam or pointless email, I was glued to my gmail as I made a decision on an editor for the third Out of Orbit book. I also had a set of designs returned from Design4Writers. All in all, it was a very good day.

Until yesterday, I have to admit that I was somewhat scared to pick an editor and not because I was worried about working with someone new. I had three incredible and lovely people lined up, I simply had to make a decision. I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to keep connections with all three, so I will certainly be trying to work with them all again.

No, the reason I was scared had nothing to do with the possibility of making the wrong decision. I was scared because by picking an editor, I was selecting dates for the work to be completed. I was giving myself a deadline to finish the book before the work was complete. Usually, I don’t set a date for editing until after the second draft is complete, meaning I know that the only thing I’ll have to do is tweak before it is handed over.

This time, I not only have to finish the draft, but I have to redraft and clean up the text. As this has been another manuscript in which I constantly worry I won’t be able to jump the bar I’ve set for myself, worrying that this book will fall flat compared to the other two, you can imagine that suddenly having a deadline is rather daunting.

But funnily enough, it’s not. Editing is set for the second week in July, which gives me two months. It will be a tight deadline. However, after the initial ‘Oh my effing god, what the hell am I doing’ freak out, I’m finding that I’m increasingly calm about it. I’m actually more excited and filled with a bigger desire to finish it. The stress of not knowing has been killed by the deadline.

Now, writing is not about convincing myself to get over my anxiety, it’s a job to be completed. It’s a job I love very very much, and I wouldn’t quit for anything, but it is a job. There is now an editor expecting that completed manuscript on a specific day.

I take part in target based events like NaNoWriMo, and I like the accountability when you know that people are watching. However, in the end you are still only accountable to yourself. You won’t be holding up someone else if you don’t finish those 50,000 words. You won’t be putting out money for delayed work.

I am accountable now, I have a deadline.

So I’m going to get back to work.


But while I’m off working, take a look at these fantastic designs for the Out of Orbit series. Drawn by me, Design for Writers have done an absolutely wonderful job in turning them into proper symbols instead of a sketch in a notebook. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

dfw-cc-nsiloq1 dfw-cc-nsiloq2 dfw-cc-nsiloq3 dfw-cc-nsiloq4 dfw-cc-nsiloq5 dfw-cc-nsiloq8

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Writing What I Know

There are two ends of the spectrum on whether or not you should ‘write what you know’. One end, as the phrase suggests, believes that you should write what you know because you’ll be able to show a deeper understanding. The other side, as you may have guessed, gives the suggestion that what you know has nothing to do with what you can write in fiction. ‘Write what you don’t know, so that you may know it better’ I believe is the phrase.

Either way, whether your intention is to write cosy small town fiction or the most epic of fantasy, what we know will always be apparent in our fiction. We use our experience, not as the whole, but as a building base. Our education leads us down paths history may have travelled before, but we walk them on different landscapes and with different skies.

As well as working on Out of Orbit and Meat, I’ve also been working on a few other projects. Mostly, this is sporadic work when pressure becomes too much. I wrote before about the confidence crash, how the bar on these two series has been set now and I have to jump over it. When that bar looks too high, when the run up a little too daunting, I like to work on something else for a little while, something nobody knows about. Something that has no bar.

The project I’ve been using for the last month or so is a post-pandemic called Fever Rig. I’m not going to put a bar on it by explaining it in detail.

One thing I have found entertaining whilst writing this (apart from the lack of high jump) is that I’ve been able to drop in little hints of things from my own life. I’ve never been in a pandemic before, especially not one that wipes out two thirds of the world’s population, but there are little things that I can put in which amuse me greatly every time I reread them.

In the chapter I’m currently working on, POV character Cooper is getting snippy with his new colleague because she didn’t lock the ambulance door when she got out. When she asks what the big deal is, he regales her with a story about when their ambulance was stolen whilst on a call out. It’s a nice little moment in a relationship that has been quite fraught until now.

Now, I’ve never worked in an ambulance, nor have I ever stolen one. A story very much like this one was told to me whilst I was completing First Aid training with the British Red Cross (a requirement of my job.) Obviously, all the details have been changed for this retelling but I loved that little insight, an incident which begins to explain some of Cooper’s obsessions when it comes to his job.

Another part of the story that I am enjoying is the little digs I’ve been able to throw in regarding health and safety. Working in a Student Halls of Residence (Dorms for the Americans) and with a job on hotel reception before that, I’ve been subjected to more health and safety training than I know what to do with. Most of it, while important (and the law) is incredibly boring and I’ve sat in rooms being told the importance of wet floor signs and fire safety leaflets all too often.

Again, I’ve never worked in a hospital, but I can imagine that they are very on the ball about their health and safety. As a portion of the story takes place in a hospital, I wanted to have those little nuggets, even though the world has changed drastically. Someone’s mopping the floor, they still use the wet floor sign simply because it’s been ingrained in them.

When people talk about writing what you know, I don’t think it should be looked at as the whole. I think that these little bits of our knowledge and experience add up to more than the creation of a well rounded story. We use these little hints, not only as hints into our characters, but also to us as the writer.

That way, we don’t just write what we know, we let the reader know us.

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