Charting a path – Book Update.

My book is currently on its second revision and out with volunteer readers for feedback. The plan was to do a third revision, then a proofread and finally…well, that depended on what my readers said.

I’m realistic about this. I am not an author. This is the first book I’ve written and I don’t really know if I am any good at. I am bad at self-criticism and the plan always was to make a decision on how much effort to put into publishing once I knew whether people liked it.

Problem is, that feedback isn’t coming.

Now it will. It’s not been in the wild for that long but the lack of early responses has been surprising. I was always concerned the initial few chapters weren’t strong enough and I am now confident this is a problem. I suspect once my readers get a few chapters in they are likely to keep going but my belief is that a weak first few chapters are slowing that adoption.

I was able to get some solid feedback from a reading group I am a member of. I have had a small amount of feedback prior to this and while appreciated, the feedback provided by the writing group was rawer. I understood there was too much exposition but I didn’t realise how much of a problem it was. I understood I introduced too many ideas, but again, I didn’t realise how much it was hurting my writing.

I’m inserting a new step as a result, an additional draft that will involve going through and trying to deal with these mistakes. My plan is to focus on the following areas.


  • Remove Exposition
  • Delay information until it’s actually needed
  • Reduce Adverbs
  • Reduce ‘said’ synonyms
  • Fix speech grammar


The speech grammar is an interesting one. I genuinely thought “ could act as a sentence ender. I.e. if you wrote


“Hey” she said “What are you doing”

This would actually be valid but instead it should be

“Hey,” she said “What are you doing.”


I don’t know how I got this far without realising this. I genuinely didn’t know and so this issue persists through the book.

I still plan to do a revision based on reader feedback. I do expect to get feedback, I just think the weak start is slowing it down. The first three chapters are currently posted on this blog but at some point I will be replacing them with a third revision. I’ve already rewritten the first chapter and the cuts were savage, almost 800 words were cut. Is it better? I hope so, but we are back to that same problem, feedback.

The first few chapters need to be good. The nature of the story makes it difficult to start on an exciting scene (Though I am considering a prologue) and thus to draw people in, the start must be tight. I cannot keep rewriting and asking people to reread it, especially since I am having trouble getting people to read the first version.

I think my writing group can help with this. I am doing my best to read other people’s work despite my limited time so that I can request help in return. So far this has worked okay and it is how I managed to get the feedback I needed. There is also the potential of paying people to read it but I’m not wealthy. I could only consider doing that if I knew that investment would give it a good chance of commercial success and to know that I need, yup, feedback. It’s a catch 22 and something that has been genuinely causing me a lot of stress.

Fortunately, the feedback from my writing group has reduced that stress somewhat. I feel like I have some idea of what I need to do. I know if I can fix some of the issues I mentioned I can make it better, but I still don’t know how good it will be in the end.

I may post the revised Chapter 1 here at some point but there are not too many people watching just now. Certainly when I get the first 3 completed I will replace the preview copy in the sidebar. It’s a stressful time but I mean to see it through. I fully intend to finish what I started.

When grimdark is too grim and too dark

Grimdark is popular these days. This did not begin with Game of Thrones but it certainly encouraged writers to consider more fatalistic story telling. It seems everyone wants to be gritty and serious and while it can work, I think it often falls flat.

Life is almost never truly grimdark. It can feel that way at times but even when we are on our deathbeds, it is often human nature to face the long night with humour. Setbacks hurt, but they tend to hurt more when we were genuinely hopeful of success.

I think this is often a problem with Grimdark. For the kick to really hurt, there had to be a realistic hope that the outcome would be positive. When the fifth awful thing happens in a row, not only can it seem trivial due to the existing situation, it becomes expected. Relentless grimdark is predictable and there were points in Game of Thrones (TV at least, I’ve not read the books) where I honestly lost interest due to how expected some of the deaths became.

It can also lead to unsympathetic characters. People surviving in grimdark universes are often shown at their worst. We don’t see the bright points of their personalities and the humour that often exists in real life is rarely present.

I want to use Star Gate Atlantis as a counter example. Bear with me, it’s a good one, I promise and if this is as geeky as you think this blog is going to get, wait till I put on my weeaboo glasses.

Star Gate Atlantis is not grimdark. It’s an adventure show using a plot of the week structure. One of the characters in the show is called Rodney McKay and he was there primarily as an engine for humour. He was awkward, arrogant and neurotic but ultimately sympathetic and entertaining. Over several series they built up another character, Katie, who was attracted to him despite his flaws. She was shown to have a seemingly endless supply of patience.

In season 4 there was an episode called Quarantine. In this episode, Mckay was trapped with Katie as the base went into lock-down. His neurosis and paranoia went into overdrive and over the episode, bit by bit, he finally managed to wear her down. What had been a cute ‘not quite relationship’ failed in a genuinely heart wrenching way. It was powerful because it had started on a high. Had Atlantis been a ‘grimdark’ show like the failed Stargate Universe (Apologies, I know it has its fan) then the effect would have been far less potent. If we didn’t like Mckay and didn’t care about him, this scene wouldn’t have been that memorable.

Grimdark can of course work. There have been several spectacular examples recently and it’s that success that draws so many people towards it, but I fear many looking to emulate that success are missing the pitfalls. Grimdark is not a style to be attempted loosely or you end up with Star Trek Discover (Apologies to the Star Trek Discovery fan as well!)

Style versus Convention

Writing has unspoken rules. Mix your sentence lengths. Show don’t tell. Don’t switch POV between chapters without a robust structure. Okay. Perhaps unspoken is the wrong word. A quick Google search will easily find these and more.

I was recently reading a book excerpt on a writing group I’ve joined. It was written in a style reminiscent of Pratchet and as a result a lot of conventional wisdom did not apply. It was a difficult piece to critique because structures that should not work did, and each place a rule was broken, it seemed a valid stylistic choice.

It begs a second question. If style can trump convention, should convention be discarded more often? Additionally, is an absolute adherence to convention a bad thing? Do people develop a unique voice through their ‘mistakes’ If everyone’s work was broken down by an endless march of editors would it become like a blurred average of faces. Beautiful but unremarkable?

This isn’t the first time I’ve considered this question. As mentioned before I have a condition called aphantasia. I have no visual imagination and cannot picture things from memory. When I write, I cannot see the scene and instead run logically through a list of events that I want to happen. This naturally has an impact on my writing and it tends to be very logically ordered as a result. Additionally, visual language is perhaps lacking while a focus is placed on characters thoughts and feelings. Is this a problem? Or is it in these flaws that I gain my style? It’s difficult to say, and I genuinely don’t have an answer.

I’m not suggesting we discard convention, and if in an attempt to develop your voice you decide your next piece will drop full stops in favour of a single ten-thousand word run-on sentence, well, I wish you the best of luck. I think however, it is worth considering if something might be lost in the search for perfection. Perhaps by letting some flaws through, we may show more of ourselves. We are after all, only human.

Why Write?

I found myself in an interesting conversation recently which essentially boiled down to ‘Why Write?’

I don’t mean ‘Why Write’ as in, why bother doing the activity at all, but rather, what are the motivations behind writing? What should the motivations be and are they all equally valid?


Advice I once read was ‘Write for yourself first’ This isn’t some nugget of ancient wisdom. I am sure you have heard the same worded in many different variations from a plethora of sources, but I think it’s worth examining.

The concept is simple. If you write for yourself, if your goal is to enjoy the process, it doesn’t matter what happens at the end. Don’t write what you think other people want. Don’t write what you think is popular. Write what you want, try and make the process the goal rather than the result.

It makes sense, right? And I certainly took it to heart. The choices I have made with my novel boiled down to writing the kind of story I like. I like shape-shifting as a theme so the characters are were-foxes. I prefer female protagonists. I toned down some of the elements to try and increase the appeal but ultimately, I took a route that I knew would turn some people off. An approach that some people would find too weird to consider reading.

So, I took that advice right? I was writing for myself. That was the answer to ‘Why Write?’


Like most things, it’s more complicated than that. Now that I’ve reached the second draft and the core process of writing moves on to editing, I can start to examine that answer. Why Write? Was I really only writing for myself?

Before I started writing seriously I spent a lot of time drawing. Like many people, I have a creative streak and originally art had been my main outlet. Unfortunately, I have a condition called aphantasia and despite making great strides, I struggled to get good enough to get any real attention. Sure, I wanted to become better for my own satisfaction, but even when you are proud of your own work, I think we all want the acknowledgement of others. Art in a vacuum feels wasted. You ultimately want to entertain and I cannot help but be disappointed when a piece I am proud of receives no response.

My natural disadvantages do not really manifest in the same way when writing. I decided I was going to pursue that instead. I did set out following that advice, to write first for myself, but can I really be satisfied with my own self-entertainment. Is it okay for my work to exist in a vacuum?


In my cse, I’m not sure it is. I took that original lesson to heart. I wrote the kind of story I would like to read using themes that I enjoy, but I still want it to be a success. I think hearing people enjoyed it would mean more to me that any financial boon it might bring. Perhaps that’s a sign of a shallow heart, a need for approval that stems from a psychological flaw, but it is who I am and if there is anything we cannot deny, we each are who we are.

In the end, there are multiple reasons that I write and some reasons matter more than others, but I think it’s interesting to ask yourself that question. So, Everyone. Tell me. Why do you write?

Cherry and Rosa Hazelwood, Supernatural Detectives

It’s no secret that I have been working on a novel for the last five months. In fact, if you count the time i spent writing short stories in preparation, I have been at it for almost a year.

The plan always went write the first draft, produce a second draft and send it out for feedback. Produce a third draft and then…something.

That something is a hard question. Do I self publish? (probably) do I try and go the more traditional publishing route? (I suspect not) do I burn it in an industrial incinerator and hope everyone forgets how bad it was? Well, fingers crossed its not that bad.

But that’s where we are. is it any good? What route should I pursue based on it’s quality and could it be moved up the chain from Incinerator to Self publish to Traditional Publishing with more work?

This is my first attempt at a novel. I am a new Writer. I do have a support network but its not enormous and I have little knowledge on what I should do when I decide that’s it. This is the final draft. It’s time to go.


After discussion with a friend considering a similar path, I decided I should open up the first few chapters of my work to open criticism. This should help me get feedback on what needs to improve but if people enjoy it perhaps it will also help me get a little attention. If it feels a little bit like shilling, I cannot deny there is an element of that but I am a complete unknown, and my end goal is to entertain, so, hopefully everyone wins. I get advice to improve and you discover a potential work you might like in future.

Regardless of anything, whether you read the first paragraph and stop, whether you don’t read it at all but took the time to read this post, I appreciate it. New writing is produced everyday and the number of self published works on Amazon is staggering. As hard as I’ve worked to reach this stage, it feels like it is only the beginning. At least if I want this to be more than a self satisfied anecdote where i can proclaim “I wrote a novel you know!”

So! What of the book, What of the three chapters I am offering up?

It is a tale of two were fox detectives taking inspiration from the likes of The Dresden Files, World of Darkness and a number of other sources. It is Urban Fantasy at heart, a genre I enjoy and need to read more of. I offer a short, inexpertly written blurb below.


Setting up a detective agency seemed like a good idea. It required no qualifications, modest initial costs and demand was only growing as the supernatural world merged with the mundane. Unfortunately, a series of overlooked costs, the fact that people expect supernatural detectives to be mages and sudden, unexpected competition, meant that the predicted rocky start has become downright hazardous. Fortunately, Cherry and Rosa are shifters, a race of were-creatures with powerful senses that can help compensate for their lack of training, but if they don’t get a good case soon, none of that will matter and they will have no choice but to close the office.


I am offering the first 3 chapters but if there is demand ill post the fourth as well. Any feedback is welcome be that ‘I enjoyed it’, ‘I thought it was rubbish’ or ‘I only read stories written in second person presented in future tense’


Rosa&Cherry HazelWood Supernatural Detectives 1-3