December 30, 2015

flyA couple of weeks ago I submitted my novel, ‘Blindsided‘, to 5 agents. I upped my game this time and hired the services of an editor BEFOREHAND for a critique of the whole novel, to copy-edit the first 3 chapters and help with the synopsis and cover letter.

Overall I’m well happy this submission package is a lot better than the previous 2 I’ve sent out in the past purely because I’ve had an editor work with me on it. Comparing what I’ve put together for Blindsided with my 2 previous novels plus the fact I think this novel has more commercial appeal means I’m giving it my very best shot.

Also, because my previous 2 novels were speculative fiction and this current one is more of a contemporary novel, I’m also looking for different agents which makes the searching a little more interesting and also widens the net a little.

So now I’m in a little dead zone between finishing one novel and starting another. A welcome break until I crack open a brand new notebook and start thinking about what to write next. I’m going to catch up on some reading this month and maybe do some more blog posts if I can think of anything remotely interesting to write about, whilst I try to await responses from agents, patiently.



blindsided-betaAs you can see, I’ve produced some printed versions of my latest novel, ‘Blindsided‘, to give to beta readers. I’ve also put together a PDF version to give to those beta readers who prefer ebooks and to email readers overseas.

I’ve got 10 beta readers so far. I may get a couple more, but I think 10 is a good round number. 5 men and 5 women. 3 over 60 yrs old and 7 between 25-40 yrs old. 2 x American and 8 x English.

I’ve written an introductory page telling them what to focus on (character, story, awkward phrasing, etc) and what not to focus on (spelling, grammar, layout, etc) plus I’ve added 6 questions at the end which are specific points I want answered in case they don’t address them in their feedback (If you want to see this introductory piece and extra questions then add a comment and I’ll blog about it).

This is all purely reader feedback, different from a critique you’d get from an editor, but still essential. This is the first time anyone, except me, will have read it. Is it interesting, does it make sense? These are all fundamental questions regular readers can answer. Number 1: did you finish it?

Some beta readers are new ones I’ve picked up over the past couple of years while the others are readers I’ve asked before and they’ve given good, constructive feedback.

So there it is. ‘Blindsided’ leaves my laptop for the first time and steps out into the big bad world.

But it’ll be back in a month or two for a good scrub down, change of clothes and a haircut before I send it out again for an actual, paid editor to review.

Suppose I better start thinking about Novel 4?

January 12, 2014

I thought I’d whip up a quick post with links to a couple of playlists I created in iTunes as a follow up to this previous post back in December 2010, ‘Some of my writing playlists‘, but iTunes appear to have totally destroyed that facility.

So, instead, you’ll just have to do with a screenshot of iTunes and then go hunt the tunes yourself, if you feel so inclined. Not sure where the progress is in all this but who am I to criticise Apple?

The following 3 playlists are mainly deep house as I seem to require a groove to keep the words flowing and the procrastinating stunted.


This is the forth writing playlist I created, so I called it ‘Foursight’. As you’ll see, I’ve stuck with this quirky/unoriginal numbering/naming convention. I created this one in-between novels I think.


Essential download: Lamur (Henry Saiz Remix) – Guy J

A Bunch of Fives

This one fuelled the first half of Blindsided.


Essential download: Simulation – Roisin Murphy

Six of the Best

This one kept the fires burning for the second half of Blindsided.


Essential download: Heartbreaker – Crazy P

I’m already in the middle of compiling ‘Lucky No.7’ for the second draft of Blindsided.

Let me know what tunes you listen to, especially if they’re house/ambient related and have a groove that would make the jackboot stamping down on Winston Smith’s face, at least do it rhythmically.

Here’s the first thing I wrote in my notebook for ‘Blindsided‘. The initial idea I had swilling around in my brain parts for a few months as I was finishing off my previous novel, ‘Broken Branches‘.

I’ve only just finished the first draft of Blindsided so there’s a couple of drafts to go before any beta readers are going to see it, but I’m not afraid of revealing my initial concept this early. It’s just to show that from a fairly simple idea a whole novel can sprout forth; give someone a problem and then find out how they deal with it, how it affects them, affects others, drives them, limits them, etc.

It’s funny because this blog post from December 2011, ‘Novel 3: Before the absolute beginning‘, containing a few thoughts I was having for the 3rd novel, bares absolutely no resemblance to the completed first draft. I think that’s because those thoughts are based around events which of themselves don’t tell an interesting fictional story; that first paragraph introduces a character you can build a story around.

That paragraph from my notebook is dated May 2012 so after 6 months of thinking and finishing the 2nd novel, I’d come up with a completely different concept for the 3rd. I then finished writing (procrastinating) in my notebook and started the actual first draft in September 2012, ‘Novel 3 is Go, Go Go!‘.

If you use this as the starting point for your novel, it would probably end up in a whole different place. So go for it if you want…you can’t copyright ideas. Writers are much more guarded than this but I’m no-one at the bottom with nothing to lose and thought it might be interesting to release a brief glimpse into the wild.

If you’re interesting in illegible, gobbledegook notes then check out this post featuring notes from my previous 2 novels, ‘Illegible Chapter by Chapter Planning Notes‘.

That’s it really.

No, I have absolutely no idea what my 4th novel might be about. I’m not panicking…yet.

bwainOMG! I finally finished the first draft of Blindsided!

This is my third novel and seems to have been the hardest one to finish. The other two had their moments but this one was like giving birth to a rhino with 9 legs.

I started on 14th September 2012, had my usual late winter freeze with two months of plotting and no writing, I then hit another wall and also had the nightmare of losing 5,000 words. I finished the first half of the first draft at the end of August but then rushed on with a mountain of momentum and finished the second half only 3 months later.

Here might be the answer to this conundrum.

With my first two novels I did quite a bit of research, substantially more plotting and they were more dystopic/speculative novels. Literary sounds too heavy but Blindsided is definitely not sci-fi, I guess you could classify it as ‘Contemporary fiction’.  I did zero research and very minimal plotting, I just dived head first into it. It felt good at first but I soon became lost in the lack of plotting, and without a big dystopic idea to hold on to, I found it harder to make so-called ordinary, everyday lives readable and interesting.

My big fear in going back in for the second draft is; I haven’t.

Finishing this novel’s first draft was also a bit of an anti-climax for some reason. I think it’s because I’ve got a few nagging doubts but the more time goes by, the happier I am with it. I arrived at the finish in a slightly different route to the previous two novels, so maybe I’m having to adjust to that.

Maybe I’ve become more of a gristled, cynical, disillusioned writer and that brief sweet taste of victory at the end is now meaningless. I hope not!

I’m looking forward to the second draft. It’s probably my favourite draft. The first draft is a daily battle against blank pages, the third draft and onwards are basically touching up. The second draft is serious editing, rewriting, fixing, assessing, understanding and the first reading where you know how it all ends.

It’s currently 57,000 words long which isn’t long enough to be traditionally published but I always skimp on description and musing in the first draft, so I’ll be looking to finish the second draft at around 65,000 words.

I’m going to have a break between now and the second draft though. A break from Blindsided but not from writing, I plan on self-publishing my first novel Railroaded. A whole new sphere of headaches, no doubt!

fuckedThis is a tale of pain and despair but it should be enjoyable…for you, because it didn’t happen…to you.

In a nutshell, I lost 5,000 words (3 chapters) of my latest novel, ‘Blindsided‘, after getting up some good momentum.

I’m a switched-on technology user, well versed in the various methods of backing up your stuff but I have been defeated. I’ve been using a MacBook Air for about 3 years now and I only really use it for writing so I’m not a bona fide 100% Apple Genius, but I’m no mug.

That’s what I thought, anyway.

Little did I know that Lion OSX has a ‘unique’ feature where it ‘locks’ documents that haven’t been used for 2 weeks. I’m not sure how my novel got sucked into this helpful fucking ‘fix’ but it did. It hardly goes 2 days without being amended, let alone 2 frigging weeks.

The other helpful feature is that you can still USE a fucking locked document so it behaves like an ‘editable’ document.

…read more »

toshJust finished the first draft of the first half of ‘Blindsided’! You have to celebrate these little milestones otherwise life is just a series of smashing blank pages without reward.

This novel is a game of two halves with a little bit of an epilogue of extra time at the end.

That’s where the football metaphors end.

(I suppose submitting it to agents is a penalty shoot-out, but nevermind…)

Each half is written in the first person of a couple. The first half as the guy after they split. The second half is through the woman as they get together.

Just spent some time today getting into the mindset of the woman and what she’s going to do throughout this second half which actually comes before the first half, chronologically. So, there’s that to get my head round too.

How’d the first half go, Ben? Thanks for asking, not bad. Some bits I really like, others I was thinking I’m going to have to rewrite this whole bit as I’m writing it. This is a different novel to the previous two and it’s been a different experience writing it but as with the previous two, the second half feels as though it’s going to get easier as the momentum builds and you gain confidence from seeing the word and page counts rise.

The first half is always a bit of a slog with doubt and second thoughts creeping in but funnily enough, as soon as that first half was completed it immediately felt better than it had all the way leading up to it. It’s completeness adds something positive to it that you can only see once it’s complete.

I love rewriting. I think it’s probably what I love most about the whole process because you’ve done the hard creative stuff and slogged through the first draft. Rewriting is tarting it up, correcting errors and making it flow – and I’m looking forward to doing that with the first half. I think that’s a good sign, right?

readerI’m getting back on it and I have evidence. I’ve just finished about 3 chapters over the past month or so which is good going for this novel. 26,000 words in total.

It’s been a struggle at times as you can see in previous posts but with a little help and new momentum I’ve been moving on quite well, writing most days.

So what stopped me?

Well, I had other things going on which were taking up my mind and creativity, also this novel has been the one I’ve done the least amount of research and note taking before starting – it’s a more of a fly by the seat of your pants approach – and I also realised I was reading a lot less too.

There’s this quote by Stephen King that seems to pop up in my Twitter timeline once a week;

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

…read more »

June 30, 2013

stuckThis is the first post in a while. I hit a wall with the novel and when that happens everything else writing related takes a hit too.

I’m about a third of the way through my third novel, ‘Blindsided’, and had no idea where else to go even though I had the general structure done and was happy with it. The problem I was having consisting of building a compelling story and not just filling in the gaps with crap. I still went to the coal face and chipped away at a few sentences on a regular basis but, generally, it was pretty poor progress. I always had my fingers crossed, hoping inspiration would strike and away I’d go again, rejuvenated.

It never happened.

Then a close friend asked how it was going. I gave the usual shrug of the shoulders and hoped that was the end of it. You write by yourself, right? How can someone else help?

…read more »

March 17, 2013

writing-later This weekend I’ve finally cracked open the laptop and written some more of my 3rd novel. This is after about a 2 month lay-off.

(Ironic since my last post was about improving my productivity).

Why? Real life getting in the way. Nothing drastic going on but I found my creative energies and focus were being directed elsewhere plus I had written myself into a place which wasn’t obvious how I could get out of it.

So how did I get back on track? What I wanted to do elsewhere had been achieved so it was just a question of knuckling down and getting back down to business. I still don’t really know where I’m going with this novel and there’s a huge gaping hole in the second half of the paper thin structure I’ve got in my mind but once you sit down and start typing it’s amazing how easily the words and the images in your head can flow together.

That is the most enjoyable part for me.

So now all I have to do is keep this momentum going until I finish. I’ve done about 11,000 words so probably about 65,000-75,000 more before I call it a day.

I’ve also found that not caring what anyone else might think about what I’m writing down helps. This is a first draft so I can always rewrite anything I don’t actually like later but caring about what others might see during a first draft is a stupid way to think. Leaving that baggage behind is liberating.

You don’t really even have to care if the whole thing makes sense or is ‘exciting’, just write down what the characters are doing. If they’re interesting and compelling enough, they’ll do interesting and compelling things all on their own.

This novel has been the one I’ve done the less amount of research and note-taking on but thinking about it, maybe I should be doing even less and simply focus on doing more writing.

* and on a side note, I’ve finally committed to the title ‘Blindsided’ and have updated the side menu link. I’m finally getting shit done.