No rules please. We’re fiction writers.

So I came across an article in the Guardian recently called Elmore Leonard’s rules for writers and saw red. (Okay, a bit of an exaggeration given all the things currently happening in the world I could get angry about. Let’s say I saw carnation pink.) Anyway, I felt compelled to write an anarchic response for writers and readers everywhere.

As always, before I move onto that, I have a handful of updates to share regarding Million Eyes.

Million Eyes — just 4 chapters to go

At the time of writing, I’m on page 248 of 291 of the final edit of Million Eyes. My copywriting work has quietened down a little over the last month, so I’ve used the time to make good headway with the edit. Now that I’m numbering each chapter (which I didn’t do before), I’m about to start editing Chapter 28, which means I have four chapters to go and the final book will have a total of 31 chapters.

My August 31st deadline for finishing is still ages away, so I’m more than on track to hit it, even as my copywriting busyness is now on the up. In fact, I’m hoping that I might have the book finished and proofread by then. I have two lovely volunteer proofreaders — my bookworm girlfriend and a fellow member of Rushmoor Writers. They tell me they’re fast readers (unlike myself), so let’s see if Million Eyes grips them enough to rattle through!

The Million Eyes Short Stories

No major news to report this month. I’m still submitting the Million Eyes Short Stories that remain unpublished, and the ones that have been published are being submitted to publications that accept reprints.

I had a particularly frustrating rejection from one publication that shall remain nameless a couple of weeks ago. It was a story called “The Bisley Boy” (regular readers of my blog might be able to guess what it’s about). The editor told me she “really liked the story” and got me to confirm that it was unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere. Then, hours later, she sent a further email saying she just wasn’t “comfortable” publishing it, but that the story was good, the writing was good, and she was sure other editors would love it. This magazine has done this to me before, telling me how much they liked The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller and saying they wanted to publish it before ultimately rejecting it.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate constructive feedback, and what writer doesn’t love praise and kind words about their writing. This magazine has given me both over the last year or so. But when a writer is told these things while an editor is still considering a story, it makes the eventual rejection so much harder. My friend at Rushmoor Writers said the editor was a “lit-tease”. She’s right. It was some serious carrot dangling.

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“Million Eyes” updates and a review of South House Retreat in Dorset

Evening all! I have come up for air following two weeks of total immersion in the final edit of my forthcoming conspiracy novel, Million Eyes. In this week’s blog, I’ll share where I’m at with everything and talk about my time at South House Retreat near Dorchester, Dorset.

Million Eyes — a deadline

By the end of the two weeks I spent at South House Retreat, I’d got through 43,000+ words of the final edit of Million Eyes, which is just over halfway. This involved editing, rewriting and one new chapter written from scratch. Parts of the earliest chapters had not had an edit for almost two years, and given how much my writing has improved in that time, they needed quite a heavy do-over.

The main issue was with one of my main characters, Gregory Ferro. For a while I’ve been struggling to picture him, struggling to feel like I know him. The breakthrough occurred a few weeks before my retreat, when I decided to change the character’s religion. Weirdly enough, a new personality — one that, despite not sharing the character’s beliefs, I could identify with more — seemed to flow quite organically from that decision.

I also added a new chapter from Gregory Ferro’s point of view to the early part of the book, just to fill in some plot gaps.

Once these early chapters were done and dusted, the pace of the edit started to increase, and the later chapters I was flying through by comparison. I’m expecting this to continue as I edit the rest of the book (apart from one chapter that, following feedback from Rushmoor Writers, requires more historical research).

So I have set myself a deadline of August 31st to finish the whole book, which means setting aside a few Million Eyes-focused days each month. In general, copywriting has to take priority, since that’s what pays the bills (until, you know, Million Eyes makes me famous and rich and all that). Having said that, that’s the good thing about being a freelance writer — my hours are my own! The next thing will be whether I actually make my self-imposed deadline. That’s the plan, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m pretty determined.

Watch this space. 🙂

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How I plan a story + story updates

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Greetings readers! Today I come bearing a handful of Million Eyes updates, and a bit of insight into how I plan and develop stories.

Million Eyes 

Work on the first novel in The Million Eyes Trilogy continues, and the end is nigh. I’m currently rewriting the very last chapter of the novel, and I’m in the process of reading the chapters immediately preceding it to my writers’ group, Rushmoor Writers, for their input.

Then there is an extra chapter I need to add much earlier on in the novel. After that, it’s a case of going right back to the beginning for the final edit. As mentioned in a previous blog, I’m waiting to hear whether I’ve been accepted for this writing residency in Switzerland (staying and writing in a treehouse in the Swiss Mountains!). In the likely event that I haven’t, I’m planning a writers’ retreat in Dorset.

Publication news for the Million Eyes Short Stories

Last year was a good year for the Million Eyes Short Stories. Three stories were published—The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller, Rachel Can See and Paul—in Tigershark Magazine, Metamorphose Volume 2 and Storgy Magazine respectively.

The Babushka Lady has been accepted for publication by Indie Authors Press for their time-travel-themed anthology, The Chronos Chronicles. You can read my blog from Sunday for more details.

I’ve also submitted Who is Rudolph Fentz? to Storgy Magazine. Storgy ask for unpublished stories, and Who is Rudolph Fentz? was published in Issue 68 of Scribble Magazine in 2015. However, I’ve said to Storgy that Issue 68 is now out of print, so the story isn’t actually available to read. I’m hoping that because of that, they’ll make an exception. We shall see…

Meanwhile, two other stories have recently received accolades. The Quiet Invasion has been shortlisted for publication by New Myths, an online speculative fiction publisher. I will hear by the end of April on whether they actually want to publish the story. And Rachel Can Still See, winner of the Rushmoor Writers Hyde Cup 2016, was shortlisted in the Writers’ Forum monthly short story competition. I’m just waiting for the final results. If I make it into the top three, I get published in the Writers’ Forum magazine and win some money! Whoop whoop! 😀

Finally, I recently developed a plan for a new Million Eyes Short Story about a timey wimey incident aboard a train.

Talking of planning stories…

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My short story “Paul” has now been published by Storgy Magazine

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My short story Paul is now available to read! It was published today by online magazine Storgy.

The story is based on a famous pop culture conspiracy theory. The image above (used by Storgy for the publication) is a rather obvious clue as to what that might be, but if you’ve not heard of it, read the story first and then have a read of this blog article about the conspiracy. (I also wrote a follow-up article that you might find interesting.)

Click to read the story! And if you enjoy it, please do like and share it on social media! 🙂

Paul was originally shortlisted in the Aeon Award 2015 and reportedly very close to making the top six. It’s the fourth Million Eyes Short Story to be published, after Who is Rudolph Fentz? (Scribble Issue 68), The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller (Tigershark Issue 11) and Rachel Can See (Metamorphose V2).

Just like those other stories, Paul is set in the Million Eyes universe.

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Tomorrow: is Osama bin Laden really dead?

 

Commercial fiction vs literary fiction + story updates

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Good evening Earth. This week I’m talking about a popular conspiracy theory that President-elect Trump was assassinated by a coalition of Western governments before he could destroy Mexico’s economy, give guns to toddlers, and nuke the Middle East.

Wait—what? There’s no such conspiracy theory, you say? President-elect Trump hasn’t been assassinated?

Ah, okay. Sorry, must’ve been a premonition/dream/desperate hope I had.

Instead, I’ll give you a round-up of story updates and some tips for writers on understanding the differences between literary and commercial fiction.

Rachel Can Still See wins the Hyde Cup 2016

hyde-cupYesterday I received a nice little boost for my recently completed short story, Rachel Can Still See. It won the Hyde Cup 2016, an internal Rushmoor Writers competition, organised and judged each year by the members. The story got great feedback, so my plan is to start submitting it immediately to publishers and short story competitions.

This story is one of the Million Eyes Short Stories and a sequel to Rachel Can See (though it can sensibly stand alone). Rachel Can See has just been published in Metamorphose V2 (more details below).

I won £25 and a little cup for my mantelpiece. Whoop! 😀

Million Eyes

I’m down to the last couple of chapters of my novel, Million Eyes. My copywriting busyness has skyrocketed, so I’m getting through it slowly. Planning a good old sesh over Christmas, so my hope is that I’ll have reached the end by the time we draw the curtains on 2016. Then I’ll be ready to start the final edit next year.

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“Show, don’t tell” advice for writers + story updates

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Good evening readers!

Tonight I bring a round-up of Million Eyes updates and some advice on a literary rule that’s habitually banged on about by editors, agents and publishers: “show, don’t tell”.

Million Eyes and Hodderscape

No, no, it’s nothing exciting like a book deal from a publisher (I wish). However, it’s a mini endorsement for Million Eyes.

Hodderscape are sci-fi, fantasy and horror publishers. One of the authors on their list is a man some of you may have heard of called Stephen King.

Now, I’ve not really been submitting Million Eyes to publishers or agents because the book is incomplete. However, Hodderscape were having an open submission period in August 2015 (which means they were accepting subs from unagented authors). So I tidied up the first 15,000 words of Million Eyes and submitted it, expecting to hear back by the end of September. I didn’t. I knew there were some delays, but I didn’t end up hearing back till April 2016 (yes, I’ve been meaning to mention this for months and keep forgetting!).

It was a form rejection, but said that “all the readers were very impressed with your work”, which I thought was unusual. They also mentioned that 1,500 authors submitted during the open subs period, and signed off by saying, “thank you for your patience while we worked through the second reads!”

Second reads? Well, that was news to me. Basically, Million Eyes got through some kind of first round, which is no doubt why it took so long to hear back, and why their form rejection included a compliment about my work.

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How to write flashbacks in fiction + story updates


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Hello hello! Welcome, on this stifingly hot and sticky September day, to my monthly round-up of news, including the latest on Million Eyes and the Million Eyes Short Stories. And this month I also come bearing tips for writing flashback sequences in fiction—not as easy as it sounds!

I’m being interviewed on Spaced Out Radio!

Last month I was contacted by Spaced Out Radio in Canada, who want to interview me live on one of their shows and get my take on conspiracy theories and the paranormal! It’s currently scheduled for 25th October, and as soon as I know more re times and topics, I’ll announce it here.

New story published – The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller

Last week I announced the publication of the second Million Eyes Short Story, after Who is Rudolph Fentz? was published in Scribble, Issue 68 last winter. The story is called The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller and appears in Tigershark Magazine, Issue 11, which can be downloaded for free here.

The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller was actually written in early 2015 and entered into the Rushmoor Writers Fullbrook Competition. It received good feedback and was subsequently submitted to a number of short story magazines and competitions. It was retained by Mystery Weekly magazine as a very close contender for publication. The editor of Mystery Weekly asked me to flesh it out a bit, but ultimately rejected the newer version. She said it was far superior to the previous version but wasn’t right for their readers at that time (which could mean anything—perhaps they already had a story that was similar).

So, at long last, The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller has found a home at Tigershark. As mentioned in my previous blog, the story’s main character is a real person—Irish filmmaker George Clarke, who specialises in horror and zombie movies. It follows his discovery of something out of place in a bonus feature on a Charlie Chaplin DVD, which sparked a media storm and 21st-century urban legend.

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Writers who try to write masterpieces + story updates

man-1454744_960_720Evening all! So I’m totally going to steal Alan Carr’s catchphrase: What a week it’s been!

I climbed the O2 in London on Tuesday night and got to see the sun setting behind Canary Wharf. Yesterday I did mountain biking, high rope obstacles in the trees, climbing, canoeing, assault courses and a bit of free-falling on a giant swing. Oh, and I got to pretend to be Jon Snow for a bit and do some archery.

Today I’m back at my computer, exercising nothing but my typing fingers so I can tell you about some story updates and a fiction writing bad habit: trying to write a masterpiece.

The Million Eyes Trilogy

I’ve been extremely busy with copywriting commitments since January, but now things have quietened down a bit, giving me more time for my novel and short stories. I’m editing the last third of the first novel in The Million Eyes Trilogy as we speak. I’m now thinking I’ll probably finish reading it to my writers’ group and getting their feedback by early next year, if not before.

I said in my last story updates blog that I’d be ready to start the final edit by June of next year, but I reckon I’ll be starting much earlier than that. In the past, I’ve found that January and February are good months to go on long writers’ retreats, so that’s when I’m planning to book a two-week retreat and hopefully get the bulk of the final edit done.

Million Eyes has gone down particularly well with my writers’ group of late, and the fact that increasingly the feedback tends to be minor nitpicks is quite telling about how much my writing has improved over the last year. It’s really exciting to see it all starting to come together.

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