Badly Written Book Appreciation Society

You get a whole load of of websites that’ll tell you, with ultimate authority, which book you should or should not be reading. Book reviews; fiction and non-fiction, articles, essays, interviews, thoughts and opinions. There is no need for anyone to read a badly written book anymore. All you need to do is a wee bit of research. And anyway, who’s got time to waste on a badly written or even a badly edited novel?

However. For a wannabe author, I say you should make time, now and again, to read a badly written book, for several reasons:

  1. Most obviously, it’ll show you how not to write your own manuscript. And if you persevere, purely to enlighten your own sense of right and wrong, It’ll show you in spectacular detail the mistakes you should never emulate. Use it as an exercise; highlight where it goes wrong and write down why—you’ll never make the same mistake.
  2. It will give you an impression on what passes these days for an editor/publisher, or more precisely: that specific publisher and you will have a benchmark on what you should not present to said publisher (or vice-versa, depending on your own level of selloutability).
  3. If you can recognize a badly written book, be it the story-line, the prose, the editing, the characters, the plot or the dues ex machina, then you know you can do better and this is a verification of your own superior writing ability — which should advocate some kind of reward.
  4. Figuring out where a book has gone wrong is an exercise in creativity and writing awareness which is, in itself, a skill required when you come to edit and rewrite your own manuscript.
  5. Then there is the feel-good factor. This is self-explainable.

I’m always amazed when I read what I believe to be a badly written book which has been published by a reputable publisher. I don’t think my standards are too high as I’ve been reading for more than 30 years and I can recognize good or bad writing in the first few pages. But something has gone wrong somewhere and for some reason a shitty book has been published and some lucky author has been given a paycheck.

This goes a long way to say that there may be more than just an element of luck involved in getting a book published. Maybe it’s all about knowing the right people, who knows? But the one thing that is for sure is this: if some of these books can make the grade then all you need to do is work hard on your own manuscript, keep sending it out to agents/publishers and it’s surely gonna find it’s way onto a shelf sooner or later.

So, I guess the moral of the story is this: Write whatever the hell you wan’t to write, edit the shit out of it and treat every rejection as one step closer to signing a deal. You can’t go wrong.

∗Raises a glass to all the badly written books out there∗

Easy reading is damn hard writing. 

 ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Editing A First Draft

So, the first draft is finished and the story works in a sort of splotchy kinda way. There were a few surprises but, in the end, things generally got to where they ought to be. Creating and writing the first draft was a thing of fandabulousness!

So why does the process of editing have to be so laborious? What is it that makes the editing procedure seem such an onerous and formidable task? Well, let’s face it; editing is basically ironing out the wrinkles. And who likes to iron? Not me, that’s for sure. And by the looks my wife gives me when I ask her to please, please iron my shirt because she’s better at it than I am — I don’t think she likes to iron either!

But, man, when the ironing’s finished and that 95% polyester fabric is suitably de-wrinklified, those floral patterns sure look pretty. And that’s all the editing process is. Making pretty floral patterns from the wrinkled fabric of a first draft.



Painless editing is all about making the process fun and I go about that in several ways. First of all, and easiest, is to simply reward myself when I’ve hit a target with either watching some Netflix or playing some computer game. But to make that a rewarding experience I’ve had to cut back on them both altogether (as well as food—rewarding yourself with food is never a good idea and to those who say there’s nothing wrong in rewarding yourself with a bag of scientifically-impossible-and-addictively-tasting Doritos (or whatever your ideal, weight-inducing snack is) once a week, to that I say balderdash!). I suppose it’s part of the new regime you instigates when you find yourself tumbling downward over-that-yonder-hill: you start to realize it’s time to do things right.

Secret One-Liners

I also like to make comedy of an intelligent nature. I call it the secret one-liner. It’s a joke that not many people will get but those that do will feel a connection with the writing and might even become a fan. In fact, the more obscure and niche the topic of the joke, the better. I always try to put secret one-liners into my writing. It helps the editing process because it instills fun.


Taking breaks from editing is a must. In a normal working day of eight hours, UK law says you’re entitled to a 20 minute break. A decent employer, however, will perhaps give you 3 breaks from work, for example: a 30 minute lunch break and two 15 minute tea breaks. And, although there is no law defining it, health & safety regulations stipulate you should be taking at least a 5 minute break from your monitor every hour. So, if you’re going to be professional about editing and treat it like a proper job (which, I suggest, is the best way for success) then you must ensure regular breaks away from the screen. Give your eyes a rest for 10 minutes every hour.


Music makes for a contented soul (or at least keeps the tinnitus at bay). Ambient music, quiet music, music without words, idyllically gentle in the background. When you can hear the music, it’s not working. When the music melts into your surroundings, that’s when the magic happens. I used to write code once-upon-a-time and every now and again I would reach a level of sub-conscious involvement with the coding—I would disengage with the world around me. A person could sit beside me and talk directly at me and I wouldn’t hear the words simply because 100% of my focus was directed at solving a coding problem. In the sporting world it’s called being in the zone. You can do this with writing and music helps to get you there.


Patience is by far one of the best tools a writer can have. First, to realize that writing, at a professional level, is not a thing that can be done quickly. Sure, you can write at speed but it’s gonna take months, even years to finish writing a book. Knowing this helps to develop the kind of hard-shelled patience a writer wears as an over-coat. You don’t have to be a patient person to become a novelist but when you don that writerly cap you’ll become accustomed to the speed at which a novel is written. I’m still working on patience. I like things to be done quickly—I like to see results—so I break things done; turn one thing into four, which means four, hopefully positive, results instead of one, which works for me. And I can feel my patience growing, my tolerance of dumbfounded, slowness developing. I’m getting there.


It’s all a journey or a process, this editing malarkey and being a noob at it is okay. To make mistakes is just one part of that process. You could say the first draft is just one big mistake that needs to be fixed. Any half-way decent word-processing software will automatically save your stuff and once you know how to work the software you’ll never need to worry about mistakes. Make as many mistakes as you can. There’ll always be copy & paste to come to the rescue.

Learning how to edit is all about finding out what’s best for you, not what someone else tells you to do. Sure, there are a bunch of books and sites that’ll give you all the information you’ll ever need but I say the best way to find a process that works for you is to learn how the professionals do it then go do it whatever the hell way you want to.


“When you break rules, break ’em good and hard”
― Terry Pratchett



Stage One – The Promethean Explosion

Stage one of writing a book is all about planning and plotting and background generating. Developing characters, building worlds and developing story arcs are all part of the first stage. Drawing pictures, setting up potential scenes, jotting down essential one-liners for future dialogue. Establishing all that metaphysical creato-matter that’s bouncing around inside the head trying to make its way out. Getting it written down.

Getting it permanently fixed onto a page is important. And fun! But specifically a vital part of the process of writing a book. It gives birth to the creation that was, just like everything hand-made, only ever a simple idea.

I’ve been working on my own stage one (of this particular tale) for the past 20 years or so. Getting it written down onto paper and screen was very much a colourful experience. It’s the most writing I’ve ever done in one go and it took me several weeks, round about this time last year. Vacating the conceptions from my head was a thing of exponential, wordy splendiferousness.

The more I wrote, the more ideas came to the fore. It was like everything I had ever thought about and tucked away somewhere obscure for a later date suddenly all came rushing forth. It was their one chance for freedom and they got it. And getting it all written down helped in the fact it cleared up some space in my head. No more did I need to subconsciously retain this information—which was a great thing too because I wanted to learn some Spanish:

Dónde está la tienda que vende los libros?

Sitting down and writing, writing, writing all the ideas and background of a particular story is very much a liberating experience and hugely important to the novel. Writing everything that goes through the head, even descriptions of tiny sub-characters that may only exist for one paragraph. In fact, especially for those miniscule moments as the more of these there are the more vivid the story becomes. Get it all fixed down somewhere so it can be read again at a later date and then extrapolate, exfoliate and (if need be) excommunicate when the time comes.

Stage one is the part that no-one will ever see (unless, of course, you make it big and decide to reward your reader-base with unabashed follow-ups, add-ons, short stories and unfinished tales) so get it all out. It doesn’t even have to make sense, it just needs to be written down. Don’t worry about remembering why, that’ll kick in when the brain decides it needs to (unless you were drunk at the time — in which case forget about it).

Stage one is getting everything that matters in your story’s universe written down.


the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley

– Robert Burns

—First Draft Complete—Phase 3 Activated—Momentum of Seriousness Initiated—

National Novel Writing Month is over and the guys from repair-a-home have just left. My celebrations for winning NaNoWriMo got a bit out of hand but I’m still alive, if somewhat mysteriously balder than a few days ago. Cigars have been embellished, champagne has been adjudicated and writerly prowess has been declared before all visiting dignitaries. There was even some Ferrerro Rocher being passed around but for the life of me, I swear I never had any.

The first draft is completed. That’s what it was all about. Getting the story out in as easy a fashion as possible. Without caring about spelling or grammar or plot-lines or arcs. Just getting the basics of the story into existence, no matter how rough it looks. Now it’s there in black and white it can be worked on.

Like chucking a slab of clay onto a wheel and turning it into a Tuscia d’Arte vase or a block of Bahia Rosewood handcrafted into a Javan Rhino figurine or a flap of soflty-creased paper folded meticulously into an elegant Coscoroba Swan. The first draft is but a slice of beef waiting to be transformed into a succulent steak with just the right garnish and just the right seasoning and just the right accompaniments.

Mmm, steak. And chips. With some fried onions. Garnish. Seasoning.

Just a sec, I’ll be right back…

Ahem, the next stage, then, is the re-write. Not the edit. You cannot edit a first draft. At least, I cannot edit my first draft. It has to be re-written beforehand. The first draft was throwing the words down to get the story out. ‘She did this and then that happened but all bundles of shit happened after that and he felt like something about it all then everyone had a fight and someone died.’  That’s my first draft. That’s me telling me what the story is about and how it all ends. Now that is out of the way I can re-write it so it begins to make some kinda sense.

Re-write until satisfaction. Then the editing comes in. The editing, for me, will be the biggest and most important part of writing the book. This is when things get serious. This is when the real writing starts. This is when the fun begins. This is when the book becomes either a piece of crap from some sci-fi fan who builds computers at lunch-time while working at the local shopping center or a serious contender for an agent or a publisher looking for something honed, refined and ready to go.

The editing is when all the artistry comes into place. It’s working the magic into the words. The editing is when the manuscript is made into something worthy of artistry. A writer is an artist. The art of a writer can and should be unsurpassed. The art of a writer can make you laugh, can make you cry, can make you angry, hopeful, frustrated and make you anguish for more. This is editing. It’s about touching the mind.

During the month of November I learned a great deal about writing. About writing first drafts, in particular. And also about my approach to writing. For me, the first draft, like I said above, was just throwing the story down onto the page. The re-write, the second draft, is when I turn that story into something more tangible. Character names should be uniform through-out the tale. Dates, names and locations will begin to match up in more than one location.

But before I begin re-writing I need to read some books, both fiction and non-fiction, by writers I admire and on editing specifically, just to get the feel on where I should be aiming for. Then I’m going to outline out my first draft. I did only a very basic outline before starting because I wanted my writing to take me on its own journey to the destination I’d already determined. Now I’m there I can use an outline to determine if I’ve got too much going on, if characters need more story-time, where to put chapter breaks, make a timeline/dateline, that sort of stuff.

Next step: get some reading done.

Ooh yeah…that’s right…uh huh…


Yeah Baby!


That’s what I’m talking about. I’ve only gone and done it. Got a bit hairy near the end. But I fought through. I’ve passed a milestone. Gone and finished something. In your face old History teacher! Ha!

I’m pretty worded out now. Gonna get me a curry. And a film. And a beer to add to the pounds I’ve earned this month. Then I’m gonna smoke that $100 cigar I was saving for when my kids stop asking for money. Thanks NaNoWriMo! From the bottom of my belly!

Fifty thousand and seventy three. Just about ran out of words for November. Need a reboot. More wordificating…next month…


First draft done, now the fun begins!


I can see the light! I can see it! I’m almost there.


No, don’t, stay where you are.


Don’t do it, it’s a trick!

But I’m almost finished. I’ve done 43,016 words and it’s the a.m of the penultimate day. Which, I hasten to add, had got my body wondering if it’s Christmas day because I’m not usually up this early on a Saturday. It is Saturday, right?


Uhm, yeah it is.

I think I’ve timed it pretty good. I want to finish on the last day because it just seems right to finish on a Sunday. The last day of the week and the last day of the month and it’ll also be the last day of my NaNo’ing.

I’m going to get a few thousand words written today so I’m close enough to finish tomorrow.

And then a whole load of retrospection, analyzing, explication and harking back.

Who said it wasn’t Christmas yet?


No I didn’t.

Writing The Struggle That Follows A Writer. NaNoWriMo’s included!

Ever since I started reading books on my own and not at the instruction of a primary school teacher (in fact there’s a bit of a quandary there. The first book I ever read on my own was The Hobbit but it was only because my primary school class instigated it. While we were reading the book at school I got so annoyed when the teacher stopped at the end of a chapter and we had to wait till the following week to find out what happened next, I went and got the book myself (“Mummy, I want a book called The Hobbit” and voilà, it appeared as if by magic.)) I was so fascinated with it and started reading—and finished the book—on my own. We were doing a class project on The Hobbit which included a mahoosive piece of wall art based on Smaug. I still remember it (35 years on) to this day. It was such a brilliantly memorable experience, one I’ll never forget.

*Note: I first read The Hobbit in the 80’s and I thought it was the most amazing sprout of imagination I’d ever encountered. Okay, I was only 12 years old but hey, that book was written in 1937, forty five years earlier! And it’s still going strong! Talk about a timeless classic! The Hobbit had opened my mind promoting the idea that you could make stories out of anything.

The next book, or should I say, trilogy,  I read (other than the crap the school was throwing at me) was The Dragonlance Chronicles. Wow. I was totally hooked from there on in. I was into fantasy. Low fantasy, high fantasy, epic fantasy, whichever, it was in my blood. My veins had been reforged by Theros Ironfeld and his Silver Arm of Ergoth whilst wielding The Hammer of Kharas!

From then on in it was all kinds of fantasy shit. Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer, Runequest & Stormbringer to name but a few RPG’s that I wanted to actually trade my real-life and live there-in. Not that I didn’t enjoy my real-life, it was just…boring at the time, because nothing really happened. There were no cataclysmic events or world shattering discoveries. There were no devastating attacks from demons or dragons, no secret, undiscovered dungeons to explore, no hordes of treasure to fight over. No great eye of evil impending doom to conquer at the very last moment.

But it was deeply instilled in my blood. I was like a sponge for tales on sword and sorcery. If a book had elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, dragons or unicorns… no wait…not stupid unicorns…uhm, wait, let me think about this…(hmm, Terry Brooks wrote about unicorns, so did C.S.Lewis and then there was that film ‘Legend’ with Tom Cruise and also the Unicorn in My Little Pony that my daughter loves to watch…) okay, I’ve decided,  let’s leave unicorns in that list. They can be pretty cool…I suppose.

So, anyway, I was really, right into Fantasy as a genre. But then I matured (a little (in fact- after re-reading this I wonder why does one have to mature from Fantasy? This is a problem I think I’ve been fighting most of my adult life, but one I think I’ll leave for another blog post.)). I wanted something more grown up. More realistic to what life was really like. I started to read stuff from G.R.R.Martin, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Raymond E. Feist, Terry Brooks, Tad Williams. All brilliant. All adult reads.

So then, as I got older, into my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, reading everything that the genre had to offer and somewhere in between that time I went on to an urban fantasy extravaganza. I read books which shared my passion on magic and fantastical creatures but seemed to be centered around the present day and age. This was new to me, at the time, I’d never experienced a story like it, the fact that all these supernatural creatures could exist, in a story, in the real world. I was amazed and tuned into a completely new set of life-changing exploitation’s of the mind.

This harvested in me a desire to create my own stories involving this real world and the kind of supernatural, fantastical and downright diabolical pandemonium that could ensue from my own creative meanderings. I was hooked on creative, theological decomposition’s and the infinite proposal of ‘what if’.

Several hundred books later (yes, I’ve literally read thousands of books in my lifetime so far – however, I’m including comics in that count and I don’t care what you say about that) and I’m trying to write a supernatural dark urban fantasy. I love the story I’m writing. It’s more than pretty neat.

The thing is…it’s not epic fantasy. It’s not the kind of writing I love to read. It’s set in the real world but with other-worldly shenanigans, which, I suppose, is just about half-way there. However, my forte, I believe, is in epic fantasy and I’m not 100% sure why I’ve ended up writing an urban supernatural thriller with connotations of mystery and police procedural.

I’m giving it my all. There’s no doubt about that. I’ve written shit-loads of stuff including high fantasy and science fiction but nothing has endured the intensity, the determination, the focus and the single-mindedness that this story has. I’m pretty impressed with myself so far and it’s only the first draft.

However, my goal, many years down the line and after I’ve completed this current epic tale, is to write about a world where the geography is unknown and the animal life is far from ordinary. The world I’m writing about just now is the real world. Well, it’s the real world but maybe taking a step back. But wait!

Stop everything.

Concentrate. Concentrate really hard.

Focus your power. We all have power. Focus it.

And then use it to do whatever the hell you want.

And if you don’t, then you’ve lost…


P.S. Happy Thanksgiving  you Americans!



NaNoWriMo: I’m Going To Kick Your Ass

It’s the very wee small hours of day 22 and I’ve written just over 25,ooo words. I’m over 10, 00 words short of where I should be at this stage. So, with eight days to go, I calculate (with my calculator (Start > All Programs > Accessories > Calculator)) that I need to do about 3125 words per day to WIN NaNoWriMo…

It’s a lot. Currently, I’m averaging between 1500 and 2000 on the days that I do write (3 or 4 days a week) and that takes me between two and three hours a go. Which is pretty much all the spare time I get during a working day.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that weekends are for abandon (in all it’s meanings) and if any writing is to be done at this time then it should most likely be done on a cubicle wall. In fact, I’m sitting on the throne right now, tapping into my smartphone only because I’ve forgotten to bring a Sharpie.

Monday, then, will be my big day. I’m gonna do at least 5,000 words on Monday. That’s my target. If I can do that then I can still complete this game before the time is up. I’m not gonna be one of those under-equipped morons hanging  around the auction house listening to how everyone else completed the end game quest before me.  I’m gonna be one of the no-life, epic wearing, unprofessional, experts singing the praises of a winner!

When NaNoWriMo decided to give me a square go and fight me in the playground at home-time it didn’t realize who it was dealing with. It didn’t realize I was a hard-ass who doesn’t give in, even when it’s too late to matter. It didn’t realize I was one of those idiots who tries, like a madman, to score a goal in the last minute of the game even though they’re getting beat 4-0. When I take a penalty kick, I kick the ball with my toe, not my instep. Full force all the way, every day, baby (except at weekends…). That’s what NaNoWriMo can expect.

My falling behind is my own fault. I blame myself. I’m not going to blame my partner who didn’t secretly switch the internet off, hide the box and pretend it was some kind of fault, while knowing I had NaNoWriMo to do. I’m not going to blame my kids who made me play pillow fights, hide-and-seek, eye-spy and the alphabet game, even though they knew it was NaNoWriMo time.  I’m not going to blame my older son, a young adult, who made me drive him to and fro between friends houses, hair-dressers, off-licenses, supermarkets and golf courses, who, I’m pretty sure, he had absolutely no idea it was NaNoWriMo. Nor am I going to blame my beautiful Netflix, my glorious Xbox, my superb Sky Movies network subscription or my amazing home cinema system with Dolby surround cinema speakers and high definition output.

No, no. This is a predicament I have gotten myself into and I’m going to get myself out of. It is an upward struggle I’ve got ahead. But I’m determined I’m going to do it. I don’t like failure. For me, failure is only failure when you stop trying.  But also, failure is for when you fail. I’m not going to fail.

So, with that being said, here’s to kicking NaNoWriMo right in the nuts! Who’s with me?!

∗raises glass∗

“Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

Got My Writing On Speed-dial

Not got much time…writing in progress…

Trying a new approach. Got my desktop on constantly in my main writing room. Got my laptop on constant stand-by in the upstairs bed-room. So, if I’m wandering through the house like a radiated denizen of the apocalypse trying to remember why I walked into any given room and —KABOOM— a great idea is sent to my head by the Creativity Genies, I’m only ever a few dance-steps away from a ready-to-go input/output device w/keyboard peripheral.

Listening to some soothing chill-out, lounge music on Spotify (love it) which is helping keep my mind focused on the task of writing, instead of wondering if there’s anything new on Netflix. Wait…goes to check out Netflix …ok, back. Added some cool-looking new flicks to my playlist…doh!

Living in a residence devoted to Vulcan, the ancient Roman God of Fire—it erupts round about home-time and is a fiery, maelstrom of fury until round about bed-time—it is important to get as much writing done as…oh, wait…goes to write something down in the MS that a friendly but somewhat dark Genie just sent…aaand I’m back, where was I, Oh yes…It’s important to get as much writing done as possible while the house is a nuclear-free zone and — you all know this to be true fellow NaNo’ers — writing blogs doesn’t help the word-count.

Found out that Green-Tea is much more healthier than Coffee (it’s got up to 70% less caffeine for a start) and not only does it do the same job, it also makes you smarter and thinner, all at the same time! Check these cool facts out about Green Tea. And, to use the same construction twice in the one paragraph, not only is it Monday when I usually do more writing anyway, I’m also rocket-fuelled with Superman Tea!

Gotta get back to writing some shit while the shit writing is good to get back to! (Uhh…that didn’t sound as good as…aah forget it.)


NaNo Update

5 days into the month and I’ve got over 11k words done, I’m pretty stoked with myself. This is going easier than I thought. I take a break. A lazy day of a few hundred words then a couple days to spend doing family stuff. Then, wham! I learn what my problem is when it comes to getting stuff done. When I stop doing shit I take ages to get back into that shit-doing motion.

10 days into the month and I’ve still got over 11k words done. Why couldn’t the month have started on a Monday ’cause I like starting stuff on Mondays? I’m like one of those big juggernaut trucks that, once they’ve hit cruising speed, they ain’t stopping for nothing. But once they’ve stopped, hell, the driver may as well go get his meal for the night, set his kip and get out the foot-spa ’cause he ain’t going nowhere until he gets some food down his gob, watched a decent film and had a good night’s sleep (with nice-smelling feet).

So, because I stopped for a couple o’ days my engine seized and because it was only Friday when I realized I wasn’t doing my NaNo’ing I was somewhat screwed due to, you know, not wanting to start a thing till stupid Monday’s. Hence my 5-day extravaganza became a 10-day trickle.

But not to despair! Magnificent Monday has arrived and my writing has spluttered back into first gear. Just need to throw it up a few more gears and I’ll get back into the roll. Note-to-self then is to maybe treat the writing as more of a daily-work-type experience instead of a try-and-get-some-writing-done-when-the-house-is-quiet-type thing.