Igniters – Planning Stage

Last week I spoke of Igniters and how I had to scrap this series of Star Wars novels for legal reasons, or maybe just to avoid having any legal reasons to begin with.

Since then I’ve been thinking about the best way to handle it, what the setting should be, and how to turn what was once Star Wars into a new idea, something that suits me. Continue reading Igniters – Planning Stage

Writing a Novel – Fantasy

This is a different issue in the Novel Writing guide. I’ve gone over the process of writing one, how to handle editing and even how to work with action scenes. This time however I’m looking at an entire genre. Fantasy is by far my favourite, and in years of reading and writing it, there are things I’m tired of, things I hate, and I’ve spoken about them in length in a previous article. Now I’m focusing on how you should write fantasy, what things you need to consider. Continue reading Writing a Novel – Fantasy

Writing a Novel – Action Scene Samples

A few weeks ago I wrote you about how to handle action scenes in novels, in terms of length, details and overall pace and flow. At the end of the article, and as always, I mentioned I’d be providing samples for it, an example of a short scene and a long one, to show the points I made and concepts I introduced.

The following are those scenes. The first one is a short duel between two swordsmen, set in the fantasy universe I developed during the first issues of the guide. The second is a longer scene, a shootout between a private detective and criminals.

Note: I am writing these scenes only to describe the action. As such, there are no monologues, insights or conversations. Less talking more action! Continue reading Writing a Novel – Action Scene Samples

Writing a Novel – Action Scenes

Last week we had the last of the Editing Samples, and so I’ve gone over the First Draft, Second and Streamlining. As mentioned in those articles, I skipped ahead a bit. Those scenes could’ve done with considerably more effort, but it was enough to demonstrate how a prose might evolve through several editing passes.

As I promised, after finishing up with the different stages of the novel writing process, I would turn to guiding your through specific genres and scenes. The first I’ll be exploring are Action (and/or Combat) Scenes.
Continue reading Writing a Novel – Action Scenes

Writing a Novel – Walking Away

In past issues of this guide we’ve covered the novel writing process, from concept and planning, through the first draft and up to the last bits of editing before you put the “Finished” stamp on it.

Today I’m talking to you about another part of the process, one you don’t want to think about, ever. It’s the hardest thing we as authors can do, Walking Away.

I know that sounds like giving up, but walking away can be healthy and in fact, there are two different walks. I’ve been through one of them and the other is present in my mind and is one I’m not looking forward to but willing to do should it come to that.

Walking Away from a Concept

The first thing I knew about my novel was the character’s name. Before I decided on genre, I knew Jason Wisher would be my protagonist and I knew what kind of a person he was. But I hadn’t built his world.

I originally envisioned that as a post-human society, the entire world affected by a global phenomenon that turns humans into elementals. I call it post-human because after the event no one was Homo sapiens anymore. The entire world turned into element-wielders. Chaos would follow but out of it a new order, with a new police force. My character would be part of it.

But the concept had a flaw. As law enforcement, and to ensure the character didn’t toe thin lines of legality and criminal behaviour—which goes back to me as I am an extremely legal person—his options were limited. There were investigative avenues that he couldn’t take, because he was a by-the-book character. An independent contractor might be able to flaunt rules more defiantly and openly but a cop shouldn’t.

I already had a concept planned for the first novel and beyond, but when it came to the writing I was stuck. I knew where the investigation had to go but because of the restrictions I’d placed on the character and his narrative, I couldn’t push forward. In looking for an answer, I questioned the very nature of my new world, of the people in it, how do they maintain control and I came up short on answers.

I decided to walk away from that world. I still kept the characters and some ideas but I scrapped that sci-fi world. I started to think on what would fit the type of story I wanted to tell, the character I wanted to develop, and the moment I opened myself to new concepts and having discarded the previous one, I found the answer in Urban Fantasy. The pieces came together and I had explanations for everything. It was a cohesive and consistent world. The rules worked in-universe and my character had many more avenues and opportunities not only for investigations but also for growth.

Walking away from a concept is a tough decision, but if things aren’t working. If you can’t answer the hard questions about your world, if you can’t explain everything or if the story just isn’t going anywhere under the rules you’ve established, then it might be time to say goodbye to this concept. Keep as much as you can, but open yourself to changes and new ideas.

I kept character names and ethnicity for mine, but their roles and even species changed.

It’s not an easy choice, but it might be the one you need to make to find the world you want to and should write. I’m not a believer in inspiration, muses and writer’s block. Hard work is all there is, but you can’t force creativity and imagination. If the concept stifles you and makes the writing process harder than it already is, then perhaps it’s not worth it. Perhaps it’s the wrong concept or even genre.

You just need to recognize that it’s time to move on.

Walking Away from a Manuscript

This is the hard one, the truly hard one, and not one you come to lightly—or at all. I only became aware of it after reading a blog post made by an author.

In the previous guide I spoke to you about all the editing process, of getting through your work to streamline, improve, optimise and generally do everything in your power to make your novel the best it can be.

If you choose to look for representation or for a publisher, be prepared for rejection. I still remember the first rejection letter I received and one day I’ll frame it. As many will tell you, it’s a very subjective business and what someone likes another will definitely hate.

Why am I telling you this? Because after each rejection you’ll undoubtedly try to fix something in your novel, that one thing you’re sure was the reason the agent/publisher rejected you. And you’ll do so with neurotic abandon.

But there’s only so much you can fix, only so much you can scrape off.

There comes a time when you have to look at your manuscript and put it aside, walking away from it and towards other ventures. If there’s a fantastic story in your head waiting to be told, don’t let the quest for publication stop you from doing it. If one manuscript is getting nowhere, then you might need to consider letting go and focus your energies on a new project and then try to get that one published.

Don’t Give up too early

Or at all, is what I’d like to say.

I know I’ve just spoken to you about giving up and packing up and leaving things. But you should never do it lightly. Never do it without fighting. Only do so when you’ve reached the point where you’re not getting anywhere, either with the concept or the querying.

And before you decide to give up on the manuscript altogether, maybe you should consider independent publishing. Is it something you’re interested in; is it something you can afford? If the answer’s yes, the maybe that’s the road you should take.

But if not, then maybe it’s time to let it go.


I had originally intended on this being the last guide for this series, but as I’ve written and as is always the case, I’ve had more ideas. This will be the last on the process, however, unless I get a request to cover a specific part of it. Future guides will be more about storytelling itself, my advice on handling different types of scenes.

As always, I hope this has been of some help.

Writing a Novel – Second Draft and Beyond!

Last time we spoke of the last steps of the planning stage, The Outline, and the first actual draft of your novel. With that done, and hopefully after you’ve taken some time off from it to clear your head, it’s time for the next stage:

Part IV – The Second Draft

While the first draft’s purpose is to get your basic story on paper—and for you to actually finish writing it—the second is where you give in to your urges to go back and fix everything that is wrong with the novel.

Take out the documents you’ve prepared with subplots and changes you thought of during the previous step and alter your outline to include them. In doing so, you’ll revise and refine these new ideas and go back to your world building to expand upon them.

One thing I like to do is save a copy of the first draft and rename it Second Draft, so I can work on that one without losing the original. I prefer digital mediums so I can keep what works from the first draft without having to rewrite any of it.

Now that you’ve taken care of all the preliminary steps, you have to read. Starting from the first page of your novel, read it carefully and make amends, rewrite or simply cut paragraphs that don’t add enough—or anything at all—to your plot. Improve the flow of sentences, conversations and scenes. Add in your new (sub)plot details and keep working on everything on a page-by-page or chapter-by-chapter basis.

While the hard rule of the first draft was to never look back, the Second Draft is all about that. Still I would recommend just pushing forwards, revising each chapter, then once you reach the end go back to the start and do it all over again. You’ll probably have to do multiple passes.

Eventually it’ll all reach a stage where you’re more-or-less happy with it—writers are, in general, their worst critics and will never be truly happy with something they’ve worked on.

With my first novel, I did two passes. The first one adding the new plot elements and tightening the existing ones and the second pass working on the prose.

Once you’ve reached that stage, where you feel there’s nothing else you can do to improve it, you’re ready for the next steps, where you’ll realise just how wrong you are.

Part V – Proofreading


Sorry about the caps, but it’s very important you understand this. Once you’ve finished work on your second draft, your head will be full of everything you’ve written and you won’t see any of your writing errors clearly. In fact, even taking a short break won’t help.

You need outside help. Get someone you trust, particularly someone with an eye for detail and have them proofread your novel. If you don’t know anyone with those skills, then hire a freelancer, you can usually get proofreading done quite cheap.

I was fortunate that I was seeing someone at the time with impressive proofreading and editing skills. They went through my novel and made so many annotations I was often joyful when I saw an unaltered paragraph.

Depending on the person and the length of your story, this step might take some time, hopefully enough to refresh your mind and eyes.

Once your proofreader finishes—and hopefully gives you brutally honest feedback on your novel, or at least tells you if it’s any good—it’s time to get back to work.

Part VI – Editing

I call this step editing because it’s what you’ll be doing for a while. I could call it Third, Fourth and Fifth Drafts, but that would just get confusing.

With your proofreader’s work done, you need to make all the proposed changes. Depending on their skills, the changes can be simply grammatical or even alter entire sentences. My proofreader added their own suggestions and I used those to work on my text and as I did, I picked up other errors in style and flow that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Your first proofreader, if they’re someone in your life, is also your Alpha Reader (you’ll get Beta ones before the novel is finished), and you can usually expect some greater feedback from them than from a stranger. Mine made me realise some conversations sounded forced and needed some rewriting.

Part VII – Streamlining

This step is optional but I do recommend it.

It’s said that the average novel length is 90.000 words, and it’s true there are Agents out there that will not take any fiction with a lower word count; but the truth is your novel doesn’t have to have a set number of words. A smooth and easy to read prose will trump any word count.

Streamlining means optimising your novel and you do this in a few ways:

  • Take long sentences and shorten them. Say as much as you can in as few words as possible. The closer you can get to that “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn” often attributed to Hemmingway, the better.
  • If you have a description or an info-dump that doesn’t add anything to the plot, consider taking it out entirely. During the writing process, we add plenty of world building but unless it adds context to current or future scenes in the novel, then it might be best to cut it.
  • In general and very important if you’re writing in the 3rd person, make sure you have as little exposition as possible. It’s best to show than tell.
    • First person narrative is more forgiving when it comes to exposition. For example, a Detective character could have pages on connecting the dots and thinking of motives. It’s exposition but since you generally assume the story is the character’s narration or an inner monologue, it’s easier to digest.
  • Remove all instances of purple-prose, and by that, I mean overly complicated sentences or visualisation. It’s annoying.
  • Smooth out conversations and try to split/cut long monologues, unless the scene calls for it.
    • Example, if your character is an expert on a subject. In this case, you could have him monologue for a bit if they ask him for his opinion or advice.

By the time you’re done, you should’ve been able to trim around 20-30% of your total word count and you can be sure your prose will be much easier to read.

With the streamlining done, you’re close to the end.

Part VIII – Final Steps

Yes, sounds dramatic, I know, but in truth it’s just a second/third/fourth/Nth round of proofreading and editing. But your readers in this step are what many call their Beta Readers.

With all the work you’ve put into the novel at this point, you’ll want your Betas to focus on flow, pace and plot, but not without forgetting to check the writing itself.

To give you an example of what my current Betas have done for me: They’ve praised the style, pacing and characters, which I was happy about, but they also told me some of the expositions—aka info-dumps—broke their immersion in a scene and made it difficult to dive back in. They also told me I had to add more ‘senses’ to my prose, not just sound (dialogue), but sight, smell, touch, etc. It’s something I thought I was doing already, but really hadn’t. Do note that you don’t need to add all five every single time, but senses others than sight or hearing sometimes enhance scenes.

Picture a scene with a character opening a door to find decaying bodies. You could perfectly well describe his shock and horror at the rotting corpses, but you’ll enhance the scene by adding smell, such as the stench wafting from the remains, and which he could smell from across the hallway. If you mention his gag or retch to the sight and smell, you’ll add a relatable physical experience that will further draw your readers in.

Beta Readers will help you bring your novel to a finalised state—after a few rounds of editing and re-reading—after which you can consider submissions for Agents or Publishers. For publishers you might consider hiring a Professional Editor to work on your novel. For agents, it’s not important, as Editing is part of the publishing process.


As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed and found this guide helpful. Come back in two weeks for the hardest lesson any writer has to learn: walking away. I’ll explain it all on 17 April. I’m also working on a few examples of First Draft vs Second Draft and beyond. To make sure they’re as good as possible, they might take some time, but you will get them!

Writing a Novel – The Outline And First Draft

In the first part of this guide, I covered the planning stages for writing a novel, from character conception to building every aspect of your world. I hope it’s been of use to you. Today we’re moving on to the second and third steps: Continue reading Writing a Novel – The Outline And First Draft

Writing a Novel – The Planning

I am not a professional writer. I haven’t published anything yet, though I do plan to in the near future, but I have written three novels so far. I’ve learned a few things over the course of doing so and I will strive to guide you in the novel-writing process through this series. While I’m writing these with novels in mind, there isn’t any reason you can’t use these guides for any other work. Continue reading Writing a Novel – The Planning