If you’re thinking about writing a novel, congratulations! It’s an exciting and rewarding journey, but it can also be a little bit intimidating if you’re not sure what to expect. Here are ten things I wish I knew about writing a novel before I started:
1. Writing a novel takes time. Like, a lot of time. Don’t expect to sit down and crank out a masterpiece in a week or even a month. Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself and be prepared for the long haul.
2. Writer’s block is real, and it’s not fun. No matter how much you love writing, there will be times when the words just don’t seem to come. Don’t worry – writer’s block is a normal part of the process and it’s something that every writer experiences from time to time. Just take a break, go for a walk, and come back to it with fresh eyes.
3. Your first draft is going to be terrible. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your first draft is probably not going to be a work of literary genius. That’s okay! The first draft is just a starting point, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to revise and polish your work later.
4. Your characters will take on a life of their own. As you start to write, you might be surprised by how your characters start to develop their own personalities and motivations. Don’t be afraid to let your characters lead the way – they might just surprise you with where they take the story.
5. Research is your friend. If you’re writing about a topic that you’re not familiar with, don’t be afraid to do some research. It will help to make your story more authentic and believable, and it can also be really fun to learn about new things as you write.
6. Writing can be a solitary activity. If you’re the type of person who loves to be surrounded by people, you might find that writing a novel can be a bit isolating. Don’t be afraid to take breaks and socialise with friends and family, but also be prepared to spend a lot of time alone with your thoughts.
7. It’s okay to take breaks. Writing a novel is a big commitment, and it’s important to take breaks and recharge from time to time. Don’t feel guilty about stepping away from your work for a bit – it will actually help you to come back with fresh eyes and new ideas.
8. Editing is just as important as writing. The writing process doesn’t end when you finish your first draft – there will be plenty of revising and editing to do. Don’t be afraid to cut out the things that don’t work and to seek feedback from others. It will make your work stronger in the long run.
9. Writing a novel is hard, but it’s also really rewarding. Writing a novel is a lot of work, but it’s also an incredibly rewarding experience. When you finally hold that finished product in your hands, all of the late nights and writer’s block will be worth it.
10. You’ll never stop learning. No matter how much you know about writing, there’s always more to learn. Embrace the process of learning and growing as a writer, and you’ll be on your way to creating something truly special.
I hope you are finding these tips helpful. I have written a wide range of fiction and non-fiction and if you want find out more about me and my work, click this link here.
Developing characters for a novel can be a challenging but rewarding task for a writer. It requires a deep understanding of who these characters are, what drives them, and how they will interact with other characters in the story. Here are ten practical approaches that can help writers bring their characters to life:
1. Start with the basics. Before diving into the specifics of a character’s personality and backstory, it’s important to establish their basic characteristics such as age, gender, occupation, and physical appearance. This will help you visualise the character and build a foundation for their personality and motivations.
2. Give them a goal. Every character should have a clear goal or desire that drives their actions in the story. This goal should be specific and achievable, and it should change and evolve as the character grows and develops throughout the story.
3. Give them flaws. No one is perfect, and the same is true for your characters. Giving your characters flaws and weaknesses makes them more relatable and human, and it also creates opportunities for character development as they work to overcome these flaws.
4. Build their backstory. A character’s past experiences and relationships can have a big impact on who they are and how they behave in the present. Take the time to think about your character’s history and how it has shaped them into the person they are today.
5. Consider their relationships. Characters don’t exist in a vacuum – they have relationships with other characters that can influence their behaviour and development. Think about how your character interacts with others, and how these relationships might change over the course of the story.
6. Make them dynamic. Static characters who don’t change or grow throughout the story can be boring for readers. Instead, try to create dynamic characters who are constantly evolving and learning from their experiences.
7. Give them a unique voice. Each character should have their own distinct voice and perspective, whether it’s through their thoughts, dialogue, or actions. This will help make them stand out and feel like fully realised individuals.
8. Use dialogue effectively. Dialogue is a powerful tool for revealing a character’s personality, motivations, and relationships. Pay attention to how your characters talk to each other, and use it to reveal important details about their personalities and histories.
9. Show, don’t tell. Instead of simply telling the reader about a character’s traits and motivations, try to show them through their actions and dialogue. This will help bring the character to life in a more meaningful and believable way.
10. Don’t be afraid to make changes. Characters are never set in stone, and it’s okay to make changes or adjustments as you continue to work on your story. If something isn’t working or feels off about a character, don’t be afraid to go back and make changes until you feel that they are fully realised and integral to your story.
Developing strong, dynamic characters is an essential part of any successful novel, and these ten approaches can help writers create fully realised, three-dimensional characters that readers will love.
Picture a country broken by a virus. Society falls apart. Nothing works now. Nobody knows what has happened. There are no answers. No knowledge. No rules. No science. No God. The only truth now is the desperate fight for survival. Imagine all of this seen through the eyes of a teenage boy with special needs.
Jake wakes one morning to find his mum has gone missing. Determined to find her, Jake is forced to comes to terms with what has happened to the world. Confronted by the horror, he initially struggles to make sense of everything.
Helped by the new friends he makes, Ellis, kind and resourceful, and the twins, Amber and Abe, Jake starts to develop his independence. Forced to confront the apparent difference defined by his special needs, Jake realises that this difference doesn’t matter anymore. This gives him the strength to keep going.
As they fight for survival, the four kids meet a wide range of other people also battling to stay alive and with each encounter Jake and his new friends learn a little bit more about themselves and each other. Ultimately, Jake’s story is one of hope and determination in the face of complete and utter devastation.
VIRO begins in Burton-on-Sea, a small, depressing seaside town in south-east England. The time period is the middle of the 1970s. VIRO is the world of my childhood. VIRO looks like those old children’s television series about weird kids hiding in quarries or public information films telling children not to play on building sites.
VIRO is also about all those ordinary spaces I remember as a child; playing fields and parks; industrial estates; ring roads and roundabouts; caravan parks and tower blocks; dark skies and black clouds; railway bridges and concrete steps; train tunnels and reservoirs; allotments and corner shops; parks, precincts and playgrounds; concrete and tarmac, stinging nettles pressed up against broken brick walls; Buddleia poking through rusty fences.
What are the colours of this world?
Grey. Black. The orange glow of lamp posts at night. The green of wet grass. The blue of a weak winter sky. Pale sunshine. Purple weeds. White moons. The red of blood and its various shades. Mud. Dirt. Dust. Debris.
The world of VIRO is dark, damaged and dirty. There is no hope. No knowledge. No cure.
All filtered through a haunted 70s lens.
This is what the end of the world feels like. This is the world of VIRO.
Imagine the sound of a distant howl, an anguished rage from afar. Imagine if that howl is always there, ever-present, like the quiet, gnawing pain from an angry tooth. Sometimes the howl subsides, or you focus on something else just long enough for the sound to not be heard in the moment, but the howl remains, the soundtrack to a broken world.
This howl is an electronic one, synthesised on many levels; a bass throb that stays in the mix at all times, just low enough to sometimes hear, the forever reminder of an extinction event. Another part higher and shriller; registered by human ears but mostly around and beyond comprehension – unsettling in the extreme.
At all points between the low and high, the howl vibrates, registering both distance and proximity. As they approach the howl grows louder and takes on human characteristics; despair, damage, insecurity, failure, terror, horror, tragedy, and all other things that exist to dampen and defeat the human spirit, but most of all, anger. The howl is an angry one, as every viro rages against the base unfairness of transformation. No one ever asked to be made a monster.
The howl is an analog howl, manufactured in the electronic sound department of a long-lost television studio making a children’s horror series about stones and psychics, time travel and demons, spirits and reservoirs and not playing on building sites. One that links the rhythms of a new nature with the throb and thrum of electric circuits.
The rest of the world is a broken silence, structured and defined by the analog howl; fractured by cries and screams; a silence where the whisper of your own voice can sound like a sceam; where the quiet horror of the night can be broken by the static burst of a field telephone.
Jake is thirteen years old when the story begins. He has special needs and lives alone with his mother. They have recently moved to a new town and Jake has not yet had the chance to make any friends. Jake is physically very able but is very aware of his difference to other kids. He has accepted his difference even though it means he lacks confidence. Jake is ready to find himself and his adventures will allow him to do this. This is not to say that he isn’t horrified by the new world he discovers while looking for his mum. However, Jake takes the challenges presented by this new world head-on.
Ellis is the same age as Jake. She is friendly, confident and self-assured, with a high level of independence. However, she is not cocky just practical. She accepts Jake straight away and sees him for what he is; his difference doesn’t make any difference to her. Ellis saw her parents get attacked and though it may not always be apparent, it has understandably had a traumatic effect on her. Ellis invents the word ‘viro’ to describe the infected.
Amber is thirteen when the series begins. She is the eldest of the twins that Jake and Ellis meet in the railway tunnel. She is calm and mature but also prone to a sadness derived from the facts of her life. Her father murdered her mother and the twins were sent to live in a foster home. Their experience in the foster home was an unhappy one and the twins ran away. The fact that the virus broke out around the same time means that no one is looking for them.
Abe is younger than his twin sister Amber by three and a half minutes and this makes him competitive and prone to bursts of anger. Like all boys his age, Abe is capable of being sensible and foolish simultaneously. Abe is impetuous and keen to prove himself. He accepts Jake for who he is but as their relationship develops, he starts to see Jake as a real rival for Ellis. This later threatens to derail the gang’s survival.
Vinnie is Ellis’s brother. He is eighteen when the series begins. Vinnie is mature and intelligent and once he is reunited with his sister, Vinnie becomes the conduit between the friends and the adults that they encounter in their search for Jake’s mum. Vinnie is brave and resourceful. He is very supportive of Jake and quickly comes to value his contribution to their survival, especially when he realises the key role Jake played in keeping Ellis alive. Vinnie fully understands that the only rationale now is for everyone to simply stay alive as long as they can. He knows there is no other choice. Vinnie can also drive and this proves to be very useful.
VIRO – An Explanation
It is Ellis who invents the word VIRO to describe the infected that have overrun the world. There is no single explanation about the source of the virus and the series is permeated with conflicting stories about source and origin. The facts of there being no explanation is central to the horror of the series.
No one ever asks to be infected. The moment that you are, that moment before you turn, must be full of a lifetime remembered and about to be forgotten. That pain is brief but final. A forever pain.
There is anger. Despair. Hunger, of course. But also a notknowingness. Suddenly all thought is replaced by only instinct. Yet at the very heart of the creature there must still be the very slight and occasional reminder of a life before the virus. The twitch of an eye. A stare into space. The splinter of a fragment of a stab of a broken memory.
This is not a solitary life. Creatures gather together, swelling and swarming, driven by a collective urge to hunt and bite and rip and tear, boosting the ever-growing ranks. Swarmlike in their tendencies, they move like clouds of angry insects, their numbers forever swelling as they congregate and consume and then congregate once more. The habits of the infected are one and the same, restless and repeating, spreading, never-ending, only onwards towards the only goal, infection.
The viros look like anybody and everybody. They look like you and me. They are fully clothed. They are naked. They are ripped and ragged. Clean. Dirty. Filthy. Smeared with blood, especially around the mouth. The virus causes multiple physical reactions in its victims and this creates a wide range of possibilities for their portrayal. Aside from the blood smears, there are some common characteristics; twitches and other facial tics; a vocal range from roars to whispers to sighs and screams, all of which combine to create the chorus of some kind of horrific choir.
The VIRO series has been very well received and here is a sample of reviews:
‘I absolutely loved this book. Powerful and poignant, ‘Viro’ packs a punch. Sad and haunting, ‘Viro’ is a new take on the zombie genre. The characters are dynamic and interesting, finding strength despite their horrifying circumstances. Jake is a character that will stick with you long after the final page. The action sequences are thrilling. I was on the edge of my seat!’
‘The writing style is beautifully compelling, and after the first couple of pages I couldn’t put it down. The author very skilfully creates a world and characters through deceptively simple prose that draws the reader right in. It is a fascinating blend of one-after-the-other edge-of-the seat scares, alongside a haunting narrative about what it is to be human.’
‘A fascinating premise drives the narrative in VIRO. How would a zombie apocalypse unfold behind the eyes of a child? Jake, the central protagonist, embarks on a simple quest. He wants to reunite with his mom who has not returned home from work. From there, the reader sees the terrors of an increasing zombie infestation as Jake unites with Ellis, Abe and Amber on his journey to find her.’
‘VIRO does a good job of capturing the voice of an older child reacting to the horrors unfolding around him. His thoughts and actions are simple and emotional and age appropriate. The developing friendships and relationships between the children drive the story. You get a clear sense of each character and become emotionally invested in them and their journey.’
‘This book takes the zombie story in a different direction and that’s refreshing. It is much more unsettling to see children deal with the horrors of a zombie apocalypse than adults.’
‘This book grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It’s fast paced and superbly thrilling! The narrative is poignant and heart-breaking as Jake’s unique voice draws you in. Highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys zombie stories. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Jake and the gang!’
‘Dark, twisted and disturbing… I can’t recommend it enough!’
‘This series is incredible. The action grabs you buy the throat and doesn’t let go. Stays with you long after the final, thrilling moments.’
What’s the future for the VIRO series? Firstly, a new revised version of all four books in the series is currently in development. Secondly, Book Five is looming on the horizon and I hope to have more news about that very soon. Thirdly, I am currently working on converting VIRO into a television screenplay, complete with a series bible and a working script.
This is a small book about what we’re looking for, what we love, what we’ve lost, and the effort it takes to find a way to live. This is a book about what it means to feel alive and how to want something again. How To Want Something Else is for everyone who has ever wanted more than they have, struggled with wanting anything at all, or found themselves longing for something else.
‘This book is a wonderfully genuine, authentic and life- affirming experience not to be missed. It got me thinking about staying connected to my interests and passions and not ever letting them slip away and the importance of wanting something as the book title suggests. And that from a book is a particularly generous gift.’
‘I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt as though someone were speaking aloud my innermost thoughts. I would strongly recommend this book for anyone who has ever felt lost, or confused.’
‘I loved the rawness and honesty which is conveyed throughout this book. It made me reflect on how my own relationships, present and future life had also been affected by time and Covid. I wish there had been more chapters to follow. I’d highly recommend this book.’
‘A beautifully written book that ponders the meaning of fulfilment when stuck in the inexorable humdrum of a career, you lose touch with old friends etc. There’s an equally beautiful revelation as to the shape that fulfilment takes. Hilarious at times re the description of undertaking a Phd and more, there is as much joy and humour in this book as there is darker introspection. It’s original in style and format -lovely to have a book that asks readers important questions without ramming ready platitudes down their throat. This book is a wonderfully genuine, authentic and life- affirming experience not to be missed. It got me thinking about staying connected to my interests and passions and not ever letting them slip away and the importance of wanting something as the book title suggests. And that from a book is a particularly generous gift.’
The latest stage in my publishing journey has led to me to complete How To Want Something.
How To Want Something is a small book about what we’re looking for, what we love, what we’ve lost, and the effort it takes to find a way to live. This is a book about what it means to feel alive and how to want something again.
An old man wearing a ragged tweed suit and broken brogues stands at the side of Front Square. He has stood here every day for as long as anyone can remember. When Trinity College teemed with tourists this old man and his daily vigil was a noteworthy addition to the guided tour of the grounds. Now that the College, like the city, the country, and the world, is about to be finally destroyed this old man is no longer remarkable, is no longer anything. He is just someone else about to die like everyone else.
Since the very beginning it has always been considered that the most likely cause of the final downfall of the human race will be plague or flood or pestilence or virus or war or blast or heat or a final collision with a passing heavenly body. This is the sensible and serious narrative that has caused the world to always be wholly concerned with its own destruction.
The world could never have known that its absolute end would come about as the simple expression of a merely malevolent whim.
Amidst the chaos and the screaming and the suffering and the hatred and the horror and the hopelessness and the gunfire and the pleading and the taunting and the sheer futility of it all, a small child works alone in Front Square. A small child with a broken nose who works all day, using a household hammer to smash bricks until her arm burns and she cannot lift it any more. Spent and close to collapse, this small child then falls asleep near where I am laying. No one pays her any mind.
And yet existence can live alongside the very destruction of the same and though the notion of life here is clearly finite in its duration it is the same life that resolves to sing as the firing squad takes aim or signal eternal defiance with a shout from the scaffold and until there is no-one left to hear the song or hear the shout then there is always the hope that even songs and shouting might actually signal something more than simple silent resignation.
And even in the darkest darkness ever to have descended from way beyond on-high there are still voices to be heard. They may be single. They may be strangled. They may be shortened. But they are voices all the same.