The “Plotter vs Pantser” debate is silly

If you’ve been hanging around writer circles for a while, you’ve probably heard the topic come up – “which are you, Plotter or Pantser?” My answer is, invariably, it doesn’t matter. But before I get to that – and to why I find the whole damned topic infuriating – perhaps some definitions are required.

A “Plotter” is a writer that plots their story in advance. Not necessarily painstakingly or meticulously – they just sit down and plan things out before taking their ideas and developing them into the story at large.

A “Pantser” on the other hand (and to be honest, I just hate the term – I must be getting old) is the type of writer that writes by the seat of their pants. No plotting, no thinking about things in advance, just get in there and let the story play out as it will. Put romantically – let the characters speak for themselves.

For many, the debate is not just about “which one are you” but also “which one is better”… which is the right way to write. And that’s just stupid – and for new writers, it’s downright confusing. And perhaps even harmful.

Think about it – virtually every new writer that I’ve seen asking questions in writing circles will inevitably ask this question – how do I write a book? How much should I plan? How do you develop characters? And sadly, the most common response from writers is to use the “Plotter vs Pantser” response – “You’re either one or the other! Which one are you?”

What should the real response be, though? When it all boils down, writing isn’t hard. The concept is simple – take the words in your brain, and put them down on paper, either physical or digital. That’s it. How you choose to organise them is up to you – and there are a number of different ways to do this. The problem isn’t whether Plotting is too much of a waste of time or Pantsing is too risky, it’s working out what works for you.

Plotting can be great – it can help a writer develop a highly complex story. And Pantsing can be great, too – it can surprise even the writer, potentially making for an even more exciting read. But focusing on one or the other is just as detrimental – just write.

To me, the whole argument is less one of actually helping others, and more one of individuals trying to associate themselves with a clique – or potentially even a favourite writer. The amount of times I’ve seen a Pantser justify their preferred method by stating “Stephen King is a Pantser” is ridiculous.

Good for Stephen King. He’s clearly a genius. But I’m sure his drafts are extensive – I highly doubt the complexity of his books comes out in the first draft. The other thing, though? I’m not Stephen King. And on the Plotter side? I’m not J.K Rowling either. And I don’t want to be.

If I had to chose a side (and I really don’t want to, but here we are), I’d have to say that I’m probably a Plotter. But even then, I only plot so much – there is a lot that surprises me as part of the writing process, and some of the ideas that have cropped up “from the seat of my pants” (so to speak) have been good enough to warrant a change to the planned plot.

And I’d also argue that Stephen King thinks about his books a LOT while he writes them. He may not have a plot on paper, but I’d bet he has one in mind.

What makes writing hard isn’t so much the process, though, it’s the “finishing” part, in my opinion at least. Like I said in a previous post – never stop never stopping. Don’t let the plotting process slow you down so much that you never actually start writing the book. Don’t let it get in the way so badly that you have several other ideas, and you neglect this one to work on others. Don’t let the lack of a plot and a sense of direction for your novel allow you to suffer from writer’s block. Write that book until it is done.

I understand that the “Plotter vs Pantser” argument is just a bit of fun for writers, and perhaps I’m just a bit of a curmudgeon. My own personal gripes aside (that being that I think the argument is childish and an attempt to associate with one’s heroes), I think it’s harmful and confusing to new writers. I believe one famous writer even stated that Plotters are “hacks”. How lovely. That’s one way of suggesting that you’re better than everyone else (and I know I’m far from a great writer, but damn… let other people be proud of their work).

Again – I may just be a grumpy old man (or an old man in a younger man’s body, perhaps – I’m not old! Promise!), but my point is this, and always this – find your own path. Don’t let anybody steer you wrong. And FINISH. THE DAMNED. BOOK.

Pyramidion now available to purchase – eBook releases 5 June!

My first novel, Pyramidion, is now available via Amazon, in both Paperback and eBook formats! While the eBook is currently only available for pre-order, releasing June 5th, the Paperback is ready to go, and generally ships within a couple of days – how exciting!

The link below is to Amazon Australia, but it is available in all regions – just switch over to your local region!

If you’d like to know more, here’s the synopsis:

What if everything you thought you knew was a lie?

“Seek the Pyramidion.”

After losing his whole world in a car accident, Luke Nixon falls into a pit of despair, only to find himself receiving advice from his dead wife in his dreams. He soon ends up under the care of an ancient organisation and learns that he and his family are of an ancient bloodline – and that his daughter is still alive.

Unsure if he can trust them, but lacking any other choice, Luke is left with only one option: to rescue his daughter. However, it’s no simple task following a breadcrumb trail across multiple continents, through the spirit realm, and ultimately bringing Luke face to face with gods and demons.

Click button below to buy now!

Cover Reveal: PYRAMIDION

Pyramidion

A project I started all the way back in March 2020, not knowing at the time where it was going or where it would end up, now finally coming to the end of its first phase – publication!

While I don’t have pre-order details just yet (they are coming within the next day or two), I can tell you that the book is targeted for release on JUNE 5TH!

And that spectacular cover you see to the right? This was drawn and designed by Simon Sherry – cover artist extraordinairre. Please, follow him on Twitter for more of his phenomenal art.

And keep an eye out on this very website for pre-order details in the next couple of days!

(Also, have you signed up for the mailing list yet? Head on over to the Home Page and scroll down to the bottom. This will include information on forthcoming books, but also free stories in the world of Pyramidion, coming soon!)

Beware Vanity Press and Predatory “Self Publishing” Companies

I am just about to publish my first novel, and I’ve done the whole thing myself (with, of course, help for cover design, editing, and typesetting). However, over the last 12 months, I’ve also done a hell of a lot of research into publishing, and looked into a number of organisations that promised to help me “self publish” my book. This immediately rang alarm bells for me – if I’m the one self publishing, then why do I need a company to help me? Beyond this exposure, though, I have close contacts with people that have utilised some of these companies, and I wish I could have advised them sooner. For that purpose, I hope this article will help any new writers on the path to self publishing.

Depending on your exposure to self publishing, you may not have heard of the term “Vanity Press” as yet. These are generally smaller publishing houses that promise to traditionally publish your book – at an upfront cost to you. The simple advice here is this – don’t fall for it. Traditional publishers will often pay YOU for the chance to publish your book, based on the fact that they see good potential in your book actually selling. Vanity presses don’t care if your book sells or not – they make money simply from the contracts they forge with writers, and then move on to exploit the next.

With the rise of self publishing, a new angle on the Vanity Press format has arisen. These are companies offering to help you self publish and market your book, all at an upfront cost. This is effectively a Vanity Press under a different name, and again you should be wary. Many of the claims these companies make are vague, and the prices they charge are exorbitant.

Note I’ve chosen not to name names in this post – my opinion is that none of these “self publishing” companies should be trusted. If you want to self publish, then… do it yourself – it’s actually quite straightforward. However, I will use an example that I did see on one well known organisation’s website.

This company offers a la carte options at a reasonable price – editing and cover design services, for example. However, they also offer self publishing bundles, being quite open that they will effectively do all the things you can do yourself, but as a service. They then make a lengthy list of inclusions to make it seem like a lot of value is provided in these bundle.

I reviewed two of their “most popular” bundles – one of which came out at just over $3000, and another at $6000.

The $3k package included:

  • Paperback, eBook, and Hardcover, interior and cover templets for authors to choose the internal layout, the option for authors to submit their own cover (but NO cover design), a website with very basic design, ISBNs supplied, worldwide distribution and listing, 15 paperback copies, 5 hardback copies, 50 business card, 50 bookmarks and… a whole list of things that look good but mostly meant nothing – and note NO editing service. Nor can you set your own price – they will set the price for you, which pretty much also means you won’t have access to your book in the portals. Doesn’t sound like self publishing to me…

Seriously, the length of the list was impressive, but consider this – many of the items on the list were standard offerings as part of a KDP submission, which authors can do themselves for free, or a $50 IngramSpark submission. Worldwide distribution and listing, for example? This most likely means they will submit your book via IngramSpark and click the “worldwide distribution” button. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will actively seek to get your book into bookstores. Bookmarks and business cards will set you back $100 if you do it yourself, as will the book copies. Writers will still need to get their cover designed and their book edited. To do everything on this list yourself would set you back all of $500, probably less.

The $6k package included:

  • Everything in the $3k package, plus cover design, a few more copies of your books and marketing material, an undefined marketing campaign, and – finally! – copy editing and cover design services, as well as the capability to set your own prices

And that’s it. Sure, the list makes things look more impressive, but again, most items on the list can be rolled into a single aggregate that writers can do themselves at low cost. I’ve seen the output of this package and I can tell you this – the Copy Edit seemed like more of a Proofread, and the cover design was very basic, utilising basic fonts and public domain images. From what I’ve seen, it hasn’t really been worth the cost. More importantly? Everything on this $6k package can be done – and done well, I might add – for far less than half that cost, plus you would have full control over everything.

My advice would be this: consider what needs to be done in order to self publish, and organise it all yourself.

Here’s a quick list:

  • Write book
  • Edit book
  • Design cover
  • Get ISBNs
  • Typeset/formatting
  • Publish via Amazon
  • Publish elsewhere
  • Market your book

That’s it. Sure, there’s a lot more work that goes into all of this, but this is a very basic list of what needs to be done in order to self publish, and in my opinion there are two that you absolutely shouldn’t do yourself (edit and cover design) and a third that you can do yourself, but getting someone else to do it may be a better idea (typesetting). And marketing? I’ll discuss that chestnut another time.

So go off and research prices for cover design, editing, and typesetting. Think of an amount you’d be willing to spend, and still within that budget. Keep in mind that you might not sell enough books to get this money back (it’s important to be realistic). You might find you can do all of this for only $1000! Personally, I’d spend more – ensure you get a really good cover, and that your edit is extensive and professional – but the amount is up to you.

Now… keep in mind that I did mention that some of these “self publishing” companies offer these services a la carte. While this may be true, I think it’s better to go find someone who offers this service as a primary source of their income – you’ll get much better results.

And… I should note that I have been told there are some organisations out there that help writers prepare to self publish, and then let the writer do the publishing themselves – effectively helping with editing, cover design, and typesetting only. This may help you to get things done all under the one umbrella, so it may well be a viable option. My preference is to find the right resource myself, but I thought I should clarify that not everyone out there is gunning for your money and offering nothing in return.

But the bottom line is this: don’t spend a ridiculous amount of money to let someone else “self publish” your book for you – and then effectively own the publishing rights. Yes, it seems daunting to do it all yourself (and at times it is), but trust me – when all is said and done, it’s really quite easy.

I will look to cover the self publishing process in more detail in future posts, so join my mailing list for more info (scroll to the bottom of the page). I’m currently working my way through Book 2, and finalising marketing for Book 1, so I’m still learning, and there’s a great deal I can share that I think will be of benefit.

Book 1 Update: May 2021

Hey!

You might recall back in mid-March that I had completed the third draft of my first novel (title: Pyramidion), and was ready to pass over to professional editing. If so, you might be wondering where things are at now, two months later. Good news! That’s what I’m here to tell you!

When I’d done my third draft, I was pretty happy. If you’ve read the article, you’d know. But I didn’t mention anything about my editor.

I didn’t know where to go, originally. I considered a few people online – I frequent several writer’s groups on Facebook, you see, and there are several editors there, all of whom were reasonably priced with their offers. I also checked Fiverr – a website where one can hire another person to do… pretty much anything. I’ve used Fiverr a couple of times before, and I always found them hit-and-miss. Not only do you get what you pay for, but you really don’t know if that person is trustworthy. I wasn’t sure I could trust my book to Fiverr.

And to be honest, many of the editors I found on Facebook were similar – they were either of limited experience, or their portfolio just wasn’t satisfying (or… successful, in many cases, which I’m not sure is a good sign… perhaps I’m being too picky).

So I was stuck.

In the end, I came across a helpful website for writers – Reedsy. It’s full of articles and free videos/courses, many of which are very useful for new writers. Plus, there’s paid content as well, and – more importantly – a service that puts writers in contact with editors, effectively allowing a writer to propose a job to a select few editors, who can then make an offer for this job, should they choose to.

What makes this system better than Fiverr is the amount of information each editor provides: current day job (many of the editors do this as a side job), previous employment, previous edit portfolio (and links to the books themselves), plus testimonials from previous customers. Even better? Many of the editors already work within the publishing industry – in fact, many work for traditional publishers and do this editing work on the side, which feels like a bonus for those of us that are looking to self publish.

But it’s not the cheapest. In fact, it was about double what I was quoted by the Facebook editors… It was a tough decision, but I wanted what I felt was the best. I wanted to give my book the best chance.

Anyway, I don’t want to go into this process too much, but suffice it to say that I chose one of the offers, and the editing is well underway – in fact, it may even be completed in the next couple of weeks.

At the same time, I engaged an artist friend who had previously done some design work for me, and asked him to create a cover for me. He has experience in cover design (quite a lot, actually), so I trusted he would be able to come up with something original. I provided him with a copy of the third draft to help him understand the story, and he came back to me with a first draft at the end of last week.

And he damnwell knocked it out of the park. The image you can see on this page is a tease – it’s cropped from the cover art itself. I can’t wait to show it off in full, but not until I’m ready to publish. You can bet your ass it’s worth waiting for.

Soon, my pretties.

Aaaand… this is true. It will be soon. In fact, all going well, I hope to publish sometime in June. But there’s still a fair amount of work that needs to be done first – completion of the editing (which will require a full follow-up re-read by yours truly), typesetting, finalising of the cover (front, back, and spine), official ISBN and barcode… and then off to publishing!

Sadly, as a new author, I can’t publish on a specific date, so I won’t be able to give an exact release date, but I will be within a day or two. And I don’t want to do a cover reveal until I’m probably around a week from publishing…

So June may be optimistic, but I’m going to go all out. Hopefully the next update will be a full cover reveal and estimated release date… time will tell.

“Am I good enough?”

Am I a good enough writer to sell books – that is, am I good enough for people to actually want to read and enjoy reading my books? This is a question that I’m certain has plagued writers since time immemorial. In my opinion, though, it’s not a question of “am I good enough?” but rather – “do I really want to write?”

If you want to write – write for yourself. If you have a good enough story, and – of course – if you a re a proficient writer, you may be picked up by a publisher. However, if you wrote for yourself (effectively, to tell the story you want to tell), then you should ultimately be happy with your work – and self publishing is a valid option (but one I will go into in some detail in a later post).

Selling and success are different – in some ways, actually finishing writing a book, even just a first draft, is a success in itself. So, as I said in my article ‘Never Stop Never Stopping’, just write until you finish your first draft. Do your best to get that story down on paper. Once it’s done, you can fix it, fix it some more, get some input, get yourself a kick ass cover, and get to publishing. The first step is the writing itself.

You ARE good enough

Very few writers are amazing writers at first draft. In fact, every successful book you see on the shelves (and even those less successful) were edited many times before publishing – several times by the writer themselves and at least once by a third party. Nobody should avoid editing – it will actually improve your work. You should resist that urge for your story to be “all you” because it will ultimately be flawed – as we all are.

So write your book. Edit your book. And have someone else edit it too. You are good enough – if you have a good idea and can structure it well, you can get the story down onto the page – and then you can work to tell it WELL.

Of course, not everyone is a good writer, this is true. Some writers may struggle to sell any books, no matter how hard they try. So feedback becomes important as well – feedback from those that aren’t going to protect your ego. You need to receive hard criticism – it will ultimately make your book better, provided you listen. Of course, if you have a few beta readers and only one has major problems, you can always pick and choose what you fix and don’t fix. But if more than one person points out a flaw or many flaws? Then they’re probably right.

In the end, though, the main person that should be happy with the work is yourself…

… but you aren’t amazing

I hesitated to write this section, but I think it needs to be said. I’ve been a member of a number of Fiction Writing Facebook groups, and I can tell you now – there are a lot of people out there that think thy are GREAT writers, but have very poor grammar and articulation, and are very difficult to read. This doesn’t necessarily make them a bad writer – but as I said in the previous section, they should be aware of this. We all should.

Since I was a kid, I’ve been told that my writing was great – easy to ready, flowed well, some even told me my writing was exceptional. However, I know it’s not. I write in an overly simplistic manner, I skimp on detail, I tend to tell more than I show, and my grammar is far from perfect. My first book (publishing within the next month or two at the time of writing!) is far from a classic. In fact, it’s short, fast-paced, and could be better – everything can ALWAYS be better. But I’m very happy with it – it’s not going to run off the shelves, but I feel as if I’ve told a good story, and it can only get better from here.

The point is – friends and family will always tell you very positive things (for the most part). They will always tell you that your writing is great – exceptional even. But that’s perhaps compared to themselves. Not to Stephen King. So it’s important to keep that in mind. You, like everyone else, will absolutely need an editor.

Success?

Success is what you make it, and this brings me back to what I said at the start – write for yourself. There are billions of people in this world, each with their own likes and dislikes. you can’t possibly write something that appeals to everyone. So write something YOU like. Something YOU would want to read. I can guarantee there will be others out there that will also want to read it. In some cases, maybe only a few; in others, many.

That said, your book won’t find an audience simply because you wrote it. It will need a good cover, and it will need to be advertised. Good luck with that. And even if you self publish, it will cost you money (how much depends on your budget), so success is tricky – very few first-time writers will see mainstream success, self-published or not. In fact, very few of those that self publish will recoup the costs within the first year. Or ever, for that matter…

So… write for yourself. Be happy with your work, and build a budget based on how much you would be happy to spend even if you made nothing from your book. That way, every sale is a bonus.

That said… I acknowledge that’s not so easy. We all want our books to sell. In our mind’s eye, we all see that “best seller” sticker on the cover. But while it is important to have goals and to have ambition, it’s also important to be realistic. More than that? All success requires hard work. My goal will be to recoup my expenditure in my first year. I’ll do my best to achieve that, but if I sell anything at all, I’ll still see that as a success.

Why write?

Why write, indeed.

I guess it’s different strokes for different folks, but I think it all comes down to just a few things:

  1. For a job
  2. For money (yes, I’m separating this from the first, because it can be a side project or hobby)
  3. For the love of it

And that’s probably about it, really.

Some of us have a day job that requires us to write – you may be in marketing, or a journalist, or – shock! – you might even be a novelist. Or you might simply write as part of your job – my day job in sales/consulting sees me writing presentations, demos, and all sorts of fun things fairly regularly.

The second point is a contentious one – for me, at least. At first, I had wanted to list this as “For a hobby”, but I really felt “For money” was more accurate.

Let me explain why.

For years, I thought of myself as a bit of a videogame connoisseur. I’d loved games all my life, had read the magazines, followed the news, and I thought I could do a better job than some of the peeps out there that do this for a day job (no offense to any of you that may be reading).

In some ways, I think I was right – I did do a pretty good job… from time to time. But I never pinned down WHY I wanted to do it. And for me, it boiled down to one thing – I wanted to make a name for myself. That is, I wanted to turn it into my day job.

But it’s not an easy job to GET. So I did the next best thing – writing reviews and the like as a hobby, first on my own website, and later for others. Yet it never satisfied me, and I think I realised why – finally! After all these years – I think it’s because I wasn’t writing about games because I LOVED writing about games. It was because I wanted to be something. Something I was never going to be.

When I realised this, I put the brakes on pretty hard. I did want to be a games reviewer, but I knew that, for several reasons, I couldn’t be one. So the effort I was putting in was actually being wasted, and was better placed elsewhere.

(Now… Please note that this was MY experience, and there are plenty of folks out there that do this kind of thing because they DO love writing about games, and that’s fine – it’s just not me.)

And this brings us to my third point… The love of writing. Personally, I think this is the most important. Writing for a day job, that’s one thing, but if there’s no love there, it’s just a job. Writing as a hobby or for extra cash – more of the same. But writing for the love of it? This is where beautiful things are born.

And… sometimes terrible things, because not everybody CAN write well – but the point is, if you write because you love it? Then it doesn’t matter – it should get better in the editing process.

So while you work on your book, or your website, or your speech, or WHATEVER, sit back and take a breath, and think about WHY you are writing this. Is your heart truly in it? It’s ok if it’s not, but you might find that your approach to the writing itself changes depending on your answer to that question.

Plus, I’d perhaps ponder further on whether you should actually keep writing that book if your heart’s not in it.

And what about me? Why do I write?

When I was very young, I was a voracious reader. And more than that, I loved to write stories, which I wrote by hand, in big scrapbooks, accompanied by illustrations also scratched in coloured pencil by my own hand. I loved writing. I loved coming up with new ideas, new characters, and crazy situations for them to get themselves out of.

When I got older, I had no idea what I “wanted” to do. So I chose classes in high school that would put me with my friends, rather than classes I would benefit from. Shame. In 10th grade, I put massive amounts of effort into a fiction story-writing project – so much effort in fact that I submitted a 20,000 word fantasy story that was only a few chapters of a much grander idea. My teacher at the time gave me top marks. I’ll never forget the comment he put on the front – “Talent, Greg. Talent.” And yet I neglected to continue focusing on my writing.

In my 20s, I began writing again, highly influenced by drug taking and the Beat culture – I loved reading Burroughs and Kerouac at the time – but this too was just a phase. I was still discovering myself.

That process took me 20 more years. And I’m still discovering myself. But the one thing that I did discover over the course of my investigations was this – I am a writer. I love to write. And I have stories I want to share with the world, if they want to read them.

Third Draft is done!

So… I just finished my third draft. So why am I so excited?

Well… it all comes down to the process, and the process for this book has been pretty basic, really.

First draft? Get the book done. Get the story down on paper. I had a story to tell, and I wasn’t 100% sure what it was, so I wrote it all out. I heard it said once (perhaps it was a Stephen King quote?) that the first draft is where you tell yourself the story. It’s not really intended for anyone else’s eyes. You just want to get that fella down on “paper” — warts and all.

Truth be told, I had a friend that read my story until around the 10th chapter (about a third of the final product). Initially, I didn’t have confidence that I could write, so I needed input from a third party. However, I eventually realised that external input this early into the process… it’s counter-intuitive. Feedback encourages the writer to go back and fix things – the first draft is not the time to fix things. Get it done.

If you need someone to look over your work, do it for the first few chapters, just until you are certain you’re on the right track. Then shut that shit down! Readers will give you their thoughts, suggestions, and all sorts of “helpful” feedback that will just slow you down – and some may even stop the process completely… Don’t let that happen!

The second draft? This is the clean-up draft. Work your way through from start to finish, finding all the major mistakes (grammar, punctuation, spelling, style) and look to find any inconsistencies that you can. Does this character wear red shirts every chapter, and then suddenly they are in a white shirt (crappy example, I know)? Think about whether the story makes sense. Think about the decisions your character makes, and whether or not they are realistic. Keep a separate document open for notes – as you get further into the book, you’ll think of things you need to change earlier in the book. So note them down, but KEEP GOING WITH THE EDIT. It’s always about not letting things get in the way… No distractions.

Once you’ve done the second draft, go back to your notes and apply the change you’ve listed. Now you’ve got a (more) polished version of the story you wanted to tell! Huzzah!

At this point, you have a couple of options. If you have the means, you might want to consider a developmental edit (this can also come prior to or during the first draft as well, if you need help structuring the story). This can help to ensure the story makes logical sense, has enough twists and turns, and is as exciting as it needs to be.

If, like me, you don’t have the means at this time, you can go straight to Beta Readers. This is a small group of readers (I suggest less than 10 – trust me, you’ll get what you need from 5 or 6 different readers) that you hand a copy of your polished draft to, wanting their feedback on the story overall, the characters, continuity, and all the important story components. You don’t want grammatical feedback (unless it’s a mess).

Who should they be? Well… preferably, you want people that are going to be honest. Not friends and family that will tell you that you are the beautiful snowflake that you are, simply because they’re friends and family. Of course, SOME friends and family will be honest. I’ll let you make the decision. I had some family members read it, but mostly friends and colleagues. I got a LOT of great feedback, and discovered there were several areas that really needed a lot of attention – but I also learned that my book wasn’t that bad as it was.

The third draft is where you apply this feedback. Keep in mind that some of it will be character based, so it will apply throughout the book. Some will apply to certain chapters. Others will apply to the ending. But good feedback should mean a massive rewrite (and when I say rewrite, I don’t mean you start from the beginning and rewrite the whole book, I mean that major sections are amended, deleted, or added).

My third draft took longer than my second draft, which perhaps took about as long as the first, but it was more satisfying. I could tell that each change was improving the story greatly. For me, this first book (Pyramidion) was severely underwritten. It’s fast-paced, action-adventure, so I didn’t use too much description. But I also really missed some character development, messed up one major scene, and really underdeveloped the ending. As a result, my story grew by more than 10,000 words. Many bigger writers suggest that their books shrink by 10%. Your mileage may vary.

Some may want a further edit, others may go for a second beta read, it’s really up to the writer. Me? I was (am?) happy with my book. I was convinced that it was now pretty damned good (but as with everything, could certainly always have been better – but you need to move on eventually). So my next step? Line editing. Copy editing. Whatever you want to call it. Here, your editor will clean up your prose and make it sound better, as well as fixing any awkward bits. Basically, this is the real polishing stage.

Don’t skip this. Don’t skip ANY edit. You may write well (or you may THINK you do), but nobody prints a book straight from their mind into book form. All of your favourite authors are edited. Promise. If you want good reviews, or people to actually read your book… get it edited. Professionally.

Once I’ve got that back, and I’ve made any required changes, and both me and my editor are happy? Off to get typeset. Then? PUBLICATION.

Yep. That’s why I’m excited. Most of the hard upfront work is done. It’ll take my editor one or two months to edit, but once that’s done? Publication won’t be too far away. So… I’m excited.

What’s on my Desk?

Well, I hope there’s nothing terribly embarrassing in this photo, but hey – I basically LIVE at my desk these days. But my desk is a little more advanced than others — I have a dual screen setup, along with a TV to the side for my vidya games, I also have a webcam, and a USB mic. Oh – and two notebook PCs.

Yes, this is my setup for both my personal computer and my day job. The dual screens heps me perform better in my day job, and for my personal life, it means I can do more than one thing at a time. Write on the left, research on the right! Amazing! But I also make podcasts and videos and all sorts of other things besides, so my desk is full of things.

And books. Always reading. The stack on the right is my “to be read” stack, which I try to keep in order. The stack onthe right is my manga, which I read whenever. And on top of the notebook in the middle is my current book, which in this case is Leviathan Wakes.

And there’s also a cooling fan in the middle because I live in Australia and like the comforts of life.

Do you need all of this stuff? HELL NO. In truth, all you need is a PC and you’re good to go (or a notebook if you’re one of those crazies that still likes to write by hand – no thanks). But do keep in mind your back and neck – if you plan on writing a lot, perhaps invest in a separate monitor and keyboard/mouse, just to elevate your eyes and keep you from staring down at a screen. It’s really bad for your neck. Also, invest in a good chair to take the pressure off your back, and get up to take a walk at least once every hour.

To be honest, my setup is messy and all over the place – I’ve added to it over the years and really need to optimise, particularly my desk. It’s coming soon, I am planning to buy a looooong desk and probably having 4 screens side by side – separating my work and personal lives completely. But all of that is yet to be seen. I’m happy with it for now.

In terms of software? I’ll probably do a more detailed write-up, but for the moment I use Scrivener. Do I recommend it? Not sure – if you’re a new writer, stick with Google Docs. It’s constantly backed up, available wherever you are, and if you need a local copy, you can download it any time. Plus, it tracks all of your revisions, and you can scroll back in time to see how things changed. Scrivener has different functions that make it worthwhile, but they are absolutely not NECESSARY for your first novel.

The beauty of Google Docs? You can also use it for notes, so you can keep all of your pertinent info all in one place, in a folder in your Google Docs. Yes, I’m kind of annoyed at myself for switching to Scrivener, but again, I’ll get into that further at a later date.

And that’s it. The rest is up to you. Computer and a desk and Google Docs – that’s all you need… Oh, and think about your back and your neck. And coffee. Coffee is pretty important, too.

Never Stop Never Stopping

If there’s one tip that has been most important to me since I started, it’s this: don’t stop. I mean, it goes without saying. If you want to write a story, novel, book of whatever description, you need to keep going until it’s done. Makes plenty of sense.

But the point I took from this wasn’t just to not stop writing, it was more that you’re book isn’t written till it’s written. And what I mean by that is…

New writers will lack confidence to keep going, especially at the start. They’ll want people to check their first line, their first paragraph, their first chapter… and then they’ll want someone to do the same for the second. They’ll ant to know if it’s good; if the story makes sense; if the characters are right; if the dialogue sounds normal… and so on and so forth, ad infinitum. They may even feel the need to come up with a title, and the lack of ideas — or to be clear, the lack of good or acceptable ideas — will delay the writing further.

And the thing is? None of this matters. Your story is… probably not amazing just yet. And it doesn’t matter. But what does matter is that your story needs to be told. You need to get it out of you and down on digital paper, and then you can get started on two things:

  • making it good, AND
  • making it better

You can worry about whether or not your book is any good once it’s finished. If you want to do it right, you’re going to need to edit your book several times. Ask every writer how much editing they do — it doesn’t matter if they are new like you, or a bestseller — they’ll all say the same thing… uhhh… a lot. You may think you’re the best writer ever, but… odds are you’re not. I’m certainly not. But I’ve just finished my third full edit, and I can tell you right now — the book I’ve got now is a hell of a lot better than it was after my first draft. And even better? My next step is to hand it over to a professional editor. To edit it even more.

And I’m very happy about that.

But… the only thing that got me to where I am now was that never-stoppingness. And trust me – I tried to hijack my progress on several occasions.

So… my number one tip: Don’t. Stop. Until. It’s done.