DAY 22 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

You may have heard of this term. But what does it mean?
As fiction writers, we create an imaginary world, with imaginary characters and imaginary plots. And the key word here is: IMAGINE.
Legendary BBC Broadcaster Alistair Cooke once said “I prefer radio because the pictures are better.”
Clearly, Alistair was of the opinion that, using words to fire up listener’s imaginations can tell a better story.

There’s perhaps no better example than the featured image on this post: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov.
Isn’t that a beautiful phrase? And doesn’t that create a better image in your head, which also, possibly, raises a questions: why is the glass broken? What are we doing her during the night?

Here’s another example: “Emma was sad.” Okay. It’s short, to the point. She’s sad. But sadness is an emotion, so why not instil some emotion, some sharing of Emma’s emotion, with the reader? Enjoyment of stories is much better if the reader can imagine themselves as one of the characters. “Emma was quiet. I looked across at her, seeing her face blank, tears forming in her eyes.”

You can show so much about a character’s internal status and demeanour by body language and facial expression. They don’t need to tell us how they’re feeling at this particular time – we can see!

You can also show a character’s mood through their dialogue, and how they say things. Compare these two lines: 

Her eyes lifted to look at his face, showing pain, anguish, even fear. “It’s not right,” he whispered.

Her eyes lifted to look at his face, showing pain, anguish, even fear. “It’s not right!” he bellowed.

Okay. Let’s try one of these ourselves. Take the view you have, or a view through a window. “I can see a tree in the sunshine. There’s a breeze.” That’s a bit boring, isn’t it?
“The silver birch outside my window bent, lazily, its branches flicking in every direction. Harsh midday sunlight reflected off its bark, forcing me to look away.” It’s a bit more ‘wordy’, and it’s a much better picture I’m creating.

You can show seasons: “Deep snow lay like a puff-white blanket in the garden” (winter); “The smell of fresh-cut grass wafted in through the open window for the first time this year” (spring); “In the distance, I can hear children’s excited voices as they cool off in the city-centre fountains” (summer); “Dried leaves crackle and branches snap underfoot” (autumn). I’m sure you could do better – these are ones I just made up now.

Have a look at something you’ve written recently. Is there a way to enhance the storytelling by showing, not telling?


DAY 21 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

Don’t click away! I’m not going to nag you (well, not much, anyway) to do your backups. I’ve already done that. This (like the previous case) will give you some practical solutions to make sure that you DO YOUR BACKUP!

Oops. Sorry to shout.

In the first episode of BACKUP (  ), I talked about the reasons we need to backup our data. In the second episode (  ), I described my file naming convention, which means I have a series of fresh files throughout the project, ensuring that if something disastrous happens to my work file, I have a file that’s (at most) 1 day old.

In this episode, I’m going to talk about where you back up your data to. Where do you put the copies of the files for safekeeping?

1) The first, and easiest, and one I mentioned before, is to email a copy of your file to yourself. It really is quick (I’ve just done it, and it takes 10 seconds, maybe less). It’s easy. It’s free. Just think that there will be a nice, safe file somewhere in the cloud which you can access from anywhere in the world. Neat, huh? You should be doing this at least once per day.

2) Use USB ‘thumb’ sticks. These are huge nowadays for very little money. £10 will buy you 32GB of safe storage. You can buy them from supermarkets. for goodness’ sake! Buy one with your weekly shopping. Tell you what – buy two. Alternate between them. I back up the files I’m working on (sometimes the whole of a project folder) at least once per week. And make sure you don’t leave them with the laptop. I have two memory sticks which attach to my set of keys. When I’m out of the house, so are my keys, and so are my important files.

That is such a brilliant idea, I should be selling these tips.

3) Use external USB hard disks. These are relatively cheap now. I can buy a 2TB (terabyte) external drive for less than £50. Yes! Two thousand gigabytes! And it’s a good one, at that. You can afford to back up your whole writing folder whilst you’re having lunch or something. And, while you’re investing in security, buy a second USB hard disk, too. Alternate big backups, but give one to a neighbour. Theft or fire could destroy your precious backups. Thousands of pounds- worth of work is at risk if you don’t look after your computer files.

So, just a short post today. It’s not like I’m going to labour the point, is it?


DAY 20 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

Writer’s block. You’ve all heard of it. It’s that time when you want to write, but the words just won’t come. Your muse has departed, and left you… wordless.

Excuse my language. I do not believe in writer’s block. Neither do these people.

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
– Louis L’Amour


“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
– Jack London

Let me explain. Sometimes, writing flows. Sometimes, writing doesn’t flow. The reasons? I have no idea – it could be a combination of mental state, tiredness level, enthusiasm, other things happening in our lives… many, many things. And it would be very easy to kowtow to our feelings. And it is made easier by giving those feelings a name.

Writer’s Block

Writers talk about it a lot. It seems to be a common problem.

But waaay back, when I was thinking I’d quite like to do this thing for a living, I wondered about those days when the writing didn’t flow. What could I do about it?

One comment I heard was: “A brain surgeon doesn’t get surgical block.” And the obvious parallel is that when someone does a ‘normal’ job, they need to do that job, no matter what. And I’m sure on some days, surgeons don’t feel as well as they do on others. Our capability to do a job to the best of our ability varies day to day, but apart from being ill, a surgeon can’t phone in and say he doesn’t feel like doing his / her job.

So – what’s the solution?


Next thing – tell yourself you’re going to do some writing at the time you normally do your writing.

Then find some way in which you can put characters, words, and sentences onto paper / in a file.

Here are some suggestions: write a blog post. Sometimes, writing non-fiction will break the deadlock where writing fiction won’t. If you’re not a blogger, and you don’t think you want to be, you can write about something else – maybe write about getting through writer’s block (like I’m doing now!)

OR (and I know this worked with a friend I helped) pick a tiny portion of your viewpoint. It doesn’t matter where you are, or what you can see from where you write, but focus on one small portion of your view. Here’s a thing I’ve found useful – extend both arms in front of you, and form a rectangle with the first finger and thumb of each hand. It’s like zooming in on a camera. Don’t choose your view point. That may sound strange, because you’re naturally going to want to choose something interesting to write about. Don’t do that. Bear with me. Extend the arms, form the viewpoint, and look. Really, really look.

Okay, let’s do a test, right now. I have a viewpoint. It’s a small portion of the wall in front of me. So now, let’s write 50 words on what I see. Only 50 words. Be as eloquent or lyrical or poetic as you like.

A shadow falls across the wallpaper, from black to grey to lighter grey to… the off-white wall. But the wall is not one flat colour. There are patters, swirls and whirls and lines and curves, surface texture embossed with semi-random shapes. They make no sense. And yet, suddenly…

There you go. Exactly fifty words on the wallpaper on my wall. It ain’t gonna win no Pulitzer, nor am I going to publish it.

There is a stage 2, where we enlarge our viewpoint slightly. Bend your arms, form that viewpoint again, and look. Really look. Look throughout the restricted viewpoint, noting what you see, all the details. Now, write 100 words on what you’ve seen through that viewpoint. You can do this. You wrote fifty words a moment or two ago. You just need to write a few more, and now I’ve given you a MUCH bigger thing to write about!

Okay. Done that? Guess what, you don’t have writer’s block!


DAY 19 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

Earlier in the month, we talked about finding somewhere to write.

There’s something I wrote in my “NaNoWriMo – Meeting the challenge” book

Here’s another complaint I hear – “I don’t have anywhere to write. I only have a small house / apartment / igloo”. We’ve all seen Stephen King’s writing room, and Ian Rankin’s upstairs office space. How much easier would it be to write if I had a centrally heated, air-conditioned, coffee-machine-equipped office with a view of Mont Blanc or the River Rhine or the South African Veldt or the soaring peaks of Glencoe?

Well, maybe a little, but you’re just finding excuses. Again. You don’t need a special space to write. Yes, you would do well to be on your own without interruptions from pets or family. But you can write with your laptop on your … lap. You can write in the middle of an office with headphones on. You can write on a train.

The most prolific period of my career was when I sat at a tiny flatpack desk facing a blank white wall. You can write in the kitchen whilst you’re waiting for your pasta water to boil, or your coffee machine to bubble, or even whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. You don’t need an office. You don’t need a ‘special space’. What you need to do is write words. Get to it!

I remember an episode of “Grand Designs”, where a man wanted to build a house in France with an office “with a great view” so “I can wrote that novel I’ve always wanted to write.

He built that house, and he really did have a study which had a wonderful view across a valley, including green fields and a village in the distance. So, he must have polished off that novel in no time?

He didn’t.

What he did do was write a book about how to build a house in France. The novel didn’t get written. So it wasn’t the lack of a special room that was stopping him – it was himself!.

You could say: “But Gerald, you’ve got a nice study with a view into countryside – it’s all right for you to preach!”


But in my defence, it is a spare bedroom, converted into a study. AND writing is my business. AND my partner writes on the dining table. She’s a full-time author, too.

In conclusion: you can write wherever you want.


DAY 18 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

This is a blog post for novel and novella writers.

It’s quite easy to keep a reader engaged in your flash fiction or short story, with their limited range of characters and plots.

But what about when you want to extend your range a little, and write longer stories? It’s easy, right? Just add a few more characters, another plotline or two, maybe another location, and Bob’s your uncle.

Take it from me – it’s really not that simple. Don’t ask me how I know.

And there is a danger that in the middle of the wordcount (say, 30,000 words for a novel), you end up waffling. What’s waffling? 

Waffle – to speak or write at length in a vague or trivial manner.

How this manifests is that your story is roaming around, not really getting anywhere. Characters appear, say something, do something, and then disappear again without having had any significant effect on the story. That, on a number of occasions, has been my story.

If you, too, find yourself in this awful situation, what can you do?


Have your main character break a limb, take up a new hobby, lose the love of his life. Just when you think it’s all done, and all the ends are tied up nice and neat, CHANGE SOMETHING. PIVOT. What’s the worst thing that can happen? The hero has vanquished his arch-enemy. He has grabbed the girl. She has kissed him (because he’s not an over-aggressive jerk, he’s your hero). Then have him (or her) contract a rare a virulent disease. Have a sink-hole open up and take her away. Have a random plane land on them, miraculously killing him but saving her, thus making her the NEW hero of the story. Ha haaa! Got you there, readers! But that’s, at least, more interesting.

You can also ‘design out’ the saggy middle, from the start of writing. Shout out to my favourite ‘thing’, Save The Cat Since I began using this, I NEVER have a saggy middle (in my story!). The StC structure ‘designs out’ sags by setting out a beat-by-beat plan for the story, ensuring that you write in the highs and lows, the changes of pace, the tension and the conflict as you begin to plan your story.


DAY 17 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

How difficult is it to be a writer?

Strangely, no one ever asks that question. Because they either already know it’s very difficult, or because they think it’s easy.

Writing is easy. No, really, it is. You pick up a pen or a pencil or crayon or anything which will make a mark, you pick up something else which will show those marks… and you write. You can write whatever you like.

 Here’s a scenario, and see if you recognise it: you make a decision that you’re going to start writing. You write about a few things going on in your life. You may even put your opinions down on paper (electronic devices are available!). You might even construct a story – perhaps for a child, or for your own enjoyment, or a fictional piece of writing based on something that happened to you, or maybe is happening around you.

So far so good.

You’re happy with what you’re doing. You quite like this writing lark. Maybe even a family member looks at what you’ve written, and given you feedback of the “that’s really fantastic! Well done” kind.

You feel that maybe you’ve got this writing thing buttoned down, and you write more. Maybe you join an online group, or a real life group, and share your writing.

And you get a bad critique.

This is where writing gets tricky. Do you accept the critique? Because, when you’re a new writer, a critique of your writing is a criticism of you. This is your writing baby. How dare someone say nasty things about it?

At this point, your writing journey can go one of three ways:

  • You totally give up writing, vowing never to pick up a crayon again.
  • You take umbrage, and vow never to speak to that person again; you know you’re a good writer, because people have said so, and you’re going to continue your journey in the same way
  • You listen to the critique, you look at your writing, you accept that maybe other people are not so emotionally attached to it, and you learn from it.

You will probably guess that I’m advocating the latter. And I am, but only if your heart is in it. You are going to want to improve your writing.  It’s a tough lesson, and one which many of us have had to learn. When I started writing literary short fiction, I read some damning critiques of my work. But, do you know what? It improved my writing, and critiquing other writers improved my writing, too. But, as the leader of that group always said: critique the writing, don’t criticise the writer.

Learn the difference, and react accordingly.


DAY 16 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

A first draft is a horrible thing.

The first draft of anything is sh*t.

Ernest Hemingway

Writing, and especially publishing, is filled with anachronistic terms and phrases. Like many industries, I’m sure people use out-of-date phrases in order to heighten the mystique. It might even be used to exclude those who haven’t been educated in the rarified atmospheres of ‘good’ universities. Might.

So, the “first draft.” As one person said to me once, it’s “telling yourself the story.” And in a way, they’re right. If you’re writing a novel, or even a short story, you don’t really know how it’s going to look until you’ve written it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been writing a full-length novel, and then realised that there’s not enough ‘story’ in it to complete it, or that the story I had in my head isn’t what’s coming out in the manuscript. I’m my own harshest critic. 

So let’s say you’ve fought these inner demons and doubts caused by imposter syndrome, and you’ve finished the story. Brilliant! Send it off to be printed / entered into a competition?

Errr… NO!

Remember Hemingway’s statement, above. He knew a thing or two about writing did old Ernest. What you do is you put the story to one side – in a drawer, or closed off in a folder on your laptop. 


What this does is to give you, the writer, ‘some distance’ from your writing. This is a fact – if you turn to edit a story too quickly, your mind sees what you think that you, the writer, should have written. Your mind ’sees’ the manuscript you wrote in your head, and not what you put on paper / in a file.

How long should I put the manuscript away?

It depends. In theory, the longer the better. I’ve come across old stories, written years ago, that I don’t even recognise as mine! But how long you put the manuscript away is entirely up to you, and how well you can ’step away’ from the writing, and what you intend to do with the story when it’s finished, and whether that has a deadline to it.

And my key message – when you start reviewing your first draft, BE HONEST! Read it like you would any other piece of writing.
Are there spelling and punctuation mistakes? Don’t assume an editor will fix them for you!
Does the opening spend too much time on description of landscapes or the weather?
Does the story move along at pace, or is it dreary and slow?
Does the key message of the story, the key theme, come through in the writing?
Does the ending round things up nicely, and provide a satisfying conclusion?

These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself before moving forward with the story.

I have done, MANY TIMES!


DAY 15 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

This is a strange question I often get asked, but in a way, it’s not strange.
“Which word processor do you use?”
or, the even more strange
“What laptop do you use?”
Why are they strange questions? 

Because it doesn’t matter

Let me explain. If you’re going to be a writer, you need some way in recording the words you’re using to tell your story. All agreed?

Writers, traditionally, LOVE a good notebook. I do, too – up to a point. But some people want to write poems and stories in their notebooks and keep them on a bookshelf. Which is great. I’m not knocking it. But the writing is then stuck, in pen / pencil / crayon on paper. Unless you show someone your notebook, you can’t easily share your work.

Some people like the kinetic feel of a typewriter. I love the *idea* of using a typewriter, but the thought of not being able to quickly and easily fix typos from my amateurish typing chills me to the bone.

If we’re moving into the age of modern technology, thee’s no doubt the rise of portable computing has changed much of our lives. You can write on a mobile phone (I know someone who won a competition using a story written on their phone, because they didn’t have a laptop.) There are tablets (such as iPads, Samsung Galaxy Tab and many low-cost imports from the far East), there are hundreds and hundreds of laptops around. Some (called Chromebooks, based on the Google Chrome browser) have little local storage, and are thus cheaper. I have a thing called an AlphaSmart, which is a mobile device, very low power, with a full-sized keyboard and tiny LCD display.

But no matter what other devices get recommended, I always come back to my beloved 2015 MacBook Pro. It was high-spec when I bought it (and expensive!), but it still works well enough.

So then we come to the perennial question: Do you use Mac or PC?

It’s one of those very binary questions which creates intense arguments at times. I was once called stupid for buying Mac. Buying one new now would cost in the region of £1,000 for a minimum spec model. A top spec version: over £4,000!

I treat my laptop as a tool of my job, and reliability is paramount, and in my opinion, worth paying a little extra for.


If you can’t afford or justify Apple’s eye-watering prices, there are other, good options. Brand new Chromebooks are less than £200. PC (Windows) laptops are similar in price. You can look out for special offers (especially at the start of school term); refurbished devices can have bargain basement prices. Always check on quantity and quality of feedback of supplier if you’re buying online. Also check Facebook marketplace, but beware if computers come without any documentation.

When it comes down to it, my 9 year-old laptop does the job I need it to. It helps me create my manuscripts (my 8th novel is coming out at the end of this month, and I have written seven non-fiction books for authors.) I do my own internal formatting and I create my own covers with some quite sophisticated graphics software. It doesn’t run ALL of the latest software, it doesn’t work from battery alone, and the processor overheats when I render video files. But it does everything I need it to, and if I needed to replace it in an emergency (having backed up my data, obviously) I could buy a refurbished MacBook air for £200.



DAY 14 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

This is the only subject I’ll write about which has multiple parts – it’s that important. For the first part, check here: – where I went through some of the potential disasters that might happen which would cause loss of your data (your story files).

So, if you accept that there is a risk, what can you do? These dangers can be reduced, of course, but if one of them does happen, can we minimise its effect?


We’ll start at one end of the process, when we’re creating our data files which hold our story’s text. And today’s tip is a very simple one – and it comes from a place of horrible experience.

After every hour or two, working on a manuscript, I will not simply save the file. Saving and saving and saving means the only file you have is being overwritten. So I use the “Save As…” option in Scrivener, to save my file under a different filename.

For instance, my first file, when I begin writing, might be:


Then, after working for a couple of hours, I’ll save it as:


Different filename, different file.
Next morning, before I start, I’ll save the working file to a new filename:


All of this means that, at the worst, I might lose a few hours of work if a file goes bad, or for some reason it disappears from my computer (not that one ever has, but you never know).

Say, you’ve written 100,000 words at around 250 words an hour (an optimistic guess which includes planning time and staring out of the window time). That’s 400 hours work, MINIMUM. At a minimum wage (the current UK living wage is £11.44 / hr) , that’s £4,576. It’s more likely to be double that or more for a completed manuscript. And yet, you mean to tell me, you only have ONE COPY of that in the whole wide world? Thousands of pounds-worth of your hard work?

That’s not very clever.

“But Gerald,” you might say, “doing all this backup stuff is rather a lot of work, isn’t it? And doesn’t it take up valuable disk space?”

Answer: No, and No.

1. It takes around 5 seconds, maybe less, to save your work under a new filename. Is safeguarding your work worth five seconds a day? Is your time so valuable you can’t afford five seconds?

2. A 50,000 word manuscript, with planning and research and ideas and so on takes up around one megabyte of disk space. You can have 1,000 versions of this to take up one gigabyte. Many laptops now have terabytes of disk space. If you’re really worried, you can delete the older versions of the files, if you so wish.

The last project I worked on included a lot of screenshots, and had a larger file size, ending up at around 20MB. My laptop (bought in 2015) has 500GB of storage space on it. It currently has 47GB of free space. Even with less than 10% space left, I could fit 2,700 versions of this Scrivener file on it, and still have free space.

Seriously, though – having incremental file names is the best way of ensuring that if the worst happens and you lose your working file, you can go back to a previous version which is, at most, a day old.

Part three will be coming along later in the month.


DAY 13 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

Do you remember that song by Bucks Fizz called “Making Your Mind up”? For American readers, Bucks Fizz was a British bubblegum pop band in the early 1980s, and they performed “Making Your Mind Up” at the Eurovision Song Contest.

For American readers, the Eurovision Song Contest was … well, never mind. 

Anyway, part of the lyric was “You gotta speed it up / And then you gotta slow it down …” And it was as if they were creating a guide to writing pace. With a hip wiggle. So, from the master poets of Bucks Fizz and their songwriters, what can we learn, other than fat old men in their 60s look ridiculous doing a hip wiggle?

We can learn that pacing is important, and that sometimes, you need to use longer, more languid sentences to allow the reader to catch their breath. Sometimes you need shorter sentences. Short sentences ramp up tension, get the reader’s heart racing, get them to rush through the words in order to discover the story. So here’s a tip: speed it up, then slow it down, then speed it up again. Just for fun!

Why is this important?

Look at these sentences (from Gary Provost):

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now read this:

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

Pacing is also important from a wider perspective, especially when writing a novel. Imagine reading a book which starts with an explosion, continues through a car chase, then a gun battle, then a fight scene in a dungeon, then another explosion, then another car chase…

Crazy, huh? I feel exhausted just reading the description.

In every longer story, you need highs and lows, action and introspection, loud chapters and quiet. Which is why I use the Save The Cat plot design in my novels. It guides the storytelling process, through those changes in pace in thousands of novels (including all of mine!), plays and films.

It helps you include turning and plot points in your novel, it includes the All Is Lost and Dark Night of the Soul moments. It gives the story a rhythm and a sequence, which has been proven to be a winner amongst readers and viewers time and time again. I can fully recommend it!