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 12 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

Unfortunately, the writing world is full of so-called rules. Often they are attributed to famous authors, when they are nothing of the sort. For example, you can often see “J.K.Rowling’s Rules For Writing” appearing on the internet, even though she has flatly denied EVER talking about rules.

One of the great writing adages is: “write what you know.”

I can understand why people say that. As an author, you don’t want readers picking over your stories, telling you things that you’ve got factually incorrect. That’s not a good look.

Additionally, there is a danger of being accused of cultural appropriation, writing from the point of view of someone you don’t represent. Some clarification: you can write about characters and situations which don’t directly affect you, the writer; however, the writer should be careful when attempting to write from the point of view of someone who they don’t represent.

Here’s an anecdote: I’ve always tried to write inclusive characters in my stories. Characters who aren’t me. I love writing characters who have some of the same character traits as me, and readers will sometimes point to one of them and say “that’s you, isn’t it?”

I include many female characters in my stories. I’m not a female. So I don’t “know” what being female is like. This was brought into stark view when I started a psychological thriller – a woman in jeopardy story. I thought it was going well for the first couple of chapters, but then I offered it up for critique. And the feedback? “It didn’t work”, “I didn’t feel the jeopardy”, and worst of all “I could tell it was written by a man.”


And that, for me, is the clear distinction between writing about a character and writing as a character. That book has been shelved, by the way.

Now, having got all of that out of the way, what’s wrong with writing what you know?

If that rule was true, there would be no futuristic sci-fi. Nobody knows what’s going to happen ten, twenty, a hundred years hence.

If that rule was true, I’d always be writing about working class pensioners who spent a life in engineering, and have now retired.

If that rule was true, I’d always be writing cycling stories, stories about watching TV crime dramas, and stories about red wine.

So I’m going to offer up a different “rule”:


DAY 9 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

Some of the most frequent questions I see and hear in writing groups concerns the process of writing. I’m going to talk about the technology we use when writing, and why, in a later post. But one subject which interests me is “musical accompaniment.”

Let me explain. I am very easily distracted. It’s part of who I am, that I can’t sit in one place, doing one thing, for more than 15-20 minutes. (This doesn’t include driving, by the way, in case you were wondering!) Part of my problem is that I write in a wooden hut in a country park (sort of). There is a track going past my window.

During the day, there are cars going past, tractors and vans; people walking; wildlife (birds, ducks, geese – no wildebeest or unicorns). So I often have something flashing by just out of my field of view.

Sounds, too, infiltrate my writing space. The aforementioned cars, vans, birds, etc, but also voices, and planes and helicopters flying over head.


Headphones. I used to use cheap headphones which cracked and were uncomfortable; then I used some birthday money to buy some excellent headphones – comfortable, high quality. Only one problem – they were connected to my computer with a piece of wire. OH NO! (First world problems, I know).

These days, I have both over-the-ear and in-ear sound devices, and both are wireless. No pulling things off the desk when I forget I’m wearing them. No having to stop what I’m listening to if I step away from the desk for a moment or two.

So why are they so important? 

Because they stop me from being distracted. The sounds coming into my ears cut me off from what’s happening around me, and help me focus on my writing. And, weirdly, there doesn’t even need to be sound coming through them. Many’s the time I’ve been writing and not realised that the sounds in my wears stopped many minutes before.

One added benefit of using ‘obvious’ headphones is that it signals to those around me that I am not to be disturbed!

Given that I like audio accompaniment, what do I listen to? And like many simple questions, the answer is complicated. Generally, if I’m drafting or planning or plotting my fiction, it must be something without words. No discussions, no YouTube videos in the background, and no music with lyrics. Words in my ear become words on the page, or get tangled up together in one big literary mess.

What kind of music is ‘“best”?

Ha! It depends on what you like. Don’t listen to something you hate, obviously. Choose something you like to listen to, but not concentrate on. No deep story-driven country songs, or angry rap. I quite like modern dance music, so for me what works best is trance, progressive rock, melodic house or techno. Chillstep was a recommendation from a NaNoWriMo << >> forum. Pretty much anything with “chill” in the genre title suits me.

The best thing to do is try listening to a wide variety of music and sounds, and see which suits you better!


DAY 8 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

Everyone who isn’t a writer thinks writing is easy. Most people can string words together, in a note for a family member or an informative message in a Christmas card. I’m not decrying the initial thoughts and ideas of fledgling writers, but there is a misconception that the step from writing a page of notes to creating a story or even writing a novel… well, it can’t be too hard, can it? It’s just like what I do, and have done – only more so.

Even those who enjoyed (as I did) writing stories at school might think that an A* mark at 15 is the signpost to literary success.

I know, I’m sounding somewhat arrogant and haughty. But as someone who has written eight novels (seven already published) and three collections of short fiction << >> and seven non-fiction books <<  >> I do understand how much work goes into the transition from ‘wanting to write’ to ‘being a writer’.

Don’t get me wrong – the rewards can be amazing. Not so much in the financial department (except for the very, very few) but in the sheer enjoyment you can get from telling stories.

I always say, in my workshops and courses, I consider there are several levels of ‘reward’ I have received in my career:

Note: none of these involved “my first million dollars” or “the sports car I bought with my first royalty cheque”. But, to me, these are worth far, far more than just money. 

And through my efforts ovr more than 20 years, I have been able to become a “full time author”. I don’t make enough money from royalties, even from seventeen published books (my marketing isn’t the best it could be). But having written eighteen books, it gives me the credibility and authenticity to be able to write articles, conduct workshops and courses, and build an income from the accumulation of several income streams.

But all of this… ALL OF IT… has come through hard work, and not giving up. 

Giving up, and saying “I wish…” is the easiest thing in the world. I will leave you with a great quote from Richard Bach (author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1970): “A professional author is an amateur who didn’t quit.” 

And to finish –  there are a ton of author quotes on the internet, because no one enjoys being quoted more than a writer! Here are a couple of my favourites: 

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” – Terry Pratchett

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov


DAY 7 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

Let’s assume for the moment that you’re writing on a laptop or desktop computer. Or a tablet, or maybe even a phone? Let’s just say you’re typing your words into an electronic device of some sort.


Yes, I capitalised it, because it’s IMPORTANT. 

I know, I know, we’re all used to doing things on the spur of the moment. Quick photo here, quick note there. We assume that, when we open our device, all of our data is still there from when we last looked at it.

But our hold on this data can be tenuous. It’s just a bunch of 1’s and 0’s, after all. Teeny tiny bits of electrical charge.

Now, I’m going to be coming back to this subject again, later in the month, because it’s so important. I’m going to be running through some simple, quick and cheap ideas for how you can make sure that all of your hard work is secure and safe. 

You might be asking: “But Gerald, it is really as important as you say?”

It’s a good question. After all, you’ve probably never lost a bit or a nibble or a byte or a word of data in your life.


It’s happened to me, and I’ve been close to people when it’s happened to them. The outcome of this can be devastating.

If you don’t consider backing up data as important as I do, maybe it’s a good idea if I go through some ways in which you could lose your data.

1) Hardware failure. Old-fashioned hard disks can fail, but even SSDs (Solid State Drives) can glitch or fail. It’s rare, I know, it it does happen.

2) Accident. Laptops and other mobile devices are… mobile. They can fall out of pockets and backpacks. They can be dropped. One of the things about digital devices – they either work, or they don’t. So anything dislodged or shaken inside the casing can cause trouble.

3) Problems at home. Every time we leave our home, it is potentially susceptible to burglary, fire, or flood damage. An unguarded and unattended home has risks.

4) Problems out and about. Theft from cars is common, especially if bags and cases are visible from outside. Devices can be left on a seat on a train, or slip out of pockets and fall under a seat.

I don’t mean to scare you, because there are some very simple, quick and cheap things we can do to ensure all of our data remains safe and accessible. But the time we invest in our creative efforts is huge, and is often worth far more than the devices themselves.

Check back later in the month for the simple measures I TAKE to keep my data safe.


DAY 6 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

One of the great questions in life: which is more important – character or plot? Which should I work on first?

And, of course, the answer isn’t simple. Different types of book are more character-focussed or some more plot-focussed. My partner writes about characters from the inside out, and structures a plot around that. I write a plot first, but with the characters in my mind. The characters are still important.

So, what makes a good character? Is it a full list of features, physical, emotional and psychological? Is it what job they do, or what their family is like? Is it how much money they have, or what car they drive?

And the answer is: partially. But these are only superficial aspects of their character. 

What readers want to know is: what is this character really like? Are they a character like me? What constitutes their belief system?

You can look up character traits online, for instance:

is quite a good resource, because it breaks character traits into 5 general groups: personality, physical attributes, beliefs and morals, classic hero traits, classic villain traits.

But resources like this:

can be more distracting than useful. The danger is that you create a character from a pick list, which doesn’t sound realistic.

I got the idea for my new new novel series (Witford Market Mysteries, 1st in series coming out at the end of this month BTW) from a specific location. I loved what it could bring to my stories. I had the beginning of an idea for a character, but I wanted her to feel like a newcomer (bringing conflict!). I wanted her to be a temporary visitor, but who would begin to get the vibe of a small village, and make her into a permanent member of the local population. And that brought the potential for closer characterisation for my characters. With a reduced stage, everything becomes more claustrophobic, and every trait could become amplified and / or more important to the other characters.

One final point – I like to cast my characters. I find film actors who have played characters like mine, both physically and psychologically, and put a photo of them in my planning software. It helps to provide a little extra background information.

BUT… don’t go overboard. Don’t make your characters so complicated that a reader would feel they needed therapy or hospitalisation! Give your characters depth, in their actions and relationships, but at all times, keep it real!


DAY 5 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

We all know what conflict is, right? No?

There are two common definitions:

That’s the traditional definition that all of us understand. Conflict results in a fight, yes?

On a simple level, conflict in a story is where one character wants to do something, and (usually) another character stops them. This can be a case of goodies versus baddies. But be careful: conflict isn’t necessarily an argument or a fight. This would, typically, be called external conflict. The conflict we can all see and it is the type of conflict requires some physical action to resolve it.

On a deeper level, it can also show something about belief systems. If your protagonist encounters people or a situation which contrasts with their own beliefs, they need to decide if  to confront the situation or not. If they confront, and overcome the conflict, they can effect change in themselves or their situation. They will overcome a philosophical conflict, or an internal conflict.

Can conflict always be written into a story. Is it essential?

In this wonderful writing world, we don’t need to do anything we don’t want to. Rules are there for guidance, but they are also meant to be broken. 

BUT… a story is made better with some conflict, some challenges for our protagonist. We all like to try to associate with our protagonists. We like to feel that we understand these characters, and imagine what we would do in their circumstances. And we know life for us real people is never one smooth glide through the days. There is always something which crops up, something negative, which we need to deal with. This is conflict, it is in all of our real life stories, and it should be in the stories we construct.


DAY 4 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

How many times have we heard that? All stories must have a beginning, a middle and an end. Logical, isn’t it? It dates back to ancient Greece, several hundred years BC, when Aristotle developed the three act structure for plays.

The first act begins with setup, where all of the main characters and their basic situations are introduced, as well as the setting. The second act, or confrontation, is considered to be the bulk of the story. The third act, or resolution, is when the problem in the story boils over, leading to the climax, which is the answer to the dramatic question, being hand in hand with the end of the conflict.

So, beginning middle and end. Use the beginning to set the stage if you will. Introduce your main character(s), where they are (in time and place), and what their problem is. Use the middle to tell the story of the main character (called, in writing circles, the protagonist). The end is when the protagonist achieves their aims, and the story gets wrapped up neatly.

You want an example? I often use Die Hard to explain some story concepts. If you haven’t watched it yet, I can recommend it. Bruce Willis has hair!

The opening shows John McClane (Bruce Willis) on a flight from New York (where he’s a cop) to California. His wife, Holly McClane (played by Bonnie Bedelia) has moved there to take on a senior role in a Japanese company after their marriage fell into difficulties. John wants to use a Christmas break to try to repair the relationship. The story takes a twist when a team of terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman, RIP) take over the party and hold the partygoers – including Holly – hostage. But John McClane manages to sneak away.

The middle is where all the action happens, as John McClane attempts to thwart the terrorists’ plans, which involves gunfights, explosions, and deadly tension. And we find out that they don’t want the release of political prisoners, as they initially communicate, but they’re out to rob the huge vault and steal tradable bearer bonds.

In the ending, there is a final confrontation between McClane and Gruber, where all the loose ends are tied up, McClane kills Gruber and the final terrorist, and he and his wife are driven off through the snow into a happier future. Probably.

But, even if you’re only writing a short story, it should still have this beginning, middle and ending structure.  I often start a new novel by writing out these three parts, as I get to grips with what the story actually is. And this 3-act structure is the fundamental basis for thousands upon thousands of stories.

Beginning – middle – end.

Setup – action – resolution.


DAY 3 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

As a trained engineer, I studied many subjects for my degree. Amongst them, two of the most important were Statics and Dynamics. Statics – the study of stationary objects; Dynamics – the study of moving objects. 

For instance, in statics, we developed formulae to tell us the safest angle to lean a ladder against a wall.

Yes, really.

It’s quite a complicated formula (it is, honest), and requires analysis of the forces acting on the ladder, coefficients of friction, and so on. And no, I don’t remember any of it.

In dynamics, we studied moving objects. Accelerations, mass and velocity, why it gets increasingly harder to accelerate your car as your speed increases (spoiler alert – air resistance and square laws).

The difference between them can be shown when you use a hammer. To drive a nail into a piece of wood using a dead weight, you’d need a lot of weight. So what do we do? We swing the hammer, hopefully hitting the nail on the head, with imparts more energy to the nail than simply resting a heavy weight on it.

You must be scratching your head by now. Stay with me.

And… so it is with writing. Have you ever noticed that it’s more difficult to begin writing when you have a blank page / screen? And that, once you get going, it becomes easier? Push a book along a worktop. Initially, it resists movement. Stiction, is what it’s sometimes referred to. That resistance to initial motion. Once it’s moving, it becomes easier.

So the tip for today is: develop a writing flow. Don’t let anything stop you or push you off track. Don’t go back and edit what you’ve written until you’ve finished writing. If you write a paragraph, re-read and edit it, you need to overcome stiction to start writing again for the next paragraph. And so on. 

One more anecdote: over 15 years ago, I took part in a 24-hour short story writing challenge for charity. Every hour, on the hour, the group leader would post a selection of writing prompts, and we could write against one of those prompts, or one of our own. And I found, after writing about 5 pieces of flash fiction, I got into a real flow of writing – a groove, if you wish. The words and subtexts flowed, drawing admiring comments from readers. I definitely felt intensely focussed on what I was doing.

So: start a habit, set your boundaries for those around you, apply realistic targets, and really get into that writing habit!


DAY 2 – #MonthOfBlogging #June2024 #MonthOfWriting

The second tip I have for you this month is regarding planning. Some writers don’t want to plan – they want to freestyle their writing, see where it takes them, let the words drive the narrative.

Which is all well and good.

But the danger is that an inexperienced writer will sit at their desk (or dining table, or rickety old stool from the garage) and wait for the ideas to come. Lady Muse may, or may not, visit the writer when they’re at this stage.

If she doesn’t, it’s incredibly FRUSTRATING! You’ve found your writing space, you’ve created that magic half hour or more where you can be undisturbed, and then… nothing. “What shall I write about?”

Oh dear. That isn’t the right way. The right way is to have an idea before you sit down. You have a germ of an idea, a character or two, some way in which at least one character gets into a ‘situation’ where conflict can happen. Because conflict, undesirable in real life, is ESSENTIAL in a story. 

A famous author (I don’t know who) was once asked “How do you create conflict?”

“I force my character up a tree. And then I throw rocks at him.”

But whether you’re writing a novel, a memoir, a short story, or poetry – before you sit down, you must have an idea. If you’re short of ideas, look online for “writing prompts” or something similar. I have often found the pages of a local newspaper a rich source of ideas for a story, e.g.

“Lawnmower stolen from shed.” Who stole it? And, more importantly, why did they steal it? Did they steal it from a specific person who they didn’t like, or was it an opportunistic robbery? What’s the history of the owner of the lawnmower. What’s the history of the thief? Is there a bigger story?

“Elsie Baggett celebrates her 100th birthday.” Nice story. Who is she? Where does she live? Why does she live there? Does she have any family? Did she work? As what? Where was she born? And what sort of area was it she lived in?

“Local town council elects new mayor.” Why did they elect a new mayor? Did they need to? What happened to the old one? What qualities does the new mayor have which qualifies him for the role? Does he have any dark secrets? Was it an open and fair election, or he he ‘twist arms’ to get votes?

You see? Delve into backstories. Don’t just read the headline. Read the article. And ask the questions that the article doesn’t answer – who, what, where, how and why.

But always… HAVE A PLAN.