How I Wrote A Novel in Five Days

How did I do it? Simple. I sat down and typed. 57k in five days. That’s how I did it. But you already knew that. I should have named this blog “How I Wrote a Novel in Five Days.”

Before we start I think I should mention something. What worked for me won’t work for everyone. In fact it may not work for a good many of you reading this! For a start, not everyone is me. This is good news for you, dear reader, as it means we are all unique and, more crucially, that you’re not me.

Some authors write every day. Others do not. Some keep word counts. Many do not. If you read my previous blog, How Do You Produce So Quickly?, you’ll know some of my methods. I’d advise you have a quick read of that before we begin.

Okay, strap in. You’re going to get a forensic tell-all account on how I did it…

IDEAS

All good books start with an idea, right? Yes.

I don’t care whether you’re a “panster”, “planster” or “potted-plant-sitting-on-a-balcony-ster” – you can’t sit down and write with absolutely nothing in your head.

Where do ideas come from? If you’re an author you probably get asked that by your readers, fans and family. I usually tell them I get my ideas from a man named Brian who lives in the Orkney Islands. I asked him where he gets the ideas from, and he told me he didn’t know. (A paraphrase of a John Cleese joke, there. You’ll see that joke on video and more on this subject later).

The fact is that we are inspired at any point. Anything can motivate us. A germ of an idea can hit us at any time. It could be a title, a name, or an idea that made us stop in our tracks.

I’d finished my third book in the In Their Shoes series just before Christmas. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a British satire series about a newbie journalist, Joy Attwood, who joins a profession for the day – with hilarious and shocking results!

Look at me! I got a trilogy of satire/humor books! I’d been writing since October 2016. Three months, three books. No marketing. What a buffoon. Pfft. My plan was to write three books and not tell anyone; I’d start marketing in earnest once I had something of a back catalog.

I did a really good job of not telling anyone. I told my friends and family only and they did a wonderful job of not doing a bloody thing. If you ever need someone to unmarket your work, come to me. You’re in the right place. Proof, if proof were needed, that all the research you’ve done on self publishing is true.

50% writing, 50% marketing/business.

Christmas was coming up. I decided I’d have a couple of weeks off. Visit the family, smoke myself into an early grave and drink as much coffee as I could.

The holiday was awesome.

Something was gnawing at me, though. I’d finished The Model (Book 3) and felt accomplished. My writing was getting better. I’d spend about £150 on a cover, illustrations and editing etc (that’s per, book by the way) and knew in my heart of hearts that they’d sit there; slowing drowning in the Amazon rankings. January was coming. A new year. I hadn’t thought ahead to what my next book would be.

I was sitting at Costa Coffee in West London one cold January morning when something hit me.

A name. “Jake”.

Where did that come from? I’ve no idea. And then – boom – a few seconds later, I thought of a title. “The Dark Priest”. Jake, Dark Priest, Jake, Dark Priest. I know! I’ll call him Jake Priestley.

Idea banked.

I’m going to pause this story now and ask you to do something. Of course, statistically, only 45% of you will actually carry this through properly. I guarantee you; if you do enact precisely as I say, you’ll get as close to my idea process as you possibly can. Go on! Indulge!


Okay, here’s what I want you to do.

I want you to play the video underneath (Yallah by Bonetrips). Don’t press play yet, hold on.

It’s only a couple of minutes. Turn the sound up very loud. While it’s playing, I want you to look at the two images, below. Then, while you’re looking at these images and listening to the music, I want you to let your imagination run wild. Don’t press play just yet…

Imagine a giant IMAX screen in front of you. Imagine you’re watching a MOVIE. Two minutes, like a trailer. No rules, nothing. Just make it up. You’re more than likely an author so don’t tell me you didn’t see anything happen in your own mind.

I’ll see you further down after you’ve done it. Press play now!


THE IDEA CAME TO LIFE

What did you picture when you heard the music? And then when you heard the music with the two images above? You can see the characters are dressed in action gear. You can see the spray cans. Did it suggest anything to you?

I’m willing to bet good money that you imagined one or two, or maybe more, sequences of action. Did you, for example, picture the man on the left running around spraying walls? Or vandalising something? How about the woman, on the left? Maybe a sex scene? Maybe athleticism of some description?

I hope you’re beginning to see now why I put you through that experiment. This is exactly what I was going through this time last month. Listening to music, dreaming up sequences – the music aided that and also helped to establish a tone for the work.

A few days before writing all I had was a name. I had a picture of the man on the left (in my head) and the Bonetrips track. I sat for ten minute periods at a time and just daydreamed.

I thought of rooftop jumps. I thought of those “Anonymous” videos you see online where some random dude dressed as Guy Fawkes threatens someone via videotape. The weird Arabic infusion made me go to a place that would seriously add fire to this story.

I also drew up a music/track list to inspire me with the scene. The way I think is “what if this ever got made into a movie? Which music tracks might be involved?”

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Some of these tracks are mentioned in the book.

Yallah is actually mentioned at the very end of the book. It’s my closing music to the story.

HOLD ON! REWIND TWO DAYS PREVIOUS…

About two days before I did this, I knew that Book IV in the In Their Shoes series was going to be called The Artist. I had the name Jake Priestley. He was a bumbling, overweight guy in his forties who had been successful. He couldn’t get a date because he was 4’9″, pudgy and not getting any younger. I thought it’d be fun to have Joy Attwood spend the day with him.

I even hit up my illustrator (the wonderful Kreacher – yes, that’s his name) and sent him a sketch of the cover. I’ll talk more about covers later, but this is what I wanted.

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The original cover design for The Artist – before the story changed.

It was a picture of Joy (on the right) being painted. The artist’s easel dominates the foreground. The artist’s hand is carrying a brush and is mid way through painting her portrait. I know, my sketches are shoddy…

But that was before I heard Bonetrips’ Yallah.

OKAY, BACK TO THE PRESENT…

About four days before I started writing I was smoking a cigarette in my “Thought Palace”. It’s really just a balcony overlooking Hampshire. I think most of you know that I smoke. I consider it best practise as it does two things:

1: It compels you to stand up out of your chair and walk around. This time of the year freezes your butt off, so it’s a nice shock to the system and reduces RSI.

2: It does make you think. Truly. It also makes you need to go to the toilet (see point 1).

It was on this very balcony that I decided Jake Priestley wasn’t a rotund loser. He was, in fact, a youngster. He was angry.

Another thought entered my mind.

Joy Attwood spends the day with people in their professions. So far she’s spent the day with a white woman, a white man and a white Russian lady.

Right. Jake’s black. Does that sound racist? Not really – not to me, anyway. As you’ll see, Jake is an incredibly complex individual. He’s a millionaire completely by chance. Also, the colour of his skin is classic territory for satire and social commentary. Not least when he and his team gang up with some Middle Eastern dudes halfway through the story.

Now, though, he’s a graffiti artist. He practises parkour (the art of running across rooftops). He tags the city with his logo/gang sign “The Chemical Collective.” (I love that name and I don’t know where it came from)

But which city was he operating in?

Birmingham. (United Kingdom, not Alabama). A place known for its culture but also its social upheaval. Sounds reasonable to me. I’d covered London twice, in The Actor and The Model, and wanted to move away from that location. Birmingham spreads the series’ geographical canvas for me – which is no bad thing

I had to get in contact with Kreacher and say “Stop! The cover design is wrong! I’ve changed everything!” But I had some semblance of a story.

To recap:

  • An angry young vandal
  • He’s a millionaire
  • He’s the leader of a gang
    The name of the gang came quickly – “The Chemical Collective”
  • The end needs to be a big blaze of glory.

This last event went on for about 48 hours. I carried Jake around in my head and thought of the most bombastic and explosive things I could do to my main character, and series regular, Joy Attwood. She had a tough time at the end of Book III, The Model. She needed her own story as well.

In The Model, Joy followed Oksana Volkov (a model). In the last “act”, Joy sneaks onto a luxury cruise liner to attend a party she hadn’t been invited to. She quickly regrets it. She’s abused in some genuinely horrific ways.

Anyway, she needed to start The Artist pregnant. Better yet, I thought, she should have just gone through an abortion. So, there was my opening line.

“I had an abortion seven days ago.” Now that’s a great first line.

Joy’s sub plot that ran concurrently with the main story of the day.

Bingo! In two words, the two keywords for The Artist are… Children and War.

Perfect.


 

“PANTSING” IT…

Monday, January 16th 2017.

I don’t know why this is – call it female intuition (or whatever) – but I always start writing my book on a Monday. Sometimes at 01:30am. Sometimes 3:00am. I never knew why this was until I started writing The Artist.

I sat down with no outline to accompany me at 7:30am. I opened Scrivener and switched it to “write” mode. The first time I had started writing a book when it was light outside.

Suddenly, it made sense. I write on a Monday because my wife goes out to work during the week. This means I have five essentially uninterrupted days to blast out my first draft. I mean, imagine if I had started on a Friday? I’d have had a great first day and then the weekend.

I would have spent the weekend going out shopping, taking out the bins, being generally interrupted and so on – two days of not pure uninterrupted attention. I can’t stand the thought of that.

Perhaps you’re like me. Once you start a novel your life is basically on hold until you finish that first f**king draft. That’s what I’m like. This is why I don’t write everyday.

need to blast the first draft out in one go. Or as close as, damnit.

By 2pm I had written the first four chapters. (That’s just over 13k, words-wise.) I was very pleased with that. These books are fourteen chapters long at approximately 3k per chapter. Here’s what I wrote.

Chapter One: Joy tells us about her abortion, and that the book we’re reading is a confession to her wife who has since left her because she’s a pro-life nutjob. She’s late for her appointment with Jake. Her train had been held up. (Damn British rail) (3092 words)

Chapter Two: She’s driven to Jake’s estate by his driver. She meets Jake and mistakes him for a butler (because he’s black and she’s an adorably  inadvertent racist). Jake takes Joy into his mansion and shows her his set up. He’s got a futuristic Skype-type room where we meet an array of characters. As I wrote this scene I knew I wanted a “fit” girl, a rugged “dude” and an Arab gentlemen to feature in it. Get the characters in immediately so we’d recognise them later. But just slotting them in to show them off isn’t good enough. They needed to be doing something. And so, as I typed, I was shocked to see that my characters were putting money into shares called Rockburton and arguing with one another. Tearing each other apart over the conference call. I mean, what the hell are my characters doing? (3842 words)

Chapter Three: Jake and Joy leave to go to an art exhibition featuring his latest installation. Everyone loves his work, but Jake knows he’s producing bullshit. Satire. And then… I shit you not.. as they left the building, Jake took out a petrol can, sloshed the gasoline everywhere and burnt his mansion to the ground. I wasn’t expecting that! Jake would have some explaining to do TO ME in the later chapters. (4011 words)

Chapter Four: Art exhibition. Okay, I knew I’d feature some stuffy art critics being all pompous and stuff. That was easy – and a nice comedic mirror to the stern and serious Jake. I wanted Joy to happen across a bunch of kids, so I could draw out her internal turmoil about having had an abortion. What happen next surprised me. She ran into Rachel, the teacher from the first book in the series. Rachel had given up her dream of becoming a writer. Joy had done well. It was a soft and solemn moment. (3886 words)

Sometimes you just can’t plan this stuff. It comes naturally.

At the end of chapter four, Jake and Joy head toward a shopping mall and something terrible is about to go down….

You can read the first four chapters here for free, if you sign up to my mailing list.

I stopped typing for the day and wrote that blog you read a few weeks ago on productivity. I’d had a good day. I was more than a quarter through my novel.

That night I went to see M Night Shyamalan’s Split. I fell asleep half way through.


Tuesday, January 17th.

Look, to say I’m a pantster is just plain wrong. I’m really not a pantster at all. I’m just really good at carrying information around in my head. And this is why I blast out each project in one sitting and don’t write every day. At least for the next five to ten days, if all I’m doing is blasting out the story, then keeping a bunch of people and events in my head should be easy enough if I can drop-drip-drip all that stuff out of my brain, through my arms, out via my fingertips and onto the keyboard.

Let’s call it 50/50. Pantsing and Plotting (or Planning). Plantsing.

Fun Fact: “Pantsing vs Plotting”. If you’re not aware, then these two terms relate to how you prepare (or otherwise) your writing. Planning involves sheets and sheets of notes and usually sticking to them. “Pantsing” (derived from the term ‘by the seat of my pants’) means you’re sitting at your keyboard with a loose idea of what you’re going to write. A lot of it is made up as you type.

Sure, some things surprised me yesterday. I wasn’t expecting a former character in the series to turn up. I wasn’t expecting Jake to torch his estate. But I knew it was building toward something.

So… I’m scrapping the daily journal entry format and getting down to business.


 

By Thursday evening I had written twelve (out of fourteen) chapters. Two more to go. My total goal is 55k words – which meant that I was at around the 49k mark at this point.

I don’t know if you’re like me (how could you possibly be?!) but when I see myself so close to that finish line, I can’t operate as a proper human being. I am so hungry to get to cross it.

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The Three Act structure – used mainly in screenwriting. Works just as well for novels.

As a screenwriter (my bread and butter) you’re taught about the “3 Act Structure”. A beginning, middle and end. Broadly speaking, if you’re writing fourteen chapters, then your acts will be thus, approximately:

Act One: Chapters 1 – 4

Act Two: Chapters 5 – 10

Act Three: Chapters 11 – 14

The two disciplines of writing novels and screenplays aren’t strictly the same, of course. But I find it helps to think of my novels like this.

Chapters 1-4: I have to introduce my characters, the story, what’s at stake, no fewer than three turning points and get into the meat of the story before the end of chapter 4.

Chapters 5-10: This is where the real story lies. What happens? Who dies? How are the stakes raised? At the end of Chapter 7 (the midpoint) there needs to be an event that turns the entire thing around 180 degrees. For The Artist, it was the gang’s arrival at Paris to meet with a very nefarious contact. Joy had tried to escape at Birmingham airport, only to be captured and held to ransom. For insurance, Jake has her carry his luggage through security. I won’t spoil it, but it’s f**king tense.

Chapters 11-14: Wrapping it up. I cannot possible spoil the story, but the stakes are about as high as I could possibly make them. You may glean some of this from the next image.

This leads me nicely onto the next section on outlining. Before you get there, I’d like you to take a look at this:

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My ‘outline’ for Chapters 11 – 14

I decided to do something different. The last four chapters are quite complex and involve the gang taking down a place/thing – I’m sure you can guess what it is (unless you’re really sheltered!). The gang meet up at Avenue Florian in Paris. It’s a proper heist scene set in a warehouse.

There are several characters with Joy and Jake as they prepare to “enter an art show” (lol!). You know the set up from the movies, or crime novels. The crooks stand around a table dressed in bad guy gear, looking at plans and being told what to do by the brains behind the operation.

In The Artist, there’s a character named Hollowpoint. He’s Indian (cue: Britain’s melting pot) and in a wheelchair. He’s the mastermind. He shows the team (Ray Say, Diane, Badi, Quentin and Ian) the master plan for this evening’s, uh, “show”.

I stopped typing when I wrote that part of the chapter. I thought instead of writing down all the actions and events, why not draw it out? “You know what’d be cool? SEEING the actual master plan…”

I realise that the picture won’t make much sense to you. You could probably surmise that the diagram is of the Eiffel Tower – and you’d be right. And the other information? Makes very little sense, I bet. But that’s okay – because this diagram served two purposes…

1: It helped me outline chapter 12 and 13 (where the action takes place in earnest). A grand plan occurs and I needed to get the details right. Different characters needed to be at different parts of the tower. Certain characters are expecting something to happen, whilst others know those events won’t go ahead. There will be twists and turns as one set of characters f**k over the other.

2: In my view, this was something approaching genius. I had Jake tell Joy to take a photograph of this ‘masterplan’ so she could include it in the book. The In Their Shoes series is very self aware and “meta”. Joy takes a picture of the master plan and does, indeed, include it in the book.

I had already drawn it for my own benefit. And so… I scanned it and I put it in the book for real…

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Yep! It’s in the book! Both a work of fiction and non-fiction.

Talk about killing two birds with one stone. If only every writing day was this economical.


 

THE DETAILS

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that might change your writing life forever. Seasoned writers know this, but it’s incredibly important.

It’s what I call The Domino Effect.

Let’s say you are ‘pantsing’ your book. I’m going to do it right now, but with an outline.

Set ’em Up…

Once upon a time… a fifty-something pudgy man named Dave wakes up, goes to work and hates his office job. His attention is drawn to the hot new girl who started only yesterday. Her name is Jane. She doesn’t notice Dave during her frequent visits to the photocopier, but he notices her all the time. Today, for some reason, she’s elected to wear a blue blouse. It makes her stand out. She makes the mistake of making eye contact with him. He smiles. She doesn’t smile back.

Poor Dave. He thought this was love at first sight. Jane now thinks that Dave might ask her on a date tonight. Both are correct.

Dave musters up the courage to approach Jane at her desk. He asks her out. Reluctantly, she says yes. The rest of the work day for Dave is one of elation. He counts down the minutes of the wall clock, egging the time to move quicker. Jane, on the other hand, is trying to slow time down. Looking at the wall clock, trying to make the hour hand stop with her mind.

Cue the date. Dave and Jane meet outside the office and are courteous with one another. As they walk along the pavement, Jane slips on a stone and breaks the heel of her shoe. Dave comes to her rescue and bends over to slip her shoe off. However, when squatting down, he hadn’t accounted for his ass hanging over the edge of the pavement as he bent down. An incoming bus whizzes past the couple, clipping Dave’s ass – sending him into the air, and crashing into a shop window, setting off the alarm system.

Jane freezes and looks around. Her date has been killed. But no-one saw the accident. The bus didn’t stop. She could run and get away with it.


 

I wrote passage that in five minutes. I had no idea what was going to happen from one word to the next. I was about two sentences ahead of my fingers. Did you expect that end to the story? Nope, neither did I. I love pantsing sometimes. While I wrote that passage above, my fingers danced on the keyboard, but in my mind, I was playing out all those events like a movie.

And now onto The Domino Effect. I’m going to strengthen the story by… setting up events earlier in the narrative, and the knocking them down at the end. I’ll colour my new additions in green so you can see what I’ve added. I’ve absolutely no idea what I’m going to do! (But that’s what I love about writing)

The Domino Effect. Set them up early, knock them down later.

Knock ’em Down…

Once upon a time… a fifty-something pudgy man named Dave wakes up, goes to work and hates his office job. His attention is drawn to the hot new girl who started only yesterday. Her name is Jane, just like Dave’s mother’s. She doesn’t notice Dave during her frequent visits to the photocopier, but he notices her all the time. Today, for some reason, she’s elected to wear a blue blouse. It reminded Dave of his mother. She wore a blue blouse. It made her and his mother stand out. She makes the mistake of making eye contact with him. He smiles. She doesn’t smile back, because she’s heard stories from her new colleagues about how unlucky this guy is.

Poor Dave. He thought this was love at first sight. Jane now thinks that Dave might ask her on a date tonight. Both are correct.

Dave musters up the courage to approach Jane at her desk. He asks her out, and notices a picture of a elderly lady on her desk. Reluctantly, she says yes. The rest of the work day for Dave is one of elation. He counts down the minutes as he presses a button on the side of his wristwatch, egging the time to move quicker. Jane, on the other hand, is trying to slow time down. Looking at the wall clock, trying to make the hour hand stop with her mind.

Cue the date. Dave and Jane meet outside the office and are courteous with one another. As they walk along the pavement, Dave angles his wrist just under her skirt to film. Jane has no clue she’s being filmed. She slips on a stone and breaks the heel of her shoe. Dave comes to her rescue and bends over to slip her shoe off. However, when squatting down, he hadn’t accounted for his ass hanging over the edge of the pavement. An incoming blue bus whizzes past the couple, clipping Dave’s ass – sending him into the air, and crashing into a shop window, setting off the alarm system.

Jane freezes and looks around. Her date has been killed. But no-one saw the accident. The bus didn’t stop. She could run and get away with it. But Dave’s wristwatch might catch her on camera if she does.


It’s probably not the best example, but it’s certainly an example of The Domino Effect. This must be done if you’re pantsing and just trying to blast out that first draft. Once you’re done, you need to go back and “tie everything together”.

In the first draft it was a fairly straightforward A-B romcom with a dark twist at the end.

And the second version? Somehow a bit creepier. And, remember, none of those creepy overtones were in the first version. Of course, this is a very rudimentary explanation. In your book, as with my own, you’d spend days  going through your first draft and tying everything up.

Especially when you’re writing an action/heist story like The Artist. With eight characters (well, they start with nine but one dies) working together and a great big masterplan, you’re bound to get a few things wrong. Like the times of day. Where people should be and what they we were wearing – that kind of thing.

I think if you’re blasting out your first draft you’re more likely to be “in the moment” for that period and get fewer things wrong. If I’d been writing this over a series of months, well, I know what I’m like. I’d forget the details. And, probably, get bored with the story. I find the best writers tend to be impatient. It gets the job done.

So, that was my Saturday (21st) and Sunday (22nd). Self editing.


Five days…

Monday 16th Jan (Chapters 1 thru 4)

Tuesday 17th Jan (Chapters 5, 6 and 7)

Wednesday 18th Jan (Chapters 8, 9 and 10)

Thursday 19th Jan (Chapters 11, and 12)

Friday 20th Jan (Chapters 13 and 14)

I felt the burn by the end of Wednesday night. That was 32,768k in less than 72 hours. I know there are other authors out there who can produce faster than this. Good for them. This is my speed where I’m happy with the quality of what I produce.

On each of those five days, I noticed, I began writing slightly later than the previous day. On Monday I was all giddy with excitement and jacked up on coffee and nicotine. I started writing at 7:30am. Throttled the first four chapters.

Tuesday, – felt the burn from Monday. Started writing at 9am, even though I had intended to replicate the start time of Monday. Bleurgh.

Wednesday. Began writing at 10:30am (!). I’ve noticed I need to stop writing at around 3pm or 4pm, no later. I don’t know why. It’s just a thing.

Thursday. Well, now I only have four chapters left (I remember thinking) I can do two today and two tomorrow. I started at 10:30am and finished my two chapters by about 2pm. You have to remember, though, that those two chapters were to my book what the final action sequence in Terminator 2 was. Long, expansive, action-packed and ferocious.

Friday. Woke up around 9am like Rocky training in the gym to “Eye of the Tiger”. Two more chapters, let’s SMASH IT!

Ended up having two cups of coffee, thinking about me writing instead of actually f**king writing. I started at midday and finished the last two chapters before 4pm.

Towards the end of the process I did have to draw up a list of notes for the self edit. Speaking of which…


Self Editing

We all do it. Once you’ve finished that first draft I advise you to do what I do – leave it alone for a couple of days.

Here’s why:

  1. When you revisit the work you’ll see it with as fresh a pair of eyes as you’re ever going to have.
  2. Even when you walk away from the work, your subconscious mind is still working on the story, anyway. I find myself thinking of additional awesome inclusions now that the first draft has been done.
    • An example of this is a character in The Artist named Ray Say. He was originally executed at the end of the book. Shot in the face and killed. I thought it’d be much funnier for him to get severely hurt, instead. And so, he receives a vicious drop-kick to the face, resulting in a dislocated jaw and the inability to speak. As I went through the draft, I dropped in mentions from other characters that “he has a big mouth” and “never stops speaking”. Irony.

I made a hit list of things I needed to attend to during my self edit that begun in earnest on Monday 23rd January.

Here’s a snapshot of the kind of things my subconscious was working on – and wanted to fix – mere days after I had finished the first draft.

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In the second picture you can see the layout of the four pillars of the Eiffel Tower. Above that is a laundry list of factual things about the landmark which I felt needed to be included in the content.

You’ll notice in the first picture of the two that I ask a lot of questions. This was me asking myself some things that may not make sense to the readers.

Number eight was bothering me. How did the Birmingham attack tie into the events that occur later on in the book. I had no answer for it and needed one otherwise the entire middle section of the book would be at fault.

Then, as is usual for me, my epiphany came out of the blue as I was out walking. The Chemical Collective is not Jake’s gang, after all. It’s a set up.

In absentmindedly screwing up my first draft and writing a giant plot hole in the middle, my “self editor” came to the rescue with an ingenious idea to not only rescue the idea, but strengthen it – and make it a bit twist for the end!


 

And Now For Something Completely Creative…

My all-time writing idol is John Cleese. He of Fawlty Towers and Monty Python fame. A few years ago a video of him giving a speech on the subject of creativity appeared online.

Whenever I am asked about creativity by fellow authors, I either direct them to this video or try to summarise the content (if for example I’m asked on a bus).

This is the best ten minutes and thirty-six seconds you will ever dedicate to your author career.

 


 

The Birthing Process

No, don’t get anxious! I’m not going to write about the pains of labour (yeah, over here we spell it with a ‘u’). Although, if you think about it, I am.

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I’ve told you about The Domino Effect  -don’t go looking online for it. It’s my thing. I’m about to tell you about the other “my” thing.

The Birthing Process. (a.k.a That Period of Time When You’re Writing Your First Draft).

I don’t think I even need to include this in the blog. I think you probably already know what I’m about to write. Good. Read on, and let’s see if you (and I) were correct.

If you read my previous blog on producing so quickly (and I’m sure you have) you’ll know that rule #7 was ‘NEVER re-read your work till it’s finished.’

“But why not? I finish a chapter and re-read it and tidy it up! I stop each sentence and fix it as I write.”

If that works for you, then great! Awesome! Here’s what works for me…

What’s the point of fixing stuff as you go along? Why not just keep typing and typing and typing until you’re done? I say this for a number of reasons, most of which are purely psychological.

1: If you focus on the completion goal, then once you’ve finished you will have freed up the anxiety in your mind about completing it in the first place.

2: All the mistakes you didn’t attend to are still there. Sounds like a horrible prospect right? The thought that you could’ve fixed them back when you were writing and remembered them. I’m sorry, no. If you just leave those mistakes the chances are that they will be so recognisable when you go through the edit.

In my view, by not re-reading your work until you’ve finished, you actually become as objective as is possible given the circumstances,

This is why Rule #7 is called The Birthing Process. If I’m giving birth to ‘my baby’ just let me get it out.

Once the baby story is out of my body head permanently, I feel unshackled from all the physical, mental and emotional trauma of the process. I put all my energy into pumping that little guy story out of my body head. I didn’t have time or energy to devote myself to the baby  family and friends as I was pushing the little guy my first draft out, it was that painful. And, now that the little guy idea for the book is out of my womb head, I can start to work on him editing; prepare his homeschooling make sure it reads well, making sure he gets lots of exercise, doesn’t eat junk food and balloon in size trim the fat, die prematurely disappoint my readers and kill my f**king series. I’ll also make sure he doesn’t get bullied by the other kids in his class I LAUNCH & MARKET THE F**KING THING PROPERLY.

Image result for smiley face cartoon


 

Why You Need an Editor.

I was going to write a lengthy section on editing. Instead, I decided to interview my own editor, Drew Cullingham, who edits the In Their Shoes series.

It’s a frank account on how we work, why we work the way we do and the general importance of getting a professional to edit your material.

Enjoy!

Get in touch with Drew – drewcullingham@hotmail.com


 

Cover Art & Illustrations

I’ve used the same guy, Kreacher, for all my covers and illustrations. Put simply it’s a combination of two things. One, I like his work. Two, the consistency.

Building a brand – for that is what you are doing – is about branding and consistency of that brand.

My books are full of illustrations. I usually sketch the idea and then hop onto Skype and talk to Kreacher about the idea.

Here’s a typical to-and-fro we have. I knew I needed a sketch (like a profile picture) of Jake Priestley – The Dark Priest.

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My crappy drawing, which I sent to Kreacher. It took him a god ten minutes to stop laughing.
sketch_01
The result (which is in the book).

For The Artist, I needed the original sketch binned. Jake had become a young vandal. I hit up Google Images and put in “graffiti artist”. You should do the same.

What did you see?

I found a lot of graffiti artwork, of course. But one thing that struck me were the respirators that the artists were wearing. Immediately, my mind set to work – these could be used as disguises. And also, they’re quite intimidating to look at! With just that one action, I scribbled a drawing and spoke to my illustrator.

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With this sketch, we ended up with a prototype. For my covers, Kreacher usually pencils the outline on the In Their Shoes template so I can see it and make suggestions.

Here are a couple of initial sketches I got back based on the above image.

sketch-2
The original sketch.
sketch1
After a few adjustments.

It’s like one of those “spot the difference” competitions, isn’t it? Some are fairly obvious.

At the risk of sounding somewhat perverted, my first thought was that the girl on the left (Diane/Sphynx) should be facing away, head tilted toward us. It did two things:

1: Make her pose more dramatic

2: Revealed certain parts of the body I think would draw attention to potential readers.the_artist_kindle_cover

Secondly, Jake (the man in the middle) needed to be looking at us, the reader. And pointing the canister at us in a threatening manner.

Lastly, Joy Attwood (our heroine), needed to be pulling her mask off her head and looking at us in shock – hopefully this would signify that something wasn’t right.

So, essentially we have anxiety, shock and terror conveyed just in the poses.

The color palette was also going to be important. Most graffiti is done in garish colours. Because the theme of the book is moody and action-packed (and the wild stuff takes place under cover of night in January) I was sure that The Artist should be a garish pink and black.

And that’s what we ended up with.

 


Promotion (where I am now)…

Yes, that other half of what us authors have to master. I’ll admit, my promotion and marketing has been a bit lackluster. But I’m trying something new with The Artist.

I have three books now in the series and this fourth one is released on Friday February 17th.

So, here’s what I have done to try to get the series off…

Tuesday February 14th.

ITS Book 1 – The Teacher. It’s permanently set to 99c. There’s a humor promotion going out featuring my book on that day.

ITS Book 2 – The Actor. I have a gig booked with BookCalibre (including a Q&A which is going out). I have decided to do a Kindle Countdown deal (dropped to 99c from 2.99). I’m hoping people will act when they see the countdown timer ticking away… !!

ITS Book 3 – The Model. A simple price drop from 2.99 to 99c as of Tuesday.

And of course…

ITS Book 4 – The Artist. Releases on Friday 17th. I have a Bargainbooksy promotion that day and have set the launch price to 99c for Friday and Saturday only.

What works for some may not work for others. I’ve learned very quickly that there’s a lot of trial and error. So, as long as I’m “trialing” and “erroring” I decided to get a video promotion for The Artist made.

Here it is.

This advert was designed specifically for FaceBook ads. I sourced the video on fiverr, but had to use my own video editing skills (fortunately I am a filmmaker) to bookend the video with the still image.

I’m sorry to say that it was far easier for me to do that than have to explain to the guy exactly what I wanted.

The advert is running on FaceBook right this very second. It’s possible that you may have seen it. I cast the net far and wide but limited it to the US on a modest budget for Sunday and Monday.

I will look at the details of who is responding and then re-run the advert based on parameters of most reactions and clicks.

I plan to report on how all this went down in a future blog – probably a week or so after release.


 

And finally…

Well, that’s all I have for now!

I hope you found the information useful. Please feel free to share this blog with others you think may benefit from it.

Also, why not pre-order The Artist today! I mean, afterall, it’s not often you get to see the “making of” documentary before the film, is it? (Click the image, below!)

Keep on writing!

Andrew x

andrew@chromevalleybooks.com / Twitter: @Andrew_CVB 

PS: Don’t forget to subscribe to the Chrome Valley Books mailing list! Loads of exciting features, giveaways and all-round life-enhancing stuff!

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Click below to pre-order The Artist!

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