Wednesday 28 January 2015

(vol 2) CHAPTER 03: “Fiction Unboxed”

2015 WORD COUNT = 3076 words

The end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 have been very good to me. I recently managed two wins in three weeks at Angry Hourglass. I’ve already got several Runners-Up and Honourable Mention nods gifted to several of the 50+ stories I’ve written over the last twelve months. And let’s not forget the Kindle and paperback version of a certain anthology that is, to date, my crowning glory.

Yet I still don’t think I’ve got the ‘full steam ahead’ approach that I’ve been yearning for since last February.

It’s early days yet but I think something changed in me yesterday. It’s no easy solution, no quick fix but it has opened my eyes to something I didn’t even realise was hidden from me.

Let me explain.


Back in November 2013 I began to write another NaNoWriMo draft. I’d come up with, what I thought at the time, was a pretty cool idea. The story was MIGHTY GRAY and the plan was to write a series of novellas that were laid out like a DVD box set.

I had spent two months creating main characters and chucking down a few plot ideas (some borrowed heavily from the stories greatest influence: Buffy). I had five ‘seasons’ laid out, each running for 10 ‘episodes’. Like all the great American television that I feast upon, I wanted each novella to contain its own story but with a larger game at play in the background that led to an epic climax.

I hit the NaNo word target with just five and a half episodes under my belt and never wrote anymore.
A few months later I came across the manuscript again and dusted it off. Before I got stuck in I decided to check the web, something I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done while working on it. It’s amazing what the writer’s ego can do sometimes and I genuinely thought for a split second that I might be a pioneer in this style of writing.

I guess that’s what writing in a cave will do to you.


Image taken from

It took me less than five minutes to find a group of guys already doing it. It took another thirty minutes grazing through their website to find out that they were doing it really well. It took a final twenty minutes before I’d downloaded a couple of their books because they sounded awesome.

The guys I’m referring to are Johnny B Truant, Sean Platt and David Wright. Under the banner of Stirling & Stone (which includes several distinct imprints) these guys had taken on the world of self-publishing to become an indie juggernaut.

These guys between them write an unholy amount of words a year. More importantly, a lot of it is episodic, designed to resemble a DVD box set of a TV show.

So I was beaten. In style.

But instead of taking my ‘original idea’ of a manuscript out to the back garden and setting it on fire I instead made the better decision. I started listening to the SPP podcast, I devoured what was available on their websites and I began reading their stuff. I wasn’t giving up on the episodic idea so I might as well learn from the best.

Despite this, I moved away from episodic at the time as other ideas flooded in (you know what I’m like). But it was always there, always at the back of mind. And I never walked away from the guys at SSP. I’m glad of that because, last June, I witnessed them accomplish something kind of awesome.


I won’t go into too much detail, mainly because there is a book available that will do it in much better form. Instead, I’ll give you the gist.

The guys at Stirling & Stone decided that a way to help authors who were perhaps struggling with their own works, a way to answer questions and dispel myths, was to let the world see them write a novel, from scratch, warts and all.

In just 30 days. (Spoiler: they succeeded).

That book is ‘The Dream Machine’, the story of a girl name Eila Doyle who discovers a dark secret about the world she lives in, a world where dreams are stolen and ideas are made real.

The book is good and, while it won’t quite hit my all-time top ten (which one day I will release onto this blog) it is miles away from the failure its conception could have made it. It doesn’t feel written in 30 days. It doesn’t feel broken or rushed.

But, if you’re an indie author trying to work out why you can’t finish your work then the real gold is in the book about the book.

Fiction Unboxed’ details the before, during and after of the epic June event. It talks about the planning, the Kickstarter event and the reason for doing it. It goes through the writing process as Johnny and Sean write themselves into corners, lose the ending and add stuff in that will need plenty of foreshadowing. It even goes on with the process of world building, of planned sequels and creating rules for others to follow (like author gifted fan-fiction notes).

But most importantly it opened my eyes to the little things that were still holding me back. While it never expresses that it will fix your problems, it does tell you that you’re not alone. Other authors struggle. Other authors mess up. But being stuck doesn’t mean walk away, put it off or get angry. Because, no matter where these guys got lost they always seemed to find a solution, even if it was cavalry style (like the ending that I think is the best part of the novel).

And they did it in thirty days. From nothing to finished, a real life published book (cover and everything).

So what’s my excuse? Why do I get scared and jump ship to the next idea that floats past because I think it save me instead? I just don’t know.

What I do know is that I won’t let it happen again.

It’s time I finished something, anything. I have so much on the back burner I could almost cover my eyes and play lucky dip. I couldn’t be disappointed because I still want to write every idea I’ve ever come up with.

And sure, people might hate it. But so what? I wouldn’t care because at least that meant I’d taken the next step and put something out there for them to hate in the first place. Enough small talk. I’m a writer, dammit. No more excuses.

(Lets out breath). Much better.

Now, onto other things.


My Flash Fiction writing is going well. The ‘wall’ I encountered last week seems to have run off like a lily-livered coward (good riddance) and my ideas are once again coming to me 80% formed and ready to go.

For Micro Bookends we were given a picture of a graveyard along with the words ‘Club’ (first word) and ‘Foot’ (last word). I used the 100 word limit to concoct a story of two friends, one on medication to control his delusions, who visit a graveyard to fight zombies.


“Club,” said Chris.

Mike handed his friend the club which was actually a baseball bat with ‘extras’ stuck on. “Are you sure?”

“Of course,” said Chris. “I received a message that the dead will rise tonight. And where do dead people rise from?”

“Their graves.” Mike gazed out at the sea of gravestones and sighed. It was cold, it was dark and it was clear that the therapy and medication wasn’t helping his friend.

“Now let’s save the world.” Weapon raised, Chris marched off towards the church.

Mike went to follow but couldn’t. He looked down to find a decomposed hand holding onto his foot.

The story got an Honourable Mention in Sunday’s results and these kind words by judge Meg Kovalik.

The interplay between the characters here is priceless as Chris’s clearly long-suffering friend gets dragged into some hare-brained delusion – that just so happens to be correct this time. I can totally imagine the final sentence being read by Vincent Price. It left me wanting the story to continue.

After Thursday came Flash! Friday and the writer’s block was still in hiding, fearing my wrath. With things back to normal I followed the link, saved the picture and smiled as two ideas popped straight into my head.

The first, WAITING, received an Honourable Mention (I’m collecting them it would seem). This is what judges Carlos Orozco and Eric Martell had to say.

This story shared a similar theme with many of the others, but the open ending really sets it apart. Is Edith going crazy, is her husband really coming back after being gone so long, or is death finally coming to reunite her in the afterlife with her husband? This piece does a great job of storytelling with the negative spaces, letting the reader fill in all the blanks.

Sadly there was nothing for my second story, INTO THE WATER, but a comment by a fellow FlashDog, made me realise that I may not be done with the world in which the story is set. Watch this space.


And that’s all for now. I feel recharged and I feel like this year is just going to keep getting better.
Next week I talk about a few format changes as well as updates on my Zombie short story, HUMBUG, as well as the impending release of FALLEN SWORDS.

See you in seven.

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