Page 1 2018

write my own rules


Work on draft two of my first serious attempt at long form fiction starts on New Years Day 2018.

I’ve tried to absorb all the helpful prose writing tips I can find.

I’ve scoured the net, picked writer friends’ brains, been to a conference and come up with 6 key rules I want to stick to, both with this long story and the next long story in the pipeline.

In a years time I’ll measure success.


Leave the first draft for two to four weeks before returning to it with a fresh eye.

This was very hard to do but I can see the value in opening up the hard copy for the first time in 21 days, on January 1st.

During this hiatus, plot and character holes have become clear in dreams, while walking and when reading and watching comparative genre fiction and drama.


Write a one page synopsis of the first draft.

I had a rough shape in my head before writing draft 1.

I knew my principal characters, what would happen to them and how the story ended.

I’d sketch notes for each ‘block’ of action (about 4-6 chapters) but didn’t want to be bound to a rigid outline, I needed some creative slack, to go with the flow of my people and places as they appeared.

However immediately post draft 1 writing a synopsis offered a great snapshot of the structure and shone a light on some creaky scaffolding.

The synopsis showed that the arc of the story and the shape (point of attack, rising and falling action, climax and twist) were OK but it also highlighted some character inconsistencies, offered clarity around the themes I’m shooting for and flagged a section which needs cutting.

I can’t wait to make the changes.


Read a lot of books.

I’m currently looking at Paul Auster, Anthony Horowitz, Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler and a doorstep of contemporary writers in the genre I’m writing in.


Long stories take a long time to write. Keep going.

As a dramatist I white heat the first draft of a play.  Ten days feels like a long time to spend inside two hours of stage time.

It took a year and a half to write this first long story draft. I had other, consuming, work to do.  I had to keep stopping to do the other stuff.  At one point after three months of not writing a word I nearly shelved it, then came to my senses. I won’t do this again.

Write everyday, even if its just twenty words and DO NOT STOP.


Choose beta readers carefully and listen to their collective likes and dislikes.

My five first pairs of outside eyes are lined up ready to read the second draft.

They’re all very different people, men and women with all kinds of reading tastes.

I’ll ask them simply to read and react to the story, in the same way they would if they’d picked up the book at WH Smiths at the airport.

Their idiosyncratic reactions will be interesting and their converging criticisms will be acted on.

I trust them to be honest.


Work at being the best editor you can be.

By the time the long story is ready to send to the next filter, the literary agent, the manuscript needs to read perfectly, contain no spelling or grammar errors, be structurally sound and above all be engaging and compelling to read.

The editor, banished to the back brain on draft 1, will come further and further forward until she has full control.

Wish me luck!





Writing warm up


10. Plan, make notes and find images for a time filling and not strictly necessary blog post like this.

9.  Check all email and social media accounts, retweet and post, change profile photos and edit personal info, scour photo albums of people you barely know. Join snapchat.

8. Look at the long range weather forecast in Mexico City.

7. Log out of Google and open the front page of the word document you need to work on, minimise it and open up Google again. Repeat process endlessly reading all breaking news, opinion pieces and comments on all platforms until you fall into a stare unable to open up the word document at all.

6. Turn off your phone. This is it. You are about to write. Turn it on again. False alarm.

5. Go to kitchen and make a pot of leaf tea and eat two unnecessary slices of cheese straight from the fridge. Stare at the rain in the garden.

4. Return to room with desk in.  Try on coats and scarves and look at self in mirror.

3. Tidy desktop and change desktop image, many times, before returning to blank and non distracting screen you had before.

2. Maximise the word document you need to work on. Ignore it, stand up and sing the entire score of My Fair Lady.

1. Write.



Bottom drawer

Definition: The place where a writer stores drafts of work which isn’t ready, didn’t catch fire or anyone elses’ attention and which may be returned to at a miraculous future date which never seems to come.

Here are five from mine….



During the tallships era the depressed Captain Hamilton is lured back to a tropical island by a captivating and mysterious pink animal left on his doorstep in a tea chest in the middle of the night.

Post an eventful sea voyage he’s back on the island which inspired his melancholia and re-discovers his lover Louise who he thought had died but who had instead been captured by rogue pink animals. He frees her. He emancipates the pinks (the non nasty ones, the bad ones get their comeuppance). Happy ending.

Joseph Conrad meets a politically correct Enid Blyton and shares an espresso martini and goat curry pasty. Adventure, fighting, sailors and quirky characters in period costume this novel for 7-10 year olds may become a musical with animatronic characters.

And may not.



The play I half wrote before I wrote another play entirely with the same title because it had already gone to brochure and this one wasn’t working.

An over ambitious piece featuring mistaken identity, burglary and child abduction (not the best thematic choice for a comedy) it strangled itself to death with plot twist bind weed just before the end of act one and has thrashed about in uneasy half life next to the blue tac for over 20 years.

A dark, pretentious and confusing surburban fable playing on fears of loss and exploring greed and status, in need of far superior craft and care than that evidenced up to the point where I gave up and did something else instead.

Perhaps when old enough to have any idea at all of the central characters I’ve written I’ll give it another shot or it may just lie permanently in the folder marked ‘too clever for its own good’.

Or be burned, this may be best.



Historical stage drama, jam packed with ambassadors and trumpets and castle battlements and paranoid  schizophrenia.

Joanna La Loca climbed the curtains and ended her days incarcerated in a nunnery, its a great role and a great story, so great that another writer and company beat me to production but hey we can never have too many epic dramas featuring powerful women can we?

Nearer the front this one, next to the Polos.



A commissioned sit com pilot for a series which never got made about a family with a gadget fetish.

Quirky, three gags a page, about aquisition and definition through objects without stating this in any way which meant anyone would understand it to be in any way about that, obscure and vaguely charming.

Comedy ages badly. Funny then. Not now. Birdcage or litter tray lining.



Or ignorance. You decide!  Yeah! Whatevs!

Play for radio. Girl next door gets accelerated into superstardom via a TV talent show. Fame followed by destruction followed by spiritual awakening followed by loss of faith followed by a return to base.

Unoriginal rock myth given uplift by virtue (possibly) of entirely made up vocabulary/language which made for an interesting exercise but a suspiciously odd read and probably a very hard listen.

In the drawer for a reason.

Whats in yours?