The Rules of Writing (there are two)

I have been teaching some creative writing sessions recently. The writers in the group are great; they have some wonderful ideas. Their WIPs (works-in-progress) are varied, from reality-based domestic dramas to high fantasy. It’s great to see.

The majority of what I’m teaching comes from my book, How To Write a Novel in 6 Months. But of course, I’ve learned some new things about writing since I published the book. I think about writing a lot, because that’s what I do.

One of the things I’ve become more convinced about is that there are no RULES to writing—but there are PRINCIPLES.

However, I have U-turned slightly…

I have come to the conclusion, now, that there are TWO rules. They are axioms, I think; fixed and never-changing. Everyone who sits down to write a novel or story, play or screenplay, must stick to them.

The 2 rules are:

1. Finish it: your book, your play; get to THE END.
2. Don’t bore the reader: make them WANT to turn the page or stay in their seats.

That’s it.  Your starting points when you begin writing: these 2 rules.

Do you agree? Anyone have other rules? Or maybe you don’t think these are important. Let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.

So with Christmas coming, and New Year goals looming, maybe some of you intend to write a novel. If that’s the plan, the above two rules are really the only things you need to be thinking about.

Have lots of festive fun, I hope 2022 is creative and bountiful for you all.

Read Chapter 1 of Judgment Day, the final part of The Prophet Wars

The fourth and final part of my Young Adult series “The Prophet Wars” will be published on KDP on September 22.

Called “Judgment Day”, it brings to a close the story of Billy Kingdom, the boy who ca see the future, and Tawny Lang, the girl who can part the waves.

I’ve been writing it over the last month, trying to hit 7,000 words a week, using the progress grid I write about in “How To Write a Novel in 6 Months” to keep track of my writing.

Here’s the grid:

It’s taken just under a month to write the first draft, and now I’m starting the revision process.

And Chapter One is ready. Click here, and you can read it. Hope you enjoy.

You can also pre-order Part 4, here.

The prophets are back…

Hello friends, readers, reviewers, writers, vampires, demons, ghosts…

First, I should say happy new year. We’re well into it now, but this is my first email of 2020. Hope it’s going well for you so far. And if it’s not, I hope it gets better.

Volume 3 of The Prophet Wars, my young adult dystopian thriller (it’s “gripping,” according to reviewiers) will be published on February 28. It’s titled “Battle In The Caves”. Does that suggest action to you? Well, if it does, you’d be right to think that. It’s “action-packed”. You know me. I try to make my stories as exciting as possible; page-turners, I hope.

Of course, I’m making some advanced reader copies (or ARCs, as they’re called) available.

If you’re a blogger, a reviewer, or a reader who’d like to let the world know what they think about the book, you can download a copy here at Bookfunnel.

Formats available include Epub, Mobi and PDF.

Remember, there are ARCs available on the same site for Volumes 1 & 2 as well, if you havne’t read them and would like to leave a review.

Volumes 1 & 2 are available on Amazon (here for UK; here U.S.; other territories too) and here (Smashwords) if you prefer epub or other formats. There’s also Barnes & Noble for epub versions.

Thanks again for your support, and we’ll speak soon,
Thomas

The wonderful world of werewolves

An anthology of werewolf stories is published in January — and I’m very proud to say that one of my stories is featured. Editor and author Graeme Reynolds (High Moor) contacted me last year and asked me to contribute a tale to the collection. The criteria was that it had to be based on an already-created werewolf universe.

My horror-thriller Maneater was published by Snowbooks in 2008, and introduced Laura Greenacre – the tagline was “Meet Laura. She’ll eat you alive.” She wasn’t the troubled, sweet-natured, “I-don’t-really-want-to-hurt-people” type of werewolf that had started to plague fiction and films at the time (and that kind of werewolf still does). She was animal. And she went down well with readers. You can read more about her here.

And here’s just one review, by Sheila Merritt of Hellnotes:

“Laura is gory and gorgeous, beauty and the beast, the stuff that dreams (and nightmares) are made of. Male readers will find her extremely attractive, and women readers will admire her for her attributes and attitude.

Couple of years later I wrote a sequel, also published by Snowbooks, called Prey. Went down well, too.

So when Graeme commissioned me, there was only one place to go — back to Laura.

My story’s called The Hunt and elaborates on an event mentioned in Maneater that took place when Laura was a teenager. The story also flashes back to Roman times, 60AD, telling the story of how the Maneater werewolves came to be, their history, their culture.

This week, I’ve just received the proof — and it looks great. That’s the cover, above. I’m really excited to be featured in this collection alongside some top horror names such as Paul Kane, Ray Garton, Jeff Strand and David Wellington.

You can pre-order Leaders Of The Pack: A Werewolf Anthology, here in the UK, here in the U.S.

My chimp brain is overloaded

If you’ve read The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters, you’ll get this title… It’s a mind management program designed by the guy who helped British cyclists become the best in the world. Anyway, it just gives you tools to better understand, and maybe control, that “I’m-losing-my-shit” part of your brain. I’m actually losing my shit right now over another chimp, MailChimp. Trying to set up a “subscribe” button on my website, and it’s just so mind-boggling. I think there’s a disconnect between people who work in tech and normal human beings. They think they’re being simple, but still use words like “integrated”. I don’t know what that means. So I’ve sort of set up something on my front page, and I’m giving away a free story, but there problem is – and I’m testing it – I’m not getting follow up emails as I’d requested when designing the form in MailChimp. My brain hurts so bad. So if you happen to subscribe (or attempt to), and you don’t get confirmation emails, and the email with the link to the free stor, email me, please, and I’ll send it to you.

Coming soon…

I’ll be self-publishing the first volume of my dystopian/sci-fi/fantasy/YA-but-suitable-for-grown-ups novel The Prophet Wars in the next few weeks.

This book’s been through the mill. I wrote it back in 2015. We were very optimistic it would find a home. My agent liked it; lots of readers I asked to look over it liked it.

But the publishing industry is unpredictable. To quote William Goldman, the screenwriter, “Nobody knows anything.” I certainly didn’t. The Prophet Wars did not find a home. Yes, people liked it a lot, but… always a but.

Usually these days “buts” are related to uncertainty. Publishers aren’t as willing to take risks – although to be honest we didn’t think The Prophet Wars was that risky. However, here’s the pitch:

Britain 2026. Crime is rife. Unemployment soars. There is hunger, there is misery, there is devastation. Our world is on the brink of catastrophe. Earthquakes, storms, wars and plagues blight the planet.

And dark forces are gathering…

The future looks bleak. And 15-year-old Billy Kingdom can see it coming. He dreams about disasters – and days later, they happen.

Through social media, Billy learns that other kids are experiencing similar visions. Online, he grows close to a girl named Tawny Lang.

But one night Billy, Tawny, and other youngsters from across Britain with the same gifts, are kidnapped by armed men. They are taken to an underground compound called The Caves run by Ruby Bleak and her teenage nephew Robin, a child genius lacking any empathy.

Holed up in the subterranean complex, Billy and Tawny develop a bond. The Caves, however, hides a sinister secret. The kids quickly learn that they are only guinea pigs in a plot to control the future. But Billy isn’t having any of it and plots his escape.

But will his desire to see his family again tear apart the trust and friendship he has forged with Tawny and create, for himself and the world, a deadly enemy?

An action-packed story set in the near future and dealing with themes such as family, relationship, trust, and the environment, this is the first volume of Thomas Emson’s Young Adult thriller.

Volume One, which is titled Project 9:6, is available for pre-order here (UK) and here (U.S.).

If you’re a book reviewer or blogger, or just a fan of YA fiction who’d be willing to review the Prophet Wars when it’s published, you can download an ARC (advanced reader copy) on BookFunnel.

If you would like to read an extract, here are a few pages…

Writer, you are not alone: visiting FantasyCon

Last weekend I was in Scarborough at the British Fantasy Society’s FantasyCon. I travelled up from Kent with fellow writer Danny Rhodes, who’s had horror stories published in Black Static and Cemetery Dance, but is also an acclaimed contemporary novelist (his novel Fan about the Hillsborough disaster is wonderful).

It was quite a trek up north, but I was quite impressed by Scarborough. Very nice seaside town. And the convention itself,  held at the Grand Hotel, was brilliant.

Continue reading “Writer, you are not alone: visiting FantasyCon”

How I write a novel and how you can write one, too

I start writing when I start. There’s no specific time. But we are up early because of the dogs. And my wife is very disciplined and gets to her desk by 8 a.m.

The office is a summer house at the bottom of the garden. Books and papers are piled everywhere. There’s a chair each for the dogs, and it’s got heating, too. Very cosy in winter.

After drinking a second cup of coffee, I meander to my desk.

Deadlines are vital for me. This is stems from my days as a journalist. Like Duke Ellington said, “I don’t need time, I need a deadline.” That’s me. Just like Duke.

I write a novel in six months, from start to finish. For the first draft, which is quite messy, I have a weekly word target – 8,000-10,000 a week.

Continue reading “How I write a novel and how you can write one, too”

Four weeks to your first draft

It’s NaNoWriMo. You start on November 1, and by the end of the month the aim is to write a novel – or at least a 50,000-word first draft of a novel.

It’s a great idea. It really gets you writing if you’ve struggled in the past. You have a goal, and you drive towards it, relentlessly, hopefully.

I know some professional authors who’ve taken part, and benefitted, and I think anyone who wants to write a novel, but don’t know where or how to start, should have a crack.

There’s a great website full of tips and advice, and you can find forums and blogs all over the internet. You won’t lack support as you set out to finish your book. And I hope that all of you who started on November 1 are still in the game – you’re nearly half way through.

Fifty thousand words in a month sounds like a big challenge, and it is – but it is do-able.

You might think you have to write every day, but as I show in my book How To Write A Novel In 6 Months, you don’t have to.

Daily targets, in my opinion, can be the death of writing. You set yourself up for failure if you decide to write a novel and tell yourself: I have to write 2,000 words a day. It’s unlikely that will happen. Life will get in the way. Count on it.

So my strategy – and it has been since I wrote my second novel Skarlet – has been to give myself weekly targets.

During the first draft process, I aim to write between 8,000 and 10,000 words a week. That is not a big ask. The top end is a little over 1,400 words a day.

Yes, I know, I said don’t set yourself daily word targets – but that is an average daily count. You won’t be writing every day. Some days you’ll be doing “life”. So maybe you’ll write 700 words one day, but on another day – when you’re flying and you have more time – you will churn out 3,000.

And that’s what you should do with NaNoWriMo, too.

Break down that 50,000 into weekly targets and you get 12,500 words a week, or just under 1,800 a day.

It’s still a tough ask, but my suggestion is you use the weekly target, not the daily one. Hey, if you can and do write every day, great. But if for some reason you miss a day, with a weekly word target, you will not have to abandon your project. And you won’t feel bad about having a life, just like everyone else.

So if you’re into NaNoWriMo, and you’re starting to find it tough finding the time daily, look at a weekly target.

One day you might do 5,000. But the next it’s only 300, the following day you don’t get the time to work at all, but day four and you managed a 1,000, and the next it’s 3,000. Day six, you can’t get to your desk, so on the seventh day you can’t rest – you know you’ve got 3,200 words to write to hit your weekly 12,500 target.

You got there, but you still managed to deal with two non-writing days when life got in the way.

All the best with your NaNoWriMo project. Don’t give up. You’ll have a first draft by the time you finish. And writing a novel in a month is quite an achievement. And you didn;t even have to write on each of the 30 days.

Free book today

HTWABI6M_New_Twitter_CoverMy guide book HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 6 MONTHS  is available for FREE on Amazon for Kindle today and tomorrow, so if you’re in the UK, here’s the link, and it’s here if you’re in the States; here in Canada; here in Australia… and it’s free everywhere else on Amazon, too. If you do download it for free, all I ask is, Would you consider revewing it? It’s great to know what you think. I am not asking for a five-star review, only your honest, fair opinion. Anyway, if you download it, I hope it helps you in your quest to write a novel, or, if you already are a novelist, you may find some of the content interesting.