“Where do you get your ideas from, Thomas?”

I get asked that all the time. I guess most writers would say the same. So what’s the answer? Well, ideas come from all over the place.

My first novel Maneater is about a werewolf called Laura Greenacre who wants to avenge the death of her clan.

So there’s an idea: a revenge novel. About a werewolf.

Newspapers are a useful source of ideas. Local newspapers used to be great. They had all kinds of stories. Keep your eye on the shorts, those two-paragraph stories that run down the side of a page.

I read something once about a guy stealing a JCB; you know, one of those big yellow diggers. He went on the rampage with it along his street because his neighbors, apparently, had made complaints about him; called the cops or something. Now that’s a scene. Build a story from there. Why did he get that crazy? What caused his neighbors to complain in the first place? What’s going to be the consequence of his actions?

I once wrote a short story called The Librarian. It was about a lonely old man who stole library books to build his own library in a spare room in his house. This story came from two sources.

One was a two-paragraph court story I read in a local newspaper about a man fined for pinching books from his library.

The other idea came from one of my own obsessions — putting books back in their proper places in bookshops.

When I browse bookshelves it bothers me when I see a Michael Connolly novel mixed up with James Ellroy’s books. I will return the Connolly where it belongs, either with the rest of the author’s books or in the “Cs”.

In my story, the character tidied up the shelves in his library in this way, putting books back where they belonged — or so it seemed. He was also tucking them into his coat and walking out with them. He loved books. He was passionate about them. He hated how people disrespected them. He thought people didn’t deserve libraries. So he built his own with books he stole. Eventually he burns his library and himself because the philistines are coming to arrest him and take his books away. He does the worst thing you could do to books — he burns them. But only because he loves them. A twisted kind of love, maybe, but he did not know that.

Another source of ideas is combining genres. Throw in romance with vampires, see what you get. Oh, that’s right: Twilight. Toss some Vikings into a bowl and mix with aliens. That will get you Outlander, a 2008 production starring Jim Caviezel and John Hurt. How about space invaders in the Old West? That’s Cowboys & Aliens.

The new sub-genre of pastiche is becoming popular now, thanks mainly to its inventor the writer Seth Grahame-Smith, creator of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Why not update a real, historical crime and transplant it to the modern day? I did that with Pariah, inventing a mythology for Jack the Ripper and transplanting him into 21st century London.

So just a few ideas there about… ideas! I’ll talk more about how to develop snippets and scenes into stories over the next few weeks. But the best advice I can give you is: Let your imagination soar.

“Karen, bring me to the world. I will make you proud. I will show you the purity of hate. The clarity of pain. The glory of blood. The beauty of wounds. The rage of love.”

My new novella IRONBONES is out soon from CARRION PUBLISHING. It’s slasher fiction about a murderous, supernatural serial killer. Here’s the gist…

Angry at rejection, would-be novelist Karen Davies one night excavates all of her fury and unleashes it on the page—creating a best-selling monster.

And Ironbones is a huge hit with readers.

But success breeds envy. Reviewers rail against her slasher fiction. Snobs sneer at her purple prose. The god-fearing gnash their teeth at the pageant of violence Karen has devised.

But her imagination, however, has also conjured up the paranormal killer for real.

And soon, the supernatural psycho begins a campaign of bloody terror against those who dare stand against his creator’s work.

The more Karen writes, the more bodies pile up…

Any reviewers out there who’d like a copy, please get in touch with me via Tiwtter (@thomasemson) or email me at thomasemson_info[at]yahoo[dot]co[dot]uk.

And you can be honest… unlike the protagonist of my novella, I don’t have an Ironbones who’ll wreak vengeance on critics who don’t like the book. Honestly.

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.

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”

The Writing Process Blog Tour

So Danny Rhodes, author of the excellent Fan, asked me to contribute to the Writing Process Blog Tour. I don’t know much about it, but writer after writer answer the same four questions. Here are the questions. Here are my answers…

What am I currently working on?
I’ve just finished, and dispatched to my agent, a fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian thriller for the so-called YA audience. I’m about to start writing a detective novel.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’ve mostly written horror, but they’re fast-moving and action-packed. Horror appears to me to be traditionally quite sluggish. Some horror writers spend an age piling on the adjectives and adverbs, thinking up different words for ‘dark’. I try to keep the story moving, very, very quickly. I don’t waste time on long, descriptive passages telling the reader how menacing a house looks. I get the characters inside the house and show them how menacing it is.

Why do I write what I do?
I wrote horror initially because I loved the genre as a youngster. But I also like action thrillers and fast-paced stories. I combined horror stories and the thriller framework. Really pacy stories. Gory, full of violence, very grown-up. I really enjoyed TV serials when I was growing up. They used to show stuff like Flash Gordon with Buster Crabbe. It was old, very old, but I loved the cliff-hangers at the end of each episode. I attempt that with my stories. I want to be on the edge of my seat when I read a book. I try to do that when I write my own, too. I think, to be succinct, I write what I write because I like reading it.

How does my writing process work?
I had an eight-book contract, and tied myself to writing two books a year. In order to do that, I had to be disciplined. So I developed this specific routine, which I use to this day. I set myself targets. I work out how long I have to write a book. Say six months. It’ll be an 80,000 word book, at least. I set myself a target of 8,000 words a week. Weekly targets are more achievable than daily ones. If I write 8,000 words a week, and working from a vague outline, I’ll have the first draft finished in 10 weeks. When I’m writing the first draft, I don’t stop to correct anything, I just write and write. After that’s done, I take a week off. Then I go back and do a pass of the first draft, cleaning things up. And I keep doing this until I have a decent manuscript. I’ve written about my routine in a book called How To Write A Novel In 6 Months.

… so there it is; hope you enjoyed.