The Awesome Power of Beta Readers

A typical Beta Reader

You got to get other people to look at your writing and give you honest feedback before you publish, you just have to. They can tell you what stuff they liked and what stuff they thought was boring. They can tell you what works well and what doesn’t make sense. You might think your characters are amazing and full of life but to a reader your hero might be a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, placed inside a wicker puzzle underneath a dense thicket of sphinxes atop a mountain of cryptoglyphs. They can also point out where you’re overwriting.

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White Wind Rising Free on Amazon right now!

White Wind Rising

WHITE WIND RISING Gunpowder & Alchemy Book 1 is free on Amazon right now through until the end of Monday (22nd June)!

Download now from Amazon US and Amazon UK  and enjoy!

White Wind Rising
Gunpowder and Alchemy Book 1 available now on Kindle

All Archer wants is to ask the Alchemist for more food for his family. Instead he is thrown into prison and must escape Bede’s Tower with nothing more than his bow and his wits.

Inside he meets Writer, Weaver and Keeper who are children like him and Burp, who is not. If they can defeat Bede then their only means of escape is by dragon-powered balloon.

To survive the perils of the journey home they will have to tackle magic storms, face the guardian wolves and battle the dangerous redcoat who lurks in the Moon Forest.

If they are to have any hope of victory then they must learn to bend the elements to their will, unearth the secrets of their own origins and discover that together they could be more powerful than even the greatest alchemist the world has ever seen.

DARK WATER BREAKING Gunpowder & Alchemy Book 2 is available now on Kindle from Amazon US and Amazon UK 

Dark Water Breaking Cover

How Come You Write So Slowly?

I wrote Gunpowder & Alchemy Book 1 in one month. And then I bragged about it. So how come it took me six months to get Book 2 released?

Give me a break! Sheesh. I’ve blogged along the way but here’s what’s been happening since January (it’s mid-June now). Then I’ll list what I learned from it (you love bullet point lists, right?).

How I wrote it

  • Book 2 was more ambitious.
    • There was more plot to get through
    • Historical research was required
    • I was aiming for about 70-75,000 words (Book 1 = 65,000)
  • I whizzed through the first two-thirds. By mid-Feb, I had about 55,000 words.
  • The plotting of the final third was tricky. The book crept up in length as I worked through the detail of how everything would come together for the big final battle.
  • First draft finished by the end of March and it was 90,000 words.
  • I sent it to my first beta reader right away and kept working on it. His feedback was that he loved it and it needed more description.
  • I write every night from 10pm until “however long I can stay awake” o’clock. I moved house in April and that required a TON of time and hard work. I’d say I had about 8 weeks where I didn’t do much because I was passed out exhausted by 10pm. And that delayed me, big time.
  • Over that period the second draft grew to over 100,000 words. I had been adding all he detail my beta readers had asked for plus filling out all the gaps in logic and adding period detail and whatnot. This WAY longer than I had intended and now my gutment began…
  • I cut it down to 90,000 again by the end of May. I cut and combined chapters. I cut people and events.
  • It was in okay shape but then I cut it to 85,000. Then I cut it to 80,000 and that was as far as I could go without making more work for myself by requiring big rewrites.
  • Then when it was totally done and couldn’t cut any more I cut it down to 78,000. By this point I was in danger of cutting the personality and “voice” out of it so I stopped.

What I learned from it

  • I had too much plot. Not that the plot was unnecessary; everything that happens is awesome. Just from a practical point of view it needed to be a longer book than is normal for this readership. I considered cutting out sections before I started (even dividing it into more books but I have 4 characters and they get a book each). I didn’t cut too much big plot stuff because I knew I could get it all in. And I did. It just took frickin ages to cut it to shape. Next time I am streamlining from the start. I built Book 1 upwards from first draft instead of cutting down at the end and that was loads more efficient. So I’ll do that again.
  • Too much research. I wanted authenticity but I this is historical fantasy so I was already changing history loads anyway. I guess because I love history so much I got engrossed in 17th Century England and was soaking it up instead of writing. And THEN I ended up cutting most of it out anyway. I went to Colchester Castle. I walked the Roman walls of Colchester. I’d have been better off writing. Next time I am doing just enough, no more.

I finished book 2 a few days ago and while it was being proofread I started the first draft of book 3. I’m 10,000 words in now which is a great start. I can write 1-2,000 words a day or more so I hope to get it out within a couple of months. Let’s see how I do!

If you have any tips or insights on writing / planning / editing efficiently please let me know!

Dark Water Breaking Cover

Dark Water Breaking is published! Gunpowder & Alchemy Book 2 available now!

In 1640s England, Writer is arrested in the night and put on trial by the Witchfinder General. Can she unlock her latent powers and free herself before the murderous Trial by Water?

At the other end of the Vale, Keeper and his dragon are brutally seized by redcoats and carried to Coalschester Castle on the orders of Cromwell, leader of the rebellion against King Charles I.

The ancient Cedd arrives in Morningtree and claims to have once been an ally of the Alchemist Bede a thousand years before. But is he all that he seems? What is he really fighting for?

Archer and Weaver must now battle to rescue their friends before it is too late. But to fight the alchemists, the redcoats and their steam-powered landships, they may have to start a rebellion of their own.

Amazing book cover by artist Lombus who agreed to do the whole series
Amazing cover by artist Lombus who agreed to do the whole series. I LOVE this more every time I see it.

I’m so excited to be sharing the story with you and I can’t wait to hear if people love what happens to the characters as much as I do. I really loved the first book but this one is so epic!

Buy it now on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Please let me know what you think!

And if you missed it, to get WHITE WIND RISING Gunpowder & Alchemy Book 1 click for US & UK

Okay, I’m going to get on with Book 3 now…

The Discovery of Witches, by Matthew Hopkins

My next book features Matthew Hopkins, the self proclaimed Witchfinder General as the main baddie. While researching the last six months or so I’ve read an awful lot about this conman, serial killer and utter shitbag. I’d like to share some of his story because it is fascinating and totally horrific (and you like that sort of thing).

A stylish serial killer with a swagger. This evil man escaped justice by dying.
A stylish serial killer with a swagger. An evil man who escaped justice by dying.

For some context, he was “witch-finding” for only about three years between 1644-1647. He did it in East Anglia in England and he was only in his mid-twenties when he died (sadly, of natural causes… probably). Why is he so infamous? Well, in those three years he was responsible for the deaths of perhaps 300 women. We might expect there were loads of people executed for witchcraft back then but in fact there were perhaps 500 in total for all of England over 350 years and Hopkins did 300 of those in just three years and in one area.

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Gunpowder & Alchemy Book 2 Update 4 – Main Editing Completed

The River Stour separating Essex and Suffolk is a beautiful landscape and the setting for some scenes of the book
The River Stour separating Essex and Suffolk is a beautiful landscape and the setting for some scenes of the book

“When you say you’re editing your book, what do you mean?”

I’ve been asked this a few times now. Let me tell you what I have been up to since I finished the first draft of the new book (“first draft” means I wrote the whole story but didn’t go back and rewrite any of it). So, in rough chronological order, it has meant the following:

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Gunpowder & Alchemy Book 2 Update 3 – First Draft Finished

Editing a novel requires some serious heavy lifting
Writing and editing a novel requires some serious heavy lifting… 

First draft is finished! Hurrah! But what does “finished” mean? For me it means I have all the chapters in and every chapter pretty much has a beginning, middle and an end. You can read the story as it is now and it is “a story”. There are 90,000 words of it. And so now the serious work begins. Editing…

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