Child’s Play.

Unhappy Families (Large)

Just a reminder that the next book out will be the above title. I will be doing the pre-release order scheme through Amazon for this one. However, I can’t set that up until I know for certain when I can have the book out for. Details will follow here when I’ve got them.


This writing week has been all about Acer #4 Deep State. I’m quite happy with the way the story is unfolding. I’m up to 70, 000 words and nearing the climax. I reckon another ten to twenty thousand words will have it finished.

While I’ve been writing this one I’ve been reading one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. This was a deliberate decision. Acer is not Jack Reacher and I don’t want him to be, but Reacher and Acer share a genre and Lee Child writes very successfully in that genre. Has done for years. No doubt I can learn things from him. For the record I didn’t think much of the first Killing Floor but since then I’ve read four or five and he definitely got better. Tripwire is the one I’ve just finished and it was pretty good. I enjoyed it.

Reading in the genre while writing in it works for me. I’ve done it before. I find it helps keep me with maintaining a genre frame of mind. I don’t want the writing to influence mine too directly – I don’t want to copy him or his particular writing style (I’m not saying I could even if I wanted to.)

I’ve noticed Child likes to write in some detail over some things. It certainly gets the word count up but I don’t have the patience for it. I want to get on with the story. (That’s not a criticism of Child, by the way. Merely an observation. I’m not accusing him of padding. Part of his writing skill is that everything ends up feeling like it counts.)

There was a very menacing and convincing villain in Tripwire. Part of why I, the reader, found him menacing and convincing was because of the detail the author went to with the guy’s back-story, his behaviour, even down to the way he got undressed. I’d like to write a really menacing and convincing villain but until I start going into great detail about things like back-story, behaviour and how my villain gets undressed I fear it’s not going to happen. Maybe it’s a bit of a Catch 22: I can’t seem to write a book over a hundred thousand words so am I limiting my opportunities to be able to effectively draw, not just good villains but any character? Does size matter on that one?

I’ll answer my own question: all that navel-gazing aside I’ve just noticed a few books on my shelves here that are quite thin and I remember them being bloody good yarns with characters I remember. Once again, I suppose it all comes down to the quality of the writing. Quality not necessarily quantity.

Quality and quantity and you’ve cracked it. For the record that’s where I’d place Lee Child’s writing now that I’m more familiar with it.

Now I’m asking myself: why can’t I write a book over a hundred thousand words? A hundred thousand words is about three hundred pages of a paperback novel. As well as it just not happening for me so far, I don’t have the burning desire to write a weighty tome, so I’m not looking for opportunities within my books to spin stuff out. It’s been said before about my writing and I’ll say it again (so no one else has to): I write simple, light, unchallenging, easy to read stories. (That makes them sound like Ladybird books.)

Another reason is time. These days I’m quite mindful regarding how long I’m spending writing a book. This is the second consecutive book I’ve written that’ll take me about a month. (I reckon I’ll have this one finished by the end of November all things being equal because I’m writing about twenty thousand words a week.) I’m not trying to rush them out. It’s just the way things have gone. On a good day I can hammer out five thousand words. One day last week I wrote six thousand.

I’ve got so many projects I want to write, to get on with. More books in each of my three current series and a couple of standalone novels I’d like to write. In my current work regime I can’t honestly imagine taking three, six, nine months or a year to write a book. (I’d go insane spending seven or eight hours a day for a year writing the same story. I like a short and intense relationship with my books not something long and drawn out… epiphany time: maybe it’s not just my books. Ahem.) And I know there are a good number of authors who take longer than that to get a book finished. (Anyone heard of Harper Lee?) Maybe they’re writing in great detail about their characters getting undressed. Every day. A couple of times. Oh the joys of having a fat advance in the bank. (Meeeooow!)

Another reason I can’t spend so long writing a book is because I really need to increase the number of books I have available for purchase. My hopes of repeating this year off to try writing for a crust are reliant on my downloads from Amazon. Just lately figures have really started to tail off for the books I have out there. (Bloody typical!) If I don’t get some more out and then readers interested in downloading them I’m going to be applying for teaching jobs sooner than I’d feared. Or killing myself. It’ll depend if it falls heads or tails.

None of this means I would EVER rush a book out if I felt it wasn’t the best I could make it. I suppose in a way I’m fortunate that I write books at the shorter end of the novel spectrum. That way I am naturally giving myself the opportunity to write more and get more out there. (Is that the inverse of Catch 22? Maybe I need a term of reference for my great good fortune.)

There are lots of things I could go on to say about all this but for this week that’s enough for my writer’s diary – I need to crack on with my proper writing: my livelihood.

Addendum: Something else to do with writing that I’ll share here because it’s just happened. So often leaving something and then returning to it after a short break can trigger a thought for inclusion that hadn’t been there before. Two examples: I haven’t posted this blog-post yet, obviously. I like to read them through a couple of times before I press send. I often find something to change, improve or add to in a re-read. So I left this and popped back to Acer#4 and re-read the last two paragraphs I wrote before dinner. I added a couple of words and a couple of sentiments that hadn’t occurred to me before and the additions have improved what I’d written. Just like that. I came back to the blog-post, re-read it and realised I could put that epiphany comment in, which made me laugh. If I’d rushed the blog-post out I’d have missed that one.

PB: 10k – 39.20. (I cracked my forty minute goal this week and then I went home and cracked a beer.)

6 thoughts on “Child’s Play.

  1. I often feel a little guilty after finishing a book as I am aware of the hours, days, weeks and months that the writer has taken to write it. I on the other hand have finished it in a matter of days and sit looking for the next one. It feels disrespectful in a way.
    I only discovered the Reacher books earlier this year and tend to sandwich them between other reads. I love that there’s so many of them and I have lots to catch up on, but the downside is that they are all to the same formula that gets a bit tired if I read them one after the other.
    Keep on with the writing.


    • Hi Linda
      Feeling a little guilt for finishing a read quickly and moving on to something new is a thought provoking point. I’ve never really looked at it like that but now that I am I completely understand what you’re saying. That’s the nature of being an avid reader, I suppose. A string of intense and passionate fleeting relationships. The upside of it for the author is that if a reader is devouring one of your books in a couple of days that must mean that they are enjoying it and, speaking as a writer, knowledge of that kind of ‘brief encounter’ brings intrinsic reward. It makes all those hours of toil well worth it. Believe me on that. Writers write to be read, understanding that we will be used as a cheap thrill and cast aside like yesterday’s socks when our time together is over, hopeful that one day you’ll renew your acquaintance with us. (I seem to be a bit full of it tonight.)
      Best way to read books that are heavily formulaic but that you enjoy none-the-less is to avoid overdosing and spoiling things. We are in agreement on that.
      Best wishes.

  2. I don’t think it matters how many books you write, it is about putting yourself about and marketing. I know I am repeating myself here and apologise for being boring.

    • 🙂 Please don’t apologise for mentioning that which I really must get involved in. Trouble is every time I finish a book I can’t stop starting the next one and then that leaves no time for that other less attractive but no less important stuff. Maybe just one more book and then I’ll knuckle down.
      Best wishes.

  3. I suppose the question is to what extent the books are better if you take longer. Or even if there is any correlation between their popularity and the amount of time you spend writing them. Doesn’t seem to me something you can judge, part from in retrospect and looking at how the book is received. Either way I am very impressed at your ability to write 5,000 words a day. I can’t imagine what that must be like. I have to write loads of reports and formal documents and am a painfully slow writer (and a rotten typist). I sit here trying to squeeze our words, which end up being read by probably half a dozen people. But the impulse to make it as good as I can is the same as yours. It just takes me longer and I wish I had your fluency!
    All the best


    • Hi Sarah

      It’s my experience that I can’t go on improving my books indefinitely. I get to a point when I think that’s as good as I can make it. Then I’m in danger of over-cooking it. Sometimes it takes a dozen read throughs and edits. The next one out took far less than that but I still felt I’d done my best. So many factors involved regarding popularity and sales and time spent etc. How to juggle all that for a coherent overview of the process versus end result would be beyond me.

      I first realised I had a talent for writing quick quantities of fiction while I was a mature student doing my teaching degree course. Many times I’d be up the night before an assignment was due in making stuff up that I thought my tutors might want to read. And mostly they did.

      Seriously though, when the ideas are flowing it surprises me how quickly the word count can rise. I’m sure it’s because it’s fiction, my imagination just running away with itself. I’m not a planner with my writing. I just give the muse free rein. It’s worked so far. I’ll ride it into the ground.

      I write solidly between 9am and 12.30. Then I’m usually back at the computer in the evening 8 till 12. I’m finding that breaking up my ‘working day’ like that helps.

      I wish I had some magical advice to offer to make those reports less arduous. Hang on… having you considered just making it up as you go along? Worked for me. 🙂
      Best wishes

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