February Writing Update

I’ve been making progress with plans, templates, and ideas but not as much as I would like with drafts. In the last few years I have written full length stories, but not ones I’ve been happy to move forward with. I wonder if my freelance proofreading and copy editing is making me think too logically about it – using the other side of the brain, so to speak.

I have therefore identified inflexibility of thought, as well as overly logical plans, as being the culprit. I suppose logic can be seen as inevitable in some people with Asperger Syndrome. Just have a think on Rainman, Star Trek’s Spock, or Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.

It’s not the end of the world. The first step to ‘solving a problem’ (I had to put it in those terms) is identifying it and I think where plans require logic, precision, and single sequential ideas stories themselves do not. Stories require flexibility and open-mindedness. I wonder if this is why a lot of writing advice is to relax and let the words come instead of thinking too hard about it. It’s a balance between following a plan and being flexible enough to carry it out when the time comes.

Does anybody else have interesting comparisons to make on the difference between flexible creativity and rigid plans?

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Writing Update – Jan 13th

Writing has been going well so far this year. I’ve been reading through what I have of the story Marcellus: Great Barbarism. I had to delete 10,000 words because I accidentally pasted the same words in twice. D’oh! I’m actually at 42K, not 52K, yet I know the story isn’t complete yet. It’s missing a few concluding chapters, and many in between too.

Self-editing is a vital part of the construction of this story. It’s an attempt to organise a jumble. I’m one of those writers who writes it in a mess and has to sort it out later. Self-editing your story isn’t as fun as writing it either because it’s about tidying, organising, and making sense of what you’ve written at times when you want to be writing, not working.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that what I’ve written doesn’t conform exactly to my planned outline. I expressed the writing in a different order, expanding some chapters and leaving out others. It felt natural, and the result is still pleasing. It does make one wonder why some writers, sometimes called pantsers, enjoy to just wing it when they actually write rather than to create a clear solid structure and adhere to that structure. Who writes their stories strictly according to a plan?

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January Writing Update and Questions

Marcellus: The Mantle by Alex James

Marcellus: The Mantle was published January 2015 and was written as an introduction to my planned Marcellus series.

After the gloomy December 2017 review of my writing year, things seem to have improved. Not only have I made changes to a 23,000 word Marcellus draft I wrote in 2012, updating it and seeing where it does and doesn’t fit into my other drafts, but I’ve extended my rewrite of Origins to 46,000 words, which is a good starting point. The story is by no means finished, but it covers some essential events and I’m happy with how I’ve written them, which is good.

I’m now having a break from writing Origins, and I’m spending time planning another, similar story in the Marcellus series in the hope I can expand my ideas.

I’ve written many stories since 2010 that haven’t been published. Some pose questions I cannot answer or dedicate the time to answering. This is the problem when you have too many undeveloped ideas, writing but not thinking or planning properly.


1. Who has written many stories and can’t decide which they should work on?

2. How many writers like to write past tense summaries of their stories before digging into the drafts? I do, I was just curious who else used this method?



Marcellus: The Mantle is available to purchase on:

Amazon UK / Amazon US / Apple / Barnes and Noble / Smashwords / Kobo / Scribd



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Writing: Year in Review

I did this in 2016, and I made a lot of progress over cumulative months. I finished two fantasy stories, and thought I was on my way to getting them published, but wasn’t sure how at the time. Unfortunately this was not to be, and I seem to have been spending time retracing my steps. Compared with 2016, I’ve had less time to write and life has got a bit busier, which has given me a much needed break from obsessing over it.

I started 2017 continuing with my Marcellus series, about an unusual being afflicted by a cloak in a barbaric setting on an alien world. I was writing out the entire third story with the prototype name Supremacy. While writing Supremacy I learnt that there is more than one way I can write a story. I wrote a few pages of planning before each scene, and would spend much more time organising, retitling, and finding the main plot before moving on. I finished Supremacy and I considered the story to be a success because I had added more depth to it and took more control in deciding its direction.

The first book in my Marcellus series, Origins, I received some amazing feedback from a few close friends and writers and I improved it. A few months later I realised I still wasn’t happy with it or my other fantasy draft Kroll, and reverted to a re-planning and rewriting stage, again, which was frustrating. The planning went well. I enjoyed it and wrote thirty pages in July/August, before eagerly returning to rewrite Origins. Writing was a success, if you measure success by the number of words I started with: 25,000. However, a few weeks after I had written it and tried to write a few thousand more words to link it with an earlier draft, in early December, I realised things weren’t working. I was a bit confused why and I’ve returned again to write more pages of planning in the hope it’ll allow me to find the story I want to write and the story I will enjoy writing. Writing words for the sake of ‘creating a story’ doesn’t work for me anymore: I used to find enjoyment with it but now I detest the disorganisation it brings onto the page and the enjoyment is only ever in the moment. A few weeks later, I look back at the writing and assess my feelings for it, and wish I hadn’t written it.

And that’s where I’m at, with half a hundred pages of planning, and wondering if I want to go ahead and rewrite the story Origins or if I’m happy to continue planning. I have no immediate plans to publish whatsoever. Writing a story that matches my current writing skill with my enjoyment in the creative pursuit are my goals. Wish me luck with achieving them in 2018!

How was your writing year?

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Update on Current Writing Projects

Kroll Magnificence Image1 (2)

Since completing Kroll and Origins, I’ve had a brainstorming session and I decided I won’t be moving forward with publishing either yet. Sorry folks.

On the technical side, the pace, tone, and theme for both stories aren’t there yet, and some rewriting has to be done. I need to go back a few steps, it seems.

On the positive side I HAVE planned the tone and theme for Origins and rewriting has begun. Thankfully I don’t need to rewrite the whole thing because I’m using a select 20,000 words from the first draft to keep the general setting and characters the same, at least for the first book.

From my Author FAQ there is a bit about Origins:

‘5. What are you working on next?
It’s a secret! No, it’s basically a sword-and-sorcery story called The Prince’s Mantle: Origins. I want to develop the idea of innocence versus barbarism by introducing innocent not-quite-alien Marcellus into a world where he is different, special, and must strike up alliances and learn the rules to survive.’

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Be the author of your writer

Alex James at a stall








I became an author without quite knowing how to become an author or what sort of author I wanted to be. I know I wanted to get my books out there, and that was a start, but there is a lot more to being an author than many writers think … and foremost, a lot more to being a writer than authors think.

As with any business, being an author is a little bit like running your own business, and this is the case whether you’re self-published or traditionally published, from what I’ve read. You therefore need to find your ‘unique selling points’ and what differentiates you or your books from every other current and soon-to-be author/s in your genre. It’s not easy either because the competition is fierce, but knowing what makes you different is a tremendous start.

If, like me, you have times when you wonder what sort of author you are, if you’re putting enough time into it or simply what avenue to explore next, perhaps the answer lies in your writing and your priorities. I like writing that builds up to character discoveries, plotlines, events, and conclusions; and in the science fantasy genres because it gives me the freedom to explore new ideas in a specific way where I can savour the richness of the story. That’s the kind of writer I am! It’s what I’m good at and I’ve had plenty of practice. And so I need to continue focusing on my strengths and understand their place in the ‘market’ (cringe — what an ugly word!). I have written full-length stories. Who is looking for full length stories in my genre? The answers are readers, editors, proofreaders, cover designers, literary agents, and publishers. Then you need to link what makes you or your books unique and different with professionals or bodies that are looking for what you have to offer. This may also depend on the sort of person you are.

For example, if I’m good at writing full-length stories, unless I want to put in 100% effort into learning how to write short stories or different types of stories over a sufficient period of time (which I don’t) then it is fruitless attempting short stories. You’d be adding to your skillset but it could mean changing your writing focus, and therefore it would redefine the kind of author you are. This is more the case if you write as a hobby, as I do. If you worked as a ‘professional’ writer you’re sometimes compelled to adapt your writing, whether for your agent, publisher, or sometimes even for fans. I suppose I’m talking about ‘specialising’ your writing and your identity as an author as a way of discovering what works best for you that doesn’t necessarily for any other author.

Okay, let’s say you know what differentiates you as a writer, and therefore author. The question on your mind, if it hasn’t crossed already, is how do I publish? It’s actually one of many questions. Should I publish? When should I publish? How am I going to market my book after publishing to ensure I get the most out of actually publishing it, and that readers keep discovering my book/s? I don’t have an easy answer to that question and most authors find what works for them, and it’s not always the first professional, service, or method that is the most successful. Authors are learning what is best practice, what isn’t, and who to trust. As authors scale this steep learning curve, they may even find that what worked gloriously and reached loads of readers and earned them lots of money simply doesn’t work in the same way anymore. For example, book retailers are changing their rules all the time, and where traditional print used to be the primary way of reaching readers it now longer necessarily is.

My advice regarding publishing is to find likeminded individuals, groups, and organisations that are hungry for your unique skills. It’s a win-win situation. You benefit from a vital support group that can act as a safety net and a growth ladder, and they take advantage of your skills to grow, justify their existence, and probably use your name and face in all their print material.

How do you become the author you want to be?
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