My Way – Part Three

Writer’s block.

I suppose since so much has been written about writer’s block, it must exist. I’ve been stuck several times. Most notably in my recent past, I was stuck on how to end The Third Rule. I wrote no less than six endings for that book until I chose the one that felt right. I followed the little rule above (My Way – Part Two), where I selected what was emotionally right for the character as well as the story and eventually it fell out of the keyboard by itself, quite satisfactorily.


You have to know about the scene you’re trying to write, you have to know where you want it to end – by that I mean that each related scene must logically follow on to the next in a chronologically and emotionally accurate manner – not necessarily how it appears in the book, there might be another half dozen scenes featuring different characters in between them – but you have to know what job the scene you’re stuck on is there to perform and work towards it. If you don’t know what its job is, then how can you write it? This is where the flow chart might come in handy for you: it’ll help determine where in the story this particular scene fits, give it a purpose, and give you the tools to crack on and write it.

You only have writer’s block when you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve.


Sadly, I too suffer from this; but my own version of writer’s block is determining what story to write. Now, for instance, I’ve finished Sword of Damocles, and have a few hours to myself. I could slap myself for not using this time more wisely to get on with writing the next Eddie Collins story. Instead, I’m sitting here writing a blog post on how I write. Der!


I have several failings as an editor. Firstly, I don’t let the book cool down enough after I’ve finished it. I consider the length of time it took to write the damned thing enough of a time gap in order to go back to the beginning and start editing. I am so very wrong. In almost every case where I’ve read a piece of my ‘edited’ work months after I published it, I have been able to make it better or spot the errors I was blind to back then.

I do not like this. But I justify it to myself thus: Improving a manuscript over time is easy because you are an improved reader and so an improved writer. If I were to live by this philosophy, I would never publish anything. I accept that there will always be areas in which a story can be improved, but you have to stop somewhere, don’t you?

Editing Printed Pages

I find it easiest to spot the typos and inconsistencies from a printed version rather than on screen. I’ve pondered this anomaly and cannot think of why it should be so. But it is, I recognise it as a fact, and I always do it this way.

Also, I’m not actually very good at reading. I mean I read like most people do, in that I see what I want to see, so am rubbish at spotting omissions and general errors. I’m extremely lucky in that I have some good friends who not only love reading but who have the eyes of a shithouse rat and excellent mindsight. I am in awe of them.

And there’s another reason why I’m not especially gifted when it comes to editing: when I’ve finished with something, I like to move right along to the next project. This is a failing of mine since a work in progress is not actually finished until it’s actually finished. You get the idea; I’ll resist the urge to waffle on this one further.

Editing Printed Pages.1

But before I leave the Editing section, I let you into a secret foible of mine. I can only edit with a red Bic pen. It also has to have a fine tip, not medium. And if I make notes about the story as I’m reading through it, (and I also do this during the story’s construction) I use a 0.5mm mechanical Staedtler pencil fitted with HB lead, writing on an A5 spiral bound pad. I hate using pen because it looks messy, and I love how the pencil feels in my hand and I adore how it writes, so free and easy. I know, I know, crazy bird!

The Third Rule Reincarnated

The new series of books, the ones featuring Eddie Collins, have always done pretty well. They sold steadily and people seemed to love them. The Marmite book in this series has always been The Third Rule, and for one reason: its length.

TTR_CompleteStory - Copy (Custom)Most books are 80k to 100k words long. They are an easy read and you can get through one in a weekend or over a few evenings. The Third Rule, however, is a bit more of an epic at 260k words. A lot of people, I’ve been told, shy away from the bigger book because they feel progress through it isn’t as quick as they’d like it to be.

So I’ve done something quite radical. I’ve condensed it.

Since October 2015, I’ve dedicated all my spare time to whittling the book down to something more manageable. It’ll be easier to sell, easier to promote, and quicker to read. I’ve killed a massive 70k words in the process, which means it’s a lot sharper, has less repetition too. It’s almost a whole book shorter!

To get the word count down, I was tempted to remove one or two characters and their entire storyline, but doing that would have removed essential illustrative parts of the book. Instead I’ve chopped one or two less essential scenes, blended together some others, and restructured parts of the novel.

You might recall from an earlier post that I began The Third Rule in 2004. I like to think I’ve matured a bit as a writer since then, and was able to hack away more unnecessary bits and pieces thanks to tricks I’ve learned since then.

Keep your eyes peeled for the re-launch, where The Third Rule, second edition, will feature a new cover, and where for the first time, it’ll be available as a paperback from CreateSpace.

Running Scared
Running Scared

One last thing. I considered running this new abridged edition alongside the ‘old’ epic, because I’m aware that some people still enjoy a long book. But I need to tidy up my wares and bring them all into line. Similarly, I’m pulling the individual parts of the books – Part One: Atrocities, Part Two: Running Scared, and Part Thee: Sacrifices. I originally split the book into parts simply to appease those who wanted shorter, more easily digestible, pieces. The abridged version negates that, and pulling them also fits in nicely with bringing the whole catalogue into line.