Six lessons from writing one million words in twelve months.

In a rare break from story, I wanted to have a quick review of 2013. Looking back can sometimes be as useful as looking forward, if only to get a real sense of how far I’ve come, and perhaps learn something along the way.


So first, a quick list. In 2013, I have done the following:

Written a little under 1 million words.

This equates to…

Nine full length novels, either contemporary fantasy, epic fantasy or sci-fi, but not yet with any dragons.

Nine novellas, all scifi.

Twenty-ish short stories, of varying lengths, and various genres.

One, very bad, young adult romance novella that shall never see the light of day.


Edited four novellas, and two novels, and found, if not joy in the doing, then at least a great deal of satisfaction.


I have, after six painful months, found what I want to blog, and for the last three months, maintained a blogging schedule of three times a week.


Created, maintained and enjoyed a twitter account, a goodreads account, a facebook page, and a pinterest account. I say enjoyed, because of all the things I dreaded doing twelve months ago, social media was right at the top of the list. It turns out, I enjoy twitter almost as much as throwing some poor character into almost certain death. Whilst eating chocolate brownie. That’s me eating the brownie, not the character. They’re normally screaming, or looking up at me as I play with their strings, with that sort of ‘really? Do I have to?’ look on their face.


And last, but by no means least, published a full length novel, and three novellas, all of which I am thoroughly proud of, and still see as only the tip of the iceberg.


Actually, sorry, not quite last. I’ve also sampled at least seven different brownie recipes and found one I consider to be the pinnacle of the chocolate brownie world.

Chocolate cupcakes

mmmm, brownies…                                          © Falcon stock | Dreamstime Stock Photos


So what have I learned?


1. Always be writing: I write every day. This is partially because I told my family I would, and with brothers like mine, you don’t mess around with those sorts of things. It’s also because I love it, and can’t imagine doing anything else on a Saturday night. Nah, just kidding. Actually, not so much.

On a serious note, though, I believe the very act of writing makes us creative. For anyone struggling to get the words out, or make the ideas flow, just keep writing. Write anything. Start with a sentence, then figure out how the next sentence can make the first one really interesting. Then work out how the third sentence can make the character come to life. Then work out how the fourth sentence can introduce chocolate brownies to the story…


2. Time is precious: this isn’t so much to do with putting aside that set time, and making it clear to those around you that to disturb you could very well tear a hole in the space time continuum, and create a very grumpy writer bear, although I do think that’s a good idea.

No, this is about using every second you have. Where once, I might have taken a queue to mean Angry Birds time, it’s now a chance to find a blog through twitter, and learn something new about writing. Where I could once have spent quality time with my wife and child, I now barricade myself in the bedroom and, in the seven minutes it takes them to break through the quilts and pillows, scribble down a couple of hundred words.

More seriously though, it’s about recognizing when you are wasting time, and putting it to use.


3. The people you work with are crucial to your success: When I began this back in January, I was lucky to have some very experienced and helpful friends to call, and they put me in touch, or pointed me in the direction of, the people who now, in my own little head-based universe, make up my team. My editor, Steve Parolini, I cannot recommend enough. My cover designer, Derek Murphy gave my first book early recognition through the sheer quality of his work, and my print formatting is looking very lovely so far thanks to the great products now being created by JF Bookman. Add to that my wife, who through endless support, patience, tea, and of course, chocolate brownie, has made it seem easy, and you realize how lost I would be without those people


4. You gotta play the long game: my initial sales were pretty poor. There’s no denying it, nor shall I ever. But having said that, we did no advertising, relying only on my social media presence, and a relatively small blog tour. So it was friends, those who caught the tour and liked the sound of the book, and maybe a few others. But that was fine. Because I’m not here for a year or two. I will be writing in ten years, I’ll be much better at it, and I’ll have a heck of a lot more books out. Hopefully by then, we’ll be able to afford some advertising too J


5. Keep an eye out for the coincidence: This is maybe a weird one, but I haven’t been able to avoid the strange way in which twitter brings me what I need. There I am, sat on the sofa, thinking how badly I need to get a really good handle on the correct way to write dialogue. Flick through my stream and lo and behold, there are three blogs back-to-back about dialogue. Two days later, I’m looking for brownie recipes and bam, more blogs about writing. Amazing. However, all of those blogs will be about something I haven’t even considered, and help me take another step on the road to being better than I was yesterday.


6. Relationships are good: My first blog tour, which was beyond exciting for an introvert like me, came about because of the relationships I’d built on Twitter. My wife told me, at least one or two thousand times, that knowing ten people well on twitter was worth a thousand followers, and she was, predictably, yet still sickeningly, entirely right. I’ve been blessed with the people I have met. They have been generous to a fault, made me laugh, made me feel good when I’ve run out of chocolate, and a hundred other things.


So, 2013 has been pretty busy for me. It’s also been thrilling, revelatory, tiring, chocolaty, frustrating and satisfying. Indeed, much like eating a chocolate brownie. Except the tired bit, I could eat brownie forever.


Best wishes for the New Year, here’s to making it tastier than the last one.

Interview with Saffron Bryant, Fantasy Author…and Pirate



I am delighted to welcome to the blog fantasy author, blogger (and Pirate) Saffron Bryant.

Saffron has a fascinating background and is an incredibly driven author.

Today’s post is an interview to find out a little more about the lovely lady and her latest novel.

Get in touch with Saffron:

On Twitter, GoodreadsFacebook, via her Website, or blog.


Tell us a bit about yourself and your books. 

Well, I’m a 22 year old Australian and a fantasy fanatic. I’ve been reading books such as Tolkien and Raymond E. Fiest since I was about 10 years old. I have a dragon collection which would put Daenerys to shame and of course a Lord of the Rings ring.

Along with reading came writing, I first started writing stories at about 5 years old and it’s grown on from there. There is of course more to me; a biomedical degree (which is going a long way to helping me write my new sci-fi series), a brain tumour (which you can read all about with a simple Google search) and much more, but I won’t bore you with that here!

In 2011 I finished The Fallen Star; a fantasy novel that I felt was ready to be released. So in 2012 I self-published and haven’t looked back. Last month saw the release of my second novel in The Lost Child Saga; The Herald of Darkness.

Both novels are high fantasy and would be enjoyed by any fan of Tolkien. To give you a bit of a taste, here is the blurb for The Herald of Darkness:

“I am the one who walks the night,
I am the heart that sees no light,
I am the crow upon the carcass,
I am the bringer, the herald of darkness.

Like the calm before the storm the Draconum are thrust from their peaceful oasis into a vicious war. Refugees flood the shores in a desperate attempt to escape the coming darkness and the death it carries.

Allies become enemies and trust becomes a things of the past. Laila and Sarin must wrestle to maintain control as racial tensions and disputes threaten to tear apart their command.

The dragons struggle in a strange new land and no place is safe as the very shadows reach for their throats. What is it about their past which comes back to haunt them?

Astrocytes tries to contain an army which is bent on its own destruction. But how do you find the light in a world consumed by darkness?

The clouds are gathering and no-one can outrun them…”


What is it that draws you to writing fantasy?

Fantasy has always held a special place with me. I couldn’t say exactly what it is; perhaps that sense of being somewhere else, or perhaps glimpsing just for a second the possible.

The thing I love most about writing fantasy is letting my imagination run wild… one part of my brain will be like ‘wow wouldn’t that be cool,’ meanwhile the other part is already writing it down.

Who are your favourite fantasy authors and why?

Obviously Tolkien is a favourite- let’s face it, he’s pretty much the reason that fantasy as a genre is the way it is.

Stephen King- I just finished the Dark Tower series and I have to say, I’ve never had a book have such a significant impact on the way I look at the world. People who have read it will know what I mean when I say it made me question everything… that suddenly I started seeing nineteen everywhere… People who haven’t read it… go and read it.

James Clavell – Ok, not fantasy but I absolutely LOVE his books.

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your books?

Mostly it just comes from my imagination with chunks of reality thrown in. People who know me will recognise names or situations in my novels which are similar to real things although mostly it’s just my mind talking to itself.

Sometimes I throw little jokes in, which probably no one other than myself will get- but hey, it makes me laugh. For example, in Herald of Darkness one of the dragons is called Elsevier. So what? You say, it sounds like a perfectly good dragon name. Well it is, but it’s also the name of a major academic publisher, and a name I see EVERY day in my work… 😉

What would you say are the strong points/weak points of the fantasy genre when viewed as part of the larger literary world?

Ooo tough question. I think one of the strongest points is the sheer size and scope. Let’s face it, what is fantasy? It could include almost anything so in essence it could appeal to almost any person. The myriad of sub-genres attract a massive readership.

A weak point (which I personally don’t agree with), but which is commonly cited is its lack of ‘reality’. That people use it as a form of escapism. Personally I think that’s a pile of rubbish- like contemporary fiction literature is any more realistic? Ha! Don’t make me laugh.

If you could have written one fantasy book or saga, what would it be and why?

Lord of the Rings… then I could be cited as the mother of modern fantasy!! Jokes 🙂 in reality probably Raymond Fiests’ epic (1 million books long) saga. They are just something else and it would be awesome to lay claim to them.

What do you feel are the top 3 traits needed to be a successful author…and do you have them?

  1. Discipline. I think that goes for an author in any genre. If you don’t have the discipline to sit in your chair and finish a novel, well there’s your career gone straight away. Discipline is something I can proudly say I have.
  2. Adaptability. Look at it this way, when you’re starting out you have a day job, your writing job and then your friends and family and everything that makes up the rest of your life. Somehow you have to try and juggle all of these different roles. Then once you’ve written a book you need to be able to market it (whether that is to publishers or to your readers). If your only skill is writing then you probably won’t be successful, unless you pay other people to do the rest for you of course. 🙂 I’m learning to be adaptable, but it’s been tough!
  3. Social Skills. As with almost every profession or business, you need to be able to network. With agents, publishers, fellow authors, readers, whoever. If you can’t connect with people, people won’t want to connect with you. Personally I find this one of the hardest ones, like most people I thought being a writer was an excellent choice because I could lock myself in my study and never see another living soul… wrong!!

If you could have coffee with anyone, (living or dead) who would it be and what would you ask them?

Ooo another tough one. I think it would be George R. R. Martin… and I’d ask him two things:

a)     WHYYYYYYY??????

b)     How can I make my books so famous they make a HBO show based on them?

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Saffron BryantI always like to talk to people, about almost anything but specifically; fantasy, sci-fi, science in general, the future of literature and books, art and marketing. So please, hit me up at any of the locations below!

On TwitterGoodreadsFacebook, via my Website, or blog.

Or head straight over to Amazon to get your copy of The Fallen Star or The Herald of Darkness.


Inspired by places, todays destination – Home

The Chilterns, Home. Despite my pain and sadness at leaving London, I’m happy to call this new place home. Had it been any less remote I might have struggled, endlessly comparing it to the glorious bustle of Acton (now there’s a sentence you never thought you’d read), but as it is, the view from our house is fields and trees, covered most mornings by mist and watched over by the endless procession of crows that guard our dwelling. It’s here that I’ve written most and much of it has been inspired by the quiet and peace and freedom to think.

From the morning mist so often strides a stranger, a new thought or twist that wraps itself around my brain and refuses to move until it’s committed to print. As I push my sleeping daughter up and down the lane, the crows screech and squark to me of visions and imaginings that turn from idle thoughts into beginnings and characters and plots and worlds, and just like that I’m swamped and find myself rushing to the computer, face stretched into a huge grin as I begin to type. (Sometime later I remember the small one and hope Wifey hasn’t noticed her daughter is abandoned halfway down the track. It’s only happened once or twice and she’s always been returned to us by considerate, if frowning neighbours, Except that one time when we had to pay the local gnomes off, but they were happy with a kidney and her first kiss.)

Inspired by places, todays destination – London’s South Bank and Covent Garden

South bank and Covent Garden, London. I had to return here to London, there’s just too much to say to only give it one day. I’ve chosen these two because it gives me lots to mention.

The street performers in Covent Garden, strange men with obsessions and way too much time on their hands, existing in tiny garrets, juggling until their hands bleed or saved from their toil by trading with an opportunistic devil who comes and makes a quick soul.

The booksellers under the bridge outside the Festival hall, tired men and women wearing their lives on their faces, I imagine these meeting in dark alleyways late at night to summon something forth from the books they keep in the dark wooden chests.

The skateboarder’s paradise, tucked under the concrete walkway where the young man discovers that if he concentrates really hard, both he and his board can float, hovering just off the ground. The Thames, a million stories to tell from countless civilisations, yet its’ darkest truth is hidden deep in the mud, the creatures that will awaken only when the city is under dire threat. The man from the office, who crosses the Millenium bridge every day at lunch, and dreams every day of leaping from it, letting the filthy river rob him of the endless dreams of his lost love. He doesn’t of course. She promised him she’d be back, and he believed her, even as he tried to ignore the trickle of blood running from the corner of her mouth. 

Inspired by places, todays destination – Australian Outback

The Outback, Australia. From Alice Springs to Ayers Rock, hundreds of miles of scrub and desert and rocks, more space than I ever truly imagined existed.

I think about Aesop’s fables, the stories of the land told by the creatures that live there, and like to add a more human element. The dingo who likes to trick weary travelers into feeding it, only to discover that they’ve swapped places with it and can only watch helplessly as it drives away in their car (in jumps and starts of course, whoever heard of a dingo that could use a clutch? That’s just daft…) Then you have the Aboriginal Dreamtime, a vein of folklore stretching back longer than any other constant civilization. They use the magic of stories to explain the world around them. Finally, you have the inevitable horror that comes as the imagination ticks over on what you’d do if your car broke down, and the nearby farm seems to have some weird looking carcasses hanging in the front yard, but hey, what choice is there and it’s getting dark, and there are spiders out here anyway…

I loved Australia, just loved it. Wifey was particularly fond of the spiders 🙂

Inspired by places, todays destination – Scottish Highlands

The Mountains of Scotland, or any good mountain range.


There’s something about the isolation and exposure and sheer bloody massiveness of a good mountain that throws up a wealth of imagery for me. From the lone traveler, wending his weary way home from the war only to be confronted by witches, to the young magic user who travels to the peaks to call on a demon that promises great power. The lost legion, who cross the treacherous hills during the night and never emerge from the thick fog, and the beast that prowls the lonely trails, picking off travelers and sowing their faces onto its’ disguise so that it can venture down into the surrounding towns. I feel uplifted when I get up high, freer, and unbound, and ready to spin tales aplenty.