Archive for amwriting

How to Write a Novel in a Week

How to write a novel in a week? Okay, I’m lying. But not by much.

THE HOUSE OF SIGHS is the latest. In one week I’m 57,000 words in, bringing the total up to 66,000. You know how long the other 9,000 took me? Two months.

Here is the blurb for HOUSE OF SIGHS, by the way: Jane doesn’t remember anything. The only thing she knows is that she’s an orphan and she has no second name. The Orphanage is the safest place in the world…

Before this one there was JABBERWACK (63,000 words in a week) and before that there was GATEWAY BOY (60,000, but “how to write 60,000 words in a week” doesn’t have the same ring to it).

I would like to point out that those words were not ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY over and over again. Deary me no, they were splendid words. As splendid as a first draft written by me can hope to get. I invented this method out of sheer frustration, and if it worked for me it can work for you too:


Make sure you know the beginning and (kind of) the end of your novel before you go.

Make sure the place is affordable, and has a pretty view. You won’t be seeing any of that view, but it’s really important to know it’s there. Holiday places are at their cheapest out of season.

Make sure you know the taxi number if you need to get your luggage to and from the train station.

Make sure there is an Indian takeaway. If you’re like me, you’ll be living on takeaways for a week. If you’re not like me, ensure all your food is microwaveable so preparing delights to sustain you will take a maximum of six minutes.

Make sure you have no friends to visit in the nearby area. They’re lovely friends, but – just for a week – sod them.

Last, and very important: Make sure you have no idea how to get onto the internet.


My rules were:

1) Start writing by 9am.

2) You haven’t finished for the day until you’ve written 7-10,000 words.

3) Writer’s block does not exist.

Just three rules, but coupled with the splendidly sharp focus that spending money you don’t have on a week away can bring, you will, I am sure, get results. I have never yet, in twenty-one days of doing this, broken these rules.

I have had moments of blank-mind panic, and cups of coffee that lasted longer than strictly necessary, but I never stopped writing to such a degree that I didn’t hit my daily word quota. When I’ve had doubts then, to quote Chandler, a man walks into a room with a smoking gun. A couple of chapters down the line and you’ll be pretty sure why he did it.

At home, the world exists. People exist. Job hunting and the internet exists. In this happy little Gulag, this wonderful bubble of exile, the only things that exist are the next cup of coffee, the next meal, the next view of lovely countryside you’ll never walk in, and the next word. Normally I’ll only write 1,000 words in a day. This system changes all that.

Obviously, because I’ve made this system up I have no idea if it will work for anyone else. But I’m back, and I’m happy, and I’m a whole heap nearer to writing those crazy and rather magical words THE END. It may well work for you too.

Also, it turns out that the internet did not fall over while I was away. RESULT.


Etymaulogy: The coining, splicing, ruffling, condensing and mutating of words. Throwing words together to create something new.

When we do this with ideas, it is called inspiration, and the world grows.

When we do this with words, it is called etymaulogy, and the world grows.

Etymaulogy is a word I dreamed up a moment ago. It is an example of etymaulogy.


Protectoplasm – Does it protect you from the other side? Or does it protect the other side from you?

Prewarication – Sniffing round that thing you were meant to do, not approaching it, not entirely sure it is a thing that should be done.

Cornuphobia – The fear of plenty

Further examples of etymaulogy more than welcome 🙂

Vampires vs Fantasy Orcs

I felt inspired to pen a piece for Mookychick about why I think fantasy appeals to a different part of the psyche than vampire fiction…
Vampires vs Orcs Fantasy Deathmatch – who wins?

The answer is that both fantasy and vampires are amazing and we all do…

The avuncular aunty and why it’s fine to call your friends a cheeky bint

There was a thing I wanted a character to do. I can’t remember what it is, now. Smile, or wave, or smoke a pipe, or deal a hand of cards, or lovingly tousle a small urchin’s head. Just one of those things that people sometimes do, usually more so in books than in real life.

I really, really wanted her to do it in an avuncular way. You know… in a way that spoke of pipes and grins and slightly raffish jollity, and genuine affection distanced by the knowledge that you might care about that person but you can still put them down and walk away if they start being in any way charmless or squallish or problematic.

You know. Avuncular.

And then I think a bit of gendered language hit me in the face like a cold sock, because I didn’t know if aunties *could* be avuncular. Or if women of any flavour could. The dictionary says they can be  ‘auntly’ or ‘auntlike’ if required, and that’s lovely, it really is, but auntly and auntlike are fiercely awkward words and I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy let alone a character I quite like. Don’t even get me started on ‘materteral’. No-one in my lifetime is going to give anyone else a materteral wave.

A quick look at the online etymology dictionary revealed that the word ‘avuncular’ stems from ‘maternal uncle’, though it was originally thought to mean ‘grandfather’ (from ‘avus’).

Avuncular… an example of gendered language, then?

By the way, etymology is my new favourite coffee-break pastime. It turns out that ‘bint’ comes from the Arabic for ‘daughter’, and thus you and your friends casually and no doubt accurately referring to each other as a cheeky bint is ABSOLUTELY FINE. HONESTLY. IT IS.

Bint is a lovely word. So is avuncular. I’m just not sure if I can use it.


I spent all day yesterday heavily researching a new short story, by which of course I mean chatting with friends on Facebook and tweeting Mark Gatiss. I like the idea of cool people hanging out on Twitter mainly to dispense hair advice to the masses, but I wonder if they feel the same way…

The thing is, Mark Gatiss knows about the Victorian age. He knows a lot about it. If you’ve read Lucifer Box, you’ll know that he knows.

The other thing is, you can’t trust Gatiss to answer his tweets when he has a creative Empire to run and hasn’t the faintest idea why you’re contacting him about pomade. He probably (and rightly) assumes you’re one of Moriarty’s minions. So I asked the FB hivemind (who are beautiful and clever to a woman/man) and  it turns out that pomade may well have contained bear fat.

I also discovered that bubbies are a Victorian slang word for boobs, and that sailors liked to have mermaids as mastheads because although having a woman onboard was bad luck they believed bare breasts on a ship would ward off rain. It’s a practice still in use today! *

And I even got round to booking a hamster taxidermy workshop and writing FIGUREHEAD, a new short story.

NEWS JUST IN: That rather clever historian and presenter chap Matthew Sweet has kindly informed me that Victorian gentlemen did indeed often use bear fat pomade, and it was sometimes lime-scented. Who knew?

* No it’s not.

Dear Diary…

Bad: No exercising today. Too shy to do it with people around unless it’s in a park or on a training mat.

Ugly: The phone I brought from Cash Converters was reported lost or stolen yesterday. Still sorting that out, and back to my poorly old phone. Hey, guess what! It’s still a phone and therefore utterly splendid! Of course, the moral of this story is don’t buy a really cheap phone if you know that, yes, it is probably going to be stolen goods…

Good: Wrote a fun and suitably horrid medieval horror about the afterlife for an editor who’s published stories by Joe R. Lansdale before (who is the don, as is Joe Hill, and I swear to god I don’t get the two of them constantly confused). It’s like a morality tale and everything. And it’s got mummers in it. And rats. And it’s called DEATH OF A THOUSAND RATS. Also it has fleas.

It was only after writing this post that I realised I should probably start it with “Dear Diary”…

Shannon A Thompson

You need the world, and the world needs good people.

one bow...

Malena Lott Putnam | storyteller. strategist.

D.E. Atwood

...writes books she wants to read...

Kip Wilson Rechea

Write, travel, eat, repeat.

Encyclopaedia Vanitatum

a dictionary of spectral curiosities

Sarah Hans

Author, Editor, Educator

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