Moniack Mhor musings

Been a while since I’ve written, both blogs and booky stuff.

Early last year I put a lot of energy into re-drafting my novel and then into compiling a short story, hoping for e-publication. But, summer came and went, along with a couple of rejections, and I thought it best to relax and recharge.

Then I drifted languorously through the remainder of year. But that was okay, I knew I had a winter writer’s retreat at Moniack Mhor. Where better to rejuvenate than in the Scottish countryside, isolated from distraction, conjoined with kindred spirits.

I tried to approach the retreat with an open mind and manner. Normally I’m a loner who prefers to share his thought processes only with the page and, in all honesty, attending a commune for writers was slightly daunting.

But, I’m over 30 now, been writing for a while and come to the realisation that the first and toughest barrier between an aspiring author and potential publication, is themselves. I needed to try and get out of my own way, shake my booty out of my comfort zone cocoon and dance like a social butterfly.

Well, that and my wife bought me a gift voucher for my birthday.

The course was on character development, tutored by Louis de Bernières and Tim Pears. Two historical fiction greats, whom, I’m ashamed to admit, I didn’t really know much about.  At least in the beginning.

While Tim encouraged, Louis enchanted. Both authors bringing their own experience to the table, both men modest about their own successes. It didn’t matter that our reading lists had probably never crossed paths, wisdom is wisdom and writing is writing, unless you listen to Louis, then writing is poetry…sometimes…I think.

So, what golden nuggets did I learn?

  • Characters don’t have to be naughty or nice, ambiguity adds depth
  • Every character needs their own voice, their own objective, which sometimes means their own narration style
  • Your characters should change and evolve, and if they offer to wreck your story, let them, after all it’s really their story
  • Don’t write propaganda or just put across your own point of view but present multiple viewpoints
  • Writing should flow and have rhythm, if a section feels a little off then try reading it aloud
  • Writing a novel is like a mountain, don’t gaze at the summit but take it one step at a time – write first, then edit

It’s by no means an exhaustive list and I’m sure everyone that was there would have picked up a slightly different list, but I’ll certainly try to keep the above in mind as I write.

Despite the useful tutoring, the true highlight of the course were the fellow students. Listening to everyone’s unique struggles and experiences, over several glasses of red, was just the sort of cathartic release I needed, probably what we all needed. That’s not to say it was all mumbles and moans, in fact quite the opposite, everyone was so filled with energy and determination. Something that will serve as a reminder to keep pushing forward.

I could go on and on about the quaint venue itself, the wonderful staff, or the inspiring performance of the Bookclub Band but let me keep it simple. If you’re thinking about indulging in a writing retreat, then make sure you check out Moniack Mhor




An ‘I, Roland’ update

Done, done and maybe in need of some light dusting.

I completed the latest and what I am hoping to be the final edit of my novel – I, Roland – this week.

In my excitement I even created a simple but charming book cover and converted it into ebook format. It just feels so much cooler to see it on the kindle with embedded cover art.

I’ve commenced the next step by reaching out to a couple of literary agents. I’m being selective as I’m fully open to going down the self-published route but want to at least see if the tree bears fruit.

The hardest part now is to be patient. As soon as I finished I was desperate to send it out or shout about it to anyone who’d listen. But, in reality, it’s going to be a long road ahead. Even if I do self-publish in the short term, I’ll need to be chasing down every media outlet I can, hunt for reviews and exposure.

Either way, it’s exciting times ahead 🙂




The Journey

I have had a recent run of success writing for the monthly LoW competition and wanted to try and branch out to something else. The LoW forum has proved great for practicing my writing but it is a closed members group and I felt it was time to try something more open. My friend pointed me towards ‘The Journey’. It was autobiographical travel writing and although I normally shy away from writing about myself I was feeling inspired.

The other problem was that it was a minimum of 3,000 words and the deadline was due to close in 3 days. Fortunately I had a spare day and Oliver, as usual, helped me edit.

For my story I went back to a trip I’d taken in my youth, after my education and before my career. A time when I really didn’t know what to make of the world, or what my place was within it. I’d found myself trying to travel Europe on a bicycle, but without any savings or means of income. My nights were spent trying to sleep through torrential rain in a flimsy hammock, and asking myself ‘why?’

I won’t hear back about the competition until January but afterwards, regardless of result, I look forward to sharing it with you.


Essence of Madness

That is the title of my fantasy series, and it is certainly living up to the name. Yesterday I spent several hours trying to plan a rough outline of the entire series, only once again I had an idea which completely shifted my current direction.

I have been working on this story for 10 years now, watching it constantly evolve as I have. It has meant that I have had to leave entire storylines behind as they became obsolete. Even scrapping the first 100,000 words in favour of a complete rewrite.

For me, writing fantasy was the next logical step to reading it. After indulging in the escapism that other authors would provide I would fantasise about what would happen next, imagine alternative endings or how I might have done something differently. And, in the beginning, my story was just a means of a more in-depth escapism, complete control of my own characters, my own world. That was why it wasn’t a great story, mostly I was merging experiences from my favourite books and generally achieving nothing more than a cliched hero’s adventure. Recently however I have realised just how flooded the market genre of fantasy is, science fiction too, and in such a market I can’t just write what makes me feel good. Instead I have to push myself.

That is why this series is still evolving and why it is so hard to pin down; it is the culmination of all my aspirations and it is a journal of sorts of my writing journey.

I hope to have the first book completed this year but it’ll require numerous edits before it’ll truly be ready.

I suppose I should stop procrastinating by writing this blah blah blog and get on with it…

Works in Progress

I, Roland (Sci-fi) – Complete, almost. I have done several rounds of editing until I reached a point where I was satisfied. I have now let it sit for a while so I can come back to it with fresh eyes for one final editing round.

Essence of Madness (Fantasy Series) – Book 1 is nearing 70% complete for the first draft. It has been an epic journey, one that I can’t wait to share with others.

I have a few ideas in the wind, 3 other potential novels which I have dabbled in. But, for now I need to stay focused.


I, Roland – Round 4 or is it 7?

At the tail end of last year I completed my first ever novel length piece. A fast paced science fiction thriller, set within Earth’s dystopia future, that explores the philosophical question – ‘What is humanity?’

Over the last 6 months I tried sending this out to a few publishers and I also entered it into a competition. However, nothing was the right fit for my work, and I am now back to the drawing board.

I was a little upset at first, but after some time to reflect I realise that I am proud of making it this far. What I know I need to do next is to go through the entire thing one more time with a fresh pair of eyes, to be the harshest critic of my own work and tear it apart. Only then, once I have pieced it back together will I know that it is truly ready.

6 months ago I was certain that it was ready, I was naive, overeager and wrong. This time will be different.