Category Archives: Book Progress

It’s hard to say goodbye…

One of the hardest experiences when writing a new book stems from the connections you make with a new collection of characters. As some characters inevitably don’t behave the way you expect, you can’t help but like them as a result.

Part of the process of creating a convincing individual involves a close focus on character motivation. After drafting a moderately coherent plot you’ll inevitably realise that a character needs more motivation to follow your plot than they start with. This can lead to reworking the story.

Part of this process includes writing extra scenes that deepen your character’s personality in order to explain their actions and choices. This extra familiarity with the character typically leads you to feel more connected to them.

The fear creeps in

With this in mind I’m now nearking the end of my newest book and I am definitely apprehensive about saying goodbye to a few of my characters. This creates an odd tension for me as a writer because I obviously want to take the story through to its natural conclusion, but I also don’t want to say goodbye to these characters.

This particular book is set to become another stand-alone title (like Marcus was) which means there will be no going back to revisit old friends. For a reader the book may only represent a few hours of reading but my experience is markedly different.

How long I’ll spend with these characters

I’ll spend a month (possibly more) on this first draft and the second draft could take another few months. After this I’ll get someone to pass an objective eye over it, before using their responses to create a third draft.

At this point I may even pass copies to ‘beta testers’ to check readability and appeal, taking their feedback to work out a fourth draft. Then I have a final formatting draft to get page alignment, fonts, etc.

When all is said and done I will have spent between a year and eighteen months on this book. More than a year getting to know these characters, honing my picture of them, and gaining sympathy for who they are and why they behave the way they do.

All of this means that by then I may even ‘know’ some characters (as much as knowledge is the correct term for facts about fictional people) better than some friends or more distant family members.

One of the tougher jobs

As you can imagine, it’s hard to go through so much with someone and then say goodbye forever, but at its core that’s my job. In the grand scheme of things it’s not exactly the hardest job in the world to do, but I can’t pretend there isn’t a wee pang as I write the final lines.

It’s the last day of NaNoWriMo tomorrow and thankfully I’m on target for my 50,000 word total (though the book will be a little longer than this in the end). It’s definitely worth being excited about but I can’t deny that it’s also a little bittersweet.

Soon I’ll be saying goodbye to a new character that I’ve grown really attached to. She’s pretty great actually. The one silver lining is that once I get her out into the world and more people get to know her, she’ll get that little bit more real. I’m looking forward to introducing her sometime in 2020/21.

As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

It’s Here!!!!

On 31st October I received a delivery, one that I’ve been anticipating for a while. I have to admit it’s a little eerie that a dark fantasy/ horror story would be delayed so that it arrived exactly on Halloween but that’s how it went.

So… ladies and gentlemen boys and girls…may I introduce to you the print version of ‘Marcus’.

Set in Crieff, Perthshire, over varying time periods, this story follows the disappearance of numerous children, leading the reader to the slow realisation that something really isn’t right about Marcus.

From frenzied beginnings

I started writing Marcus exactly a year ago to the day. This book was a departure from my usual. My other books are fantasy stories but they’re all part of the same series centred around a boy called Jack Reusen.

These books are aimed at children from primary 3 (around 7 years old) and upwards. Aside from the fantasy and (some) locations, there’s only one real thing that ‘Marcus’ has in common with these books.

Every book I’ve written has been the result of a writers community called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Every November I disappear into my computer and craft a new story. NaNoWriMo pushes writers to complete 50,000 words in one month. So far I’ve never failed (which still surprises me) but I can’t pretend it’s easy keeping the pace to write that much in just thirty days.

In 2017 I decided to try my hand at something new. Not only was I going to write a darker, older, book. On top of that, I was going to use short punchy chapters to allow me to publish it as a serialised novel.

Tuning in each week

I can’t thank those who read my serialised version of Marcus enough. Knowing I had people ‘tuning in’ to catch the next installment each week kept me on my toes and forced me through the editing process (editing is something I’ve never enjoyed very much).

I felt supported in a way I haven’t before during the run-up to a book release. That’s why I felt so guilty when an oversight on my part led to a month delay on the publication of this book. To everyone who has asked about when the books would be here, I am so happy to finally be able to say ‘now’.

A wee party

I’ve sold my other books at Fun Junction in Crieff and Perth for years. They have given me a ridiculous amount of support and now to top it all they’ve volunteered both shops for book-launch events for ‘Marcus’.

I’m planning on hosting the first one in Crieff (it is the setting of the book after all). More than that; the bulk of my support has come from readers around Crieff so I want to make it easy for people to come along.

I’ll get some food and drinks on and we’ll make a night of it. If you would like to come along please let me know (Facebook message, Twitter, leave a comment below, or simply send up smoke signals, whatever works). I’ll do everything I can to keep you up to date on the details of the book launch.

Fun Junction Perth will be running a late night opening on Thursdays so I’ll also run a slightly different event through there as well.

It’s such a relief to finally have the books in my hands and I really hope you like the print edition (it has some changes from the web version). Please leave any comments or questions you like. I always like hearing from readers.

Once again, sorry for the delay, and thank you for bearing with me for so long,

All the best, John

P.S. Now I’m off to start another NaNoWriMo. I’m returning to familiar ground. Looking forward to getting back up to speed with a certain wee boy, a shape-shifting polar-bear girl, and an ‘owl man’ who always knows what to do. Wish me luck! 😉

The Plague

I just wanted to add a quick wee note to say sorry for the delay on last week’s chapter of ‘Marcus’. I had everything set up last Saturday night but hadn’t sorted the formatting etc. yet. Unfortunately, since Sunday morning, I’ve been hit down with some horrible flu thing.

Seem to be back to normal now. I don’t have a full new chapter of the Ogres to share yet but I should have everything back to normal by next Sunday. In the mean time I hope you enjoy this week’s (or last weeks’?) instalment of ‘Marcus’. It’s a chapter I’m really happy with and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, hope you enjoy it as much too.

As always, thanks for reading, All the best, John

The Wall

Teeth gritted in defiance, we all face moments that test our mettle. The past few nights I’ve been hitting ‘the wall’ again. It’s something that doesn’t improve with experience. (Apologies in advance, this post gets a bit weird).

I’m growing familiar with this gut-wrenching drain on all joy, all drive, and all ambition. The ‘secret’ is to drum up a ridiculous volume of drive and pep throughout the day in preparation. All the same I get an hour or so in and the wall appears.

A gaping maw opens in its centre and chomps at me. I rush to feed it my hard-won positivity and get on with the task at hand. Sadly the wall isn’t simply a barrier, it’s a predator. It bites my fingers and laughs. It eats and eats my experiences until I’m drawn out. I rest and welcome the meandering adventures of my dreams.

The next day comes with lumps and snippets of joy, comfort, surprise, and fulfilment. Every scrap of experience comes with me to sit in front of the keyboard. To toil at it and shape words to my will. Always waiting in the shadows is the barrier. I hit it and stick to it as he takes my experiences and eats them up once more.

Hours roll by and my barrier and I laugh at the absurdity of what I’m doing. We revel in his hunger and wonder what madness brings me to his door each night.

Many nights ago I hit the wall and it pulled me in. It is alarming in its ferocity, but I know that beyond it lies a finished copy of my third book. Completed pages pile up with each night. The book is taking shape, and for all its efforts, the wall will not win.

Sorry for the theatrics tonight. Felt the need to give the writing muscles a stretch. Hope this finds you well and, as always, thanks for reading. All the best, John 🙂

A second chance at a first impression (showing off the town) 

taylor park macrosty park bandstand crieff jack reusen john brayA few months ago I decided to rework ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ with the intention of submitting it to a publisher. It’s safe to say the idea of a publisher looking at it is a little disconcerting.

I hadn’t done a full read through of ‘the Fey Flame’ for a long time. I’ve written four more books containing these characters since then and I was surprised to see how many ‘out of character’ things they do/say in the first book (at least from my perspective).

In the course of the other books the characters obviously grew and changed (how dull would a book be if the main characters learned nothing from their experiences?). However, reading the Fey Flame again has made me realise that I don’t know much about who they were before I first met them (if that makes sense). It’s been interesting getting to know this earlier version of these now very familiar characters.

I’m also discovering how hard it is to rework the Fey Flame without at least hinting about what will happen to them. I’m in a constant battle against spoilers.

Once this rewrite is complete I’ll have a shorter, snappier version of the book. (Don’t worry I’m not cutting that much, I just wanted to keep chapter length consistent etc.). I’ve also added a few wee touches here and there in places where I thought it would be nice to know more about some of the characters (Granny Reusen gets a wee mini story about her childhood).

One big change (but one that didn’t take much work to alter) is the fact that I’ve decided to be a lot clearer about the fact that everything takes place in and around Crieff. From the b….. with the W……… at the bandstand, to Jack’s first experience of Fey on Lady Mary’s walk.

All the books are inspired by the (admittedly slightly less extravagant) adventures I’ve had with my family in the town and countryside where we live. It felt only fitting that the books reflect that a little more strongly. If Harry Potter can visit Kings Cross station then it’s only fair that my characters can pop down to walk the Illohound in MacRosty Park.

It’s hugely intimidating realising that the Fey Flame will soon be in the hands of a publisher to await judgement. I’ll be sure to post once it’s been sent through and you can join me in my worries over the following months before I hear back. Wish me luck.

As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

NaNoEdit? Over a year of Jack Reusen books

birthday-candlesNo it’s not Jack Reusen’s birthday but it is just over a year since Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame went out into the world, and today marks another landmark too; it’s my birthday.

When I turned thirty I decided that before I hit forty I would write ten books and one album. If you count my philosophy book (don’t worry you don’t have to read it, but I’m thinking it counts) then to date I’m six books in, so not going too badly.

I’ve got a new job so I’ve had to give April’s ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’ (National Novel Writing Month) a miss. On top of that I still have two of those six books to edit properly, with that in mind the actual writing bit has taken a back seat.

To be honest it would be great if the folks at NaNoWriMo made an editing month as well. I’d be surprised if anyone can finish writing a book in just one month and still be able to walk away with something in final form.

Each of the books I’ve already released have had at least three edits, it’s a gruelling part of the process and it definitely would have been beneficial to be able to talk to others going through the same thing.

Maybe this post could count as a plea to the nice folks at NaNoWriMo, or simply to other writers out there who are at the same stage. It can be a bit of a lonely and thankless task at times, and it’s definitely nowhere near as satisfying as the huge rush of creativity that you find in the actual writing bit. It would be great to share this part of the process with others in the same way that people do with NaNoWriMo.

Today I won’t be thinking about editing too much, it’s my birthday so I’ll be spending some time with the family. However, I’m aware of how much I still have to do so if any other writers out there fancy going through the editing process together in May (after this round of ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’) then let me know.

Perhaps we could set up a twitter hashtag or something to tie our experiences together, maybe #nanoedit (it looks like it’s had a bit of use already). If you aren’t a twitter user feel free to post updates on the Jack Reusen Facebook page or in the comments for this post.

In the mean time feel free to pop over and see some of the things I’ve learned since I started writing here, one issue that was particularly difficult for me was simplifying plot, you can get an idea about the ways I’ve found to get around this by clicking this link.

Apologies for the silence on the blog post front over the past wee while, I’ll try and be better.

As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

Write all day and you will realize 5 things about yourself that you never knew

Rock_balancing_(Counter_Balance)NaNoWriMo is here again and some of you are probably tired of hearing about it. Trust me it’s tiring on the inside as well. This is my third National Novel Writing event and it marks the writing of my fifth book set in a world that started to take shape only a year ago.

In my last post I talked a about the new book and explained a little about the support that’s helped push me on to write so much in such a short space of time. To absolutely anyone who has bought Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame you have no idea how much it means to me, and for those of you who have picked up a copy of the sequel, consider yourselves responsible for the barrage of books that are about to erupt out into the world.

When you sell copies of your first book there’s always a little voice in the back of your mind that wonders if people are just being nice. When you start selling copies of the sequel it makes you wonder if maybe they really do like to read what you’ve written. Thank you for that.

Anyway, on with the five things I’ve learned through plunging myself into this surprisingly demanding eventy. Here are some things that my last two NaNoWriMos have taught me:

Resilience: When you skip a day of writing it’s easy to beat yourself up over it but this just wastes time and energy that you could use to make up for lost time the next day. The first NoNoWriMo opened up my eyes to the fact that blaming yourself for a slip is utterly pointless, it’s happened. You just need to get back at it.

Time management: This is essential for the completion of a task like NaNoWriMo. After a few slips you start to discover what caused the problem and the vast majority of the time it has a lot more to do with expecting too much of yourself in too small a time-frame. Just because you wrote 1000 words in an hour a few times don’t use that as your gauge for how long it will take you to write 1000 words. Some passages need careful thought, some need extensive research just to get a place or character name just the way you want it. This will take time, don’t short-change yourself on time. Set aside an hour and a half a day to begin with, if you struggle to meet your target word-count add more time, if you speed through with keys blazing you could save some time on editing by going back over it then and there. Be fluid in time allocation but be persistent in working.

Commitment: In the middle of November last year I started calling myself a writer and actually meaning it but I knew that I’d be talking nonsense if I couldn’t even finish my first book. It was like a promise I made every time I said ‘I’m a writer’. Builders build, bakers bake and writers write. It was suddenly that simple. If you’re writing now and want to finish what you started a good first step is to commit to the moniker, call yourself a writer and mean it.

Confidence: You start off cautious, then you get a few thousand words in and suddenly it’s time to tell the world. You write blog posts. You post updates on social media. You tell friends and family. Then you sit down and freak out because you feel like they’re all expecting more of you. To be honest they probably aren’t (this tallies up with the final thing on this list) but this doesn’t stop the fact that you’re writing, you’re really doing it. All of a sudden there’s a new part to your personality, and it feels pretty awesome.

Being humble: This one is hard, for all the celebration of being a ‘writer’ you still need to remember that despite all the hours of work you put in there’s a good chance that the passage that you wrote at 3am after a marathon 5000 word day probably isn’t your best work. When the month is over you’re going to have a lot of work to do, admit that, drop the ego, develop some humility, and make something that you can actually be proud of. At the end of the day, if you can’t admit the faults that you can see in your own work then deep down you’ll never be able to tell yourself that you’ve done your best.

I’ve mainly written this post with fellow NaNoWriMo participants in mind and I hope it helps a bit. As you go through this month you’ll need to dig deep and what you find there will surprise you, but trust me it is utterly, unequivocally worth it.

As always thanks for reading, please feel free to ask questions or pop down a comment in the comments section below. All the best, John