Category Archives: Writing

Keep On Keepin’ On…

I’ve passed 70,000 words of my current pass at Slipwater, and I’m now at the point where most of what remains is going to have to be completely rewritten. Actually, I should be honest: it’s all going to have to be rewritten. Why? Because…


Although I have messed around with the first two thirds of the story many times over the years – and I’m very happy with where it is now – the final stretch was only ever done once. In 1997. Well, I didn’t know anything in 1997. Hell, I was still a virgin in 1997. But more appropriately, some of the stuff I wrote was terrible in 1997. Okay, yes, some of the stuff I write in 2017 isn’t much better, but baby steps.

However, there are a couple of encouraging lights in the darkness. Firstly, I have an outline and a very good idea of where the story heads from this point onwards. And secondly, the novel is probably going to top out at just shy of 90,000 words, so there isn’t too much further to go.

Oh, and thirdly, this time I’m not stopping until:



Tickling a Writer’s G Spot…


There is no greater high as a writer than getting that sentence or paragraph… just right. You know what I mean – it’s that collection of words that you have spent far longer than you would care to admit, dissecting, rearranging, clipping, deleting and then reinstating, only to find that when all is said and done it doesn’t look all that different on your laptop from when you started messing around with it in the first place. But somehow, now, it just works.

Or maybe you don’t know what I mean. and that’s all right. I will accept – it’s a strange place to procure joy. I had one such literary climax yesterday, at the beginning of Chapter 23 of my novel in progress.

Carl had indeed given the blueberry waitress one of his Andrew Jackson twenties, and her initial scepticism as to its authenticity was alleviated when he quickly complimented her on the way she wore her hair in order to distract her. He coupled this with the kind of smile he had usually reserved for Beth – or before her – girls he had been interested in. The waitress had already taken another twenty from the till in order to satiate her uncertainty about the origin of Carl’s note, but instead of drawing comparisons as she had intended, she simply blushed, and thanked him for his kind words. When he told her she could keep the change she thanked him for that too and dropped both notes into the tray without any further ado.

This seemingly insignificant 130 word snippet appears in the narrative after 63,000 other words have gone before it. Most of those other words are (hopefully) very good, but it was as I was fiddling around with this particular chunk of text that I really felt things click into place. Why? I’m not entirely sure. But it’s a great feeling to have.

Completely out of context, this paragraph means absolutely nothing to anybody but me, and that’s fine, because the point is something intangible – something I could spend 63,000 more words trying to qualify and still not get anywhere near the head of the nail.

All right, fine, I will admit that likening it to a sexual experience is a little hyperbole on my part, because finding that perfect paragraph is just not comparable to sex in any way whatsoever: it’s much better than that.

Or maybe I’m just not doing it right.

Everything Started, Ends…

Twenty years ago I completed a draft of Slipwater – the only novel I have ever written. Let that sink in for a moment. Twenty. Years. Ago. My novel is legally old enough to buy a drink!


In 1997 Slipwater was an extremely complicated idea in my head, which is at least part of the reason that the first draft – which clocks in at 88,000 words – probably runs out of steam towards the end. Or at least, I did. I just wanted to get it finished. At twenty-one years old I didn’t have the necessary life experience to tackle a lot of the themes I was getting into, so it was rushed.

In the decades since then I have told myself I am going to get back to it one day, and I’ve meant it every time. Over the years I have gone back to it… off and on. I even got so far as to redraft about 70% of the novel, but for some reason or other, I have always let it slip.

Between the years of 2005 and 2011 I sent it off to several publishers. Some wanted the first few chapters; others the first ten pages. One of these places did actually then request to see the whole manuscript, which put me in a bit of a pickle because it was at a time when I didn’t have a complete draft from start to finish. C’est la vie.

Anyway, the point is – I’m getting back on the horse again.

What’s Slipwater about? Oh, a lot of things. It’s a police thriller about the bond of marriage, and of friendship, and how a personal tragedy affects both of those things. It’s about a serial killer and second chances.It’s about the drive-through town of Slipwater and the strange secret it possesses.

But mostly… it’s about damn time I finished it.

Random Bits of Paper…

ideas41200x630bbI’ve kept many notes I’ve written over the years – from stories I’ve since had published, all the way down to stories that I never even got around to writing. Not yet, at least. Frighteningly, some of these notes and ideas go back to the early nineties. It’s so long ago, people actually liked OJ Simpson.

I went through a whole pile of stuff today, all of which I wrote before I had seen any of my words in print. Some notes and ideas are documented on A4 sheets of paper, but most are written on torn promotional leaflets, or the backs of supermarket receipts, such was the urgency of my thoughts two decades ago!

It’s interesting to look back at these things, and it’s certainly an eye-opener to see just how prolific my thoughts were in those days, but while it’s reassuring to see that I took any and every opportunity to write down a thought I considered potentially useful – no matter how trivial – it’s also sadly frustrating that there have been many moments since those days when I have not been nearly as eager to… do my job.

Sure, a lot of the ideas I thought were gold then are actually complete shit now – in fact some of them were bad even then, but there are a few diamonds in the rough there… a few of which I still intend to get around to at some point. Sometimes an idea needs to breathe first and live later.

A lot of my notes from those days are no more than a few words or a single line, completely devoid of context. This obviously meant something to me when I wrote it at 17, but it means nothing as I stare at the paper at 41. Even with a little creative hindsight, the best reason I can come up with as to why I wrote WHEN THEY WAKE UP I WILL DISAPPEAR, in isolation on a slip of paper, is nothing more than an approximation.

Still, sometimes the why is the most interesting part.

Kicking Me When I’m Down…

Rub it in

So it’s my birthday today. Happy birthday and all that. I got another rejection today, which is no great surprise when you’ve had about… 1300 of them. Wow that’s depressing. This one however, raised a smile.

Being an Australian who lives in Scotland I’m very familiar with the following conversation opening –

Stranger: So are you from here?

Me: No, I was born in Sydney.

Stranger: Oh. And you moved here?

Me: Yes.

Stranger: Why?

…but this is the first time I’ve been trolled via an editor’s rejection notice.

Hi Brian

Many thanks for your submission but I’m afraid it has to be a no from me this time however please do send in more of your work at a later date.


PS you swapped Australia for Scotland?

Well played editing team. Well played.

Words (Kinda)…


I seem to have forgotten I’m actually a writer lately. These two recent ‘moments’ show the dichotomy of an addled brain.

From the dark…

You can wound a man with weapons, and you can destroy a man with disease, but if you really want to cripple him – if you want to ensure he doesn’t come back – all you have to do is take away the one thing he loves above all else.

Do that, and you won’t see him again.

…to the not-so…

Bernadette sounded like a salesgirl working on commission. George noticed that her teeth were as false as her breasts, and – as both were fine creations and fantastic adverts for wherever she had bought them – George caught himself flicking his admiration from one purchase to the other.

He quickly looked away before it tipped from complimentary to awkward.

From Fact to Fiction…

It’s been a lean year for publications (three have fallen through and one smelled like a con job so I pulled out) but I feel more confident about this one. My dark fantasy/horror hybrid, The Girl in the Glass Bottle, will make an appearance early next year, in Issue 13 of Australian ezine, SQ Mag.

The speculative short story was inspired by a woman at work. She told me about the time she put a message in a bottle and let it ride the waves of the North Sea, and what happened after she did. I love it when real life inspires the things I write, because it’s often just a case of skewing the details into something with a beginning, middle, and end.

Even as she was telling me, her truly endearing tale of friendship was becoming something a lot more sinister and disturbing in my head. How pleased she will be to discover I have twisted her memories in such a way, remains to be seen.

I really should see a doctor.