Acres of Ink | The 52 Week Writing Challenge

Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge

What it is: A year-long blog challenge for writers, focused on their current novels. Probing questions, writing challenges and a chance to connect with other writers and readers. Plus, a handy ready-made topic for those blogging dry spells…

Who can join in: Everyone! But the challenge is targeted at writers who are currently writing a book or are looking to promote a book they’ve just finished. Or, y’know, writers who just want to have fun and chat about their WIP.

Good to know: If you use the #AcresofInk hashtag on Twitter, I will do my best to read, comment on and retweet your posts.

Want to join in? Of course you do!

Or, for those who prefer something easier, click the ‘Read More’ to copy and paste a text version of the Writing Challenge.

I’ll be starting in the New Year and I’d love for you to join me. Happy blogging! Continue reading

Doing Battle with your Book: Word Count Wars

Word Count Wars

Let’s start with some statistics.

According to Writer’s Digest, the following is a list of ‘good’ ranges for your novels.


  • COMMERCIAL AND LITERARY: 80,000 – 89,999
  • SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY: 100,000 – 115,000


  • YA (YOUNG ADULT): 55,000 – 69,999
  • MIDDLE GRADE (9-12): 20,000 – 55,000

Well… I’m in trouble. Continue reading

Arguing with God: Making your characters do what you want (when they really don’t want to)

CD_Realistic motivation for fictional characters

I’ve been struggling with Anna.

She’s my sassy, capable and clever protagonist, and she’s about to do something Remarkably Stupid.

I’m capitalising that because it really is very, very stupid, and everyone’s warning her not to do it.

Writing a realistic plot and realistic characters is always fairly difficult. Sometimes, your characters just won’t do what you want them to, because in real life, they’d look at you with a scornfully raised eyebrow and flatly refuse.

Anna has been raising her eyebrow at me for a few weeks now and I finally realised why.

She has other, sensible, logical options. Continue reading

Generation Z: Choosing a different plot

the-generation-of-zHave you ever thought about the Road Not Travelled?

This Sunday, I took part in Generation Z, which is an interactive theatre experience… with zombies. As much as the blood-spatter and screaming was fun, the thing I noticed most about the experience was the choice.

Generation Z was the kind of theatre show that let you choose what happened to you. You’re all in one group, in the same room, and then you have to run. Somewhere, anywhere. You choose: left or right down the corridor. Which direction you choose takes you to a different part of the abandoned warehouse, and a different plot. I chose left, and ended up in a Mess Hall. I chose to stand in the middle of the group, which was great because it meant I didn’t get sprayed with blood, but bad because it meant I was soon separated from my partner when the groups had to divide again.

Every person in the Generation Z group had a different experience, made entirely from their own choices. The people that turned right when I turned left went to a different plot; the woman who stood in front of me instead of behind got absolutely soaked in fake blood. Every choice has a consequence.

Here’s one for the writers.  Continue reading

Character Development: The Benefits of ‘Hot Seating’

CD_Hot Seating

Character development is a difficulty that most writers face, if not all. It is a flaw readers look out for, and the fear of creating a lamented ‘Mary Sue’ can make a writer’s struggle significantly worse.

Personally, I find it a particular weakness in my own writing. Plot and action seem to come naturally to me, whereas the creation of realistic, engaging characters is something at which I have to continually work. For my writing partner, S.E. Berrow, the exact opposite problem is true: characters appear almost fully formed in her head, but developing a compelling plot is not as easy. I like to think this is why we work well as writing partners; we are the Yin and Yang of common author struggles. We share our tricks of the trade, offer advice, and challenge each other to do better.

One such trick I find useful when developing characters is a theatre practice called ‘Hot Seating’. In the theatre, this device is used to ‘get inside the head’ of the character you’ll be portraying: you sit in the centre of your company, and they fire quick questions at you that you must answer as your character, as quickly as possible. This allows an ‘instinctive’ feel for the character to bloom. For obvious reasons, this practice is helpful when getting to know new characters in writing.  Continue reading

The Art of Foreshadowing

The art of foreshadowing

One of the greatest faux-pas one can commit in this age of media is ‘spoiling’ a plot twist or the ending of a novel, television show or play. At a certain point in 2013, one only had to utter the words ‘Red Wedding’ to divide the room in two: those who had read a particular chapter of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and those who had only watched the HBO show. Continue reading

Choosing Beta Readers

Choosing Beta Readers


You’ve written a book.


Books are meant to be read, but your first draft is probably not the prize winner you want it to be. Not yet, anyway. That certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be, but you need some fresh eyes. When I first wrote The Elder Throne, my finished first draft was a flawed, exhausted thing. Instead of jumping right into the Beta Reading pool, I knew I had to run it past a developmental editor for a second opinion. Of course, that’s just me. Not everyone wants to do that, and that’s fair enough. What every writer should do, however, is choose a group of Beta Readers. And here’s how. Continue reading