Tag Archives: novel writing

Adventures in Writing – my Western, part one.

Writing during the summer months usually finds me accelerating my output, embarking on new projects, finishing off old ones.

This year is no different, despite soaring temperatures causing the entire process to be an arduous one!

With July barely half way through, I’ve completed the final edits of my novella ‘Fallen Past’, and the first adaptation for a television serial of my book ‘Roadkill’. With both of these out of the way, I can put my energy into writing biographies for famous Vikings, which I’ve been invited to do for an artist friend of mine (more news of that when it is done) and starting a new novel, in a genre I have always wanted to try.

The Western!

I reckon (notice the easy way in which I slip into Western-like parlance!) I should keep a log of my progress, so here it is.


Writing first few chapters. In a deadbeat town in the Utah of the 1850s, a retired army general is embroiled in a bank robbery and is shot. As he lies bleeding, his daughter is abducted. US Marshalls, summoned to find the daughter as our good general is a hero of the Mexican War, are waylaid and killed, possibly by Indians. The Pinkerton Detective Agency over in Illinois, charged with finding the missing girl, send Officer Simms  out across the Territory to find her. Simms knows the general, served with him in the War. He’s the perfect choice. He’s also a killer, which might help.

But he’s travelling to a violent, unpredictable land. An added terror is the land is gripped by the worst drought in living memory. This does nothing to lighten Simms’s mood. Soon, starving Indians, merciless bounty-hunters and other, even more despicable individuals punctuate his progress. But he can handle it. Simms is tough. The toughest there is. Utah may be about to find itself pitched into all-out war, but none of this matters one jot to Simms. All he cares about is the girl.

But will he find her alive?

Well, okay, I’ve put down 8,000 words so far, which is about a tenth of the way through, which isn’t bad for my first outing. I might have it done in less than two weeks at this rate! More of the same tomorrow, because when a story takes hold, there’s no way I can shrug it off.

I’m not sure if it will be successful. I don’t even know if a publisher will accept it. Westerns aren’t the most popular of genres, but I don’t care. I’m past all that now. I write for myself, what I enjoy. This used to be my benchmark, and so it is again. I’ve discovered in this business, publishers don’t really give a damn. Not many others do either, and I can’t blame them. It is impossible to make yourself known in this business nowadays, so what is the point in killing yourself in trying. That’s my motto now. I write, for me. If someone else likes it, that’s a bonus. The world is awash with books, a lot of them are pure bilge, and authors battle like demented insects around a light bulb, all of them jostling for the best position. I see it and read it all the time; Twitter and Facebook alive with adverts and posts screaming out why you should read such-and-such book. I steer clear of them all. I suspect people do the same with mine, because yes, I do indulge. One of my publishers tells me to, even though it’s all a bunch of crap. Anyway, I digress. This book is going to be great fun. Great fun to write, hopefully to read.

Next time, I’ll detail subsequent chapters.

Stay tuned and thanks for dropping by.

If you are in the least bit curious as to what I do, please visit my website where you can find out a lot more about me, my work and where to buy copies of my book! If you like spies, adventure and Vikings, you’ll like my books. I write thrillers, historical and contemporary ones, and now Westerns! Yeeha!!!



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Adventures in writing … thoughts on those how-to guides

Coming to the end of what has been a great summer holiday, writing is proving somewhat difficult. It’s too hot, my head is still firmly stuck in Cumbria, and I have so much to do I don’t know where to begin.

I’m waiting on a book to be finalised, cover chosen, printed, etc. I sent it out to some beta-readers (whatever that means) and they picked up a few tiny problems. The editor said this would happen, that the more people who read it the better. Anyway, all being well, it should be out by the end of September 2014.

Two different publishers have accepted two other books of mine for publication. So, I’m happy. Of course I am. It doesn’t mean I’m Lee Child, but at least I’m getting out there. All being well, another three books published by the end of this year will see my tally growing to 18 published works.

Then I receive an email and all of this euphoria is dashed.

It was one of those junk-mail things; you know the ones I mean, the same sort that used to come through your door in the days before the Internet, or which were stuffed inside the Radio Times. Well, it’s the same thing. A host of stuff you simply have no interest in whatsoever. This one was a little more interesting, but extremely annoying.

It was from Kindle. You may have heard of them. They ambushed me with a long list of books and every single one of them offered me the chance to ‘Write a mystery book that sells’, or discover ‘The Easy Way to Write Fantasy’, and even, ‘Make money through writing fiction!’.

Okay, I know there is a whole army of people out there now who want to write a book. So they do. And Kindle gives them all the tools. And now, here we have every guide known to man, written by established authors, all of whom want you to achieve great success and earn heaps of money.


Mm…Okay, let’s just backtrack a little here.

First, there is nothing wrong with wanting to write a book. In fact, it’s great. I am forever encouraging people to write. The mechanics of writing means, simply put, hard work. To write 100,000 words takes a lot of graft. BUT, if you want to do it, you can. However, you need to know one or two painful truths. One, I do not believe story telling can be taught. WRITING can, but not story telling. Anyone can write. Anyone can learn grammar, syntax and all the rest. Cool. But is that creating stories which make your jaw drop to the floor, which have you crying like a baby into your pillow, or laughing aloud like a hyena on crystal-meth? No. I do not believe anybody can be taught how to tell a good story. It’s not just about structure, the snowflake, starting from the middle or the end, or from wherever you want to start from. It’s something, which lives inside you, something which will not let go, which dominates every waking moment of every single day. If you can’t tell a story, there is no point in picking up a how-to book. So, if you do have the knack, if you can hold people’s attention with tales of daring-do, why not pick up one of these guides?

Because they don’t work.

Because they all say the same things.

And it makes my blood boil, because there are probably thousands of people out there buying these things. And they are selling more than I am, and that hacks me off too.

No, I believe the only way to learn how to write is…to write. Write and read. Then read some more. Get a publisher who believes in you, and an editor who can fix the stupid grammar bits you missed. I’m forever getting mixed up with past and passed. And I’ve been told off more than once for using ‘started to’ or ‘beginning with’. So, I’m not going to use those again. But my editor doesn’t tell me how to plot. She doesn’t order me to change scenes and characters, etc. The reason they accepted my book in the first place was because the story was damned good. The grammar was okay, but that is easily fixed. A bad story can never be fixed.

I looked up some of the authors of these guides, see how they were doing with their own books. Well, one or two were doing fine, but most were not. And the reviews they were receiving left a lot to be desired. So, have they written these guides to make money, to prey on the dreams of aspiring novelists, by offering them the ‘Teach yourself How To Be An Author’ way to fame and fortune?

Of course they have. And people buy these things! Why not join a writing club, get down to your library, read your stories to kids, or even adults, sign up to Authonomy or YouWriteOn? Get some feedback, do the leg-work, learn the craft.  And when you’ve written one book and you’ve submitted it, write another. And keep writing! That’s the key, not a secret to be found in the pages of a 75 cent guide that is shooting up the charts all because so many have swallowed the bait.

I keep saying it; writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. But it seems as if not many prospective wannabe Harlan Cobens out there have quite come to terms with this fact yet.

For news of my latest books and when they are available, keep checking out my website. www.stuartygyates.com

Thanks for dropping by, and don’t worry, I won’t be writing any guides to getting published…not now, not ever.

Keep reading!



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Adventures in Writing … the month so far!

An exciting time for me so far this month, and we’re not even half-way through!
It began with the tussle I had with one of my publishers over the publication of ‘Whipped Up’, the second of my Paul Chaise thrillers. They said they were reluctant to accept anymore work from European writers, which I found bizarre to say the least, but my other publisher thought differently and they accepted it. Whipped Up will be published sometime soon. Here’s some background to the story:
‘Paul Chaise is a former operative in the SBS – the Special Boat Service – but has been ‘retired’ for over ten years, living a quiet life in Spain, following a career as an estate agent, selling villas to the ex-pats seeking a new life in a new country. Everything is going very well until he inadvertently gives a hitchhiker a ride and his life begins to spiral out of control. This is the premise for the first book ‘Burnt Offerings’. At the end of the book, with his girlfriend fleeing to the UK, and his former employers incensed that he has emerged from his ‘cover’, he too is summoned to return.
‘Whipped Up’ sees Chaise trying his level best to make something of a life in the UK, taking up employment in an East Anglian estate agents. His old ‘employers’ are not convinced and they have him followed. He becomes embroiled with the problems of a customer who is being harassed by some particularly nasty Eastern European types who want to take over the running of this man’s houses. It all spirals out of control when this man is murdered and his wife tortured, her mutilated body left in Chaise’s flat as a warning to back off. Naturally, this has the opposite effect and the body count soon begins to mount up as Chaise goes on a one-man crusade to bring these Europeans down.
When the S.I.S in London gets wind of this, they decide to rein Chaise in, and that’s when it becomes really nasty!
A contemporary thriller set in the sordid world of human trafficking; this second in the series pulls no punches and will appeal to anybody who likes their thrillers violent, fast moving and with lots of twists.’
The first book, ‘Burnt Offerings’ is available through Amazon, on the Kindle and in paperback:
I really enjoyed writing ‘Whipped Up’, and as soon as it was done, I turned my attention to another thriller entitled ‘Overstretched’, and I’ll give more details about this next time. Of course I had other concerns too. The second in my Harald Hardrada series was completed, and I was working feverishly on the re-writes. Entitled ‘To Be King of the Norse’, it too has gone to the publisher. I am hopeful it will be released sometime in the autumn. ‘Varangian’, the first in the series, has been receiving some amazing reviews lately on Amazon. Here’s a sample:
‘This was one of my favourite historical-based books that I’ve read in ages, mainly because it blended reality and fiction so perfectly. Fictional characters mixed with actual figures from this time period, and I found myself flipping back and forth between search engines and my reader to try to decipher which parts were based on fact and which were just the creations of Yates’ imagination. It was a seamless and well-thought out story that had everything someone who loves 300, Rome, Game of Thrones, and dozens of other historical/fantasy/intrigue sources of entertainment. There was violence and sex and betrayal and power-hungry madmen who would stop at nothing to retain their control.’ Such wonderful words from somebody I do not know. This is what writing is all about, for me. Creating a world in which strangers can visit and enjoy.
See other great reviews, and the details of how to buy Varangian here:
So, it has certainly been busy, as I said at the start. Soon I shall turn my mind to the third in the Paul Chaise series (I have some ideas, of course) but as for Hardrada, well, I am already 25,000 words into the third part. I envisage it going to at least four volumes, possibly five. His is such a fascinating story. Some have compared it to Game of Thrones, but apart from the intrigue and the killing – oh, and the sex – there really is little to compare. George R.R. Martin’s word is episodic and brilliant in its breadth, an awesome achievement from a superb writer. I am humbled to be compared to his majestic talent, but Hardrada is no fantasy figure. What he did was real. A giant in Viking history and a man who, for far too long, has been buried away under the piles of literature written about William, Duke of Normandy. Everybody feared Hardrada, including the Duke. I wonder what would have happened if Hardrada had prevailed at Stamford Bridge…? Now, there’s fuel for thought … and possibly a damn good book too!
Thanks for dropping by, and keep reading!

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Adventures in writing…some news and updates

Just an update this month, together with some thoughts about being a writer, but no spouting off I promise! Well, maybe just a little…

Being a writer is so hard, it really is. Every step of the way there are insurmountable obstacles put in your way, preventing you from ever moving forward. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ll try and put this into some sort of context.

Yes, I’m published, but that doesn’t really mean very much. I’m published by Indies, so I’m not well known, nor do my books appear in bookshops. I’ve been published by seven publishers, so I guess I must be doing something right. This gives me some little cause to be grateful. I only wish editors from one of the big six liked my writing as much!

Only one of my publishers is proactive, forever giving me all sorts of advice, helping me to get myself out there in the cold, hard world of fiction, but others do nothing; they don’t even keep their websites up to date. Strange. I see it as a partnership, but I seem to be alone in that idea. Surely, it would be in their interest to help, perhaps do some marketing themselves, arrange something? Everything is down to me. And finding the time is the biggest obstacle of all and it would be nice to have a little help now and then. But no. Like I say, ‘strange’. But they are all different. Some have gone out of business, one was a crook, one is great, the others indifferent. And contracts, my God…contracts are such an obstacle. Being ‘locked-in’ is something for us all to be conscious of. Some own your characters, others own YOU. This can be somewhat scary. Just make sure you read the small print.

Other obstacles are purely personal. I write of a weekend, getting up early on Saturday and Sunday, wiring until around one o’clock. In that time I can get down anything from three to ten thousand words, depending on how swift the creative juices are flowing. During the week I come home shattered and rarely do I feel like sitting in front of the keyboard. For my latest book, I am trying to do that, as I’m gripped by the story and want it done. I love writing thrillers. They are so escapist. I don’t have to research a thing, nothing but my own imagination to push me forward. Historical fiction is tremendously hard work. I love it, but it is a much slower, more involved process. So, right now I’m writing a new thriller, and editing the second in my Harald Hardrada books at the same time. When done this will go to the publisher, and I’ll work with them to get it ready for publishing.

I’m so busy. I’ve just been reading a writer friend’s programme, and he is even busier! But, he is a full-time writer, successful, published by a top-notch publishing house with all that means. I’m so envious of him. He’s a great writer, a great bloke, but I am worn out by his energy. And humbled.

I’ll never be able to do all that.

I’m locked inside a profession I no longer respect, and a dream I can never fulfil.

I tried to get one of my publishers interested in a sequel to a book I wrote last year. But they say they will not handle it as sales have been so disappointing. So, right now I’m offering readers a free copy of one of my books if they will place a review on Amazon. An honest review. However, hardly anybody is taking up the offer. I remember this happening to me at a market once, when I was giving away free bookmarks. One man looked at me with such utter distaste I thought I had somehow offended him. ‘No,’ he said, and turned away. I followed and said, ‘It’s totally free. A bookmark.’ He turned and glared, ‘No.’ He had with him his son and daughter, and I looked down at the boy, smiling, and said, ‘Do you read? Some of my books are aimed at young people. Would you like a bookmark?’ I thought his father would explode, but the boy took it, and the girl read it. I watched them all move away, and saw the father tear it up and throw it in a bin.

So…what hope is there convincing people to read a free book, when they cannot even accept a bookmark?

It’s a hard, unfathomable world at times. Obstacles abound, and in writing they forever mount up, from the disinterest of agents and public, to the apathy of publishers. Even bookshops never reply to my requests to do book signings. Perhaps it’s me. Yes, it must be. What I need, of course, is a secretary. Unpaid of course!

Any offers?

Thanks for dropping by. Catch up with outlines to my books and where to buy them by visiting my website. www.stuartgyates.com. And please, don’t forget, a free book awaits if you can do a review. Just drop me a line and I’ll get a copy to you as quickly as I can.


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Adventures in Writing…Inspiration of practise?

Only yesterday I did the second of a series of presentations to the Year 7 and Year 8 students at my school about how and why I write. I was pleased to see some older ones joining in, as the 10 novels I have written as GLENN STUART are aimed at 12-16 year olds.

With the talk finished, the floor opened up for questions. Questions which really stretched me.

One student asked what I found the most useful tool for writing – inspiration or practise. This is close to my heart, as I do feel strongly that the story should come first, then the labour. It is a labour, however, which improves the more you do it. So, a mix of the two.

I told them how I came to write ‘Cold Hell in Darley Dene’, the story my mum had told me about an experience in the War; next, ‘The Well of Constant Despair’, how on Alderney I’d stumbled upon a very beautiful and tranquil place, hidden from everyone. A little brook meandered through it, and I wondered…what if…

Trilogy of terror

I am always doing this. My imagination tends to simply EXPLODE. I was on holiday recently, staying in a house that had a locked door to some hidden basement rooms. Soon I had conjured up an entire story based upon a young couple visiting the village, being stared at by the old men  who wondered why the couple showed such an unhealthy interest in the hidden rooms.

My next novel. Perhaps.

Or, it could be something else.

big covercover

As soon as I finish a book, I start another. With hardly any break at all. As I write this new work, I am also editing the previous one. So, it is a constant conveyor belt of creativity.

Well, I’m thinking…as it is so close to Christmas, why not offer up a small taster from Varangian, my novel of Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, invader of England and full-time good egg? I’m giving here Chapter 24, in the hope that you will be wooed into reading more. And, perhaps even writing a review? I’m willing, you see, to give FREE copies of Varangian, either e-books or paperbacks, in return fro a review. So, lift your glass, don your specs, and get in touch. sg.yates@yahoo.co.uk. And thanks. And now, here is the extract…enjoy!


Andreas slept in the tiny hut, wrapped in furs. He had woken once or twice and each time the girl had tended to him, feeding him hot soup or washing his brow. The young Byzantine fluctuated between burning fever and extreme shivering.

       Each time Hardrada poked his head through the door to catch a glimpse, the girl ushered him out again. He had seen the deathly pallor on the young man’s skin and didn’t like what he saw. It was the mask of death, a thing encountered many times on the faces of wounded men after battle. As they lay in the dank earth, the cuts from axe blows or sword thrusts, the way the wounds sucked and oozed, as if they themselves were living things. The way the flesh turned to pale stone, then became a sickly wax. He had seen it and he did not know of any man who had lived after that cast came over their flesh.

Save one.


He sensed the girl at his shoulder and he turned. She was drying her hands on an old cloth. “He is very sick,” she said, not looking into the Viking’s eyes. “If you hadn’t helped him he would already be dead.”

“He was cold, I warmed him. That is all.”

“Well, without you he would be in their Christian heaven right now.” She tossed the cloth away. “I’m going to make us something to eat.”


She frowned, then a slight, bemused smile. “Because we are hungry! We need to—”

“I meant, why did you help us? You tell me I kept Andreas alive but without you, both of us would be dead. And yet you screamed when you first saw us? What was that, a call to the others? Fear? What?”

She shook her head, offered no answer as her eyes seemed to glaze over. “Is that his name, Andreas? That’s really quite beautiful, don’t you think?”

It was Hardrada’s turn to frown, “Oh, yes, like an angel’s.”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” she gave a little skip, then clapped her hands together. For a moment she looked like a little girl and Hardrada had to laugh, his biting sarcasm lost on her. A curious mix of innocent young girl, naive in her dealings with others, yet supremely confident in her environment. She eked out some sort of life amongst the woods, far from prying eyes and she thrived on it.

 “I have to ask you,” he said. “You mentioned a war band and that you are one of them …” He swept his hand over the small encampment with its leather-sided tent, the pots and pans strewn here and there, an animal skin pegged out to dry. “This is their camp too?”

She bit her lip, looked back to the tent for a moment, then shook her head. “They sometimes pass this way, but not often.”

He didn’t understand that. A woman, as beautiful as she, living out here in the wilds, left all alone. Who were these men that they did not come and visit her? And who was she that was able to keep them away? Warriors, men skilled in death, why would they choose to leave her alone? There was something not quite right in any of this.

“I married a Roman,” she said, by way of explanation, possibly sensing his unasked questions. “He left me riches, a fine house, servants. I gave it all away to live my life here, as my mother had.”

“Your mother? I don’t understand.”

“Why should you?” She shrugged then stooped down to pick up a pot. He watched her as she went to fetch an animal skin filled with water. She poured most of it into the pot and settled it down on the makeshift brazier above the flames of the camp-fire. She threw in some herbs. “My mother was a soothsayer.”

A tiny chill ran down his spine. “A sorceress?”

She gave a small laugh, gathered up some vegetables and began to slice them into crude chunks, plopping each one into the water. “That is what the war band believe. Who am I to tell them otherwise? Such knowledge keeps me safe from them.”

“Because they believe you to be one also, a sorceress?” Hardrada blew out his cheeks. “We must give thanks for their stupidity. Or blindness.”

“They are not stupid, and certainly not blind. Simply mistaken. My mother was renowned for her knowledge of herbal lore. Everyone came to her when they were ill or had some malady that they could not shift. Then one day, a young soldier was brought to her, dying from his wounds. No matter how hard she tried, she could not save him. He died, right there.” She pointed to a small clearing of bare earth a few steps away. “Hence my scream. Memories, all of them painful. Nothing ever grows there, not since his life blood seeped out and soaked into the soil.”

“Men die all the time from their wounds. I should know, I’ve seen it often enough.”

She shook her head. “No, this was like no other death. He was a nobleman’s son, high-ranking, and they don’t die like that. Alone, in the cold, damp earth. So they killed her. My mother. His companions ran her through with their swords. I watched them, tried to stop them. But what could I do, a mere girl against such brutes. The commander, he was the cruellest of all. He seemed to enjoy my suffering.” Her slicing of the vegetables became much more violent, the heavy knife in her hand chopping through the various ingredients for the soup, like they were the skulls of the men who had killed her mother. “It was only after she lay there, dead on the ground, that it happened.”

Hardrada held his breath. Something about her, the way she had changed, made her seem  capable of violence. Looking back to the dreadful deed, her eyes narrowed and glazed over, it was almost as if she had returned to that moment. Her voice was hard, controlled, but with an edge to it that had not been there before. It made his heart freeze. “What happened?” he managed.

“The soldier, the boy. He sat up, completely healed.”

It took him a moment to react. He heard the words but not the meaning behind them. The way she spoke, her face, all made him feel very uneasy. “What do you mean? You said he was dead.”

“So he was. My mother placed the herbs into his wounds, said the words, laid her hands upon his body, then he died. At least, I thought he had died. Everyone else too. But he hadn’t. He sat up, blinked a few times and grinned.” She looked at the Viking with eyes filled with tears. “Now, you understand why they don’t come?” Her  eyes, now as black as coals, bore into him. “My mother had brought him back from the dead.”


The day had already turned cold by the time Hardrada stood on the opposite side of the ford. The girl had given him a packed satchel bag, some concoction of herbs which she said would heal any wound, and a map. He had studied it before his departure and it seemed clear enough. A path through the treacherous mountains would cut down his travel time to the northern border by at least a day. With good weather he should make the camp of the Varangians this time tomorrow. Andreas, still not fit to travel, would stay behind and Hardrada could pick him up on the return. At first he had been reluctant but images of Zoe and his two friends’ death at the hands of the detestable Orphano, loomed large in his mind, and he acquiesced.

He saw her watching him from a little way off. He raised his hand and took the first step into the icy water. He sucked in his breath sharply, the water stabbed like knives into his flesh, colder than he remembered. It must be snowing up in the mountains, a thought that did not improve his mood, but he gritted his teeth and made his way across the river to the opposite bank, the water rarely reaching above his knees.

He turned again as he stepped up onto the bank. The girl had gone, disappearing amongst the trees like a ghost. He shivered but not from the cold and pulled the fur around his shoulders. All that talk of sorcery and raising the dead, it didn’t sit well with him. Never a superstitious man, Hardrada had nevertheless met witches in his own country. Usually old and misshapen, he had dismissed their arts as the stuff of nonsense although he was always wary of them, never asked them questions or sought out their help in any way. Perhaps there was something in what they did; he simply did not want to think about it.

Along the river edge, he came across his sword and scabbard where he had left them. Without a pause, he buckled the belt around his waist, hefted the blade in his hand. It was good to have it back; it reassured him, made him feel safe. Then, he turned and scrambled over the bank and into the broken ground and sparse tree line that had been their camp. The ashes from the fire were grey, cold and dead. The pot with the peas was also there, most of the peas now gone. Someone had been here, cooked by this fire, made themselves comfortable.

Sure enough, as he investigated further, he came across the unmistakable signs of habitation. The slight impression in the earth, footprints, and over by the trees, defecation.

A horse whinnied.

Whoever had made themselves at home in this place was no thief. The horses were tethered in a little glade and once again, he saw the remains of oats on the ground. The visitor had fed the animals, cared for them. Not the actions of someone selfish and unconcerned. A friend? But who? Hardrada chewed at his lip, his suspicions growing. He saddled up his horse, attached the saddlebags and blanket, tied the reins of the other to his own, then lifted himself onto his horse’s back. Andreas’s mount snorted loudly and Hardrada led it out of the glade and set his course on the pathway that ran alongside the river.

He glanced over to where the girl had her own encampment but he could see no signs of either her or her tent. It was as if the whole lot had been swallowed up by the forest over there. If he did not already know it existed, no evidence remained now. No wonder she could eke out her life undisturbed. Perhaps it had nothing to do with sorcery after all. She was simply unknown to anyone. That must be the logical explanation.



for details of where to buy my books, visit my website for all the links: www.stuartgyates.com 




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Adventures in writing…thoughts about agents

I’ve just read yet another post on how to ‘get an agent’.
It was interesting and well written, as these things often are, and no doubt will help a lot of people who are still struggling with the mechanics of how to approach an agent.
All the usual stuff was there:
Once you’re got your list of agents, find out what their submission guidelines are, if they accept your genre, how you should lay out your query letter… all of it good, sound advice.
But there are two things missing, in my humble opinion.
One, your book has to have at its heart a damned good story. One that will keep readers turning the pages and, when they come to that final page, they sit back and think, ‘Wow, I never wanted that to end’.
And two, it should be well written.
No amount of trawling through websites and redrafting of letters is ever going to make you into a writer unless you have something to say, and you can say it well.

Most of the above, of course, is why a lot of people turn to self-publishing.
However, I’m not one of them. For reasons I’ve stated before, that is not the path for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate the entire process of submissions followed by the inevitability of being rejected. What I particularly hate is the use of the word ‘pitch’. It embraces everything I despise in our modern world. The corporate jargon that forces us – or, at least attempts to mould us into salespeople, hard-nosed, aware of the market place. God I hate all of that. However, I think it is misleading in some respects, to constantly hammer on about the importance of making a good first impression with this ‘pitch’. Surely, that comes from how you write? If we’re writers, can’t we produce a good, simple and to the point query letter? Isn’t the opening chapter so much more important? Any agent worth their salt should be able to see immediately if you can string your words together. The biggest hurdle I feel is whether or not your work fits in with their ‘current needs’ or ‘what the market is’. I’m not convinced that the ‘pitch’ has much to do with this. And besides, if you’re passionate about what you’ve written, why not simply say ‘why’. What inspired you to write it in the first place, and what inspires you to carry on an write another one?
Oh well. The only thing to do is to keep plugging on.
varangian and burnt
As for myself, at present I have a few projects in hand. I am writing the sequel to ‘VARANGIAN’, which will take Hardrada’s story up to when he returned to Norway. I’m 60,000 words in, so still have some way to go. Laced in-between are all sorts of sub-plots to do with Maniakes, Nikolias, Leoni and, a new ‘villain’, a chap called Sclerus who wishes to worm his way into power. I hope it’s all good stuff, and the research has so far thrown up all sorts of super interesting facts which I can utilise.

I’m also putting the finishing touches to my final draft before submission of my latest contemporary thriller, entitled ‘Whipped Up’, the follow-up to ‘Burned Offerings’. Then, I’ll be turning my hand to submitting ‘Don Luis and the Ogre’s Lament’ which I will be submitting to ‘Richard and Judy’s Book competition’. We’ll see. It may not be what they are looking for, but I think it’s a good story, re-worked with new scenes.
Reviews are slowly coming in for ‘Varangian’, and so far the feedback is very positive. But I need more! So, if you have read the book, or have bought it – for which I send my thanks – please write a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Smashwords. Reviews really do help an author.
Catch up with where to get my books from my website: http://www.stuartgyates.com
And, you can read some extended excerpts right here from the ‘Eat. Sleep, Write’ website of Adam Scull: http://eatsleepwrite.net/varangian5

Thank you for all your support and, please, whatever you do, keep reading!


Filed under fiction writing

Adventures in Writing…thoughts and dreams about being a writer

The cover for my historical novel 'Varangian'.

The cover for my historical novel ‘Varangian’.

Making life as a writer.
Wow, wouldn’t that be something?
I’ve always dreamed of this. I remember watching a documentary about Val McDermid, and how she gets up in the morning to ‘go to work’, which is essentially a beautiful little annexe on the side of her house. She stays in there all day creating. Wow. The thought of that. To be ‘your own boss’, to have the time, the opportunity to devote oneself one hundred percent to writing…that would be something.
I’m not talking about best sellers, or busting your balls to make a sale, I’m talking about the sheer pleasure of being consumed by your own creations.
That for me is the goal.
I don’t suppose it is ever going to happen though. Everywhere you go, everything you read, it’s all about how the publishing world is changing, how the opportunities for being published have multiplied beyond imaging, how the big publishers only want you if you’re a celebrity, or Harlan Coben. And now, I feel, a lot of people are put off reading ‘new’ writers, from indie publishers, because of the amount of utter tripe there is out there. We really do need a form of quality control. But I have no chance of cutting through all of it, no chance at all. So, it is pretty gloomy and depressing.
I know some writers who work hard all day every day, and dream of having time to go and do normal things, like walking or shopping! They graft away at their ‘job’, but do you know what,. I’d do the swap. I’d work all day writing and give up my day job, and I’d do it in a flash.
Wishful thinking? Well yes, of course it is. I’m never going to be a bestselling writer. How can I be? Even if my books were as good as anything Joyce or Dickens or Hardy wrote. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s just not going to happen. There are simply too many people writing and publishing now, so the dream will have to stay as it is – a dream.
But it’s a lovely one nevertheless, and I’m not going to give up on it, no way!

Please visit my website for links to my books, and extracts from my latest book VARANGIAN, which I hope you enjoy.
Or follow the link for Amazon.com…HERE

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Filed under fiction writing