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This is a common technique for getting the creative juices flowing and this week I embark on writing new material (not simply editing old chapters as I have been doing), so I feel the need to amp up my game. basically you juxtipose seemingly unrelated subjects and try to write a story from them. Here’s my list (one from my bag, one from outside the bus and one that hit me at random). Random first: a blue whale, now my bag: a shopping list and outside the bus: a church.

Morris looked around him, stretching as far as the horizon in all directions lay desolate miles of frigid water. Funnily enough staying afloat wasn’t causing him too much bother but he knew he had to get out of the water soon or the cold would kill him.

The cold must have been getting to him because his memory just wouldn’t seem to provide any inkling of how he’d got here. He remembered taking a walk past the harbour of the fishing village where he lived. He had just taken his crumpled little grocery list out of his shirt pocket when a storm started to kick up and the next thing he knew he was bobbing around in the sea. Cold fingers of sea water were clawing through his mind and wiping his senses away. His teeth felt like they were going to burst and he could barely see straight. If he didn’t try swimming to shore soon he would lose any sense he had left.

He had always been a good swimmer so his movement through the water came naturally to him. To his bemused relief after just a few minutes of mindless movement he began to notice something solid on the horizon, ‘well that was easy’.

The land in the distance was both cruelly easy to see and alarmingly hard to get to. What took minutes to appear in his field of vision took Morris almost an hour to reach. When he finally got close enough to the shore to make out buildings he locked on to a hardy little granite church perched just behind a rocky patch of beach. Hauling his body through the icy water, Morris noticed that he’d lost all feeling in his fingers or toes, he needed to get out soon.

Morris dredged the last of his energy lumbering up onto the rocky shore. Thankful to be back on solid ground he hugged the gritty sand and lumpy stones beneath him and rejoiced as he heard someone running towards him. He tried to yell but his brain was numb and all that escaped his lips was a long drawn out moan.

“My God this one’s massive, I’ll have to call in a lot of help on this! They’re never going to believe me.”

Morris didn’t understand what this guy was talking about he leaned over to get a better view and saw a tiny man, like a pixie, take a miniscule mobile phone out of his pocket and make a call.

“Yeh Alec, it’s Robert, you’re never going to believe what’s washed up this time. I’m no expert but it sure looks like a blue whale.”

Panicking Morris craned himself round to confirm the reality that was already beginning to set in. As the last vestiges of his old memories ebbed away the whale led out a deep and penetrating groan.


UPDATE 16/06/18): If you enjoyed this and would like to read more of my work please pop along to my author page on Amazon. Simply click this link.

Some Excercise

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Posted by on 10 September, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Story Cubes

I’m cross posting just this once between my toy blog and this one, the reason should be pretty obvious.

John the toy shop guy

Today I thought I’d talk about (and use) a product that I really have a soft spot for: ‘Rory’s story cubes‘. The basic idea of a pack of story cubes is that you roll the dice and create a story which uses all the images you see in any order you like. It’s challenging but fun and even kids that aren’t able to read can have a go and take their imagination for a spin. For a while I provided a ‘free sample’ on our facebook page every Saturday night by taking a photo of some cubes rolled randomly and leaving it up to people to leave a story as a comment. The sad thing is there weren’t many takers so I’ve not been popping them up the last couple of weeks but today I thought I’d get the ball (or should that be dice) rolling again by…

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Posted by on 4 October, 2012 in Uncategorized


Ready for Chapter 5

by Mike Gerrard

OK so this was some really slow authorship. In my last post I explained that I’ve been having trouble with secondary characters so I put in some time and effort and came up with back stories for a bunch of them. As a result I’m not much further on, in fact I’ve only managed to do a revision of the four chapter I’ve done so far written with these new back stories in mind. However there’s a lot more depth starting to appear and despite the fact that my main characters are still just teenagers at this point I feel as though I’m presenting more well rounded individuals. In short some time getting to know my characters has allowed them to feel more real for me and as a result I would like to hope that they are now a little more real in the book text as well.

So what’s the point of this post then (apart from pointing out that I’m now 20% of the way through my target number of chapters). Basically it’s this: I previously mentioned the importance of getting your formatting right from the get go well I’ve now become more aware of the importance of a brief back story. This doesn’t have to ever appear in the text but it is necessary for you as an author to write a sympathetic description of your characters.

I remember hearing that J K Rowling did something similar (e.g. the revelation that Dumbledore is gay doesn’t appear once in the text but it certainly explains his obsession with and obedience of the malevolent, and apparently quite dashing, Grindelwald as a young man). We need to know our characters. We want our readers to get to know them and (we hope) love them, but this won’t happen if we can’t introduce them properly.

Writing this book is teaching me all the things I hoped it would, and I’m expecting to be able to return to my more hefty series of books, once this is complete, with a better working knowledge of how to get a story to work. Anyway, thanks for reading, hopefully it won’t be quite so long till my next post.

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Posted by on 27 August, 2012 in Uncategorized


Chapter 4 of beach story (working title)

Got the boys to bed, sat down waiting for the wife to get in from work, and popped the netbook on my lap. Last night I finally got more written, not much (1000 words) but chapter four has begun. My main character discovers some maturity and relaxes into the inevitable and we get some development on two fringe characters who were slightly neglected in previous chapters. Still finding it hard to write a believable teenage girl without just copying and pasting bits and pieces of my friends from high school.

This one is a light holiday read and I’m experimenting with writing in a ‘real world’ contemporary setting (my other two books are set in a very different world around a hundred years from now). The limit is actually interesting because I’m having to let my characters do all the work of telling the story rather than the setting and the excitement of the unusual in an unfamiliar universe. To be honest this was the point of this book, I knew I needed to work on my ability to write a believable and relatable character with little overt description (my secondary characters have so far felt really wooden). I thought that if I wrote about a large group of friends I’d get the chance to work not simply on character but on fast character introduction.

Keeping with guidelines from successful Kindle authors I’m setting a word limit for the book of about 100,000 with 20 chapters of 5000 words each (easier to dip in and out of though I hope people get more gripped than that). From what I hear it’s tempting to go crazy with your word count, safe in the knowledge that no matter how much you write your book will only ever weigh as much as a kindle. I don’t want to get caught up in that so I’ve been strict from the outset.

Another tip for kindle writing is to read up on how to set chapter headings and on how to set paragraph format. If you get this right before you start you’ll save hours of formatting work at the end. Set all chapter headings as ‘heading’ in the formatting options at the top of your word-processing software and set all formatting to produce paragraphs that meet Kindle’s recommendations for formatting. A quick few minutes setting formatting at the start are worth it, trust me. It sound like a pain but there’s nothing worse than spending an extra few weeks (yes it can take that long) formatting something, I’ve learned from mistakes with my thesis.

I’ll try and get more done tonight (if the boys stay down) and I’ll post this weekend with an update. Thanks for reading.

(N.B. The lovely west coast beach pictured above is between Arisaig and Morar, with the island of Rhum in the distance, I nabbed the picture from

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Posted by on 26 July, 2012 in Uncategorized


Getting started

OK this is an entry with a double meaning, of course it’s the start of this new blog I’m writing about my attempts at being an author but also I thought this was a good place to talk about getting started on a novel/book. I write fiction, I say that like I’m already published and in fact I haven’t even finished a book yet.

What made me decide to start writing an extra blog (I write another about toys at was a chat with an old friend who is newly married and who kindly popped by for a visit with his wife the day before they were both heading back to Australia. Turns out his dad is considering getting into kindle publishing for a non-fiction book he’s been working on for a while, when I mentioned to Calum that I had looked into it myself he asked me what kind of thing I intended to publish. It was this that made me think of how many books I have in a working state on my netbook, a few chapters written of each and most of the book plan in place, to be honest given a few completely free weeks one of them could be finished and the other two shouldn’t take too much more effort than that. Though where do you find the time between work and the kids?

I’ve found time (in little drips and drabs through the week), it’s not much but it does the job and if I keep at it I should be able to reel off a chapter or two per week. The main reason for this blog is to kind of force me to get on with it. When I was writing my MPhil thesis I had to contact my supervisor regularly to give him updates on my progress and pass on the work I’d been doing. I think I’m just used to this way of working so I’ll be using this blog to keep myself on my toes and I’m counting on you good people who are reading this to comment when I fail to deliver a status report.

For reasons which should be obvious I probably won’t put too much about my books and their content until they are actually published on kindle (at which point I’ll welcome any feedback you have) what I will do is describe what it’s like to move from step to step and I’ll probably occasionally put in a post with some details on what it’s like trying to format your work for the kindle.

A quick little start to my blogging on the subject of writing should be what is involved in starting to write. If you want to write and, like me, suffer from an imagination which is faster than your typing skills then you need to write two things at once (use word processing programs or old fashioned pen and paper it doesn’t really matter). Sit down and start writing chapter one, get the characters to introduce themselves to you bit by bit and every time a plot element pops into your head (or any other important detail about your characters and their exploits) write it down in your other file/pad and keep this as your book plan. This way you can continue to write the snail paced stuff of the actual book whilst enjoying the progress of the book as a whole. That’s what I’ve done and so far it’s stood me in good stead. Anyone who fancies trying it today (or their next free half hour) please let me know how you get on, we can ‘spot’ each other and make sure we don’t slip into a pile of unfinished novels/short stories/books. I look forward to hearing from readers and please please shout at me if I don’t get on here at least once a week with a chapter done and some comments about how I’m getting on.

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Posted by on 19 July, 2012 in Uncategorized

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