How Tricky Coming Up With The Title Of A Novel, How Tricky

How do you come up with the title of your novel? And when? And how do you know you’ve cracked it?

The novel I’m currently on the second draft of writing is proving tricky to name. The name has to fit with the style of the other two titles in the series, both of which came easily:

A Dead Chick And Some Dirty Tricks
A Big Bluff And Some Green Stuff

I know I’m seriously limiting myself following that book title formula. But I’m hoping inspiration will strike as I continue writing.

But how late in the day have you come up with a title of a novel? And do you care if someone else has a novel of the same name?

Kimberley Chambers didn’t seem to mind when she named her 2015 novel The Wronged, the same name I use for my 2013 horror novel. Seems there's no copyright on titles.

I’ve also changed the name of one of my novels AFTER it was published. 

The Diamond Rush was previously called The Money Star. I just felt the fomer was more representative of what the story was about, but I’m pretty sure it’s bad form to rename a novel once it’s out there - one of the benefits of self-publishing of course.

Anyway, it’s back to work on my next novel, currently entitled Name TBC. Hope you’re having better luck naming your novel.

5 Tips On Writing The First Draft Of A Novel

A pulsing cursor on a blank screen. Fingers hovering over the keyboard. Ideas swilling around your head. Where. To. Start?

Starting off a novel is tricksy. But here's a few things I've learned as I plough into the first draft of my sixth novel.

1. YOU DON'T NEED TO START WRITING YOUR FIRST DRAFT AT THE BEGINNING. Start with the bit you feel like writing. Could be the end. Could be a scene in the middle. Could be a bit of dialogue. Just start writing.

2. SOD THE SPELLING. PAH TO PUNCTUATION. It's more important to get ideas down at this stage rather than have accurate spelling and beautiful punctuation. That can come later.

3. DON'T EXPECT MUCH OF THE FIRST DRAFT TO MAKE THE FINAL CUT: Writing is rewriting someone more talented than I once said. First drafts are there to be bettered, expanded upon, get the red pen treatment. It's the foundation of your novel. Sure, some of the story you write here will make the final draft, but you'll say it better in subsequent drafts. This is the skeleton. The first layer. Don't worry about how bad it is. It's a start.

4. IT'S GOING TO BE MESSY. All over the place. You might not know exactly how your story is going to pan out at this stage. You don't need to. This first draft isn't going to get published. You just need to know the sort of story you want to write, and an idea of how it should start and end. Whether this is how your story will actually start and end, well that's likely to change.

5. WRITE THE BLURB AFTER EVERY DRAFT. It's a great way to hone your story. Once, after I thought I'd finished writing my novel, I wrote a blurb that told a better story than the one I'd actually written. So I went back and rewrote the story to fit the blurb! The book was better for it. You're going to have to write a blurb at some point. Doing it as you go along is a really good exercise.

Writing The First Draft Of A Novel

All over the place.

That's how the first draft of the third novel of the Jake Rodwell trilogy is right now.

I've written two versions of the end. The start I have right now I know won't be my start when I come to publish this. And in the middle, some chapters are written, others are in note form and yet more just aren't there yet. The fonts are all over the place. There are typos.

It's a mess. But so it should be.

Because no one's going to see this first draft except me.

At the moment I'm writing the bits that I feel like writing. Starting off the writing day by re-reading something I wrote yesterday. Just to get into the groove.

And when I do get in the groove I just type. I don't care if I mistype or misspell. I just need to get the idea down. No punctuation. No speech marks at this stage. It's about writing what I want to happen in the story. Not necessarily in the way I want to say it. That can come later.

There are some bits that I can't write at the moment. Either I don't know enough about what I want to happen, or I just don't feel like writing that bit.

That's fine. This is the first draft. I'll write those bits another day, maybe later today. Right now, I will focus on writing the bits I'm motivated to write. Tomorrow it will be another bit.

I trust the process. I know it will come together in the end.

It's the first draft! Did I mention that?

It's meant to be messy. It's for my eyes only. It's not going to see the light of day. It's the springboard to the rest of the story that I will develop, and hone over the next few months.



File this one under gentle rant, people. I’m about to pick on someone who’s well short of my own size.

I’ve nothing against Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy, even big Pete has his moments. And I’ve really got a soft spot for Pluto. Have had since I was knee high to a teenybopper.

It’s the Toodles thing in this show that bugs me.

Whenever the characters get in a fix, they call on him/it to get them out of it using his unlimited collection of Mouskertools or whatever. (How big is this guy’s toolbox?)

But here’s the nub of this semi-serious rant (cos I need to take my kids to Disneyland some day and don’t want to be banned!)  What sort of lesson is this teaching our youngsters? 

Seems to me it’s that if you need a hand solving a problem, you don’t have to think your way to a solution. Oh no, instead, just wait for some magical all-powerful arm to pop out of the ground and give you the object you need. Easy.

As we oldsters all know, life ain’t like that. Or life isn’t like that, to get all grammatically correct on ya. You. 

I know it’s only kids’ telly, but I dunno if it’s sending out the right message. It certainly falls well short of Sheriff Callie’s Wild West in the ‘check out the moral of this story, kids’ stakes.

Shouldn’t we be encouraging kids to come up with their own solutions, or at least ask an adult, or maybe call on Pluto?

The Top 5 Self Publishing Platforms of 2017

This annual look at the most effective self-publishing platforms for indie authors is a little later than normal, and a little shorter too.

2017 has seen a big contraction in the number of different publishing options for indie authors. In fact, I'm down to two.

CREATE SPACE has lost it for me. Once Amazon made it possible to sell paperbacks via their platform so long as you weren't on CreateSpace, it was so long CreateSpace.

DRAFT2 DIGITAL never delivered anything other than sluggish sales, so had to go.

KOBO annoyed with its exclusivity smallprint rip off that required me to contact them direct to release my books from their grip.

So just two nominees left:

2nd: SMASHWORDS - my worst year on the platform. Maybe it was down to not having released a new book for so long. But the platform is suffering from having just too many books on there and not enough eyes prepared to read the billions of words it generates each year.

WINNER: AMAZON - my books have spent much of the year of KDP Select with mixed results, but certainly more success and bigger earnings than Smashwords generated. With 2018 seeing the release of my 5th novel A Big Bluff And Some Green Stuff, I'm hoping the new year will rekindle my enthusiasm for indie authorship... Amazon wins in 2017, for the third year in a row, but there's no glory here.

2014 Smashwords
2015 Amazon
2016 Amazon

A new excerpt from A Big Bluff And Some Green Stuff

The temperature outside had dropped several degrees, but Friedrich’s rose when he realised the exterior display he had crafted at Specifics had fallen victim to the invaders. Three fishing nets were missing, four beach balls had gone and there was a surfboard-size hole in the display.
About to fish out his keys from his jacket, Friedrich saw the shop door was ajar. He looked back toward the village hall. He ought to go back. Get someone else to come with him. But who in there would be able to or want to help? He took a deep breath, picked up one of the remaining nets, poked it through the gap and pushed open the door. He was greeted by the usual reassuring chime. Quaint.
Friedrich tried the light. It didn’t work. Not quaint. Worse still, the delicately balanced shelving and end of aisle displays had all been toppled, colouring pads and books and postcards carpeting the floor.
Something moved at the far end of the store by the fancy dress section.
“Who is that?” Friedrich called out, unable to see much in the dark.
A clatter of iron.
“This shop is shut. Show yourselves.”
Friedrich dropped the useless net and reached for a slightly less useless plastic scimitar that he’d been unsuccessfully trying to sell for two years.
“If that’s you Potts brothers…” He heard a soft snarl that didn’t sound like the brothers, more like a warning from a cornered fox.
“Whoever, whatever you are, you need to leave. This is my shop. We are closed for the Christmas season.”
Something moved by the vertical display of multi-coloured feather boas. Friedrich gasped and stepped back. That wasn’t… it can’t have been… a skull?
Friedrich stepped forward. “Put that mask back, or pay for it,” he yelled.
A second skull appeared behind the first, this one sporting a tricorn.
“That hat will cost you an extra six pounds and ninety-nine pence.”
Friedrich took another step forward, his plastic weapon drawn, but giving him little confidence.
Two figures with skeletal faces and black capes draped over their bony shoulders stepped out into the aisle and threw off their capes.
Friedrich didn’t like being able to see the one standing at the back through the hollow ribcage of the one in front. That wasn’t right. An anomaly, Murphy might say. If only he were here now. Maybe it wasn’t an anomaly, but a clever trick. Yes, of course. It was scientifically possible, Friedrich knew, through the manipulation of certain light wavelengths to become invisible. But that didn’t explain how their skeletal masks were far more detailed than anything he stocked.
Both figures held full-size cutlasses that dwarfed Friedrich’s toy weapon.
They rasped with disdain and shuffled toward the shop owner, their bony feet clattering against the shop’s cold linoleum floor.
“Who are you?” Friedrich garbled, backing away, still trying to process what he was seeing.
He reached down and tipped over a tub of bouncy balls, the multi-coloured contents hopping down the aisle between him and them. The intruders were both fascinated and frightened by the living balls of plastic. They backed off. The first jabbed at them with his sword, impaling a red one on the ultra-sharp tip of his blade. As the figure drew it up to his face to take a closer look, Friedrich saw its arm was formed of exposed bone, the hand devoid of skin too with a silver, skull-shaped ring adorning the index finger. In the half light, Friedrich saw the face wasn’t totally skeletal. There were patches of loose grey skin flapping about its cheeks. Its eyes were deep set, pupils an unhealthy yellow and rimmed red. Its lips had gone, exposing teeth yellowed and blackened to their roots.

The figure popped the ball in his mouth and Friedrich watched in terrified fascination as the ball fell through the skull and ribcage, bouncing off the thigh bone on its way down to the floor.