What Makes a Good Ending?

Or does it?

Or is it?

How long is a piece of string? Does my bum look big in this? The answer to the question, ‘What makes a good ending?’ is as nebulous and subjective as they come. For some, an ending is only ‘good’ if the heroes win. For others, such an ending will always be trite and formulaic. Some writers will even avoid the question altogether, writing an ‘ending’ that is either so open or ambivalent that a reader has no hope of closure. Well, after five months of drafting, it’s now my turn to decide which ending will best suit this story. Continue reading

‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’

Another statistical lie: size doesn’t matter.

Twain, Disraeli, Anon, take your pick, but the quote is true nonetheless. I hereby state, for the record, that I have committed that most heinous of crimes and told infernal untruths about statistics. Can my backers ever forgive me? Will readers ever trust an author who can’t keep his numbers straight? Continue reading

Re-Imagining the Flashback: Letting Go and Trusting Your Creativity

Flashbacks come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more appealing than others.

Flashbacks come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more appealing than others.

I’m back from holiday and writing has started again. Was it a week wasted (from a writing point of view)? Not at all. Stephen King refers, in a famous quote, to his ‘boys in the basement’. His boys are his muses, that play amongst themselves in the darkness of his subconscious. Their games become his stories. What lurks in my subconscious, I have no idea, but I do know it is/they are a lot better at writing stories than I am.

Before I left on holiday I was facing the prospect of writing one of those infamous scenes: the flashback. Continue reading

The First Rule of Writing Speculative Fiction (SF): Be Internally Consistent

Writers of SF have to show their readers the way.

Writers of SF have to show their readers the way. (Disclaimer: the picture is not of my wife, a clone, or a life-size inflatable replica.)


Readers love to discover new things, and so speculative fiction (most commonly the genres of science fiction and fantasy) offers writers a great opportunity. Good SF will grip you by the ****** with the setting, while it punches you in the head with its plot and characters. Continue reading

Ask the Author – An Interview with T. James?


For your chance to poke T. James with questions until he giggles, read on....

For your chance to poke T. James with questions until he giggles, read on….


Progress So Far: Three Quarters Present and Correct, One Quarter AWOI*

AWOI: Absent Without Information

There comes a time in most long-term writing projects where there is a lull, a pause when the only thing to do is wait. For me, that time is now. I’ve just sent an email to Frontier full of awkward questions, many of which probably don’t yet have an answer. Getting answers is pressing in terms of my story, but my guess is that fleshing out these aspects of the game is probably lower down Frontier’s to-do list. It involves game content that is more likely, I think, to be released as a later update or add-on pack. (Frontier hasn’t given me any basis for my assumption, I’m just reading between the lines.)

This puts me in the rather strange position (for a writer) of being unable to visualise something that does not exist. Making stuff up is what we do. I could try to substitute something from my own imagination, but these are ending scenes with strong visual elements that will be key to how they play out. Just imagine a movie actor working on a green-screen set where there are no visual cues to respond to, and no other actors to interact with. All that is added later by a computer. Right now I feel like that actor, but the film mascot ate the script, my director is on holiday with his mistress, the camera crew lost their equipment (which is now in Ecuador), the sound crew has come down with a severe case of microphone roundworm, and the head of lighting got over-excited and blew all her fuses. Creativity will have to wait for the arrival of the muse, and an email from Dem Dat No Tings Bout Elite. (Wotcha, FILFs. *waves* ).


Ask The Author, Maybe

So, what to do while time meanders on its merry way? After listening to the LaveCon podcast Q & A sessions (having unfortunately missed the event itself), I thought I would try my own author interview, and who better to interrogate me, than you? If there is anything you want to ask (within reason), then please put your questions in the comments below, or send them to me via email, or DM me on Twitter. (Comments will be moderated, and so will not appear straight away.) I will do my best to think up something intelligent to say (although that does not come with a guarantee). Alternatively, I can sit, embarrassed, in a dark corner of my writing room knowing I have no readers, or friends. (Emotional blackmail? Absolutely!)

This is your chance to pet your own author—I promise I’m house trained.

***¾√ ¼?***

(Image, ‘Human Resources Concept Stock Image’, courtesy of 89studio, hosted by freedigitalphotos.net.)

‘Out of the Darkness’ Receives its First Beta-Read

The title is a little misleading as only the first half has had its first beta-read, but now the disclaimer is out of the way I can explain what a beta-read is to non-writers. Oh, actually no, I can’t because Out of the Darkness is still in its alpha draft stage. This isn’t going well, is it? Let’s start again. Continue reading

What Makes ‘Out of the Darkness’ Different?

Reading any copy of ‘Out of the Darkness’ will be a unique experience if you put enough voltage through it. Safety and satisfaction not guaranteed. Results may very with voltage and writing medium. Always read the label. Keep away from children.

What makes a book different is a topic that’s constantly discussed by writers. How to make your work stand out so that it is interesting enough for an agent or publisher to send you that mythological piece of paper known as a contract is the subject of countless blog articles and social media discussions. It’s even come up on the forums and in Elite: Dangerous related videos and podcasts—how will the writers of the fiction differentiate their stories from each others? It’s only after reaching this point in the first draft that I’ve got enough of a feel for where my story is headed that I can attempt an answer to that question.

Continue reading

On Mentors and Monsters

Lego Writer 2

The certainties of the writing life: there will be dragons and mentors, and a need for laptops and mugs of sludgy-brown stuff to keep you awake.

The last two weeks has seen its fair share of ups and downs, and through it all my thoughts have turned to mentors and monsters, legacies and challenges. Continue reading

Legalism and Contracts: The Ties That Bind

This imagery needs no explanation.

This imagery needs no explanation.

When I received my written contract from Frontier on Friday last week, I was extremely excited. Signing something makes it feel so official, so real. Then I read the contract. Frontier, like all companies, have to protect their interests—especially when those interests are vested in intellectual property, trademarks, and copyrights for virtual created items. I’m sorry to break it to everyone, but the Elite: Universe doesn’t exist as a physical entity, but only as a virtual and legal one. To say that intellectual property law is complex would be an understatement. Who owns what, and who has the right to use it and under what circumstances becomes a convoluted maze of legalistic verbage that will twist even the most stable individual in on themselves until they are wibbling and drooling like a wet sponge. I have been floating, mired, in the sucking mental mud that is a legal contract since Friday. My creativity has been sapped, as has much of my will to live.
Then a debate started on the forum about the legalities of submissions to Frontier’s writer’s forum. I won’t repeat it here—it’s probably illegal to do so and a hanging offense, but for the masochistic this is the link. Reading this sparked an idea—a blueprint of freedom if you will—to subdue David Braben and take over Frontier using the power of their terms and conditions against them. If I took over Frontier then any contract would be with myself, and so not needed. I could be free of this legalistic headache and get on with the story. Below is my attempt. Far from bringing freedom, it is a morality tale and line of reasoning that does not end well….

The First Draft: Making a Mess

Creativity, and mess, are not functions of age.

Creativity, and mess, are not functions of age.

What happens when you leave a writer alone with a PC, MS Word, and a rough outline for the first draft? The same thing as when you leave a three-year-old alone in a room with a box of crayons and a perfectly wallpapered white wall. You get some creativity and a lot of mess.

My first drafts are never pretty (except if you like red highlighting), but this one looks more like partially digested spaghetti than most. Things at Frontier towers are still very much in transition, with lots of really basic setting stuff undecided. (Paradoxically there is also a lot of really specific detail that’s been nailed down for weeks—just not what I need for my story.) My protagonist is currently from an unknown planet; lives on an unknown planet; is travelling to unknown planets via more unknown planets. As you can imagine, my story isn’t exactly brimming over with a sense of place or much descriptive brilliance. When the most common phrase is: ‘confirm this with Frontier’, pacing and dramatic impact are also somewhat lacking. I’ve never written anything where, if I see a hole, I can’t simply fill it with something from my imagination. Continue reading