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‘Islands of Hope’ aesthetics

I have been taking part in a game called The Merry Writer for a few months on twitter. It is run by Ari Meghlen and Rachel Poli (click their names for links to their websites) and is where they ask a writing related question every day. You can reply by tweet and are therefore connecting with other writers. One task that comes up every now and then is to provide aesthetics for your WIP (work in progress). I am not the sort of person who creates aesthetics, in fact before I entered the game I did not know what they were, although I have images in my head. Therefore, to take part, I had to find some images and pop them together using my image editing skills. After creating a few I thought I would write a blog post to share them with even more people and hopefully get people excited about the serial novel I am working on. So here goes, these are the three aesthetics I have created for ‘Islands of Hope’…

Two Cities

islands aesthetic

These images show the difference between the two worlds that the novel starts in. On the left we have the idea of the technology rich mega city where the wealthy live, safe in their walls and happy with their lives. On the right we have an example of a slum, the poor scrabble to make a living, just hoping to survive. Crime and corruption are rife here. Kira, the main protagonist, starts in a slum but is taken to a mega city when she steals a loaf of bread. She is sold into slavery, but her owner is not the slaver she thinks he is. This is where her adventure begins.



Kendra is the managing director of Princips Ltd., the company that has a monopoly on the world and therefore runs it. She runs the company with an iron fist, and has a few skeletons in the closet. Not that anyone would find them as she does not let anyone get close to her. Cross her at your peril. When a group of Princips’ employees, trying to protect the slums and make life better, find some dirt on her they think they can bring her down. But then again, life isn’t that easy.

Future Technology


As the story is set a few hundred years in the future, new technology is part of the world. As Princips have taken time to take over the world, technological advancements are not as great as we would have hoped, however they are around. One example in the image above shows an airship, there should be rotatable propellers to thrust it up and forwards but I could not find an image with that on. Also, virtual reality is a big thing in terms of training people. The image of the soldiers shows what the guards in the mega cities are like, although they have guns with rotatable barrels for different types of ammunition. The most important breakthrough is the holographic watch, a fully powered computer where the screen can project out of the watch.


If you have not read the novel so far I hope these aesthetics excite you. You can start reading the book on wattpad by clicking here. It is updated every Saturday. If you are reading it already then please drop me a comment about how you think it is going. Any feedback, positive or negative, is appreciated.


Photo sources: all photos are from either pixabay or pexels and are copyright free and available for commercial use.


How I edit

I often see blog posts and tweets promoting good editing techniques, however a lot of these require money. As a hobbyist write, I want to make my work the best it can be but not by spending a lot. My main job is being a teacher, I am also a husband and father. Writing, though important, sometimes needs to take a back seat. With plenty of things that need money spent on them (food, days out, car, house etc.) I try not to spend money on my hobby when I can do a lot of the work for free. So, to those people in my situation, and any others that want to listen, here is how I edit. Is it a foolproof plan to success and great final drafts? Not by any means, it just makes me feel like my work is the best I can do on my own. Anyway, on with the show…


Editing process

  1. Once I have written my first draft I have a read through on-screen, this is basically to see if there are any plot holes or issues I need to address. Sometimes this may be moving chapters/sections around. I generally find I do not have too many issues; as I do not get to write a lot I spend a lot of time thinking about the story, asking questions like, what would the character do in that situation? How can I get the story from a to b without missing key details? What would x look like in that situation? I also plan a lot before writing so have already done a lot of the world building and mapped out major plot points, although the bits in-between can change a lot. Therefore, this part of the editing process often does not require many changes, either that or I am rubbish at seeing plot holes!
  2. I read through a second time, this time looking for grammar and spelling issues. I can often fix many but a lot slip though the net. Writers are notoriously grammar blind, they read what they wanted in their head and skim over the fact the comma is missing, they have spelt the word incorrectly or have forgotten ed or s at the end of the word. That is where step three comes in…
  3. Now this is the only place in the whole writing space where I have spent money, and it is not even my hard-earned money! No, every year I get asked what I want for my birthday and every year (well the last two), I have asked for money to renew my subscription to Pro Writing Aid. This year I got enough birthday cash to do a two-year licence so will be able to spend my birthday money on more tat next year! It is only about £30 for a years license. Pro Writing Aid is a program you can download or add as an extension to other word processing programs. You can definitely get it for Microsoft Word but I use it with Google Docs. You can run a range of reports then go through the results to edit your manuscript. Where there is an error, it highlights and you get a choice to ignore or make one of a list of possible changes. There are lots of reports but I tend to look at writing style, grammar, overused words (I never knew how much I use the word was until I got Pro Writing Aid!) and consistency. It can take ages to run a report on a whole manuscript, and then you need to go through every change which takes many hours. I always copy sections of about one A4 page into a different document and run the reports on those then copy them back when done. A simple bit of changing text colours shows me what I have run through Pro Writing Aid, what I am working on and what I have yet to do. I suppose I should say, to be balanced, that there are other editing programs out there, I just really like Pro Writing Aid.
  4. The next step is the print read through, I often find that I spot different errors when I read my work on paper. I, therefore, arm myself with highlights and a pen and go through a page at a time. It is generally commas that I have missed. I then update my online manuscript as I go so I know that once done I can get into formatting.
  5. The final step is to get some beta readers, so far I only have one, but that is better than nothing! They read through, give you comments and point out potential mistakes. Once they are done with it I can format the book and get it out there.


What am I missing?

There are only really two steps that I think would make my editing process even better. There are…

  1. Paying a professional editor – These are rather expensive and I would never see any return on my investment due to not spending money on marketing. I would really have to go for it, moving from a hobbyist to telling myself I am an actual author and throwing my weight behind my claim. I am not confident enough in myself and do not want to bankrupt my family, so am not going down this route. If a publisher came along and offered me a deal then I would happily get a professional editor; I can dream!
  2. A critique partner/partners – This would be great, to have someone to look at my work and give me advice. The two problems here are that I do not have lots of time to meet up but, worse than that, I do not think I have the time to read other people’s work in a critical capacity, therefore would be letting them down. I have not searched for a critique partner but have thought about it. If someone approached me then I would give it a go, but for now I am happy to just say I wrote a book! Also no-one is telling me my story is rubbish, which it probably is!


Where am I with editing current projects?

Before the two projects I am currently working on, I did not have Pro Writing Aid. Also previous work I have done is either short stories or collections, so I basically read through them twice and looked for errors. Needless to say, there are still errors in the books! Of they two projects I am on, my novella, ‘A Close Shave with Destiny,’ is almost ready to go. I jumped the boat, getting over excited by people seeing my work, so have already sent it to my beta reader who got back to me. This was before I had even used Pro Writing Aid. Therefore, I am doing my final print check then it will be released. My other project, ‘The Fifth Coin,’ has been read through twice and is sitting waiting till I release ‘A Close Shave with Destiny.’ I will then run it through Pro Writing Aid, do a print read and get some beta readers. An interesting development is that I won a competition for a query letter edit so I may have a good query letter for ‘The Fifth Coin.’ I may actually submit it to publishers! As you can expect, working full-time and having a young family, it takes me ages to edit. I am also writing a serial, ‘Islands of Hope,’ which I update every week on wattpad. This is to show that I am releasing work. Here I read through the section twice and run through Pro Writing Aid. As updates are anywhere from two hundred to a thousand words it does not take long, a sort of editing as you go type affair.


Anyway, there we are. That is how I edit, whilst trying to spend as little money as possible. I hope reading this blog post helps you with your editing. If you have any questions or advice then please do contact me. Cheers!

How I made my cover

This is a strange post for me, never have I done one that is so image rich but I want to share a small triumph in my writing. As a hobbyist writer I am pretty tight when it comes to spending money on marketing or editing, this also includes book covers. As an ICT and Computing teacher I utilise what technology I have as well as my knowledge of computers to knock up some pretty basic covers. At present it has been a few filters on a photo, logos designed in Adobe Flash and imported into Photoshop or getting other stock images and making them one solid colour. I spend the most time choosing my font. The covers do not look bad but they are not particularly professional. I decided, therefore, that for ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ I would take a different approach. I would attempt to draw a scene. The only problem being, I can’t draw! However, in my excited state I bounded down to town and headed to The Works (it’s a UK shop that sells books, art supplies and games that are ex-stock and so now cheap!) and bought myself an A3 pad with pencils and a book on how to draw. This then sat on a shelf for about three months. Having completed NaNoWriMo and gone back to ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ to edit it, I finally picked up a pencil. Below are step by step stages of how I did, I am not saying the writing is exciting so feel free to just look at the pretty pictures…

1Stage 1 – Basic shapes

I found out quickly that the art book I purchased did not actually give you many tips on drawing fantasy characters so I grabbed my phone and used the Internet instead. As my first proper drawing ever, I decided to take the three main characters and have them facing the reader, looking scared. Action scenes are a little too far for me at the moment. The story is set in a moustache so I wanted them standing above a depiction of one. I drew lines for the moustache and connected these up then used the characters head sizes to work out arm and body lengths. At this point things were going well!


2Stage 2 – Body outlines

The next stage was to get the general outlines for the bodies, I was quite impressed with how I did this, using lines to link up shapes. They were actually starting to look like humans! They did all have massive heads though so the rubber supplied with my art set came in very handy! Also I could not get the leg width correct but that did not bother me at present as I could change that later.




3Stage 3 – Faces

I cannot draw faces, as is clear from the image to the right! However, these are the best faces I have ever drawn. Again my wonderful drawing book was no help so I looked on the Internet and did a half copy, half reimagining job. I really like Wignut (the one in the middle) but the other two did not come out as well. I decided at this point that I was going for a rustic look so, despite a bit of editing, left them as they are. My wife thought the eyes on Wignut were the weakest but they are actually my favourite, along with his hair. I think it is because they look a little cartoony and that goes better with the ‘I can’t draw very well’ look.


4Stage 4 – Wignut’s clothes

Guess what?! Yep, that’s right, the book was absolutely no help with clothes! Again it was an Internet affair, looking at different images of drawn medieval clothes and cobbling something together. But I am happy with them, I particularly like the belt and the way I have made the clothes look a little like fabric by adding lines and making seams billow a little. There is not much detail but it gives the gist. My original plan had been to do basic outlines of the characters and use a fineliner pen to thicken the lines so it was more of a line drawing, but I liked Wignut’s look so decided to just go with the drawings at this point.


5Stage 5 – Svetta’s clothes

Svetta, if you have not work out by the fact she is the next one drawn in, is my female protagonist. I wanted her to look pretty but show she is a fighter and a quite good one at that. It was clear I could not draw pretty faces but maybe a nice outfit would make her character look better. Again it was on to the Internet to look at clothes. All the female medieval clothes were flowing dresses with lacey tie ups so I had to look at male warriors clothes and adapt them. Now I was not just looking at the characters outlines I could add some shading to my cover. That was in the art book but it had been so unhelpful up to this point I ignored it! If not as much as Wignut’s clothes, I do like the look of Svetta’s. She is clearly more than a pretty girl.

6Stage 6 – Barnabas’ clothes and moustache

I found Barnabas’ clothes the easiest to do, I had learnt from both Wignut and Svetta and as he is the hero’s aid I gave him basic clothes. I was worried how the pack on his back would look so tried not to do anything complicated and draw stitching or have it open with contents spewing forth. I think it works though. I also did the moustache as well, I was worried how to get the texture right but by not using a fineliner pen I could add strokes to it from the pencil I was using. I changed to a thicker pencil do to this. I don’t know why, it just felt right. I had picked a 3B for the rest, who knows why? Not me! Looking at the final picture I was quite happy, yeah the faces could be more detailed and the arms seem a bit long but I had managed to make the legs look better and there is the rustic charm I was after, or rather consolidated myself with. It is the best drawing I have ever done after all!

cover-blogStage 7 – PhotoShop

The final stage was the one I was most comfortable with, popping the image into PhotoShop. Firstly I scanned the image then working out what size my book would be and set up the relevant canvas on PhotoShop. Using the magic wand and rubber tools I removed the background as best I could. I did need to clone some areas where there were imperfections from the scanning process as well. After this I found a font I wanted. The most annoying thing about cover design is finding a font that is free for commercial use. I wanted something to go with the hand drawn theme and found Mr. B. It is a little more like pen strokes but I can live with that. A little placement and thinking about a tag line and the cover was taking shape. It is amazing how hard it is to create a tag line for a story about heroes setting out to gather snot from a nose as they live in a moustache. I decided to ignore that and go with the humour of the book instead. After this I tried solid colour backgrounds but none worked, I then went for a pattern which looked even worse. So onto the stock photo sites I went, looking for paper and found the one I have. Again it is free for commercial use. All in all I am pretty happy with it. It won’t win any awards but it looks professional enough, it not up to the standards of Penguin or HarperCollins publishing houses but it will do.


So there we have it, a quick run through of how I made my cover. I could go into more detail but it gets a little dull after a while. So now I need to finish editing the book, which could take a month or more, then create the spine and back cover. Hopefully it will be out some time in the next few months, I wouldn’t hold your breath though!

End of year review 2016 (here we go again!)

So here we are again, at the end of another year and once more, like nearly all writers, I am doing a look back at the year blog post and, in terms of writing, what a year it has been. Right, after that  really long sentence let’s begin.

I always start off by reviewing my targets from the year. I specifically kept them simple in 2016 to avoid disappointment and another year of failure, simply put all I planned to do was ‘do some writing’ and I certainly did that. It is probably clearer to look at my three successes…


Poetry – as you may know I am bad at poetry, but that has never stopped me writing it! I managed a whopping six new poems that included topics such as Nintendo, love, Star Wars and not being able to write well. I have never had a repository for my poetry so decided to make one rather that it just sitting on this blog. That meant that ‘Bad Poetry you probably never want to read’ was born. I popped in my older poems that were on this site along with the new ones. As it is a work in progress it is only available on wattpad at the moment. You can read it here. There was to be a seventh poem for the year but nanowrimo took over and it was abandoned. Please feel free to ignore my poetry but if you do read it can you leave a review? It can be good or confirm my belief that I am terrible at the medium.

A Close Shave with Destiny – I finally finished my first draft of the story I started in October 2015 for Movember. It turned from a 5000 word short story to a nearly 40,000 word novelette. I finished it just before the start of nanowrimo so it still needs a proofread and a cover created. Expect it out in paperback and ebook format in 2017.

The Fifth Coin – this was my story for nanowrimo, which I am happy to say I won thanks to sticking very close to the target daily word count. I really like the story and have pushed myself to keep writing it in December, although not at nano pace. I am now on 60,000ish words and only have three chapters to write to finish the first draft, two of which I am already half way through. I hope to have it out next year as well.


So overall nothing published but a lot of words down, the most in any one year. This is largely thanks to Google docs which allows me to write from anywhere. I often sit for five minutes and add the odd hundred words which does add a little to a novel and keeps you in the flow. In fact I am writing this blog post on Google docs on my phone whilst my daughter is asleep in my arms.

Right on to next year, there is a lot I would like to do but the ‘just write something’ idea worked really well this year so I am keeping it. That said, in an ideal work ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ and ‘The Fifth Coin’ would be published and I would have started work on something else as well as a few more poems being released. We will see though!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me this year, I look forward to 2017 in the hope that it is good for writing. Thank you to new followers through the media hop set up by Raimey Gallant, I do look at your posts even if I rarely comment. I do hope you enjoy this blog and find it useful. Anyway, to every out there good luck in whatever you do next year, unless it involves hurting kittens, then I am afraid I cannot condone it!

Google Docs is saving my writng

In previous posts I have talked about using different apps for writing so I can write on my phone and tablet. All of these have involved uploading files to cloud storage then downloading them on a different device or copying the text and emailing it to myself. I got a little fed up of this, even though it only takes a few extra minutes. Now I have given myself over to Google Docs and use the app on my phone and tablet. I can still pick up a device and write on it without having to turn on my computer, however now I do not need to think about uploading as the content is saved automatically and can be access from any computer or device. I could even forget my phone and tablet and be at a friend’s house, ask to use their computer or device and log into Google and access my files. It is such a brilliant system, I have written so much more recently by just using Google Docs. Even better, with Drive you get Google Sheets as well so I can use a spreadsheet to keep a list of character/location descriptions or the order of events. I do not know why I did not think of this before. I have all the tools I would in any other word processor as well. It is amazing how much further I am through stories than I would be without using Google Docs. It is simple, it is free. More recently I have been writing in sections, rather than moving in a linear fashion I am choosing which part of the story I want to work on. By using the outline feature you can also set up titles for sections and quickly jump to them without having to scroll through all the text. So now I am not looking for any specific writing apps that require me to spend time uploading and sharing to get my work into the right format. Now I am using Google Docs. The only issue is that you need to be online to access files, however you can now work offline. I have not tried it yet but will do at some point. So, get yourself a Google account and download Google Docs on your tablet and phone. You can get a quick bit of writing done whilst waiting for someone to get ready, during the breaks of TV shows or even whilst you sit on the loo!

Writing – a quick update

It appears that setting no goals has somehow improved my ability to write, I have written more so far this year than I think I had at the same point in the previous two years. One reason for this is joining a book club (which I talked about in a previous post), another is the lack of pressure on myself and I feel a third is now having a tablet. Using the Writer app on android means I can quickly pick up my tablet and write a few lines in a spare five minutes, I don’t have to turn my laptop on and wait an age for it to boot up in which time I have lost motivation. In fact I am writing this on my tablet at the present moment. Another bonus of the app is that I can write on the go. My car broke last week and I wrote most of a short story on the train over two days of commuting, quite fantastic really.

Anyway, back to the point of the post, where I am at with writing. I am a little behind where I thought I would be with the moustache story but that is not to do with being unmotivated. Instead I have been working on a story for my school. The plan is for me to start the story then students will finish it off, all in the name of getting kids to write. Since starting my new job I have realised that the Librarian and myself both share a love of books and writing. We are working on a school based murder mystery as well as the story. Unfortunately, as these are for my school they will not be released to the general public although it is an exciting time for me.

Outside of school writing I will continue to work on the moustache story and then plan to start on my first young adult novel. Since I realised that The Last Human was not going to work I have a new, much more exciting idea and am starting to get a plan together. Basically, things are looking good. A time scale? I have decided not to commit to those anymore!

Write on your tablet or smartphone to keep your stories moving forward

Like many hobbyist writers I would love to get big from writing (or at least make some money!) but do it mainly for the pleasure, and like nearly all hobbyist writers I have very little time to write. This blog has a plethora of posts about how self-set deadlines have been missed due to work and family commitments. It is so hard to find even an hour to get away from the rat race and put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard!). I tend to get the odd ten or twenty minutes of down time when I could be writing but by the time I have turned my laptop on, or realised I am out somewhere waiting for a train or appointment so am nowhere near my words, the time has passed. I have tried to use the Wattpad app on my phone, but it needs to be connected to the Internet to save what I write, or use the Notes app that comes free with the phone, but this can cause undue pain when trying to export to a decent file format.

It seems that getting a decent app for my tablet or phone would be a solution to my problem, they are always on and usually near me so I could just pop in my passcode and write away. When I start a large writing session I often need to look back at previous words as it has been so long since I last managed any writing but by using a smartphone for the odd ten or twenty minutes every few days the stories would be fresh in my mind. Recently I found an app that has allowed this to happen and much as I have mused over how good it would be to have a way to easily write on my smartphone I am noticing that the reality is even better. The app I am using is the free version of Documents by Savy Soda. I stumbled across the app when I was looking for a way to produce office documents for my work, basically it offers word processing and spreadsheets using common free file formats that can be opened by any major office software. Whilst I use it for work purposes on my work supplied tablet I now have a copy on my smartphone for writing stories, ok the keyboard is a little more fidley but I have written about 1000 more words in the last few days than I would have if I had only been using my laptop. The word processing files are saved locally on the phone as rich text files (.rtf) so they can be edited in areas where no Internet is available. Further to this, the app has a direct link to many file storage websites. With a click of a button I can save my files to my Google Drive then download them when I manage to sit down to write on my laptop. Ok so rtf only offers a limited number of fonts, on the fly spell checking and changing text to bold, italic or a few different colours, but it is the words that count. I can use my laptop to do the proper editing and make them look fancy to upload to Kindle or Smashwords at a later date. The only downside is that it only works for Apple products, however that doesn’t bother me as those are the produces I have!

So, if like me you are finding it hard to get time to write I would suggest getting a free text editor app. If you get Documents then all you need to do is save your files as .rtf in your office application on your computer then upload to a file storage site such as Google Drive or Dropbox, you can then write on the go safe in the knowledge that you can save your words on your phone/tablet then upload back to your file storage site when you get in range of some good wi-fi, download onto your computer when that finally gets turned on. It also means you don’t need to plug your phone in and wade through the endless folders to find where the files are actually saved. You know, thanks to Documents I think I might end up finishing a few stories that would otherwise have fallen by the wayside.