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Writing a novel: progress report


I’m writing a novel.

I don’t expect you to be excited about that. Some days, it seems like everyone is writing a novel.

But back to my own novel… I started writing it ages ago, after being hit with inspiration while waiting for the tube. My inspiration came days after the start of NaNoWriMo in November 2011, and while that month encouraged me to make a solid start on the book, I was still working on it nearly one year later. I eventually finished a novella, and began trying to decide what to do with it. This all coincided with my re-discovery of sequential art, or comics, so I began thinking about turning my story into a graphic novel.

While dallying with various publishing modes and learning how to write comic book scripts, I had the good fortune to read a few books about writing, which helped me to see the flaws in my novella. Eventually, the flaws in my novella outweighed the strengths. My novella died completely when I realised that the story was only half-told; I had much more to write.

So I’ve started again, and have written roughly 13,000 18,000 words of the new and improved novel.

Join me on My Learning Journey

Right now, I’m learning a lot about writing. And I intend to share that learning here, with you.

I’ll talk about the books I read in another post.

I’ll also talk about the inspiration I’ve been getting from other writers online, and the writing routine that I’ve established.

I’ll discuss the barriers I hit and the elements of writing that I struggle with.

I’ll also provide monthly progress updates so you can see how the book progresses. I’m writing this novel in my spare time – so progress will be slow and steady.

I’ll tell you all about how I choose an editor and my first readers. And I’ll discuss the process of choosing and working with an artist to create an amazing cover.

I’m currently planning on self-publishing using Amazon’s Kindle service, so I’ll let you know how I get on with that too.

Thanks for stopping by.



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Decompression in comics: a valid storytelling technique…?

In comics (or sequential art), ‘decompression’ is the technique of slowing down the pace of the story in order to reveal subtle details about the characters, mood or plot.

How can you spot a comic that uses decompression? Well, it might include sparse panels low on information. The panels may focus on one moment in time, or they may show one interaction or event from a number of perspectives. Decompressed comics are sometimes criticised for giving readers less story – though this only applies if you believe that the ‘story’ is merely a series of events or plot-points.

A waste of space?

Critics of decompression in comics complain that the technique delivers too little substance, stripping valuable action from their $3 comic. Some readers want action and events instead of the comparatively worthless reflection, introspection and consideration that decompression can provide.

Personally, I feel that if a comic doesn’t take the time to build an emotional connection, then I can’t give two shits about whether a hero wins or loses their next Epic Battle. Unless you slow a story down, you can’t speed it up. And unless you cause your readers to care about your characters, they can’t feel their pain, or fear their demise.

It seems that critics of decompression want their comics to be a moronic succession of significant plot-points, with little or no time spent establishing the characters, their moods or their motivations.

Here’s a page from Warren Ellis’  The Authority (claimed to be a popular example of decompression in American comics by Wikipedia):


Compressing a decompressed comic

A blogger who doesn’t appreciate decompression (he interestingly equates his enjoyment of a comic with the time it takes him to read it, with a longer read being desirable) edited Justice League 1 to compress the story. This is a fascinating experiment and I applaud him for his efforts to compress a comic which I thought was quite densely packed to begin with. Unsurprisingly, his compressed pages of Justice League 1 lose their weight, their emotional power and their cinematic qualities.

Take a look:

Is decompression necessary? Justice League re-edited

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Research for fiction, but faster

Genghis Khan

Once upon a time, I wanted to write a story that revolved around Genghis Khan. It was a crap idea, but I was young and didn’t know better. The trouble was that before I could write a word, I had to read loads of stuff about Genghis Khan. And by the time I was half way through the first book my enthusiasm had vaporised and the story never happened. I’ve since discovered another way to research vital elements of a story, a method that’s quick enough to keep my ideas alive.

Resarch your story by talking to experts

When possible, talk to experts to find out what you need to know. Books offer great overviews and in-depth information on any subject, but the knowledge you need may be buried within hundreds of pages of unnecessary stuff. By asking the right questions of the right expert, you can get straight to the information you need. You can also ask hypothetical questions about scenarios specific to your story, uncovering insights you can never find in a book.

As well as exposing you to new ideas and bespoke advice, consulting experts is real and vital – and it’s always a treat to meet new people working in different fields.


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Cartoon County: Brighton’s own comics hub


Last night the Cartoon County group met in the Brighton’s Cricketers pub – and I went along to chat to other comics enthusiasts. As well as meeting the legendary David Lloyd, I got to chat to comics creators such as Joe Decie (check out his awesome web comic What I Drew), Karrie Fransman (creator of the beautiful graphic novel shown above: The House that Groaned) and loads of other people who make comics, study comics, and enthuse about comics!

The Cartoon County group was incredibly friendly and welcoming. It’s great that people in Brighton have a place to gather and meet likeminded folk.I’m already looking forward to the next one.


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Preparing for the Dunwich Dynamo bike ride: what’s required?

Dunwich Dynamo Departure

So, you want to ride the Dunwich Dynamo? Good for you!

Once you’ve booked your ticket home from Dunwich, there are a few things to consider…

Food and drink

Fantastic halfway-point refreshments are available at Great Waldingfield, but remember that you’ve got to cycle about 60 miles first. How much will you need to eat and drink to take you 60 miles?

Remember too that you could puncture on your way to the rest stop. You could puncture, get lost or turn up to the village hall too late to get a sandwich. So aim for self-sufficiency – at least enough food to help you cope with a few surprises. Aim for variety too. Sugary energy gels and drinks are great, but you need to balance them out with something more substantial, something less sweet and something more food-like. Sugary things can leave you feeling queasy.

Food doesn’t have to consist of expensive sports-specific snacks. Try:

  • malt loaf (Soreen is great!)
  • fig rolls
  • bananas
  • cake
  • sandwiches
  • sweets
  • pasta


Bike readiness

Your body is going to have enough to do on this ride, so don’t make it any harder by allowing your bike to needlessly fail. Get your bike serviced if it’s overdue a checkup, but otherwise check:

  • gears
  • brakes
  • tyres
  • nuts and bolts (including cleat screws!)


Some people do the DD with teeny LED lights that can barely illluminate a dusty cupboard, while others use super-bright mega-lights that turn night to day. What would you prefer? If you’re going to do a few night rides consider investing in proper night lights. I love cycling at night, especially when I can cycle faster, more safely with good lights.


It’s hard to prepare for every eventuality. But whatever the weather, you’ll spend most of the DD exercising vigorously, so your first consideration is about dressing for exercise. Cycling shorts and jerseys make a good starting point, because they provide good physical comfort while you’re working hard.

Late in the night, when the temperature cools and the sun is long gone, you’ll probably want something to cover your arms and legs (although in 2010 the night was so mild that shorts and short sleeves suited many cyclists throughout the journey).

Flexible items like arm and leg warmers are perfect because you can easily adapt to changing conditions without being burdened by bulky clothing.

It may rain – indeed it could rain all night long, so be prepared to cycle through it. If bad weather is forecast you may want to include waterproof gear.


Remember that all your equipment and food adds to the weight you carry – so think twice before adding items to your pack. You want to be prepared, not overburdened.

The morning after

Depending on how quickly you ride, you could spend 4-8 hours on the beach at Dunwich, waiting for your ride home. That beach can be rather chilly, so pack a jumper or something to wear when you’re finished. I was also oddly grateful for the toothbrush and wrap of toothpaste I’d packed. And make sure you have cash to pay for a fry up from the Dunwich cafe!

Fast or slow?

There are two schools of thought:

1. The DD is a fun ride and a social event. It’s a slightly bonkers experience that takes you through the night on a magical tour of flat wilderness. The DD is to be savoured at your leisure.

2. The DD is a race! It’s fun and weird, but it’s a race! How quickly can you get there?

Most people view the DD as a fun ride – not one to rush. How will you ride the Dun Run?

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Writing a novel: progress report

I’m writing a novel. I don’t expect you to be...
article post

Decompression in comics: a valid storytelling technique…?

In comics (or sequential art), ‘decompression’ is...
article post

Research for fiction, but faster

Once upon a time, I wanted to write a story that revolved...
article post

Cartoon County: Brighton’s own comics hub

  Last night the Cartoon County group met in the...
article post

Preparing for the Dunwich Dynamo bike ride: what’s required?

So, you want to ride the Dunwich Dynamo? Good for you! Once...
article post