Posts Tagged ‘The Black Library’


I am once again at a period where the amount of work I have isn’t quite enough  to induce some sort of brain infarcation, so I’ve been topping up my load by posting more frequently, especially as I’m still trying to get the majority of my journalism onto the web. But here’s a new post I’ve been meaning to write, like oh so many others, for some amount of time.

The below are answers to some of the most common questions I’ve had this year about writing. (more…)


I started this post a few weeks ago, but I’ve just been so damned busy I’ve not had chance to finish it. With my most pressing deadlines past, I have a rare breathing space. Additionally, the big WordPress omnibrain tells me it’s three years to the day since I registered to blog. I might not be a prolific blogger, but that’s got to mean something, right? So I figured I’d finish this post off by way of celebration.

Between 18th and 26th July I turned out 28,772 words on my fourth novel for Black Library (it has Eldar in it). In total, the book took me just under 11 weeks to write, including a proper second draft. I’d not finish a NaNoWriMo novel, and I doubt I’ll ever beat someone like Michael Moorcock for productivity (he used to write books in a weekend). But I reckon by most measures, working part-time and on other projects simultaneously, that’s pretty good going.

During that week of high productivity, I had two days where I managed 5800 and 6100. I tweeted about this because, well, I was bragging and I felt very pleased with myself. I’ve had a few conversations with authors recently where the other party has expressed surprise at this number. So, I thought I’d share my writing process in easy to deal with bullet points! Go bullet points.

First up though, here’s some caveats:

  1. This is how I write. There is no one way to write. While I was a full-time journalist, I interviewed dozens of writers. Wanting to be a writer myself, I always asked them how they wrote. Answer: They all do it differently. (FYI, I am deeply suspicious of anyone who suggests they have discovered the “one true way”. This goes equally for priests, economists, gamblers, and recovering alcoholics. Most of them have found “their” one true way, great for them, maybe not for you. This is my way, it’s probably not your way).
  2. I did learn something from all those writers, however, and some of the below is adapted from Dan Abnett‘s working practices – he’s stupidly prolific. I only wish I had his cloning machine.
  3. I don’t always write this much. I write quickest towards the end of a book, although I have a productive period around the second quarter. The rest is a real slog.
  4. I wrote a lot in that particular week as my son was off school. Although I am writing for fewer days in the holidays – as I have more childcare to do – the days I do have are longer, because he’s in daycare for eight hours. This is very important, as you’ll see.
  5. While writing, I’m usually doing a bunch of other stuff too.
  6. Other writers write more. Gav Thorpe, good buddy and fellow BL author, regularly writes 7000 words a day. Unless he’s lying, but he’s an honest chap.

Good? Let’s go.

Guy’s Big Writing tips

1. Learn to touch type

I finally taught myself to touch type using a free, online application in 2007, ten years after I started writing for a living. As I knew where all the keys were, it only took a fortnight to learn (badly – I would make a lousy secretary). But I can type a lot faster than I used to, and using all of my fingers rather than just two means my hands no longer hurt.

2. Turn off the fucking internet

It’s a huge time-suck. The number of times I press refresh on my novel ranking tracker page is terrifying. Writing time should be for writing. Some days I have to have the internet on if I need to look up lots of information, some days I leave it on when I shouldn’t. At least intending to turn it off means it will be turned off some of the time, which is better than having it on all of the time. John French uses this thing called Freedom. I’ve not tried it, but he says it’s a godsend.

3. Don’t sweat the little stuff

If I need to look only one or two things up, often I leave this in the text ??? so I can avoid turning the internet on. I leave minor research until the commencement of my next writing session so as to avoid the traps of the interweb, and to keep my flow on.

4. Avoid rewriting

Don’t rewrite until you have a goodly chunk down, else you’ll end up rewriting the same bit of prose a bazillion times and never finish your book. This is what happened to me in the 90s, when I was trying to write my very first – and never finished – novel.  I will rewrite the first 10,000 words a few times, as this section of the book sets the tone. After that, I break halfway through to go over what I have written again, mainly to foreshadow plot developments or intensify character traits that have arisen as I’ve been writing. Having a redrafted first half gives me a solid base to work from for the second half. Only when it’s all done will more rewriting occur. On saying that, sometimes I might start the day going over what I wrote the day before, especially battle scenes, but habitually I avoid doing this.

5. Plan ahead…

Planning books always seemed wrong to me. But I had to plan out my first BL book – Baneblade – in great detail, and actually I found it really helped. Now, I tend to produce a chapter by chapter plan, including within cool/important scenes I might need, sometimes even short stretches of book text. It’s not very detailed, the whole thing might stretch to three sides of A4 in 12-point text, and I don’t stick to it too slavishly.

6. Have a big breakfast

Seriously, sitting there hungry is distracting. Plus, if you have a big brekkie, you can work through lunch with minimal discomfort if the muse has you in her grasp.

7. Stick to good working hours

It’s a job. Work regular hours. Even if your hours are irregular by others’ standards, keep a routine. Mine is usually to start at 9.10, do admin/attend to other work/faff around for an hour, write from 10.30 until 12.00, walk the dog, have lunch, write from 1.30pm until 3.00pm. If I’m busy, I’ll also write from 8.00pm until 9.00pm in the evening. I’d work more, but I have to look after my boy. I’ve found it nearly impossible to work with a five year-old around.

8. Jump around!

I don’t write linearly. I read somewhere that the path to productivity is to make your work avoidance worthwhile. If you find yourself dodging what you should be doing, do something else of equal or nearly equal value.  If I get bored or stuck, I move onto a more interesting part of the book. Sometimes I might write all the “interesting” bits first, and then link them up. This has the advantage of helping you ditch those dull bits you think your story needs but find it doesn’t without having to laboriously remove them during redrafting, because no part of a story should be dull, yeah? Scrivener is invaluable for this. It pretty much doubled my output overnight.

9. Set yourself an improbable target

As anti-BoHo, corporate whorish as it sounds, I have to set targets, as my work is a complicated web of interlocking deadlines. If I miss my wordage targets, it impacts on everything else. Overruns happen anyway, but the closer you stick to your ideal number of words, then the less damage gets done to one’s work schedule. I tend to set myself really high targets which I rarely reach, but striving for them means I tend to write more than I would otherwise and finish my project before the deadline. This (in a complicated way) gives my schedule built-in wriggle room should I fall behind on my actual target. Yes, I am aware of this, and yes, my devious brain takes that into account when thinking about sloping off to the pub. It’s all doublethink, but it works for me.

10. And then just a little more

When you hit your target (real, impossible, or whimsically determined that day) write 500 more words.

11. And perhaps, in the evening, a little more still

And another 1000 after the kids are in bed. It is permissible to drink at this stage.

Of course, I’m a mercurial character. A typical Gemini. (I don’t believe in horoscopes, but I’m contradictory in nature enough to refer to them while writing this kind of thing, see?) So sometimes I follow some, all, or none of the above rules. Crash, for example, was barely planned. Consequently, it was harder to write, but the end result was of a different texture to a planned book.  Variety is key. Or something. Whatever. There are no rules. Just write, is all.


I found this on Goodreads right here, an enthusiastic review by Dark Chaplain of Skarsnik. I hadn’t noticed it before as, for some reason, my Goodreads page didn’t note the review as a review. Which is kind of silly. Anyway, I’ve taken the immense liberty of reproducing it here. Here’s Dark Chaplain’s twitter handle: @TheDarkChaplain. Follow him.

Skarsnik, as it turns out, was a much needed breath of fresh air for me.

Its narrative style, the gobliny wit, wrapped in humorous banter, and the stunning competence of Skarsnik, Warlord of the Eight Peaks, but also the incredible amount of detail put into describing the world under the mountains and greenskin society, make this novel one of my personal favorites of 2013.

The story is wrapped in multiple layers, from the overall point of view of the Doktor Wollendorp, who interviews a mad playwright in an asylum, to said madman’s retelling of his experience in Skarsnik’s realm, and the things the Goblin Warlord told him. Despite this, the book flows very nicely from one point of view and scene to the next.

Being a book about the life of Skarsnik at the core, this made sure that minor pieces in the story would not need to drag on unnecessarily, while still allowing for the creative freedom of the playwright. In the end, it serves to blur the line between fact and fantasy, making Skarsnik appear like a real threat to be reckoned with, but also made sure to leave things ambiguous and leave room for interpretation.

Multiple times throughout the novel Wollendorp and his companion would discuss the veracity of the madman’s tale, and agree that it must be truthful in some regard, yet is undoubtedly embellished by the poet’s vivid mind, and not everything should be taken at face value.

This should very well please those people who voiced concerns over the Warhammer Heroes series demystifying the special characters they portray, by taking away from the tabletop players’ own interpretation of the hero. It feels to me that Guy Haley did a fantastic job at disspelling those concerns by telling his story in this particular way.

This quote from the book frames the whole novel very accurately:

“‘Make sure you tell all those humies, humie, make sure you tell ’em good, make sure you tell ’em about the king in da mountain. Tell ’em all about me, Skarsnik, tell ’em all about my life, leave nuffink out.’
[...]
‘And then, when you’ve told them all that,’ he whispered, his eyes blazing with menace, ‘tell all the other humies that I’m coming for them too.’”

That being out of the way, it is safe to say that Skarsnik’s life was more than just eventful. It was a joy to read, to see the runt develop into a warlord to rival Grom the Fat, and follow in his footsteps. There have been many occassions when I just could not help but laugh about the suitably mean presentation of the goblin race, and can do nothing but applaud Guy Haley for his spot-on representation of the greenskins.

As with Baneblade, Guy Haley impressed me once more. His in-depth take on the Warhammer universe is so well put, I cannot come up with a good reason not to pick this book up if you have any interest in Black Library’s Fantasy range.

In clear greenskin fashion, I give this book lots of stars. Purchase recommendation!


Morning, another quick one today. I’ve had a couple of mostly pleasing reviews for “Engine of Mork”, my ork digital short written and released to celebrate the new Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse.

Here’s one by Stuart Edney, on his blog, The Collect Call of Cthulhu (made me chuckle that). Thanks.

This one on Fifty Shades of Geek is also very nice. However, I take issue with one point. The review (and editor’s coda) say they’re surprised that BL did an ork story, surprised it worked so well, surprised I fitted a three act structure into a short, surprised by the way I had the orks speaking and the editor is surprised at his own reaction to the story, which is that he’d now happily read an ork novel. And yet, the tale is very gently criticised for the narrative not being surprising enough! You want all that, and, what, twists?! in 10,000 words…? I’m only human. Sheesh. ; )

Alright, alright. Twists next time. I promise.

Further commentary on my work: a review of “The Shards of Erebus” within the context of a review for Mark of Calth, also on Fifty Shades, and a review for “Iron Harvest”, the Baneblade follow-up short on… Fifty Shades of Geek! Thanks for reviewing like, all my stuff guys, it really is tremendously helpful, and what you write is well-considered.

Lastly, and in a change from BL fiction, another positive review of Crash on Upcoming4.me. It’s a good week, really.


The first reviews for Crash are in, and they’re positive. Here are some links.

From Starburst magazine.

And from the blog Between Books.

As usual, my blogging’s dropped off as I’m midway through a book — my fourth for The Black Library, it’s got Eldar in it, and my eighth in three years. Cripes!. When I get five minutes, I’ll write up my experiences at Games Workshop’s Enter the Citadel this weekend. Lots of fun, really nice to meet everyone there. There were some great questions, especially one on writing non-human characters in BL fiction that will make a good blog post.


Here’s a guest post I wrote for The Black Library Blog, about why I enjoy writing for the Black Library (in case the title didn’t give it away). Click on the link or scroll down to read it.

I’d like to add some more regarding the writing of tie-in fiction rather than the consumption and validity of it as a literary form (for this, dear readers, is the underlying topic of my BL blog). (more…)