Writing update 30 March 2014

A quick update on my writing projects.


Sympathy for the Devil

I have a full second draft of the novel, with a proper ending. The first draft was finished within three months (I think taking May-August 2013), and it’s taken another 7 months to properly re-write that initial draft. The first draft was about 70,000 words long, and the second draft is 96,000 words.

In terms of re-writing, I deleted the final 30,000 words of draft one and re-wrote from scratch, taking it into a completely different direction. Of the remaining 40,000 words from the original draft, at least 25,000 words were wholly re-written.

I think this is a good thing. Some initial drafts are strong and need tinkering. This initial draft was strong on the central character (Lucy) and a few key scenes, but had little direction or cohesiveness. I’ve had to put a huge amount of thought and research into giving story a logical structure, supporting characters with depth and multiple and rising tensions that make sense and keep complicating the story in an understandable way.

I think this full second draft of Sympathy for the Devil has an open and accessible style, which is what I was hoping for. (I contrast this with Planetfall, which was quite densely written for a scifi crowd who would already understand the kind of world put forward.)

I’m now resting Sympathy for a few weeks so that I can go back in a few weeks and make a few final tweaks. Afterwards, I’ll be sending it to a professional editor – and all suggestions on good editors are gratefully received.



I mentioned Planetfall, and there’s an update on this too.

Book one, All Fall Down, has now shifted over 500 copies through physical book sales and digital downloads. Reviews keep popping up on the Amazon page, which is satisfying. I’d really like to see more reviews on there – there are seven now. Thirty would be amazing. 

A plea – if you’ve read the book, please leave an honest review (whether you loved or loathed it, I don’t mind) on its Amazon page.

Book 2, Children of Fall, is still on hold while I’ve been writing Sympathy for the Devil. I’m hoping to be back with it by September 2014.

In the meantime, while I rest Sympathy, I am writing a short story set in the Planetfall universe. I’m hoping to release it on Kindle and other formats towards the end of May 2014. More updates as and when.


Other writing projects

Robocop fan fiction. A couple of years ago I started writing a Robocop fan fiction novella. I have now abandoned this.

Backpackers 2. I wrote half an opening chapter for a sequel to Backpackers. I’ve no idea where that might go. Maybe I’ll add the occasional thousand words here and there. Cath’s a hard character to shake off, and the format – short stories linked together by a single character – is still attractive to me.

Job Centre sitcom script. I was really pleased with the spec script I wrote in 2012. This is now shelved due to lack of time. 


Future writing projects

I’ve agreed to co-write a script, probably for a short stage play but potentially a pilot script for a series. The subject will be on mental health, and work will hopefully start around November or December 2014.


Writing updates 30 May 2013

A quick update on my various writing projects.

Planetfall book 2

I written around 100,000 words in the sequel to Planetfall: All Fall Down, which is called Children of Fall. Writing has gone very well, and I know from feedback from my writing group and from my own sense of my writing that it’s a more mature and better written work. This is good, and I’m happy.

Despite being at the 100,000 word mark, the novel is only halfway through.  Full length books are supposed to weigh in between 70,000-100,000 words. This means I’ve written a full length novel in word length alone, and I guess it equates to having finished my 3rd novel. Except.

Except this book really is only halfway through. It’s a concept double album of a book. It will eventually be somewhere between 170,000 and 200,000 words. And this leads me to consider something: do I release it in two parts? I won’t go to agents with this book, as the first book is self-published, which pretty much means the rest of the series won’t get picked up.

I’ve got a while to think about this, though, as I’ve put the book on ice for 6 months.

Book 1, by the way, has now been downloaded or sold in physical paperback about 310 copies. I get good feedback for it from complete strangers.


Backpackers has been available as an ebook and in paperback for just over a month now. It is selling terribly – I think I’ve shifted about 8 copies. This is a shame, because it’s a much more commercial book, and the writing is better than Planetfall: All Fall Down. Backpackers was almost picked up by a couple of agents.

I’ve been trying to have Backpackers reviewed by book review sites run by bloggers. One recently got back to me and said after consideration, having received the book, they’ve decided not to review it. Obviously I’m disappointed, though I understand their editorial policy is to only review books they really feel passionate about, and road journey books aren’t for everybody.

I will continue to seek out book reviewers and blogs to review this. I really believe in the book, and I think it has a readership out there. If I was better at marketing I’d figure out how to bridge that gap. More news as and when.

Secret project

The past 6 weeks I’ve been working on another novel. It’s a sort of horror-comedy-steampunk-political satire affair. I’m not releasing any details until the book is finished. I can say that my writing group have said it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, which is exceptionally gratifying.

The writing is coming very easily for it. I’m at 28,000 words at the moment, and I’m aiming for about 75,000 words, so it’ll be a short book.

Those 28,000 words are currently with two trusted reviewers (outside my writing group). It’s essential that writing is shown to people and feedback is received.

As with all my writing projects, this is a real test and it’s taking me outside my comfort zone. I’ve never written comedy (except for an attempt at a sitcom script last year, which resulted in one and a half pretty good episodes), I’ve never written horror, I’ve never written political satire (though I have done dystopian political writing) and I’ve never tackled steampunk.

This book will also be the first of my books that I will send for professional editing. That’s simply because I’ve saved up £500 for it, whereas Planetfall and Backpackers were finished when I was unemployed.

Other writing

I recently wrote two synopses for other books. One was a political/crime thriller, and the other a Young Adult adventure. Both way outside my comfort zone. Both synopses were intended to be my secret project, but I chose not to progress them. I may publish the synopsis to the Young Adult book in the spirit of sharing and being transparent with my approach to writing.

Buying my work

Well, a plug. If you wish to buy either Planetfall or Backpackers, they’re available in ebook and paperback, from both Amazon and Lulu. Links to both are below, and you’ll find that Lulu is the cheaper option, where ebooks are 90p each. The paperbacks are more expensive than I’d like, but they’re print on demand, and most of the cost goes to the printer.

astrotomato on Amazon

astrotomato on Lulu

That’s it for the moment. As ever, I’d love to hear what others are up to. Until the next blog,



Writing update

A short blog this time with updates on my various writing projects:


  • Planetfall: the first book in the trilogy has been available since January 2013. It’s had over 300 paperback sales or downloads. A few agents have expressed some interest in it, but have been dissuaded because it doesn’t fit current market trends. However – recently an online publisher asked to see the full manuscript after reading the first three chapter. More news as and when.
  • Planetfall: book 2, Children of Fall, is going well. I’m about halfway through writing it. It’s already at 100,000 words, which is the length of book 1, and Backpackers – ie, a full novel’s length. The final book will probably be 200,000 words, and I am currently wondering whether I should release it in two halves, and then combine into one book. I have a few months to consider what to do, as I’m taking time out to work on a short, secret project (see below).
  • Backpackers: this has had some interest from agents, and was almost picked up by one. However each cited Fifty Shades of Grey as having changed the market, and publishers wanting more books along those lines. I’ve self published the book for a short time to gauge interest. So far it’s selling badly, which is a shame, as it’s a better book than Planetfall 😀 Oh well. I shall leave it for sale until June, and then take it down. I may re-write Chapter Three, which I think is its weakest link at the moment.
  • Secret project: Not much to say, other than I’m trying to write a novella or a short novel (somewhere between 65,000-75,000 words) in three months. All I’ll say is Jack Wolf from Backpackers makes a guest appearance.
  • Robocop fanfic: on hold. I’m sad about this, as the film is coming out soon, and I’d hoped to cynically cash in on the publicity to grow my readership. The secret project has to take precedence though.


Hope your writing is going well. As usual, I’d love to hear what you’re working on.


astro x

Backpackers – deleted material

This week I returned to my completed novel Backpackers and re-wrote the prologue and first chapter.

It seems like a strange thing to do, considering I had strongly believed it finished and in its best possible form. I have sent it to a score of publishers. Oops.

Rather predictably I have fallen foul of the lesson that we all need to learn as writers – rest your material before you proclaim it finished. I knew this, but I was so intent on finishing the book and getting it to publishers before I went back to full time work that I blinded myself.

Lately, on my long commutes to my new job, I started running the book through my head, thinking about it, testing parts of the story. And I realised that the opening chapter was letting it down. The changes I’ve made aren’t enormous – it essentially amounts to a re-structure of the material, to bring some of the tension and conflict at the end of the chapter right up front, and cutting out 6 pages, and writing in 6 pages of fresh material.

The material I cut out was a “darling”. Most writers will have heard the editing advice, “kill your darlings”. My darling was the original short story which spawned the entire Backpackers novel. I had kept it in for a year, because it was the seed, and it helped set out part of Cath, the protagonist’s character. She’s a story teller, a mischievous fun loving party girl. What I realised was that the diversion into the short story (which is presented as a story that Cath tells) diverts the story from establishing the conflict it needs. The reader is set up with too many stories to think about.

But! Not wanting to lose it, I thought I would upload the material here and allow people to download it for free, specifically so that writers can compare the kind of material I cut out, and see how that applies to their own writing.

Here is the Backpackers – old opening file.

Contacting agents

I recently finished my 2nd novel, Backpackers. It’s a road journey / coming of age story, about a 20 year old Australian girl who struggles to come to terms with her father’s death. She leaves her home to backpack around south east Asia, and her experiences there highlight her inner struggle to cope with life as a single-parent child.

Now that the book is finished, critiqued by my writing circle at every step of the way, and with feedback from some amazing readers(*), I’m about ready to send it to literary agents.

This is the second time I’ve sent a manuscript to literary agents. Last year I sent an early draft of my scifi novel, planetfall, to two agents. That was a test run, really. I didn’t know if the novel was ready – I hadn’t really developed my internal editor that well – and I was lucky to receive lengthy feedback from one agent giving positive feedback, but asking for it to be developed a little more.

This time I feel more confident about my manuscript. Backpackers is a stronger book. It’s really benefited from being critiqued at each stage of the writing, and I’ve really benefited from opening up my writing process. planetfall was written in its entirety before I showed it to anyone. Backpackers had just 3 chapters written before I showed it to others. And I received some very awkward questions which made me question deeply my main character’s relationship with her father, which lies at the core of the book.

Contacting agents is now a more confident affair. I have no idea if they’ll like it, but I at least am proud of the book. It made me cry while writing it, and cry each time I edited it. I was pleased when readers wrote back with the same comment – that they cried at certain points, that the book had emotionally affected them. There is no greater compliment I can think of, that something I wrote affected people busy with their own lives, enough to prick their eyes to tears.

And so to agents. I’m reading through their websites, despairing at the ones who insist on printed submissions, and delighted with the ones open to email submissions.

I’m currently developing my synopsis and cover letter. And when I have a few more readers’ comments in, and a final polishing edit, I’ll be ready to submit Backpackers to those who can make or break. But whatever those agents decide, I am proud of my little book about young adults travelling in exotic climes and experiencing the growing pains that make us rounded, mature adults. It’s fun, traumatic, exciting, tense, emotional and ultimately affirming.

I hope one day you get to read it, too.

(* many of the readers were sourced on Twitter. They are people I don’t know other than through their tweets, which has meant more objective reader feedback than friends may give. I would like to pay credit to those who volunteered to read a stranger’s book and give honest feedback, and by dint of this, point out how amazing Twitter is when used properly.)


I haven’t blogged about my writing for a long time. 


The reason is that I’ve been working on a new book, and have been involved in a writing circle which has vastly improved my writing abilities. All of my spare time has been spent on writing and critiquing other people’s work.


Finally, though, I have something to share. I’ve finished the first draft of a novel called Backpackers. It is a road trip / coming of age story, a long way from my usual science fiction. The draft is out with readers at the moment, and I’m eagerly anticipating their critical feedback.


In the meantime, I have a book cover for the novel, produced by whitefire-designs.co.uk What do you think of it?