Sunday 2 December 2012

A blog is born

Well, to celebrate reaching 50,000 words of my debut novel, I decided to create a blog where I plan to give some insights into the process I'm following and how I'm getting along. I don't know how often I'll post on here, but I hope it will be reasonably regularly. However, life often gets in the way of plans, so we'll just have to wait and see.
I got the idea for starting a blog from reading the blogs of two other writers, both of whom have written novels set in the same period that I am writing about: Richard Denning and Nicola Griffith. If you are interested in the writing process, or Anglo-Saxon Britain, I recommend both those blogs.
I'm not sure exactly what I plan to write on this blog. It will probably just be musings and ramblings when I get stuck writing the novel, but I may find other interesting things to talk about, or perhaps I'll ask questions about the historical elements of the story I'm writing. After all, I'm no historian. Come to that, I suppose it could be said that I'm no writer either, as I am yet to complete my first novel.
Normally, at this point in a blog I think writers would mention all the short stories they have had published and the prizes they have won. The truth of the matter is that I've always loved stories and writing, but I've never really taken it seriously before now.
Well, actually it was a few years ago that I started. Back in 2001, I think, I was watching a documentary about Bamburgh Castle and the Anglo-Saxon graves that archaeologists had discovered nearby and something was kindled inside me. They talked about the Kingdom of Bernicia, which I'd never heard of before, and described a time of history that I knew very little about. But as soon as the documentary was over, I sat down and started to write, having no idea what the story would be.
Over the next couple of years I did a lot of research, buying books and maps, and reading all manner of websites, and the story I had started began to take shape. I mapped out a synopsis that followed a couple of fictional characters through real historical events, starting in 633 AD.
A few years later, I had written about 25,000 words, but I'd started working longer hours and singing with my band was taking up a lot of my spare time, not to mention family life, so the novel got parked, but never forgotten. From time to time I would go back to it in my mind and revisit the characters and the events, thinking of the synopsis and where I could take it.
And then, last year I got given a Kindle ebook reader for my birthday and I got to thinking about how I could perhaps self-publish. It couldn't be that hard, right? Well, the main difficulty would be not having a finished book to publish, I thought. So, this September I printed out what I had already written, read it all through and liked what I read. I decided to set myself the goal of writing 3,000 words a week until I had my first draft completed (I read that Stephen King does 3,000 a day, but he's a full-time writer and I bet his band isn't as good as Rock Dog!). I'm not quite on track with that goal, but I am writing each week and I've doubled the number of words I had back in September, so things are going well.
Part of me now feels like this blog has been a waste of good writing time, but it is a lot easier to write this than to worry about what early Anglo-Saxon buckets were made of, or what guillemot eggs look like.
If you read this, and are at all interested, feel free to post a comment, and I promise I'll answer.
I wonder what I'll post about next... I've never written a blog before either, so this should be fun!


  1. Hi Matt,
    Just found this, brilliant stuff. This is something i have considered doing recently too. Im a keen fan of historical fiction. Some of my favourite writers are Simon Scarrow, Bernard Cromwell and Douglas Jackson. Love all the Roman history, really interesting subject. Looking forward to reading your stuff mate. If you need a proof reader or just somebody to give you some feedback, just let me know, i would be happy to help. Your a bit of an inspiration and i may just have to make a start on something myself now lol ! I think we should have that pint sooner rather than later, seems we share alot of interest and may have alot to chat about !
    Keep up the good work and keep ROCKING !
    All the best Doug

    1. Good to hear from you, Doug. I'm a big Bernard Cornwell fan too. My writing is definitely targeted at the same type of audience as his historical fiction. In the vein of writers like Conn Iggulden and David Gemmel. Aiming for a historical accuracy (but not trying to be didactic), with lots of action, strong characters and a good story. Essentially trying to write the type of book I like to read.

      I also love Patrick O'Brian books (you should give them a go, if you haven't read them), but I cannot begin to imagine getting that much historical detail into my writing. I'm not dedicated enough and spend too much of my life not reading and writing!

      Thanks for the offer of being a test reader. I may take you up on that at some juncture.

      Would love to meet up for a pint or three sometime. Contact me on Facebook. :)

  2. Hi Matt,
    Conn Iggulden is another favourite of mine love his series Emporer, i must admit i havnt got round to reading the other series of his yet, i think its about Attila the Hun, Im currently working my way through the Simon Scarrow Eagle series at the mo, i have polished off the first two books in a matter of days so im guessing the next 8 or 9 books wont take long. They are brilliant though, really good strong characters, fantasticly accurate historically (as far as we know) and at times quiet bloodthirsty too ! All the makings of a good book of coarse. As you say writing a book yourself has to be similar to the type of books you like to read, but again as you say to be historically factual takes alot of knowledge of research, which means alot of time spent not writing ! I havnt read any thing from Patrick O'Brian as yet, do you have a suggestion for one of his books that would be good to start with ?
    Like I said Ref, reading your stuff would be a pleasure and you know you would get honest feedback from someone who likes reading books of the same genre.
    All the best for now,

    1. Conn Iggulden's second series is about Genghis Khan and the Khan's that follow him. It is very good, and if you liked the Emperor series, I'm sure you'll like it too.

      I haven't read any Simon Scarrow. Though, of course, I have heard of him. The difficulty now is finding time to research, write and then extra time for reading other novels. Adding the day job, family life and the band into the mix and the reading is suffering. When I have a spare hour, I do some more writing.

      Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey - Maturin series ( of books starts with "Master and Commander". There are twenty in the series and I've read the first fifteen so far, but they are incredible. A bit of a challenge to get into at first, but really amazing if you stick with it.

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