Your Summer Reading: The Blogger’s Guides, Study Packs, Blog Posts, and Novels

I’m taking a break from blogging on Aliventures over the summer – I’ll be back in late September with a spruced-up blog design and plenty of posts lined up for the rest of 2018.

In the meantime, I wanted to share plenty of resources and reading that you might want to enjoy over the summer…

The Blogger’s Guides (Especially The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing)

If you’re a blogger or would-be blogger, you’ll want to check out my four Blogger’s Guides. They’re premium ebooks packed with examples to help you get the most from your blog.

I’ve just (as in, half an hour ago as I type this ;-)) updated The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing. It’s now fully up-to-date for 2018 – and eeesh, there were a lot of examples and links to update!

To celebrate:

The sale on both of these will finish at the end of Thursday 6th September … so take advantage now.

Important: If you already have an older version of The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing, don’t buy it again! You may already have an email from me with a link to download the new version, but if not, just email me and I’ll send it straight to you.

Alternatively, if you login to the Effective Writing “extras” page (the link and password should be in your current version of the Guide), you can download the new Guide there.

The Self-Study Packs

A couple of months ago, I put together a bunch of self-study seminar packs, pulling together some of my favourite seminars from Writers’ Huddle (my membership site which ran Feb 2012 – Apr 2018).

If you’d like to dig deeper into a particular aspect of writing, take a look through the packs. They’re just $19.99 each: for that, you get four seminars (audio or video), plus full, nicely edited transcripts, and handy worksheets to help you turn learning into action.

Blog Posts You May Have Missed

If you’re not ready to dig into an ebook or a seminar right now, how about a blog post? Here are a six you might enjoy, covering the first half of 2018:

(Jan 2018) Your Website is Always a Work in Progress – this post is on my mind because I’m going ahead with yet another redesign of Aliventures. And I’m happy about it! Websites continue to evolve, as do the tools for making them ever better.

(Feb 2018) Seven Ways to Market Your Self-Published Novel – this post takes a look at seven different marketing methods, with a quote or useful resource, plus a “further reading” suggestion for each one.

(Mar 2018) The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips) – this post is an updated version of one I wrote back in 2014. If you edit your own work – and almost all writers do, at least to some degree! – then it’s packed with useful tips for you.

(Apr 2018) Why You Should Stick to One Name for Each Character in Your Novel – this post tackles a common writing mistake that writers commit with the best of intentions! You don’t need to vary how your character is named in the narrative: pick one way to refer to them, and stick with it.

(May 2018) Everything You Need to Know About Writing Brilliant Blog Posts – this post is a handy list collecting together five posts I’ve written about blogging, covering ideas, building an audience, starting and ending your blog posts, and blogging as a novelist.

(June 2018) Three Things to Do Before You Start Freelance Writing … and Three Things Not to Bother With – this post takes a look at what you do, and don’t, need to do before you launch your freelancing career. If you’re thinking about freelancing – especially if you feel a bit daunted – then give it a read.

My Novels ($2.99/£1.99 Until the End of the Summer)

Finally, if you’d like to escape the world of writing and blogging advice for a bit … I have novels, too!

They’re contemporary fantasy (think “modern world with demons”) – they’re not too heavy on the fantasy elements, though, so even if you’re not normally a fantasy reader, feel free to give them a try. 😉

Lycopolis, Oblivion and Dominion form a trilogy, and the books very much follow on from one another so I highly recommend reading them in order, starting with Lycopolis.

Here’s the blurb for Lycopolis:


Seth has created a tiny, retro online world where he can play god … and Hallowe’en is an excuse to deliver a chilling twist in the story he’s been orchastrating.

Sacrifice a girl. Summon a demon. End the nightmares.

He’s not expecting anything to happen, not really. The demon-summoning is just words on a computer screen; just lines of code.

But it does work – far better than he dared imagine.

As the demon gathers power in the real world, the only person to realise what Seth’s done – and stand against him – is shy first-year student Kay. And she has a dark secret of her own …

Looking for a gripping book with characters you’ll grow to love … plus a good dollop of the supernatural? Try Lycopolis today.

What Readers Say About Lycopolis:

★★★★★ “From beginning to end Lycopolis had me gripped.”

★★★★★ “Lycopolis is a masterful roller-coaster ride of dark and light, secrets and truth, danger and refuge, reality and fantasy.”

★★★★★ “There are few books where the characters are so expertly drawn.”

★★★★★ “You just want to keep turning the pages to see what happens next.”

★★★★★ “Brilliant book that hooked me from the start and kept me entertained until the end.”

★★★★★ “If you like well-written, engaging stories with compelling plots, get yourself a copy of Lycopolis.”

You can get Lycopolis from Amazon here.

Currently, all three novels in the trilogy are $2.99/£1.99. I’m going to be raising the price at the end of the summer, though, to $3.99/£2.99. So if you want a bargain, grab them now! (They’re also available free via Kindle Unlimited, if you’re enrolled in that.)

If you’ve already read one or more of my novels, can I ask for a very kind favour?

I would be SUPER grateful for a review! I love getting reviews because it’s always a thrill (and occasionally eye-opening) to hear what people thought about my writing … but also because reviews help other readers to decide whether or not my novels are for them.

If you’re able to review Lycopolis (or the others!) on your local version of Amazon, or on Goodreads, that would be really lovely. Thank you!


Whew! I hope that’s enough reading to keep you busy for the summer … and I’m looking forward to showing you the new-look Aliventures in September. 🙂

The Two Scenes in Your Novel That Will Need the Most Rewriting

Novels are tricky. There’s so much to juggle that no-one gets it quite right the first time round … and most authors end up doing wholesale rewrites, rather than just making a few editorial tweaks.

I’ve come to accept that rewriting is just part of the process of creating a novel. Each time I start work on a new book, I want to be a more efficient writer – and while I have found some things easier, I still end up doing a lot of rewriting and reworking.

Maybe it’s the same way for you.

Whether you’re working on your first draft of your first novel, or you’ve completed a bunch of novels already, there are two scenes that you’re likely to spend a lot of time rewriting:

  • The opening of your novel
  • The climax of your novel

However hard you worked in the first draft, and however much you planned, these are just really difficult scenes to pull off well.

But the good news is – even if your first draft doesn’t quite hang together in these key areas, rewrites can fix anything!

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The Four Essential Stages of Writing (for Anything You’re Working On)

Note: This post was first published in 2011, and updated in July 2018.

Do you struggle to focus when you’re writing, or do you find yourself starting and stopping a lot? It might be because you’re skipping certain stages of the writing process without even realising.

In my post, 7 Habits of Serious Writers, I cover the importance of actually writing, plus the need to redraft. But writing and redrafting aren’t the only stages you need to go through to produce an effective piece of writing.

Every finished writing project, big or small, passes through four stages:

  • Planning
  • Drafting
  • Rewriting
  • Editing

Sure, you could potentially publish a blog post without doing any planning, or any rewriting and editing. Unless you’re very lucky, though (or writing something extremely short), you’ll be lacking a clear focus, the structure won’t quite work, and there’ll be clumsy sentences all over the place.

It wouldn’t really be a finished piece. It would be a draft.

The four stages don’t always have to be tackled in order. Sometimes, you’ll find that they can be combined – rewriting and editing, for instance. They don’t necessarily have to be carried out by the same person. (When freelancing, I’ve written blog posts based on other people’s plans, and I’ve often had my work edited by others.)

But it’s crucial to be clear about what each stage involves. If you’re struggling with a particular piece of writing, there’s a good chance that you’ve skipped a step somewhere – or that you’ve tried to do everything at once.

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The Right Way to Expand a Too-Short Piece of Writing

Quick announcement: I’ve just launched two brand new self-study seminar packs (sets of recorded seminars you can download and work through at your own pace).

The new ones are:

  • The Advanced Fiction Pack (#5) (covering story ideas, heroes & villains, handling viewpoint, and more)
  • The Novel Editing Pack (#6) (covering structure & outlining, the difference between revision and editing, and more)

The seminar packs are normally $19.99, but until Thursday 5th July, I’m running a launch offer on these two, making them just $9.99.

I’ve also temporarily reduced an earlier seminar pack, The Craft of Fiction (#2), to $9.99 so you can pick that one up too if you haven’t already got it — then you’ll have the full fiction-writing set!

You can find out all about the seminar packs here.


Note: This post was originally published in 2012, and was updated in June 2018.

One common issue that standard writing advice covers is how to cut down your first draft.

And this advice comes up time and time again for a good reason. It’s easy to over-write, perhaps telling the reader things that you’ve already shown them, or using five words where one would do, or repeating yourself unintentionally.

But under-writing is a problem too – and one that I don’t often see tackled.

Under-writing often shows up in a failed attempt to reach a word-count:

  • You were supposed to write a 1,500 word essay for school, but you finished in 800 words.
  • You’re entering a 2,000 word short story competition, but your story is over after 1,000.
  • You know that novels in your genre should be at least 80,000 words, but yours is only 50,000.
  • You want your blog posts to be at least 500 words, but they keep coming out at 300.

So what can you do about it?

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15 Ways to Make Your Characters Suffer (for the Good of Your Novel)


Note: This post was originally published in 2016, and was updated in June 2018.

Do your characters suffer enough?

Even if you’re writing a light and fluffy romance, at some point, someone in your novel is going to need to get hurt.

I’m not suggesting all-out graphic torture here, obviously – unless that suits your genre. Suffering comes in a lot of different forms – and I’m going to go through a bunch of those in a moment.

In general, making characters suffer should do at least one, ideally both, of these:

  • Advance your plot: bad stuff may well need to happen in order for your heroes to get to (and earn) their happy ending. Often, some degree of suffering is what drives the plot: the protagonist is unhappy with their life as-is and wants to change things.
  • Deepen or reveal character: either we see who someone really is when they’re hurt (someone who seemed a bit of a wimp turns out to have hidden strength; someone who was nice on the surface reveals a vindictive side) … or it’s part of their character arc.

Any and all of your characters can get to suffer: heroes, villains, and those with walk-on parts. The main difference is in how the reader will respond.

Our natural reaction to seeing someone hurt or in pain is to feel sympathy towards them. If they’re a particularly nasty character, though, we might well feel they’re getting their just deserts. The more awful they are, the less likely we are to feel sorry for them – even if their suffering is pretty extreme (think Ramsay in Game of Thrones, for instance).

If a minor character suffers, the importance of this may well be how the hero (or villain) responds: do they help? Are they distressed? Amused? Indifferent? Introducing someone who’s in some kind of pain can also be a good way to instantly get the reader’s sympathy.

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Three Things to Do Before You Start Freelance Writing … and Three Things Not to Bother With

Are you thinking about freelancing?

I’ve known a lot of writers who spent quite a while in the “thinking” stage without moving forward.

It’s very understandable. Launching a freelancing career can feel like an enormous step, and you probably want to get everything right before you begin.

I was lucky, in a lot of ways: I fell into freelance writing by accident. Ten years ago, I wrote a guest post for a blog that (unknown to me) happened to be looking for paid writers. The editor asked if I’d like to join the team … and that was the first of many, many freelance blogging gigs.

At that point, I was working a day job in London. In terms of freelancing, I had nothing set up. I had a blog, but it wasn’t writing-related at all. I was still using my old email address (provided by my university’s alumni team). I only had a personal PayPal account that I used for eBay. I definitely hadn’t thought about anything like contracts or a business plan.

And it still all worked out fine!

Even so, I probably would’ve made slightly faster progress as a freelancer if I’d got a few things set up before I began.

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Choosing the Right Viewpoint and Tense for Your Fiction [With Examples]

Note: This post was originally published in 2013, and was updated in June 2018.

Who’s telling your story?

Perhaps the choice is easy and obvious: you’re writing from a particular character’s viewpoint in the first person (“I”) and the whole story is from their perspective.

Or perhaps it’s trickier than that. You’ve got a story to tell involving multiple characters, and you need to make some choices.

The point of view (POV) or viewpoint is the angle the story’s being told from. For instance, in Emma Donaghue’s Room, the point of view character is 5-year-old Jack.

The story might be told in the first person (“I”), second person (“you”), or third person (“s/he”). It can also be told in past tense or present tense, which I’ll come onto in the second part of this post.

What Viewpoint Should You Use for Your Story?

Second person is rare, but first person and third person are both very common, so I’ll tackle those two first.

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Announcing: Blog On – Completely Rewritten for Spring 2018 (Here’s Why)

Blog On is currently open for registration: the first module begins on Monday 28th May. Registration closes at the end of this Thursday (24th May), so if you’re interested, do check it out as soon as you can!

Blog On (Spring 2018) – get all the details here

One of the reasons I closed Writers’ Huddle at the end of April was so that I could run more online courses – and Blog On has been the most frequently requested one.

In fact, when I ran a survey recently, it was the most popular option for “which course shall I run next?” … narrowly beating Launch Your Freelancing Career, as you can see here:

I first ran Blog On way back in 2011 (which feels like a lifetime ago now I have a five year old and a three year old…) and I’ve run it several time since, updating it each time.

For 2018, though, I wanted to overhaul the whole course completely.

Last time we ran through Blog On, I had some great feedback from members who were enjoying the course but who felt that their blogs didn’t quite “fit” with the materials and assignments. They were blogging as a hobby, for writing practice, or to grow a platform for their fiction … and I’d originally designed Blog On with money-making bloggers in mind.

This time round, I’ve recreated Blog On from the ground up – ditching some modules completely and rewriting others pretty much from scratch.

I’ve aimed to keep all the things that Blog On members have enjoyed over the years, with step by step guidance on how to craft posts and pages for your blog … but I’ve also broadened out the remit of the course so that all bloggers can enjoy it.

While I might well raise the price for future iterations of the course, I’ve also kept the current price to just $39.99 (less than $5/week).

Whatever sort of blogging you do (or hope to do!), Blog On could be just what you need to get moving again.

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Everything You Need to Know About Writing Brilliant Blog Posts

Over the last eight years, I’ve written hundreds (probably thousands!) of blog posts for dozens of different blogs.

I’ve also written quite a bit about blogging. Today, I wanted to share five of my favourite pieces about blogging, all published here on Aliventures over the past couple of years:

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Five Easy Ways to Write in a More Conversational Style

If you’re a blogger, you’ve probably been told at some point that you should “write in a conversational style.”

It’s common advice – for some book authors, not just for bloggers. When I wrote Publishing E-Books for Dummies, Wiley wanted a conversational style too.

Real life conversations, though, have a lot of features that don’t seem to support good writing. In a conversation with friends, you might:

  • Jump around between different topics
  • Take a while to get to the point
  • Use in-jokes (where an outsider wouldn’t get the joke)
  • Use ungrammatical constructions – e.g. “Him and me went to the shops…” rather than “He and I went to the shops…”

A disjointed, rambling blog post full of references that no-one will understand and written with non-standard grammar isn’t going to be a great post.

So what do bloggers, editors and publishers mean when they ask for a “conversational style”?

They’re looking for writing that has the flavour of a real conversation without attempting to replicate it. In particular, they’re looking for writing that’s not too formal, that addresses the reader directly, that shows a light sense of humour, and that’s written in a way that’s easy to engage with.

I’m going to take you through some key ways to write in a conversational style … with concrete examples of how you can achieve each one.

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