Timeline of writing

I retired from teaching in August 2014 and began writing a blog to discipline myself to churn out words at regular intervals and throw them into the world for family and friends. Some of the stages of Rhenium Tales can be found in the Tags for “Raydan” and “Rhenium Tales” on thereadinessisallletbe.blogspot.com

By January 2016 I had begun some online writing courses, poetry exercises and drafts of a play. In April 2016, with family support, I dedicated three days a week to full-time writing and began writing scenes with a boy at a watchtower guarding a bridge. By August, the online courses, poetry and drama had fallen away and I had started creating what I thought was going to be called RuntWorld, then The Akolyte Wars, then The Rhenium Wars and then, finally in December 2017, the stories became Rhenium Tales.

Between April 2016 and December 2017 I wrote the first full draft of Raydan Wakes. On the way characters were amalgamated and transformed; they vanished and asserted themselves; settings and details of the geography of Rhenium appeared in day and night dreams; set-piece events happened spontaneously in the writing process or were plotted carefully in advance. All of these things happened because I forced myself to keep going, keep writing, keep imagining. What if….? and then…. what next?

Confidence and creative breakthroughs occurred at Literature Festivals (in Bradford and Ilkley) and on holidays in Scotland. And revelations happened when I received feedback from the first reader of my very first draft (my daughter, Emily) and then from the second readers (a whole bunch of people, known and unknown) who agreed to read a (shorter, tighter) version that must have been the 5th or 6th draft.

Artist Nick Shelton (Custodian Nicolas Shelton) started producing images for the maps, for the Brands and for the characters in October 2016 – so I have had a creative partner to help imagine Rhenium and Raydan’s Tale. And in May 2018 I met Darren Spink from DESIGN2B who helped me envisage this website. The next stage is to submit the latest draft to an agent for their consideration so…. watch this space….


I approach this in the knowledge that it may be the only Acknowledgements I ever write if no one takes an interest in Raydan, his Family, his friends and the planet he lives on.

I’ve dreamt of creating a fictional world ever since my teachers at St Austin’s and St Thomas a Becket in Wakefield ignited my love of stories. Ever since I bought my first book with my own saved 2s/6d: Enid Blyton’s The Castle of Adventure (I’d previously borrowed the first book in the series, The Island of Adventure, from the school library.) Ever since neighbour Gillian Hughes encouraged me to read aloud and enjoy the sound of stories.

Ever since I was inspired by, in alphabetical order: Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, Malorie Blackman, Anne Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Suzanne Collins, John Christopher, Charles Dickens, Dave Duncan, EM Forster, Alan Garner, Sally Green, Stephen King, DH Lawrence, CS Lewis, Kerry Madden, Patrick Ness, Anne McCaffrey, Philip Pullman, Mary Renault, JK Rowling, Colm Tóibín, JRR Tolkien, Anne Tyler, Evelyn Waugh, John Wyndham. Ever since stories by the above (and the books and writings of hundreds of other writers) lit sparks that stoked my creative embers. I don’t aspire to be compared with any of the named writers. I know, though, that every character and every incident in my writing can be traced – via jackdaw pickings and peckings – to earlier incarnations of originality in the imaginations of others.

And they can all be traced back to the Myths and Legends of old: to Camelot and the Round Table, to the tales of Robin Hood, to Celtic folk tales, to Beowulf, to the Arabian Nights, to the Greek and Roman adventures, to the Norse gods and Icelandic sagas, to the Mahabharata and Ramayana, to the Kalevala, to the Bible, Chaucer and Shakespeare and to the nooks and crannies of every continent where humans sit (literally or spiritually) round a fire and listen to tales of who did what and where they did it. And what they said. And when they said it. And what they hoped. And how and why. I thank Deus for them all.

If an agent decides to champion Raydan, then I’ll have more down-to-earth acknowledgements to write but for now, I’ll say thanks to Emily, to Nick, to Darren, to Dudley, to Graeme, to Harriet, to Sally.

Advice for creative writers

• Write. Write often. Write again. Write unconsciously. Write freely. Edit later.

• From Stephen King’s On Writing: To write is human, to edit divine.

• Track your word count; set yourself word goals.

• FOCUS: type word after word.

• CONSISTENCY: keep going.

• PATIENCE: keep going always. Accept the feelings of high and low.

• BEGINNINGS, OPENINGS, STARTS – are doorways in; they are often ditched in the final cut, so don’t feel precious about starting.

• Free your subconscious; allow dreams in to your writing; use the times of day or night that suit you best; let language out.

• The Blank Page:

– Gather information/research/brainstorm – character or place
– Visualisation – focus on images or objects and describe them
– Plan a structure – sections – even paragraphs – write later bits
– Look at “Obtuse ways in”
– Show don’t tell

• Write with nouns and verbs: consider cutting everything else

– Make nouns concrete and specific (cardigan not sweater)
– Make verbs lively (strut not walk; pummel not hit.) Movement!
– Don’t philosophise suffering if instead you could present a single mother and her mentally unwell son unable to pay the rent

• Make use of your experiences: memories, senses, feelings, desires.

• Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. Details of life include the senses.

• Make use of your personal history: your imagination, observations and ideas.

• Free-write a series of “I remember….” statements and riff, letting one memory lead to another; try to be specific

– I remember the ball bouncing on Mrs Kitchen’s head on the staircase at primary school
– I remember, when I was a child, there was toy cupboard in the kitchen
– I remember, in the kitchen, the meat and pastry smell of corned beef pie

• Use a writer’s notebook:

– Keep it with you for points to remember and material to sift and synthesise
– Note down snippets of dialogue, turns of phrase, ideas
– Collect facts and fictions
– Note observations, jot down imaginary thoughts, sensory images, utterances you overhear, things you notice
– Note language that surprises or delights in fiction, non-fiction, TV, radio, film, internet, magazines, newspapers
– Stick in images, postcards, evocative photographs
– Notes about periods in recent or distant history
– Plot lines, chapter headings, encounters, insights, revelations

• When you’ve finished the first draft, set it aside and then EDIT RUTHLESSLY

• Edit critically, edit carefully, edit more than once, twice, thrice….

• Ask a critical reader to read it for you, looking for plot holes, inconsistencies, time blips, typos….

• Let time go by….

• Edit again.

• Then let it go…. submit and be damned…. and start again….