All posts by Nick Travers

Edit to Improve Your Writing

Writing Voice

So I was asked by a reader recently how editing makes you a better writers.  I need to break this down into three areas: the skill/craft of writing, creativity, improvement techniques.

The Skill/Craft of writing

Editing, improving, and re-writing are all skills I have had to learn. As a person with mild dyslexia, spelling is a real problem for me. Also, in common with most people, I find it very difficult to spot my own errors. Becoming aware of these issues is the first step in over coming them.Image result for writing better

As a writer, you develop ways/processes to mitigate the errors in your writing: You learn to edit, to proof read, to spell check. Technology is a huge help in this regard. However, you also need to accept that if you are serious about writing, the skills and opinions of others are also useful tools that can be employed in creating a better product.


Image result for free flow writingI have learned that to truly and freely create, I need, to a large extent, to ignore spelling and grammar. In particular, I need to ensure that considerations about spelling, grammar, story structure, dialogue etc, do not get in the way of the creative process. My first draft is never going to be accessible to others so why worry about these things.

All, errors, correction, alterations, amendments and additions or deletions will be taken care of in the different rounds of the editing process. One key lesson I have learned is this: there is nothing that cannot be re-written or re-worded at stage in the editing process. Very few sentences, or even thought, from my original first draft will make it through to the final edit without being re-written, re-worded, or re-structured at least twice.

Improvement techniques

Related imageI find the best way to improve my own writing/editing/crafting/story writing skills is to constructively comment on other people’s writing: at it’s simplest, three things I liked about your writing; three things I might have done differently.

A platform such as Wattpad or another writing platform, where people are actively looking for suggestions and feedback, and who are prepared to feedback on your own writing would, be more accommodating and conducive to the improvement of your writing/editing skills.

I find it amazing, just how much I learn about my own writing, simply by providing positive feedback on other people’s writing.

Hope this helps,


Vary your Sentence/Paragraph Openers

Image result for he she I weDo you ever find that the majority of your sentences/paragraphs start with He/She, I, We, They etc?

If you are writing fiction, you will need to mix up the sentences a bit or risk your readers becoming bored.

On your first draft, don’t worry about it.

When you start to line edit, try to switch round the different elements of the sentence. Remeber:

  • Each sentence should only contain one thought.
  • The last section of each sentence should always be the thing you most want to emphasise.
  • The last sentence of each paragraph should always be the main point of the whole paragraph.
  • Never end with a pre-proposition, technically it is not wrong, but stylistically it just looks unprofessional – unless, of course, you are doing dialogue, where ending in a pre-proposition may add an element of realism.
  • If a sentence does not work (feels clunky) switch the end to the start or the middle to the start and reword.
  • Alternate names with he/she/we etc.
  • Never use etc in fiction.

Hope this helps,


5 Minute Freewrites

You may have notices, I’ve discovered a new addiction, I mean passion: the five-minute freewrite.

The five-minute freewrite is exactly what I need to help me develop my storytelling muscles/technique. I am not a literary writer, I have no qualms about this. To sell enough stories to make money, Indie authors must continually hook in their readers. Every chapter, every story, every novel must end with a cliffhangers big reveals. As a self-published Indie author, I am a writer of pulp fiction; a writer of Penny Dreadfuls.

Netflix are the modern masters of the Penny Dreadful. Watch their ‘Netflix Own’ series and you quickly realize the episode plots are all devised with one aim in mind: to keep you binge-watching the series.

The idea of the 5 Minute Freewrite, is to spend five minutes writing non-stop to see what you produce, freeing the brain from the shackles of the dreaded editor and making writer’s block a thing of the past. A most noble aim.

In my case, the editor appears to have greater control than ever. Using the writing prompt, I knock stories around in my head for a few hours, while going about my daily business. When I find an intriguing idea, I jot it down. Later, I spent five minutes on creating a story structure, then five minutes writing the story, and a further five minutes editing the story.

I am using a simplified story arc for these five minute writes:

  • Stasis
  • Quest
  • Complication
  • Action/Choice
  • Climax
  • Twist/Reveal


With this simple structure I can construct a five-minute entertaining and intriguing story that will hopefully delight.

Using this five-plus-five-plus-five-minute technique I can hopefully write good rounded stories, which is my main aim. I’m not expecting to win any freewrite prizes, as I’m not entirely sure I’m entering into the spirit of the five-minute freewrite in its entirety, but it is what I need at the moment to grow as a storyteller.



This piece of writing first appeared as part of the ‘5Minute Freewrite’ on Steemit.

Why don’t you give it a go.  Let me know how you get on in the comments.  Better still, join in the fun on Steemit.


Reality is a Palimpsest – A 5 Minute Writing Challenge

Reality is a palimpsest

Image result for branes

Reality is a palimpsest. I could just leave it there and let you ponder that inspiring statement, but this is a five minute free write, so I must go on and explain what I mean.

Reality is a quantum superposition, at least it acts like one: it could be anywhere until it is experience (measured) by me, then it crystalizes into the reality I know. But it is only my reality, as experienced by me. Others have their own perspective of reality which is unique to them.

However, as soon as your reality solidifies, it is overwritten by a new reality; the merest act of creating a reality creates a new one. So, as reality is constantly over written, but a portion of all your previous realities are also present, reality it is a palimpsest in the truest sense.

Reality could also be a brane, this dawned on me whilst watching my daughter play with slime, which she stretched up into a sort of thin skin. One string theory interpretation of the multiverse, is that each universe is a brane, like a skin, which is why they can all coexist in the same space. The idea is that each time different branes touch, a new universe is created.

It occurred to me that realities might be like that too – each person’s personal reality is a single brane, and where different peoples’ lives cross each other, that is where their branes touch.

So reality is a palimpsest brane.


That is the end of the free write, based on the word ‘palimpsest’ as a prompt (you may have to look it up – I did).  Not a story this time, but an idea for a story world. Okay, so it is all complete nonsense – what sci-fi writers would call rubber science – but it sound good doesn’t it.  One day, I will write a sci-fi series using these ideas of reality.  I have never heard of the word palimpsest until today, but it seems to fit this idea really well, so thank you for introducing me to this new word and concept.

A 5 Minute Writing challenge is just that – what can you write on a given topic in five minutes of free writing.  I tend to limit myself to only five minutes to plan the story, five minutes to write the story, and five minutes to lightly edit.

This piece of writing first appeared as part of the ‘5Minute Freewrite’ on Steemit.

Why don’t you give it a go.  Let me know how you get on in the comments.  Better still, join in the fun on Steemit.

Cigarette – A 5 Minute Writing Challenge


Image result for cigar cowboy quickdraw

Match flames to life, lighting the cigarette.

Sure the rolled weed is aflame, beard places it gently on top of a wooden post.  Then strides clear, to where he can see both the lit cigarette and the other.

All eyes stare, unblinking, at the soft curl of grey smoke, silently swirling and rising in the noon-day sun.  Hands tensed, fingers twitching, shoulders shaken lose.

A bead of sweat cuts through the grime of a shaven face.

Ash, exposed by the burned paper, clings together, and droops.

Quick breaths, staring eyes, a beard wafting in the gentle breeze.  Eyes flick briefly to clean-face, then back to the cigarette.

The column of ash extends and sags. Is it going?

Why wait?  Why not do it now?  No one would know.  But like knights of old, honour demands the cigarette be obeyed.  The strained wait continues.

Fingers twitch, muscles tense, sweat runs, stinging eyes stare.  The dead ash clings on.

Then drops.

Before windblown tumbling ash splashes into parched ground, both lie bleeding in the dirt: the cigarette their only witness.

Eye-ee-eye-ee-eye, oh-wow-wow,

eye-ee-eye-ee-eye oh-wow-weee.



A 5 Minute Writing challenge is just that – what can you write on a given topic in five minutes of free writing.  I tend to limit myself to only five minutes to plan the story, five minutes to write the story, and five minutes to lightly edit.

This piece of writing first appeared as part of the ‘5Minute Freewrite’ on Steemit.

Why don’t you give it a go.  Let me know how you get on in the comments.  Better still, join in the fun on Steemit.

Hard Boiled Minds – A 5 Minute Writing Challenge

Hard Boiled Minds

Harsh unrelenting sun beat down; hot enough to hardboil brains.

Gazed out to the blue horizon, ripples caught on an azure sea. A hermit crab scuttling across the white sand. Paradise.

Today, however, was not like other days. Today, something was wrong: a rumbling in the stomach, a stretching, pulsating, pressure. Something was about to erupt.

Then something poked, from the inside.

‘Ouch. Oww.’

And stabbed. ‘Stop that!’

But the stabbing persisted, like a monster about to erupt from a stomach in one of those horror movies.

Then it snapped.


No more feeling in the lower half.

Something wet and downy peered with a bright eye. The something pushed and shoved until the egg shell rolled out.

The newly hatched chick stared in the hard sunlight. If it had known what a mind was, it would have known the day was hot enough to hardboil one.


A 5 Minute Writing challenge is just that – what can you write on a given topic in five minutes of free writing.  I tend to limit myself to only five minutes to plan the story, five minutes to write the story, and five minutes to lightly edit.

This piece of writing first appeared as part of the ‘5Minute Freewrite’ on Steemit.

Why don’t you give it a go.  Let me know how you get on in the comments.  Better still, join in the fun on Steemit.


Is a Novel always Fiction?


Is a Novel always Fiction?  Curiously, not necessarily.

To discover if a novel is always fiction, it will be helpful to address a different question, “Is a novel the same as a story?” Stay with me on this, because it will help you understand my answer when I come back to the original question.

  • Is a novel the same as a story? No. A novel is a story telling convention – an accepted (expected) way of presenting a long form story. These are the elements of a novel that any novelist must address:
  • Plot development – the way a plot develops, using one or more story arcs.
  • Story beats – plot developments that are unique to the novelist’s chosen genre (type of story). These will sit on the story arc(s).
  • Reveals – plot points and/or story beats that show how the story/character(s) is developing, or information that answers a question intrinsic to the plot, or information that sends the plot in a new direction. These also sit on the story arc(s).
  • Character development – How something about the main protagonist and/or antagonist, and possibly other characters too, develops from the beginning to the end of the novel. These are reveals that sit on the story arc.
  • Sub plots – additional smaller plots, woven round the main plot, that involve supporting characters or themes, these may mirror, highlight complement, or contrast the main plot. Sub plots may or many not interact with the main plot. they will have their own story beats and reveals.
  • Theme – an over arching idea/subject/focus/symbolism of the novel. Sometimes a theme develops despite or in-spite of the author’s intentions/design.

Now back to your original question, “Is a novel always fiction?” No.

Here’s why, because, some or all of the story telling conventions that are used in a novel, can also be used (I would argue should be used) in constructing an interesting non-fiction book too, particularly a biography or autobiography.

This is one reason why some autobiographies about people we have never heard of are absolutely fascinating and why some about celebrities are as dull as mud: the non-celebrity knows what theme/message/argument/development they wish to communicate and uses novel writing techniques to achieve their aim. The result is a non-fiction book that is compelling, entertaining, and readable – technically a novel, but not fiction.


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How much does it cost to self-publish?

tumblr_mb2dgmhcxx1r9isqgSo you have written a novel and you decide to give self-publishing, or Indie-publishing, a go.  Is it worth it and how much does it cost?

In addition to writing a good story, that is well written, how much you spend on self publishing a novel depends on a few factors:


  1. What quality of product you want to produce.
  2. What you are capable/skilled at doing yourself.
  3. How much time you have/allow yourself.
  4. How much money you are prepared to spend.
  5. How much money you want to make.

These factors are no different to any other business setting up for the first time, because unless you are writing purely as a hobby, Indie-publishing is a business.

If you want to create a really good product, you may need to employ editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and someone to format an ebook.

If you are able to do some of these things yourself, or can learn how to do them, you will save money. For my own books, I learned how to do basic cover design, formatting, website design, and produce a cinemagraphic book trailer — it took quite a time and some practice.

The more time you have available to do things yourself the less you will need to pay Image result for book bindingsomeone else to do it for you. Trading your skills for someone else’s skills also helps reduce the cost, but you do have to take time to build relationships. Having a website you can use for low level social marketing and to build yourself a platform/audience/email list (like I am doing here) is well worth the effort in the long run, but does take time.

Points 4 and 5 are very much tied together. I consider my book publishing to be a business, therefore, I only spend what I can earn from publishing. For my latest book, ‘Gaia’s brood’ I employed a copy editor/proof reader — the £100 I spent on this has paid for itself.

Some, like Derek Murphy, would argue that the more you spend in online advertising, the more sales you will make so the more you will earn. I take the view that you need at least a trilogy of novels, and a marketing funnel, before it is worth spending any serious money on marketing.

How Much to Spend?Image result for investment

  • You can spend no money on the production of your novel, put it on Amazon for free, and spend nothing on marketing. Unless you have written a masterpiece or something that catches the mood of the day, you will probably not make any money.
  • You can spend a modest amount on the the production of your novel, put it on Amazon for free, and spend a modest amount on marketing. And you might make a modest profit, unless of course you are very lucky.
  • You could spend a lot on production, self-publishing, websites, and marketing, and make no profit, or even make a loss.

Image result for pie chartWhat you have to do, is decide in advance how much money you want/can afford to invest in your writing business.

Then decide how much you want to spend on production of your product(the novel) and how much you want to spend on advertising.


What does success look like?

To know what success looks like, you have to measure it. What measure looks like success to you?

  • The number of fans/followers you gain?
  • The amount of profit you make?
  • The number of units to sell?
  • Hitting the number one spot on your chosen best seller list?
  • The number of awards your your writing wins?

All these are worthy aims and legitimate signs of success for your novel.

When will success happen?

Next, decide on a timescale for making a return on your investment: one year, three years, five years, ten years?

Finally, decide when you want to spend the money on marketing. Whilst Indie-publishing does free one from the gate keepers of agents and publishing companies, it also, for most people, turns publishing into a commodity business — the more products you have to offer, the more sales you are likely to make and the more followers/fans you are likely to attract. This means you have to publish novels frequently and consistently.

Related image

I would recommend you have at least three novels published on Amazon before you put any serious time and money into marketing.


The marketing plan

Authors are notoriously shy of writing marketing plans, many refuse to think of their writing as a business, or somehow think their ‘art’ will be tainted by money considerations.

Here’s the good news: You have just written a marketing plan. This article has just taken you through all the basic stages you need for a marketing plan. That is is – simples.

Hope this helps.


Planning a Book Series

Image result for book seriesWriting, above all, is a passion, but it if you want to make both a success and money, it is also a business, and if you are an indie author, you will need a book series or two to to create that all important marketing funnel.

Your first steps are to find a subject, story, character, and story world you want to bring to life – you may be living with these for some years.

I would suggest starting by developing both a hero and a villain character you want to place in a story world. Next you need to find an audience: no audience = no sales = no business – that means selecting a genre.

Next, do some research to find out what is popular in that genre. However, don’t try to second guess the market, because it is impossible – by the time you have completed three books in the series the market will have moved in a different direction, so you really do need to write about characters you love.

If you’ve created good protagonist and antagonist characters for a series, you will need an over arching story arc that can sustain the conflict between them for whole series (at least three books). However, you will also need individual story arcs for each book in the series which include character developments.

Make your protagonist too perfect and you will run out of character development in your first instalment, leaving you no where to go in subsequent books. It helps if you protagonist’s character flaws mean they make enemies and damage/hurt other characters along the way who can come back at them in later stories and create incidents which have consequences further down the overarching story arc.

You will also need supporting characters, some of whom might not make it to the next book, so you will need new characters to join later in the series to add interest.

You may well find that you have a few false starts, where you starts series, get one or two books in, before abandoning the series and trying again with another idea/character. Though, I would recommend, if you find a good protagonist/antagonist, to carry them across to a new setting/story and persevere with them (even with a different name). Also, if you find you have created a good side/supporting character in a series you abandon, try making them the central character in the next series.

By now you are probably thinking, “This sounds like a lot of work.” You are right, it is one hell of a lot of work.

There is an easier way, but it requires patience and discipline (I wish I had done this):

  • Put you plans for and epic series on hold.
  • Write yourself some novellas with different characters, different ideas, different settings, possibly different genres.
  • When you find something your readers like, which has the potential to be expanded into a longer series, turn all your attention to developing that into a series.

You will have the marketing benefit of a novella you can offer for free, to draw readers into your marketing funnel or present to a publisher. You will also have the gained plenty of practice in developing story arcs and developing characters, which will really help you develop your epic series.

Good luck,


Financial Systems in World Building

Related imageThe concept of using a novel financial system is not flawed, but I should hope the financial system is, because that gives you plenty of scope to create your story. Most systems are flawed to a greater or lesser degree, and if they are not, humans will soon find a way to corrupt them. Really interesting to see how your aliens view/value/manage a human financial system.

In scifi or fantasy or scifi/fantasy, you can generally get away with one big fictitious element. So currency as an idea doesn’t actually have to work, as long as everyone in the novel believes it works (I’m not actually sure, in this case, how that differs from the real-world money markets or the 2007/8 financial crash, but let’s not go there for the moment). So in a novel about airships, the fictitious idea is that airships actually work as a general means of transport.

Once your readers have accepted that one big fictitious idea, everything else needs to be workable.

Whilst the financial system is not the story, the pros and cons, or advantages and disadvantages/injustices of the system will drive how your characters react, what they value, and the choices they make.

One of my favourite films is the brilliant, In Time, with Justin Timberlake, there the currency is ‘seconds-of-remaining-life.’   In this story, the length of your life is literally linked to what you earn and spend. Whilst the story is not about the financial system itself, it still controls every action/decision of every character, literally down to the last second.