Look Before You Write!


Rejection, rejection, rejection…


Why, why, why?

Easy – you didn’t look backwards, and you didn’t look closely enough, didn’t stare until your brain throbbed, didn’t ASK ENOUGH QUESTIONS.

Let’s get serious for a few hundred moments and talk about the craft of good writing.

Good writing needs a soul.

Call it planning, call it exploring, call it good writing, call it being clever, call it all of those things, because that’s what it is.

Writing is the most human thing as close to human as there can be.

Poor writing is the outspilling of subconscious regurgitated crudely by cognisant and supposedly mindful consciousness.

Good writing is the ability to tell your cognisant self to shut the hell up while you go and look backwards and have a good stare.

Think before you speak, they teach us. Well, they should also teach us to think before we write, (not to mention `think before we read` but that’s another blog).

`I lost the plot`

`I didn’t do a plan`

`I don’t have a synopsis`

Sound familiar?

The most common rejection notes:

`Your story, although well-written, didn’t quite hook me`

`Your story didn’t quite get me going, and I therefore don’t feel I would be the best to represent you`

`Although your novel started well, I feel the story started to wander off by chapter 13`

`I did enjoy the writing, and the character of Edward is certainly engaging, but the storyline is weak, needs purpose and originality`

`We found the elements of plot cliché`

`This story has been told before`

`this is downright plagiarism`

Okay so I made a few up, but you get my point?

So where do 95% of writers go wrong?


Or more precisely the lack of.

They don’t understand how to get the best from their own mind.


Call it the muse – because that’s easy to picture.

But don’t go confusing the muse with some deep and exalting all-knowing demi-god who, if you catch him on a good day, is going to come and do your dishes for you and tell you the secret of the universe.

(it’s 42 by the way)

So, there endeth the lesson. Understand your subconscious for what it is, stare at it intently until it can cough no more. And understand your conscious for what it isn’t, and you’ll do just fine.

`Wait!` I hear you shriek, `I really can’t work that way`

And `Oh, I can’t write that way – it’s just not me`

And `Not for me. I let my characters find their own direction`

Well, that’s why your book is rubbish.

That’s why you will get rejected.

Flying by the seat of your pants seldom, rarely, hardly ever, once in a blue moon, works.

Flying by the seat of your pants should be conducted at the beginning, the creation, where it can be halted, tweaked, and put on the right path, NOT when actually writing your novel.

Let’s get one thing straight… I understand you, I understand what you’re saying, but writing by the flying seat of one’s bloomers is easy peasy. Good writing, good storytelling, is not.

If you wish to stand at the river (d’nile) and continue to bleat that planning is not your bag, that your characters must do the walking and talking, that flying by the seat of your pants is the only way for you, then you are excused.

If you’re still here, let’s take a look at how to hook your reader and make your story a great one.


`I can’t`

Shut up and listen

Good writing is difficult to achieve; be that a letter, a document, a blog post, a short story, a poem, a piece of graffiti, or even a full-blown novel.

We’ve all been there, staring at the blank page, wondering how this thing that was at first a piece of genius will ever get finished/get moving/get over the plot hole, etc.

Truth is, you shouldn’t have started in the first place… at least not writing the bloody thing.


The idea sparkles. You see a character, maybe another. The story idea excites you. What if? What if? What if?

And so, you might assign a title, character names, choose a setting, and get down to writing.

`It’s my only way`

`My characters lead the way`

`My characters are acting odd`

`Ohh, I never expected that to happen`

And then you type: THE END

And watch those `standard` rejections drop in your inbox.

`Your story, although well-written, didn’t quite hook me`

`Your story didn’t quite get me going, and I therefore don’t feel I would be the best to represent you`

`Although your novel started well, I feel the story started to wander off by chapter 13`

And so on.

`Standard` because so many make the same mistake.

So what did you do wrong?

You submitted your plan. That’s what.

`But it took me a year to write that`

Yes it did.

But you spent far too much time poring over the conscious detail, and failed to look at the bigger, deeper picture:


You failed to capitalise on the strengths of your subconscious

You failed to examine those relevant details

You failed to STARE

You stood at the river and ignored the niggling doubts that are plot holes, cliché, and downright plagiarism

You stood at the river, convinced that enough was enough

Be it a letter, a document, a blog post, a short, a flash or a novel, if you want it to be great, if you want it to work: STARE and PLAN!

Imagine a beginning

Now imagine one or more possible endings

Be satisfied that the beginning and the possible ending is not clichéd, plagiarised, or dull-as-muck slush

Now, in your mind, fill in some middle scenes to get your story from A to Z

Does every scene entice?

Does it?


Really, really, really?

Be totally satisfied

Don’t kid yourself

Be hard on yourself

Be disciplined

STARE at it!

Realise that this possible novel idea is just that – novel – that this work WILL be original, exciting, and WILL have readers begging for more

Get to this stage and you a rare bird indeed

No open up that fresh-shiny-new blank doc

Title it: “private, and not ever in a million years for publication, no sir, no siree

This will become your blueprint, scene run, storyboard, road map, skeleton, all of those things.

This is a precious document

Keep it safe, respect it, but above all use it and abuse it, stare at it, work backwards, mould it to the greatest thing it can be

Start writing

Let the story ideas flow

Opening scene – bingo!

Next scene – bingo!

Next scene – bingo!

And on

Write this `plan` in rough, shorthand, acronyms, contractions and scribbles and add notes and create new sections for characters, places, props, research and so on and make sure you are having the most gut-chuckling fun you ever can have while doing so.

Play your muse

Go one step further and conjure up another muse

And maybe even another

Build your creation

Don’t watch it grow – MAKE it grow.

When you’ve found your next scene jot it down.

Dissect it, question it, question it, question it, ask your muse how many directions this scene could take, ask him, go on. Examine the answers, working backwards from the ending to see if you might have the best possible way upon which to reach the desired conclusion.

Stare at it in wonder and the more you stare the more answers and ideas will come.

With practice, the muse becomes more giving. The more you poke him the more he’ll cough. The more you question, the cleverer he will become and so the act of planning, creating that rough-written skeleton becomes easier, too.

Write fast, let it flow, but always question it, always look for BETTER ways from new angles.

Fill in those scenes with the end goal in mind

Along the way you will find plot holes to fill

Fill them… there’s ALWAYS a way

You will uncover the most brilliant gems

Use them to mould your story into something beautiful, something that WILL hook that reader/agent/publisher.

This is the Art, the Craft

When the scene run/storyboard/road map/skeleton is complete, leave it alone for a week or two.

When you go back to it, start at the beginning, examining the detail, working backwards from your knowledge of the current `end scene`, working backwards and inserting new-found gems, moulding the content to make it sharper, fresher, original.

And keep on going, always on the lookout for plot holes and gems, always convincing yourself that reader will be satisfied, hooked.

Keep on going until skeleton version 2 is complete.

Then put it away for a week or two.


And repeat

And repeat

Until you feel you have got something WORTH putting into actual written form

If you really, really do feel that your skeleton is worth jangling in peoples faces; really feel that you have something original, something that no reader, and possibly even a publisher might resist, then now is the time to start writing the actual novel.

Now is the time to rattle off the first few chapters and bother your peers

No earlier than this

Not until you’re truly satisfied that you really might have something

Ask your peers for steers

Take them, use them

Get the writing down in the engaging fashion you are capable of and get flesh on the skeleton scenes

Keep on going ‘til  


Then leave it a month or two

Let it stew

Now it’s time for the first edit

Examine your fleshy skeleton with fresh eyes

Imagine yourself as a sculptor, fine-tuning

Or an artist tweaking his brush

Tidy the writing

Trim the fluff

Keep the storyline on a buoyant, undulating wave but never so distant that it might vanish from sight

Uncover new gems

Pat down the holes

Use, insert, tweak




Now what have you got?

An engaging, original story, hopefully.

Here’s the important parts again, just in case you missed them.

Good writing is hard – get over it.


Rough out the first scene

Rough out the last

Fill in the middle bit


Fiddle – and every time you fiddle: WORK BACKWARDS, constantly questioning, constantly staring and creating better




Allow peers to steer

Fiddle again


And now, and only now, using your skill as the brilliant writer that you are, use your rough-written run of scenes and write the thing into the blank pages and watch your novel take its written form

Peers steer





Et Voilà


This is good, enjoyable creation




My editing services:  http://www.johnhudspith.co.uk/5.html

Buy Kimi’s Secret for PC or Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005ZCQ91W

But Kimi’s Secret paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kimis-Secret-John-Hudspith/dp/1908603755/ref=tmm_pap_title_0





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