1. Brainstorm possible titles – write down anything and everything that connects to your book idea. Get your friends to help.
  2. Look at your list and choose one
  3. Write it down at the top of a fresh piece of paper and brainstorm alternatives without referring to your first list.
  4. Style: try to create your own unique list of ‘frames’ to create titles – compare those in bookshops or Amazon.  Look for any other appropriate frames – more zingy – which will give you sales/marketing angles to suggest to your publisher. Eg 6 ways to . . ., How to . . . and stop . . . 
  5. Look at a Thesaurus – always look for the better word
  6. Test against global books in print with Google – test keywords/ test working title.



Mothers have a lot to answer for! I know. I am one. But one thing we should absolutely teach our children is how to use criticism and how to take compliments.

So, when you read out your work, make sure you choose an ‘informed audience’. Ideally, their comments  should be designed to help. And any group you choose should be working with you to produce the best pieces of writing you are capable of. Not simply damning you with faint praise – or worse!

We have ownership of our work. So  we shouldn’t defend our creative choices or argue with our fellow group member. We should take what is said on board and incorporate – or otherwise. Just as our comments on the work of others are put out there as suggestions, no more. There’s no need for a slanging match – or a sulk!

Equally, if someone is complimentary about your work, just accept the praise with grace. No need to deny or self-denigrate. But, if you habitually lack confidence, write the compliments down. They’ll hearten you in the dark night of the soul when you can’t think what happens next in your plot!

For further encouragement, see my Authorgym blog.




There will always be occasions when the writer’s nightmare stalks the corridors of the writer’s group.

Some real-life no-nos (and I’ve seen them all):

  • Don’t rewrite the plot. There’s a difference between making suggestions and proffering a version of events which you say is ‘better’ than the writer can imagine.
  • Don’t challenge areas of specialist knowledge possessed by the writer.
  • Don’t make exclamations – such as ‘Yuk!’, ‘Bloody Nora!’,  or ‘These are characters I don’t want to spend any time with.’
  • Don’t yawn.
  • Don’t sigh.

Why not indulge in these?

Well, there’s a fine line here. This unhelpful rudeness is designed to bolster the position in the group of one particular member. It is not ‘constructive’.

A writer may spend years producing a book but only half an hour on a cover letter to potential publishers and ten minutes (if that) on a title. This is a flawed strategy.

Why bother? What can a title do for you? The answer is: quite a lot. The title is the first example of your writing your potential reader experiences. And there are compelling reasons for making it compelling!

Your title will:

  • resonate with readers, encouraging them to open your book. You should treat this as an honour. Yes, seriously.
  • promise a reader an experience – from light entertainment to catharsis to the step by step acquisition of a desirable skill.

So how do you dream up a good title?

Firstly, you need to understand the theme of/idea behind your book. Then, you need to study modern trends in titles. You need to test your title’s uniqueness and how attractive the search engines will find it. You need to do all this research, then sleep on it and hope for a Eureka moment when you wake up.

More than ten minutes’ worth – that’s for sure.

When you’re writing your novel, you may feel compelled to include a prologue. Here are some things to think about before you do!

What is the Purpose of a Prologue?

I would suggest these:

  1. To explore the motivation of characters within theme of novel – choose the POV carefully
  2. To set the stage, introducing the reader to the world of the novel and its theme
  3. To enrich the story – not to be an information dump
  4. To establish the beginning of the time-line and period (if relevant)
  5. To be the hook to capture the reader’s interest.
  6. To demonstrate your style of writing and your ability to keep the reader reading.

Can you think of anything else?


Some questions to ask yourself  before writing and some cautions I’d recommend.

  1. Why bother? How would you feel if your reader skipped this to get to the real story? Or didn’t bother to proceed?
  2. Why does your story need a prologue?  What is lacking from your first chapter?  What does the reader need to know before the story begins?

Think very carefully about content before you start to write.

  1. Is the prologue a dramatic event – with a beginning, middle and end – which triggers the story/the quest? Or is the prologue a first scene? Consider structure and length, depending on which.
  2. Which characters could most effectively communicate to the reader what your story is about? What is the effect of including everyone?  Do you need any of your main protagonists – to convey the theme? Could another character convey the theme better in this scene? Avoid having too many Points of View in the Prologue.
  3. Language – this is the key to interesting the reader.  Polish until smooth as silk.
  4. Do you want the tone of your novel/prologue to be humorous? Serious? What impact do you want it to have on reader? Be consistent.

For people who live close enough to travel to the Wirral, on July 6th, I am going to hold a free taster session entitled Telling Tales – from Notebook to Novel! This heralds a new IN-PERSON peer critique and supervision group for Journaling & Creative Writing (restricted to maximum 8). Facilitated by me, this group will provide opportunities to share your writing and receive constructive criticism. There is no better way to learn about the craft!  Group membership fee thereafter will be £10 monthly. Please contact me (via email or telephone (0151 342 3877) if you would like to come along.’

Every so often, a writer would do very well to ask themselves why they put themselves through the highs and lows of the writing life? Self-exploration on this point saves time and restores confidence. So – ask yourself:

  1. Do I want to write to set the record straight?
  2. Do I want to take my revenge?
  3. Do I want to make some money?
  4. Do I want to write to show others I can?
  5. Do I want to write my way to fame?
  6. Do I want to make a difference – and I think I can through writing?
  7. Do i want to keep my brain stimulated?
  8. Do I just want a writer’s lifestyle?

Apart from a Yes/No answer, you could also grade your answers on a scale of 1 – 10. And this will indicate your writer’s values.

But another way of discovering your motivation is to ‘Cos it’ back to your fundamental purpose in taking up the pen. Here’s mine taken from my journal just after Christmas 2012.

“I want to be a writer because I am a writer because I think about it all the time because I’ve been obsessed with words and stories since I learned to read because words help me describe to myself what makes people tick. I want to do this because I’m curious about life.”

You can see where ‘Cos it’ as a name for the game comes from. And if it’s of interest, it’s a trick actors use to identify the motivation for their characters.

So what’s yours? Have a go!

Structure is one aspect of fiction writing that seems to stump beginners. One of the principal anxieties is what to leave out. Well, less is more. Pare things down to a racing chassis – including nothing unnecessary or gratuitous – and build up from there. Here’s a helpful tip – try using the Story Spine, famously devised by Ken Adams for Improvisation in the Theatre. Condense your observations of an event into:

  1. Scene setting – eg ‘Once upon a time’
  2. Trigger point – eg ‘Then one day’
  3. Development – eg ‘And then . . .
  4. Crisis – eg ‘And then . . .’
  5. Resolution – eg ‘And ever since then . . .’
  6. The Moral of the Story is . . .

And now, write on.

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