It’s common knowledge that you can’t write a book without finishing the first draft. It is also common knowledge, or it should be, that your first draft will always be crap.


And you’d think after eleven books I’d remember this. It’s been taking me forever to complete the first draft of book number twelve. It’s got great characters, it’s set in a colourful place and the story is pretty much broken. So what’s the problem?

I’ve forgotten that the first draft can be crap. Should be crap. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that if your first draft isn’t crap, you’re not doing it right. Or write.

And that’s been my problem.

It occurred me today that, despite the history I have writing, I’m trying to produce a publishable first draft. That’s just stupid.

So I think it’s useful to review Tony’s Essential Rules of Writing a First Draft.

Tony’s Essential Rules of Writing a First Draft.

  1. Spend a serious amount of time not writing, making sure you’ve figured out the story, where it ends, where it starts, what the key plot points are.
  2. Write. As frequently as possible.
  3. Continue writing until you’ve finished the story.
  4. Do not give a rat’s ass about spelling, grammar or character names while writing
  5. Aren’t you listening? Forget about the spelling.
  6. Remember Point 3. Finished the damned thing, then worry about the stuff in point 4.
  7. Remember that even JK Rowling wrote a shitty first draft.

Easy, right? Write.

23. September 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: writing · Tags:

The year is ending with a bang, writing-wise.

Into Tordon.cover.draft.25 July 2016In October (the 21st, to be exact) I and a number of co-authors will launch “Into Tordon“, a middle-grade thriller, at Balgowlah Berkelouw at 6pm. This book is the result of a collaboration with eight other authors from the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group and has been described in our first review as “… pacy, exciting read that middle-grade readers will love getting sucked into.”

I don’t disagree. It was a blast to write, and I’m sure any 10-14 year old will love it. (If they do, it’s all the fault of Zoya and Zena, the impeccable editors.)

“Into Tordon” will be released nationwide on the 1st of November. A perfect Christmas gift.

In November (date will be confirmed later) we release another collaborative effort from the good old NBWG. “A Fearsome Engine” is an anthology of short stories written by members of the group. All of the shorts are related by the theme of man interacting with machines. More details at this space (and many others) closer to the date.

And in December I’ll have the first draft of “Hot Blood” (current title, likely to change a couple of dozen times before I’m finished) ready for Beta readers. It’s a follow on from “Mac D: Private Investigator”, taking place four months after the end of that book.

If you want to be a Beta reader, leave a comment below.

Hang on there, partner!

There have been a lot of people (or one person a whole hell of a lot of times) left-clicking on the “right click this link” link below. That’s not going to get you anything but a screen full or gibberish.

Right click that link (like it says), select “Save Link as” and save it somewhere. Anywhere. Just remember where that “anywhere” is.

Then follow the rest of the directions.

Okay, then. Back to your regularly followed episode.

So if you’ve been adopting the story structure model I’ve been pushing – it’s one of many similar and equally valid models – and you use Scrivener to write your fiction (if you don’t, check it out. It’s worth it.) then have I got a deal for you.

If you right click this link and save the file in a location you can’t forget (let’s go for desktop, for now), and if you follow the steps below, you’ll have yourself a Scrivener Template that takes the story structure I’ve been writing about and “operationalises it”. (Sorry, a term from work that I can’t abide – need to get it out of my system.)

The template breaks your manuscript into thirty-six chapters over four parts. Act One, the two halves of Act Two, and Act Three. Pinch Points are highlighted as are suggested locations for the Inciting Incident and All is Lost moment. Details of what all these mean are found at my Structure page.

So, have you right-clicked and saved the link above for the template? Good.

The screenshots below are for the Mac OS version — and the template is for the latest version of Scrivener (Scrivener 2.8.0). This is the version that allows you to use Dropbox and synchronise between the Mac OS and iOS devices (running the extremely slick mobile version of Scrivener).

When you start a new Scrivener project, you’re presented with a window that allows you to select a template. Bottom left of that window is an “Options” button that allows you to import a template:


Click on the “Import Templates” link and navigate to the place you stored the template (I saved it on the desktop)


Select it and “Import”, then click on the “Fiction” category. The template with be there, and you can follow the usual steps for starting a new project – except this time with a template that contains the structure found in pretty much every successful book and movie created over the past century.


As always, leave comments if you have any questions.

If you have the PC version and want to send me some “equivalent” screenshots, I’ll update this post and give you credit. Just leave a comment below and I’ll send you an email to arrange.

27. August 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: writing · Tags:

Into Tordon.cover.draft.25 July 2016_sml Mark the 21st of October in your calendar. It’s a Friday, and on that Friday, from 6:00 to 7:30 in the evening I’ll be in Balgowlah, at the Berkelouw bookstore at Stocklands, with a bunch of fellow writers, launching “Into Tordan”.

I am one of the “T”s who make up Z.F. Kingbolt. We are an autonomous collective of authors from the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group who decided the Write-A-Book-In-A-Day exercise wasn’t enough fun and spread it over three years. Ten writers, illustrators and editors put this book together, and it is, we’ve been told, “…a pacy exciting read that middle-grade readers will love getting sucked into.” (That’s from a review by Books+Publishing.)

“Into Tordon”  follows Bethlyn and a fellow gamer Zane as they get sucked into an alternate reality – a number of alternate realities, in fact. They need to use their gaming skills against myriad foes to survive and make it back home, learning a lot about themselves, and the importance of teamwork and trust along their journey.

Most of ZF Kingbolt will be at the launch, so stop by, say hi, and pick up a book or two for your middle-grade kids/nieces/nephews/friends.

Also, we’re delighted that Susanne Gervay will be helping us launch the book. Pop by and say hi to her, too.

In an undisclosed location, somewhere on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, an incredibly talented group of writers, illustrators, editors and layout artists have just finished another year of “Write-A-Book-In-A-Day”. This is the pro-level of collaboration. Twelve hours to write and illustrate a 10,000 word YA novel, with the triggers delivered at 8:00 a.m. and the final product printed and bound by 8:00 p.m. the same day.

Help them by donating to the cause. Any little bit helps. ALL monies raised go to the Kid’s Cancer Project, and 50% of book sales for the first two years do, also.

I’ve taken part in a couple of the past year (buy them here, folks, and help us help the kids) and as a group we’ve collaborated on a non-WABIAD book that is at publishers now. “Into Tordon” is “…a pacy, exciting read that middle-grade readers will love getting sucked into.”

The cool thing about Tordon is that while it is fully collaborative, it does not read like multiple writers wrote it. Having worked with these artists in the past, I think I’ qualified to share some tips for successful collaboration.


First and absolutely foremost, you have to want to collaborate. If you go into a collaborative project not completely willing to follow the guidelines below, do your co-collaborators a favour and bow out.

Leave the EGO at the door

Every collaborative effort I’ve been a part of has produced something that none of us would have , or could have, come up with on our own. And there are elements in each one that are unique to each person. There are also brilliant ideas that never left the room, at least not in any of the books we’ve created.

If an idea, no matter how brilliant you think it is, doesn’t work, take note of it for another time. Don’t try forcing it. It’ll stick out later.

Do the groundwork first

This is no time for pantsing. With multiple writers it’s essential to plot your story to enough detail to let each writer know what their “assignment” is. Basically, break your story into as many sections as there are writers. Agree what the out from the previous chapter is and what the in is for yours. Then agree how your section ends and the next one starts.

Agree on the character arc, and what part of that arc you section aligns with. Agree on physical characteristics of the main characters. Gender, hair and eye colour, special skills and If there are injuries to characters, agree on what happens to who, and when. Same goes for damage to props (cars, houses, etc.) and clothing.

Finally (and while this may seem obvious, believe me when I tell you it’s not) agree on the voice; First Person, Third Person Close, Third Person Omniscient — which ever it is, stick to it.

Stick to a schedule

CRITICALLY important in the WABIAD efforts, and almost as critical for any other collaboration. When you only have twelve hours to put something together, you need an iron fist to keep things moving. Get the plotting and character mapping out of the way in two hours. Write for two. Review, edit, and read through again, and leave three hours for “voice”. (I’ll get to that in a minute.)

When it’s a non-WABIAD effort (like Into Tordon is), the temptation is to forget about the schedule. After all, you’re no longer shackled to twelve hours. That would be a big mistake.

We took a day and plotted. Spent much more time detailing the arc, the critical clues, the character development, the twists and call backs — enough groundwork to put together a cracking good tale. We also agreed when we’d put our individual pieces together for our first read through. Which leads to:

Edit ruthlessly

The odds of a smooth first read-through are extremely low. The parts where one writer’s section ends and another starts will be lumpy. You might have the main character doing something at the end of your section, and the next section has the same action. Take one out. It doesn’t matter which one goes, so leave the one in that reads better. See point one about ego.

After a first complete readthrough identify scenes that don’t progress the story and kill them off. If it’s one of your scenes, see point one.

Agree the voice

I don’t mean POV. I’m assuming that you’ve all written in Third Person whatever, but each section will read like it’s written by a different person. Naturally.

One writer needs to take the manuscript from page one to page end and re-write it with a consistent voice. In the WABIAD work, this took the largest amount of time. But it is the most critical step in the process. And when it’s done well, your writing will disappear.

I *know* which chapters I wrote in Into Tordon, but when I read them, I don’t recognise my writing. And that’s a good thing. The voice is the voice of the final editor, as it should be. And if you don’t like it, don’t start the process, because the book isn’t finished until that step is completed.

Eat the EGO

It bears repeating. A collaborative piece of art only works if everybody approaches it with the intent to collaborate. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Leave the ego at the door and enjoy the process. You will end up producing something none of you could have created on your own.

Now, since I stuck that earworm in your head, here you are.


03. July 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: writing · Tags:

swlogoSmashwords is having its annual Summer/Winter sale (not to be confused with the winter/summer sale which occurs in six months)

All of my books are reduced on Smashwords. The two Eamonn Shute shorts are free (but they’ve always been free) and the first book of three series — Book ‘Em, G’Day LA and Matt’s War — are free. The remaining books are 75% off.

I don’t make enough money from my books to host a really decent pizza party, so it’s not your ca$h I’m looking for (obviously).

What I am looking for is for you, the reader/consumer, to take a few minutes after you’ve read one or more of my books, to leave a review. An honest one. If you didn’t like it/them after you’ve read it, let me and others know. If you did like it/them, please, please go to the Amazon, iBooks and Smashwords links and leave a review. You only need to write one per book, then copy/paste at the other sites. Reviews are my currency, for now.

Please enjoy the reads. I certainly enjoyed the writes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to see if I can get a large pepperoni with extra cheese with three 4-star reviews, or if I’ll need two 10s and a 2.

15. May 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: writing · Tags: ,

Mac D Hot Summer v1(400x600)I’m writing book number twelve right now, second in the Mac D: PI Series. It’s called “Hot Summer”. It’ll be released in August of this year (2016) and follows Mac as he helps a friend’s daughter who has been wrongly accused (or was she?) of murdering an ex-cop and all-around slime-ball.

Mac is an ex-cop turned Private Investigator living on the Central Coast of NSW in a fictitious town somewhere between Gosford and Newcastle. Maybe a bit north of Wyee. Budgewoi Beach is his local beach. This book follows on about four months after the conclusion of the first book in the Mac D series, Mac D: Private Investigator. His ribs are mostly healed, ex-cop Jackson is out of jail and Jessie is back from an extended break in Brisbane. All the right ingredients for a shit-storm.

And because I love all my readers, I’m leaving Chapter One here for your reading pleasure. Let me know what you think.

02. April 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: writing · Tags:

warriewoodbeachIs there anything so annoyingly crippling as self-doubt? While it sits in your skull, eroding every sense of self-worth you may have ever had, it’s in total control.

But you know that tomorrow, or later today, maybe even in two minutes, it’s be gone, you’ll be sitting on top of the world and firmly convinced you’re the best at whatever it is you want to be the best at.

It’s weird.

Fortunately, I’m in a career (two, actually, if you include the bill-paying job) where I can stifle the self-doubt, smothering the monster so nobody can really notice. Unless they’re close and really know you. Can’t hide anything from them.

In some endeavours, though, success depends entirely on not having the self-doubt monster. Actually, not, not having it, but being able to ignore it. Everybody experiences self-doubt.

If I’m writing and I experience the wave of “you fucking suck and couldn’t write a parking ticket if your life depended on it”, my performance on the day, or lack of it, isn’t readily noticeable to anyone.

But if I’m on a football field, or a baseball diamond, or performing in front of a packed auditorium, and the self-doubt monster parks himself in my head, makes himself comfortable with a beer and a bag of Doritos, I’m fucked. Yet athletes and musicians and actors manage to overcome this every day.

And if I can figure out how they do it, I think it can only help my output.

And if I’m honest, it (the SD monster) doesn’t visit that often any more. Not when I’m writing. I’ve written enough that I know SD a fleeting thing. But it still pops up once in a while. And on days when the SD monster has brought friends to cheer him on, it takes a bit to remind myself that it isn’t a long visit, just an annoying one. Like when the in-laws pop over. They will go away. Eventually.

But how does the soccer player, having just made a defensive error allowing a goal, or skies a shot on goal, missing the sitter that would win the game, how do they continue at a high level for the remainder of the game. Is there a special level of self-delusion at play? Are you pretending you’re someone else completely who doesn’t dwell on these kinds of things?

Do I need to pretend to be {insert favourite author here} to keep pushing through?

If you’re in a performance related career (sports, the arts), how do you handle, on the fly, the arrival of the SD monster?

14. January 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: writing · Tags:

So which one do you think works best?

This one:


That one:


Or the other one:




In the Matt and George universe I’m sitting on two very different story ideas.

One of them keeps Matt, George, Catherine and Eun Bin in Australia for further adventures. The story continues on after the climax of Target: Australia. It’s a big country and there’s plenty of trouble still to throw them in.

The other is an origin story — How Matt became the owner of DWC, how he met George, and how a trip through South-East Asia almost killed him. No terrorists in this one, just fraud, money laundering and some people who really do like it when he tries to stop them defrauding the company of millions of dollars.

So the question is, which one do I write first? I’m definitely going to do both.

Any preference?