Some thoughts on paid editing and cover design

Be realistic about what you spend on editing and cover design. Especially if you don’t have a lot of money to burn on these sorts of things and you’re new to writing.

Sure, it might take you a lot longer to edit if you’re doing it yourself, and you probably won’t get the benefit of a second perspective, but in the process you can come away with some wisdom that will help you in the future, even if you decide to work with an editor.

As far as cover design goes, yes a professional artist would make a better book cover, but we’re living in an age where more and more people have had exposure to some kind of painting program. Here are some points to consider if you would like to make your own:

  1. The cover has to look good (lettering should be clear) when zoomed right down. This means there needs to be some contrast between the background and the lettering, and the background should not rely too heavily on fine details.
  2. Know the resolution you need for the finished cover.
  3. Keep the different elements on separate layers. This makes it easier to try different things and make changes.
  4. Truetype lettering is easy to create, but is almost immediately recognisable. It’s a good starting point but turning the text into paths allows you to manipulate the form of those letters to whatever you would like. You can also create a selection from a path, allowing you to affect only certain parts of the image.
  5. Use guides or rulers to help with layout. There’s nothing worse than spending hours on a design and then realising that things are noticeably off-centre or too close to the edge of the cover.
  6. Use Save As instead of Save when you want to go in a different direction with the cover but have the option to revert to your previous work. If you have multiple candidate images for the cover that you want to assess, export them all and slideshow through them.
  7. Just like with writing or editing, expect the process to take a few iterations before you’re happy with it. 🙂

I’m not writing this to disparage the efforts of editors and cover designers. I’m sure that they do good work. However, if you don’t have a lot of money to start with, paying for an editor and a cover is one hell of a gamble.

If you’re looking for a cheaper way to improve your book, buy something nice at the shops, or travel somewhere nice to treat yourself. Even just taking a walk can help you come up with game-changing ideas.

Nope, definitely not an escort mission

Here’s an excerpt from tonight’s labours. There’s no spoilers. Enjoy! 🙂

During their last adventure the two of them discovered a sorcerer locked in one of the cells of the villain’s castle. He’d been tortured to the point of insanity, and was restrained and gagged. They released him, he thanked them profusely for freeing him, and then promptly dashed upstairs and cut a swathe of revenge through the castle, powerful magics tearing through anyone or anything which stood in his path.


With the walls collapsing to rocks and dust around the madman, Caroline and Rhona ran for the main gate, fighting through the courtyard and stealing some horses. They made it far enough to clear the blast radius of a huge magical explosion. When they looked back, all they could see were the ruins of the bottom of the castle.


“That was a strange ending,” Rhona said, recalling the experience, “but I like being surprised by what other characters do. And I love seeing your expression when they don’t do as you expected.”


“Of course you do.”

It’s that time again!

I’m getting ready for another round of editing.

So for example, I’m going to back up the story as I go, so that if I don’t like my edits I can go back. And, I’ve already made a bunch of notes about what I want to change and where.

As usual, with my backwards editing process, I’m not simply taking things out, I’m also adding things which need to be there. So there’s going to be some extra writing to do. And like I already said, if I don’t like where things go, I can always revert to the backup.

Something else I thought I should mention while this is going on. I’m probably going to start limiting how much free content is available here on the site. The reason for this is that there’s really not much incentive for someone to buy a book when they can just read it all for free. Maybe other writers can give away free books, and maybe that works for them. I haven’t had many comments about the things I’ve been working on, so maybe keeping most of it under wraps will give me that mysterious edge I’m lacking. “Read it and see,” or something like that. 🙂

This round of edits will ideally get the stories up to an excellent standard. I’ll still need to get someone to read them, but I’ll hold off until I’m a bit closer to finishing. One of the main complaints that I’ve had in the past from prospective readers (and that I totally understand) is that the stories aren’t finished. Yes, there’s a few good chunks of content, and there’s also nothing joining them up.

So I’m going to try and spend a bit more time on the writing instead of this once a week thing in the wee hours of Sunday morning.


Martin July 15, 15:35 GMT+0000

Doing a bit of spring cleaning here on the site.

I’m preparing to resume writing, or at least organise myself a bit better. 🙂

Preview of ‘The Unexpected Pillow’

Fiona finished mopping the kitchen floor, pausing to examine her handiwork. The tiles were old and faded, but gleamed with cleanliness.

Satisfied, she turned to her next task, loading the laundry into the washing machine.

Fiona hesitated. As usual, there was an assortment of clothes filling the basket, but today, on top of the clothes, was a pillow.

Not just the pillow, mind, but the pillow case too, slipped off and folded over on top.

It was so jarring to Fiona that she set the basket down on the counter-top and stared at the offending item.

Fiona knew of course that it was Sora’a pillow. But Sora usually put both of her pillows in the basket once a month, and even than it was at Fiona’s insistence.

This single pillow represented a departure from everything that Fiona knew and was familiar with. It was a minor aberration, but it gave her an unpleasant feeling in the pit of her stomach.

And yet, the pillow was in the laundry basket, so she would have to wash it with the rest of the load. Assuming it would fit, of course.

Fiona snapped out of her contemplation of the pillow and loaded the washing machine. The anxiety that she’d felt started to recede as she found that there was room enough for the pillow and the clothes in the washing machine. Routine began to re-assert itself, as familiar as taking breath.

As she’d done before many times, Fiona filled the powder tray of the machine and pushed it back in. She selected the correct program, turned the machine on and heard the rush of water as it filled up.

Procrastination: An Opportunity?

So, as I mentioned on Monday over on Facebook, I’m not getting anywhere with a particular story which I started last week.

I saw my counsellor yesterday and we had an illuminating talk about it.

First of all, procrastination is a choice that I make, whether it’s because of conscious or unconscious pressures. Quite often though, it’s a choice made without any sort of self-dialogue.

If we say, for example, that the aspiring writer part of me is a comic book hero, and the procrastinating side of me is a villain in the same comic book, then it’s easy to give them voices. And since comic books are visual, it is easy to imagine the battle between the two.

Now suddenly there has to be a dialogue. It’s the done thing in comic books, right?

Let’s say just for the moment that Negatron has some logic for wanting Writimus Prime (me) to not write that story. What would that be?

Well, ‘The Unexpected Pillow’ is sort of a pivotal story. If I can write it, then I can write all the other stories that are on hold. At least, that’s what I believe to be true.

Any why would Negatron not want that? He doesn’t want to see me succeed, because guess what? It means even more work in the future. And Negatron is work-aversive.

Why is he work-aversive? Because he thinks that it harms my well-being.

Okay. Well, it’s true that too much work can get me stressed out. It’s true that sometimes I take on too much and just need to say no to one more project.

Negatron also says that if I finish this story, then I will lack a fresh challenge.

That is true to a certain extent. I don’t have a new hurdle to overcome once I get this story written. I should plan ahead and see what else I can do. It doesn’t have to be a writing challenge, but if it is then okay.

Negatron want me to chill out and take most of the morning off.

I would love to be able to take the morning off (or whenever it is that I wake up these days) but it’s becoming a bad habit to take the rest of the day off as well. So, no. Mornings are now writing time. Suck it up and wait until evening.

Giving voice to the force causing procrastination doesn’t make it stronger, it gives you the ability to spot the faulty logic, put the good points into practise, and override the desire to be idle. It’s an opportunity to fine-tune how writing fits into your life and vice versa.

Hope this is helpful. 🙂

Farewell Annabelle

I wrote a short story this afternoon on Wattpad!

Mari and Annabelle have been friends for a while. Sometimes, they have sex – if Mari wants to, that is.

Now, Annabelle is leaving to seek adventure, and Mari must bid her farewell.

P.S. Yes, they’re hobbits.