Outlining versus Discovery Writing


Hello again! Today I'd like to dip into the writing side of things and discuss the two main methods of plotting out a book. This is an essential step when thinking about how to get a story on paper, but there are two extreme ways to go about it.

The first is outlining, which is the side I fall on. Writers who outline can write out exact plot beats, character moments, scenes and list out things usually in chronological order. This gives a clear map of the entire story, which can then be expanded upon. Outlines aren't rigid, however, and can still be changed further down the line if things develop differently to planned.

The second is discovery writing, or 'pantsers' (people who write by the seat of their pants). Here you write the story and see where it naturally goes, coming back to edit for consistency or changes. It's more free-form, and some people prefer the lack of structure to get their ideas down.

In actuality, most writers fall on a spectrum between the two, and I didn't realise at first but I actually do incorporate elements of the discovery method. I thought therefore it would be useful to share my experience to give some insight into how these methods are not as completely opposed as they appear.

The shackles of an outlinePlanning an outline is quite a precise effort...

My first two books, The Goddess's Binding and The Goddess's Parting, I wrote using an outline. The first chapter of The Goddess's Binding, however, was a discovery chapter. All I had was the image of the scene in my head- a girl hiding in a forest because of a vulnerable heart. I didn't know her name, her personality, or anything, so that first chapter was good to explore the girl who would become Eliza. Her voice quickly came through, and after a few revisions I was able to get her down.

After this I fleshed out her backstory and what her journey would be, along with other characters.

A problem with this however came up with the third book, The Goddess's Blessing. I had a seven year break (due to my medical training and falling out of love with writing), so it was difficult to come back to. For this book I ended up re-writing the outline several times, with the last one being a complete depature from the original plot when I came up with a new character.

While it did make the final product much better, I did find it quite inefficient as I was spending more time re-writing the outline that writing the actual book!

So for my next book, I wanted to try something new...

The freedom of discovery

The world is yours to explore...

For my current book in progress, The Sorceror's Lament, it required quite an extensive re-write of the original outline initially (I wrote it several years ago), but even then I found elements lacking. Rather than waste time with a 30th re-write, having gone down that path for my last book, I decided to just keep the main plot beats in mind and write without a guide.

This proved a much better use of my time, as I was able to see Jessie (the new protagonist) clearer, and she's ended up quite different to how I initially planned her. This has also been the case for newer characters who've appeared who weren't in the original outline.

The book is almost done, and I've written the bulk of it in three months- quite an improvement over 7 years! I've also not had to re-write elements as much, given that I only outlined a chapter or two ahead at a time (and the ending), which has also been quite a time-saver.

The best of both worlds

Of course, every author is different and will lean more one or other method, but I thought it would be fun to share that even outliners can wander down an unknown road, and I'm sure there's many discovery writers who appreciate having a bit of stucture to work with!

My advice for writers is to experiment and see what works for you- be wary of books or how-to guides that claim one method is better than the other, as it depends so much on your workflow, personality, other life commitments and much more.

Are you a discovery writer or an outliner? Why do you think your chosen method works better for you? Please share, I'd love to know!

My Top Five Trusted Medical Websites (For Patients)

Hi there! Today's topic is delving into the medicine side, and I'm going to recommend some validated medical websites.

There's an ocean of medical information out there on the internet, but it can be hard to tell which ones are genuine and which ones are pushing dodgy products. Especially in this climate of fake news and social media virality, it can be difficult to know whether you can trust what you're reading.

So there are my top five trusted medical websites:

1. Patient.info (https://patient.info)

This is an excellent resource for both patients and healthcareworkers, as it contains information on almost all conditions and several medications. It also now has videos and other media to complement its detailed writing. I tend to always get my information leaflets from here.

2. NHS  (https://www.nhs.uk)

The NHS website is also quite comprehensive and very easy to access, and is kept quite up to date. It's not as detailed as patient.info in places but its structure is more user-friendly.

3. Lab Tests Online (https://labtestsonline.org.uk)

Want to know what your tests mean, why they were requested, what does a positive or negative result mean? This website is fantastic in explaining test results of all sorts (bloods results, swabs) and provides information in a simple to understand format.

4. Arthritis Research UK (https://www.versusarthritis.org)

I love the resources this charity provides for musculoskeletal disorders. At medical school their examination methods was invaluable, and I love their exercise sheets. They also have excellent information booklets and provide a charity helpline.

5. Live Well With Pain (https://livewellwithpain.co.uk/resources/resources-for-your-patients)

Chronic pain is growing burden and not well understood, though our ideas about it have changed quite a bit over the last few years, with a move away from harmful opiate medication and more focus on restoring function. This website is for both healthcare professionals and patients and provides some great tips and explanations for the condition.

So there are five trusted medical sites I recommend to patients- do you have any to add?

Astounding Journeys: Fantasy Novels and Series Starters Giveaway


Hello everyone! This May I'm going to be part of a special promotion via my newsletter, the Astounding Journeys giveaway. Pick from a selection of free first in series fantasy novels, all of which have an emphasis on a quest or journey.

To get access to these books, all you have to do is click here.

Of the titles available, my recommendation would have to go to Dawn Rising, by A.F.E. Smith. I was lucky enough to get to read this book in its early beta stages, and I was captivated by the writing style and fascinating characters. Follow Alyssia Gale, a misfit who's never felt she belonged, as she's suddenly pulled into a dark and dangerous fantasy world; one she's only ever seen in her dreams.


As well as this exciting giveaway, I'll also be doing an Amazon US sale for my YA Fantasy series! Now you can snag the complete Goddess Saga trilogy for under $2.00. But be quick, as the promotion ends 15th May...

Please note the $0.99 deal for The Goddess's Blessing will start on 11th May (due to an Amazon glitch), so keep it bookmarked for then!





How to Self Publish A Colouring Book

Hello! Well, it's been a tough year, as we pass the anniversary of when this pandemic really started to blow up and disrupt our day to day lives. Being a frontline healthcare worker, this was very frightening, especially with so many unknowns, but I was one of the lucky ones who had a very supportive workplace, and we adapted very quickly to remote consulting.

However, even with the success of the vaccine rollout and the hope of things returning to normal on the horizon, it's left a lot of people with overwhelming anxiety. And something that's come into vogue over the last decade to combat this has been the advent of adult colouring books.

Being an artist myself, I thought it would be fun to get into this area, and now I have two published colouring books in my Birds of the World Series.

Now this is very different to publishing a novel, so I thought it would be helpful to share how I produced these two books.

1. Plan what sort of book you want

There are various types of colouring book out there, from animals and faces to mandalas and abstract shapes. Think about what type of colouring book you want to make. For me, I love all things bird, and so I use birds and nature backgrounds for my lineart. But there's plenty of options to choose from, so pick something you're passionate to dive into.

You'll also need to plan how many images there will be in total.

And this should go without saying, but don't use other people's art unless you've paid for a commission!

2. Draw some art!

The biggest and most labourious step is to draw the images. This can be done either digitally or traditionally. For the digital approach, you can use art programmes such as Photoshop, Krita or FireAlpaca, or any vector-based image software. Images need to be certain dimensions (for self publishing, look at the book size templates on Amazon KDP and pick one), and the resolution needs to be 350dpi or higher, else the lines will look blurry when printed out.

For traditional media, create your pieces, ink them, then scan them in to make a digital copy (again need to scan at 350dpi or higher).

I opted to group my birds by continent, so each book will feature birds of one continent only (e.g. Africa).

If you are doing very intricate lineart, make sure to take breaks often and don't rush. I actually developed tedonitis in my right hand when I was making the first book because I was impatient to get the pictures done. And who says doctors make the worst patients? ;)

3. Additional images

Now you've created the meat of the book (the images to be coloured), there are a few other bits to do. Most colouring books have a 'this book belongs to' page, and I like to also include a test page- this will help readers/ colourers check what pencils/ pens are suitable to use. The paper for self-published books isn't as absorbant as formal artist paper, so bear this in mind, and advise readers to put some paper/ card between pages so as to not spoil the other pages.

I also made a border image to keep with the nature theme of the book.

4. Putting it together

Now this is where things can get complicated. Some artists use Powerpoint to lay out the images- I didn't find this effective myself as when you save to PDF the quality goes way down, and it makes for very blurry images.

One option is to use Adobe InDesign, which is a desktop publishing software. It's part of the Creative Cloud, but it's very expensive on its own, so unless you have a friend with it or have the Creative Cloud anyway, it's quite a pricey way to go about this stage.

However, there is also a third way, which is the way I used: Scribus [https://www.scribus.net/]. This is a free, open source desktop publishing software. Now be warned- it doesn't have the easiest user interface, and what you see on screen doesn't always correlate to changes you made (sometimes you need to restart the software), but there are a lot of tutorials out there, and once you've got the hang of it, it's pretty straight foward.

My books feature some bird facts along with the images, so I made a template to accomodate for this. Scribus allows you to make image boxes and text boxes, and I used these to make template pages. I then duplicated these for the amount of images needed.

These are some things to also consider:

a) Do you want the images to bleed to the edge of the page, or be within a border? Keep in mind it can be difficult to colour at the spine as there will be some overlap from the other pages.

b) Do you want to put images on the same page back to back? Some people like to cut out and frame their coloured piece, so putting two images together means the other image will have to be sacrificed. Also there is the issue of colours bleeding through the paper which may spoil the other image and render it non-colourable.

5. Proof-reading and checking it all over

Once you've added the images, added text and tweaked the intro pages, be sure to check it all over to make sure the images are on the right pages. For me, I needed to keep the left hand page blank to ensure all the images were on separate pages.

With that all checked, save the file as a print-ready PDF at the highest quality so the images remain crisp.

6. Making the cover

For this part, take a look at other similar colouring books and see what styles catch your eye. In my case, I like a darker background with a colourful border, so that's what I incorporated into my covers. I also tried to feature the most well-recognised bird from the continent.

To turn this into a paperback cover, you first need to know how many pages your book will be, then go to the Amazon KDP help page [https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/cover-templates]- this page lets you generate a cover template, which will show you where to align the covers and avoid the areas that will be cut to size.

This file will also need saving as a print-ready PDF, at 350dpi quality. Photoshop does this, but if you don't have Photoshop, just make a new template in Scribus, put the image there and save it that way.

7. Publish via KDP

Sign in to your KDP Amazon account (this is slightly separate to your normal Amazon account but uses the same password). On the main screen, select '+ Paperback' from the menu. I mean, you could make the colouring book an ebook, but it would make it a bit tricky to colour for those who use traditional media!

The first page is the Book Details- this is where you put the title, subtitle, author, description [blurb] and keywords. There a lot of tutorials on keywords out there, this is an important element not to overlook so do research into this. It's not too different to novels, but of course there will be specific words for colouring books.

Click Save and Continue, and here you upload the contents. Choose the size of the trim (which you should have picked earlier to make sure your images were the right size). I opt for white paper as this is easier to colour on, and I have a bleed so I check that option as well. Upload the PDF of the INTERIOR and the PDF of the COVER, then use the previewer tool to check things are lining up. KDP will not let you continue if there are massive errors.

Save and Continue again, and lastly is the book pricing and which territories you want to sell it in. Pretty self explanatory!

Now at the bottom of this page is the option to ask for 'proof' copies- these are test copies that you pay for to see what the physical book comes out like. I strongly recommend doing this, as I found a few errors that I hadn't picked up digitally, and you want your book to look as professional as possible.

And then, once you're happy, click Publish!

8. Teething problems

With paperbacks, Amazon are very strict about quality, and you need to follow their guidelines. I had a few problems with this initially, as some of my pages weren't bleeding when they should have been (that sounds so morbid) and I couldn't have text on the spine as there is a minimum page limit for this. But eventually I ironed things out, and hey presto, my colouring book was live!

Both volumes are available to buy now:

And so that's it- simple, eh? I have to say this was far more time consuming that when I published my novels, but I had fun learning a new process, and I've had some good feedback so it's certainly been worth it.

Have you wanted to publish a colouring book? What sort of subject would you do? I'd love to know!

Also, if you know any aspiring artists who've wanted to look into making a colouring book, feel free to share this post. They may find these tips useful.

My Writing Process

So I've been writing since I was 14, and I've learnt a lot about writing (as you can imagine). These have come from all sorts of sources, initially books (both instructional and from reading fantasy fiction) and advice from other writers I met, and then after the YouTube boom I've gleaned a lot of fantastic stuff from there as well. Some channels I recommend are:

Hello Future Me

Just Write

Brandon Sanderson (in particular his educational lectures)

Overly Sarcastic Productions (their Trope Talk series)

Resonant Arc (though they focus most on video game stories a lot of elements carry over into novels)

Tale Foundry

From a combination of all of these things, I've now standardized a lot of my writing process, so this post will go through how I construct a novel, from initial idea to finished, published product!

Step One- Ideas and Outlines

As you may have read from my author interview, the original idea for The Binding came when I was taking some blood samples to the lab during my first hospital job. I had a scene emerge in my mind—a girl sitting alone in a forest, because she wanted to protect her heart. I took this concept and expanded it, creating the Binding spell, laying down some rules, and then went on to develop Eliza as a character. All this I jotted down in a Word document as a series of questions to help flesh things out.

I even did an illustration of the scene!

Once I had a clear idea of what the general themes would be, I then wrote out the outline for the story. I am very much a planner type of writer, and I find it easy to follow an outline rather than write and see where things go. The outline isn't set in stone, however, so if a character interaction changes the direction of a story I will adapt and re-outline. I had to do this for The Goddess's Blessing (the last book of the trilogy), which changed the second half of the story entirely from the original.

Step Two- First/ Second Draft

With the outline complete, now comes the hard part- the actual writing! This means putting rough chapter markers in the original outline, and then fleshing everything out. I do tend to refine quite a bit- which is where I will write 400-500 words and then go back and tidy it up a few times. A lot of authors warn against this as you can get stuck in the same scene for ages, but I've found this method good for me, as I can do this relatively quickly and move on. This saves time later with the first edit, and allows me to focus on expanding things like characterization (which is one of my weaknesses) rather than the technical parts.

I also highlight or make a note of areas I can't quite figure out and will need to come back to. I keep the notes in a separate Notepad document.

This is also the bit where I can re-write the outline if the story seems to be going in another direction. This helps me keep things flexible without abandoning structure altogether.

Step Three- Editing

The bit most authors dread, but I actually find the first edit quite fun! This allows me to inject more characterisation, spruce up dialogue and cut down on unnecessary filler words ('just', 'even', 'eyes widened' are particularly bad ones for me). I quite like Brandon Sanderson's tip where you only focus on one thing per edit (so one edit for technical issues like word choice/ sentence structure, one edit for characters/ dialogue, one edit for plot points etc).

So edit 1: adding more character thoughts/ reactions, smoothing out/ refining dialogue and ensuring a consistent voice, removing filler words, removing too much 'tell' areas, also writing down a list of overused words

Edit 2: world/ geography consistencies, temporal consistencies (how long it takes to get from one place to another), adding in additional relevant worldbuilding or removing irrelevant details

Edit 3: checking for accurate word choices, checking my list of overused words and cutting these down (I use the 'Find' option in Word for this), making sure I'm using consistent hyphens/ spellings/ capitalisations

For each run-through of the story I'll also try and correct any typos I come across.

At this stage it's also good to send the story to some trusted beta readers who can give external feedback to point out things you might not have thought about.

Step Four- Polish

This bit I find the most tedious, as at this point I'll have read through the manuscript so many times. For this I take a slightly different approach to editing.

Once I'm happy that the story itself has been trimmed and tided and the plot and character elements are as good as they can be, next comes the technical part- to catch grammar/ spelling errors/ typos. I start from the last chapter and work backwards, using an e-reader to read the text aloud. I use Free Natural Reader and Balabolka for this- both are free to download.

This is really good for catching typos and tense changes, and is better than reading aloud yourself as the e-reader will always read what's on screen, whereas your brain may insert or inject words that aren't there. Don't be tempted to set the reading speed too fast- you should get it to match the tempo of your own reading speed.

Reading backwards also stops you getting caught in the 'rhythm' of the story, as this can make you overlook thing as you've already read it so many times.

Once you've self-proofed, this is when you should send the manuscript to a trusted editor so they can check for any other remaining errors. Different types of editor edit for different things so make sure you pick the right type.

Step Five- Formatting

This step used to be a huge headache, but now I have ready-made templates from my previous books it's super easy. Definitely learn to use Word's Styles Feature, as this makes it much quicker.

Once you've made the corrections from the editor, it's time to make the book publishable.

Ebooks and paperback books have specific formatting (to make sure there's no misaligned text or random blank pages) and these need to be adhered to, to make sure the books look right. Different distributors also have different formatting (Amazon vs Smashwords) so make sure you have separate templates for each.

A new site has come around called Draft2Digital which is another way you can format your books. I used them recently and their user interface is quite straight-forward.

Step Six- Cover and Synopsis

Fortunately I am an artist as well as a writer, so this saves me having to hunt down a cover artist. Of course making a cover is still time-consuming and needs to be the best it can be, to attract readers. To know where to start about covers, I recommend David Gaughran's free course, where he covers not only this but pretty much everything you need to know about self publishing.

And then comes the synopsis- the bane of most writer's existence, but oddly enough I don't find it too much of a hassle. I put this down to being a doctor- I have to document patient stories in their medical notes succinctly and in summary, so it's something I'm quite used to!

It also helps to read the synopses of other books in your genre to get an idea of what tone to go for.

Step Seven- Preparing for Publishing

And so the last step involves checking and re-checking to make sure the books are ready to go.

On Amazon KDP, there is a preview tool to check ebooks and paperbacks, and you can also order proof copies of paperbacks to check they print properly and that the cover looks good.

A look inside the proof copy of The Goddess's Blessing

Once these are all ready, you're ready to go live!

If there are any errors Amazon picks up, they will notify you so you can make the changes. But if all goes well, your book will pop up on the market place, ready for your readers to devour.

And so these are the steps I take in my writing process. Of course this isn't the only way to do it and there are thousands of other methods out there. Are you a writer? What works for your in your process?