Writing Backward With Tony Lee

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Writing Backwards
With Tony Lee

 Are you a plotter or a Pantser?

It doesn’t matter with Tony Lee’s system of writing backward. Listen to Tony as he takes what he learned from journalism, comics, and screenwriting to build a mid-six-figure publishing business.

Transcript of Joe Solari and Tony Lee discussing writing craft for plotters and pantsers.

[00:00:00] Tony: Because with comics, you’ve got your real estate from the very beginning. If you’re told it’s a 22 page story, that’s all you have. You can’t do 21 pages, You can’t do 23. You can’t just bounce around, and more importantly, you get other restraints.

[00:00:25] Joseph: Hey, it’s Joe Solari and we’re on the business of writing, and today our guest is Tony Lee. Welcome Tony.

[00:00:32] Tony: Thanks for having me, Joe.

[00:00:33] Joseph: So Matt in Madrid, and I heard you speak, I think you did two, two. Speeches there, right?

[00:00:39] Tony: Yeah, I was brought in to do one, and then the F the following day that I was brought, they said there’s been a, basically Craig Martelle had double booked himself.

Okay. . And there was a spare spot and people had come up over the Saturday and said, Oh, is there any more going on? And he just said, Can you do another one? And I had enough slides to cobble something else together. So, yeah. So te technically it was two, but it was more sort of one and a half. Yeah.

[00:01:04] Joseph: Yeah. And it was great.

I was, One of the things that I was really impressed with, the material you’re providing, I thought was pretty original and he, you could tell it was helping a lot of people. So I wanted to have you on because of the whole idea of this. While I’m very focused on authors creating these great businesses, if you have a crappy product, you can’t have a business.

So I think you’ve got some really cool ideas on how you can make better products. So why don’t we start out with you just telling a little bit about yourself and how you got into this game, and I know you’ve been in a lot of different media and help people understand the context of where you’re coming from.

[00:01:41] Tony: Yeah, absolutely. It’s really weird actually, because I think I was saying this to you at Madrid, but was my first 20 books conference because I’ve actually only been writing independently published books since 2020, since the pandemic. Before that I was writing in traditional media. I was writing in sort of comics, film, tv, audio, all that kind of stuff.

And I’ve had this kind of very strange journeys, one of these things where people have said to me in the past, How do I write? Like you and I say to them, Don’t, Because the journey I’ve had, I would not wish on anybody because 52 years old and I’ve been writing professionally for probably about 35 of those.

My first job was actually games reviewing when I was 16 years old when I was still at school. Now we’re talking back in the eighties, so I was reviewing Sinclair Spectrum Games are on tape. And it was purely done because I was in six form, which is for the Americans who don’t know, it’s between the ages of 16 and 18.

It’s when we were doing our A Levels and things like that. Okay. And I had work experience and at the time I wanted to work in computers, which was very much a blossoming industry. And there was no work experience I could get. I couldn’t intern anywhere cuz the companies didn’t exist. And in the end, because I played Spectrum Games, I just phoned up one of these companies that wrote magazines that did this and said, Hey, can I do some work experience for two weeks?

And that was literally it. And they said, Sure, why not? I turned up, they gave me a couple of tapes to play and I started doing that and I ended up doing that for the entirety of my time. They kept me on, they paid me, and I kept writing all the way through college. And college in the UK was up to 18 for me.

I didn’t go to university. And then once I’d finished with that, I moved on and. I learned my first rule, which was, you don’t have to know everything or have like great degrees and things like this. It’s more what you know or where you’ve been. Mm-hmm. So I was walking into magazines and saying, Hello, I’d like to write for you.

And they were looking at me and going, What do you do? And I would show them these magazines I’d done. So having this portfolio would help me. Yeah. So learning very quickly that what I had was better than what I could do. Pushed me into that area. And then I got paralyzed when I was 20. I was a Covent Garden Street Performer 2021.

I had an accident and for six months I couldn’t really walk. I was regaining going through physical therapy, but it meant I had to find work that worked from home. And so I was doing sketch comedy for Radio four, just little small second sketches for a topical news quiz. And I started to learn about deadlines because with the games, I would have this issue where, They would say to me, Hey, here’s a game.

Go play it. We need to review in say, three weeks with the sketch comedy. I was going in on Tuesday and they were saying, We need this by Thursday because we’re recording on Friday. So I it, my world started coming down and from that I started moving into other areas. I became a local journalist for one of my local papers and I worked on the features desk and I worked with local theaters and stuff like that.

But that was where my second sort of thing came in, where I realized that I was no longer looking at deadlines, which were days. I was looking at deadlines, which were hours. I turn around on deadline day and the editor would go, We’ve got three inches that we need to fill by five o’clock. Go find something.

And so I learned again how to get in there quickly, how to write fast, how to build it up. And the one thing I always say to anybody who comes up to me and says, I want to be a writer, how do I do it? The first thing I always say is, go to a journalism course. That ship teaches you to type fast. You learn quickly how to get what you need down.

And then I carried on that. I moved into radio and things like that. And I did say there were 35 years of this . But then when I was in my thirties, I had an opportunity to work to go and visit DCM Marvel when they were both in IT and New York. And because I’d got this radio and newspaper background and I’d created campaigns and I’d written scripts, I was able to show them that I could do the things.

And again, I’m back to that. I had things to show. Yeah. And they gave me an opportunity. Marvel gave me a shot to do an X-Men story. Having the X-Men in my hand then meant I could go to other people and pitch other things. And then I was writing Dr. Who and Battle Star Galactical and Star Trek, and I did a MacGyver story, which was for me, one of the greatest moments of my life as a massive Gyr fan.

And that then pushed me into tv, that then pushed me into film, into audio dramas. And I just found myself in this entire area. And I’m working on one side with collaborations. On another side, I’m looking at just sitting in a room on my own. And then the pandemic happened and everything died like in a day.

Just went TV and film stopped, comic shops closed. Everything I did just went into limbo. And a few months into it, I didn’t know what to do. And a friend of mine, a guy called Andy Briggs, suggested I speak to a mutual friend of ours, which is a chat called Barry Hutchinson who used to write children’s books around the same time I did.

And I’m sure Barry well as well. Yeah. He likes under the name JD Kirk. And he was kind enough to sit down and explain what he did. And I realized that this was something that could possibly save my life. And I don’t mean financially because we have nothing to write. I was going crazy. I had no outlet to think of where to go, and so I started writing crime novels and I have a love of crime I, That sounds bad.

I have a love of crime stories. I have a love of TV shows and things like that. I read the books. I had crime TV show pitches that had never happened, which I was able to take and rub the serial numbers off and turn them into stories. But what it did is it gave me the opportunity to get myself out there and play around with some new ideas and just do something that was freedom.

And for me, I wasn’t relying on someone else to decide when they were going again. It was for myself. And so I started writing as Jack Gatland, and this was literal two years ago, last week, because it was the end of September, 2020.

[00:07:44] Joseph: Wow. So your career was fast and financially successful, quickly.

[00:07:48] Tony: Absolutely. I was an overnight success at 50 . Yeah. Yeah. That’s always the case, right? In your case, you were doing a lot of that work outside of novels, right? For a lot of authors, That work is inside. They may write for 10 years and then they find their voice and they find that series and maybe a pen name that takes off for them.

And nobody remembers the seven years or 10 years before that. They’re just like, So yours was just in a different, if was in different industry. Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, I was writing stories when I was in my twenties. I was just writing, Sorry. I was writing novels when I was in my twenties. I was writing, I mean, I had a book Do and Twist, which was a sequel to Oliver Twist, which was a, a graphic novel.

And then I turned it into a, an actual novel itself about 10 years ago and put it up on Kindle before I even realized self publishing was purely keep it as an IP because someone was trying to steal it. So I was writing novels. I just, I had a really big problem with writing novels and it’s the one thing and a way that’s made me more of a success than I think I should be.

Mm. Cause my one problem was, is I hated writing descriptions. Absolutely hated it because I’d spent years writing very short things like newspaper articles or 32nd adverts. And then I went into comics where if I want to do something descriptive, I just tell the artist what to draw. Or if I’m doing a film or tv, the director would just put me aside and say, Don’t worry, kid.

I’ve got this. Yeah. So I never really had to look into how to do these amazing, glowing, descriptive scenes, which I love as a reader, but I just could not do. Which meant that when I started writing my books, I had to fall back on my knowledge of comics and the cliff hanger and how to get things going.

And what that meant was I was pushing a lot more things into my books. The average murder has, the average crime story has someone is murdered, they find out who did it. They are, uh, it’s done. I was averaging three or four deaths, a book, because I’d get halfway through the book and you can kill someone randomly because the book was getting boring and nine times outta 10 I’d killed the Murderer.

So I now had to rewrite the book , but I had to keep it going. And because I was keeping it going, it meant it became one of these books where people were going, I can’t put it down. Yeah. Because I had the same franticness in reading as I had in writing, if that makes sense. So what so interesting thing you brought up there that I’d like to do a deeper dive on, period, how you’d identify this personal weakness of, I’m not really good at descriptions.

How did you resolve, How did you overcome that? What was the process? Thinking back on that now? Honestly, I don’t know if I have, and I’m being completely honest. No, that’s cool. I think part of my concern was that I’d basically given myself a very high bar because I read books that I’m very passionate about and some of these books I’m incredible.

And then I also read books. That are pulp. My favorite books in the entire world, and I read them every year, are Rogers Alais Nine Princes in Amber, which they’re their bite size books I grew up reading Telling Sticks is Dr. Who Novelization is Target Books. And again, they were bite size books. They got you into the action as quick as possible.

They didn’t really push the descriptive side. And then you can sit down and read Lord of the Rings and your a thousand Words in before Tom Bombard deals even turned up. So there’s an element of, there’s two sides of this, and I was always trying to go towards the art side, the Booker Prize winning side, The Pulitz aside, when really all I needed to do was in my mind, right, what I call a free star book.

Because the plan I realized I was doing is I was writing books and bringing them out at a cost that was probably about a third to a half the size of the average book. And my mentality was I had to match that book. Whereas actually I didn’t have to, I could write a lesser book because I wasn’t, in my mind at the start, I was thinking, I’m writing a lesser book because I’m giving lesser cost, et cetera.

What that did is it took the stress away and it allowed me to go, Do you know what? I can enjoy writing this book now. And because I enjoyed it and I got behind it, I started to really get into the book and I wrote it better because I cared about it. If that makes sense. It does. And I think on the re, on the sort of, how did I get better side one, I wrote a million words of Jack Gatland, and by that point I think I got a little bit better, but at the same time, one of my things was is to research.

And it’s something that a lot of people don’t get is when people start writing their books, they start researching stuff and they go, I’m gonna research this poison, and that’s gonna be what I use. I don’t do that. Heck of location, it’s gonna be, and I’ll research the location, I’ll research the buildings.

I’ll research something that I found out about it because that could be important. But also that research will then give me more information to put in the book. And weirdly, this comes back from when I was a games reviewer. And I actually, it’s one of the reasons I stopped being a games reviewer because my last game I did was a, as a game called I’ll Always Remember It, which was called Mr.

Williams and the Shea Empires. And I can’t tell you if it was a good or bad game because I never played it because the tape died. Cuz in those days it was like a yeah. Cassette tape put in and, and loaded. If there’s anybody here who doesn’t understand how this works, he’s too young to understand. I hate you.

But basically you had this cassette, you put it in it loaded onto computer, and a cassette chewed up. And I’d contacted your Sinclair magazine and said, I can’t play the game. What do I do? It’s gotta be with you in a week and a half. And they said There’s nothing we can do about this. We can’t get the game you in time.

You’re just gonna have to make it up. You’re just gonna have to guess. And I couldn’t do that. Like was two, I was 17 years old, I didn’t wanna do this. And I ended up, I was, This is before emails, this is before fax, this is before website. I was phoning up the company and asking them to read out the press release to me down the line.

I was checking it, magazines that had come out like two days before I was to send it off because they might have had an early review and gaining screenshots and stuff like that. Mm. And using all this review and put together, I was able to create this fictional review of a game. That fitted all the buttons and actually people said, was one of my best reviews, which is concerning.

But what it show was active research can give you a knowledge that is artificial. So when I do my books, Declan Walsh, my detective is in the city of London. So a lot of the places they go to have reasons why they’re there or there’s history behind them. So I talk about this at the end of my books. I’ll explain a little bit more about these places, but because I’m doing this, because I’m researching this, it gives me the confidence to describe it better, if that makes sense.

No, it does. It does. Because you, you start to get immersed in that, right? Yeah, absolutely. So

would you consider yourself a dancer or a plotter or some thing in between? Like how do you think about your process right now? It evolves depending on the book. Ok. And this is actually one of the things I talk about when I do the talk itself is because from comics, Okay, so the easiest thing to explain very quickly, comics is the hardest medium in the world to write, and people might look at me at this point and go, Came on.

Five year olds read it. That’s rubbish. But you can write a book that’s a hundred thousand words or a 200,000 words, or if you’re JK rallying 1200 words. It doesn’t matter what it is, it can be 1,922 words. It’s completely irrelevant. The chapters can be whatever number you want because the chapter ends.

You turn the page, it’s a new chapter. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you were to film that film script can be a 90 pages, a hundred pages, again, doesn’t matter. The editor will change it. If it’s a TV show, that has to be a set length that’ll be done in the edit. Aaron Kins scripts were 65 pages long for, yeah, effectively a 40 minute show.

And with the audio drums, all these things, you can go as much as you want because it’s only in the editing process. In the fixing process, does this become important? But with comics, you come because we have comics, You’ve got your real estate from the very beginning. If you’re told it’s a 22 page story, that’s all you have.

You can’t do 21 pages. You can’t do 23. You can’t just bounce around. And more importantly, you get other restraints. If you have a massive reveal or a shock, it has to be on the left hand page. Because when you read a book, you read the book, you turn it over, you carry on. But when you read a comic, you’re going down to the bottom right, And as you turn and scroll up, the visual pictures will instantly hit your subconscious.

So if you have on the right hand side, you might bypass it, but it’s there. And as you read, it’s there. And it’s like the person sitting next to you in the cinema who’s tapping you a second before things happen and telling you what’s going. Interesting. So now you know that your big surprises have to be on the left hand side.

You’ve only got say, 22 pages. And the first and the last page have to be big ex, ex expansive. What happened last time, or what will happen next time pages. Which means that when you’re writing a story, you have to work your way backwards because you have to go, Okay, my finale is this and it’s gonna take five pages.

My beginning scene is gonna be about four pages. So now I know I’ve done nine pages, so now I’ve got 13 pages in the middle I’ve gotta work in, and I’ve got these four things that need to happen. So now you’re plotting it, but then when you’ve written out your 22 pages and you go, Shit, page 13 should be on page 12.

Mm-hmm. . So now I’ve gotta get rid of a page, but then that changes everything after. Or I’ve gotta add a page and then that changes everything. And that’s where the plotting side comes in. So as a writer, you find yourself doing this, but the more comics you write, the better you get at it and you find ways to get round it.

So for me, I would come up with the cliff hanger. Because the cliffhanger would be the moment that I wanted to give a shit about. I wanted to build to this moment, and then I’d work backwards and I’d work backwards to the beginning. And then once I had the beginning, I could then carry on to the end. So I’d come in about two thirds of the way through, go back to page one, and then carry on the other way.

But what that took was I was still pantsing because I had no idea what was going on. I wasn’t, but I was just sitting there in a room asking myself questions. Marion is being hanged by the sheriff for Nottingham. Why? Because she’s helped Robin Hood. Why? Because he’s asked her to commit treason. Why? All these things.

Ask her yourself back. Marion wouldn’t just do this for someone she met. So she has to have a history with him. Oh, tick. That’s something I can look into. Yeah. All these things build up so. When I’m writing a book, there’s an element of answering because I’m writing a crime story and my stories are very much the detectives learning as they go along.

But at the same time, I have to know where I am. I have to know what the murderer is, so I have to, or who the murder is, not what the murder is, who the murderer is, what’s going on with it. The problem I have is because of the way I’ve written over the years, I’ve tried it where I’ve actually, I’ve started the novel and I’ve written the ment scene, the pyro.

You wonder why I’ve gathered you all hear scene , and I can guarantee that by the time I get to that scene, I have to rewrite it because three, the people in NA are. Because during the story, something will come out from left field. My subconscious will throw out a curve ball that I go, Oh shit, that works.

Yeah. And suddenly everything has to change. And so therefore, the paning side is what I do on a day to day basis, but I will still plot it. But on a very loose framework, I use plotter. And I’ll put, I’ve got five lines on my plotter. So I have one, which is, this is what’s gonna be going on in my story. I’ll have the heroes journey, the 12 step mystery journey, and probably one of the other ones, just so I can go, Okay, so what should I be doing around now?

Okay, this says this and this says this. Yeah, I’m gonna go kill someone. Okay, You might. That’s good. That’s why find myself writing, because doing it that way seems to work. And one thing I have learned, and I’m on 12 Declan mulch books have come out now and on those books, the one thing I have found is my audience don’t give a shit about the murders.

They don’t care. They want to see what happens to the characters. If I threaten to kill any of my characters, they go ballistic at me. Yeah. And most of murder fans are terrifying. 65 who are women who live in either England or Australia or America. I’m not gonna piss any of them off. No, they can write you every day, all day.

Well also they read all the books that know how to kill so . Yeah. Yeah. That’s interesting cuz I think with the genre that you write, there’s like the experience that what they’re really looking for is they want to feel throughout the whole thing that they’ve got it figured out before the detect character does.

And then when it does get revealed and it’s not what they thought and they go back and look at page one and they see, Oh my God, it was there the whole time. How did I miss that? This author’s smarter than me. There’s this whole kind of intellectual game you’re playing with your reader. That’s where I think what you’re doing is so interesting because I think a lot of authors think they have to be that smart from the beginning.

Right. Yeah. And this is something I’ve spoke to many people about over the years because you only need to give a damn about your book the day it’s read. When you are writing that book, you can go back and you can change it. We’re no longer in the days where you have to write it long hand and there’s barely any paper around.

So you gotta be careful. And we can cut and paste, we can move things around, we can change it as we want. And one of the things I’ve, and I’ve been doing this, and again, I was going back to an example, I was doing a, a doctor who Crossover, not crossover, six part series, and we had to go to the BBC and tell them what we were doing.

It was a 10th doctor story and it was great. And we got it going and we got to episode five and I realized as episode five was written and sent into the bbc, that on tv, the episode of Dr. Who, that had just come on, destroyed everything we’d done. Because we had gone in a direction that Russell T. Davis had also gone in and we were like, Why didn’t you tell us?

And BBC were like, We didn’t wanna spoil it for you. And we were like, Well that’s great, but now you’ve destroyed our story cuz our story now cannot work. But we had a situation where Book one, part one had come out, part two was about to go to print. Part three was being lettered, Part four was being drawn.

Part five were just being scripted. And so in the space of a weekend, I had to work out a completely new finale if you completely new Act three and a new bad guy on what was going on. But in the process I was able to go back into part two and change some lines and part three and do something else so that when people are reading this book, they’re going, This is stupid.

This is supposed to be a master story. And he’s got Donna being mentioned. This guy doesn’t know Dr. Who. And it was only when Book five came out, or part five came out. That people went, Oh, okay. That’s why you are doing this. Mm. But the only reason I was able to do this was because I’d written it, and this is why Checkov Gun is the greatest thing in the world because Checkov Gun is the thing that sort of says, if you see it in Act one, it’s gotta go off by act three, but you don’t have to put it in, in Act one, you can actually get to Act three and then decide you need it and then go put it in Act one.

The greatest example of this is Bill and Head’s excellent adventure. They’re in jail and they, How do we get out of here? And they go, When we get out of here, let’s take the key and we’ll come back in time and we’ll put it there. And they go, Look, and it’s there. And then they open the door and then they go, Now we’ve gotta go back in time and put it there because they didn’t.

It’s the easiest way possible to do it. Yeah. But it’s the exact thing that all writers can do. So I will get to the end and I will write things when I literally, I’ve just finished in my second daily reckless book and there’s parts at the end when I’m think. I haven’t explained how they know this. And I’ll go back through the scene and realize, oh actually in chapter three there’s a moment where somebody writes something, they could match the handwriting.

Okay, that’s cool then. And now I’ve got them going, Oh what in in act three? Cause this happened and now I look clever. And there have been some very happy accidents. I have had people contact me and go, Oh my God, I can’t believe you. You gave us this massive clue in the person’s surname and I hadn’t clicked.

The only reason I used a surname was cuz it was actually a character from Dr. Who. It was literally, And I’m like, Oh, I hadn’t even realized that this was such a thing. Yeah, that’s like with game designers and AIA comes in and people like put all kinds of meaning on stuff that actually wasn’t there. And you’re like, Yeah, of course.

I meant that. I’m very impressed of anybody who reckons they can work out who the killer was in my books. Cause even I didn’t know Letter from the Dead. I have a character who dies two thirds of the way through and it’s my first one and he was the killer. And I had to go back and reword things to fit it so that obviously he isn’t a killer.

And it was a good idea he was killed because I had a better idea. But I had people going, Oh, I could tell from the start. And it was like, Oh, really? That well done on you guessed. You flip a coin. Anyone can flip that coin. Yeah. Is do you have like a process when you’re doing this? Hang on, sorry. Is a really bad beeping outside.

Yeah, so I was, I had a good read to review on one of my books where they said, You know, I was very unhappy that this, I worked out who did this, who did the murder on page seven, and it was this person and I had to reply and go, It wasn’t who was supposed to think that. Yeah. But if you’d finished the book, you would’ve seen it was somebody else

And that’s what I want. One of the things I do get is a lot of people say you need to have a piece of paper and a pen when you read a Jack Gatlin book because there’s so many things going on you can’t remember. But then at the same time, if I was to write a book where not as much happened, I’ve had people go, I didn’t enjoy this book.

It was boring. Yeah, yeah. Point us. And I think your background coming out of for these short form media gives you some strengths that other folks might not have because the consumers of books are having shorter and shorter attention spans. They’re just used to getting, And I, my biggest example of this is I started, My Kids are Young and I was like, Oh, I’m gonna read Lord of the Rings to him.

And you start reading it and it’s not the experience I had when I was in middle school reading that book and how amazing it was. It’s like, Wow, this thing is slow. And I was just skipping over chapters because I was bored and I knew they certainly were me bored. You skipped over for Naked Hos and Tom Bombard, didn’t you?

Like it’s, That was the point. I would stop every time I tried to read that book, I’d hit four naked hos from Tom Bombadil and go, I don’t even know where this book is going. Yeah. But by the time I got to book two, I was happy. Yeah. So I think that that’s just culturally how the world’s changing, Right. We just have, we’ve had higher quality, more intense.

Products delivered. So we’re getting, that’s what we want. Do you get, have you figured out a process? Like how do you have like steps that you kinda work through when you’re doing this? Working backwards? One of the reasons I was able to do my talks at Madrid was because I actually do a one or sometimes two day course for Rain Dance, which is a British film festival.

Okay. And I do screenwriting talks and I talk about how everything goes. And I had a long conversation with somebody when I first started because I looked at it and thought I’m paning my books and going, I like the idea of a murder and a murder in aee. So let’s go do a murder in a nu. But I had no idea why I would do this or how this would work.

But when I was writing a comic, I was planning it out. I was meticulously doing page by page. I literally, I. Come up with the idea. I would write the synopsis. I would break it into scenes. I’d break those scenes into pages. I’d break those pages into panels, and only then would I write the script. But with a book, I would just get page one.

Once upon a time. There was, and it was where I was failing because when I was a kid, I was always taught, never write a book with Once upon a time, always start with put the gun down, she said, or something like that. Yeah, throw somebody in at the start. So over time, I’d created my own kind of area of doing this.

And fun enough, using plot has actually helped a lot as well, because I couldn’t get my, because of the way that my books work, and I’ve learned now, I do have to be organic with the way I do this. I can’t hammer out what’s gonna happen in the story because I know that by the time I get to 50,000 words, it’s gonna completely change.

And what I find works for me now is I block my chapters down to about two and a half thousand words. Each chapter I have about 26 to 30 chapters in a book. So depending on sizes and things like that, I don’t punish myself. If I go over or under, I keep to that kind of style. I give myself a set word count per day, and I hold everything in a program called Not Notion, which is, I’m familiar with notions.

Awesome. It’s, it’s my second brain and I have everything in there. I have a database that has all my projects. Where I am, you can click on my project line and it comes up with a page where I have literally the word count, the percentage, where I am, the list of all the things I have to do, any ideas I come up with over the time, I’ll put them in here, anything like that, all my ideas brain gets thrown into here.

And I use to Doist, which is a to-do app, and if I’m walking the dog, I can just tap on my phone and go, This is what I want, and it will. Put it into to do is because when I walk my dog, that’s when I’m just letting myself go. I’m just sinking myself out. And what I’ll often do is I’ll find myself, I can’t narrate books.

I can’t do what someone like my Steven Higgs will do, where he’ll just sit there just talking. And that’s the book. I can do dialogue though. So I’ll be working through a scene, just talking into my phone, and then when I get home, I’ve got 2000 words of just random giver ish. But once I’ve put it into the book and added all the he said, she said, then I’ve got myself a scene that works or I’m coming through.

So what I’ll find I’ll do is I’ll start with the idea of the story. I’ll gain what I want to do with it, where I want to go, what characters I want to focus on. Is this a Declan story? Is this a DCI Mon Rose story? Is this gonna be somebody else? Who am I bringing back into the story from previous books?

What am I gonna do here? And I use a lovely woman called Diane Garland World Keep, who takes my books and turns ’em into these amazing OneNote spreadsheets so I can go back and look at all my old books and click on each character and see what they’ve done in the past. So I can go, Oh, they were left doing that.

Brilliant. I’ll do that. Then I start putting the story together. At this point, the second most important thing happens, I have to work out the title. I cannot write a book if I dunno the title at all, and just my brain just goes, I have to sit down and go, Okay, this is what it’s gonna be called. So I know for example, my next book is gonna be called Murder by Missile Toe.

The one after that is gonna be called Beneath the Bodies. I know, you know, all the names have to be done. I have to visualize what the cover’s gonna look like. Now, granted, I’m rapid releasing every few months, so I’m, as I’m finishing book this book, I’m advertising this book. I’ve gotta have this ready to go onto Amazon, so there’s an element to making sure I have that.

But I find that having the title, having the cover gives me that moment where I can go, right? This is where I go, So I work out what the death is, and I’ll always have an establishing death in the prologue. I’ll then have a scene involving the characters, and then I’ll start working through it. I then put this into plotter, and I start working through in plotter where I’m gonna have to big beats.

Then when I’m comfortable with that, I start writing and I’ll write a percentage of NU words per day, and if I find that I’m getting stuck, I will swap projects. I will write a fantasy novel. I will write a comic, I will do something else, and then I’ll come back to it. I will get my limit, my targets done every day.

Then when I get an, every book is about 80,000 words, and when I get to about 50,000 words, I go back to the start. Literally, I go back to the start and I start on page one again, and I just go through every single page again. And what I’m doing at this point is, I’m remembering the story cuz at this point I’ve been putting, been wait for a couple of weeks now and I’ve just gotta remember where I am.

But also some of the things I started the story with have now changed . I’ve now decided that so and so is a secret brother, or so and so was doing this or someone else is now the main culprit, or I’ve even included someone new. So now I have to go back and make sure these people are in the earlier scenes or there’s something else.

But what this also does is by the time I get to the 50,000 word stage, again, I’m on about 55 to 60,000 words. So I’ve progressed past it and now I’m into the final act and now I’m on the role and I’m ready to go and I know where I’m hitting. And then once I’m done I go back to the beginning and I start again.

And once more. Cuz by the time I get to the ment, I will probably have changed some things again. And I go back to the beginning. I’ll go through everything all over again. I will go through pro writing aid and go through some stuff, and then I send it to my editing team who does three of them. Once my editing team has it and they come back to me with their changes, I will play around with it.

Then I’ll send them a B team. One of my editors is they’re purely for story and they’ve come back to me before and said, This would not happen. This character would not do this. So now I have to go and rewrite that character, which then also means going back throughout the book to throw things in. Or it could be, I need another reason why this character does this, so I could go back and do this.

But because I’m going back and going back, it gives me that opportunity to do that. Also, I do a lot of things when I’m writing my first draft, where I’ll get to a point and I don’t know it, and I’ll go square bracket, XX square bracket and then carry on. Cause I know that if I just search that I can find out at any point and that will be my, I’ll do that later moment.

And then when I get to the end of it, I can then research that and find out what that is and get that going. For example, in a book I’ve just done, I’ve been learning about how to take gold and basically effectively reduce it into a liquid and then bring it back to being gold with that aqua geo and stuff like that.

And I’ve had to learn all these like various chemical things and stuff like that, but I had to make sure I didn’t screw it up, cuz I know that if I did, somebody would go, Actually, I think you are fine. It’s actually chloron acid that does that and not what you did. Now you’ve ruined my entire reading experience

So there’s that element of making sure that’s all important, but I don’t need that one. I’m writing the book, just type magic water stuff and just carry on because that’s something I can do later. Or even hire someone to work out what I need to do. Good point. Yeah. Yeah. Because so many people I know get so bogged down with a story.

Because they’re trying to subconsciously find ways to not wipe this, find a way that takes them out of doing it. Oh, I, I can’t do this bit because I’ve gotta find this out. Or I had somebody the other day who turned out to me, said, I’ve had to totally really write my story cause the Queen died. And I went, Oh, it’s Queen in your story.

And they went, No, but there’s a bond point. They sing the national anthem. I said, Well, can’t it just be God saver King? And they’re like, Oh yeah, but then I’m absolutely dating when the book is. And I was just like, You’ve got a smartphone in it so we know it’s not the eighties. Yeah. And so how far did you go on that?

They were looking for a reason to move on something else? Yeah. Uh, segue something that’s interesting around kind of your genre and might be something with your marketing and kind of getting your community more involved in your brand. You probably have a lot of really smart readers that know that stuff and you could start asking them those questions.

If you built like a little research team, if you don’t already have that, I actually do that. I actually have a, I have a reader’s group which is filled with people that can help. But what I actually, one of the things I will say, and it’s not so much on that side, but it’s something I find very important.

And it’s something that I know people, some people don’t do it and they get annoyed about it and I just do not understand why every now and then Jack, cuz obviously I write under a pen name Jack Alan, it’s now known that Tony Lee is Jack Catlan. But at the start it wasn’t. And the reason I did that was because Tony Lee wrote Comics for Children and 10 year olds and Dr.

Who stuff, and Amazon would’ve been contacting these people and saying, Hey kid, who likes Dr. Who? Here’s a new book by Tony. It’s a older serial killer. And that would obviously not go down well, but there was another side that went, if it was completely brand new name, Amazon had no information on it, which meant that they’d have to work on what they did have, which was the type of book.

So it would then get me a little bit better on that side, but. What I will have every now and then is someone will email Jack Galland because I have obviously a Jack Galland email and they will say, Dear Jack, I hope you don’t mind, but in the ritual for the dying, you said this, but you, I think you meant this.

Or you’ve made a spelling mistake, or you’ve called a DCI Monroe DCI Mark, or something like that. And I’ll be like, Oh shit, sorry. Thank you very much. And most people go, Oh God, I’ve made a mistake. Oh this is terrible. And it’ll go and fix it in Vem and, and we upload it. The first thing I do is I contact ’em and say, Would you like to be on my B two reading team?

Yeah. Because you are someone who has taken the time to contact me to tell me that I’ve made a mistake. Not to goner, but to say, Look, I dunno if anybody’s told you this, but yeah. And the fact of the matter is, I’ve had 13 people go through this book and there’s been like 700, you know, no a dead, about 6,000 reviews and not one of them found this.

So yeah, please come on board. And I’ve now got a team. Probably about 20 people who get this book. The moment my editors are finished with it, I’ve set it in, in ve, I send it to these guys and they will all come back and they will all find things that mys didn’t find and they will all find things. And I, so one of my editors, I wrote Sleeping Soldiers, which is my spy book, my Jason Born Burn Notice kind of book.

And she, she repli replaced, she read it and she came back and she was very much, Look, just so you know, you’ve called I five. I five. We used to call it Boxed when we worked there. Now I know she’s an MBA because she’s got it on her name and I knew she was gonna Navy and then the conversation back was like, How’d you know this?

And what do you mean when you worked there? And it turned into, actually I was Naval Intelligence and I worked with m i five and I’m pretty much a sp. There’s this element of, I’m asking you every question I’ve ever got. Ever again. Yeah. Yeah. As simple as that. One of my closest friends who actually was with me in comics was also a vice cop and worked and moved into terrorism.

So he gets a lot of phone calls from me saying, How does this work exactly. Yeah. You know, you get things like that. So I do have that kind of thing, and there’s such a great part of that because, to your point, rather than looking at it as these people are trying to stick it to you, what’s happening is they’re taking ownership of this story world and they want it to be right.

Like these characters in the story world mean enough to ’em that they, because you know what they might do, they might, she might start suggesting it to her other spy buddie. And she doesn’t wanna suggest a book that might have a mistake in it. Like It’s true. It’s very true. It’s one of the things that really annoys me the most about Amazon when they do their reviews and you get top reviews, because I dunno how it works, but if I go into one of my books, I can’t remember which one it was in England.

Every review on top reviews is five star, five star, five star, four star, five star. I go into the US and it literally goes one star, one star, one star, two star, one star. And I’ve got 6,000 reviews. Eight of them are one stars. Out of all 6,000 reviews, eight are one stars, but five of them are on my job reviews

And it’s just, but this is a similar thing. This is that case of anything that helps people get through. And again, I’ll join Facebook groups that are relevant to my industry and I will suggest other books for people to read. I’ll talk to people about stuff and it’s amazing what you can find when you talk to various people.

There’s also, there’s, you have a question on anything. There’s a Facebook group. I want to know about what happens to a body if it’s left in the ground. So there’s a Facebook group, which is concerning, but at the same time we still do factual things. . Yeah. Well, you, you can gain it. In this day and age, there was no reason to have someone come and, and say, You did not research this.

I know in the historical romance space, there’s actually fan groups that are there to do this kind of stuff. Focus on particular time periods where it’s like authors that are successful in those, they won’t, they’ll go to that group and be like, Okay, I got a question about X or Y and there’s somebody there that’s gonna tell you.

12 pages of content on that . No, it’s true. When I did Dodging Twist, I had to set it, it was exactly 12 years after Oliver Twitch, which was set around 1834. So I had to like have it around like 1842. I had to make sure it all fit into certain years. And at 1.1 of the characters said someone like in 15 seconds will go and someone replied to me and said, We didn’t, They didn’t have seconds in those days, there wasn’t a second hand and it was just like, Ah, okay, good to know.

And then somebody else went, That’s ock, it existed. And I’m just, Then you’d have that problem. But no, if somebody turns around and says, I’m an expert in a particular thing and this is something you need to know, I will absolutely take that information from them. Yeah. And that stuff becomes so informative, right?

Because it’s an A, it did exist, but you had to be really rich to have a second hand on your watch. Yeah, exactly. That kind of stuff really gets into, I talking to an author that was P has been playing around with, she writes historical romance stuff and she was playing around with a AI to help her build descriptions, , and it came up with.

Tobacco, which of course if you were in a ballroom in the regency time, it would be wreaking with tobacco, right? Yeah. But because of our context, like we don’t think about that anymore, . Yeah, no, absolutely. So those are the things that, whether it’s fans or some of these other tools that help you to really get those descriptions, I think that’s cool.

So what are some things that you really see as the qualities of a good book? And I know you’re focused on the crime genre, but is there some things that maybe are specific to, if you can go broader than that’s even better? Yeah, this is The Thinkers, Jack Gatland writes crime novels, kind of damn Brownes kind of novels, spine novels, cuz I, that’s where I’ve put all those things in.

I wrote the Lionheart, which was my damn brown Da Vinci code myself. I’m known for Dr. Who. I’m known for doing this kind of comic stuff. So with me, I do a lot of urban fantasy kind of stuff and I’m writing that kind of thing at the moment. So I’m playing around with those kind of areas. So I am trying to keep quite broad.

What I’m doing, The biggest thing I state to anybody again, is research. Because you can have a two star book writing wise, but if you can show that the research is solid and that there’s an interesting story because of this, that pushes you up to a three to four star book. People can people, it’s like, for example, people can get over bad directing in a movie.

If the story’s really good, they can get past a really bad actor. Yeah. If the story or the directing’s really good, but if the story is really bad, you get it commented on. And even if the actors are great and the directors are good, and this is a problem that Marble’s had recently because they’ve had to rewind all their things cuz of covid and everything’s out of order, but all their films are getting slated because they not really put the time in that they used to.

Yeah. Yeah. The story is important. People will pay attention to story and if you are just going by the books, that course is problem. So with writing crime, Yeah, you have an A to B to C, and your main character is going from A to B to C to solve the case. But in, for example, neighbor spades, my urban fantasy on writing, my main character is still going from A to B to C, but they’re doing it because they need to find out this particular thing that will then tell them who killed their mother, and then they will go and do this particular thing here.

So they’re still doing the journey. And in my down brown book, they have to go for A to B to C because they’re doing a treasure hunt. Everything is always a quest. No matter how basic that quest is. Going to the shops is a quest. Depend on how you write it. Feeding the dog is a quest. Everything can be turned into whatever you want it to be.

It depends on how detailed you want to go in that situation. I know you mentioned Oter as a tool that you’re using and you mentioned pro writing aid. Is there other stuff that you use, A notion? Is there anything else on your list? Scrivener? Uh, for years I, as a comic writer and as a screen and TV writer, I would write with Final Draft and I would often use word for my pitches and stuff like that.

And I wrote my first two books in Word Letter and a Dead and Murders, and it was, Painful Word isn’t the most user friendly of things. I’ve never really been a massive fan of it. And I’d bought Scrivener many years ago purely for its cock board setting where you can plan things out because it was pretty, and it looked nice.

They had a chalkboard background. It looked like a court board. Yeah, exactly. What do you want? And I thought, and once somebody said, Oh, you want to try scr? And I started using Scrivener and it made it amazing. It was, so for me, opening Scrivener and working in Scrivener is great. I can work on anything. So they all links across into Dropbox, which I use.

I have an EdCloud account, but iCloud doesn’t sync as quickly as Dropbox does. And I need to make sure that if I turn it off here and I’m opening up my MacBook, that is pretty much instantaneous because I’ve gotta be able to bounce. If I’m picking up my phone, I can use SCR on my phone, I can use it on my iPad, I can use it everywhere.

And what this means is if I’m sitting in the dentist, I can do 200 words just on my phone. It’s, I might have to edit it out, but I can do this. For me, having a processor that works, as I said, I wrote on an atra, I wrote. Does ZX spectrum back in a day. I’ve done everything I wrote on typewriters. Yeah. Hey, kids typewriters were these amazing things that didn’t have screens attached , but basically, so for me, plot is nice, but not necessary.

I like it. It doesn’t, You could just do a bit of paper if you’re doing something very epic. There’s a software used called Aon Timeline, which gives you characters and timelines and you can work out where things are. And that’s when I’m doing a historical thing, that’s when I’ll play it all through. A lot of that was used in film and tv, though not currently in books.

Editing wise is pro writing aid. I set things up in Vem. For me though, you have to work out what helps you do your job. And for me it’s, I’m writing constantly. For example, I’ve just bought a new mechanical key. Because I need something that makes me want to type. I want something that makes me go, typing is a joy.

I don’t have a standing desk cuz my entire desk system is all built in. But I have now a standing thing that I can put on my desk so I can put my laptop on it and stand and do some work. I can swap onto my MacBook and go to a coffee shop. All these things help me with my writing. For my covers, I use Photoshop and I’ll build ’em all in that for my making the big cover things for the, the print books, I’ll use Illustrator.

Now I’m starting to hire people to do all this because I’ve got to that point where I’m bringing in designers, but most of the software I’m using is just the basic stuff. I’m starting to look into the marketing side. Now I’m starting to work out. Do I have anything that can give me bills? Yeah. Book report is being a bit rubbish at the moment.

I’m starting to use Amazon, just their basic thing for the, For my numbers. Yeah. I, Janet, Janet Margo’s book here. I’m constantly reading from that. The one I would suggest for that tool is look at reader links or it’s called the Author Helper Suite. Now. I’ve just joined it. Funny enough. Okay. And very powerful tool, not we wanna turn this into a pitch for them, but , we could talk afterwards about them, but it’s got no, I literally about a week ago actually, you was told and I’ve actually got it.

Yeah. But it’s that kind of, I’m writing a book right now. Oh, how that Well, and it’s one of these things that like most people are just scratching the surface of. Right. And it’s still it. It does. That’s very helpful. But like when you start doing some of these other, like I said, we can talk about how you should use it for your links and your books and it saves you time changing back.

You never have to change back matter. Yeah, I use Book Linker for a lot of my links anyway, so I’ve always used those. But to be honest, my biggest app for anybody who wants to be a writer is Notion, because I have everything on one page, my Hooded Man page, I can have every single one of my books. I can show exactly where I am at any point.

I’m a big one for lists. I like tick boxes. I have to know that I’m working my way through a phase because as well, I’m, I’ve written, I think it’s like I’ve written five, 550,000 words this year already, and I, there’s a part me that’s, I need to know that I’m not just, If I’m writing three, 4,000 words a day, I’m only nibbling at that number.

So there is an element of, if I’m writing a book and I know it’s gonna take a month to two months, and again, it sounds like I’m writing it super fast and therefore it won’t be that great. But you’ve also got Remember is while I’m writing, for example, I’ve just finished writing Steals The Goal, my second earlier reckless book.

In that time, I’ve also been plotting out my next DI Wash book. So by the time I actually get into it, I’m ready to go. Bam, let’s go done. I’m writing three comics as well. At the same time. I’m doing something else over here. I’ve been planning out another book because I need to be bouncing on different things because when I was a journalist, you never wrote one story.

You were always, This is my story for this week’s feature. I need something for next week’s feature. I’ve gotta make sure I’m gonna be talking to these people over there. I can’t just sit down and go 10,000 words a day when this book is done. I’ll move on the next book. And again, it’s something good for anybody who wants to be become a writer is learn to spin place.

Yeah, I, And I think that if you look at novelists that come out of journalism and the legal profession, there’s just this different level of discipline around the act of writing that helps them perform better. Yeah. They’re just used to writing in a different way. Sometimes you may, especially for lawyers, they have to start to.

Sounds horrible, but dumbed down their writing. Yeah, the top ind writing crime novelist. In fact, actually I think the top UK indie writer at the moment, which is LJ Ross who has topped like the book seller chart and stuff like that. Ex lawyer. Yeah. Yeah, it’s pretty common. So who are some of the people that you like look to, to help you get better?

Like we talked earlier, before we got on the recording, we were talking about how you, you mentioned a tennis player hiring Yon Lele to improve their game and we were talking about golf and I, I think always having a coach or mentor is really helpful. Who? Who? Who? Whether it’s books you read or people you’re actually working with, who kind, who’s your, It’s tough because obviously I came, when I came into writing as Jack Gatland, I was 50 years old, so I’m 52 now.

I was 50 at the time. I’d. Writing at this point, about 33 years I’ve been writing at stuff. So at this point I was actually mentoring people and writing comics and stuff like that. When I came into writing books, I was in a completely weird position where I’m a New York Times bestselling author and I’m going to people, How do I do this?

It’s that kind of thing. Yeah. So my daughter has come to say, Hello, go away. I’m in the middle of an interview, she’s, I want food. Yeah. Um, but for me it is weird because as I said, basically I’ve spent most of my life over half my life as a lance writer, as a writer, film and TV and stuff like that. And in the last two years, becoming Jack Ga, my life has completely changed to become a mid six figure author, just by doing almost effected going against every, all I learned in the years that I was doing it, I had a book agent, James Wills, who was a lovely guy who I actually end up turning around saying, I can’t use you.

Because every piece of information you’ve given me, every piece of advice you’ve given me, I’ve gone against, and now I’m doing better. And in fact, he’s now working with translations with me. But there was another one of looking at this and going, I, I don’t wanna be this person. I’m going against everything I’ve done.

It’s a bit icky. Yeah. So now in a situation, I’m in a situation where I have to look at it and go, What areas do I not know? And this is the thing we were saying, Yeah. Andy Murray, great tennis player, greatest in England, couldn’t win Wimbledon, takes Ivan Leor. Ivan Endor looks at him and obviously tells him something that gives him that edge.

And as you said, Tiger Woods has a putting coach, even though he’s like one of the best in the world, because there’s always something you can learn. Yeah. So for me, there was an element of, there’s a term I was always told, which is basically you never wanna be the smartest person in the room because if you’re the smartest person in the room, you can’t learn anything.

That’s a good point. You wanna get outta that room. That room is no longer good for you unless you’ve got an ego problem. . You should genuinely, if you want a Trump, for example, is the smartest person in the room as far as he’s concerned. He likes to be full of people who look up to him. Yeah. Elon Musk is a similar person.

Yeah. I don’t wanna be that. I want to be somebody who’s in the room with the cleverer people because I want to be able to ask, So how do I do this? How does this work for me? This is one of the reasons why 20 books is amazing, 20 books, 50 K, the Facebook page. You have everybody on there from people who have just started and have made their first dollar up to people who have made a million this month.

And every single person will give advice and some of it’s wrong for you. Some of it’s right for you, but you can. So I like to surround myself by, with clever people, I’ll find people who are good at what they do. I mean several master classes, which basically what I mean by that is it’s groups of people who are on a set level who have made Facebook groups up, and we’ll sit them and go through it.

I’m on the 20 books masterclass thing, so I can chat with Amazon and stuff like that, which will, again, I sit in a room with these people and go, So explain to me exactly how this works. I can, I’ve got people I can contact where I go, I don’t understand how Facebook ads work. What am I doing wrong? I have people I can speak to when I say my cover look shit.

Why am I getting this wrong? Yeah. And with story. It’s more of a self-help group sort of thing. There’s more people around that I can go, Oh my God, I really can’t focus on this today. And people will be going, Have you tried this? Have you tried that? I’m very much into biohacking, so I’m into a lot of new tropics and stuff like that.

So I’ll look at what new tropic stacks I’m taking, how do I focus in the mornings? And then I’ll talk to someone, say Jacob Tanner, who’s also into that kind of thing. And will be like, We’ll sit down and go, What are you taking? How are you working that through? And that’s more what I do. I’m not going to people and saying, Will you mentor me?

Say to people is I need some assistance on this particular thing. And what I always found when I wrote was, nine times outta 10, Ill sit down with somebody and I already know the answer, but I need somebody to help me to get to that answer. And most of the time somebody’s had that same problem. They can give me something that makes me go, Oh my God, that’s, I can’t believe I didn’t even think of.

Yeah, for sure. The main person I have is my dog, who’s just down there now staring at because then I’m genuine because I’ll walk her, I’ll go for a walk with her. I’ll just turn my brain off. I don’t listen to books. I don’t listen to music. I just walk somewhere like Woodlands for a good mile, and I just focus on the problem.

What is the issue I’ve got here? Why can’t this scene work? What is going wrong? And it’s in my head, or it’s just I’m picking up things from the years I’ve written, or the years I’ve watched TV or film or a scene will come into my head and I’d go, Oh, that would work, but it’s, if I wasn’t walking my dog, I wouldn’t have.

No, I hear you. There’s that time you need just for that creative space to open up and yeah, all those weird ideas from things from five minutes ago to things that are 20 years old, come together and make something that is new and magical. Yeah. And it’s, there’s an openness to finding things at work. So for example, I’m writing a book at the moment, a murder, my missile toast, my Christmas story.

Someone is killing people dressed like Father Christmas. It’s, it’s a lovely, it’s a lovely happy Christmas story, but I couldn’t work out what the connective tissue was. There was nothing I could get it through. And I went to a talk on Saturday and someone was talking about the, the clubs of London at the old gentleman’s clubs, like historian ones.

And then instantly I went, I’ve used these clubs in previous books, but never done much with them. And suddenly I now know how to do it and also bring in a popular character. But if I hadn’t gone to that talk, I wouldn’t have known. Mm. And all it takes is just being able to just listen. Take that moment, write it the hell down before you forget it.

And then just put it into story. And again, if you’re writing backwards like I do, you can start putting those scenes in before you can start writing the book because you know you’re gonna get to those things. Interesting. Yeah, no, that’s cool. I think it’s freeing, right? Like you don’t have to feel like you have to have it figured out to begin with.

It’s that iterative process that works. Doesn’t matter if you’re a plotter or a like, you just keep going around the loop. It’s freeing. But sometimes it’s utterly terrifying because there will be times when I’ve had them in books where I’ve written myself into corners and I’m walking around going, I dunno how to fix this.

This will not work. I do not know how the hell I’m gonna do it. And then something will happen. Or there’s been several times I’ve just gone back and gone, I’m just deleting this entire chapter and starting again. Yeah, because this chapter hasn’t, I’ve gone down the wrong alleyway, so let’s come back out onto the road and carry on down the road.

And sometimes that’s all it takes. Never be afraid to delete yourself cause. If you’ve got different drafts, you’ll always have it. Never be afraid to edit yourself. Never be afraid to change your mind. Never be afraid to literally decide that you’re ending is rubbish and you can do something different.

Because if you’re not writing it, literally you can do what you want. The only time your book is going to be even looked at in a linearal fashion is when the first reader picks it up and reads it. Yeah. You never have to write it. If you can’t focus on the senior writing, go write a insane, It’ll be 50,000 words further on in the book, but it’s still 3000 words of your book that you’ve written,

[00:58:09] Joseph: which is pushed you towards your target, which gets to the whole production piece.

[00:58:12] Tony: Yeah. And you might find as you’re writing that scene, but actually you’ve worked it out. And this is something else I would say is when I said it earlier, early on, that when I was younger, I was at Carbon Garden and then I was paralyzed. I had an accident which basically yarded my spine and couldn’t walk for, but I also lost three months of my memory.

Mmm, and I’ve never got it back. But I was writing a book and I had handwritten notes of this book, and when I looked at it, I realized it was a sequel to a book I’d written while I was in this three months that I can’t remember, like a short story, but looking at it, it didn’t matter because I could look at the sequel and go, I know what must have happened in the first book because I’m working it through and that’s why I work right the way I am.

Because if you write a later scene with utter conviction of this is what has happened, the earlier scenes will have to conform to that moment. Your brain will make sure they do. Interesting. Tony, it’s been great having you on and learning more about this process. I hope I haven’t waffled too much. No, it’s great.

[00:59:21] Joseph: And so you’re gonna be at 20 books. So folks that watch this, that are, they’re gonna be at the convention. You got one or two? I have two. Basically the two talks that I did in Madrid, I’ve been asked to do again. So one of my talks is about creating characters and subplots, mainly talking about how the best way to, to work them through sub supporting characters and subplots.

[00:59:40] Tony: Sorry. And then the other one is effectively chekov’s Gun and how working backwards can help you move forward. I think one of them is very early in the morning, one’s in the afternoon. Yeah. And I, for anybody that’s watching this, go and see these. If you’re trying to think about how you can really step up your writing process and get more creative, I found them really interesting.

Thank very much enough. So to have you on the show, like you may be our first craft guy. Hopefully I’ve setting the bar low enough step right over and come in. Um, , what’s that on the floor? Oh, no. And like we, we had talked about earlier, I think that this not, I certainly have no, no input on craft. That’s not my thing.

But I think that as authors start thinking about the reality of it is that, Quality is evaluated by the reader. Only when they read your book. That experience of reading, that daydream in front of the main mine’s eye that you’ve directed for them is the experience you’re selling. It’s not a book, it’s not an audio book.

It’s that experience. And the better you make that, the more people will come and drink your lemonade. Absolutely. And I sugar in it. They’re not gonna drink it. Exactly. And anybody who wants to write a book, and I’ve always said this to them, and this was comics or film or whatever, is it’s, you shouldn’t come into writing a book expecting to write the next book, a prize winner or something like that.

Write the book that you want to write, that you think you would enjoy reading. Because the chances are if you enjoy reading it, then others will. But also it will take the pressure off you to write that best selling book. I didn’t write any of my books, expected them to be best sellers. I didn’t write my books expecting myself to be where I am now.

Mm. I wrote them because I was going crazy, not doing anything in the pandemic. And I was happy just to make my salary or have something in the background and that would just keep going in the background while I did everything else. As it is, it’s become my life because Hooded Man Media, which I started to do these is now, I’ve done a couple other people.

I’m working in other areas, We’re now doing graphic novels. All of this came from one thing. And if I’d have sat down at the start and thought I’m gonna be doing this big amazing thing, it would’ve just brought me into a tiny ball and I wouldn’t have done it. Do what you’re comfortable with, Write what you’re comfortable with.

And also don’t be afraid to write rubbish stuff because you can always do a second draft or a third draft, and it’s only when that person reads it for the first time that you, No, they dunno how many years you took to write this. And it’s as simple as that. And also, one thing I also, and this is a big thing, and I’m sorry to interrupt to the very end.

One thing I get, and I got this a lot in Madrid, was people going, I would love to rapid release, but if I’m rapid releasing, I’m not writing quality work. Because I’m rushing my work. And the one thing I wanna say to anybody who does that, a few years ago I went to the Richard Lansing Green lecture at the Sherlock Home Society where, So Christopher Fraley had found Sir Arthur Conan Doyles Diary of the time.

He was waiting the hound of the basketballs, possibly one of the greatest detective stories of all time, and definitely one of the best shlock home stories of all time. And he worked out through reading this book that he reckoned that Arthur Koan Doyle wrote that entire book in 17 days while also playing five games of cricket.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes. As long as the story is there. Yeah. Charles Dickens used to write serialized stories for magazines. So did Koan Doyle. They were the equivalent of Penny Dreadfuls. Yeah, they had to. That’s how you made money. Yeah. You cannot judge a book by the speed is written. No.

Especially by journalist. Yeah. I think that let the market sort it out is my take on that. The ones that get hung up by Matt are authors. You wanna take 20 years to write your book? God bless. Go do it. There might be, and I’m not saying that you can’t do that, I’m just saying don’t think that just cuz someone writes faster not writing.

Cause that’s not how it works. Cause you could just look at anybody who writes comics at the moment, they don’t get more than a couple of weeks top. And I think that you look at my client base, there’s even the ones that maybe aren’t releasing as much just because of how their lifestyle is. They’re still fast writers.

They’ll still write a book in start to finish in less than six weeks. Because they’re, when they get in that they’re in the story world and they’re plotting it out and they’re doing like, that’s one. That’s what blinkers are on. You are just,

Yeah. Yeah. Great. So before we wrap up, where can people find you shamelessly?

Plug your stuff and then we’ll call it a day.

On social

media? I am on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter all as Mr. Tony Lee, m r t o n y l e e. I’m also on all of them as Hooded Man Media, which is my company, and as Jack Gatland books, which is my, obviously other self apart from Twitter where it’s Jack Gatland book because they wouldn’t have enough letters to do what I wanted to do.

And yeah, I’m basically, you can find me on all those places. I’ll be at 20 books in Vegas, come and say hi because it’s my first Vegas and I don’t know that many people. I’m only in for three days. I’m in and out. Apart from that, I will be talking at RainDance in December on story. I’ll be probably at the London Film and Comic Con in November, but just come find me online and say hi.

[01:04:56] Joseph: Cool. All right, Tony. Thanks a lot. It’s great having you on. Thank you for having me. All right. Talk to you later.