How Writing Fanfiction Helped Me Become a Published Author

1,000,000 Words 

I got my start in writing stories about ten years ago now, when I was fifteen. I’d just read the latest Harry Potter novel, Goblet of Fire, and wanted to know what happened next. So I went online looking for theories, news, excerpts, and it wasn’t long before I stumbled onto the rampant and amazing fanfiction community. I think at the time – and this may still hold true – Harry Potter fanfiction was the largest selection of stories across all the fanfic websites.

I read a whole bunch of them, hundreds – the big names at the time – and some of those stories I still think about today, they were that good. These stories would be posted with updates every week, or month, or what have you – whenever the author had the time – and I’d be hooked. It was sort of like waiting for a new episode of your favourite TV show. Those fanfics, the really good ones, were being written by writers with some severe talent.

Why weren’t they writing their own original stories? Some of them were. Names you will recognise, I’m sure.

I saw the response and the cries for more these writers were getting, swept up by the majesty of it all, and thought it amazing.

So, naturally, I decided to start writing my own fanfiction. I chose the Harry Potter fandom not only because I loved those books and that world, but because it would afford my writing the greatest exposure. The community was active, rabid even, and wanted to be fed. What happened over the next few year surprised me. I ended up writing in excess of a 1,000,000 words on a trilogy of stories. And then starting again with another few novel length works set in the Harry Potter universe, which capped my total north of 1.5 million words. I was heavily influenced by all the authors I was reading at the time, from Stephen King to Matthew Reilly, but looking back at those fanfics and I can almost see myself learning how to write. The first chapter of the very first story was over 10,000 words long and not a lot happens. These days, I’d cut that entirely. I make all the mistakes a rookie writer makes, but my story was good. Great, even. People loved it.

I became one of those talked about writers on the forums, in blog posts, and people read my stories in droves. Tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and now and again some of them would leave me reviews. Thousands and thousands of reviews. My fanfics garnered praise and derision, were held up as shining examples and laughed at as pitiful failures, and most importantly I began to understand writing.

A little bit. Somewhat. Some would still say not at all. 😉

In short, I’d become a fiction writer—and for the most part, a well received one. How about that, friends and neighbours, just how about that.

From Fanfiction to Original Fiction

It wasn’t until I turned nineteen that I started writing stories in my own worlds. Characters of my own creation, places and settings and all the mechanics of a story. I didn’t know what I was doing, but then no one does when they’re just starting out.

I found myself imitating other writers far too closely, in the start, and having made the leap from J.K. Rowling’s wonderful world, I was almost still writing fanfiction, for all that mattered, because my stories had been told a thousand times before. Hero saves the day, gets the girl, the end.

It took many more years before I finally started to get my head around some of the work required to produce an original story. Ideas have and still do come at me from a thousand different places and in a hundred different ways. I’m only just now, ten years on, starting to get some of those ideas on the page in a readable manner.

Fanfiction taught me mechanics, how to tell a good story, and I know some famous authors consider it crass or next to useless, but those people are wrong, ladies and gentlemen. This article, which inspired my post, has more to say on the matter.

I would offer this advice to those writers just starting out, who are unsure and uncertain, that knocking out a few thousand words of fanfic in a popular fandom and posting it for critique can do wonders for your confidence. You’ll get honest reviews, harsh critiques, and even wonderful praise. A big step for any writer is to showcase their work to as large an audience as possible. You’ll learn a lot, I guarantee it.

What do you all think?

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The 1,000,000 Word Challenge

So I’ve set myself something of a challenge, dear readers, to start on July 1st of this year – in about five days.

I’m going to write one million (1 with six 0’s after it!) words in a year. The Australian financial year, to be precise – from the beginning of July 1st, 2014, to midnight on June 30th, 2015. I’ve chosen this number because it’s a nice round number, and because I like the idea of seven-figure year.

Previous years (not this last year, this last year has been god awful) have seen me hit 600k, and that was just as the mood took me, so this isn’t unreasonable. I’ll be breaking down the word counts below, though.

Also at roughly 70,000 words per story (my average), that’ll be about 14 novels.

So the math (because numbers are pretty):

1,000,000 words/365 days in the year = 2740 words a day (2739.72, precisely, so rounded up)

2740 words a day =

  • 19,180 words a week
  • 76,720 words a month
  • 1,000,100 words a year (so more than a million with the rounding. Heh.)

I won’t be aiming for 2740 words a day, though. No, no, no. I’m aiming for 3000+, at the very least. Every day I write more than the 2740 is a day that brings me closer to the target before the year’s up.

1,000,000 words/3000 words a day = 333.33 days

That means I could feasibly have 30 ‘zero days’. Or two and a bit days a month where I don’t write a word. This is assuming, of course, that I stop on 3,000 words. I’ve been known to write upwards of 10,000 a day, when I’m in the zone. Granted, these days are as rare as a pink diamonds, but we find a few of those a year, don’t we? Yeah, we do.

My general writing pace, once I force myself into the chair, varies between 800-1200 words an hour. Some times I can hit my stride and sink 1500 words in an hour, but let’s assume an average of 1000. Because that’s about right. So at a 1000 words an hour I should need 3 hours a day to hit my 3k target – and beyond. The math on 3 hours a day?

3 hours of writing/24 hours in a day*100 = 12.5% of the day.

That’s all.

Just over 1/10th of the day. Cut out visits to the pub and reruns of Doctor Who and I can find my 3 hours. I’ll be working full time 5 days a week, too, so the schedule will be important. Need to see the numbers to see if I’ll make it.

I haven’t forgotten about editing, either. Arguably where the real writing is done is in revision. I’ll be devoting between 90-120 minutes a day to that task. So another 2 hours. That’s 5 hours scheduled for writing and writing related tasks – producing the product that brings in those writing pennies.

5 hours of writing and editing/24 hours in a day*100 = 20.8% of the day.

So, 1/5th of the day. Still not entirely unreasonable. Perhaps a disciplined ask given other time commitments, such as work and sleep, but I want this, I want this bad, so I’ll aim to get my 5 hours.

Let’s look at a bit more math based on increased daily word targets.

1,000,000 at:

  • 4000 words a day will take 250 days (8 months or so)
  • 5000 words a day will take 200 days (6 ½ months or so)
  • 6000 words a day will take 167 days (5 ½ months or so)
  • 7000 words a day will take 143 days (4 ¾ months or so)
  • 8000 words a day will take 125 days (4 months or so)
  • 9000 words a day will take 111 days (3 ¾ months or so)
  • 10000 words a day will take 100 days (3 ½ months or so)

Could knock out a cheeky 10,000 words a day for the next 100 days and take 9 months off. Sorely tempting, but I imagine my delicate writer’s fingers will be reduced to ragged, bloody stumps if I attempted such madness. Tempting, though…

I’ll do weekly updates, I reckon, tracking the progress. Blog posts and such will not count toward the daily target. Only words of fiction that advance my stories.

I’m under no illusions here. I may miss this target severely. But I believe the numbers will count as motivation. No zero days, not really, and even if I walk away with a measly 500k, that’s still 7 or so novels. More than worth a year.

First update on July 7th – which should see me at around 20,000 words for the financial year.

So who’s with me?




Hay Festival, London, and the Australia & New Zealand Festival!

So in the last few weeks I had the pleasure to fly into the United Kingdom for the Australia and New Zealand Literary Festival, held over the end of May to early June at King’s College in London. I spent two weeks in the UK and even managed to sneak on stage at Hay Festival in Wales to talk books.

Hay Festival

I was in London a few days before travelling across to Hay on the train. The countryside was amazing – so much green! It was about three and half hours, plus a half hour car ride, to get to the festival site. This was my first time at Hay Festival, both as a presenter and a visitor, and I have to say I’ll be heading back in future years. I could only spare the afternoon, for my event and signing, but some of the people they had on stage, like Stephen Fry and Jennifer Saunders, would have been worth seeing.

Here I am in a totally not staged action shot, reading in The Cube to an audience of a few hundred folk:


Hot, right?

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to fill the time, a whole hour, but we actually went over by about five minutes. The session contained a reading, some discussion on how I write stories, then some links to my fiction from the counterterrorism and security side of the fence. I spoke on border security and reading body language, which led to a whole lot of questions at the end—some even about the books!

The Hay Festival was an experience, despite how little time I managed to spend there, and after the presentation they gave me not only a white rose but a crate of red wine. It’s like we’ve been friends for years.


The train ride back to London was an experience. The rugby final in Cardiff had been the same afternoon, and the train back to Paddington was… busy. Heh. To say the least. In the space of an hour I went from rubbing shoulders in the green room with the likes of Stephen Fry, to being crammed into a ‘standing room only’ train. Rubbing shoulders, indeed. I ended up crammed into the toilet with four other blokes, all pissed out of their minds. If we’d had something to get into the crate of wine, those bottles wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes. Still, it was hilarious. If not for the festivals and the people I got to meet, 3 hours in the train toilet may have been the highlight of the trip. 😉


I had a few days in London after getting back from Hay before the opening night of the ANZ festival, so when I wasn’t working I went exploring. The hotel (Clarendon Grange in Bloomsbury) was within spitting distance of not only the British Museum, but an easy 10 minute walk down the Strand. Of the highest priority, I found the best bar in the area – which just so happened to be the Holborn Whippet. Oh they had 18 craft beers and ciders on tap. I’d try them all before I left a week later.


Also a damn decent kitchen – with currywurst and awesome, saucy pizza.

I met up with a friend for a few nights of drinking and exploring, and in between all that I scraped a few pages from the word mines, but nothing of real significance. I had all these plans to write down on the Thames, but alas for that.

Australia and New Zealand Festival for Literature and Arts

I had two events the weekend of the festival, both surrounding YA fiction. Well, three events, actually, as I also attended and did an hour’s talk at City of London School on the Monday, which went really well. I got to meet some fantastic people, authors, and artists. The opening night I had the privilege to listen to Tim Winton read from his new novel Eyrie and enjoy the open bar afterwards. You know me and open bars – often viewed as a challenge.

I won.

My events were on The Dark Side of Teen Fiction and Teen Fiction and the Land. My first event on the Sunday was just after lunch in an ornate council room at Kings College. Here I am with the panel:


In the teens vs. the land panel, I was in discussion with Geraldine McCaughrean, Lucy Christopher, and Anna Mackenzie. So I was feeling a little out of place, not only as the only bloke, but as to the quality of authors on either side. I was in good company.

I just recently finished reading Lucy Christoper’s book, Stolen, which was fantastic and absolutely nailed the desolate isolation of the Western Australian desert. Need to write up a review of that one, actually.

My second event for the day was around 4pm, and I was on a panel with the likes of Bruce Pascoe, Mandy Hager, and Nicole Hayes – we discussed the dark side of teen fiction, and writing about issues ranging from violence, to suicide, to mental illness, and so on. We were all in agreement that these issues are important within teen fiction and should be discussed. Here we all are:

Pascoe Dark Side

The City of London school visit was fun. I did a reading to a group of fourteen/fifteen year old school kids, in place of their daily English class. We talked counterterrorism and some of the finer points of how to turn words into a story. Believe it or not, they even had copies of The Reminiscent Exile series in the library – which marks the first time I’ve ever seen those books out in the wild. Rather exhilarating.


Also did a cheeky signing in the school bookshop:


And so ended my time in London and the U.K. Over too soon. My writing career has been on the rise for the last two years, and I’m going to keep running with my words and these events, until folk wise up and realise I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Heh.

Back to the word mines,


On Signing Books

There’s a real trick to writing something witty and meaningful on the inscription page of a novel. I have yet to master that trick, but whenever I write something pseudo-clever I snap a pic or get the reader to email me a copy of it later. Here’s a few that have come in this year.

2014-03-03 12.07.29

From BROKEN QUILL: Tim, Somewhere in this story is the most hardcore sex scene ever written. Good fortune, -Joe

2014-03-03 12.11.08

From DISTANT STAR: To Kate, We’re tequila mercenaries in a desert of bastards and whores. Otherwise known as the long road to mediocrity! -Joe

2014-03-03 12.13.13From DISTANT STAR: To Matt, Scotch, nachos, and distasteful pornography. I swear she said she was eighteen! -Joe

2014-03-03 12.30.55From BROKEN QUILL: Hi, Si, The key to success is to smile while feeling depressed and unsatisfied with everything. Also drinking shower beer! Your pal, Joe

I fully expect some of these to come back and bite me in the ass one day – but not today!



Lost Grace (RE#4) Cover!

Well, the incomparable Vincent Chong has gone and worked his magic again on my humble tales. Check out this noise:

DEclan 4

As is standard, Vinny has outdone himself. I don’t deserve his talent.

Check out his other work here:

It tells more in a single image than I could in a 1000 novels.

Look out for the release of this story in MAY, 2014, so long as the editing is up to scratch. This one sees Declan almost happy for a change, which can’t last of course, not in his world, but default settings aside he can scrape a moment of blessed clarity from the maelstrom. Perhaps he’ll spend that moment in a dive bar, singing Korean karaoke, perhaps he’ll spend it in love, or fighting the Elder Gods. If it were up to me, he’d just knock back two finger’s worth of amber poison and head out for the steak special.

Despite appearances, it ain’t up to me. Declan has a warped mind of his own.



International Book Giving Day!

Whoa, I’m letting posts on this blog of mine slide – but then who reads it anyway, eh? 😉 I’m part of IBGD this year, so check this out, ladies and gentlemen:


Celebrate International Book Giving Day 14th February 2014

International Book Giving Day, 14th February, is a day dedicated to getting new, used, and borrowed books into the hands of as many children as possible.

Share the love of books & the generosity of giving … all on a day synonymous with love.

International Book Giving Day was built and created by Amy Broadmoore, founder of the American children’s book website, Delightful Children’s Books, in 2012. Inspired by her son’s desire to ‘invent a holiday when people gave books to each other’, the determination to link that with Valentine’s Day was born just 10 days before the day itself!

Within a short space of time Amy’s initiative has continued to grow, sparking enthusiastic responses from across the globe. ‘I used the connections I had as a children’s book blogger to invite people from around the world to celebrate International Book Giving Day.’

Amy continues: ‘People not only give books to kids in their communities, they also share stories and photos via Twitter, Facebook and International Book Giving Day’s website. Connecting with others who are giving books to kids, is part of what makes this an inspiring holiday.’

The support of well-known authors and bloggers has been instrumental in International Book Giving Day’s success. 2014 sees an increased presence of Emma Perry, My Book Corner – UK, as Amy creates a little more room to squeeze in even more bookish projects.

Perry says: ‘the enthusiasm from all who hear about International Book Giving Day is infectious. The reaction I’m getting already really is wonderful – illustrators are donating their time, children are donating books to other children & independent bookstores are in love with the philosophy behind the day.’

International Book Giving Day has received great support from well known children’s authors from around the world. Mem Fox, Clara Vulliamy, Dub Leffler, Katrina Germein, Chris Haughton, Sindiwe Magona, Ed Emberley, Dianne Wolfer, Kathryn Apel, Ed Vere, Claire Wildish, Peter H. Reynolds, Sandy Fussell, Priya Kuriyan, Janeen Brian, Barney Saltzberg, Hazel Edwards, and Frane Lessac have all given books to children on February 14th and are encouraged others to do the same.

The beauty of International Book Giving Day is its simplicity. Participants do not need to organise a huge event to take part. They are invited to celebrate by:

1. Giving a Book to a Friend or Relative. Gift a book to a child who would enjoy receiving a book on February 14th. A perfect alternative to overpriced chocolate and roses … although chocolates still make a good present!

2. Leaving a Book somewhere … Choose a waiting room where kids are stuck waiting. Purchase a good book, and deposit your book covertly or overtly in your waiting room of choice. Try leaving them in playgrounds with our downloadable bookplates or bookmarks tucked inside! The goal here is to spread the love of reading to kids.

3. Donating a Book. Donate books to a school library, children’s hospital, or nonprofit organisation working to ensure that all kids have access to books. A list of some of these organisations can be found on the website.


So there you have it, folks. This is an initiative we can all get behind!

Word Counter

So I’ve gone and added a nifty word count tracker on the right hand side of the page here. Just to give folk an idea of where I am on current drafts, what I’m working on, and where my words are heading.

Crystal Force will be finished ‘fore the New Year.

Lost Grace in January and, if I’m feeling particularly wordy, Ghosthustlers (a gritty horror/comedy/really fucked up-at-thon) end of Jan/early Feb.

Huzzah for the word count! ALL HAIL COUNTRIX!

5 Copies of Knight Fall – A Giveaway!

Fresh off the release of The Rig, which is garnering some awesome reviews and praise, I’ve got the next volume in the Reminiscent Exile series lined up for release at the end of this month!

Hurray. Hurray, indeed.

To celebrate, I’m doing a paperback giveaway!


Got some other news coming up, including some new stories, short stories, and exciting author stuff, but I’ll save that until after the release of Knight Fall. All things being even, it should be live for Amazon Kindle on October 27th!

Knight Fall Draft Finished!

Ladies and gentlemen, huzzah!

Today, the 9th of August in the 2013, I did doth complete the draft for Knight Fall (RE3#)! This is cause for rampant celebration and merriment of the scotch’ed variety.

The novel is off to my editors late Sunday and I should have the second round, then two proofreads, sorted mid-September. Won’t be too long after and it’ll hit the shelves!

Here’s the rough blurb until then:

“The Knights of Atlantis created the Infernal Clock, the Roseblades, and other weapons of celestial illusion. Yet today the Knights are less than a pale shadow of their former glory. A bonfire diminished to dying embers. None of the Order could wield Origin with enough conviction to even blemish the Everlasting.” Emily grinned and gave me a wink. “Well, save perhaps one shadowless fool.”

The peace forged by Declan Hale at the end of the Tome Wars was meant to last a hundred generations. Yet barely six years have passed and the drums of war echo once more across the thousands of worlds of the Story Thread.

With shadowed enemies loosed from the Void, the Knights Infernal again after his head, and the Everlasting wrapping him in their dark schemes, Declan will have to take the fight across worlds once more—or risk True Earth getting swept away in the maelstrom.