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“Please! Don’t yell at me. I’m a writer. I await my muse!”

crabby boss woman

ways to track your writing progress

For many writers, keeping track of progress and improving productivity are big headaches.

Advice from the writing ‘gurus’ often comes down to a choice between options 1 and 2 below.

1 Time Trackers.

There are many apps to choose from and download but essentially they amount to traditional ‘clocking in’ and ‘clocking out’. More sophisticated tools enable you to show your scheduled time against actual time spent on different projects or tasks. Client billing is available if you run a business and visual aids like pie charts can help you to see the proportion of time spent on different activities.


2 Word Count.

For many writers, word count is often the preferred choice. 500 words a day, 1000 for the fast, perhaps even more for the “Usain Bolts” of this world. Show your progress using a graph or a calendar pinned to a wall or board right in front of your eyes. No hiding place!


3 Hybrid.

This is my preferred approach. I appreciate this will not be for everyone but it works for me. I write novels and I think, especially for fiction, it is necessary to adapt your method of checking progress according to what stage you’re at. For example, writing your first draft is basically about getting words on paper (screen). This is the stage where quantity matters – quality comes later as you rewrite and edit. So yes, I use word count and target 1000 words a day when writing my first draft. However, at the same time I track time spent (fact is I do this for every stage) – and set a target schedule of time each day. Keeping track of my ‘bum on seat’ time is important for me. This is particularly true for those stages in writing a novel where word count is not the main goal. For example the planning, rewriting and editing stages require a focus on quality and attention to detail – no mad rushing here, just getting it right. But putting in the hours is important.

So, that’s my approach – always track your actual writing time; make sure you work your scheduled daily hours. Drive yourself at the first draft writing stage, let your creative juices flow but get your raw material down on the page as fast as possible. Put your critic’s head in place for the later stages.


How do you check your productivity, keep your writing on track? Be really interested to hear. Thanks,








Get your book written

‘Get that Book Written’

Time To Manage Time

Getting your writing done is some challenge. There is so much else to do – email, social media, (Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, Reviewing, etc.), reading, television, sports, concerts, exercise, hobbies, community work, volunteering, films to see, etc, etc – oh, and then there’s that small thing called LIFE! You know, your Special One, family, friends, holidays, travel, and of course WORK. I’m in the fortunate situation now where my WRITING is my WORK but for many years I held down a full-time, demanding job and managed to write. I know it’s tough. Now this blog isn’t about writing per se, i.e. what or how to write; you can get loads of stuff on that. This is about how we best get our writing done?

I’ve always been an advocate of time management. It’s the one resource that’s finite. We all get the same twenty four hours per day; how we use the time we have determines how productive we are. Not everyone will have the same priorities or time available for writing but I’ve distilled my approach into three basic, daily cyclical tasks that I think apply to most of us.

Latest Matt Proctor crime novel now published

Check out book here

  1. Plan

Long and medium term plans are important. Do have specific writing goals that are timed and achievable – know what you want to write; by when and how (will you need money, support, facilities, tools?). Remember that the most important plan is what you are going to do today. Always have a written Daily Plan and be sure it’s doable – stretching, yes but doable so you don’t set yourself up to fail each day! Your Daily Plan is the foundation to achieving long term goals.

  1. Schedule

Decide what you are going to do today and when and for how long. This is more than a ‘To Do’ wish list – it’s a thought through commitment. There are plenty of tools to help here. A simple pocket diary at a minimum, better still an electronic diary/planner on your pc, tablet or phone. (Search the internet for planners, project managers, diaries or similar – you’ll find loads of apps). The important trick is to look ahead, enter recurring items and when to do them, how often (daily, weekly) and for how long. Then add today’s most important one-off jobs from your To-Do list. Put them in your schedule. Try to allocate a specific  recurring period, ideally every weekday, for ‘Writing’. Similarly for Marketing – although I call that ‘Grow my Book Sales’, my bottom line. Any time on the Internet should have this goal . Anything else that leads to that end also gets done in this time slot (Giving talks, conferences, book reviews, etc.). I also have my ‘Admin’ time – half an hour a day for emails, desk housekeeping, planning and reviewing. As a writer I believe these three are critical – you may want to add others.

  1. Review

Right, you have a daily plan; you’ve scheduled your tasks, so…How’ve you done today? Checking (or as we in the UK say ‘ticking’) a ‘Done’ box feels good; are all tasks ticked (checked)? Yes? Then grab a coffee, smile and stare into space for a minute or so. Time Tracking apps are a great help as well, (I swear by them for reviewing; they don’t lie – as long as you don’t!). You can see how much time you’ve actually spent on your projects or tasks to compare with your scheduled time. Some have pie charts that are great for picturing the actual amount and percentage of your time spent on different activities to compare with your plan. Saves yet more time on a lot of arithmetic (math!).  Learn from your reviews; make adjustments, reschedule if necessary, get more disciplined to adhering to ‘bum on seat’ targets. Now get out your ‘To Do’ list, prioritise and set tomorrow’s plan – today.

So that’s my brief take on writing productivity. ‘Get that book written’.

I plan to write a ‘how to’ giveaway book soon elaborating on these basic steps of Plan, Schedule and Review. Look in on my website/blog for more information.

And Good Luck on your writing journey

Now here’s what I call Time Management!


Great Festival event – Evesham


What a lovely group of people at the Evesham Festival of Words, 2017. When a writer attends an event at an unfamiliar venue there are always some nerves jangling. Will they be a friendly lot? Welcoming smiles or fiercely crossed arms and legs? Will there be ANYONE?
I need have had no such concerns for this Evesham Festival – a great variety of events held in a truly friendly atmosphere. I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Festival Bookshop launch in the Almonry (a superb historical building in the centre of the town, once a 14th Century home to the Almoner of the Benedictine Abbey that was founded at Evesham in the 8th Century) where I read from my first DCI Matt Proctor novel “Too Smart to Die” to a packed audience.
Festival Chair Sue Ablett and her excellent team devised a varied programme of authors reading from their works, namely; Andrea Darby, Sue Johnson, James Bacon, Hilary Orme, Paige Elizabeth Turner/aka Nigel Barnard, Pershore Young writers and yours truly; readings well chaired by Ashleigh Jayes.
Afterwards, writers and attendees mingled and chatted over nibbles and drinks – and took the opportunity to buy signed copies of books and tickets for other festival event. (I’m sure a few dads and mums were ‘persuaded’ by teenage offspring to buy my book when they heard me refer to ‘cybercrime’!).
A most enjoyable experience – this writer for one will definitely be back next year.




Libraries – we need them.

Support your local community library.

Read to see

In many parts of the UK cash-strapped local authorities have to make drastic cuts in services to save money. My own local library, Kinver, since the beginning of this year (2017) is staffed entirely by volunteers. We owe a debt of gratitude to them – by their efforts we continue to have a library that provides such an essential service to young and old (and those in-between!) and serves as a community hub.

To support the library, I have agreed to give a free session in the form of a talk/workshop on ‘Writing and Publishing your Book’. This may be followed by support sessions for those who want to pursue writing their book. Here’s my press release.

Writing and Publishing know-how for budding authors”

What do you want to write?

  • Memoir 
  • Novel
  • Short stories anthology
  • Poetry collection
  • Children’s story

Local Kinver crime and thriller writer, Tom Bryson, will explain how would-be authors can write and publish their own books at minimal cost. His talk at Kinver Community Library is on Thursday, 9th March at 7.30 pm.

He says, ‘Ever thought of writing your personal or family memoir – not an autobiography but a ‘slices of life’ story? Sometimes we leave it too late to ask our parents, grandparents about their lives and times. All too soon we’ve lost them and then regret missed opportunities to have known so much more. So how about writing your book for posterity – for your family and descendants. Without getting too pretentious, this could be your much-treasured legacy.

‘Or what about that novel you’ve had at the back of your mind for years – perhaps there’s a draft gathering dust in a drawer somewhere. Why not dig it out, rewrite it in the best way you can, find a good editor and see your book in print and as an e-book.

‘Perhaps you have an idea for a children’s book, or a collection of short stories or poems you want to produce in an anthology. All are possible.

‘Won’t all this cost a fortune? Not necessarily, given the advent of digital technology and print-on-demand publishing. The days are gone when you needed to buy a shedful of books to get an economic print run and then traipse the shops and streets to sell them. If you’re prepared to take the learning curve and get to grips with word processing and formatting for internet uploads, you can do it. (Or perhaps there’s a fourteen year old you can collar to help!). If you must incur costs, then a good editor is the most important investment to make.’

Local Kinver author Tom Bryson, who writes crime and thriller novels, will reveal all at the recently launched Kinver Community Library on Thursday, 9th March, 7.30pm, tickets from the library, £2. (All proceeds go the the Community library)

So – dream your dream – come along and hear what Tom has to say.


Website https://tombrysonwriter.wordpress.com

Books available from amazon here (print and e-book) and author (email tombryson1@yahoo.com  Tel. 01384 872204)


Writing a novel



A quick recap.

I’ve already written blogs covering three of ‘Seven Components of Novel Writing’. Below is the fourth. Here’s the FULL list:

  1. CORE– Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure? In 50 words; yes, I keep this to 50 words. Concentrates the mind!
  2. OUTLINE– Two pages max. Written in present tense, with a start, middle and end. Split into key scenes with short headings. Leave room for the story to evolve.
  3. MAIN PLOT– Spine of the story, the heart of the MC’s journey. Sub-plots add complexity and richness. The main plot (and sub-plots) summaries need only be a sentence or two.
  4. SCENES– Scenes are the building blocks of the novel. These are where the action is. As you write scenes you are writing your book.
  5. CHARACTERS– Absolutely critical. The reader must care about these people.
  6. SETTINGS– Give ‘colour’, atmosphere, they complement characterisation, add credibility and context whether real or fictional places.
  7. SYNOPSIS – Comes at the end because a synopsis is a ‘selling’ tool; your book summary. You write a synopsis when you’ve finished your book. (I include it as part of planning because you’ll need it for submissions).



In this FOURTH  blog in the series, I’ll focus on my fourth COMPONENT in WRITING A NOVEL, namely writing SCENES. 


What is a scene?  

Scenes are the building blocks of the novel. These are where the action is. As you write scenes you are writing your book.

I find that I need a scene plan to give me prompts to flesh out the scene. When I am writing the scene I follow the plan but not as if it were a ‘tablet of stone’ – no, I let the writing flow and don’t permit the plan to be a strait-jacket, more a rough track that becomes a defined path as the writing progresses. To give completeness to a scene I use a checklist – I call it my ‘Easyview Scene Planner’. Here it is and I’ll go through how it works.

I write my first draft using Microsoft One Note – it’s free and having experimented with other writing tools including Scrivener – a great tool by the way that many writers swear by- but one I found over-complicated. (I’m a simple soul who likes things simple).


EASYVIEW SCENE PLANNER (Enter here brief scene description, scene number, word count)

Why? PURPOSE: Show viewpoint character – who? Chasing goal which is?
What? ACTION: Through the main plot/sub-plots? Which in this scene are?
Who? VIEWPOINT CHARACTER is? Show traits, develop character. Other characters?
How? CONFLICT: What are the Internal/External obstacles to the main character’s goal?
Where? SETTING: Where are we? Define early in scene. Create atmosphere?
When? TIMELINE: Day, night, season, time since last scene?? Define early
Hook HOOK: Why read on? Entice, intrigue, engage  – dazzle reader





·        Use external action-character reaction units (instinctive, dilemma, decision)

·        Use active verbs, min adverbs/adjectives, pace sentences, concrete not abstract words use senses, show-don’t tell, eke info, intrigue, balance action/description/dialogue.

·        Use the senses, sight, sound, taste, touch, smell

·        Explore emotions – anger, fear, elation, sadness, love,hate, disgust, happiness, etc.


I fully expect some will say this is far too detailed and will inhibit creativity. I understand that view although I think this grid can be adapted and modified to suit individual tastes.

I tried a few more basic approaches such as this: it works.

Scene heading:  

Viewpoint character

Goal, obstacles, conflict?

What happens?

Using this tool, I can write a scene plan in a couple of minutes – I don’t write a plan for every scene at the outset, but get the key scenes planned and written first, then fill in the rest. My key scenes are the opening scene, the inciting incident or ‘spark’ that gets the story going, turning points where the main character hits the buffers and has to change tack, tough it out, tastes success, faces despair, and of course the climax – where good triumphs over evil – or maybe vice versa!

Here’s the scene plan for the opening scene in my cop Matt Proctor novel ‘IN IT FOR THE MONEY’. (See below)


  1. 1. Bookmaker Harry McGeady’s murder in Birmingham betting shop


Why? PURPOSE: Show viewpoint character – who? Chasing goal which is? Grab attention, introduce cop Matt Proctor (likes a bet), start spine story, introduce problem for MP (McGeady’s murder), set tone, atmosphere.
What? ACTION: Through the main plot/sub-plots? Which in this scene are? Proctor collects winning bet, shop raided, cash handed over to two  balacala’d bikers, McGeady shot dead in face.

Senses: Red blood, salty, loud gunshot, tv blast, bike roars, cigarette smells,  p/mint gum, sphincter gone, cold floor, hot outside

Who? VIEWPOINT CHARACTER is? Show traits, develop character. Other characters?  DCI Matt Proctor
How? CONFLICT: What are the Internal/External obstacles to the main character’s goal? MP versus  gang, MP versus teller, MP v ‘demons’
Where? SETTING: Where are we? Define early in scene. Create atmosphere? Int. bookies, tv’s on, newspapers on wall, tinny speakers, tawdry
When? TIMELINE: Day, night, season, time since last scene?? Define early  June, summer, hot and sunny
Hook HOOK: Why read on? Entice, intrigue, engage  – dazzle reader MP’s good mood shattered, jolted, injured, angry, his snout murdered.


·        Use external action-character reaction units (instinctive, dilemma, decision)

·        Use active verbs, min adverbs/adjectives, pace sentences, concrete not abstract words use senses, show-don’t tell, eke info, intrigue, balance action/description/dialogue.

·        Use the senses, sight, sound, taste, touch, smell

·        Explore emotions – anger, fear, elation, sadness, love,hate, disgust, happiness, etc.


I intend pulling these blogs together into a compact ‘how-to’ book provisionally called ‘The Quick Novel Writer’ and publish it later this year – possibly as a free giveaway. Website header collage straightPicMonkeyThanks and keep looking in, folks!

Focus, focus, focus…

Sometimes I read an article or blog that truly resonates. The advice below from Victoria Gray certainly hit the spot for me. While it applies to life in general, it is also  highly relevant to productive writing. When you settle down to write, turn off your phone, park your email, get rid of alerts and any other interruptions – focus on the job in hand, your writing and meet your scheduled time allocation, word count or whatever you use to track progress.
Work smarter not harder.
Tom Bryson

Advice and techniques to improve productivity at work.

And it’s not “work harder.”

It happened yet again last week. I sent someone a short email, about five sentences long with four dates and times I was available to meet with them. They replied, choosing a morning on one of the dates I had included. The problem was, all the options I had provided were afternoons. So, I wrote back, advising I couldn’t meet then but was free that afternoon and they sent another email confirming that worked for them. Now, this isn’t a huge deal but our exchange ended up being two emails longer than it needed to be because of a small missed detail.

I find this type of thing happens all the time, in both written and spoken conversations. People asking questions that have already been answered. People repeating the same thing multiple times. People mixing up information. And when you measure the impact of this over the countless emails, telephone and in-person conversations we have, it adds up to a lot of time wasted. But I have a solution for this persistent, frustrating and, ultimately, unproductive trend — pay attention.

This advice applies whether you’re reading something or listening to someone. When we don’t pay attention, we make mistakes which results in more work. When we do pay attention, we get things right the first time more often which improves our productivity. If this makes sense to you, I offer up three suggestions to help you pay attention.

1. Slow Down

We think by moving faster, we will get more done but we don’t. We miss things, hear or read things incorrectly, and then we make mistakes, based on that misinformation, which lead to more work. Slowing down is surprisingly a way to speed up. So, take a little extra time to read what you are writing to make sure it’s clear. Carefully read what someone else has written and think for a moment before you reply. Do the same when listening to someone. A little more time spent in the moment can save a lot of time spent later.

2. Stop Multitasking

We like to think we can successfully multitask but, the truth is, we are horrible at it. Multitasking is code for doing many things poorly. It’s better to do one thing at a time and do it well. Most of the time, our multitasking involves technology of some sort. We might be searching for something online while talking on the phone or writing an email while listening to a presentation. But our brain is not capable of processing both activities at once so one of those tasks ends up winning over the other. So, do what you need to do to focus on one thing at a time. Put your phone away, close your email, shut your laptop — whatever will allow you to give the one most important thing in that moment your full attention.

3. Get Out of Your Head

Research has shown we retain a mere 20–25% of what we hear. That’s largely because of the thoughts and opinions running through our brains when we are listening to someone else. This inner monologue comes from our tendency to make judgements, jump to conclusions and look for evidence to support our pre-existing beliefs, value or perceptions. Typically, we are listening with a goal of replying instead of listening with a goal of understanding. As a result, we have troubling hearing each other in the first place. Learning active or effective listening skills helps us get out of our own heads so we can hear, understand and remember what others are trying to tell us.

At first, these three strategies may seem counterintuitive but they work. And over time, they will improve your ability to pay attention to the verbal and written communications in your workplace. Not only will this improve your productivity, but it will also help you build better relationships. Whether it’s a colleague, a customer or your boss, everyone wants to be heard and understood. So, pay attention and watch your productivity and relationships grow.

Originally published at www.livinglessdistracted.com.

Start your novel – opportunity for writers, free event

crabby boss womanHaving trouble starting your novel? Well, help’s on the way.


Come along to Evesham and hear writers read and talk about their books. AND join me (Tom Bryson) for a half hour mini workshop “Getting started on your novel” (2.00 pm). Forget your fear of the blank page, the overwhelming horror of the task ahead of writing some 80,000words. Learn a simple way to build your story and have the confidence to start – and finish it.

Where? Almonry Museum and Heritage Centre, Evesham . Meet authors and poets for advice and chat, talks , readings and mini-workshops – and check out books – crime, thrillers, westerns, regency, children, family drama.


“Getting started on your novel” with Tom Bryson 2.00pm – 2.30pm

“Planner” or “Pantser”? What’s your preference?

Something to aim at, a blank sheet of paper, or a bit of both?

There’s no one right way – find what works for you



How to get started on your first novel


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

5:02 PM

How to get started on your first novel

‘I’d love to write a novel but I just don’t know how to start’. A friend said that to me recently and it got me thinking – how can I set out some advice that will get aspiring writers over that very first hurdle? Past the dreaded blank page.

running-498257_1920 (2).jpg

Creative commons licence

On your marks, get set…

Well, here goes – but please remember there is NO ONE RIGHT WAY. Everyone has to find what works for them. And this approach is what works for me.

Let’s get started.

As you go through the stages below, fill in the ‘blanks’ at the end.


Think of a main character through whose eyes you will tell the story. Now write a brief bio about that character. Name, age, gender, job, strengths, weaknesses – basic stuff first, you can flesh out the details later.

What’s their problem? Have they been hit by a major crisis? Family, friend, job, natural disaster, accident, etc. Or is the problem getting something they desperately want – or need – there is a difference. Is it ambition, love, money, revenge, food to survive…

What’s stopping them achieving their goal? An enemy, their own shortcomings or fears? Lack of expertise or knowledge? What’s at stake if they fail – make it high. Write that obstacle and the consequences of failure in a sentence. 

What options do they have to achieve their goals. Are they high, medium or low risk? Look again at your main character – what choice would they make. (If this isn’t in their nature, or the way you want your story to go think again and revise your main character profile).

Next, write about your main character’s antagonist (enemy).

Name, age, gender, job, strengths, weaknesses – basic stuff first, you can flesh out the details later.

What are the antagonist’s goals, needs or wants – the obstacles to them achieving their goals.

Now you should have the bare bones of your novel.

What about setting. Decide where your story will play out. The city, a rural location, in your world or someplace exotic. Consider how much research you might have to do to make the ‘place’ credible.

As your main character (aka protagonist, hero, ) deals with achieving their goal, overcoming obstacles, they will meet opposition, setbacks, hurdles. Think of their first hurdle – now set them up to fail! Yes, you need to make your main character’s journey as tough and challenging as possible. That’s the essence of conflict – and without conflict you story is dead in the water. The conflict can be external or in your character’s head.

However, the main character need not go into the dragon’s den without help. Throw in an  ally (a sidekick). This character may also be a love interest – or you may prefer a separate character in that role. Through these major characters, you can show your main character coping – or not – with adversity, pressure, the ‘dark hours of the soul’.

And finally, after a tough journey and plenty of kickings along the way they come out the other end – with what result?. Goals achieved, needs or wants satisfied – or still in trouble?

Get an idea now about the cataclysmic moment – the climax or big, big scene when the final battle is fought and won – or lost. Having this in mind at the outset, gives you as the writer a goal – an end in sight that will resolve your main character’s journey.

Now – copy and save this section and fill in the blanks! Use the characters you’ve created.


faces a big problem which is…


MC’s attempts to beat the first obstacle by…


This doesn’t work and in a further setback…

  • [WHICH IS – WRITE HERE] ends up in an even bigger mess.

This series of…


The MC comes through this…


By now you should have an outline of your novel – so let the hard work begin. Turn that into a full-length novel.

You’re off!

As you write your novel you may like to look at some of my previous blogs about writing that will give further tips and suggestions. Good Luck.


Myths and legends

Zepp cover BCBugleTurning facts into legend

Myths and Legends


A traditional story about heroes or supernatural beings, often attempting to explain the origins of natural phenomena or aspects of human behaviour


A story that has been passed down for generations, especially one that is presented as history but is unlikely to be true

So is my story of “The Zeppelin of Kinver Edge” a myth or a legend – or an approximation of the truth. We hear a lot these days about “Fake Stories” – but how much of what we read as history is in fact true?

Henry Ford once said “History is more or less bunk.” (Bunk or bunkum meaning nonsense). Isn’t it the case that history is written from thenry ford history is bunkhe viewpoint of the writer which may well be biased in a certain direction? Is historical “truth” an objective that can never be realised? Is the Bible or the Koran “true”?

When I wrote “The Zeppelin of Kinver Edge”, I based it on a small historical snippet that I heard mentioned when I moved into the village about ten years ago.

“They say a zeppelin airship landed on Kinver Edge during the Great War – World War I.”

That morsel intrigued me. So I did a bit of research and discovered that the West Midlands of England suffered airship bombing raids in 1916 – and one airship hit engine trouble. Then I asked myself the mouth-watering question all writers should ask all the time when dreaming up a story.


That question led me to consider the plight of young Harry Foley and ask “What if, early one morning in 1916, he looked up towards Kinver Edge and there it was – a Zeppelin airship?” So Harry followed his curiosity and the rest – as they say – is history! Or legend? Or myth? Or bunkum?

Anyway – it’s a great little read – with pictures! .

To sample or buy print or ebook click here