“If you’ve ever wondered about the book writing process, love to read books and want to influence the next bestseller, this post is for you!”

I am often asked about my writing process. Where do I get my ideas? What are my rituals? And, of course, what exactly is involved in bringing a manuscript to print.

If you are one of these curious people then this post is for you. Further, if you’ve ever wanted to become involved in the writing process then read on because this post has all the information about how you can join me, this February, to discuss my latest manuscript, Psychosis, out this Autumn 2017.

I guess I should start by saying that, unlike most conventional writers, I am actually happy to present early drafts of my books to readers in exchange for valuable feedback, before I embark on subsequent versions. (Of course, when I use the term happy you know I’m using it very loosely!)

Most books go through several drafts before they reach publication. In my case, generally, there are the following drafts/revisions:

  1. THE SKELETON DRAFT. This is just the splurge of the story as it unfolds in my head. You could actually call this Draft 1 and Draft 1a. Because he first pass is the splurge, the second is a tidy up so that it makes sense! Resulting in the basic storyline and general dialogue theme.
  2. FLESHING DRAFT. The second draft is what I affectionately dub ‘fleshing’. That is where the skeleton gets fleshed out, revised, and, where required, major story deviations incorporated. rp_cufa-manuscript.png
  3. EDITOR REVIEW. This is where my editor will go through the entire manuscript. She will check for storyline structure, readability, repetition, syntax and grammar. Issues are highlighted while the book is simultaneously prepared for print.
  4. FINAL REVIEW. My editor returns the manuscript to me with any suggested revisions/additional feedback. I will then review these, adopt or reject accordingly. I’ll also review suggestions with the view to acting on these as well as give the whole manuscript the final once over to make sure I am happy with it being published.

The manuscript is then ready for print and is normally sent to the typesetter accordingly.  However, these days, given the prolific rise of audio and digital editions, what usually happens is that a copy is sent to the audiobook production house and narrated cast. Post typesetting, a digital copy is also uploaded for Kindle as a pre-release.

However, when it comes to my books, there is always one additional and major step that must be completed before any edition of the book may be published, and that is the somewhat unconventional READER FEEDBACK. This works a bit like a movie studio that pre-releases a film to a selected audience in order to garner feedback before it is set loose on general release.

However, writers, and I think most creative people, tend to shy away from this kind of thing, since they more than often abhor the idea of their work being viewed before they deem is ‘fit and ready’.

I’m a bit braver, and some would say, crazier than that. I welcome feedback before the book is even fully fledged. This is because I believe that by obtaining crucial feedback early in the writing process, I then have a relatively clear view of any specific things that might be trending in the story.

For example, a character that I think may be likable, may actually come across as acerbic, and if I need that character to be likable within the context of the story, I can make sure I go back and work on the traits and characterisations to ensure that they are being perceived as they should within context of their storyline.

To this end, I hold a READER’S (or focus) GROUP meeting (sometimes two) where I will meet with  a group of readers, who have early access to the manuscript, to garner their feedback so that, where relevant, it can be incorporated into subsequent drafts.

Think of it as a regular reader’s group only you are reading something that nobody else (outside of the group) has.

READER’S GROUP MEMBERS will normally get a very early draft of the book. Often the 1st, but sometimes the 2nd daft.

I am now looking for new members to join the READER’S GROUP and, if you’re up for it, you can apply below, but first, you should read on.

It takes a very special person (or reader) to be part of the READER’S GROUP.

Firstly and most importantly, I am looking for readers that I can trust with early drafts of some of the most important things in my life. Think of it as my baby. Then imagine, if you had a newborn baby, how would you feel about handing it to a complete stranger to examine and talk about?

It isn’t easy. But I do it because I want my books to be the best that they can be before they’re released to general public. That’s why confidentiality is very important. Which means that READER’S GROUP MEMBERS are always asked to sign an NDA as soon as they are accepted into the group.

Secondly, I am looking for a readers that are able to see the ‘big picture’ and accept the 1st draft of a manuscript for what it is; a Skeleton of a story and not the finished product, which means syntax, spelling, grammar at that stage are irrelevant to the overall essence of the story.

Thirdly, I need a reader who can be minded by the above, but is still able to provide constructive feedback on the characters and story as a whole. Good or bad!

A group of some previous Reader's Group Members

A group of some previous Reader’s Group Members

Good is always welcome. Writing is a solitary business. Writers spend hours locked away, alone, agonising over plot, narrative and dialogue. They have to be their own cheerleaders to see them through the doubt, as well as self-critics to keep them honest to the story and to the reader. So, any impartial positive feedback is most welcome validation after months of solitary work. Similarly, if something doesn’t read comfortably or if a character doesn’t ring true or if the story simply isn’t doing it for you, then they need to hear that too.

In my case, I don’t need praise just because I’m the author and happen to be in the same room as you. That isn’t the objective of this exercise. Conversely, simply picking fault with everything isn’t constructive or useful either.

What I look for in a READER’S GROUP member is someone who is able to read the manuscript impartially, capture how it made them feel; happy, sad, angry, scared. When and how often? Did it make them laugh, cry, or yawn. Where and which parts were the favourite and least favourite. Which characters did they love, hate or didn’t even notice? And, what impact did the overall book have on them, if any?

So, if you think you are this person. Then I really want to hear from you. I really want you on my team to make my new novel the best that it can be before it’s published.

If you think you can be this person, then please apply below, but be sure to read the following first.

The following is specific FOCUS GROUP MEMBER commitment/requirement information. Please read it, and if you like what you read then hit the APPLY NOW button.

Just bear in mind, that there are limited spaces, so if you aren’t selected, it may well be because we don’t have any more seats left, but don’t fret. If your application is successful, but we can’t get you on this focus group, you’ll most likely get onto the next.

Here’s the official bit.


  1. Sign an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) and agree to keep the manuscript in your possession at all times and not disseminate it to anyone. Not even members of your family!
  2. To commit to reading the manuscript within a specific timeframe (normally within 3 to 4 weeks).
  3. To commit to making notes throughout the reading process and to report these back to the READER’S GROUP.
  4. To commit to joining the READER’S GROUP FACEBOOK GROUP.
  5. To commit to attending the READER’S GROUP MEETING at a hotel to be determined in the Cambridgeshire, England on SATURDAY, 25TH FEBRUARY 2017 to present/discuss your feedback. (The meeting will last four to five hours. Refreshments will be provided.)
    1. ***DUE TO POPULAR DEMAND and the wonder of technology. You can now join the group from wherever you might be in the world. We’ve opened up applications to all avid readers!  We shall be setting up the READER’S GROUP MEETING to allow members to join us via VIDEO CONFERENCE. So, wherever you’re situated, you can now take part, timezone permitting, since we’ll be meeting on Saturday 25th February at 19:00 GMT.That said, we already have a couple of members who are going to treat the event like a special event and plan to stay up through the night to be involved!  So, if you’re one of those people and keen to be involved, now’s your chance.
  6. To commit to posting “spark word” snapshots to the Facebook group throughout your reading experience about each chapter as you read them. These posts don’t need to be an essay, just a couple of words that reflect how you feel about a specific chapter. E.g. PROLOGUE – “Awesome” or “Hard going”. These “spark words” will then be used as additional topics for discussion during the meeting, as well as potential ‘quotes’ for the book cover.
  7. To commit to completing the manuscript questionnaire immediately after you have finished reading the manuscript, so that we may capture exactly how you felt about the read.

Full FOCUS GROUP MEMBER guidelines will be published to the FACEBOOK READER’S GROUP once you have been accepted into the group.

So, if you love to read, are able to commit to the above, have a friendly, outgoing personality and don’t mind speaking in front of a group of people, then we want to hear from you!



1 Comment

  1. […] probably remember a previous post where I shared details of my writing process (original post here). I wrote the post in response to the many requests I’ve received asking me about my writing […]

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