How to test out your book on Kindle – free!

Do you want to put your manuscript onto kindle to see how it looks? 


 You can do this at any stage of writing your book, even if you haven’t finished it yet.   

I did this after writing just a third of my book, because my wife wanted to read it and she didn’t want to do that from a Word document on a laptop.  So I put it onto her Kindle, and also onto mine. 

Doing this gave unexpected results. Not only did I begin to feel like a real published author (great for self-esteem!),  but also I noticed all sorts of things that I had not seen when reading from the original Word document.  There were a number of gaps in the plot, typos, incongruities and so on that I had not picked up on before.
So I heartily recommend having a go at this.

Here’s how to do it.

You will need to download two bits of free software.  You can use these again when you come to upload your book to Amazon for sale when you’ve finished it.

1. Sigil.   Go to and download it for free.

If you are writing your book in Word, (and I apologise now for those of you writing on a Mac), then open your document and pick File > Save As..  and choose ‘Web Page, Filtered’ as the format.  

Save the result, and the open it in Sigil.  You can format your book in Sigil if you would like to, adding a cover, indexes, metadata etc.. but this is not necessary if you are only part way through and just want to take a peek at how the book may look when finally published.
When you have finished, save your book in ePub format (this should be the default Save format on Sigil).

2. Next, download and install Calibre from  This too is free. 

Click on Add Books and add your epub saved book.
Click on Convert Books and select Mobi as the output format .
Click Page Setup and check that it is correct for your model of Kindle.
Click OK to perform the conversion.

3. Finally connect your Kindle to a USB port in your PC and use the ‘send to device’ button on Calibre to load your kindle with your book. And voila! You’re done.

I have to say that it was all very easy.  I know that when the book is finished and ready to be published I will need to go through a lot more hoops in these pieces of software to get the cover, formatting, and publishing details right, but for now this was a quick, simple and free way of testing out my book.

Oh, and one last personal note. I have spent countless hours on my book (I absolutely love it, so no hardship there!), but it only took Donna one and a half hours to read all 12 chapters so far.  I’ve got a lot of work still to do!

Do you have any experience with epublishing?  I’d love to hear your comments and ideas.
Did you find this useful?  Then please let me know, and tell your friends!


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How to handle Ye Olde Language


Here’s a wonderfully bizarre quote from a man called José Rizal that I came across recently.   It is a quote about language, but because it is a translation from the original Spanish it is written very strangely.  We all know what it means, but…

He who does not love his own language is worse than an animal and smelly fish.  


Now I love my own language and revel in books that use language beautifully.  Just reading them aloud is a joy.

But how do we use language in a historical novel?  Language is constantly changing and developing, and the English of Shakespeare or Chaucer or even Charles Dickens is quite different to our own modern day tongue.  My novel is set in 1401, when the good folk of England were still in the process of changing over from speaking French to English and the books and literature were in the main in Latin.  How do I convey this confusion of languages to the modern day reader?  Even the English they spoke was the Middle English of Chaucer.

I think there are three avenues a writer of historical fiction can take:

1.  Write everything in the old fashioned tongue.  This however makes it very hard for the reader to understand.  Take for instance the first line of the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer.
Whanne that April with his shoures sote
The droughte of March hath perced to the rote.

Now may I suggest that this is not a great way to write a whole novel!  It was alright for Jeffrey C. but he was writing for people who actually spoke like this, so they understood every word, unlike most of us who don’t.  So for me this way of writing – though historically accurate – is out.

2. Write the dialogue in old fashioned English and the narrative in modern English.  I have tried a bit of this, but my wife reliably informs me that it too does not work.  I did simple things like using ‘for’ instead of ‘because’, simply because it gave a feeling of the past to the dialogue.  So “I have tried to protect you from the truth, because I am afraid of what will happen.”  Became “I have tried to protect you from the truth, for I fear what will be.”   At times this works (as in this example) but sometimes it just sounds silly.  So the question is – how much of this do we leave in and how much needs to be modernised?

3. Write everything in modern-day English and not try to make it feel ancient.   Many novels are written this way, and they get away with it because there are no barriers for the modern reader to cross.  Reading the book becomes easy.
But beware!  It is so easy to use sayings and phrases that would have meant nothing to the time period you are writing about.  For instance, I have to be very careful not to use phrases about time because hours, minutes and seconds were largely unknown.   I even have to change the phrase I used accidentally, “All’s well that ends well!” because that was first penned by Shakespeare centuries after my protagonist uses it.  Or perhaps Shakespeare got the phrase from him!


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Interview Techniques

I was getting stuck with the plot. Things had drawn to a bit of a halt and I wasn’t sure where to go next.


I’d read in a number of books and blogs that a good way to get out of writers block is to interview your characters.  Now this seemed a bit crazy to me.  After all, my characters don’t actually exist, so choosing to interview them was a little weird.  What were they going to be able to say?  But because I had tried every other avenue and was still stuck I thought I’d risk it and give it a go.  I’d also read that you can increase your creativity by changing the way you write.  So, because I usually use the laptop, I instead picked out a notebook and pencil to record the interview.

It was an amazing experience!  I started by writing the character’s name at the top of the page, and then a question.

Q. What is your earliest memory?

A. It was….
And then I let my imaginary character answer it.

The questions and answers began to flow, and before long I had not only a greater understanding of my character; his hopes, fears, goals and confusions, but also of two other characters in the book.  He let me in on a secret relationship that until then not even I as the author had foreseen.  And this new relationship (one of father and son) brought extra depth to a storyline that I wanted to emerge later in the book.   It actually brought poignancy to something that I had plotted to happen towards the end, and will give the book more colour, and I hope will shock and surprise.

So thank you for the interview. I will now go on and interview more of my characters and see what other storylines unfold.

If you haven’t tried this technique, then give it a go, and find out what your characters are really up to while you are tapping away at the keyboard!

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Is it a Story or is it a Novel?

First of all, thanks to everyone who is following this blog. I know there are not many of you as yet, but the blog is but a few days old, so I am really pleased that you have decided to follow along. I hope you find it interesting, useful and entertaining.

I was awake during the night, plotting my next scene. It was my fault really, because I had spent a few hours that evening writing chapter 9, and had not switched off before heading to bed. So my buzzing brain just kept going, and at 4am I was wide awake and back in the year 1401.

I told my wife Donna that I had been awake during the night and she said, “Were you writing your story?” She knows me too well!

‘My story! ’ I wanted to shout (but didn’t). ‘It’s not a story it’s a novel! Stories are for children, what I am writing is a fully fledged, grown up novel!’

The reality is that the name I give it – story or novel – changes the way I think about it. It changes my perception of the book and of what I am trying to do. A story is quite a different beast from a novel. If I think I am writing a story, then I see myself as just playing around, it being a bit of a hobby. I really ought to be doing something better with my time. Surely there are better things that I could be doing than spending hours writing a story.

But if I regard my book as a novel, even at the stage where it is only half written, I have no publisher and it is my first attempt, then it becomes a much more serious endeavour. I feel as if it is worthwhile putting in the hours and the angst, and letting it occupy my daydreaming hours.  I see it as an important part of my working week, and an important part of who I am. It becomes a process that I can really enjoy.

It can also get a bit pretentious when you say you are writing a novel. You suddenly become a ‘novelist’, which is much grander than just being someone who is writing a story. But in a funny sort of way, even this adds a weight to what you are doing. It encourages you to carry on.


So, ‘Story’ or ‘Novel’? Perhaps they are just words, but words carry such great meaning!

What do you think?


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Did Alexandre Dumas stop for dinner?

I was in the middle of a sword fight at the blacksmiths when my wife Donna called me for dinner.

“What?” I cried. “I’ve just got inspired and I’m in the thick of a battle, and I have to stop to eat! Did Alexandre Dumas stop for dinner when he was writing The Three Musketeers?  Did he leave d’Artagnan in the middle of a duel to the death in order to down a plate of snails?”
“Just eat your dinner.” came the reply.

I write when I have the inspiration and when I get a moment of free time (not ideal I know, but life goes on..), and this scene has been a long time coming.  Actually it was inspired by my wife when I got stuck with the plot and she came up with a good idea.  So I had just found a spare half hour and had settled down to write it when the call for dinner came.  I had to leave swords in mid air and antagonists crumpled in various positions on the floor as I headed for the dining table.  Still, I have now learned two things. One: don’t start any scene just before a meal, and Two: be able to write even when there is no inspiration.
I had to finish the scene another day, to somehow recapture the excitement I felt on the first wave of inspiration. But in sleeping on it and then coming back to it later I find that I have in fact had some better ideas, I have a bit more drama to add, and another twist in the plot. These things would not have come out in the first excited draft, as I hurriedly typed away. So perhaps stopping for dinner is a good thing after all. It has actually made the scene better!

3 musketeers



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Why write with yWriter?

I’ve been using the yWriter software (free from for a couple of months now and find it to be a pretty useful tool. Because it breaks everything down into handy bite sized pieces you can keep track of your plot and keep easy records of your characters. So if you can’t remember if your hero’s eyes are blue or brown you can find out by looking at his character profile. This beats searching back through numerous chapters and trying to remember where you first mentioned his eye colour (I know, I’ve tried that!). yWriter is very helpful for analysing scenes and recording chapters in whatever depth you like.

It allows you to do the following:
Add Chapters scenes, characters, items and locations.
Display the word count for every file in the project, along with a total.
Saves a log file every day, showing words per file and the total. (Tracks your progress)
Viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome fields for each scene.
Storyboard view, a visual layout of your work.

And much more besides.
Altogether a handy tool. Thank you Simon Haynes for writing yWriter!

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Picture This…


I’m the sort of person who likes to see who I’m talking to (I hate the phone…) and so I needed to be able to see my cast of players who would live through the story. I had a few names and a rough plot, but I needed to see this literally fleshed out, and so I searched the internet, adverts and other photos for likely candidates. This has since helped me enormously as I’ve been writing their words and forming their actions. They’ve almost become friends (I know – that’s very sad!). I’ve also gleaned photos of props, maps of medieval towns, animals and other things that have helped me visualise the time and place for each scene. A big thumbs up for the wonders of the internet (more of that in another post).

Has anyone else used this approach?

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