News, Fiction Updates & General Musings

The Five Best Books on Writing Fiction

It’s a while since I wrote a blog containing writing advice, that’s for sure.

2012, I started. Way, way back when that first novel, What We Saw, was still in production. Why did I blog about writing itself when I was just a beginner writer? Mostly because I was told that was the best thing to do.

And although looking back, I can acknowledge the flaws of that approach, I made some good friends and taught myself a lot about the blogging process to boot.

Five years later, what’s changed?

Well, I’ve written a ton of fiction books, for one. Like, a ton.

Not only that, but I’ve been writing fiction full-time for a living for the best part of those five years. Yes, for a living. Yes, it’s the only job I do. No, I don’t have a “real job”. No, I’m not wasting away.

In those five years, I feel like I’ve learned a few things. I feel like I have something to say. I burned out on non-fictional blogs a long time ago, hence you haven’t read one from me for a while.

But I feel like seeing as I have some sales to back up my words, I’d start with a simple guide to the five best books on writing I’ve ever read.

And I’ve read a lot.

The outcome of this post is simple. If you want to become a better storyteller and a better all round writer, I’d recommend reading these books. If you want to improve your craft, I’d recommend reading these books. If you want to write fiction that readers will enjoy, I’d recommend reading these books. You don’t have to agree with every word in them. I certainly don’t.

But reading them alone will improve your craft and your ability.

And implementing that advice… well, it might just sell you a few novels.

These five books are the best books for any writer at any stage and any level. If you haven’t read them, you can learn something from them.

I’m going to go through them in an order that may not seem logical, but I believe there is a kind of logic to this madness. It doesn’t really matter why I’ve gone with this order; you’ll see when you come round to reading and implementing the advice.

Without further ado…

1.) Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

Story Engineering is a fantastic guide to craft.

It covers what author Larry Brooks calls the “six core competencies” of successful writing. Those are: concept, character, theme, structure, scene structure and writing voice.

Learn about these six areas, mix them together, and you’ll have a very satisfying story indeed.

The most useful aspect of this book, for me, is its approach to story structure. It’s a kind of twist on the three-act structure, but the method that really clicked for me.

Once you see the structure laid out in front of you, you’ll start seeing it everywhere. So be warned. This book may well change story for you forever.

And it’ll also change you stories for the better.

2.) Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker

Whether you’re an outliner or not, Take Off Your Pants is one of the most intuitive approaches to planning a novel available on the market.

Libbie breaks the process down into easy-to-understand stages. For me, this book really helped the “character” and “theme” competencies from Larry’s book click, so I’d definitely treat them both as a pair that can help your outlining.

And if you aren’t a planner? Don’t worry. There’s still plenty to learn about some of the key aspects of character and theme here, as well as some really handy tips on scene construction.

And hey. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up converting to the ways of planning just as I did many a year ago…

3.) Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain

If you only read one chapter in this book, read Chapter 3: Plain Facts About Feelings. It’s worth the price of admission alone.

In this chapter, Dwight goes breaks down the idea of Motivation-Reaction units, which although sounding paralysing upon reading, are actually a whole lot simpler to implement in practice. To the point that soon, they become second nature.

They’ll also make you a clearer, better writer.

The rest of the book is full of gems, too. I like the stuff on characters, especially about giving secondary characters tags, that kind of thing.

Really great book. Read it, implement the teachings, your fiction will benefit.

4.) 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox

Okay, although I’ve never come close to hitting the kind of total my friend Chris talks about, 5,000 Words Per Hour is a great little guide to not only writing faster, but writing smarter.

In the book, he breaks down the best ways to make the most of your writing time. He discusses the elimination of distractions, the setting up of your “tortoise enclosure”, and even the best ways to handle those pesky edits.

Incorporate the principles from Chris’ book and you will find yourself writing more, and writing better.

Isn’t that what we all want, after all?

5.) Craft Tips by Russell Blake

Okay, not technically a book per se. But Russell Blake’s five blogs on craft are some of the most worthwhile pieces of reading on fiction writing–and writing in general–that I’ve come across.

In the blogs, he talks about five things: mission-driven scene writing; incorporating senses into writing; how to write more efficiently; best approaches to dialogue; and character arcs.

Worth it for the first two blogs alone. I’ll let you read them in full. Bear the idea of mission-driven scene writing and incorporating all the senses into your scenes–through the eyes of the character (important)–and your fiction will immediately become more engaging.


And there you have it. Plenty of reading material, plenty to practice.

And I promise that if you do incorporate even some of the advice in these books, you’ll write better fiction. Period.


Shameless plug: I have a new series out. If you enjoyed this blog, or found any value from any of my blogs EVER, consider dropping a couple of dollars on it, or one of my other stories.

It’s called When Darkness Falls. You can read about it here.

Until next time… whenever that may be.


New releases…

It’s been a while since I posted on here. Damn, nine months in fact. The fiction writing business takes up pretty much all of my working time nowadays, so sadly don’t have a lot of time to share thoughts here.

But anyway, just wanted to give you a heads up if you solely follow me via this blog that there have been a bunch of new releases since November 2016, when I last posted.

They are…

Survival (After the Storm, Book 3)

The World After series

Dead Days: Season Nine

If you head over to their pages, you’ll find all the relevant links and info.

Hope you’re all having a great 2017. I’ll check in at the end of the year with a proper year-end summary.

Until then… happy reading.


Collapse: After the Storm, Book 2 Now Available


I hope you enjoyed reading Blackout. As promised, I wanted to launch the second book — Collapse — exactly a month after book one.

So here it is!

First of all, before I go into Collapse, I just wanted to give an enormous thanks for all your support, not just of this series but of everything. It’s especially daunting launching a new series. Although I had full confidence in the story, it’s still impossible to know how a book will be received.

To say the response has been “nice” would be a severe understatement.

Blackout has been in the top 10 of the post-apocalyptic charts ever since launch. It’s my best book launch ever. And it wouldn’t have been possible without your support.

So, thank you. Seriously. I am so, so grateful.

As for Collapse, well, if you enjoyed book one, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this too. It’s a little more fast-paced than the first book, and a little more story and character focused. And there’s some nasty villains this time round.

Without further ado, CLICK HERE to download a copy of Collapse.

And here’s your description:

The thrilling sequel to Blackout: After the Storm.

A year has passed and Will is adapting to life as a survivor in an EMP-struck Britain.

When Will learns that someone he loves is stranded at the other side of the country, he is forced on a journey across a treacherous world filled with all kinds of foes.

But saving them isn’t going to be easy. Not when there is a group waiting right outside the gates of his tight-knit community, just waiting for the perfect moment to strike…

Collapse is the second book in the After the Storm post apocalyptic series by Ryan Casey, author of Dead Days and Infection Z. It is sure to delight fans of the author’s trademark complex characters, rapid pacing, and unexpected twists and turns.

Enjoy this book. I had a lot of fun writing it. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

I’ll have more info on the release of Survival, the third and final After the Storm book, in a few weeks time. When you do finish Collapse though, you can pre-order Survival right HERE.

Thanks, and have a great day.


Blackout: After the Storm is now available


I’m thrilled to finally, FINALLY announce that Blackout: After the Storm is here.

Okay, it’s a month late. I apologise for that. It’s mainly because I’ve been working at getting the second book out exactly a month after book one. As well as juggling other projects, like a pen name series, and a certain eighth season of something… Yeah, it’s been hectic.

But anyway, Blackout is now here, and if you’re a fan of my post apocalyptic stuff–or any end of the world stuff for that matter–I think you’re going to love it.

The premise is simple: a series of EMP strikes devastate Britain’s infrastructure. One man and his dog are forced to survive this world, in search of their family.

But the story itself isn’t so simple. There’s, as always, complex characters, and a whole host of unexpected twists along the way.

I’m really, really proud of this book. It’s easily my most research-intensive release. I feel like I have a basic knowledge of how I’d survive such a disaster (which is rooted in reality, btw. Scary I know). Only I’m nowhere near prepared…


And here’s your description:

A determined father. An impossible journey…

Will Stuartson is having the worst month of his life. His wife is leaving him, he can’t see his daughter anymore, and he has been kicked out of the family home. He sees no better opportunity to take a trip into the Scottish wilderness with his trusty dog, Bouncer. And a bottle or two of whisky.

But Will’s retreat is interrupted when a devastating series of EMP strikes hit the country. All electrical and battery power, from cars to watches, is down. Will is cut off from society and forced into a world where survivalism is required to stay alive, and where the sudden lack of communication is driving the country to destruction.

Now, forced into a dangerous, primal world where the elements and other people all pose a threat, Will must make the long trek back down to Preston in order to find and save his wife and daughter.

But even with a basic knowledge of survivalism, surviving is anything but simple in this harrowing new world…

Blackout is the first book in the After the Storm post apocalyptic series by Ryan Casey, author of Dead Days and Infection Z. It is sure to delight fans of the author’s trademark complex characters, rapid pacing, and unexpected twists and turns.


Enjoy this book. I had a lot of fun writing it. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

I’ll have more info on the release of Collapse, the sequel, in a few weeks time. When you do finish Blackout though, you can pre-order Collapse right HERE.

Thanks, and have a great day.


Dead Days Season Seven Now Available

dead days season 7Hi folks,

The seventh season of Dead Days has just gone live, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

The gap of three months between IZ5 and this release might not seem long, but it’s a pretty meaty break for me. Rest assured, I’ve been working really hard on Dead Days and other projects, all of which I can’t wait to share with you over the rest of the year.

I’m really impressed with how Dead Days Season Seven turned out. The whole thing was intentionally paced so that the dread and discomfort builds with every single page. It’s full of post-apocalyptic action, character drama, and a hell of a lot of twists and turns. Rest assured, I’m particularly proud of this season. I think it’s the best yet. I guess I’m supposed to say that, but I really, really believe it is.

Here’s your buy links. If you’re still on the fence, I’ve shared a link to download the full first episode a little further below.

Kindle –

iBooks –

Nook –

Kobo –

Google Play –

Free first episode –

Infection Z 5 Now Available

Infection Z 5Hi everyone,

A quick note to say Infection Z 5, the final book in the Infection Z series, is now available at Amazon.

You can grab your copy at the following links:

Amazon US

Amazon (Non-US)

You can also read the book as a part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Seeing as I haven’t posted in a while, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share what I’m working on right now.

Firstly, Dead Days Season Seven! Yes, the seventh series is well in production. I’m taking a bit longer with this one as there’s some intricate plot elements I need to craft to perfection, so I’m sure you’ll understand. It’ll be out this summer, and I’ll have more info nearer the time and over the coming weeks.

I’m so excited about the next three seasons of Dead Days. I’ve been working at putting together a riveting new arc that I think you’re going to absolutely love. One of the scenes gave me goosebumps… and I made the damned thing up! I suppose that says something. Hopefully something good.

I’ve also got the sixth and final McDone novel to finish, too. This one was due back in January, so I apologise for the delay. Again, I’ve been taking a little more time to make sure it’s as good as I can make it. There’s a really intriguing mystery at the core of this one, as well as the fallout from the explosive ending to book five. Expect twists, turns, and even more McDone grumbling. All the classics.

Cheers for the support. I really appreciate it.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the latest book!


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