Nexus, Alison Morton, Top 10 Writing Tips
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Top 10 Writing Tips by Author Alison Morton @alison_morton #Top10WritingTips

Top 10 Writing Tips with Alison Morton

Welcome to week 10 of our Top 10 Writing Tips by… feature. If you’ve missed any of the other top tip posts you can find them all HERE. Please feel free to pop over and connect with the wonderful authors who have taken part.

Next up for the challenge is author Alison Morton.

Alison Morton, Top 10 Writing Tips,

Alison writes the acclaimed Roma Nova series – “intelligent adventure thrillers with heart.” She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service, an MA in history and an insatiable curiosity about what motivates people.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…

Now she continues to write thrillers, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband.

Alison’s Top Ten Tips:

  1. Write what you love. Yes, keep an eye out for commercial opportunities, but don’t let it dominate. Readers will engage with your story if you are passionate about it.
  2. Bash out your first draft in its entirety, then go back and edit only when you’ve finished. Not only may you change your mind about the plot as you get into your story, which would make that on-the-go editing a waste of time, but editing at this stage will also bring the flow to a juddering halt. The only exception is checking research (see 4. below).
  3. Twists, turns and true surprises are a trademark of my own Roma Nova stories; as a reader I love them! However, you should weave them into the story logically and plausibly. Nobody likes ‘It was all a dream’ or a new character suddenly turning up in the last chapter with the solution. The trick is to drop in a few sideways clues early on in your story, but not over-emphasise them.
  4. Do proper research before you start a new story, but don’t get stuck in it. Do recheck the details of your research/knowledge – it may alter the scene or story radically if you get it wrong! I mark up any doubtful section in [blue with square brackets] as I type, then check after I’ve finished that session’s writing.
  5. Don’t automatically sneer at Wikipedia; these days it’s usually fine for a quick overview or introduction to something completely unknown. BUT you’ll find the research gold in the sources listed at the end of articles.
  6. Keep your world plausible and consistent, whether it’s in a historical novel set in the fourth century AD, a Mars colony in the twenty-second or the local high street. Speech, clothes, attitudes, social and economic conditions, values, moral codes as well as how the world looks, smells and feels are crucial if you are leading the reader on a journey of the imagination.
  7. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t write one day or for a few days. Your mind will be working in the background.
  8. Never compromise on quality: save up for the best editor possible and for a professional cover if going indie. If taking the traditional route, do let your editor know if you are particularly unhappy about the edits, design or cover. The ultimate decision is theirs – they bought your book – but many (although not all) will value your input.
  9. Remember to make your characters human and live naturally in their world, not yours; but they’ll have fears and desires just like yours, although expressed differently. The most important thing is to get into the minds of the characters in that setting and not influence them with your own values and ideals. Connected with this is avoiding the dreaded info-dump where Character 1 explains something to Character 2 that the latter would have known as an inhabitant of that world. But sometimes you do have to fudge it!
  10. Cultivate other writers, join a writing organisation and or a writing group. Best of all, find a tough, caring and eagle-eyed critique writing partner. I’ve had mine for ten years; I would never have published nine books without her.

Huge thanks to Alison for sharing her top ten tips. You can find out more about Alison and her books here:

Alison’s latest in the Roma Nova series, NEXUS is just out in ebook and paperback!

Amazon     Apple     Kobo    B&N Nook

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site:

Facebook author page:

Twitter: @alison_morton

Nexus, Alison Morton, Top 10 Writing Tips

What’s NEXUS about?

Mid 1970s. Ex-Praetorian Aurelia Mitela is serving as Roma Nova’s interim ambassador in London.

Asked by a British colleague to find his missing son, Aurelia thinks it will only be a case of a young man temporarily rebelling. He’s bound to turn up only a little worse for wear.

But a spate of high-level killings pulls Aurelia away into a dangerous pan-European investigation.

Badly beaten in Rome as a warning, she discovers the killers have kidnapped her life companion, Miklós, and sent an ultimatum: Back off or he’ll die.

But Aurelia is a Roma Novan and they never give up…

20 thoughts on “Top 10 Writing Tips by Author Alison Morton @alison_morton #Top10WritingTips”

  1. I really like these good, common sense tips, Alison! Agree heartily with all except number 10 – writing groups are not for me, and I’d hate the idea of a ‘wriing buddy’! But it’s all about what works for you, isn’t it? I went ‘yes, yes yes!’ at 2, 3, 6 and 9…. I heard myself saying those very things, as I read them!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Praise indeed from you, Terry!
      Cultivating a writing buddy is a little like courting and marriage. You go on a few dates, and gradually get to know the person. Even though we write different genres, we have the same level of mercilessness with ourselves and each other, we both love history and research, we are both prepared to give time. I found, and find, the support invaluable, but I also think that such a relationship could be devastating if unbalanced and based on ego. But ours seems to be still working after 10 years. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah yes….. I actually have that with my 2nd test reader (I only have him and my sister proofreader). He is RUTHLESS – the week he reads my newest offering is always a testing time, but it’s become easier for me over the years! I can also discuss plot points with him when I get stuck – it was he who saved me from binning my last book, Hope, at 50K, and help me sort the plot out. So I know what you mean!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, April. I nearly got caught in ‘research thrall’ yesterday but pulled myself out after a very stern word from the writing half of my brain. Reading about the Turkish sappers mining the walls during the siege of Vienna seemed so interesting… 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It often shocks people when I suggest they start at Wikipedia. It’s markedly better these days and gives you a basic overview, a springboard to search further. But like the historian I am, I always advise finding two additional sources for any ‘fact’.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Don’t get me started on Google translate! As a rough and ready resource for your tourist trips, it’s perfectly adequate. As a professional tool, not so much. (retired Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. 😉 )

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Great insight into Alison’s writing life. I agree about the value of writing groups, but as Alison says about choosing a writing buddy, you have to find the right mix of people. I’ve been to some awful groups which didn’t work for me, so in the end started my own. We all find it supportive, fun and motivational.Thanks for a great post – Sue x

    Liked by 2 people

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