Writing and Reading for Pleasure: January | Douglas Burcham

Douglas continues his writing and reading for pleasure series with some thoughts for January on writing progress and structure, 2015 reading and publishing.


I set out in June 2015 to complete a full self-edit and restructuring of my 300k word Gemini storybook by the end of 2015. Alas, I have failed because I have only completed the first Gemini story of 115k. I take heart from the fact that for the first time in my writing career (since 2010), I am much more satisfied with the text of what I have completed. I have a satisfactory beginning, middle and end as well as sorting out my points of view and tenses to allow a good flow. I am unsure about setting targets for 2016.

There have been the usual distractions, plus not feeling well, new writing — specifically a draft 5,000 word entry for the Bridport Prize next year — and starting a new book about my main character Henry Cross looking for himself before 1947.

I continue to write reviews of the books I have read since 2011 on Amazon and I have now passed 350. I am mystified why so many of my reviews attract no comments, but notice adverse reviews do get people more interested and often agitated. My interpretation of this is that I am doing something right, although many commentators think the opposite.

In past years, I have tried to nominate the Allrighters’ books of the year over various categories. This year I have decided to give a listing of reading satisfaction and valued memory based on the following factors for books in the non fiction, semi fiction and fiction genres. When I particularly like a book, I give a full Amazon review over these factors:

  • Engrossment and interest
  • Enjoyment and entertainment
  • Emotional effect
  • Educational value
  • Ease of reading
  • Effective characters
  • Efficiency in writing (not too long or short)
  • Engagement to read again

My short list for my reading in 2015 is as follows, based on books I have completed reading with the best three books for me in 2015 highlighted in first place in each category.



  1. Journey Round My Eye and Lend Me an Eye by Albert Vajda. A trip down memory lane to when I heard the first pages of this story on Woman’s hour (BBC Radio) while off sick from work in 1962.
  2. Blood Tears and Folly by Len Deighton. Full of interesting reflections and facts on WW2
  3. Hitler’s Spy Chief: The Wilhelm Canaris Mystery by Richard Bassett. Did Canaris meet with Stewart Menzies or not?
  4. Brendan Bracken by Charles Edward Lysaght. This was an interesting individual close to Winston Churchill.



  1. The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Man Booker prize Winner by Richard Flanagan. It was worth its prize-winning status with an unexpected genre twist at the end.
  2. The Kindness of Women by James Graham Ballard. This reads like a biography.
  3. The Blood of Strangers by Frank Huyler. A&E stories that read like a thriller.



  1. Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. This is part of a longer book of novella length stories. A great story and it proves the point that books and stories do not have to be long to be good and memorable. The film was very close to the book’s storyline.
  2. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Millenium Trilogy and the films are Swedish and English versions). Excellent guide on to how to write a trilogy with running characters and developing plots lines over three books. It’s a pity about the disappointing follow up book and the promise of more.
  3. Garden of the Evening Mists, The Reader and Life after Life set a high bar for fiction in 2014. I have read fewer books in 2015, mainly because I have read much less fiction because thriller fatigue has set in.

On the how to write and publishing front I was quite interested to see the publication of a study on Lee Child writing Make Me promising much and proving the disappointment and most annoying book for me of the year.


Other Items of interest

There was a delightful and encouraging response to new writers on 10/12/15 by Pru Batten, to a post on the Writer of History Blog.

I would also add that I have in fact closed more mainstream historical fiction novels lately than indie-published ones simply because the mainstream ones conform to such an over-edited and formulaic pattern that all the freshness and life is flattened out of them. The one thing I love about reading an independently published historical fiction novel is that they live and breathe off the page.

And a pointed comment as usual about writing method from Russell Blake.

Be nice to each other in the New Year, and remember that it’s all good. There’s no one right way to write anything. Or if there is, nobody can agree on it, which is the same thing.

Seeing the pictures of floods in York, England on TV I was concerned whether YPS the self publisher I used in 2013 would have been affected (No 22 in a recent TIPM Publishing Services Index). It was a close call — see the pictures and comment dated 29/12/15 on the following link.

Good writing and reading to you in this month and throughout 2016.


DouglasDouglas Burcham started writing on 1 June 2010 and self-published under the Allrighters’ name a book of short stories ‘Ywnwab!’ in September 2013. A million words of draft writing reached completion in January 2014 split between 900,000 words of fiction and 100,000 words of non-fiction. The latter being about writing and memories of buildings, trains, boats and planes. Since then slow progress continues to be made in the conversion of the draft words into final books ready for possible publishing under the Allrighters’ name.

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