Mystery Mondays: Damon L. Wakes on Planning Your Novel

It’s Monday again, and we’re here with Damon L. Wakes author of Ten Little Astronauts.

Planning Your Novel by Damon L. Wakes.

Personally, I don’t like to plan my books in too much detail. Knowing (at least in your head) how you get from beginning to end is essential, but for me summarising individual scenes seems excessive: I feel as though I might as well just write the scenes themselves.

What I find does help is to take a pack of record cards and note down all the major plot points, one per card. This makes for a really quick way to put together an outline of the story, and you’re free to add or remove cards as necessary, even while you’re working. There are other advantages to this sort of plan too, but I think those are best left for another post.

I first tried this approach when writing my prehistoric fantasy novel, Face of Glass, but it proved especially handy while plotting out the twists and turns of my sci-fi murder mystery, Ten Little Astronauts, which has since been accepted by Unbound!



engine-roomThe U.N. Owen is adrift in interstellar space. With no lights, no life support, no help for ten trillion miles, it seems as though things can’t get any worse. Then, Blore finds the body.

Ten Little Astronauts is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None set in space. The novella takes the essence of Christie’s murder mystery and condenses it down into a tense, hard sci-fi thriller.

Ten astronauts are awoken from suspended animation to deal with a crisis on board their ship. Selected from a crew of thousands, none of them knows any of the others: all they know is that one of their number is a murderer. And until they work out who it is, none of them can go back to sleep.

With the environment of the ship itself acting as an added threat, the story progresses at a faster pace with a more rapid series of twists. Setting the mystery in interstellar space – where a radio message could take years to reach anybody – also offers an immediate explanation as to why the characters can’t simply call for help, eliminating a lot of the introductory scene-setting of Christie’s original.

Despite the futuristic setting, the world of Ten Little Astronauts conforms as closely as possible to the scientific understanding of the present day, based on extensive research drawing on everything from the ion thrusters of NASA to the vessels preserved at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum. Grounded in reality, the science fiction acts as a backdrop to a mystery that can be broken down and solved by conventional means. The characters and premise will be well familiar to fans of Agatha Christie, but the story itself is brand new.

Pledging to support Ten Little Astronauts at Unbound is more than just buying a book: it’s an opportunity to bring that book into the world. The novella is already written, but it needs your help to make it into print. Of course, there are also rewards for supporters, ranging from digital copies of the book all the way up to a writing workshop with the author.

Book Cover:

Not available yet, as that’s one of the things that the crowdfunding campaign aims to cover. However, there is this video filmed on board HMS Alliance: .


WHO IS Damon L Wakes?

unbound-portraitDamon L. Wakes was born in 1991 and began to write a few years later. He holds an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Winchester, and a BA in English Literature from the University of Reading.

Every year since 2012, Damon has produced one work of flash fiction each and every day during the month of July. He usually writes humour and horror, occasionally at the same time. Tackling so many stories with such a short word count has given him a knack for well structured narratives formed of tight prose.

When he isn’t writing, Damon enjoys weaving chainmail. He began making chainmail armour ten years or so ago, but quickly discovered that there was no longer much of a market for it and so switched to jewellery instead. He now attends a variety of craft events, selling items made of modern metals such as aluminium, niobium and titanium, but constructed using thousand year-old techniques.

Damon’s other interests are diverse. He has at various times taken up archery, fencing and kayaking, ostensibly as research for books but mostly because it’s something to do.








Ten Little Astronauts:


13 thoughts on “Mystery Mondays: Damon L. Wakes on Planning Your Novel

  1. Love the “Ten Little Astronauts” title, Damon. I used the index cards for my first two novels – only first got published. But then I found WriteItNow which has a card layout feature, as of course Scrivener has. However, have to say that the cards you can take away from the screen and re-shuffle.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks very much! I had a few different titles in mind to begin with but once I started writing I felt as though I really needed something that harked back to Christie’s work directly. I’ve never really got on with Scrivener etc. as I like to know that I’m not counting on details that are in my notes but never actually made it into the book. I had a similar system of cards for keeping track of characters, but only added details to the cards once they appeared in the text of the story. Having only a few square inches to write on really makes you think about which details are important!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. If you’re using coloured strings at the moment, you might like to have a go at colour-coding the cards. I’ve never been that organised myself, but I have experimented with laying out only the cards that feature certain characters to see if their stories work in their own right. Since they’re easy to shuffle however you like, you can be fairly adventurous in what you do with them.

      I do recommend numbering the cards, though, just so it’s not too hard to put them back in order. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Great idea, Damon. I appreciate the thought. I’m going to have to buy different colored cards. I’m always interested in finding new ways to organize my stories, and this one could be exciting! Thank you!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. If you do, let me know! I’m keen to try out some new things myself but at the moment it’s looking as though it’ll be a while before I can start a brand new book. It’s always handy to see where other people take this kind of idea, though: I heard one person did much the same thing to organise a dictionary.

          Liked by 1 person

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