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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 33: “A bout of doubt”

I’m currently going through the writer blues. Confidence is falling by the wayside.

I’ve spent a large part of the day mulling over a decision regarding the future of my writing and wondering what I’m really trying to do. My obstacles derive from three sources.



STRANDED ON A DESERTED ISLAND



Writing is lonely. It sounds obvious; everyone has that image of an author sat behind their desk typing away until the early hours of the morning. We’re regarded as reclusive control freaks who are just a little bit crazy.

Technology has changed this a little in the last couple of years and writers from the four corners of the globe are now able to chat, assist and share their work without having to leave the comfort of those desks they love so much. There are online writing groups, blogs and social media apps to help bond people with similar interests.

And yet I still don’t seem to have anyone I’m really able to talk to about writing.

Last year I joined a ten week evening class on creative writing and it was amazing. After that awkward first session where everyone mumbles and protects their stories with a passion I found I was among a really great group of people. Each week we all gained confidence and became eager to share our projects with each other. I grew to respect both my fellow student’s and my teacher’s opinion with regards to what I was writing. It wasn’t always positive and that was great.

But now I don’t know how I’m doing. Even this blog, despite crossing 3000 views yesterday, feels like it’s lost in the darkest regions of the galaxy, drifting among the twinkling pin pricks, lost to anyone’s attention.



TOO MUCH, TOO SOON


When I started this back in February I thought that December was a reasonable target to get a single project released as an e-book. Ten months seemed like a gift if I was only going to limit myself to getting just seven short stories bundled together in a nice package and jettisoned out into the world.

But I forgot one simple ingredient in the recipe; me.

Up until February I had accumulated thirty four and a half years of experience as to what I’m like as a person. I have a minute attention span, I’m fickle like you wouldn’t believe and I have a million new ideas a day arriving in my brain.

So did I really think I could stick to one thing and get it done? You bet I did.

Do I deserve a slap in the face with a cold, wet fish because of that naivety? You bet I do.

So far this year I’ve attempted to work on seven short pieces, enter several writing competitions, start a novella that wasn’t even on the radar, add book reviews to the blog, add a weekly flash fiction challenge to my repertoire (with plans to join another if they’ll have me) and start a whole new epic project that I want to get off the ground come January.

(Greed + Impatience) – Restraint = #@!%$

And now that were nearing October, as the nights grow colder, what have I got to show for it? Nowt, unless you include the blog and that just shows people what not to do.



LEAVE YOUR BRAIN AT HOME



This is the worst of the three and it’s going to sound needy but just hear me out.

You see, when I really think about it . . . I’m not a very good writer.

The best way to explain what I mean by this is to compare my stories to movies. When I come up with an idea, be it short fiction or novel length, I see it in my mind like it was on an IMAX screen with Dolby Surround (I’ve mentioned before how I sometimes use movie soundtracks to plan a ‘trailer’ version of my stories before writing them).

I, like many writers, would love to write that Oscar winning film that draws the crowds and gets people talking; the one that has amazing characters, quotable dialogue and a deep, twisting plot with something to really say about the world we live in.

What actually comes out is DTV nonsense with paper thin characters, clichéd dialogue and no plot (or subplots) to be seen. It’s all big explosions, crazy action and predictable events.

I see competition winner’s work and it’s amazing. Never have I thought that someone didn’t deserve their place as number one. It’s that moment when I take a fresher look at my work and see how empty and basic it is.



SO, WHAT NOW?

Photo by Daran Kandasamy


I guess that leaves me kind of floating in a void. I would like to say what I want to do next but that hasn’t worked out so well in the past.

I guess we’ll just have to see where I am come December 31st.

How about you guys? Anyone out there going through the same hic-cup in confidence? Perhaps you’re suffering a feeling of solitude too? Or maybe you’re just struggling to get feedback on your current project? Would love to hear from you.

Until then I’m going off to learn self-control and make some friends.


See you in seven.



Wednesday, 17 September 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 32: “Brick by brick”

Writers are creative people. It’s what we do. It’s in our blood.



I’m enjoying writing at the moment. I’m busy editing TATTOO in the evenings when I have access to my laptop (and more importantly Scrivener) while flexing my more creative side during my work lunches when I only have access to pen and paper.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been busy planning my new project which will be written during Novembers NaNoWriMo and then published in bite sized ‘Issues’ starting January.

The project is called FALLEN SWORDS and it’s been brewing slowly from a joke for the last six months. After a work colleague was fired in front of everyone in my office I compared his exit to the shocking character deaths of A Game of Thrones.

The next day my brain started doing its thing and I began to convert events around that day and my place of work in general, giving colleagues roles in a clichéd epic fantasy. I even scribbled a quick world map based on the office layout and made a few story notes.

And that’s where it stopped until a couple of weeks ago. I went looking for something to work on for when I only had access to my notepad and it waved its little hand, begging to be taken more seriously.



I haven’t written anything like this in quite a while and I’m really enjoying the world building aspect of it. As I can’t write a single word of the actual story until November 1st I get to use my daytime writing planning characters, places and history. So;

Map of the entire world? Check.

Timeline that includes all major events before, during and after the story? Check.

List of characters both major and minor? Check.

There’s a big divide over fictional fantasy worlds and whether they should have maps locked down before a single word of story is written. Some writers say it’s a waste of time when there is far richer world building to be done like characters and cultures.

Me? I need a map. It’s the first thing I look for in a fantasy book and it’s the first thing I think about when writing any stories not set in our world. I love to let my mind wander with how characters and cities look and feel but I yearn for that map so that I can place everything in relation to everything else.

And so it’s been. My map (after five attempts) is nicely sketched out with surrounding land masses that won’t feature for the first year of the project. I have a long, long list of characters who, again, won’t all feature within the first year of the project. And, after a mega brainstorm session at lunch today, my world now has its magic system. It’s not intricate but it’s also not simple. The magic is vital to the plot and I needed to get it right. I’m confident I’ve done just that.

So on I go. I’m now busy planning stories and fitting the timeline snuggly together while adding more detail to the map. I plan to add a page to the blog for all things FALLEN SWORDS related, a kind of hub with links to the stories as they’re posted.

It’s been a busy, mixed up year full of false starts and new ideas but I’m hoping to have settled down now. This is it; episodic sword & sorcery project by day and sci-fi novella by night. 

Now I’m off. Lots more world building to do.


See you in seven.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 31: “Flash!”

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a writer.

My aim is to get to a point where I am comfortable to write full length novels and novellas one after the other, editing with excitement as opposed to dread. I have a ton of ideas in my head from your standard trilogies to TV style ‘series’ (see these guys for an idea of what I’m aiming for).

But something that is helping me right now is shorter work, and I don’t just mean the on again / off again writing towards my first Uncanny Tales (date changed). I am of course referring to Flash Fiction.


www.smithsonianmag.com


In this day and age of short attention spans and quick and easy mobile access to the net, flash fiction is finding a greater audience, one who will quite happily read a couple of 200 word stories with no over arcing plot or massive world building to get lost in. These ‘snacks’ are great for people to dive in, read, and jump back out.

They are good for writers too. Many of us slog along on our true masterpieces that we’ve been writing and rewriting for the last decade. Flash lets us take a break, try something new and unfamiliar and put it out there in just a couple of hours. And then we get back to that 2000 word epic door stop that will change writing forever.

Back in May I joined Flash! Friday. I’d learnt about it through Craig Anderson. At the time he popped up somewhere on Goodreads and was giving away his novella, Getting Lucky for free (check it out, it’s awesome). I followed him on good reads and noticed that he always posted a 150 story with photo every Friday.

So I dug deeper.

As I probably mentioned before, Flash Friday challenges writers to come up with a 150 words story using a picture prompt and something to be included (like an object or theme). I spent weeks watching from the side line, thinking of ideas but being too afraid to finish them.

So I watched.

And then, on May 30th I saw the picture that made me think “yeah, I’ve got a good idea and I want to share it.”

So I did.



I didn’t win (I’m ashamed to say that I really thought I could just wade in and be a first time champ – maybe I DO have an ego after all). But I wasn’t perturbed. I went back the next week and the week after that. Finally I got my name up in lights (so to speak) on my fourth attempt for the clever use of title. I was over the moon but better was to come.

I started feeling brave now and made the effort to delve into the comments around the entries. The community that I had originally feared were such a great bunch. There’s a lot of support both from the people that run Flash! Friday and those that take part.

I had another high on my sixth entry when I had an honourable mention. This, coupled with the nice comments people left had me on such a high and then, one week later, I got first runner-up with my story ‘IF YOU GO DOWN TO THE WOODS TODAY’.

I can’t describe how good that felt. Although friends and family had read my stuff and said they liked it, there’s just something amazing when a complete stranger takes the time to tell you what they thought of your work. And in the Mondays ‘Flash Points’ article, Rebekah really told me what she thought of my story and I couldn’t stop jumping up and down.

I’m now on the hunt for my first win. Sometimes I get down when the results come in and I’m not on the list but that’s good, right. Of course it is. Because it means I’ve still got the hunger. Nothing in life worth having is easy.

And even if I don’t win, even if the honourable mentions and runner-up places are all I get, it doesn’t matter. Because I’ve stumbled onto a great group of people who are not only kind to me and each other but have also provided some cracking tales to read.

While I would love everyone reading this to take the plunge and join us (despite the numbers growing so much in the last quarter that judging now takes an extra day) I understand that not everyone is a writer. So read instead. Take 10 minutes out of your weekend to browse and be entertained. Leave your comments to the guys at Flash! Friday too. If they’re anything like me then it is the fuel that feeds them.

Out of interest, who didn’t hum the Flash Gordon theme at least once while reading this? Seriously? Because I wrote the word Flash about a hundred times.

See you in seven.



Wednesday, 3 September 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 30: “Can’t find the off switch”

I’m currently having a problem that most writers would probably tut at and maybe even slap me for complaining about. I can’t switch off new ideas!


You see I started this writing adventure in February with the goal of putting together a collection of short stories and self-publishing them. That was all I wanted, my work out there for people to read. I thought a novel was a tall order for both my skills and my confidence so short stories, some started and others brand new, made the most sense.

But is hasn’t turned out that way.

I’ve mentioned before how I wish all my stuff was already written and out there. The more I’ve delved into the world of indie publishing the more my brain has wandered to all the other ideas I’ve had on the go. I’ve had to fight myself to stay on course and ignore them. Don’t work on the episodic novella projects (all four of them). Don’t start planning the Superhero series or the Death trilogy or the supernatural western trilogy. And forget about the epic fantasy series that’s been building slowly for the last twelve years. No, these and many other ideas had to wait. I made everything else a ‘2015’ decision.

Then I took on Flash! Friday, several writing competitions and Camp NaNoWriMo causing the short story collection to fall by the wayside (although two are currently available on Wattpad).

Of course I know I wouldn’t have got a decent first draft of TATTOO without CampNaNo. It’s just that since I finished that draft my brain has begun to wander again.

Damn you brain, damn you.

So right now I’m drowning under a pile of ideas and I don’t know where I want to go next. Obviously my main focus and much of my home writing still goes to TATTOO. But I’m setting up too many other things and thinking too much about the long game when I still don’t have anything out there with my name on it.

I guess this post is more about giving me a kick up the backside then anything else. My problem has always been a lack of focus and I easily jump onto the new when the old becomes difficult.

Next week I have some time off work and I’m damn sure going to use as much of it as possible for writing. I really do hope that I succeed and have something out there by New Year’s Eve. I see so many other authors with multiple projects already available and I so want to be one of those instead of the wannabe I currently am. Ideas don’t pay the bills unless they’re down on paper.

So going forward I will have three projects on the go until the end of the year.



TATTOO: THE SYMBOL FOR STRENGTH

This novella is the first in a series and is my primary focus until the end of the year. I need to finish the second draft and get it out to proof readers before knuckling down and getting something finished that I can be proud of to release.



FLASH! FRIDAY

This weekly writing prompt is like a mini class in writing skills. It keeps me focused and controls my wandering mind; a time limit and a prompt are good for making you write stuff you wouldn’t normally. Plus, love the FF community.



EPISODIC SWORD & SOURCERY

I’ve managed to pick out one idea to be my NaNoWriMo 2014 project. This is what I will be spending my lunches planning through September and October before getting stuck into come November. It’s an ode to classic fantasy stories but with a side helping of my own reality. I don’t want to give too much away right now as I need to find a way of explaining it without people taking it the wrong way. The plan is to write as much as I can for NaNo and then start publishing it on the blog every fortnight beginning in January 2015.



My hope now is that this is it. I’m going to focus and try to pry more time from my life to write, be it laptop or notepad. Write, write, write and write. I’ve come this far but my blog posts are meaningless unless I have an end result to show for all the talk. Must crack on.

See you in seven.