I used to hate that saying. Time after all certainly does tick and I find it irritating when people feel the need to remind of such. It’s doubly irritating if it’s my own mind that reminds me.
The short story I am currently engaged in battle with is finally coming along quite nicely. I’ve reached the halfway point as far as word count goes and foresee no reason why I won’t hit the deadline for the first draft. Whatever the result sending this thing out turns out to be, I can honestly say it’s been worth it just for the experience of working to a deadline. Of course, I may change my mind depending upon the reviews I receive. The last time my mystical editors cobbled together an anthology it was quite well received and so I really hope my efforts don’t let the side down.
It’s been a battle. There is no doubt about that. The story-that-is-now-progressing-well was not so long ago in its fourth reincarnation until I finally got a handle on it. There are a few reasons I struggled with it and the top three are as follows…
Time travel is an enormously tricky subject that only really lets on just how tricky it is when you sit down and try to work out your plot. I’ve found the way around this particular hurdle was to just make shit up.
The POV (Point Of View) was all wrong in the first four versions I attempted. Seriously, that’s nearly forty thousand words that went nowhere. In the end I experimented with a combination of two which I think works rather well.
Before I found a POV that worked, I just had no love for the theme of the story, probably becasue of the two reasons listed above and seriously considered pulling out more than once. In truth, had I had other projects to be getting on with than I probably would have. It’s good now though.
Hmmm, I must digress a second. There are bits floating in my tea. It tastes funny too.
Right, well, bollocks to the tea. I think I have some Gin around here somewhere.
A year ago I had central heating installed in my house. I can tell you, the day that was switched on was a truly happy day indeed. No more wearing two jumpers indoors. No more listening to your shit land with a slap on a sheet of ice. No more blinking through your own piss steam. Oh, good times.
Anyway, I digress.
The engineer who installed the system was up for review by his accrediting body last week. The assessor came round and basically told him he would have to change a few things if he wanted to keep his registration. One of those changes was the replacement of a sewer access panel for an airtight, fire resistant panel. Obviously it’s not going to be a simple change is it? No, that would make everyone’s life easier and leave much time for drinking buckets full of tea. No, a chamber has to be constructed to accommodate the new lid. You see where this is going don’t you? Yup, the sewer was open and exposed for most of the morning… and I needed a poo since 9am. By 10am I was convinced I was actually sitting on a poo. Seriously, you couldn’t have called that a turtlehead. A dog’s head would be more accurate.
Anyway, after a happy inspection I discovered no shit in my pants. My glee was shortly replaced however by the simple fact that I just had to go. A pressing need to give birth to this ‘brown baby’ meant I could no longer avoid the toilet. My genuine fear that the workmen outside would not only hear my flush, but also watch my poo float by was soon overtaken by a sudden contraction in my lower gut. The baby was on its way.
I’ve had many scary poo’s in my life but this one takes the biscuit. There’s something particularly invasive about a workman, working on your property, who is also a friend, laying eyes open your poo as it sail past. I did think about wrapping it up in tissue, but I didn’t want him to consider for one second that I had taken the time to gift-wrap it.
I’ve no idea if they did watch my faecal matter slither past, and frankly I hope they never mention it if they did.
On that strange thought, I shall adjourn for the time being and go and make a bacon sandwich. Oh, and a cup of tea.
Yesterday was a good day. I put down 3500 words and went to bed feeling pretty awesome. Woke up feeling pretty awesome too.
Then I listened to a Black Library audio drama called “The Stromark Massacre“. In particular, it was Andy Smillie’s “From The Blood” which is Disc 1, and by the time I finished it I was a seething mess of frustration.
That story was beyond awesome. Even as I write this I can feel my frustration bubbling just under the skin. I’ve never met Mr Smillie but right now I feel if I were ever to meet him, I can’t be sure if I would greet him a handshake or a punch. Perhaps, I should explain.
Normally, if another author makes me want to eat glass and nut a brick wall it’s because I discover they’ve already had my idea, already committed it to paper, and done it a lot better than I would have done. Not so with Mr Smillie. I think I’m passed that kind of reaction now. Too be honest, I hadn’t considered writing a Flesh Tearer story. I hadn’t even considered a black rage/red thirst spin on a Blood Angel story. In fact, I had no ongoing project that even remotely resembled this story. So why am I so downhearted? It’s because, in my opinion, Mr Smillie is in another authorial league; he makes my paltry efforts look like my niece’s first attempt to write her name with a crayon. Worse even. I feel mine would more closely resemble a potato print.
I have felt like this before, namely when I first started getting serious about my writing. I’m sure everyone does. You know the ones…
‘I’ll never be able to write like that.’
‘This author is a God.’
‘I’m a tosser.’
‘Is my grammar any good? Is that how you spell grammar? Fuck, where do I put the full stop? A semi-what?’
‘I could never think up shit like this.’
Sure, we’ve all been there. It’s a difficult hurdle to get over. I guess I never expected to feel like that again. I thought I was passed all that. So, should I ever meet Mr Smillie, do I shake is hand on a job well done? Or, do I punch him for forcing me to raise my game?
Come to think of it, I’ve heard he’s secretly a ninja so I might have to give him a mind punch instead. Only fair, considering he’s just given me one.
Another story finished today. Hit the word count at about 8am this morning and damn but that felt good. This is the second story I have completed in a short space of time and I have to say, nay, I have to repeat… It feels bloody good.
This story is another Warhammer fantasy story, focussing on the Black Guard. I’m quite pleased with how it’s turned out but for now it’s going away in a drawer for a week or two. Its time to forget it even exists and get on with something else. When I do finally unearth it again it’ll be do read it with fresh eyes and begin the editing process.
A lot of people hate editing but I love it. Other than finishing a first draft I don’t believe there is any better feeling for a writer than re-reading a crappy sentence and then re-writing it as an awesome sentence. Yes, I’ll be trimming the fat and sharpening those key scenes so that when I come to read it again, it’ll be even better.
One thing I never do, and which I have been giving much thought to is letting others read my work. I still feel like something of a fledgling author (I call myself an author now, because I’ve actually finished shit. Okay it’s not published but, hey, it feels good) and I don’t want to be crushed yet. I don’t ever want to be crushed, of course I don’t but you know what I’m saying.
On the flip side of that, I value criticism so long as it’s constructive. I’d feel awful if some bloke read my work and his only feedback was ‘This is bollocks mate.’
I was recently asked to read another chaps work and being something of a bumbling bumpkin I think I shot him down in flames. I really didn’t mean to. It was only afterwards when my subconscious was running over the conversation again that I suddenly sat bolt upright in my chair and said ‘Oh shit!’ I thought long and hard about that and how I meant to say that the story really was good, but I could see where it could be improved. I think what came across was ‘Meh, I don’t get it.’
Should I ever bump into that chap again I’ll buy him a pint or two – a kind of sorry for being such a thoughtless prick.
So, that was kind of cathartic. I feel like I’ve confessed in the worldwide confession booth of the Internet.
Right, time to be going. I have a story to bury at the bottom of a drawer and garage to paint.
Last night I attempted to stay up all night and write an entire short story from start to finish. Inspired by Jonathan Green, a Black Library author, I took this challenge upon myself for the following reasons:
1) Obviously, to see if I could do it.
2) To see if I had the discipline to sit down and hammer out the words to meet the word count whilst avoiding distractions.
3) To see if I really am serious about pursuing a career as a writer.
Where Jonathan Green did all of his planning and outlining weeks before, I included the outlining as part of the challenge. My hope was that not only would I succeed in completing the story, but I‘d also have done all the planning too, in just 12 hours. I didn’t have an idea for a story either, so that had to come from somewhere too. Clearly, had I succeeded I would have trumped Mr Green’s effort. I can’t imagine how chuffed and amazed I would have been had I succeeded. I would certainly have used it as a benchmark for future stories though. I mean, if I could turn out a complete story in just 12 hours, how many could I bash out in a month?
Well, the answer is irrelevant I suppose, because I failed.
I did get the outline and synopsis done. I also put down about 2500 words. Today I’ve hammered out another 1000 on it so in theory I should finish by the end of the week. I’d love to finish it sooner though. Last night, I think around 1am maybe, I really started to flag. If only I had taken Jonathan’s advice and bought a shitload of Red bull. Alas, I didn’t and instead I started writing at the speed of spastic tortoise, my brain unable to process more than one word at a time.
Anyway, if nothing else, I’ve put a lot of words down over the past day which is really good practice and promotes discipline to the craft. It would be fair to say that learning has taken place. Not a whole lot mind because as soon as my wife works her next night shift I’ll be parking my fat arse in front of a keyboard for the night. I certainly won’t be spending my time abusing myself watching T&A flix either. Not this time.
My story is finished. I hit the word count today and it came in a little over 9.5K. This is an awesome day.
I’ve been chatting with various folks on forums and many agree that finishing a story is a massive hurdle many writers will never make it over. Some will face plant straight into it and not recover. Others will see it approaching and change direction, giving up for a while before returning with a new story only to fail again.
But what do I really have here? Have I really got a finished story? Have I fuck.
I’ve got a massive lump of clay.
That lump is now ready for the real fun to begin. The story’s there, hidden and lost in crap but I know it’s there. Over the next day or so I’ll dig it out and watch it take form on the page. This is what re-writing is all about, and if you ask me, this is the real secret that wannabe writers everywhere are really looking for. I should point out that I am one of those wannabe types so I am in no way using the word ‘wannabe’ in a derogatory manner. That said, I am of the believe that nothing worth having comes easily. I believe you have to work bloody hard to finish that story, before you can even begin. That makes no sense right? Wrong. It makes perfect sense. Half the battle is not knowing where your story is going. If you can get a beginning, middle and an end down on paper then you’re half way there. It really doesn’t matter if what you have actually written is utter guff, because this is where re-writing comes in to its own. It’s easier to re-write a paragraph than it is to make up one from scratch. That’s my view anyway and I believe it really is the secret to writing.
Well, I’m sorry to make this such a short post but I have a bottle of wine to crack open now in celebration of reaching my word count. Then with highlighter in hand and a pencil or two I’ll put the secret into practice.
I found this post in draft form on my hard drive today whilst wondering what on Earth to write about today. It goes like that sometimes doesn’t it? You have to write just to get the words out but know that you might write utter shite in that same effort. Me’h, I don’t care. The fact I’m sitting here pumping the words out and not playing with my urethra tells me I have chosen the more productive of options.
So, what have I won? Well, it would appear I am in possession of a golden ticket for the upcoming Black Library Weekender…
… to be held in Nottingham later this year. I think there were only eighteen of these bad boys on offer and so I feel justified in my glee. Having been a fairly big fan of the Games Workshop and more specifically its publishing arm, the Black Library, for many a year now this event to me is a big deal. Seriously, when I knew I had won a ticket I was as happy as this guy…
The weekend promises to be crazy fun and I know I’ll enjoy it but there’s two main reasons why I want to go:
I get to meet the authors, poke them and see if they really are human.
I get to have a twenty-minute chat with an editor. This is the big one for me. You spend your whole writing life trying to get your shit in front of editors and so this is just too good to pass up. The total expense of buying the ticket, booking the hotel and estimating the amount of booze I’m likely to get through is going to be a tad on the heavy side but I’m hoping it’s going to be worth it. If nothing else, maybe they’ll take a look at my stuff and tell me to try origami instead. I could argue that I’m pretty good at the ‘paper ball’ already but doubtless they’ll show me how to make an even more aerodynamic one using my own manuscript. Awesome.
I made a total arse of myself the other day when I called to book the hotel. You know those moments where subconsciously you’re saying to yourself, nay, shouting to yourself ‘DON’T BE AN ARROGANT ARSE’, but you just can’t help it? I had a moment.
‘Hello. Is that the Belfry Hotel?’
‘Yes sir, it certainly is, what can I do for you today?’
‘I’d like to book a room please. I arrive on the Friday and would like to stay for three nights, leaving on the Monday.’
‘Okay, let me see what we have available.’
‘Oh, I should mention that it’s for the Black Library Weekender.’
‘Oh right? Do they have a corporate rate here at the Belfry?’
‘Err, yes. Did I mention my golden ticket?’
‘No sir. What ticket is that?’
‘I have a golden ticket. There was only eighteen. I have one.’
‘Okay sir, I’m not seeing any concessions for a golden ticket.’
‘No, you wouldn’t. I was just saying, you know, that I have one… a golden one.’
‘There was only eighteen and I have one.’
‘Will there be anything else, sir?’
‘No, I’m sorry.’
I’ve no idea why I felt the need to apologise to the girl but I don’t know, I sounded like an arse in my head. Hopefully, she won’t be working the day I check in and I won’t have to pretend I’m blind again. Pretending to be blind by the way, although morally ambiguous is bloody good laugh. I used to work as a life guard in a swimming pool and as you do, I wore shades just about all day. My colleague was in on the joke too. Every so often, especially during busy periods one of would get up from our ‘chair of sexiness’, pick up a white stick which we kept next to the chair and walk up and down the poolside sweeping the stick back and forth. Whoever’s turn it was not to be waving the stick would watch the reaction on parents face as they pointed and gasped. A blind lifeguard eh? Priceless.
Oh one last thing. Whilst running a spell checker in WordPress, I was a little dismayed to have it come up with this alternative:
Is scary how accurate this actually is. I don’t believe either of us got any action through sitting on that chair.
I won’t lie. I want to make money out of this writing lark. I’m sure many people do, as I’m sure many people actually do. But can I?
There in lies the question at the heart of the matter. There are a few concerns I shall list below that are at the forefront of my mind whenever I ponder this subject.
1) Do I have the motivation to stick to a given deadline? I really don’t know. If the frequency of my blog posts is anything to go by then you would be forgiven for thinking that the answer is no. And yet, I write an awful lot behind the scenes and 90% of the dribble I do churn out is just sitting on my pc’s hard drive. I tell myself that maybe one day it might make interesting reading but in reality it probable won’t. I am a victim of today’s fast society. Everything must be now now now. I need instant gratification. If I start reading something that hasn’t got me hooked within the first few lines then I’m gone. It hurts to say that because I know how hard it is to write. To spend hours crafting something, rewriting countless sentences and re-reading paragraph after paragraph – you don’t need someone like me deciding it’s not worth the effort after reading your first line. Perhaps I’m missing out. Maybe. Or maybe I’m saving time for those writers who know how to grasp my attention.
2) Talent. Quite simply, do I have any? How do you gauge this? I could (and have in the past) give my work to my friends or family to see what they think. But what are they really going to say? It’s doubtful they’ll be rude or harsh in their critique, just as its likely they’ll come back with something nice to say about it. They won’t be impartial and because of that fact, anything they say wont mean a damn because you just never really know what it is they really think. So what do you do? My personal thought on this is to not give anything you value to friends or family. Instead, send something you love equally out to the competitions. Let the public be the judge. I have a few bits and pieces on another website right that are doing quite well. A short story I wrote while smashed off my face a year back is still ranked number one in its particular category. Yet, when I re-read that piece I cringe. It’s grammar is appalling and I clearly didn’t proof read it before submitting but there you go. I guess maybe even if it looks bloody awful (and it really does), the underlying story still somehow shone through the shite. It never ceases to amaze me what people really like.
3) Were my fortune to change and I managed to sell something, or several bits and pieces…. How much would I have to sell before I actually made enough to live off? I’m not in this for mega money. I’d just like to be able to get up, not bother getting dressed, sit in my study and paint with words all day whilst not having to worry about how to pay the bills. That’s not too much to ask is it?
4) Where do I find the writing jobs people say are everywhere? How do you break into writing for tv or role play gaming?
5) Where the hell is the writing oracle who knows all the answers to my noob questions??????
Well there you have it. I know I’m not alone, and that there are 100000000000 of you wannabe writers out there but I just thought this post might strike a chord with some. We travel a lonely road but maybe someone reading this has seen the off ramp somewhere and might throw a few sign posts up? Then again, maybe that’s why the road is lonely. If its that hard to get to where you want to be… Maybe you feel nobody should have an easy time of it. I mean, if you worked as hard as I am right now to get where you are, are you really going to let someone else in who hasn’t put in the time? I’d be interested to know any thoughts people may have.
Plot! Does anyone else find plotting bloody irritating? Its not like I’m trying to overthrow a government here. I can understand that that would be hard. No, I’m just trying to plot my own damn story.
Normally I’ll try and wing a story. I’ll have a vague idea and I’ll try and just bash it out in one go. Then I’ll discover that my cool ‘story’ idea is actually just a cool ‘scene’ and that once I’ve written this scene I hit a brick wall.
Not today though. Today I wrote an outline. I had hoped the outline would keep me on track, that I would somehow start and finish and that the result would make sense. Nope. Didn’t happen. The finished product had no resemblance to my outline at all. In my outline, I’d set the scene in some old women’s bedroom. Shut up. It’s not that kind of story. So, My character is supposed to be in this bedroom but instead the scene opens in a street in London. My protagonist female is now a male, and instead of regaling us with a rip roaring tale of a past life he is now charging up a London backstreet where he gets his head kicked in.
What the hell is that all about? What happened to my plot that I had written so carefully in my outline?
Can you imagine if that had been a paid job?
Editor: ‘Er… Mark, what the hell is this shit? I asked you to write a story about a roman hero and his rise to glory. He is supposed to heap piles of skulls at the feet of his own Emperor before casting him down and taking the empire for himself. He’s supposed to do all of this armed only with a stave. And what is this you’ve given me? Some weak shit about a mad giraffe who pebble dashes his way across the Serengeti before being unveiled as the reincarnation of Shaka the Zulu. Your fired!’
Oh dear. Does anyone else struggle with plot? I find it hard enough just coming up with a bloody idea, and should I actually come up with an idea/cool scene, it never seems to appear on the screen as I type. It’s almost as if my fingers are working against me. Yes! That must be it. My brain says,
‘Fingers! You will write this crazy cool scene.’
‘Oh okay sure, no worries. Leave it with us.’
*Cue cute finger sniggering*
Oh god it’s happening even now. I wanted so much to write something insightful about plot but… but… It’s the fingers I tell you! They’re holding me back!