Freelance? Me?


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.

Criticism


My earliest memory of receiving praise for a piece of writing I had done comes from my first year at secondary school. Obviously it was part of an English lesson but I remember it because of that. English was always my favoured subject. I always looked forward to it. Our teacher used to say to us,

‘Class, you have until the end of the lesson to write a story, off you go.’

On this particular occasion I had been having a relatively dry patch, creatively speaking, and so I was thrilled when the teacher came back to me and said,

‘Mark, this is really good stuff. I really enjoyed it. This is the kind of stuff you used to write! Write more of it.’

I do remember thinking, what do you mean ‘used to?’ Still, it was a bold move on my part. Most other people would write variations on Robinson Crusoe or other well-known classics. I wrote something about a Mermaid-man ( a Merman?) and I can remember describing his movement through an undersea tunnel, his great battle axe scraping the worn stone sides.

Another memory, a much more recent one this time, comes from a piece of fiction I wrote a couple of years ago. It was about a paramedic and his patient. I think I wrote that as some sort of cathartic release from feelings I had cultivated at work. Basically, it is very easy to make a snap judgement of someone based upon the most minuscule piece of personal information; it’s even easier to be wrong about that person. So I wrote that piece and I handed it out to a few friends. In retrospect, this was a mistake. They were all nice with their comments but not one offered any real criticism. To me, this highlights the problem with handing your cherished work to a friend, especially one who does not want to tread on that friendship.  What could they say? I mean I believe them when they say they enjoyed it, and I don’t believe they would have said so if they hadn’t. Yet, I don’t think they would have offered any criticism in a negative light for fear of damaging relations. I understand that now and I shan’t be passing my work to friends again in a hurry. As much as I am grateful for their taking the time to read my nonsense, they were just too nice damn it!

My harshest critic is my wife. She’ll tell me straight if something is god awful and to be binned at once in a fiery bin. Once I gave her a sci-fi story I had just finished. I was immensely proud of it and was about to submit it to a publishing house that afternoon when I had the brilliant idea of asking her to take a look. I’m not sure what I was expecting really. I mean I loved it. I thought the plot was tight, the characters were believable and it even had an underlying theme. Yet, I still felt trepidation as I handed her my precious few pages of creative genius. She sat down and read the first page. I tried to feign disinterest but it was impossible. In the end I just sat cross legged on the floor and watched her reading. I scrutinized every expression of her face, followed her eyes as they moved across the page, imagining I knew which sentence she was currently on. Oh… she’s near the bottom of the page, I thought. She must be nearing that part where Mal the Slayer announces his big secret. She’s turning the page… and… What is she doing? She’s turning back to the first page! I’ve made a mistake?? I’ve obviously handed her the story with the pages all out of sequence. Her expression is now puzzled, confused even. She shakes her head and plods on through the second page. My insides have turned to mush. My heart has dropped out of my arse and my eyes have begun to burn in a most unmanly fashion. She doesn’t even finish the second page. She puts it all down, looks at me.

‘This makes no sense what so ever,’ she said.

I was utterly gobsmacked. I can remember staring at her in disbelief, becoming slowly aware of my own teeth grinding.

‘Your grammar isn’t very good either.’

I felt my fists clench involuntarily and thought that now would be an excellent time to leave the room. I can remember sitting down at my desk and re-reading every word over and over again. She must be wrong, I told myself. She just doesn’t ‘get’ sci-fi.  I must have sat there for perhaps three hours mumbling and gnashing my teeth in the direction of the study door every time I heard her in the next room. It was then that I came up with my master plan. I am a little ashamed to admit this but stay with me. The end justifies the means.

I was convinced I had to test the theory that she didn’t understand sci-fi and that therefore she wasn’t qualified to make judgements upon my own work. So I copied someone else’s work. Ah! I cringe when I even write such a thing, but I did it. I found a short excerpt off of a blog written by an author I admire (Aaron Dembski-Bowden). I copied it, printed it, and handed it to her and then… I pretended it was my own. I’m cringing so much as I write this. I had to prove that she was wrong though. I had to prove she just didn’t understand sci-fi. I mean, if she found his work rubbish then mine must be fine right? Right?

Once again, she sat on the sofa and patiently read the piece I had given her. I could discern no emotion or reaction this time on her face and inwardly I was preparing my victory speech. Ha! I would exclaim. This has been written by a very successful author and you thought it was rubbish. You know nothing! Nothing!

She’d finished reading now and sat back drinking her tea.

‘Well?’ I asked.

She looked at me in mock surprise, clearly enjoying my discomfort. I think she could see the strain etched inch deep in my forehead though and relented.

‘It was good. Really good actually. You should write like that all the time.’

I stared at her for a few moments before standing and walking back upstairs in total silence. I presume she must have thought I was just relieved. I closed the door to my study and sat down in my chair. Then I shouted at the top of my voice, ‘Bollocks!’

I learnt an important lesson that day. Criticism, be it good or bad is extremely important to an aspiring writer. I understand that now and I take any criticism on the chin, appreciating it for what it is. I don’t worry if I get something wrong now but instead learn from it, and I’m reminded of a good quote as I write this. It’s very apt I think and a good place to finish for today.

I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.’ – Thomas A. Edison.

 

River God…OMG


I have enjoyed reading for some years now. So much so that it is now fast becoming one of my favourite past times. This post goes out to that most awesome author, Wilbur Smith and his equally awesome book, River God.

River God, looking back was the first of Wilbur Smith’s books I had ever read. It was suggested to me by my father after he had read it and he suggested, no that’s not right… enthusiastically recommended whilst dribbling to me that I should give it a go. So I did, and man am I glad I did. Its one of those books that is going to stay with me forever. By that, I mean it will have a place of honour on my bookshelf at home for as long as I live.

So what’s this book all about then? Well, I suppose if I were to sum it up in one line I would say…

It’s about a slave, in ancient Egypt  of whom we follow his exploits, trials and tribulations through love, betrayal, loyalty and despair as the land and country he loves is smashed to pieces by another invading civilisation. Its great… a real massacre.

Okay that was three lines but well, its too good for just one line damn it. Give me a break here.

It is truly epic though. It has every thing you could want from a book. It brings the land and time of ancient Egypt to life to the extent that you could almost reach out and touch it.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Honestly, go out and buy it, loan it, steal it for fucks sake… just read it.

M 🙂