Bitten again.


The so-called writing bug found me again last night and bit deep so that this morning I woke with an unquenchable desire to have another crack at writing my own stuff.

A few years ago, when I was keen on it, I had some limited success. I went through the stage that many who aspire to write go through and penned story after story, in countless different genres and sent them all into the aether. I lived through the waiting as though it were torture, the waiting to hear if a submission had been accepted. Eventually, I learned that hearing nothing is normal and, to get a response, particularly a personal response, was the next best thing to an acceptance. After what felt like years, the responses started to appear in my inbox. Not too long after that, they became more frequent. At the height of my “success”, I was receiving as many as two personalised rejections a month. If you’ve never tried to get your stories out there, for someone else to like your stuff and want to publish it, you just won’t understand what joy even a personalised “no” can bring.

“Thank you for your submission, Mark. We enjoyed the story but we don’t feel that now is the right time for this particular story. Why not try again in a few months?”

“Thank you for entering the competition, Mark. Your story, Dogs with swords for tales was very well written. Your style is very accessible and we are sure that in time you will find success. Please consider us again for future submissions. We’d very much like you to consider our upcoming competition in September.”

Close but no cigar.

However, not long after that, I started to receive the odd acceptance. The editors were often with online magazines rather than actual print, but an acceptance, wherever it comes from is like heroin to a writer. Within a very short space of time, I had three of my stories accepted for publication. I think they all came in the same month if I recall.

So what happened? Life happened. Like everyone else in this world who has commitments, namely family, work, pets, social life etc., it all takes its toll. My firstborn son tipped the balance for me. He has brought immense joy, but the cost is paid for in time. To a writer, time is currency. After family, it is the single most precious thing in the world.

With that thought in mind, this morning I had read through the bits and pieces I was writing just before life intervened. I had hoped to be able to pick up where I left off but sadly I don’t think that will be possible. Writing is a craft and needs working at. There are things I’ve produced in the past that now, reading them, I can’t fathom how my mind was working or how I made the connections I did. I like a lot of what I wrote before. I like where it was going and feeling in those words. Man, finding that again is going to be hard.

There is a submission window opening in a few days for a horror anthology. I’m going to try and submit something into it. Who knows, if I bag myself another personal rejection then I’ll know I’m onto a winner.

M.

Perspective


April! That was the last time I posted about anything and you know what? I’m really not surprised.

I hold a full time job as a paramedic (Although I work as an on-call police medic), I live on a working farm and my wife is thirty weeks pregnant with our first born. Oh, and we have a fourteen week old puppy.

That’s a lot isn’t it? I read that all back to myself and I think it’s bloody loads. Too much maybe for one person to deal with but you just have to suck it up and soldier on. My wife and I always busy. Always. It never used to be this way. It used to be that she was always busy. I was never busy. My free time used to involve playing xbox or PC games. I may have watched the odd movie or perhaps even had an odd afternoon to spend doing nothing more than abusing myself in which ever way I saw fit. Not now. I don’t blame the wife. She’s just a worker, a hard worker… and she she makes me feel lazy if I’m not working too.

Oh, one more thing. Being as I live on a working farm, there is one more little thing I forgot that may actually take up a little of my time…

Harvest is coming.

 

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I small disclaimer. I don’t grow pumpkins, but I thought this was funny and illustrated my point nicely.

Okay, so we’ve established that life is busy. That’s fine. I’m not miserable. No bloody time to be! So what do I actually do with my spare time? Well, I write. I have a few pieces I’m working on that I hope will impress a few editors but you know what, that’s no easy task. Neither is typing while drinking whiskey. I do hope you’ll forgive my grammar and any other mistakes. If not, have a whiskey and you’ll understand my drivel fine.

You know what? I digress a lot. I meant to explain something insightful and in truth, I’ve completely forgotten what I meant to say. It was probably something unimportant like how things change when a baby is on the way. Something about how before I’d waste my days playing games and abusing myself but now… well things have changed. I have to prepare for First Born’s arrival. I must work, set an example, provide.

Okay, enough’s enough. I’ve often found that long posts discourage readers. Something about attention span I think, I can’t really remember because I wasn’t paying attention that day at school.

Right then, cheerio!

M 🙂

The Sphincter of Pain


I’ve had a truly awful few days. The wife caught a sickness bug thats been doing the rounds and brought it home to share.

The problem with my wife is that when she gets ill, she really gets ill. A normal blood pressure for her, when she’s healthy, is something like 95/50 so anything that lowers that makes her hit the deck faster than a footballer in the penalty box. Something like diahorrea that literally turns your arse hole into a fountain and smells, well evil, will drop that blood pressure five points in no time. Add in vomiting and I soon have a wife who faints every time she takes a shit.

Oh you think thats bad? As it progresses she no longer has to be standing or sitting upright for her to faint. She’s the only person I’ve met who will pass out laying down. Don’t think thats bad? Well what if she’s vomiting when she passes out?

I stayed up the entire night with her, catching her when she fainted, turning her when she vomited and swapping buckets and bowls where needed.

All this with a broken arm!

I know, I know I’m a hero. But now I’ve got the bug and my ring is as raw as if I’d rolled up a sheet of sand paper and… well you get the picture.

So as Im unlikely to get anything else done, today will be another writing day. I wonder if I can have a 7000 word day?

The challenge is set. I’ll report back later with an update.

M.

A Good Day’s Work


Just a quick one to say I reached today’s target quite comfortably. I put down 4000 words which might not sound terribly much but it is. I find any distraction difficult to deal with when I’m writing and today I had the nieces over for tea and my wife was in all day. Breaks are important though and so we entertained the children with a BBQ, then went on a walk around the local area and even managed to fit in an episode of Game of Thrones. So, 4000 words is really pretty good.

Tomorrow I’ll be hoping to achieve even more. The wife will be at work leaving me on my own so there will be no excuse. Hmmm, except perhaps that I re-discovered Civilisation this morning. If you’ve never played that game then I advise you not to start. There is not better way to lose countless hours than by playing that game. If only it wasn’t so damn awesome.

Right then, a glass of wine to finish and then bed.

M 🙂

 

Word Count


3,500 words per day.

That is the bare minimum I have to lay down to stay on target. 

In my previous post I described how my beloved Bonneville met its end and how I broke my collarbone. As a result of this I have six weeks off work to recover. There is much you can do with six weeks but I have decided to use the time to complete my novel.

You should note that I spent my first week outlining and planning but I’m confident that will end up being time well spent in the long run. I like the idea of sitting down and just writing with no plan but from experience I know that this will result in thousands of words going no where. I know some people who wok this way and good luck to them. I can only think that they must already have a deep understanding of where they want their story to go before they begin.

Right, I best get back to it. This post was intended solely to get me off my arse and typing and its done that. 

I’ll update in future with a brief synopsis of what my story is about. 

M 🙂

Far Worlds, anthologies and aching fingers.


So, today I completed my first draft for the Boltholes upcoming Far Worlds anthology. Over the past few days I’ve doggedly chipped away at the word count until finally, bish bash bosh, its done.

Well, no, obviously that’s only the first draft and therefore I’m nowhere near finished but, and this is the important bit, the hard part is behind me now.

When you sit down to write a story you’re often filled with great ideas of what you want to write. In reality what you’ve probably got is a head full of great scenes. Well, in that case my friend you don’t actually have a story at all. You need to link those scenes. You need a plot. Hey, there’s that mystery word again, plot. It took me forever to get my head around that bloody word. I kept saying to myself, ‘I have got a plot!’ Person A is doing this when Person B comes along and they have this really cool fight with guns that shoot bullets which are actually not bullets but some kind of light. In the end they kill the bad guy by sending him back in time to face his father (who hates tattoos) with a tattoo on his face. His dad gives him such a beating that his future self feels it and turns away from his life of crime.

Cool eh?

No. That’s just a bunch of scenes in which stuff happens. They’re not linked in any way. There’s no character development, nothing to engage the reader on a human level.

Okay, So what the hell is a plot?

Plot is quite simply: character + conflict.

Basically, take your character, dump him off at A, tell him he needs to get to B but make it hard for him along the way. Make his day a bad one and let him grow into a man by overcoming those problems. Come the end he should have learnt something, acquired a few skills or something… there must be development which is only gained through the experience of surviving conflict. Presto!

Yeah, still sounds simple doesn’t it?

Probably isn’t though? Nope. Writing, at least for the vast majority of us, is hard. You have to slog away at it and question everything single word you put on to the page as though you’re making mistake with every one. You have to, it’s a writers life.

So, I’ve finished the first draft and that will now sit in a drawer for a good week or so (cause that’s how Stephen King does it, okay?) until I’m ready to look at it again. I expect the next time I do I am going to hate it but there is where the fun begins. I’ll start shortening sentences, dissecting paragraphs, wheedle out unwanted words… all that crap, because in the end, it’ll be better.

That said, better to me is not necessarily better for my editor. He might take a look at what I’ve done and say he doesn’t like it and then its back to the drawing board. But, you’ve guessed it, it’s a writers life.

Right, my fingers really are aching now and I simply MUST have a cup of tea.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your own writing.

Mark.

Marching Time


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The folks over at the Bolthole forum have been kind enough to release the cover art for the upcoming anthology, Marching Time. Doesn’t it look awesome??! Expect gritty time travel based war stories from a number of starving pen monkeys including yours truly.

M.

Isaac Asimov – Now there’s a c**t.


There are times when I sit down at my computer to write and just stare blankly at the screen. I will sit there for hours, waiting for the muse to spear my cerebrum with a lightning bolt of inspiration. Whilst I’m waiting for her to come and find me of her own accord, I will seek her out by browsing the web of wonders. I’ll stop at all my usual places like the black hole of YouTube for instance, which as we all know, steals hours as though they were minutes, and other such places, like Facebook and various forums. If I’m having a particularly slow day, and as per usual neither I nor the muse can find each other for several hours, I might try and cheer myself up by playing ‘just a bit’ of Civilisation. Now there is a true ‘time sink.’ Why, just the other day I glanced at the clock at it said it was eleven o’clock. A few minutes later I checked again and it was ten past two. Oh, and iTunes. iTunes is another one that seems to be stealing my life, and yet it’s the one I most frequently visit. Like most people who enjoy being a rabid scribbler it’s important to get in the ‘mood’ so that you can write that truly apocalyptic scene that will win you a Hugo, or that tear jerking melancholic voyage of depression that will have people pouring water from their face all over their keyboard.

Yet, there is no muse is there? I’m sitting here laughing to myself when I think about how many hours I have sat here waiting to be struck down with inspiration and rise a genius. You know what I’m having right here? I’m having an epiphany – a sudden bright idea that sheds light and illuminates the dark and echoing landscape of my mind.

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That’s not me. My hair is better.

The only way forward is through sheer effort and determination. That means sitting here and writing whatever crap comes out even if the only good that comes of it is that its practice. I’ve read that writing is a craft that, like all crafts, needs to be worked at. Okay, I can see the logic there. But what about those of us who live in the modern world where we’re just not used to waiting for things to happen? In this day and age if you want something, generally speaking you can have it the next day, sometimes even on the same day. But then, I guess I would argue that anything really worth having that isn’t just massaging my consumerist ego should be worked at. I find that hard. I’m finding this journey hard. I can write. When I really put my mind to it and I’m not just letting my fingers dribble over a keyboard like today, I can write pretty well. But that’s not enough. I spoke with a guy the other day who reckons he could bash a story out in no time at all. I bet he couldn’t, at least anything publishable. It’s a hard road, that’s for sure. Man, how pissed would I be if that guy did sit down and bash out a story as though it were no trouble at all?

I’ve started reading some of Isaac Asimov’s stuff as well. Now, I admire that guy for the sheer amount of literature he produced when he was alive. He wrote hundreds of stories. I bet had another hundred in him too but for me, sitting here right now and waiting for that damn muse, well to me Isaac Asimov can bloody well have another few mounds of earth piled on his grave. I don’t mean that. Not really. That man was and still is a legend. I wish I could have met him. Its weird but some people, I dunno, famous people who I respect, I just want to shake their hand. I don’t particularly want to talk to them (I’d probably dribble and get carted off as a suspected stroke), I just want to shake hands. How weird is that? Yup, so its a shame he’s dead as now I won’t be able to that. Not unless I dug him up of course. Could be a bit strange shaking hands with a skeleton though. Wait, lets just think a moment. He died in 1992? Hmm, he might be a skeleton. I can’t think how long it takes for bodies to decompose. Then again, how would I know? He might be a kind of fleshy rotten zombie. Na’h, twenty years? Must be a skeleton. In which case I wouldn’t bother shaking the hand. I’d take the skull. How cool would thatbe to have Isaac Asimov’s skull on your writing desk? I wouldn’t need any bloody muse then. Okay, I’m a little sleep deprived here, and having some weird thoughts but you gotta admit, it would be cool.

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It was clear from his passport photo that he was taking the diet way too seriously.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m over complicating the whole process of writing a story. Maybe I should bash one out, tidy it up and then blast it out into the void to be mercilessly critiqued by others in my position. I guess that’s what other people have done and for some it must have worked out okay.

Well, it’s only midday but I think a little tot of Southern Comfort would go down a treat right about now, and so with that thought I’ll be off for.

Oh, Sarah, if you still read my stuff… can I ask if you ever critique work us plebs might throw at you?

M.