Category Archives: Writing

Finding time to write – a new train of thought

As a writer, I’m constantly searching for moments in the day to actually write. It’s not easy; I’ve got a full-time job, I’m organising a wedding, I’ve got this bloody blog thing to write – there’s not enough time to go round!

For instance, I realised just this morning that since completing my plot outline, I’ve written one measly chapter. One! In a week! I have 88 to complete, which means at this glacial pace, the second draft won’t be complete until APRIL 2017.

This is clearly not good enough.

But wait, watch what happens when you cram more work in:

Two chapters a week – Finished by June 2016

Three chapters a week – Finished by February 2016

One a day – Finished by November 2015

One AN HOUR – Finished by THIS SATURDAY.

You see? At that rate I could be a bestseller by this time next week!

Continue reading Finding time to write – a new train of thought

Breakthrough! – ye draft bastard

I’ve finally finished my plot outline! – No easy feat when you’ve been rambling into your computer for a decade, hoping a structured novel will spill out of your head like a Homeric poem, and all that came out was a meandering stream of consciousness that more resembled Lost than Paradise Lost.

The biggest step was breaking everything up into chapters. Previously, I didn’t know if I wanted the novel to be structured chronologically or to shift back and forth according to narrative perspective, so I just left everything in one document per character.

I have no idea why I didn’t change this earlier: it makes the process so much more palatable – as a writer and for the reader.

I mean that sincerely: use chapters, always.

Continue reading Breakthrough! – ye draft bastard

Why your manuscript sucks – (and how to fix it)

A reader reclines, opens your book:

Harry kissed his kids goodbye at the breakfast table and rushed out the door, still pulling his jacket on as he stepped into the brisk morning air of leafy, peaceful Highgate. “See you later darling,” he called to his wife.

Another day to survive this lie.

His guilt tinted the world, made his shame sharper. The cigarette butt he’d discarded – smoking to obfuscate Patricia’s perfume – shone like a beacon in the grass. His car tyres twinkled with the white gravel of her Surrey driveway. Must get it cleaned.

As he unlocked the vehicle, his greatest fear rounded the street and confidently strode towards him: Patricia, out walking her Irish terrier, was in his fucking neighbourhood.

“Harry? But, what are you doing here? I thought you lived in Shoreditch?”

“I do, I was just, I left my car here, my friend, we had a poker game last night, here, I’m just picking up the car… what are you doing here?”

Sally came out of the house with the boys. His throat constricted. He couldn’t breathe. He desperately tugged the knot of his tie and…

Wait wait WAIT WAIT STOP

Continue reading Why your manuscript sucks – (and how to fix it)

Magnolia – ingenious or just tedious?

Have you seen the film Magnolia? If you haven’t, BEWARE: this post will have spoilers.

If you have, to jog your memory, it’s the one where Tom Cruise plays an arrogant, misogynistic prick. Oh… hang on, that’s Top Gun; Rain Man; Cocktail; and All Tom Cruise Films

Let me see. It’s the one where Julianne Moore plays a promiscuous drug-addled trophy wife. Oh, sorry, that doesn’t help either…

It’s the one where William H Macy plays a vulnerable middle-aged man who fumbles a criminal scam with mild-mannered incompetence…

Alright, alright! It’s the one where it rains frogs. There, that’s what everyone remembers isn’t it? The frogs!

Continue reading Magnolia – ingenious or just tedious?

Every man has agency, except the everyman

Brushing the sexist terminology aside for a moment, I want to talk about the everyman.

If you’re writing a science fiction or fantasy novel, your protagonist might be an ordinary person who finds themselves in an extraordinary world.

We make these characters to articulate the oddity of the situation, to show how peculiar it is through the eyes of the bewildered.

The problem is, characterisation and agency tend to fall to the wayside. Take for instance Alice or Dorothy, of Wonderland and Oz fame. Tell me some of their character traits… What kind of personality do they have?

It’s tough, right?

Continue reading Every man has agency, except the everyman

The Songs My Destination – how music can supercharge our stories

If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like you to start playing this tune as you read this post (headphones recommended):

Has it started? – Then I’ll begin…

The music

The pace of this song is slow. It’s a sombre track, concealing a brooding baseline that thumps quietly in the background, like the rhythmic beating heart of a gigantic whale.

Do you hear that? 

Echoes and reverberation give a glimpse of vast spaces, through which you begin to drift, floating on its waves, as high-pitched piano keys tease a simple melody from the spaces in between.

Continue reading The Songs My Destination – how music can supercharge our stories

Followers, favourites & frantic defilement – weary writers on Twitter

I’ve been trying to build up my Twitter followers this week, in the hope that if I ever finish this book and get it out there, I’ll have a conveniently amassed audience to whom I can promote it.

That’s the idea, anyway.

I also just enjoy using Twitter. Interacting with fellow writers, sub-editors, journalists and professional piss-takers is a lot of fun. It’s all witty quips in brash brevity – a skill in itself.

Even on a purely psychological level, the favourites/retweets aspect is like gaining experience points in a weird social RPG. Each arbitrary milestone you reach for the number of followers you accrue feels like leveling up.

Continue reading Followers, favourites & frantic defilement – weary writers on Twitter

Having a domestic with the first draft – editing is a bitch

Editing that first draft is an act of mutilation – it’s messy, emotional and unforgiving.

But that’s because I write like a maniac – without forethought or planning. I just do a mind-puke over the page like I’ve been on some boozy ideas binge.

Now I have to sift through this literary vomit and pick out the chunks that might still contain some nutritional value. It’s horrid.

Continue reading Having a domestic with the first draft – editing is a bitch

A world-building Rift

I experienced an Oculus Rift the other day. It was sensational – in a sense.

I’d never worn a virtual reality headset. I lowered myself into a bolted-together driving seat, complete with plastic steering wheel with gear paddles, a wobbly shift stick and a full complement of pedals at my feet. The room I was in was a small, dimly lit box-room office, and my friends stood behind me as I lowered the headset over my eyes.

Suddenly, I was sat in a Ferrari in the pit lane at Silverstone. Hands that were slightly too small to be mine gripped a pixelated steering wheel in front of me with a functioning dashboard behind it. I looked to my right and saw my rear view mirror, my friends ominously absent in its reflection, despite the sound of their merriment at my apparent open-mouthed glee.

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Focus – the nemesis of the Chaos Draft

It took me the best part of a decade to write the first draft of my book. That’s a long, freaking time.

In 10 years, a lot has changed, not least me. I’m a very different person to the borderline-alcoholic, early-20s buffoon that started scribbling down a scene on the tube. Now I’m a moderately sensible 30-something borderline-alcoholic, with a new-found love of reading.

As I’ve changed, my characters have changed, my plot has been twisted and my world has been turned upside down. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end – but their relation to each other is warped, as though light refracts through each Act.

Continue reading Focus – the nemesis of the Chaos Draft