Tag Archives: Writer

Fiction is hell

Fiction is hell.

Not one word will seep from my pitiful brain on to this accursed page. I don’t have a single idea worth the spirit-sapping monotony of 12pt Courier. My paragraphs are formatted to double-spaced lines, but you couldn’t tell – you’d need two lines.

Utter dejection.

It was all going so well. I’d read about creative writing; I even did a course.

Back then I was happy, naïve. Everything seemed sprinkled with potential; every real-life encounter manifested an event to be mastered; in every sunrise shone the promise of perfect prose.

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A man of few words – use facts to fix your fiction fatigue

I started a writing journal back in October to help me keep track of my productivity. Every time I sit down to write, I note the hour I start, the session’s duration, how many words I get down, the calculated new total, what chapter I’m on and any interesting notes therein.

This affords me a few boons: using the data, I’m able to figure out when I’m most productive, in order to concentrate on those sessions; but it also provides a neat motivational tool. Humans respond well to numerical targets and records, we’re interested in personal bests and incrementally pushing ourselves further and further, so being able to make a graph like this one can only be a good thing…

Word-count

Continue reading A man of few words – use facts to fix your fiction fatigue

Scribophile – can it make you a more mature writer?

Writing is an art form.

(That may sound pretentious, but I’m setting up an analogy here, so roll with it.)

Storytelling should be evocative, on some emotional level, whether that emotion be excitement, empathy, poignancy or panic. Its value is in how it makes you feel.

But, like all art forms, storytelling requires two things: creativity and skill. You can be the greatest wordsmith in the world, but without emotional content, you’re just writing a thesis.

In the same breath, you can have the greatest story stewing in your brain, but without the means to convey it, that’s where it should stay.

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Wedding jitters

I’m getting married this weekend. I KNOW, RIGHT?

I won’t lie – I’m a bit nervous. Don’t mistake that for cold feet – I’m not having doubts, that’s a different thing altogether. I’m just nervous.

It’s a strange thing to be nervous about, though, considering the occasion. We’re surrounding ourselves with our loved ones, friends and family who have seen us evolve over 30 years and know us better than perhaps we know ourselves.

Then we’re taking those 130 people and putting them in a fabulous medieval barn in Dorset, where they’ll see us married, before being fed food and copious amounts of booze – and asked nothing of, but to dance like pillocks for six hours.

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Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel – [Book Review]

I’m the first to admit, some of my book reviews can be somewhat scathing (my treatment of Rogue Forces by Dale Brown and The Hook by Donald E Westlake come to mind). I think that’s because it’s often more fun to find fault than it is to fathom finesse, if you’ll excuse the alliteration. It’s certainly easier to pick holes.

That’s why this review of Station Eleven by Canadian author Emily St John Mandel is so difficult. If there’s one word I can use to describe it, it’s “effortless”.

Effortless in the sense that I was never obstructed by some forced narrative technique, or distracted by a clumsy phrase or metaphor. I was taken by the hand around this fictional world, the events of interest pointed out but never laboured over, and never was my hand squeezed too tight or my head shoved to examine something uninteresting. It was effortless storytelling.

That makes it difficult to analyse. It kind of washed over me, leaving an evocation of regret in its wake – for that seems to me the central theme.

Continue reading Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel – [Book Review]

Goodbye Piccadilly, hello bitter City

Last month, the magazine I work for was bought by a competitor. Thankfully, our new owner wanted to keep the team we had together because we produced good content and our business model was profitable.

The problem was, it meant we had to move offices – I used to work in Piccadilly Circus, near the Trocadero, and we were moving to the City, near Cannon Street.

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The Horses of Helios on Haymarket

It’s strange how a person’s feelings towards a place can change so drastically over time. Piccadilly Circus is like that for me. When I was a kid, it was synonymous with the excitement and bustle of London town – I specifically remember the giant sinewy bronze horses on the corner of Haymarket, rearing up as though spooked by the traffic. To me, they were ancient statues, indicative of a powerful city that had stood for hundreds of years (I was not to know they were only built in 1992).

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Cliffhangers: are they for your characters, or your readers?

I’m currently reading dystopian sci-fi page-turner Wool by Hugh Howey. I’ll post the review once I’m through, but one aspect of its narrative structure struck me and I wanted to discuss it; namely, its cliffhangers.

My own work, Citadel, is written in third-person deep point-of-view, which means I refer to the character I’m following in the third person, but the narration stays in her head, describes the events she sees and notices the things only she would notice.

But like many writers, I move the perspective around between my characters, staying with one for a full chapter, then moving to another for the next, just as Howey does in Wool.

The problem is, sometimes there can be AN EVENT that affects everyone, or A TRUTH that people discover separately, at different times. This creates a dilemma: by the time your second character becomes aware of something, the reader already knows it. You cannot elicit the same reader response (surprise) more than once.

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I’ll show you mine if you show me yours — a call for critique

Writers! I seek critique and offer my own unique services in return.

I propose a scheme, if you’re keen, in which we swap stories of similar length and critique the bejeezus out of them, before sending the mutilated corpses of our creative babies back to each other, weeping ourselves to sleep over the deluge of red ink.

I have three tales ready to be torn to smithereens, and suggest a straight swap with anyone who has a story of similar length (let’s say no more or less than 500 words’ difference?), to ensure we’re not exchanging a short story for a Tolstoyan tome.

All three are vaguely horror, while The Pumice Stone opens with a little bit of rude blueness.

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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!

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