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.

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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.

Here we go…


Well, the time has come. Marching Time to be specific.

Having just agreed and sent back my contract there’s nothing else to do but sit back and wait for the book to hit the market.

I thought waiting to hear back from the editors was stressful, but you know what? It really wasn’t. Not in comparison to a new fear which has risen up unannounced like a silent fart. You see, I’ve never really had a review before. Sure, I’ve had editors give praise (Not all the time. One actually scoffed in my face once. Scoffed!) from time to time but I’ve never had an honest to god review from a member of the anonymous public. It’s really quite frightening. Seriously, my poor bowels are working overtime. I keep blaming the dog but even the wife’s beginning to cast suspicious glances in my direction.

Alas, it’s out of my hands now. All that can be done is to wait and hide any stones.

I wonder if all writer folk have this fear? I mean, I keeping thinking back to the stories I’ve sent in and I know there are scenes I perhaps could have changed, rewritten or even omitted. Yet this is writing. If I change something then I’m actually writing a completely different story. Maybe one day I can do a director’s cut thingy if I’m really unhappy about something. In truth I’m not feeling to bad about what I’ve sent in. I’m never 100% happy anyway and so maybe this is a feeling I’m just going to have to suck up and learn to live with. Poor dog though. Really, he doesn’t deserve to have my wind blamed on him.

Scratch that. The dog has left the building. He’s actually just got up and left. It’s just me and a suspicious wife now.

Woe is me.

M.

The End of a Hard One


It’s been hard, so bloody hard… and long. But at the end of the long hard week things are steadily getting back into a normal routine. On a lighter note I have a new chair. Would you like to see a picture of my new chair?

Behold! My writing chair. Always wanted one of these. Its a treat for your ass.

Damn odd week this one. On the one hand things have been going swimmingly well with the publication of my first short story (and payment!) and its feedback. Yet, on the other hand I have been astoundingly busy to the point that this is the first chance I’ve had for some ‘me time’. Some people get pissed up, go out and see friends or just chill out when they get the time. I write. I write because I enjoy it immensely and it’s my way of chilling out.

Although busy, this week has been great for ideas. Perhaps having a break is good for the mind? For example, last night I hosted a BBQ for some friends who have been helping out down at the farm. Whilst getting steadily beer’d up the conversation swung widely between topics and herein was a virtual quarry of awesome. I must have looked a little disinterested as I tapped away like a mad man on my phone but no, my mind and ears were both feverishly mining ideas. Honestly, at times I felt as though I’d walked into a plot mine crammed full of brilliant material. Okay admittedly I was as drunk as a skunk by the end of the night but on re-reading some of the ideas I jotted down I can honestly say I’m pleased. I’m literally burning to start planning one of them. No, no sharing just yet I’m afraid.

Project Time appears to be on hold at the moment. Not sure why. I have two stories in with that mob and to be honest I would have thought we’d be close to publication by now. Maybe we are but no one is offering any news yet so I guess I’ll just have to be patient.

In movie news I watched Cloud Atlas this week and loved it. I’m a sucker for atmospheric sound tracks and this film has that in spades. Obviously I downloaded the album shortly afterward and added a few choice songs to my writing playlist. Speaking of which, that playlist now has some thirty songs on it which just repeat in one big loop. You’d think I’d be sick of some of them by now but nope. Every single one still inspires me now. Music, the writers best friend and partner in crime with that other great acquaintance – wine. Wine crime? Can I get a lol? Oh come on. That was pretty good.

Right, I’m off to commit some wine crime right now by finishing a bottle I started last night.

Later.

M J

Bleeding Fingers


Today I have mostly been writing and editing old stories. It’s been a bloody long day but come the end I will have submitted three stories to various markets making my total now doing the rounds, six!

I know at least one of them has already been accepted. I suppose I should put a little sampler up on here at some point but I’ll check with the editor first. A paragraph can’t hurt surely?

My novel is also grumbling along. That’s a beast of a project. I’ve never attempted one before though so maybe it will get easier with time? Who knows? I have the first half roughly planned out and also a good idea of what happens in the end but as I said, it’s a beast. Just finishing the damn thing will be a hell of an achievement.

Today has been a good day. I cannot deny that simple fact. I worked a night shift last night in police custody and was out all bloody night. I did a little over 180 miles in total scooting between the various custody suites but hey, that’s a story for another day. I’m just pleased I’ve got so much done on no sleep.

Come to think of it, I really should check and see what exactly I have submitted and to who. In my sleep addled state I could have made some blinding errors of judgment. Sod it, too late now anyway.

Right, this was just a quick update so, off with you. Get back to your own desk and write something yourself.

M J

Behold my lump…


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.
M:-)

Freewriting…


Free writing

The spontaneous and unfocused vomit of words upon a blank page. Sounds awesome! So how does it work?

Apparently I just stare out of the window or something and write whatever comes into my head. I’m not to think about it though. I am finding this a tad hard this morning as a there is a cat hopping all over my lap, kneading my legs and arms. Occasionally he’ll slip and drag his razor claws down my thigh. If I put him on the floor he sits under my legs. This is bad as I am only wearing a robe, which by the way is my name for a dressing gown. I worry he may look up and see something temptingly dangling and take a swipe. I can picture the blood dripping now, red and wet, warm perhaps and congealing quick. I’ll have to bandage it and clean it myself because there is no way on earth I’ll present myself at the local emergency department with a lacerated cock. I work there for Christ sake.

 

Yummy… a sausage!

What the hell was that? Its not quite what I thought it would be, this free writing thing but I am surprised how quickly the words flooded out. I may do this again, without the cat. Tomorrow perhaps. The point is, I have only been up for maybe twenty minutes, and here I am tap tapping away at 7am. Usually I would be up for at least two hours before finding the strength(?) to sit down in front of my computer and start writing.

 

One of the things new writers will struggle with is the fear that what they write will be utter shite and that any effort is only ever going to be a waste of time and energy. This is a daemon of your own psyche and needs to be shot in the face the moment it rears its ugly head. The dreaded white page of emptiness, writers block, call it what you will, there are treatments for these maladies. Free writing is one such treatment, and although it might not allow you to keep going with that story you’ve been struggling with for weeks, it will begin to free your mind and let the words tumble out. I cannot describe how good it feels to pour words out onto a bank page and watch it fill. Think of it as a kind of therapy whereby the physical act of pumping out words helps you get back into that zone in your mind, you know the one. It’s the one that makes you feel like a real writer. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what crap is coming out but I don’t let that bother me. I know there could be some hidden gems within that mound of raw material, and I’ll dig them out when I come to re-write.

 

I am the Aladdin of the blank page!

Freewriting is worth having a pop at. Try it for just two minutes – you’ll be surprised how much you can put down in just 120 seconds and even more surprised to learn a bit more about how your mind actually works. Don’t think about what it is your writing, just stare out of a window, into a guttering flame, at the bubbles sending you morse code in your coke, it doesn’t matter. Let them out however they come and you’ll be amazed at what happens.

 

 

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.

On Writing – Plot (Or how to work bloody hard and get absolutely no where)


Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

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!

*manic laughter*

I don’t need fingers! Who needs fingers??

*Sharpens knife*

Arghhh!!!

P.S I am not drunk.

P.P.S I am now drunk.

P.Ps. I an oh fuck it.