One of the driving forces behind my writing is the desire to express myself in any way I choose. So I'm not going to limit my words and imagery because it might be, to some, a little too unreal or or unconventional and break accepted writing conventions or go against current publishing fashions.
I think that to be a writer, in fact to be any kind of artist, you have to be breaking rules on a daily basis. If you're not, you're not really trying; you're staying within the boundaries set by other people and your/our own limitations.
Art is not about following rules.
Or is it?
It's easy enough to say that I will break the rules and not give a damn - but at the same time I also want enough commercial success to retire from being an employee and regain control of my life.
Can I do that and break the rules? Surely staying within the rules is the fast path to success? I suppose it can be, but that's about the best I can say.
What about breaking the rules to succeed? Loads of poeple have done it this way. Many have stayed true to themselves and their art and won. Given that there is no garantee of success either way, why should we bother to stay safe?
One of the problems we face nowadays is that the marketing depts of publishers are very focussed on what sells, so they like genres, something that is easy to sell, something that slots straight into the current template - fast and easy, bang, bang, bang and it's done.
You can't blame them for that. But it's not all they do. There are reams of books out there that break the rules or aren't a safe read - and the first that leaps to mind is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
It's not exactly a comfortable read is it? It's grey and dirty and depressing from start to finish, but I still think it's great, as are all his other books.
So, given that publishers are willing to stick their necks out, why do we as writers/artists stay within the rules, within our own comfort zones?
This is a question I ask myself again and again as I dream of writing the sort of story that I really want to write, whilst doing my best to ignore the demons that crawl around inside my head urging me into pastel green pastures with paths, easily accessed and well worn, with no surprises and no food for the soul.
So my advice, assuming I'm qualified to give any, is to follow what you think is right; write what you want and write it for you. Bring poetry into your work and dare to find your own images and way. You should also gather a few supporting friends, friends who will speak the truth and want you to achieve the best you can.
I'm still struggling with this, and I expect that struggle to go on for a long time. My thanks and love go to those who help me to realise better things, it's because of you that it will happen.
1. The Darkness Beneath - Free Copy
2. It's All About You
3. Writer's BluesThe Darkness Beneath: Sex, Death and Trains, all Yours For Nothing (still!)*You can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy. *Terms and Conditions apply.It Is All About You!We had a cracking IAAY from Russ King who has, among other things, managed to turn his experience of working from home into a novel. Given that I've been working from home for 6.5 years now, maybe I should take a leaf or two out of his book.As A Writer...I'm fascinated by the process of writing, both mine and other people's, and just how much of that is a learning experience. I recently started re-drafting my second book, The Girl Who Dreamt of Water, and was shocked to find how badly written the first few pages were. Actually forget that: how about the first few lines?
I was not only shocked by how poor some of the sentence structure was, but also how I'd just not written what I intended to write. OK, I nearly wrote what was intended, but it was a long way from what I can now see I should have written.
The question is, how could this have happened and how can I avoid it in the future? I'd be fascinated to know how other writers deal with this sort of thing and how you feel when you think you've finished something, only to go back later and find it needs a lot of re-writing.
For example, how do you deal with finding out that you've deluded yourself into believing what you wrote was good? It stopped me in my tracks and for a while I was at a loss to understand what had happened. I even wondered if someone had been tampering with my MS (about 99% impossible), so it must be my fault (of course it is!). I've managed to get over that now and have started a massive re-edit. It's annoying and frustrating, but in terms of meaning, it's a cold hard lesson that I won't forget.And as I'm currently an indie-author, it's a lesson I, and we, all have to accept. There's far too many stories in the press about poor quality work from indie-authors.This isn't because we're lazy or inherently rubbish, but because we don't have the resources traditional publishers have. By that I mean the people who scour our MS's to weed out all the bad grammar and plotting errors etc: an independent pair of eyes can see farther than our own.
Instead we have to makes ourselves work ten times harder on the writing and editing whilst accepting that what we do is worth less than the price a cup of coffee. And if that isn't the best motivational poster you've ever seen for being a writer, I don't know what is.
Sex, Death and Trains: All Yours For Nothing (still!)**Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy.
It would be great if you could review it on Amazon when you finished. There's no obligation to be be nice just because it was free. Honesty is the best policy.OK, I Give Up
(Oops! Just Found Out That I Can't!)As all unpublished writers know to the very core of their souls, writing and continuing to write can be a difficult and tortuous road. It is a path laden with despair, anguish, depression; a path full of dead ends, misdirections and thoughts of suicide. It can turn you into a self-obsessed bore whilst simultaneously robbing you of every ounce of confidence you ever had.
Ok, it doesn't have the same near-death experience levels of something like mountain climbing or car racing, but it is incredibly hard just to keep placing one word behind the other at times. And this is just the work of doing it: I'm ignoring the wall of indifference erected by the near and dear and the publishing industry.
So the ability to carry on in the face of both these things is a prerequisite: even if you didn't know that when you started out, you soon find that you have unlimited quantities of 'carry-on' juice once you dare to try to get something published.
Owing to the forces of stupidity from elsewhere in my life, I've had a bit of a difficult week which culminated in one of those 'straw that broke the camel's back' incidences that can only be resolved by hiding in a cupboard with a stack of hankies and the feeling that the whole of outer space has occupied your soul. I'm talking cold, dark emptiness.
Fortunately I was able to talk to a very dear and loving friend who dragged me kicking and snivelling back to reality. It wasn't easy or pretty and I admire the fact that she was able to ignore all the bollocks I was spouting and hung in there until I was safely back on board the Enterprise. You'd have to have been there to appreciate how much this means to me, and I am very fortunate to have a friend who will stick by me despite the dark clouds and hard rain that inhabits my head at times.
During the course of the rescue mission she asked me what would I have left if I gave up (read into that phrase what you will). It sounds like a fairly simple question but the importance it has for me is immense. It reminded me that to go through life without trying to achieve something worthwhile, to not see my fiction writing published, or not to get where my dreams live, is not an option for me. Despite the depression and other negative forces that conive in the shadows of my soul, actually giving up is not an option, no matter how attractive its emptiness seems.
Perversly, this is just why the journey is so hard at times.Adventures in Print on DemandDo you know about Print on Demand? I've used it before to create photobooks and have even created a book of my earlier poetry. I think it's an good idea and a very easy way of getting your books printed without the aid of the publishing industry.
(The reason I've never released the poetry book into the wild is because I had a sudden lack of confidence about the quality of the writing.)
I had an email from Blurb.com recently promoting their new idea of using it to publish your own novels. I haven't tried it yet (but hope to do so later today) but from what I've read, it looks like an excellent way of making your book available to everyone with very little cost to you. This is because once you've created the book and proofed it (that will cost you the standard Blurb printing and freight costs for each proof copy) all you have to do is publicise the link. If someone wants to buy it, and there are still billions of people who still like to read real books, all they have to do is order it from Blurb and it will be sent straight to them. So there's no need for you to hold stock or do anything with payments and delivery at all. How fantastic is that?
Sex, Death and Trains: All Yours For Nothing (still!)*
*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy.I Should Have Been A DentistNo really, I should have been. Because pulling teeth is exactly what writing can be like at time. That and carving granite with a teaspoon.
A few weeks ago I decided that the last chapter of The Girl Who Dreamt of Water should have one final dream sequence that ties all the various strands and people together and allows them to come to terms with difficulties they've had and accept the things they'd not been able to accept before the final chapter pulled into the station. It would also allow me to have a really good time writing something that might be considered a little on the fantsatic side (my favourite form of writing).
But although you can see there's clearly a reason to do this, actually finding even half an idea to write about is a whole other thing. After some head bashing and wandering around with a large empty space in my imagination, I finally came up with .5 of an idea (variable by +/- 10%).
I was very happy with this until I started writing it and realised that all I had really was two sentences. And so began the long, long climb up from the bottomless pit of dispair into the land of the clueless.
This resulted in a the creation of a few short paragraphs that seemed to be repeating themselves.
So I swapped character in the hope that new blood would fire up the imagination engine and swing the floodgates of ideas open and allow a river of words to drip, flow and cascade out of my mind and onto the page. (let me know if any of these trips the 'Flowery' gauge...)
Instead, each word has had to be scraped out of my skull one by one by one.
So, perhaps the problem/answer is:
A) I'm worrying too much about what I'm writing and this constant critique is getting in the way.
B) What I'm writing is crap and therefore...
C) It's a good idea, but I haven't quite hit my stride and need to keep going until I do.
I've no idea which is right myself, but I'm going with C my friend, 'cause I often find, that flying blind, will get you there in the end.
Which is fine, but I am scared that B might be true and I sure as hell don't want to spend the few hours I manage to spend writing, writing rubbish. I'm expecting the dream sequence to top out at about 5-6k words - which is an awful lot of words to delete, especially as they are an awful lot of words that took an awful lot of writing in the first place.
I'd be pleased to know how you deal with this sort of problem.
Euro DerisionWhilst a lot of us are quietly freaking out about the meltdown of the global economy, there is something that we should worry about more. And that is why the UK has once more failed to make it into the top ten of the Eurovision song contest. That said, we improved on last year's position by finishing second to last this time.
The reason why we fail is because we choose the most complete and utter shyte as our song. You can't blame Engelbert, he sang magnificently, but if you're drinking shit, your burps are always going to stink.
And why am I bovvered by this? It's very simple. Various Britains have been responsible of writing some of the best pop tunes ever, and the general public have acknowledged this by buying these song in their millions.
So why is it that a country jammed full of top song-writing talent (Beatles, Bowie, Bolan, the Floyd, Kinks, New Order, Stones, Muse, Massive Attack to name but a few) can only be inspired to write the most bland, turgid and insipid MOR crap?
Clearly someone's playing safe here, and it's failing big time. It's about time the real songwriters in the UK ripped the task from the cold, dead fingers the losers who currently organise it, and take one giant leap away from the cesspool.
I don't care if we don't win, but I do care that we take pride in our magnificent songwriting tradition and give it our best shot.
*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy.Write, Despite Anything You FeelYes, that's my motto, something I say every day of the week to try an counter the negative thoughts that line up to block my path to writing success. Over the last three years of serious novel writing, I've noticed that these thoughts fall into two broad categories:
You can probably add your own negativeties to these, feel free to do so.Fear of WritingThis comes in all shapes and sizes and annoying disguises: fortunately there is one way of dealing with them all:Write, write and carry on bloody writing!
- Fear of Writing - lack of confidence in your abilities; struggling to make an idea work; fear that you aren't qualified to write what it is you want to write; fear that when you do finish people will notice right away how dreadful it is.
- Wall of Indifference - from the publishing world; from friends and family and the world in general.
Ok, that's simplistic I know, but you do have to keep going and not be defeated. You can feel defeated in the few minutes that elapse between finishing one novel and starting the next. Get a coffee or cup of tea and something nice to eat, cry a few tears, then drag out your writing tool of choice and batter the hell out of it.
I've had a massive attack of the unqualified bit over the last few months when trying to write the final chapter of my bike-based romance, The Girl Who Dreamt of Water (thanks for that Nicoll - much, much better than it's working title, Life Cycle). I really struggled with the idea that I know enough about female emotions to be able to write about them convincingly. And there was a lot to write about.
The way around this has been to break the chapter down into several segments (15 in all) that are much easier to write. I haven't written them in order either: I wrote all the easy bits first and gradually worked my way into the harder parts. This meant I was able to takeeach level of emotional intensity one step at a time. And because it's not written linearly, I've got a much better picture of how everything fitted together. Normally I write from start to end with occasional looping back to tie up loose ends. When you work like this, and youdon't ready know a lot of the details of what's coming, then it's like trying to assemble a jigsaw in a dark room, nigh on impossible. So not only have I got most of the words written now, I can see how I can disassemble and re-assemble the sections back into a proper story, and not just a set of events arranged linearly.Which is nothing like how I wrote The Darkness Beneath: so not only have I learned a few tricks to keep me writing, but also that the way you write each book may vary. So if it sn't working, maybe you have to find another way of writing. Which is great, because I though writing is writing is writing, when really it's just writing, writing, writing. :)You can read the first three chapters of The Girl here.Wall of IndifferenceIn some ways this is much harder to deal with because it's so inexplicable. Ok, I know the publishing industry are drowning in the screams of wannabe writers and the millions of people who, like me, are convinced they have something worth publishing. What I find harder to contend with is the lack of support from the vast majority of friends and family. There are those who always pat you on the back, but the majority don't - and I know that I'm not alone in this - recent blogs and discussions I've been reading show this is very, very common. So why aren't your siblings cheering you on from the sidelines? That's a question I can't answer or fathom. If you'd climbed any other mountain of achievement, say in the sporting arena, or raised £1k for charity by living with beans in your pants for a month, they'd be there every time. But when you finish writing a novel and get it published? No, forget it, not good enough, not interesting enough. I was talking to someone whose opinion I trust about this and they said it was probably jealousy. I find that hard to believe - how could anyone be jealous of something so inconseqential as writing a novel?