It’s all going off in the world of books at the moment!

Today is ‘World Book Day‘ and Saturday is ‘World Book Night‘, not on the same day.  I don’t make up the rules.

On book night you can attend an event and get given a free book chosen from a limited selection.  If you’re in Worthing then check out the book night event at Mooey’s Mocha Shop where you can receive a copy of Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights‘.

Also, The BBC have a book season going on with loads of great programmes.  You can see them all here and watch them on iPlayer if you missed them.  The Review Show and The Culture Show have specials airing plus dedicated shows such as ‘My Life in Books’ and ‘Faulks on Fiction’ which have been good. ‘Birth of the British Novel‘, presented by Phil Mitchell, was also very good.

All these shows are a great eye-opener into loads of classic books you may not have read and may never get around to reading.  It’s all a bit daunting when trying to sculpt your own little corner of British literature but educational and awe-inspiring at the same time.

February 11, 2011

Sometimes I think, “What the hell am I doing, who the hell do I think I am?”

You know those first few episodes of X-Factor or Britains Got Talent where some self-deranged idiot has convinced themself they can dance/sing/act/juggle but are quite plainly rubbish?  If only they’d recorded themself sing, they’d realise!

Sometimes I think that’s me.

So why am I wasting my time doing some crappy job which leaves time to write crap?  It feels right.

A few times over the past couple of years I’ve done some job hunting within my previous career of internet marketing and it makes me sick to my stomach.  The thought of continuing a career which would leave less time to write albeit earn more money, doesn’t feel right.

There are some good posts about this dilemma by Gareth Powell ‘Balancing writing with your day job‘ and Joanna Penn ‘Where do you find the time to write?‘.  I’ve basically gone for the crappy, low engagement job to pay the bills so evenings and weekends can be filled writing…well, mostly anyway.

The flipside to this is, what if I’m a crap writer and I’m not going to go anywhere….ever?  I’m totally wasting my time.  I could’ve sold out and become a banker where being crap is not a barrier to an obscene bonus.

Amongst the form rejections there’s been a couple of glimmers of hope in terms of encouraging feedback, plus I’ve had two short stories published so I’m not a total tone deaf wannabe but it doesn’t look like I’m Leona Lewis either.

There was a great Twitter rant by Kevin Smith a few months back which included this snippet;

Don’t pursue a role, LIVE that role. Like my sister told me, back when I confessed I wanted to be a filmmaker…“Then BE a filmmaker,” she said.

“That’s what I’m saying: I wanna be.”

And that’s when she gave me the million dollar advice…

“No – BE a filmmaker. You say you wanna be; just BE a filmmaker. Think every thought AS a filmmaker. Don’t pine for it or pursue it; BE it. You ARE a filmmaker; you just haven’t made a film yet.

And it sounded artsy-fartsy as fuck, but it was CRAZY useful advice. A slacker hit the sheets that night, but the CLERKS-guy got out of bed the following morning.

It’s easy to say that when you’ve made it but there were some kernels of truth in there too; do what makes you happy, you make your own luck, don’t give up, focus…etc.  Also, he’s been where I am now, nowhere.  Doesn’t matter where he is now, how many of his contemporaries and peers are still nowhere, he’s someone that has got somewhere by living what he wants to do.

I’m not sure what this post is about.  Maybe it’s a message to say yes I’m an educated, sane, emotionally grounded individual whom could do many things with his life but is throwing it away trying to write something that someone else might like.

Yes, those around me have got careers, earning half decent money, paying off mortgages, going on holidays abroad, decorating bedrooms and topping up their saving accounts, all things I don’t have but I’m not that bothered. All around in magazines, TV, film, online are measures of where you should be and what you should desire.  None of them suggest doing a fairly menial job to support a passion that probably won’t pay and if it does, not very much.

I’m not poor. I’m not complaining.  I don’t need a hug.  This is merely a meditation on my present situation to be sent out into the ether.

The elephant in the room is that it feels right and I’ve never been happier.

I’m in that sweet spot situated between completing the first draft of my second novel and giving it some breathing room before I go back and see if it’s complete jibberish or not for the second draft.

I’m choosing to think positive thoughts at the moment…la, la, la!

In trying to clear my mind of the second novel, I’m drawn back to my first novel.  I’ve been punting it around with the occasional tyre kicker taking an interest but nothing concrete is happening.

I’m still happy with it but I’m wondering if it needs another going over again, especially now I have more experience and more time now.  Although there’s a new pressure, is it as good as the second one?

If not, I should go back to it.

If it is, have I learnt nothing?

…read more »

I’m thinking ahead here but I’m going to be wanting some first readers in a few months (I’m pencilling in Easter) but where do they live?

For my first novel, Railroaded, I printed out ten copies of the third draft and handed it out to people; My Mum, Dad, three friends, a daughter of a work colleague who ran a small reading group, an ex-girlfriend and a local activist I found on the internet!

Yeah, that’s right, only 8.  I’ve still got 2 copies sitting here because I really couldn’t find anyone else.

…read more »

In the early hours of Wednesday I finished the first draft of ‘Broken Branches’, stubbornly sitting up in bed determined to complete it.

I gave myself the deadline of 31st December 2010 to finish the novel, having started on 1st Jan 2010, I failed by 5 days but, to be honest, I’m well pleased because I didn’t pull my finger out of my over-preparing arse until about May plus I had a meltdown sometime in August.

Still, I beat the 18 months it took to write the first draft of my first novel ‘Railroaded’, so either I’m getting better and more efficient, or I’m just a more bloody-minded hermit than before.

…read more »

Finished Chapter 20 over the weekend which is a great relief as the past 2 chapters have been a bit of a headache and caused me to have a slight speed wobble just as my momentum for finishing the novel was building up.

A few plot lines had me spiralling into dread about their believability and clunkiness.

On the one hand I’d planned the novel to the end and had built up good momentum to get the thing finished by the New Year.  On the other hand, I had this nagging feeling prodding me that I had to do a little backtracking to fix some stuff.

The first draft is not a place to edit or seriously dwell on things, just get it done.  There’s a good post here by Emma Newman called ‘Four pillars of the first draft‘ going into more detail.

I had a major speed wobble near the beginning of this novel, but this one was just a few minor indiscretions needing to be ironed out to reach a satisfactory ending.  Nothing worse than a novel that ends badly or with a whimper.

So, I briefly ignored advice I’d received from the sage Max Barry, ‘Don’t let the editor into the room‘, and I opened the door to him. Begged and pleaded with him to fix my mess.

He did.  It wasn’t hard, just had to delete a bunch of overly-complicated factors and things seemed to pan out after that.  I’ve since banished the editor until the second draft when he can go to town on this thing.

Only 3 chapters to go AND it looks like I’ll achieve my self-inflicted deadline of finishing it by New Year.

December 1, 2010

I haven’t blogged for a month because I’ve been busy writing and  planning the remainder of the novel.  I’ve started Chapter 17 and sketched out all the chapters up to the end, Chapter 23. A huge sigh of relief, and in my post-coital bliss I thought I’d post the playlists I write to.

I say ‘write’ because in my recent planning stage I needed silence so I could hold multiple chapters, storylines, arcs, characters, twists and turns in my mind without being distracted by a clever lyric, consumed by a deep bassline or led astray by a beautiful melody.

All these tunes are from the electronica, chill-out, ambient school of thought.  Lyricless mainly, but there are exceptions.

Here’s the links to the playlists (here & here)but after submitting them to iTunes, only about 4 tunes from each list is available at iTunes, so if you want the rest you’ll have to go hunting.

…read more »

I’m a creature of habit and routine, anything outside of my realm of obssessive organisation either has to quickly find a sub-section to house itself within or freeze itself in suspended animation until it catches my eye again.

After writing for a few years and after my recent two week writing push, I became aware of a few writing rituals I perform before hitting the keyboard.  None of them are particularly Haka-like in their intensity but I don’t feel comfortable behind my laptop without them.

I’ll have to divide them into two because I write in two places; at home and at a coffee shop.

Home Routine.

Make a cup of tea, adjust cushions on my garden chair and table which are located in the lounge because interior design orientated, I am not.  Turn TV off, place tea next to laptop, fire up laptop and whilst it’s slowly waking up I check Twitter.  10 minutes later I decide on what music to play, this is usually ambient or deep/trance house music, then I read through the last few pages  to get myself back into it.  If I’m happy with the music and I know what I’m writing then off we go, if not, then I’ll stare into space searching for that starting place.

Coffee Shop.

Order espresso to wake myself up and a Liptons Peach Ice Tea to keep me going.  Go upstairs in favoured coffee shop because it has proper tables and chairs and look for a seat against a wall – I have a paranoid fear of having anyone behind me when I have my laptop open, can’t stand it even though I have sat behind people with laptops and not been the remotest bit interested in what they’re doing.  Then my music selection/reading past few pages/staring into space routine comes into play.

Nothing out of the ordinary there I don’t think, maybe the fact I always write with music playing.  Never music with lyrics though, my singalong-in-my-head reflex is too weak and interrupts my thought process.  Writing high tempo scenes with high tempo music is great, afterwards I always look around to see who’s looking at me bobbing up and down in my seat though.

What’s your routine?

October 10, 2010

Just a quick word on backing up your work.

No, I haven’t just had that nightmare scenario where your work has been subsumed into the ether never to be seen again but I thought I would share my super anal back up practises…on second thoughts, I’ll rephrase that.

This is how I back up my writing.

I write everything on my laptop, it gets saved automatically every 5 minutes or so.  After every writing session I back it up onto a flash drive/memory stick, whatever your part of the world calls it.

After I complete a chapter, I initiate my super-anal back up procedures.  I save a copy on my laptop, my memory stick, my desktop computer, the external hardrive connected to my desktop…but what if my flat is destroyed by an asteroid?

…read more »

So here’s my first ever publication, in the flesh. Feels good, feels like I’m actually getting somewhere.  The best part was seeing my name in the copyright pages, nothing like legal mumbo-jumbo to stir the emotions!

Richard from Spike The Cat sent over a copy of ‘The Last Laugh’ anthology a few weeks ago.  I thought I’d do a post after I’d read it.

It’s a collection of 12 humorous short stories, my favourites were ‘A Match Made in Heaven’ and ‘Looking Back’.

I still like my one, ‘The Lost Journeyman’, especially the fact it’s 100% dialogue – conversations on the phone.

You can buy a real life book version for £7 here or the ebook version for £1.49 here.

A bargain considering it’ll probably be worth thousands in a few years!

…read more »