Writing and the perils of advice.

The deafening sound of thousands of writers, creatives and others talking directly and noisily out of their asses. That is how I would generally sum up writing blogs, this one included.

Advice, even from the very best and most qualified or sources, is bullshit. Or at least it is in part. It may be well intentioned bullshit and it might well even be tried and tested bullshit, but as far as you as an aspiring writer are concerned you are best off taking it all with anything from a pinch to a whole 18-wheeler full of salt.

Let me make this completely clear so there can be no misunderstanding of my point: no matter who is giving the advice and in whatever form it comes, no-one’s advice will be anything more than another person’s opinions, and we all know what they say about opinions, don’t we?

Don’t we? No? Well… You’re a writer. Bloody make something up.

One person’s experience colours their own view just as your own will colour yours. It’s inescapable but none of us can claim to be truly objective when it comes to writing, what works and what doesn’t work, even in areas where we may have a great deal of common ground.

We each have prejudices and preferences that have grown organically from how our own time as writers has gone and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially considering that a lot of the advice givers will be trying to save some other poor bastard from negative experiences they may have gone through on their way to wherever they are. That’s a good thing, finding a little altruism in a competitive industry. Relish it. Read it and soak it up, but never forget that pinch of salt.

All you can do is approach advice in the same way you would approach any other form of research, assuming you want to do it properly of course. You need several reliable and qualified sources, never, ever take just one and accept it as gospel. If you’re in a bind and want a solution, ask two or more people or sources before throwing yourself at the nearest easy answer. Don’t immediately assume that someone who has been in your position has had the same journey as you have. All of our points of origin are a little different, we take different routes at different speeds and have different, though often similar, destinations. Don’t make the mistake that a coincidence is a direct reflection of your own issues when you can’t be certain of how the other person arrived there.

Just because our paths sometimes intersect for one fleeting moment, that doesn’t mean any one of us has all the answers.

And so I’m back… from outer space… I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face. Presumably because you’re in my house and shouldn’t be. Now… get out…

So… it’s been a while. How are you? How are the kids? How’s the WEATHER?

I think that’s still how people speak to each other, but hey, I’m no expert.


I’ve been busy. I’ve had exams of the HOLY FUCK I REALLY HAVE TO PASS THIS variety. I’ve had a lot on writing-wise and that’s only going to get worse. Well, better, depending on how you look at it. There’s going to be more of it, put it that way.


Spares (in novella form) was submitted to and then rejected by a very nice publishers who liked the idea, liked the writing and are keen for me to submit further writing to them. Super! It’s a rejection of the very best kind so I’m feeling highly confident and happy at the moment and it’s really spurred me on. Not bad at all for a “thanks, but fuck off” letter!

My magnum opus (Coburn: The Black Saint cycle) is in the planning stages and will remain so for “some time.” I’m not rushing this one and it will be going on in the background for as long as it takes to do it right and get it finished. It will be a trilogy and, once I’m done writing it, I will start to pimp out the first book. This is going to take YEARS, so I may be boring you with updates on it infrequently but for a long time. Haha.

I have three short stories in with publishers and am waiting with baited wotsits for news on those. One of which I would have expected to hear about if it had been accepted, so I’m writing it off as a dead ‘un. One I should hear about this month at some point, probably, and the third I’ll hear about sometime in September, probably. I’ve got one more to write for one of these publishers and will then be off

One other short story I have written was done to spec, so that’s in with the editors at the moment and there’ll be a proper announcement for the anthology once we’ve got dates and artwork to bandy about. The anthology is going to be called “The Night Wind’s Whispers” and features myself and several others writers from the Black Library Bolthole, talented bastards all. More on that soon…..

Now; current project. I can hammer out short stories pretty fast and novellas with reasonable alacrity, so I’m going full-bore to write a novel as quickly as possible. There will be semi-regular updates on this one (semi-regular like someone who eats only bananas and prunes, presumably) and this one will be a little… erm… it’ll be odd.

Expect to hear about the completed “Gumptions Follies” in the next four months. I aim to have it done (first draft form of course) by the end October. Why? Well, it’s fun writing to a deadline and the anthology I’m to be a part of is to be released in time for Halloween, so I’ll be racing alongside. This gives me four months to complete the project and, hopefully, that will be plenty.

Watch this space for a sample in the next couple of weeks!

Are you a writer? Well? Are you?

You can’t do it. You lack the inspiration, the drive, the capabilities or the creativity. You have the time     management skills that the White Rabbit would have if he was off his furry little tits on absinthe and weapons-grade ganja. You’re never going to get published because you have three pounds of goat shit where your brains are supposed to be. Your typing fingers are greasy, flaccid nubs, incapable of creating superlative prose or pleasing a woman. You have the creative aptitude of a two inch rubber cock. You suck, like, really bad, you dumb fuck. Put that pen down and back AWAY from the writing industry and go do something you were born to do. Wanking yourself silly into a paper bag on Wimbledon Common or something, like some sort of filthy-minded, indecent Womble. If you’re female then substitute the last few details for Smurfette, Alan Carr’s back garden and a rolled up copy of the Radio Times. It doesn’t matter. You’re still rubbish.

I very much doubt anyone has ever said any of the above to you but these are the sorts of things that go through my head after falling into the negativity traps that lie all over the bleedin’ shop when you’re an aspiring writer. It often feels to me like you’ve got a writer or interested party on each hand pulling you up, while an entire PACK of bastards are either yanking you back down or standing there with their foot on your head. Everyone has an opinion on what it takes to be considered a writer and a lot of the time, you’re going to find out that you’re not it. In their opinion, at the very least.

My advice to you is two-fold. Firstly, define and describe yourself however the fuck you want to. Fine, you’re going to come over as a twat if you introduce yourself as a writer and will look a prize cock if they ask what you’ve written and you have nothing to tell them, but you can qualify it however you like. Writer in my spare time, shit-house poet or the man with the golden pen. If you love to write, like to write or just do write, no matter how much or how little, as far as I’m concerned you are a writer. How good you are is your fucking problem, right? But that brings me on to the second piece of advice: fuck’em. Conceptually, not actually. Unless you want to, you sick puppy. “Writer” is a vague term. Just because someone else’s personal definition precludes you, don’t let that ruin your day. There are a great many people that I both respect and like that would not consider me a writer and, on that one key point alone, I couldn’t give a flying basket full of tortoise turds what they think and neither should you.

YOU know what you consider makes someone a writer. If that is your goal then aim for it and go balls-out to get it, and don’t allow self-doubt to creep in because some asshole has a different set of criteria. Let’s use a crude analogy, shall we? What makes someone a good lover? Some like it long, some like it quick and some like it while being hung upside down by the ankles while being shot repeatedly in the ass with paintballs. One term, millions of definitions, and only one set of criteria that you should value in any way: YOUR OWN.

The best inventors in the world create a few great things while standing on top of a fucking MOUNTAIN of failures that would fill a hundred sheds, stacks of blueprints for daft things like grape-toasters and thermal-imaging goggles for aphids and dozens of rejected patent applications because the patent office couldn’t be arsed to register the “intercontinental ballistic hamster magnet.”

As and when you get to where you want to be, you’re going to need a thick skin. Those who love your work might praise you but they will be drowned out by those that don’t like it, and who have the many tools of the internet at their disposal and will do their best to stop you ever producing anything else, simply because they mistake their own opinion for cold, hard fact. Oh, that and because they’re pricks.

You have a hard enough path ahead of you and, believe me, it is LINED with bastards. At some point you will need to realise that you must judge yourself on your own terms, identify the helpful noises in the deafening cacophony of bullshit and ignore the twats. Might as well start as you mean to go on, really.



Keep going. It might not help, but giving up certainly won’t.

That’s right. I used a lolcat. Avvit.

Writing is about creativity, pure and simple. Yes it does require effort and a bunch of other things but they depend on what you want out of it, if you want anything at all. Writing to get published, though? That involves, and this list is not exhaustive:

Creativity, effort, waiting, heartache, mental breakdowns, waiting, headaches, self-doubt, waiting, some more waiting and then, just to top it all off neatly, you get to wait around a little. I don’t know if being published is somehow a tremendously British activity or something, but it sometimes feels a hell of a lot like being in a queue.

You send off a submission and, unless you’re sending it to an editor, agent or publisher who literally has NOTHING ELSE TO DO, (which would be a bad sign) you start to wait. Then you start to think. Then, if you’re really into kicking yourself, you might even start to read back over what you’ve done with such a critical eye it would make Anne Robinson spontaneously detonate in rapturous pleasedness. You’ll start to notice “errors” that may or may not be there and start wondering why the feedback helicopters weren’t immediately scrambled to your house to bestow upon you wealth, riches and fame, possibly doing something incredibly fun to your underpants region while they were at it.

Before long you’ll have decided that you suck, that the editor is some sort of faeces demon and then promptly burst into tears, vowing never to write again unless someone really needs a eulogy.

Hopefully you’ll have someone around you to pat you on the back, offer a little reassurance and remind you that agents, editors and publishers are busy and, this is a vital piece of information by the way, that they WANT to publish you. They aren’t being cruel or stupid, not that they never make mistakes, but every publisher wants to get their hands on the next Harry Potter. Or DaVinci Code. Or Tw… Twi… Twwwwwiiiiliiiiiiigggg… You know what I mean. Please, don’t make me say it.

The trick, one which will take some longer than others and some of us may never learn at all, is to get your chin up and carry on, taking that bad feedback or constructive criticism on board. If you fail, feel free to rant (somewhere the publisher won’t know you’ve just compared them to an enormous vaginal wart), cry or smash your head repeatedly into a punch bag.

If you get a rejection letter, read it. Keep it. They took the time to write it (or at least send it) so treasure it in the same way a young lad values his scars. They might be symbols of a time where something didn’t go 100 percent according to plan, but they mark a time where you tried. Take pride in that fact. One day, hopefully, that rejection letter will hang on the wall of a published author as a reminder to remain humble.

If we didn’t think our work was worthy of being published then we wouldn’t have sent it, so we have already put a value on it to ourselves. Having that scrutinised and deemed unworthy hurts, quite frankly, and it will take time to develop thicker skin, but the only way to develop that thick skin is to keep going. Take on board whatever feedback you do receive and be grateful for it, perhaps even sending back a quick email to thank them for their time. It might not make a difference but it certainly will do your reputation no harm.

I am currently waiting on news from a couple of sources. I have a submission in for Black Library (for which I am, sadly, expecting to have not made it this time, partly due to my own pessimism) and one in for Spectral Press, who have a Christmas ghost story anthology in the wings. That one I’m more hopeful for I think as the story seemed to really work for me, but we will see. As and when the deadlines expire or the rejection letter arrives I will sigh sadly, take it all on board and carry on, stiff upper lip and all.

That said, I will also really throw my weight into every punch, kick, knee and elbow at my next Muay Thai class. Well, we’ve all got our coping strategies, haven’t we? If you haven’t I strongly recommend that you get one. It will certainly help stop you sounding like a diva next time you get a rejection letter in your inbox.

I know a lot of the advice you’ll get from me is to just carry on but, like it or not, that is some damned solid advice. Head down, keep your chin close to your chest and keep moving forward, come what may. Keeping going when you feel like you’re failing or at best only just treading water is HARD. It’s soul destroying to put your heart and soul into something and be told it isn’t good enough but that, believe me, is what is happening to everyone else.

Some see those rejection letters as a permanent and unchangeable statement that you are not a good enough writer to be published. Others, those with a greater chance of success in my opinion, will see them as speed bumps and hurdles on the way. That is of course not to say that keeping going on its own is the key to success, let’s not oversimplify things here, but unless you are one of the very few (who probably don’t exist at all) who can hit the target first time and land yourself an instant career, it is a skill that you WILL NOT succeed without.

No-one ever achieved any worthwhile goal without any effort now, did they?

That’s right. I used a lolcat. Avvit.

Writing – art imitating life.

Romeo! Romeo! Hurry up it’s fucking draughty up here!

This has the potential to be a slightly embarrassing subject for me, but I thought I’d go for it anyway. I have this mole…

I don’t have a mole. Sorry, couldn’t resist, but I use humour as a defence mechanism. Seriously. Only last week I smacked a burglar with a joke book…

That didn’t happen. Anyway, this could go one of two ways. Other writers could read this and say “actually, I do that too” or there could be some pointing and laughing involved. Either way, I would strongly advise you to consider trying your hand at a little acting.

Dialogue can be tricky because these characters don’t speak like you, they are NOT you (at least not all of them) and their dialogue has to flow naturally. It has to feel real; it has to sound like the sort of thing a person might say at that moment and in that context. Darth Vader’s famous, “No. I am your father,” line is a fantastic example. This is a PIVOTAL moment in that movie and the franchise as a whole and, I’d be willing to bet, one of the most commonly (and incorrectly) quoted lines of dialogue of all time. Spot the difference a moment:

“No. I am your father.”

“Actually you labour under a misapprehension. It is I that must claim parental responsibility.’

How shit does that second one sound? Of course, no-one would have written that line of dialogue and it’s an over-blown example of what I mean, but what if it was a close run thing? What if it was a tossup between that and “I did not kill your father. I AM your father.” That’s not half bad, but which is more natural? Which sounds like a retort and which one sounds like a carefully prepared line? See, the line was spontaneous. Darth didn’t sit up all night, looking in the mirror and going over the possibilities for when he bumped into his son. “Actually, funny story… no, that’s not right. Your father is I! No no no, that’s not it! PUT THAT LIGHTSABRE DOWN AND GO TIDY YOUR FUCKING ROOM! Is that something a father would say? Oh I don’t know… maybe I should ask Palpatine…”

He had it in mind that now was the time to do the big reveal, but that line was delivered like a blade. In that moment, with Luke at his mercy, he finished the deal with five words that lead to the girliest scream in cinematic history. That line is perfect in that context and as such, it is one of the most easily recognisable lines ever delivered, even to people born years after the first three films were made.

Now, my characters are somewhat… caustic. My universes are unforgiving and the trials I put my protagonists through… horrible. These people are hammered by life in a way that I simply can’t relate to off the top of my head all the time so I’ve gotten used to saying “right, that doesn’t work” and acting the lines out to my shadow like a scene partner. Sure, you feel like a bit of a prick at first (I don’t do this when anyone is around) and it’s so tempting to scream “Gimme the keys you fucking cock-sucker-mother-fucker-aaaaaaaaargh!” but once I’ve had a few moments, I can usually tell whether or not something works. Has the speaker just been punched in the face? Trying delivering that long line while cradling your swollen jaw. Try speaking at length when you’re gasping for breath after a run. Trying firing that retort quickly and seeing how it feels.

Of course our protagonists have the luxury that everything they say has already been filtered by you, the writer, so it isn’t as spontaneous as it sounds, but believe me, this is a fantastic way to make it sound the way you want it to. Soon enough you’ll be able to get right into that character’s shoes without having to do any amateur dramatics at all, but it’s a great technique to refer back to.

Other than dialogue, I would definitely recommend this for fight scenes. I have the luxury of a modest degree of fighting ability and a comfortable knowledge of technique, so I know roughly what moves link one to another. Most of you with common sense will have worked out that you generally can’t deliver a knock-out blow as you’re flying backwards away from the target. You know that if you’ve taken a knee to the stomach you are NOT likely to do much more than go WOOMPH and bend over like an enthusiastic soap hunter, unless you have justified such a capability within the story.

Stand up and act out each strike, block, parry and counter attack in super-slow-motion and see if it’s possible. Go through the motions, make it real and be rewarded by breathing a shit-load of realism into your work. Watch UFC videos on Youtube, do your research and you won’t go far wrong. Prime example: elbow strikes. Seen those in movies, where a guy gets six elbows to the face in quick succession and stumbles back but, unbleeding, continues to fight? Bullshit. Think of the skinniest, least threatening kid at your school and think of the toughest. That kid, connecting ONE solid elbow to the face, probably just won that fight. No shit you have NO IDEA how much power a knee or elbow can deliver and believe me, you want to find out by watching it happen to someone else or not at all.

That’s it for today so the message is this: learn by doing. Sure you’ll feel a right prat if someone walks in and catches you at it, but hey… I bet there’s a least one thing you do regularly that you wouldn’t want to be caught doing and at least this is productive…

Writing that masterpiece and doing what’s right for you.

Everyone thought this was shit. Hopefully you won’t have to die before people recognise your genius.

I’ve been caught up in a project for some time now; far longer than an editor would be happy to wait for me to complete it. By now I would probably have either been black-balled or had my ass kicked for taking a ridiculous amount of time to finish a simple novella. Luckily for me though, I don’t have an editor! Haha! Fuck you Mr Hypothetical editor! Up yer arse with knobs on!

Don’t misunderstand me, especially any editors reading this (you’re all wonderful, just like those agent people I’ve heard about and I think you should all get medals. And hours of foreplay delivered by the True Blood character of your choice. Doffing cap now and fucking off back onto the point. Ahem.) it would be fantastic to have an editor and be properly published as a novelist but at the moment, I’m still a rookie. Perhaps more appropriately, I would say that I consider myself an apprentice.

A masterpiece isn’t a genre-defining piece of work. A masterpiece is the project that an apprentice would present to their master to prove that their training was complete and that they were now ready to become a master themselves. That, as far as I’m concerned, is what my first novel is going to be. Though it started as a novella, with the hopes of self-publishing it and then writing a series of novels based in that same universe, it has since grown to the point that it will become my first novel and the piece of work with which I intend to sell myself. It’s basically my book-pimp and I’m its private dancer, hanging around on metaphorical corners with my pen hanging out.

A lot of writers spend a huge amount of time picking up projects, putting them down, polishing them and generally changing their minds about what they want to do. I’ve been there and I know I could name several others who have and while it’s frustrating, it seems to be a natural part of the process. So don’t get pissed off and lose faith if you keep flitting from one thing to another, deliberating about what you want to do. The world of literature is vast and is only going to get bigger as people have new ideas, new trends appear and old ones resurface, with new writers adding to them endlessly. You will find your niche eventually so don’t feel you have to rush off in one direction and stick with it, even if you feel you’ve taken the wrong path. Would you do that with any other job? I don’t think so. Unless you’re a bit strange. If you are, good for you. Now get away from me…

Though most writers will tell you to focus on your work and finish it I, in my humble opinion, think that the most important thing to do is remain proactive and remain positive. It’s not good to keep on and on twiddling to the point that you are stagnating as a writer and it’s not good to get bogged down in something that isn’t going anywhere. Maybe it will if you keep going, maybe it won’t, but if you’re getting frustrated with it and keep farting around with it, it’s incredibly unlikely that the result will be your best work. Put it down, take a break to do something else and come back to it later. Maybe get someone to read what you’ve done and have a good old chat about it. Maybe make them some tea. Maybe do a sexy dance. I don’t bloody know how you coerce people into reading your drivel! Stop looking at me like that! I’m married so I just get my wife to do it. Hey she expects me to put out so it’s the least she can do.


If you find your attention wandering it’s possible that you need a breather. Maybe you need a change of scenery. Maybe you’re writing the wrong thing. The point, which as usual I’ve taken a circuitous route in getting to, is that you needn’t be afraid to say “fuck it, this isn’t working” and ditch what you’ve done. I’d urge you not to throw it away because it will be great to refer back to either for ideas or to see how far you’ve come in a year or two, but that’s another point for another day. In the short term it’s fine to hop from one thing to another as long as you’re searching for your groove, but be aware of one simple fact: identifying a project that you can see through from the planning stage to being submitted as a high quality draft is a skill that EVERY successful writer has. When you ditch something, know why. Understand what didn’t work and don’t repeat it. By knowing what doesn’t work and why, you will move closer to being where you want to be. Learn from your mistakes and improve or you won’t get there, but don’t put yourself under pressure to write that amazing novel immediately and be gutted when it doesn’t go the way you expect.

A large number of the unpublished writers I know have a damned good shot at getting published one day and, just so long as you treat your apprentice years as the learning curve that they are, you have every chance of getting there too.
If you get there and realise that this advice has helped you, you own me money. Bitch.

The Importance of Freeing Norris.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find that at times, being a naturally creative person SUCKS. There’s nothing wrong with referring to yourself as creative by the way, you don’t even have to be good at anything to be creative, you just need to have that urge to make stuff where there was previously no stuff. It’s a free-to-join club that simply lets you say to the world hey, I want to add to you, and that’s a pretty cool club to be in. It’s better than being destructive, though now actually I think we should call a vote that allows me to ban people who want to make stuff as in “smoking craters in the ground where there was previously stuff” from the club. Or at least they should have their own night and hold their meetings in a subterranean lair that can withstand a nuclear blast from the inside.

And that, my good people (and assorted pricks, I’m being inclusive here) is a fair example of what I mean. Creativity isn’t like a lot of other aspects of a person’s makeup in that creativity just won’t leave you the fuck alone. It’s always there at the back of your mind, telling you to do stuff, invent stuff or just prodding at you with ideas and images that you should TOTALLY use for stuff later on. Your creative mind (hereafter referred to as “Norris”) is basically sat there with a sheet of sugar paper the size of a universe and a Pritt Stick the size of my schlong (helloooooo ladies) urging you to turn your life, your friends, your family and everything around you into one giant collage. That would have totally been a poetic reference without the dick joke. Damn it, Norris! Back in your basket.

I find being creative to be, at times, enormously frustrating. Like most of us I work regular hours, have a regular schedule and in general do things as regularly as a clockwork ass. Norris, on the other hand, doesn’t work that way. Norris likes to shout things at random when I’m trying to get to sleep, which usually results in me having to wake up, reach over to the BlackBerry and email these things to myself so that Norris will go back to thinking about pornography and let me go back to sleep. Norris also likes to yell things at me during phone calls to boring members of the public or while I’m driving, while I’m doing something I actually get paid for or, with rather embarrassing regularity, when I’m on the toilet. I now with absolute honesty take my BlackBerry with me every time I go to the toilet and, I’m sorry to say, that every one of you that has read more than a couple of pieces of my work has almost certainly taken a little mental jaunt with me to wherever my mind goes when I’m on the toilet. But don’t blame me, blame Norris.
Sometimes, for me at least, having Norris on my shoulder at all hours of the day can colour things in my routine rather darkly. It makes me feel like I’d rather be anywhere other than at work and doing something that I feel I was born to do, rather than something that, while I enjoy doing it, is something that I do for practical reasons and to put food on the table. This isn’t a stab at work, I’ll have you know, because it has been the same with every job I have ever had regardless of my level of enjoyment within that position. The fact seems to be that Norris simply does not do well with an imposed structure and, at times, seems to actively rebel against it. The greater the level of external control within my environment, the harder Norris pushes against his restraints and tries to get me the hell out of there, leaving me very frustrated and unfulfilled by anything other than pouring these ideas and flights of fantasy out onto paper.

This isn’t all a bad thing but at times I’m certain that it makes life difficult for all owners of a Norris, who is constantly trying to draw their eyes away from their Excel spread sheet so he can have a look out of the window. It leads to resentment and to itchy feet, combined with a longing to escape that you are neither willing or really able to fulfil when you have commitments, such as family, that are far more important to you in real terms than the screaming, demanding Norris that won’t leave you alone.

So what does this mean for those of us on the nine-to-five grind? (I’m on eight to five, you bloody part-timer). It certainly doesn’t mean that you have to suffer endlessly with that voice in your ear and that constant tapping on your shoulder, but it does mean that you need to find an outlet. It isn’t easy to make time for that creative output when you have a career, a family and all of the other commitments that most of us have, but if you want to shut Norris up for long enough to let you get on with your life free of interruptions and the stress that comes with the horrible feeling of being trapped that you sometimes experience, you have to find some. If that means half an hour of frantic typing of an evening or relentless scribbling of notes during your lunch break then do it. Keep a pad of paper to hand to jot those notes on (just so long as it doesn’t take you away from your actual job for more than a few seconds), keep ideas on your phone or put up a whiteboard in your bathroom. Maybe you won’t have time to write, draw, paint, sing, perform or achieve everything that your Norris wants you to, but by adding that pressure relief valve to your world you will at least be able to take the edge off.

The more time you make for Norris, the better off you will be, though I’m not telling you for a moment to drop everything and indulge fully in your passion when you have bills that need paying unless Norris is in a position to pay those bills for you. You have nothing to feel guilty about if you have a Norris on your shoulder and you certainly do not have to feel like a failure for slogging away at the grindstone with the rest of us, even when you feel you should be holed up in a shack somewhere drawing a picture of a squirrel that should grace the walls of the Louvre. Creative output is good for the soul and utterly essential to those of us who have creativity in our veins.

Whatever the avenue you choose, good luck, I hope you find a way to shut the little bastard up, because I know my own Norris is driving me insane. That said, since I started writing a daily blog, taking more notes, completed another draft of my novella and hammered out the plans for more creative writing over the rest of this year and well into the next, he’s been giving me a lot less hassle. He’s even been quite affectionate of late, for a hypothetically constructed creativity daemon.

Perhaps all he really wanted was to be let out to play.

Just fucking DO IT.

I was going to blog about family today. I was going to talk about working your writing around your children, your career and your home life in pursuit of one day being able to call yourself an actual writer and not a pretender or a hobbyist, but I’m not going to do that. Not today, at least, because there is only one thing in my life today that I can bring myself to even consider writing about, and that is just getting your head down and writing when you feel like you really don’t want to.

Right now, as I write this, I’m at work. It’s lunch time, I have a sweet potato and some chicken, and I want to throw them across the room. Things are not going my way, people are asking me questions and not listening to the answers, I feel thoroughly trapped and that is ALL that is stopping me from trashing my desk and walking out.

I am looking at the stats for my blog and realising that those closest to me, with a handful of exceptions, are singularly uninterested in reading anything that I’ve written. They don’t take the time to read the blog, to take an interest in my writing, my hopes, my dreams or my interests. They didn’t say anything when I got published for the first time, don’t respond to any mentions of my recent advances or successes, don’t voice any form of support at any time and are in no way helping me to achieve my dreams of being a writer, full time or otherwise.

Is this a tantrum? Nope. This isn’t me trying to get any help or attention because, as I’ve already said, I KNOW those people won’t ever read this, only those who do support me will, plus the randoms from the internet who happen upon my blog by whatever means.

To those fine people, thank you. I really do appreciate everything you’ve done, the small gestures of love and support and believe me, those are invaluable to me, but this isn’t why I’m writing this. I’m writing this to say that there will be days when you want to smash things, throw things, scream a massive “fuck you” into the face of those that are making things harder for you, and on those days you may well not want to write. Maybe someone’s upset you or you’ve had bad news, maybe you’re just not in the mood, whatever. Write.

Maybe you can’t bring yourself to write what you’ve started? Fine. Write something else. Maybe you’re too mind-bogglingly happy to write about the harrowing sex-crime that you’re in the middle of detailing. Fine, go write about fluffy bunnies. Maybe you’re too pissed off to tell the world about how Cotton-balls and Mr Plim are having such jolly japes at the Wiggly-Piggle Circus. Fine! Write about feeding Piers Morgan into a bacon slicer. Just WRITE.

Writing is freedom. It’s also captivity. If you want to do it and be successful at it, by whatever measure of success you are applying to yourself, you have to just keep on doing it. Don’t spend your life reading lists of spurious facts that will make you a success, just go out like anything else in life you want and fucking GRAB IT. Bleed for it, live for it, do it because it is what you have to do. Pour your heart, blood, sweat, tears, fury and sadness into it. Nurture and love it while you curse it and wish it would die. A real story that lives and breaths and is honest is a sliver of your soul distilled in prose. You can’t create something so vital and truthful by waiting to write until a day comes along where you feel wonderful and everything is going your way.

If you do, you’ll never, ever fulfil your potential.

Characters – an endless parade of bastards.

Prior warning: Today’s blog entry is brought to you by a tired, irrational and somewhat exhausted Alec. He may bite if startled.

Ever heard of a Mary-Sue character? If you have, well, tough. Go on, smart ass, fuck off to Wikipedia and read about Latvian Gorilla-Llamas for a few minutes while the adults are talking.

Basically a Mary-Sue character is an idealised version of the writer, with all the strengths they lack and without their weaknesses, or something. There’s some debate about precisely what makes a character a Mary-Sue as opposed to a boring, overpowered cretin of some other creed, but frankly this is the definition that suits my current aims. If there was a door, I’d be directing the disgruntled towards it at this moment. Just poke yourself in the eye and kick yourself firmly up the arse and we’ll pretend I’ve just evicted you from the blog, ok?

The point is, don’t write a Mary-Sue. Unless you’re including one for a good reason other than polishing your own cock (or lady cock) they’re a dull, lazy way to write a character that smacks far more of self-indulgence than it does of creativity. Filling the pages of a book with a Mary-Sue is almost rude, it’s almost a form of masturbation and frankly I don’t want you flopping your wedding tackle out where I am forced to look at it.

What we need, or at least what I need, are flaws. That doesn’t mean Kryptonite, before any rabid Superman fan-boys approach, flapping their limp-wristed, clammy little hands in my general direction. Look to the mundane and go from there. Is your character unspeakably badass? Are they the sort of person who could kick the asses of 90% of the population unarmed? Fine! That’s cool, just hamper them enough to make them interesting.

For example:

Meet Jimmerz. Jimmerz is a boxing champion, billionaire, super-genius philanthropist who is capable of anything. Sound interesting? Maybe, at first, but now imagine meeting him. He’s tougher than you, better looking than you, smarter and funnier than you. Though your wife would swear different if she’d had to choose her partner from what’s on paper, she’d be doing him now and not you. And yeah, he’s bigger than you too. In that way.

You would HATE him. Or become his Igor or something, if you swing that way. Loser.

Add any flaw, any flaw at all to the above, and it will make him more interesting. Again, for example;

Meet Jimmerz. Jimmerz is a boxing champion, billionaire, super-genius philanthropist who is capable of anything. Sound interesting? Maybe, at first, but now imagine meeting him. He’s tougher than you, better looking than you, smarter and funnier than you. Though your wife would swear different if she’d had to choose her partner from what’s on paper, she’d be doing him now and not you. And yeah, he’s bigger than you too. In that way. But his left nut is haunted by a former chancellor of the exchequer who constantly screams his latest budget ideas at the top of his lungs.

Or he’s got a radioactive nipple. Or no elbows. Or an ostrich growing out of his ass.

ANYTHING is more interesting than a god made flesh, so for the love of crap don’t make one. There’s no need to just write someone incredible and insert a dark past or something obvious, but remember that characters are people, and people suck. We’ve all got something wrong with us, from the mundane to the harrowingly dreadful, and it is often what is wrong with us that makes us interesting. Sometimes, like it or not, it’s the presence of flaws that make people comfortable in our presence. They equalise us and provide us with opportunities to improve and to learn. They inform and direct us as people and they are essential to your stories.

Without flaws, what are your characters overcoming? Nothing. What are they learning? Very little. Why should we care? We shouldn’t, not even for a moment.

Now, bugger off and write something. I’m going back to sleep.

The importance of inspiration.

Sitting there, scratching your head, simply is not likely to work. Not forever, anyway. No matter how fertile your imagination might be, sooner or later you will run out of ideas, you’ll lose that spark of ingenuity and your brain will need topping up and this, my delightful sun dodgers, will mean going outside, reading, listening to music or doing something else to reinvigorate your exhausted noggin.

For me, my most recent foray into blatantly stealing ideas from my environment was yesterday’s Steampunk festival and I can tell you, it’s given me some fantastic ideas. You see, at events like that everybody is working from the same brief. Come dressed up if you so wish, the theme is Steampunk. It’s a mish-mash of old and new, with Victorian influences, a dollop of HG Wells and a smattering of Isumbard Kingdom-Brunel to create something totally unique and interesting, all for the sheer hell of doing it.

I personally lean towards the military aspect as I’m sure you might have guessed, but this isn’t about me. It isn’t really even about Steampunk or about anything in particular; it’s simply about how the environment can charge your mind with ideas at random and how other people’s ways, dress and behaviour can create images in your head with only the token effort of note taking and a touch of observation. For example, yesterday there were pith helmets, militaria, gypsy dress, jet packs, all manner of bizarre weapons (mostly wielded by some very well behaved and thoroughly cheerful children, which immediately spawned a race of gun-wielding diminutives from somewhere or other), some fantastic gizmos and an assortment of goggles anyone would be proud of, all of which sparked different ideas for my upcoming novels or at least became notes for potential use later on.

It isn’t like I was sat there with a notebook all day, in fact I was joining in and having a great time while my brain refilled itself all of its own accord, though my trusty BlackBerry does contain a few things I actually bothered to commit to proper storage. 

Rambling as always but the message is simple; if you’re out of ideas, don’t sit there pounding your brain as though a boss is likely to appear and fire you for being unforgivably shit, just go and do something else for a while. Go read a book, go for a walk, go take a leak or get a change of scenery. Real life is the inspiration for basically EVERYTHING. If the idea you’re looking for just isn’t in there at the moment, it most definitely is out there. Somewhere. Just go have a look.