Tag Archives: planning

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.

Anyhoo…

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.

Currently:

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.

 

 


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.


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.


To milestones. Hip-hip, somethingorother.

Today is a milestone day for me. Well, the milestone itself technically came yesterday, but while the completion of a project might make you want to celebrate, it also sometimes makes you want to slump. I chose the latter, in as much as it’s possible to slump a few hours before waddling off to my Thursday evening Muay Thai class.

As usual, I digress. I’ll probably do so again in a moment.

I completed a full chapter-by-chapter plan for my first novel, currently entitled “Lucher,” yesterday afternoon. So ok, it’s a part of a project as opposed to the project itself, but there is a very good reason for this being a milestone for me that is perhaps greater than the completion of a piece of writing in and of itself: I never plan anything.

Beyond a swirling vortex of notes on paper, my computers at home and at work, my laptop and my BlackBerry, there is never anything resembling a structure on which to pin my ideas, an idea of where I’m going or how I’m going to get there. I’m a disorganised mess in many aspects of my life and it has served me very well, or at least it did up until the point where I had a family and decided that somehow, more was expected of me. This has rubbed off on me from my wife who is super organised, makes lists, keeps large sections of my brain in her diary and generally is the scaffolding that holds our family together. I won’t gush but she’s brilliant and, thankfully, quite tolerant of my slightly erratic nature. Very fond of my wife. I’ll probably name the planet after her once I take over.

It’s not all bad though; it isn’t that I don’t get things done it’s just that I have a very direct approach to things in general. Life’s planners are often highly valued and rightly so, as they make the world go around and keep the buses running on time (har-de-har-har) and that is a strength that my wife has in abundance. I, on the other hand, have an entirely different skill set. If you want to organise a music festival (for example), Kat would find a way. She would remember to book the porta-loos, would get estimates on the numbers expected and how many cars to prepare for and would have ample first aiders on hand. All the required permits and licensing would be dealt with and for every eventuality she would have a contingency, within reason, that would make the whole thing a success. She’d also have organised a clean up crew and would leave the place as she found it, with everyone having been paid and having fully enjoyed themselves.

But what if aliens invaded during Iron Maiden’s encore?

That’s where people like me come in. I would probably make a reasonable go at the organisation if I put my mind to it, but it would cause a major headache for me as it goes against my nature. Kat would have it all running smoothly until the first mothership loomed overhead, and then she would phone me. I’m the sort of person you drop into the centre of unmitigated chaos and then stand back and let them get on with it. I think on my feet, deciding on solutions and dishing out tasks to other people and shooting from the hip, grabbing anarchy by its dreadlocked testicles and pounding it with sheer determination until it gives up and does as it’s bloody told.

When things go wrong, I’m your man. When you want to plan something so it probably won’t go wrong, Kat’s your lady, and between us there is nothing we can’t manage.

But, ever eager to improve myself, I thought I’d give this planning thing a go, and I have to admit that it has gone fairly well.

It isn’t the super-anal, well thought out and bullet-pointed sort of a plan that some other people seem to swear by, but it’s certainly a happy medium that will make writing this novel considerably easier for me. It’s very “stream of consciousness,” not a little disjointed and quite scrappy in places, but it undoubtedly plots the entire story from beginning to end with all of the appropriate stops, character points and even some “witty” dialogue options inserted along the way. It isn’t the sort of thing I would send to an editor who insisted upon seeing one (let’s hope I can avoid that for the time being) but it represents a point of personal and, hopefully, professional growth for me as a writer, and as a person.

This may be the last of these that I ever write but it might well also be the first of many. This could mark a failed experiment in altering my approach to my work or it might represent an epiphany that leads to a smoother, more productive creative process for me. I’m betting on the latter, and it has to be said that I have my wife’s example to thank for that.

While I’ve got you here…

Quick blog-plug for all-round good egg and Mslexia runner up Nichola Vincent-Abnett, who is celebrating her 100th blog post! She’s written a blog every day for the last 100 days and I think you may enjoy them.

http://www.nicolavincent-abnett.com/