Who Am I?

I’m a writer currently living in Middle England. I am taking time this year to write a collection of twelve short stories.
I have a great and very patient Editor. I hold an Honours Degree in Applied Human Psychology and I tend not to talk about myself very much mostly because I put all the interesting things on the page, and when you have done that what is there left to say?
I read a great deal and widely. I’m currently listening to a lecture series on Plato’s Republic because, well, I haven’t before. I think it’s important to always be learning and growing.
I enjoy writing and I try to make each piece better than the last.

Every Day?

Recently I’ve been pondering the different ways that we all get to a finished manuscript. There are those who throw themselves in at a tremendous pace and edit for meaning at the end. There are the precision writers who craft every line with an intensity bordering on the maniacal, and then there are writers with a plan who jump the stepping stones of plot until they reach the bank, quite literally. Writers are individuals and as such they write. We write. Each one of us finds our own way, and if we don’t then our manuscript never reaches the reader. There are no rules about how you reach completion, the point is just to get there mostly sane.

One area where most writers agree is that it is better to write on more days than you don’t. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it is easier to keep the momentum going on a long project if you develop a writing habit. Secondly, the more words you write the more you learn, the more you learn the better you get, you can’t help it. Writers aren’t any fonder of unnecessary work than anyone else. Thirdly, it is the best way to help you develop your love affair with words.

So should we write every day? Well, some people do. Others write most days. Some people write Thursday and Sunday after gym class. Some write in the morning and others write in the night. In the world of the writer there is only ONE should,

When you begin a project you SHOULD finish it.

Try writing more days than you don’t, if that is possible, but there are no rules, no generalisations, no master plan. The way I work probably won’t work for you. You need to discover the way that you work, and remember that there is only the one SHOULD in the world of the writer, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Only you can speak for you. Only you can write for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What would you think?

What would you think if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?  

(Beatles – A little Help from my Friends)

There are days when we write and everything seems to come together clearly and concisely. We answer our own questions, we meet our job specs, and then we meet our deadlines. It’s all very simple. Then of course we have the days when every passage of prose is discordant and jangling. We know that it’s wrong and yet we can’t see where it’s wrong. Our hands are typing a song that our brain isn’t singing. One of those days.

Any Creative can tell you stories of those days. Some people get them on a weekly basis, others go for long periods of creativity and then hit a drought. The point is that having a period of drought doesn’t make you a bad writer or a poor artist. It just makes you a writer or an artist. A creative drought will always end, unless you stop creating. So you write bad stuff, who hasn’t? So your portrait looks like a horse? Maybe rework it before showing the client but hey (hay), now you can paint a horse.

What would we do if you sang out of tune?

 We would all join in.

I’ve been there so often I can do the harmonies.

 

 

 

The Mirror of the Soul

We are a reflective bunch.

I could make all sorts of word associations here regarding the mirrored surface of a writer’s soul. I could suggest that we reflect the world back at the world, and that this is why  people both love and hate novelists. I could play with the idea of refraction and suggest to you that it is the fractured nature of our psyche that makes us shine just that little bit brighter than the average person. I could, but I won’t. 

What I really mean is that we think,

a lot.

It’s an occupational hazard for a writer. Heck, we would be thinking if we weren’t writing, but we choose to exorcise our demons in ink, and really the world should be grateful that we are so easily pacified, because we have such a lot to say. We express ourselves silently and with extreme force. It’s who we are. It is also why writers who aren’t writing tear themselves apart. We pull everything apart to look at the workings, and if that energy isn’t directed outwards then there is only one other place for it to go.

Writers need to write, we should write and we have to write.

So please writers, write.

 

 

 

The Words. A Fable

Once there was a young man who wished with all his heart to be the King of Words. He wanted to write songs, and poems, and stories that would be famous throughout the land.

One day he heard that the Father of the Forest was able to grant the wishes of young men who wanted words, and so he travelled a long way, for a year and a day, to see the Father.

The Father was the tallest, and the oldest, and the wisest tree in all the world. His roots bound the land together and his branches supported the sky, and he was very kind. He listened to the young man, and when he had listened, he touched one gentle, gnarly finger to the young man’s chest and took out his heart.

It was a thing of amazing beauty, bright and shining like the largest diamond. The Father smiled and bending low over the heart he whispered,

“Live, Love, Learn.”

Then he gently replaced it and sent the young man out into the world to be a writer.

 

The years passed slowly and times were very hard for the young man. He always seemed to lose his luck or his love and there were days when he despaired of his life. He became very unhappy and decided to return to the Father, to ask why, when he had come to him with such a pure heart, the Father had not given him the words.

The Father was even taller and older and kinder. He welcomed the young man as a child, and he listened. Then he touched one gentle, gnarly finger to the young man’s chest and took out his heart. It was dark and chipped and broken, and held together by love and tears. The young man began to cry as he looked at his poor heart but the Father smiled a gentle smile. He held up the heart in the green warmth of the Summer afternoon, and he broke it clean in two.

Out poured words: red, green, amber and gold, the bluest blue of the ocean and the deepest black of the night sky. They poured unceasingly to the forest floor creating streams of life and love and laughter, swirling around the feet of the amazed young man.

“My Child,” said the Father with great love,

” Why would I give you words, when you have been growing your own? “

 

How to Write

There are a  multitude of books available on the subject ‘How to write’ and a plethora of courses available, all promising to show you the secrets, give you an outline, throw you a rope when you are drowning in words. Many of these are well written, well thought out and helpful, but sometimes they seem to subtly miss the mark for us. We have a head full of theories, plans, guidelines and confusion.

You see, courses and books can give you a very clear idea about how other people write and have written, but what no teacher will admit off the bat is that they have no idea how you are going to do it. Writing is a journey, one we all take in a different direction. Before we set out we need to fill our backpack with three things

1) Words – dictionary, thesaurus, experience of reading a great deal

2) Grammar – an understanding of how the words fit together.

3) Punctuation – knowledge about how we signpost meaning.

These are the essentials. We all need these. Without these we are trekking the Himalayas in our swimwear. 

Next we need the useful items:

Map of the terrain – an idea of the structure of a novel, short story,  article, essay

Travel guide – a description of journeys by past explorers. How did other writers write?

And finally we need the things that make life more enjoyable:

Chocolate – or your treat of choice

Bug Spray – for the Fear bug, which swarms on a scale from nervous tension – sheer terror. If you have no spray then hit them with a slipper, newspaper, pop song.

All packed? Good. Now you are ready to explore. Some of us will be an Amundsen, Columbus or Magellan and some of us will be Dora, and that’s fine. The journey is our own. We make it ourselves and each discovery is as exciting regardless of who we are. Be yourself and forge your own path and before long you will have a page in the Travel guide.

Watch out for the Self-editing Tar-pits and

Happy Trails!

    

Tune-up

The English language has built over time and has rules of construction; just as any other builder has to follow a code, the writer should be able to don their hard hat and survey their handiwork. Kick the foundations and see if it wobbles.

In order to do this effectively the writer needs a good and up to date understanding of the rules. I recommend a yearly tune-up with a good grammar.

Of course, there are times when the correct use of grammar is simply incorrect, such as when we represent everyday speech.
Speech follows a whole different set of social rules,

Ya get me blud?

No one said you have to follow the rules all the time but it’s more fun to break them what you know are there.

Word Nerd

I suppose everybody has their quirks. We all have those things which set us apart. Some people love a good equation, others a new pair of shoes. I love words. I love the way that they are born, evolve, grow and naturally die. I love the way that you can trace their family trees back through generations to a particular place, time and experience. I love those that make it into common usage and those which fell by the wayside. Every word tells us something about the thoughts and feelings of the people who coined it and used it. Sound, explosiveness, mouth-feel, vowel pattern speak about the history of our language and ourselves. Language is vocalised thought. Words are the history of thought. I could go on. I won’t

I will go back to quietly collecting the new and the archaic to the befuddlement of onlookers, cherishing my map of morphology and polishing the odd verb, because I am an unashamed word nerd.

And the best bit is, I get to use all of them and any of them at any time.

That is the definition of a writer

Word Herd

Change is a good thing

I have never been gifted with telling the future but there is one certainty that confronts each of us, things change. The changes that have been happening in the world of publishing over the last five years have thrown hopes and expectations into the air and we are all still waiting for them to land. We are coming to terms with new technology. Any advance has positive and negative implications for those working in the industry but the movement towards digital self-publishing has changed things in a way no-one anticipated. There is a great deal of discussion around the relevance of publishing houses in this new brave world. Things change.

Insecurity often makes people feel that they have to make a decision, take a stand, have a firm opinion. We like to know what we know, you know. 

Well, I know one thing. I fully support any and all means of championing the written word. We need more writing of a good quality. Traditional publishers have always been driven by the bottom line to produce work which will sell to the masses. Often the sale of such works supports the development of more literary projects. I doubt this will change. Self publishing will produce a vast quantity of lower quality work it is true but it will also give an opportunity to the gifted to produce breathtaking work of literary beauty without having to rely on a publisher’s previous sales of Diary of the Stig part 2.

Low or lower quality work is no threat to the publishing industry and those authors who produce excellent work will earn their stripes before submitting to publishing houses. Editors will include the banner headline ” Why aren’t you selling? ” on their websites and the world will continue to turn. Wordsmiths will continue to produce the words. We monkeys will make magic.

Sometimes it’s good to remember that no matter how big the change the important things stay the same.

Lie to me

Isn’t that the basic premise of fiction? I spend all of my days writing about people who don’t do the things I say and certainly aren’t in the places I mention. Usually they aren’t even real people. In fact I am a great big “Liar liar pants on fire” most of the time.

The funny thing is that amongst all the fibs, of which there are many, the thing I am searching for is the truth. The truth of what it means to be human. The truth and mechanics of relationships. To engage a reader in a story you have to find the spark of recognition, the place where a reader realises yes I know this, I have lived this, this man is like me.

In order to get to that place your writing has to remain true to your character.  Are you trying to make a person behave in a way they simply wouldn’t? Does it ring true? You see people really don’t step outside their normal range of behaviour unless they are placed in extreme circumstances and even then it is unusual.

So figure out what your character’s usual reactions would be and then you will know if you step outside them. If you are going there, do it with purpose and conviction. There are times when you can use this fact to advantage but it must be with a character your audience knows very well and I think possibly several books into a series just to shake up the pace. Part of the truth behind people is that we do things for certain reasons; sometimes we don’t know the reason, sometimes we have some insight. We are complicated and understanding and using complicated characters to get to the truth is just about the highest goal of literary fiction.

So Lie to me, I want to know the truth.