Inside My mind

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I was having a conversation with someone the other day and we touched on the difficulty and the process of writing a novel. He asked about the amount of information needed and hinted on it being very difficult. Also he commented on how my spelling and grammar is not the best.

 

These are two very good points and it got me thinking. The process of writing a hundred thousand words plus novel is probably the most complex and complicated thing I have ever done.

 

It’s not just the start, middle and end thing but the main story ark and all the small story arks within them. Each novel has chapters that must have a protagonist and an antagonist. They must have intrinsic and extrinsic conflict with them selves and each other. Maybe even with many other characters as well. The chapter has to have a start middle and end, each chapter has to have scenes and those scenes have to have a start middle and end. This rule applies to the pages and the paragraph. Even each and every sentence has to have a purpose. If it has no purpose then it has no right being in the book.

 

Also the characters have to have profiles, people don’t realise that even though we writers don’t put the past twenty years of a characters life in the novel, they do have a life before the story. Thats each character has a whole book inside my head already. They have lived and had good and bad times before strolling into what ever situation that my storyline has given them.

 

Each novel has at least three main threads to it. And many more minor threads through out. And thats just the one I’m currently working on. I don’t know about other writers but I have one finished and thirteen unfinished novels and many more short Stories floating around my head at any one time.

All this is inside my head. Maybe I should say sorry for the times when I’m a bit forgetful or distracted. I have good reasons but I promise there not excuses.

 

As for spelling and grammar all I can say is if you ask a builder to build you a house he will get the bricks (for a writer his brick are the words) and place them all in order following a predesigned plan. The architect would have spent many hours and days drawing out his vision of a building and the builder puts this together. As a writer I don’t pretend to be a good builder but I’m a good architect. I can design the book and work on all the plot lines and all story arks, character profiles. But I may need a little help at time to put it together at the end. Please don’t forget the creativity and passion that I have poured into my prose. For my head is full of many lives, young, old, thin, and fat, Human, animal and alien alike. I have whole civilisations being created and  being destroyed in my head. To say a writers mind is a busy mind is probably one of the most understated comments ever made.

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Rejection!

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I feel I must warn you, if your not a writer maybe this blog post is not for you. You may get something from what Im going to write but writers will appreciate it that much more.

Rejection is a writers burden to bear. We all suffer rejection in our lives. We can go to work and feel a certain amount of rejection each and every day. Only it’s short lived and often we brush it off as wit or someone being funny at your expense. And I say, so what, I probably do it to others as much as others do it to me. Life goes on. Only as a writer I feel our rejection can go a little further.
In most professions of art there seems to be a tough road that we must follow. A road of loss and pain which all the greats have walked down. some of the most famous being Vincent van Gogh and Goya and a more modern day star Amy Winehouse this is to name just a few of many. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not alining myself up with the likes of the above, just showing that great art seem to come from people that have had great pain.
So rejection plays a part in creating the art, and my art is writing. I have lost much in my life. More than some and not as much as many. When I look round at my fellow man and woman I see people who don’t see the world as I do, they move through their life with eyes closed and hear nothing of its beautiful sounds.

When I receive a rejection letter from an agent or a publisher it hurts. If you say it didn’t then you are fooling yourself and if that’s how you cope with rejection, then fine fool away. Only it doesn’t stop there, it took me over five years to write my first novel. And the one I’m on now I have been writing for a year already. I work full time and have a young family so time is my enemy and I just don’t have enough of it.

People can without knowing it reject us sensitive writer types simply by being nice.
You know when you meet someone for the first time and tell them your a writer is goes something like this-

You tell them your a writer, they think it’s great and tell you how they have a good idea and begin to share it with you. Then you try to explain that good ideas are plentiful and its not the idea that makes a writer but the commitment. They look blanked at you and ask you what your book is about. You reply with a fumbled pitch that takes all credibility from you which leaves them thinking your a fraud.
Now weeks go by and they will eventually ask how the book is going you say it’s coming great and go it to a boring rant about the currant plot because you feel they are truly interested and not just being nice. Then when you notice there face you stop and it’s many months before that person ask about your book. After a year( or maybe two) they ask again and are surprised when you still have the excitement you had before. But still you will manage to bore them and they will walk away thinking how can someone commite so much time into something that will amount to nothing.
And that’s the difference between a want to be writer and a writer. What we do is hard, each and every time someone asks how the book is it’s a kind of small rejection in its self. (That’s unless you answer is it’s published! Here have a complimentary copy.) All they do is remind you how slow and bad you are, but and this is a but with a smile on my face. If you want to be good you have to go through all this rejection.
It builds good writing.
You will only find your style through writing many hundreds of thousands of words. Not till then will it be you and you will be good.
So when the next person asks you how’s the book coming, tell them it’s coming fine and thanks for asking. If they ask what’s it about? And this is the hard part that I fail to do so often. Tell them sorry but you have decided to not tell anyone about the book until you have finished. Then talk about the weather or there new house or the next new smart phone.
then when they hear about your book its the first time and its complete. You are free to talk about all the characters and plot turns because they have read it.

ps, This advice is manly directed at me, I am a failure when it come to following these simple rules. But I will make the extra effort and not keep going on about my books that is until I have finished then i will not shut up.
Please comment as Im always happy to receive them.

Wow! Another Year Already

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Image from http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Wow September the 8th, I get to this part of the year and it brings to mind that the year is about to enter its fourth and final quarter.

My birthday is in just over a week on the seventeenth and although this once filled me with wishes and expectation when I was younger, it now makes me look back on the last twelve months and take account of what goals I have made. What I have accomplished and even more so, what I have not accomplished in the last year.
For one, I said I would have sent my manuscript out to an agent. And buy and large I suppose I did, only it keeps coming back complete with rejection letters. I wanted to start a new novel, Not a sci-fi but a crime thriller, and that is on its way. I’m at least a third of my way to finishing the first draft. I’m very excited about this one. Its fast and gritty, with honest characters that are filled with many conflicting values and principals. Its great to write about bad guy turned good and god guy turned bad. They say the secret to a good book is conflict, and inner conflict is even better it is also a great motivator.
Its no secret that I’m a great sci-fi fan but the crime thriller genre is a page turner for sure.
The novel’s called, “The Promise” it follows a father and a promise he made to his wife sixteen years earlier. He is bad guy turned good. The only thing is a bad life has a habit of coming back, wanting its flesh even when you have no more to give. The promise he makes is about his daughter who has just turned sixteen. She has no idea what her father once was, where he made the money they live by today. How will she cope with the idea of living off blood money?
I really do love this one, and I hope so will the agents and publishes when its finished.
In the mean time my other novel “Purple” is still out there awaiting representation so any up and coming agents fancy a read and I haven’t sent it you then please don’t be shy.
A friend of mine was on his annual holiday and by chance bumped into an agent at a hotel bar. The conversation moved on to my friend telling her that he knew someone who was trying to get published. (Thats me he is talking about, incase you were wondering.) She told my friend the same as every writer out there knows. They have many thousands of query letters and synopsis per month and it all starts with the query letter, if thats ok then its the synopsis and if their still reading then its the first fifty pages or so and if you are still in the running, then they request the full manuscript. And even then you are likely to be rejected. Its a numbers game, a mood game. For instance if the agent had a bad night and had had enough of sci-fi then the next sci-fi novel would not get past the query stage.
In the end you can have the best query in the world and a synopsis that would bring tears of joy to the eyes. A manuscript that any full time author would give his right eye for. Your query can still be binned at the first glance.
I try not to take this as a negative but to reassure myself that if I keep sending them out and keep writing more, then one day it will be my manuscript that the agent see’s, and that day they were looking for a manuscript just like mine.

I have made big improvements in my personal life, finically and emotionally.  I look forward to what I have to come in this next year, who knows what may come.

Summer Holidays

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Some unfortunate souls, (like me) have been on holiday for a week or if your lucky two, and the prospect of leaving the sunny beach location behind, well spells out doom and gloom. I’m about to swap flip flops and shorts for toe protector boots and a blue uniform, and instead of looking out towards the horizon on the beach front, I’ll be staring at parts and components for at least 8 hours.


It’s strange because normally I’m quite looking forward to getting back home by now, but as I write this on the eve of my return, I feel I would quite happily stay here for another week or even two. If not for the obligations I have back home, ( like work and house and bills) I might just extend this to a more permanent arrangement. I mean why not? Others live at holiday resorts and look very happy doing so. Could I move here or somewhere like this? If your wondering I’m in Cornwall which is the very south of the UK.

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rolling hills, deep valleys and long stretches of sandy beaches. When the sun is shining and the sky is blue Cornwall is as beautiful as anywhere on earth.

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The dream of a writer as I understand it is to be able to write where and whenever they like. Preferable from some window through which inspiration will flow over you like a child’s smile after handing them their most favourite ice-cream.

We can dream and wish and if we are really lucky, (not to mention hard working) we may reach such goals whether it be Cornwall are your very own most loved of places. To reach high will at least get you somewhere better than you are know.

Don’t we love to talk

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As people we love to talk, we love to socialise and network. Dale Carnegie had a great quote: –

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

I suppose your wondering where I’m going with all this? Well it’s the “why” we as a species like to talk and network or dare I say it, “Gossip.”

Gossip can be a very good vehicle for moving a story on, or for-shadowing a future event. Two characters discussing another character is very helpful when you need an aspect of their personality for-shadowed.

So to understand Gossip we need to know why we do it in the first place.

We can express ourselves through the arts, I.e., music, religion, writing, politics, and even science. But what do we talk about most of the time? It’s not the above list I’m sure. I have read that two-thirds of all human conversation is gossip. This may come as an unwelcome reminder of our interest in the personal lives of others. But if you think about it most gossip is not negative. Most is just chitchat about who is having a baby or what colour someone’s going to paint the lounge. Whatever the moral status, gossip serves an important evolutionary purpose. It’s like a verbal grooming, ape’s pick each others flea’s and stroke each others fur. As for our social grooming, we talk and gossip.

The term gossip once meant, “A person related to one in God, The word later came to mean a close (female) friend or companion. This later translated into the modern definition of gossip, “small talk, and rumour” or “to talk about the affairs of others,” I like this one.

Somewhere along the line of our evolution, we evolved the capacity for language; gossip replaced our physical social grooming. According to Robin Dunbar, a professor at the University of Liverpool and a leading researcher on human gossip, “language evolved specifically for the purpose of gossip.” It functions to make a bond within your social group, It can resolve conflicts, build social networks, clarifying social status, also it can help to influence others. Gossip is therefore a powerful way of strengthening the social bonds we already have.

Stated by Kate Fox, “Gossip generally involves more than the sharing of information about people’s lives and relationships: it usually involves the expression of opinions or feelings about this information.” Although opinions may not be directly stated, they may be heavily implied through tone of voice or body language. It shows their views on the subject matter. It’s not necessarily negative. However, this is not to say that negative views do not exist, as they definitely do; and these negative comments serve a very important function.

When someone engages in negative gossip with a trustworthy person they are strengthening the social bond with that person.

Although other animals have mating calls and grunts, only the human species uses language to such a degree. Gossip is what humans use to establish and maintain relationships, resolve conflicts, build social networks, influence others. Gossip undoubtedly works as a social mechanism. So when someone asks if you’re gossiping, answer with a big fat “YES”. As, we are all very good at it.

Why You Should Never Get On The Wrong Side Of A Writer

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Get on the wrong side is a bit PC. “Piss me off.” Could be better or maybe “Anger me.” Which ever you want to pick is fine with me. Its just, I suppose I should warn you.  If you’ve done me wrong recently, this is aimed at you. (evil smile)

Take some popular singers, they like to ring the people that crossed them out to dry. Banging out a hit song with half meanings that are obvious to the world. It doesn’t take a genius to work out who they are singing about. But what about the people that cross a writer in a negative way.

I take my inspiration from the people I know and love. I also take inspiration from people at large. It could be at work, at play or just two people walking hand in hand down the street. The way they hold hands. The way they walk and talk. It all becomes very relevant when making new characters for a book. You see…. it all comes together in the back of my mind… and then people are born. Life like and full of what ever character traits I desirer. If your on a writers good side then you may end up being a leading hero with women (or man) and money, saving the human race from a devastating end.

Everyone has that special something, that something that makes them different from the people round them. And it’s that which makes characters jump right of the page and spring into life. Its that something that I want.

Now if your in a writers bad books, well lets say most of my villains die. They can have very painful and gruesome ends.  I’m just saying, maybe all those characters in all the books of the world wouldn’t have died so violently. Not if the people the writer was thinking of when they wrote them had not made them angry.

In the end ask yourself this question, If you opened a book and found your self in there, do you want to be a good guy or a bad guy?

Lets just say, the way I’m feeling right now…well, I wouldn’t be too surprised if a character in my newest novel happens to be overweight, short, selfish, and full of lies….and dies tragically as they are ran over by a lawn mower. Repeatedly.

Revenge is sweet.  Even if it’s only in my mind.

As the apple fell

I came across a blog that has a weekly prompt for writers. All you have to do is keep within 100 words.
I thought that’s intresting and gave it a go. The prompt was ‘As the Apple fell.’ I tried to submit it to the site but all submissions are now closed.
It would be a shame to wast it so please find below a very very short story.

Enjoy.

As the Apple fell, I mean thats all it took just one moment. I moved, she moved. Her hand brushed mine as we moved to catch it. Our eyes met over the Granny Smiths. Her’s green, mine steel Blue.

‘Wow your fast.’ I said as her long dark hair was falling back into place.

‘No problem, I just kind of reacted.’

She placed the apple in my hand and held it there. I placed my hand on hers.

She caressed mine with her thumb.

‘Would you like to go for a coffee? or some fruit maybe?’ I asked.

All this because the Apple fell.

Self Improvement Through Writing and Continuous Assessment

Self improvement, I like this. I think I have believed in self improvement most of my life. Well at least as long as I have thought about myself as a thing that can be improved. So probably from the age of six or so. Either way I have believed in a simple rule most of my life, that rule is, ‘Given enough time and dedication, anyone can achieve anything that has been achieved before.’ Whether it be rocket science or brain surgery, a plumber or a writer.

I began writing story’s later in life than most. Writing my first draft of a novel by the age of thirty eight. Since then I have wrote two more novels and a bunch of short story‘s.

I am writing the forth draft of my first novel. While doing this I have noticed a vast difference in the quality of my writing. This is to the point where I have thought, on more than one occasion of scrapping it. Putting it a draw so to speak and letting it never see the light of day. The only reason that Purple is still around is that I have wrote a sequel. And it is technically a much better book than the first.
This is where self improvement comes in. I recently started a new job for a very large company that is known throughout the world as an innovator and has a constant drive to high quality of its products and personnel. Now most, if not all company’s would say this as part of there mission statements. But as I constantly assess my work, always looking to improve the sentence, the paragraph or the chapter. So does my new employer strive on a daily basis to improve not the products but the people that make them. I’m am encouraged to do this each and every day in the hunt for zero mistakes. This is done through constant improvement not by someone in an office, who is disconnected from me but by me and the people I work with.
We improve ourselves each time we learn something new. Goals are important too to attain a high leave of quality, whether it be a hobby or a job. But it is not the goal that makes us improve on a personal level, it’s the process of attaining that goal that makes us grow and become a better person. To strive for something better is to learn. Self improvement is very much about the journey, so aim high and don’t get to hung up on the target, after all you can always make the target bigger if you keep missing.

Genre Writing

Some writers only write science fiction novels, others romance and poems. Some only write non-fiction such as technical manuals on boats and cars. Some focus only on one genre and others on many.I think that when starting out like myself, we can get drawn into writing only what we know. But I believe we grow through what we write. We explore our selves while learning about others, discovering how people think. Interact with many and ask questions to even more. I know this is true because I’m like a child when first meeting someone with a different take on life. I just cannot stop asking questions.

So when it comes to genres, well I want to try them all. So far I have wrote a science fiction novel and a supernatural thriller. I am working on a crime thriller now. I have enjoyed writing every one and hope to write many more. With the books making the rounds i.e. The Shades of Grey Trilogy, I’m thinking of having a go at romance. As I see it, I’m just widening my writing horizons every time I write in a different genre. So lets not pigeon hole ourselves and write free.

Character Relationships and Development.

Sometimes I think we can get so court up in the big full-on relationships of ours characters that it is possible to lose sight of the whole picture.

We are told that when developing characters that we should make a personal profile, by giving each and every character there own back story. Basically a life before the plot.  This is to give us (The writer) the ability to write from their (The character) life experience. Now this is good as long as you keep the exercise to the point of view characters. I say this because when I first started writing in a more than caesural manor, it was this that through me the most. Know one has ever told me that the least important the character, the less back story you need to create. Making a full and colourful life for all your characters will be fun, but I’m not sure if its necessary. To be clear I’m not the kind of writer that writes a full profile on any of my characters. I make them in my head and they stay in there. I was asked to explain this once and my explanation spooked me as much as it did the person asking. They said ‘How do you make these people up?’ my response was a few moments of fumbled thought and a few scratches of the head, then. ‘Its like there is a small room in the back of my head, where there are many little people. (I mean little people in my head) They kind of listen to what I want and when I’m stuck I hand over to them. They then spend what ever amount of time is necessary to make things work. I can be washing the car or cooking the tea but when they have finished working with the plot or character problems. I get an alert that things are ready to move. This normally comes in the form of that magic called inspiration. I stop what I’m doing and go find my laptop.’ Now the weird thing is that in my imagination this is what happens, a group of people live in my head waiting to help me when I am stuck on plot or character. Snapping into action when required.

Am I schizophrenic? I think not, I just have a good imagination. When you look at your own life and the complex relationships that are held there, you may see a kind of scale. First there is your close and most important relationship, your wife, husband, partner. These are the ones you know most. Then there are siblings, uncles, aunts, friends, work colleague and so on, the list goes on. What we have to remember is that when we interact with these people in the real world, we do so on a much different scale. Some people don’t get on with their mother or father. Some cannot be in the same room with there brother or sister. Some people place friendship far above the family connections.

Also if you give yourself such strict guides as character mapping, you can take the ability for a character to be lied to, or be manipulated by another, because you know too much about them. In life we fight to see the genuine within people but get it wrong more times than any of us would like to admit. By mapping every character I think its possible to take that ability away from your characters and make them a bit predictable. I would be very interested in your view on this, as I find characters fascinating and think its this that drives me to write.

Please comment or send me an email.