Monday, 11 February 2013

A new world

I have moved my blog!!

After over a year of people telling me they wanted to comment on posts but couldn't because they weren't registered with Blogger, I decided to give Wordpress a go.

My new blog is here;

Hopefully it will be brighter, overall better and you will all be able to leave me comments!

See you over there...

Friday, 8 February 2013

Ethical inspiration

Is it wrong to take inspiration from tragic real life events?

Of course not!  What about Titanic?  Or The Impossible?

All dramatic situations in fiction are based on something rooted in fact.  Theft, domestic abuse, rape and murder are all unfortunately very real.  However, when someone, somewhere can put a name to the event (as with the above examples) it becomes an even more sensitive subject.

Today, while wolfing down my lunch, I happened across a new website and the story of a woman sat dead in her flat surrounded by unopened Christmas presents and the television still on for a full two years.  I was shocked. 
Even worse was that my first thought was what a great story that would make.

Shame on me.

There is a programme on this story which is currently being advertised.  The first time I saw this advert I thought it was for a new gritty one-off drama.

Some true life stories just lend themselves to a dramatic fictional tale.  Except, it isn't fiction is it?  Does this fall under the saying of 'you can't make this stuff up?'

Often when I come across an interesting story in this way, I print it off and scribble ideas over it before putting it in an appropriate file for later use in a story.  It crossed my mind today to print off the story of this poor woman but I just couldn't do it.

This woman was a person.  The woman had a family (who obviously thought nothing of her two year silence).  They wouldn't know that I had printed off the news story and written ideas on how to adapt it to hide the reality and turn it into fiction.  But I would know.

Will this stop me from using this woman's tragic demise in my fiction one day?  Probably not.  Perhaps it could be ethical to use elements of this news story in my fiction one day in the far off future, when enough time has which case the more likely reason for me not to parts of this story is because I'll have forgotten it.

If you look in the bookshops and Amazon you will find so many books cashing in on tragic real life stories.  There is a real market for it but I can't help but feel a bit sickened by it.
So when and how does it becomes ethical to use a real life tragic story in fiction?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The dreaded block

I have spent the last half an hour scouring the internet for inspiration on what this blog post should be about.  I’ve spent the whole day thinking about it off and on.  Nothing.

So, while trying hard not to watch One Born Every Minute which freaks me out but for some reason I still haven’t changed the channel, I posted on Facebook that I’m in need of help.
My lovely cousin pointed out the obvious subject to me – lack of inspiration.

Well, yes, I thought.  That does make sense.  Except that I don’t suffer from writer’s block.  I don’t.  I’m very proud of the fact that I haven’t suffered from writer’s block since 2001.  Not since I discovered fantasy.

And then this blog came along...

What do you do when you hit writer’s block?

I wish I could write a list of ways around writer’s block off the top of my head but having not suffered from it for over ten years, I struggle to remember what I used to do!

One thing I do remember is that I used to read about writing.  Reading articles about how to find my voice, how to structure, create characters and world build would always inspire me.  It never failed.
So that was what I did this evening.  It didn’t work.

I looked up articles but they all say the same thing.  I went onto forums but the more I read the more annoyed I became with people’s responses.

I have the same problems with writing courses – every course I’ve been on is simply a duplication of the articles I’ve read, which brings me back to the theory that writers actually make out that writing is harder than it is.

So my old and trusted technique doesn’t work anymore.  It must be time to find some new ways of overcoming writer’s block, if only to keep this blog populated!

So what ways do you overcome lack of inspiration?  Leave a comment below, tweet me or leave me a message on Facebook!

In the meantime, I’m going to shut down social media before the world puts me in a bad mood and I’m definitely going to turn off One Born Every Minute!

Note: When medical professionals say ‘this might be uncomfortable’ that means ‘it’s going to hurt.  A lot!’

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Hobbit...finally

Yesterday I finished reading Snuff by Terry Pratchett and started reading The Hobbit.  So far, all thirteen dwarfs have arrived at Bilbo's and have eaten him out of house and home.  They're about to start singing.

My first impression is good.  It's fast paced and interesting, unlike The Fellowship of the Ring which I found very slow going.  The Hobbit marks Tolkien's first steps into Middle Earth so it makes sense that there may be more action than description at this stage.  In fact, at first it's questionable that it is set in Middle Earth as the narrator speaks directly to the reader as if hobbits live in our world.  What description there is, is vibrant.  I can easily picture the hobbits and believe I could still have the same image in my mind without having spent so many years embroiled in Peter Jackson's Middle Earth.

I find myself having to remember that this is an old book.  Tolkien seemed to be very fond of exclamation marks in dialogue which is already starting to bother me.
This actually gave me a little hope as an aspiring writer.  I know that things have changed dramatically in the world of publishing since Tolkien but his work is still accepted and appreciated, so it feels alright to use this as hope that the rules of writing can be broken.

Being utterly in love with the film, An Unexpected Journey, I can't help but make comparisons.  I have always stuck to the rule that the book is better than the film, however, while I'm enjoying The Hobbit, I can't help but prefer the film so far.  This is down to characterisation.
While I think that, so far, Martin Freeman has got Bilbo spot on, the dwarfs feel quite different.  I loved the dwarfs in the film and, ok, so I've only just met them in the book but already they seem a little less fun, a little less exubrant and Thorin is a little less imposing.

Still, these are only first impressions and I can't wait to continue reading...

Thursday, 31 January 2013

C is for...Confidence!

Today I had to put up posters throughout the office promoting a campaign I’ve been working on.  As I pinned them to notice boards I grew more and more embarrassed.  Suddenly the words were stupid, the messages were wrong, the photos were weak.  Despite having had it approved by two people higher than me, I still don’t have confidence in my own work.

The same can be said of my writing.  I wonder how many times I will read and edit my current novel before I finally feel confident enough to it?

I could go on to explain ways of boosting ones confidence in writing (and work) but instead I’m going to ask a question.

Is this a female thing?

Best selling author, G P Taylor didn’t even bother submitting his first novel to publishers or agents for rejection.  He went straight to self publishing and look where it got him.  Look at where his confidence in his own capabilities got him.  Book deals, awards and movie rights.

What about Joe Abercombie’s recent announcement that he will be taking a break?  In his blog he mentions that he recent book, Red Country, was not always a pleasure to write and he’s come to a road block in his creativity and planning.  Maybe he’s burned himself out – a break is definitely very well earned after writing and publishing five books.

Last weekend I wrote down all of my ideas for books, novels and novellas and there’s more than ten on that list.  A lot more.  And I haven’t even got the confidence to know when my first novel is ready.  How on earth am I going to write over ten?

How about the fact that men are much more dominant in the literary world (and every other world it seems)?   Despite the number of female best selling authors – J K Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, fantasy is still ruled by men.  This trend is definitely changing but...

And it’s an embarrassing but...but I have yet to read a fantasy novel written by a woman that I actually enjoy.

To write that as a woman is awful.  To write it as a female writer is close to blasphemous.  So one of my New Year resolutions for 2013 is to read more female fantasy writers.  I have the pile of books ready and as soon as I finish reading Terry Pratchett’s Snuff, Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Abercrombie’s Red Country, I’m there!

So what is it that makes men more confident than women?  And why is it that when women are confident, they are frowned upon?  

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Being human 5

I've had a long day and a headache since I got out of bed this morning.  Therefore I apologise for the shortness of this blog post!

Today I found out that Being Human series 5 starts on BBC3 at 10pm on 3rd February!  That's this Sunday!

In light of this, and as I'm very tired and need to work on my novel, here is some information I've found on the upcoming series.

Having looked through all of this, I'm not sure if I want to watch the new series.  Now, I thought that about series 4 but then we still had Annie.  Now we have a whole new cast, all of which seem very young...Maybe it's time to hand Being Human onto a new generation of viewers as well as cast (I've already followed Aidan Turner into Middle Earth!).

But then, as with series 4, I'm sure I'll give it a go and I'm sure I will eat my own words and absolutely love it!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

A writing epiphany

After around twenty-five years of writing and reading as much as I can and five to seven years learning about the world of professional writing and publishing, I have come to the decision that one of the following statements is correct;

1.       Writing is actually very simple.  The two main things needed to succeed are perseverance and luck.  Writers make it out to be much harder than it seems.
2.       Writing is one of the hardest things to do on this planet.

Let me explain the second statement.  Obviously getting published is hard.  Perseverance in the face of constant rejection and trying to score that rare piece of luck is incredibly difficult.  But this second statement is saying that the actual writing is hard.

Which one do you think is true?

My vote is going for the first one.  The more I think about it, the more I think that writers think too much.  We worry too much and we go on and on about the simplest of things for no good reason.

I read writing magazines and scour writing forums and time and time again I see advice and questions that are just common sense.  It’s as if the feature writers are trying hard to justify their own existence and all this does is make aspiring authors panic and worry, resulting in the questions and self righteous answers on forums.

I have recently decided to separate my ideas of plots which will mean writing a lot more books than I originally planned.  Considering it’s taken around three years for me to get to this point with my current novel, on the sixth draft and with a growing paranoia about whether I’m barking up the wrong tree, how on earth will I ever write, finish and potentially publish all of those books?

Writing advice is full of grammar tips, rules on adjectives and speech marks, formatting issues and plot arcs.  All of which, I am beginning to feel, is a complete load of rubbish! 

I’ve started to get the feeling that writers are making up rules to justify themselves, to explain their actions, to earn money and prestige with no consideration to what this does to those new to the writing world.  And why not?  If that is how they earn a living and it helps just one person, then that's great.  But this weekend I came to the conclusion that writing simply cannot be as difficult as everyone makes out.

There are so many published books in the world.  So there are many more unpublished writers than published but I wonder how many have stayed unpublished because of the fear that these writers dishing out their advice have caused?

Well I refuse to be afraid and I refuse to fall into this trap.  Since the day I first discovered writing I have dreamt of being a published writer.  It is the only thing in my life that has stayed constant and it will happen.

We don’t need fancy charts or rules.  We only need confidence, perseverance, luck and to write and write and write.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Escapism of the first kind

Escapism can come in many forms and mostly, in this day and age, it includes a screen.  Television, computer games and even writing (unless you favour the pen and paper approach) all involve staring at a screen for long periods of time.  It can come as a relief to escape the real world in a manner that is kind on the eyes.  Reading, or going to the theatre...

As I mentioned in my previous post, this week I went to the theatre.  It was a brilliant play but the audience were not so brilliant.  The majority obviously enjoyed it as the cast bowed to a standing ovation and lots of whooping and clapping (and not just from me).  Yet I could have sworn that those around us were bored out of their minds.

I had two teenage girls sat in front of me.  The lower end of the teens but still old enough to know better.  They had hats on and kept bobbing up and down in their seats.  They are incredibly lucky that I didn’t snap, place my hands firmly on their heads and push them down.  One even turned around and watched me.  Why do people do that?

Also in front was a couple.  He had very obviously been dragged along and had brought a picnic with him.  He rustled his bags, threw his big head back to down sweets, obscuring my view, glugged soft drinks and then looked behind him (at us!).  When we got out a bag of sweets and rustled it for a moment, he immediately turned to see what we were doing.

Further in front was an older couple.  As Bill Sykes pulled a pearl necklace out of his mouth, she leaned over to her husband and hissed loudly in his ear, ‘what’s that?’  Why don't you watch and find out?  And why don't people know how to whisper?

Somewhere off to the left and out of sight someone had brought a very young child who naturally didn’t know what was going on and was bored.  And crying.  Loudly.

Further in front was a girl texting and a man, watching the football on his mobile.

What is wrong with people?  Why can’t people go to the theatre, sit quietly, sit still and enjoy the performance?  Why can’t people put their phones away for one evening?  Why can’t young people understand the concept of respect, not only for the people sat behind them who want to watch the performance but for the performers?

Being loud in a theatre is not the same as being loud in a cinema.  In a cinema you are only being disrespectful to your fellow audience.  In a theatre you are also being rude and disrespectful to the actors on stage, which in this case included a lot of very small children acting, singing and dancing their hearts out.

I would be mortified if I made a loud noise during a play, or if I got my mobile out to text someone, or if I had stupidly brought a very small child to an evening play they simply aren't old enough to understand.  Theatre audience etiquette is something that all young people should learn, theatre is something that everyone should be exposed to.
I find the short attention spans of young people very worrying, along with their dependence on their gadgets.  Turn your mobile off, sit comfortably, sit still and watch the play.  Revel in the performances, the talent, the scenery and the story and disappear into another world without having to stare at a screen.  Escape.  Just for a few hours.