Monday, 8 February 2016

Attention, creative writing class-mates...

Because lots of you will have sat in creative writing classes, and some of you will have taught them too...

A Letter to My Creative-Writing Class

Friday, 5 February 2016

Something new

Whilst I let the first edit of the novel-length work "rest" for a while, I've started something new. A short story, no less (and certainly no more). At present, it begins thus:

I've never lost a coin toss. I know how that sounds. But if I'm going to record this at all, I'd better be completely honest from the outset, and qualify that: I've never lost a coin toss by chance.
     There was that one time you see. I was captain of the school second eleven football team. Nine games into the season we were unbeaten, and I'd naturally won all nine coin tosses. Before our tenth match Mr Smith, the reluctant geography teacher whose sole purpose as our coach was to ferry us around the county in the lesser of the school's two minibuses, concluded his usual pre-match pep talk ("Go and win boys!") with a question: did I know what the odds were of winning nine coin tosses in a row? His Irish accent softened the question, and his mouth was smiling, but his eyes weren't.
     "No sir," I replied.
     "One in five hundred and twelve," he said. "Long odds, that."
     I don't think I said much in return, possibly I tried to laugh about it as I ran on to the pitch to catch up with my team-mates. And of course I lost that day's toss, just - it was surprisingly hard to remember, counter-intuitive even, to nudge heads but call tails. As I trudged back out of the centre circle, I risked a glance at Mr Smith - he was staring directly at me, and no part of his face was smiling.

I'm three and a half thousand words in now, and the story has bitten me. It has traction, I think (hope). What do you think?

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Not definite yet, just at the idea stage, but...

...if I curated a collection of short fiction, would you submit?

Let's be clear from the outset, it wouldn't make you money. And I'd be editing the collection, so submission is no guarantee of inclusion. But it would be published, at least as an ebook on Amazon and, possibly, also as a physical paperback with an ISBN that could be ordered/purchased anywhere.

Not totally committed to the idea yet, but if I put out the call for original short fiction, could you answer? Would you answer?

Monday, 18 January 2016

Whoop-de-doo, tarantula town

 Whoop-dee-do, employees. Everyone who's found true love may leave early today.

So, hooray for me, I finally finished the first draft of my novel-length work. Note how I still can't call it my novel. It's a manuscript, until it's published, and it just happens to be novel length (just - only 78k words). But anyway, whatever you want to call it, the first draft is finally finished. This ought to be cause for some celebration. After all, I've been working on the damn thing, off and on (increasingly off, decreasingly on) since June 2010. And don't get me wrong, I did celebrate a little, in my own way. I didn't punch the air, or crack open a bottle of anything, but I did have a quiet moment and a wry smile. Success! And yes, I am fully aware of how much work there still is to do, with editing and rewrites, filling logic and plot holes, all that good stuff. But success all the same.

So why the ironic post title? And why the "sad man" image, above? (Both explained by watching this.) It's this. My fictional (anti-)hero and I, well, we've been hanging out together, on paper and in my head, for five and a half years. I know him better than I know most of my work colleagues. He feels like a friend, albeit a messed-up friend with a whole host of problems. And since there won't be a sequel, that's it - that's his story told.

I won't be so crass as to say I'm in mourning, but I do feel some small sense of loss. I'm not writing the novel(-length work) any more. The fun part is over, and that huge emotional and intellectual investment, paid out over years, is suddenly gone. And I'm feeling it. Anyone else have the same problem?

I guess the obvious way to fill the void is to start on the next project but I can't, not whole-heartedly, until all the edits and re-writes of this one are done. In the meantime ... is there a "seven stages of grief for writers" out there, somewhere?

Friday, 15 January 2016

Learn from the greats ...

The writer Stephen King. Photograph: Steve Schofield (commissioned by The Guardian)... or, since I am editing and have nothing new or finished to blog about, let me instead direct you to a recent(ish) article from The Guardian entitled Ten things I learned about writing from Stephen King. To me, "thing" seven is the crunch.

Still here? Go on, scat!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Christmas gift idea? Book tokens!

When I was a kid, one of the greatest presents you could get was a book token. Okay, it might not look much, a little slip of paper (then) in a scratty envelope - not much to unwrap there, or play with straight away. But the possibilities... and the choice... and the anticipation...

And the hours I spent in the narrow (even for a kid) aisles of the sadly now-defunct Albion Bookshop, with a book token carefully folded in my pocket... golden moments, those.

I was reminded of all this when I saw an ad for National Book Tokens this morning, which centred around this:

I count around fifteen references there, how about you?

Anyway, while you're thinking about that, if you're stuck for last-minute Christmas gift ideas, especially for kids, don't just buy them chocolate or an iTunes giftcard. Buy them a book token. They might not all thank you for it - you risk your own moment of "I hate Uncle Jamie" - but you're giving the gift of possibilities, choice, anticipation... and books. What could be finer?

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Amazon goes full circle...

...and opens an actual, physical bookshop.

The BBC have the full story. Amazon has its own spin too.