Quick Updates

Carrier PigeonHey guys, it has been a while since my last post so I’m just giving you a few updates. I’ve been scaling things back the last couple of weeks because after moving the blog to its new hosting and the work recording Those Aren’t Biscuits, I’ve just been so burned out. I just wanted to take some time, give my brain time to cool and re-focus things a little bit. I put a lot of my short fiction projects on the back burner for a while and started seriously working on a novel. Then I scrapped it and started a new one.

So, it has been slow work. I’ve been taking it steady, I’m working on an idea I had a long time ago and I’ve plotted it in a lot more detail than I’m used to. (To be honest, the plotting probably pushed me into full burnout mode. It’s more stressful than it looks.) But now I’m back to my usual schedule, I’m writing every day and I’m working through the story. A few details need rethinking, but for that most part it’s working out well.

I also have the pleasure of working in a genre that’s completely new to me. (Crime/Supernatural) So, all play and no work right now.

In other news, I’m reading a lot more lately. I’m pushed myself through the first Game of Thrones book and I’m making good progress on the second. I’m enjoying them, though not completely without criticism. I’m a sporadic reader, at times I can burn through books but often I need to force myself through. I’m trying to build good habits and keep my mind sharp. It has been a learning experience already, as I’ve found something I really admire in George R. R. Martin’s style. He presents a large amount of characters, each chapter follows a different character’s POV, and yet he always manages to advance the plot significantly without playing the omniscient narrator. Characters will often discuss events occurring simultaneously, but from their own unique perspective. It means the story is always moving forward, even when the players involved aren’t “on-screen.” It’s a skill I’d love to develop.

Lastly, I know I’ve posted Lego pics here before, but I’ll be reviving my old Lego blog at http://bricksfix.blogspot.com if you’re interested in following that kind of stuff.

Can you listen to music while you write?

TrumpetNot so long ago I was a major multi-tasker. When I was in school my PC was a treasure trove of a million MP3s and Heavy Metal was the soundtrack to my life. Everything I did, I did to music, but when I got to University I noticed I was finding it harder to write up a decent essay unless I made things a little quieter. Maybe I’d always been that way and I was under performing without noticing, I don’t know, but I did notice my productivity shot up when I shut off the tunes.

Nowadays I have the opposite problem, there’s not much I can do while I’m listening to something in the background. My writing environment needs to be a temple of the gods of silence, or I get all tetchy and I write in dribs and drabs. Maybe I’m just turning into an old fogey, but I’m noticing it creepy into the rest of my life too. I’ve become a person who needs his quiet places to get anything done. At times it can be a real hindrance, so I’ve actually started deliberately writing to music a little every day. I’m hoping I can stop my brain from being so picky and learn to process two things at once.

So, how about you guys? Do you like silence or do you need a good piece of music to set the rhythm?

Those Aren’t Biscuits – 013

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Hey guys, the latest episode of Those Aren’t Biscuits is live now. I’ve been lax in posting the updates to the site lately, but I’m getting back on it.

It’s a very special Biscuits this week as we open the floor to the public and take on some really strange questions. After that we get talk about why Jon isn’t allowed to play CounterStrike, we have Deja Vu about Majora’s Mask, and we kill the mood by saying serious things about Peurto Rico. There’s just time to talk about the latest game made especially for the common man before we go.

Listen here, or subscribe on iTunes.

 

Another year, another novel started.

writerIt has been a while since I’ve posted day to day writing updates, but I’m trying to get back in the habit. Progress is going well on my new project so I’m sharing a few details.

I don’t usually work on novels outside of November, but I really need more practice. I decided a few months ago that when I finished the last round of Flash Fiction stories, I’d work on something longer. The writing has been fast so far, I’ve been at it a week and I’ve already hit 10k, but I’m already seeing some of my old weaknesses peeking through. Characters are talking about events more than events are unfolding; there’s a lot of recapping and discussion. It makes me nervous even at this early stage because I don’t have much experience fixing these sort of problems.

One solution I had in mind was to rewrite one of my old NaNoWriMo drafts while I go. That way I can motivate myself by watching another rough draft improve. I started writing Flash Fiction because I felt like it took too long to get to the rewriting stage. The idea was to polish up these little gems and get a better idea of my abilities. In the long run, I think this has held me back as I’ve become more reluctant to tackle longer works. I’m hoping to break out of that bad habit this year. Hopefully, rewriting old rejected drafts will have the same benefits the short pieces did.

I like short fiction a lot, but I have always wanted to write good novels. Somewhere along the way I have stopped focusing on that, and it’s time to get back on track.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Is Short Fiction Selling for You?

It’s been three years since I started my path in self-publishing by posting Christmas Past to Amazon. I put a lot of work into preparing that little story, designing a cover and rewriting it so often I can probably still recite it start to finish. Since then I’ve published another standalone story and three collections, but I’ve noticed in the years since that short fiction has become a tougher sell. It used to be that sales would trickle in even when I didn’t promote the book heavily, since then I can’t even get a decent spike in my sales during a free promotion.

Over the last three months, sales for that first little book look like this:

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It has all be a little demoralising for me, because the big draw in self publishing has always been the opportunities it offers for writers working in non-traditional markets. With the decline of the fiction magazine, self publishing can fill that gap, but not if the market just doesn’t exist. I’ve made mistakes along the way, I know. I waited too long between books early on and I’ve really dragged my feet when it comes to getting a novel on the store, but performance is still way below what I’d expect by now.

So, I’m putting the call out. If you write and self publish short fiction, particularly for kindle, how are you doing with it? Has progress been in line with your expectations? Let me know in the comments, or drop me an email.

5 Tips for Writing a First Draft – About Writing: Part 4

Hey guys, this is the latest post in my series About Writing. This week I’m covering writing another subject I touched on briefly in my step-by-step guide to writing your first story. I know a lot of writers struggle to get past their first draft, so I hope this is helpful. If there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover in future, you can drop me a line

Enjoy! 

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1) Write now, edit Later

One of the hardest things about getting through the first draft is separating out your inner writer from your inner editor. Each role uses different parts of the brain and they’d don’t co-operate well. If you let your editor take over while you’re still in first draft, you’ll never make any real progress. Worse still, your inner editor isn’t really going to do a good job until it’s got a complete piece to work with. Worrying too much about sentence structure and characterisation when your plot doesn’t even have an ending is like taking two steps forward and one step back. When you’re writing your first draft, leave your editor at the door. His time will come.

2) Have a plan and know it well

We’ve covered before why it’s so important to have a plan, even a loose one. You’ll encounter seat-of-the-pants writers all the time, but they’ve usually honed their skills over years. Just remember, writing isn’t like following a set of blueprints. You need to be free to write what comes to mind and get a feel for the piece. Your plan should be clear enough, and loose enough that you can learn the major points without too much worry. Then when it comes to writing, you can just sit at the keys without having to refer back to your plan. Get the story clear in your mind, and the words will flow soon after.

3) Don’t be afraid to go off script

A plan is important, but it’s usually a little sterile. They’re created from the spark of a bright idea, but often a plan just hammers out a functioning plot from that premise. During the writing process you’re going to be setting off a lot more sparks in your head, you need to be free to follow these whims if and when they crop up. A plan should prevent you writing yourself into a corner, but if you find it’s inhibiting new ideas, take a detour. Whatever happens, you’re in control, and you can always find a way back the pre-arranged path if you need to. The idea is to always do what’s best for the story.

4) Specifics can wait

Don’t get bogged down in the details. The best thing about a first draft is that nothing is permanent, you can always sort things out later. Can’t decide on a name for a new character? Don’t sit back and mull it over until you find the perfect name, write the first name that comes into your head and move on. The same goes for any little details. Technical details, place names, references, sources for quotes. Whatever it is, it can probably be worked out later. Just write whatever you have now, and mark the place with a little star. When it comes to rewriting, you can take as much time as you like making it perfect.

5) Write unrestrained

Restrictions and confinements are as much a part of good art as unbridled creativity. Painters study colour wheels to learn which colours go together and which don’t, musicians usually confine themselves to musical scales. For a writer, rewriting is very much a process of restricting, restraining and cutting writing to make it read better. In the first draft, however, it’s important for the writer to be as liberated as possible in their approach. This means you should write every sentence as it comes to you. Don’t worry if the language seems corny, or if the subject matter starts to become graphic or distasteful. Don’t worry about subtlety, be totally overt about what you want to say and why. When it comes to rewriting, you’re going to smooth things down and clean things up. Make sure you know exactly what you’re trying to say first.


 

If this article was useful to you, take a look at my other posts exploring the writing process, or check out some of my books on Amazon. Subscribe using the box on the right for more updates and articles.