Here’s what’s going on with the blog.

Woo, first post in a while… how many blog updates start with that. There’s a reason… read on and trust me.

So last time I updated this blog I was just starting an exciting new project to review all the Spider-Man issues, I was reviewing games, posts were regular, life was good. Then I stopped and all content died for about a month, the blog looks all different, and all the pictures are gone now.

Blame my web hosting. Basically I found out my web hosting was coming up for renewal, and I just couldn’t budget for a third year with the same host. If you’ve never paid web hosting before, they all follow the same format, the first year is ridiculously cheap and then it gets progressively more expensive with each passing year. The rely on the fact that most people don’t feel confident enough to move from one host to another once the site is set up to avoid people shopping around. Truth is, if I could afford it, I’d have stuck too but I just couldn’t. It was move, or kill the site.

With that in mind, as soon as I knew I was moving the hosting I pretty much dropped updates because I had no guarantee I could actually move all the content over, (this was all new for me) and it’s hard to really put in good work when you might be torching the whole place in a week or two.

As you can see, the blog is still here. Pictures are done, but the written content is all still alive and well, and updates are coming soon. I still need to tweak the settings and get the place looking nice but we have a safe home for the next 12 months here. When the 12 months is up, we might be moving again, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to in.

This whole thing has raised the usual questions about if I should even have a blog or not when most of the work I do these days is video production on Youtube or seen through Facebook, but I still like having a place to put my written thoughts down. I’d like to get back to using this place regularly, and now Christmas is over I’m going to try make that happen.

I’m paid up for another year, Blogosphere. Let’s hope we have a bright future ahead.

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.

How to write your first story – About Writing: Part 1

This is the start of a series of articles I’ve been meaning to write for some time. I’ve often avoided talking about the writing process because, having read so many great books by great authors on the subject, it’s always felt a little presumptuous to butt in and say “I have opinions on writing too.” Still, enough people have asked me about why I write, how I write, and what it’s like publishing through KDP, that I’ve decided to just push ahead and do it. And what better place to start than at the beginning. 

How to Write Your First Story.

The biggest hurdle for a new writer is taking a piece from the blank page to completion for the first time. We’ve all written stories or started the first chapter of long and winding epics, but being able to take an idea from its conception to a finished piece is what separates a hopeful writer from the real thing. The length of the piece is largely irrelevant. What matters is being able to step back from a piece and say that it is complete in itself. Unfortunately too many new writers get completely lost in the process, leaving cluttered desktops of half-finished ideas, never really know where they went wrong. Not so long ago, that was me. If it sounds familiar to you, read on.

There’s a reason new writers get tangled up in their stories and abandon them. From a young age, we are encouraged to write. Children are natural storytellers, they can fill pages and pages with their imaginative scrawl. Unfortunately, we aren’t taught how to write well until fairly late in our lives. When most start writing seriously, they begin as they had as a child. They write the first words on the page and go from there, expecting a story to spring forth. Then after a couple of sentences, they go back and read, only to find it doesn’t sound as clean, or as clear, as the last published author they read. It can be disheartening, and a lot of people stop there and never start again.

Somewhere along the line, we acquire the notion that writing should come naturally. That those who write well, do so as freely as others write a shopping list. But writing as an art form isn’t like that. It’s just like picking up a paintbrush for the first time, or learning your first notes on an instrument, we can all do these things but that doesn’t mean we can paint or play the saxophone. We have to learn a little craft.

The Stages

Writing is really made up of three stages. Everyone’s approach  is a little different, but if you asked around, I think you’d find broad agreement with this. Each stage requires a different set of skills, and trying to work on them all at once is a surefire way to get mixed up. Try to think of each stage as a different hat, a separate role you step into.

Stage 1 – Planning.

The first step is all about figuring out what you’re going to write. There’s lots of debate as to how much you should plan. Some writers go completely off to cuff, but they’re a rarity. Other plan almost paragraph to paragraph in excruciating detail before they start, but they’re the exception too. Personally, I find I need a loose plan that details what my story is about, how it’s going to evolve as it goes, and the final resolution. If I don’t have one, I write myself into a corner. If I plan too tightly, the writing becomes restrictive and I can’t get into the flow of this better.

For short stories, I usually break the idea down into three acts, and write a paragraph or two in each laying out the narrative. A plan doesn’t need to be clean, or tight, or even well written. It just needs to guide the flow of the story a little so you’re not trying to plot the next twist and turn of your story while you’re trying to write a good scene.

For your first story, try writing out a plan for a 1000 word story. A good start is to divide your plan into three, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. (Each would be about 333 words long.) For now, ignore the old storytelling tropes like “put a man up a tree”, just get an idea you like and loosely plot it with three acts.  Keep it simple, something too complicated won’t fit well into the word count.

Stage 2 – The First Draft

The first draft is probably the most important part of the process. It is closest to what most people think of when they think of writing, and with good reason. It’s the stage where you’re probably going to be doing the most work. For me, it’s my favourite part of the entire process. I know other writers who find it to be a slow and agonising step, with each word like hard labour. For a first draft, you will take your plan and turn it into a story. This means sitting at your computer, typewriter, pen and paper, or whatever you’re using, and actually writing for significant lengths of time.

This is where a lot of people fall down. Writing can be hard work, and it’s tough to keep your inner editor at bay. Artists of all kinds will tell you, looking back on your own work is extra hard because you can always see all the little flaws. It’s easy to look back your first drafts and hate your work, but you have to ignore that voice. Probably the biggest secret in writing is that all first drafts are terrible. You will hear stories of writers like Harlan Ellison who knocked off masterpieces on the fly, but those guys were magazine writers who hammered out science fiction stories for a penny a word, day after day, week after week. They did it or they went hungry. You learn to be very good, very fast under conditions like that. For the rest of us? First drafts suck, they all suck, and it doesn’t matter, because you never have to show it to anyone.

Writing a good first draft is just about turning the plan into a more elaborate, expressive piece. As a writer, your job is to be completely unrestrained. Take off your editor’s hat completely, and tell yourself that you can write whatever you want, however you want. A lot of what you write will be terrible. A lot of it will be corny, tired rubbish. It’ll be sappy, groan worthy, hackneyed trash, and it’s supposed to be. A first draft is all your ideas, without restraint, or taste, or manners, or patience. Just write the damned thing. We’ll fix it later.

With that in mind, take your plan for a 1000 word story, and write it up into a first draft. It shouldn’t take much time. Writing is a skill you build up over time, typing will come along with it. If you set yourself a little time to work every day, you’ll soon be able to write well over 1000 words in a single sitting. If you aren’t there yet, don’t worry. Write your first act, don’t think too much. Just plug away at it. Then go take a break, think about something else, then come back and do the next. Soon you’ll have all three written. They might be terrible. But they’ll be done.

Stage 3 – Rewriting

Once your first draft is done, you let it settle. Maybe for a day, maybe for a few days, maybe longer. The idea is to come back to the work with a clear head. Now you put on the editor’s hat, the nagging voice that has been trying to drown out everything else through this entire process. Now you re-read your story, and you make changes.

I don’t love rewriting. After the first draft is when the fun ends for me. About the only pleasure I get from rewriting is seeing good writing slowly being brought out of the bad. Again, everyone’s approach is different. Some start almost from scratch, using their first draft as a loose plan to a major rewrite. I don’t have the stamina for that, personally I prefer a read and polish approach. I take a finished first draft, save a backup so I can always go back to it, and the I read the story through. I try to detach myself from it, and read it as I would any book I’d picked up from the shelf. Every time I hit something that doesn’t read right, anything that sticks in my mind as feeling wrong, I rewrite it. When I get to the end of the story, I start again. When I can read the story through comfortably, I pass it on to some other people to read and get some feedback. A word of warning though, it is possible to rewrite too much. To get too caught up in the process, and essentially write your story to death. Draining your own writing of all its character and humanity in an attempt to get the writing cleaner, purer. If you’ve got to the point where you’re just swapping words in and out and it’s not making much of a difference, it’s time to stop.

Stephen King in his excellent book On Writing, describes rewriting as being like a sculptor working stone, with each pass of the chisel bringing out more detail and refinement to the finished piece. It’s an analogy that really works for me, and it keeps me going through the lengthy process.

I’ve gotten better at it as the years have gone by. My first story published, Christmas Past, was a nightmare rewrite. I read and re-read that story so many times for months that I could still tell you every line from the book. Over time, your writing grows and improves. Today my first drafts come out cleaner, and my rewriting goes quicker.

Now it’s back to you. After you’ve given your first draft some time, go back. Read it, re-read it, and edit it as you go. Try to make the writing smooth, make it read well and feel confident and clear. When you’ve subjected it to a re-write or two, let it settle again. Read it after a few days and see how it feels, share it with others and see what they think. It might need another rewrite, but if you can step back and say “I’ve taken this as far as I can” then well do, you have successfully written your first story!

Welcome to the New Blog!

Hello!

If you came here from my old WordPress.com page, you’ll know that I just migrated everything that was there, over to here and everything looks much the same. If you’re knew here, you won’t know any of that, but you’re welcome all the same.

I have moved my blog over to my own hosting and domain because it just makes sense for the future. WordPress.com is a really good service for free hosting and I recommend it to everyone as their first step in blogging, but I’d just grown past it. Sure, it was a lot more fiddly and time consuming just getting the blog to look the same as it did before, but I have a lot more options open to me now.

A big part of why I have this blog is to promote my writing. Part of that is posting stories, and reviewing other great books, films and games that have influenced me, and WordPress.com was great for that, but I also need to be able to incorporate other services I use into the blog more. That means plugins, my own hosting, flexibility. Anything that can streamline my workload makes the change a little more worthwhile.

More importantly, while WordPress.com doesn’t take any sort of ownership of your content, in a way they do control your site. You are at their whim. Paying for my own hosting and domain lets me take control of my work, and my platform in a way I couldn’t before.

So, I hope you’ll all forgive me for the inconvenience. Now let’s resume regular service.

Owen

My Favourite Posts of 2012.

Cadbury's Favourites2012 was a good year for me. I took my first big steps as a writer, started this blog and got a lot done in my personal life. The blog has been one of my proudest achievements and I’ve written some things that I’m really happy with. I’m not a big fan of all that New Year’s retrospective stuff, but I have been meaning to look back over 2012 and talk about some of my favourite posts. As we’re into February now, this is probably my last chance.

So here goes, these are a few of the posts I’m most proud of from 2012.

Why I Write Science Fiction – A little piece from when I started coming to terms with my “science fiction author” label.

The Five Bests (And Worst) Time Travellers – I don’t really do these Top Five lists anymore, but they were always fun to write up. This was my favourite.

What We Can Really Learn From the Mayans – This little post was an observation on all the Mayan apocalypse hysteria.

Iron Man – This didn’t technically hit my blog until a couple of days into 2013, but it was written before that so I’m including it on the list. Iron Man was a personal story about my Dad, my first Christmas present, and gender.

Fifty

50pFifty posts. The blog has had Fifty Posts. There are as many posts as the infamous Shades of Grey, if you can believe it.

This might not seem like a landmark to you because, well, you are not me. (In case you hadn’t noticed.) But this is a big number for me because this blog is an important part of both my career and my life. It is my main method of communication with the world, it is where I get the chance to talk about my books, my career and sometimes (gasp) myself in more than 140 characters. Furthermore, it is doing quite a bit better than my attempts at blogging in the past have done, so I’m quite proud if it. With that in mind, I’m going to use this post to be selfish and do a bit of self promotion.

My name is Owen Adams, I am a writer living in the UK. My books are available on the Kindle store if you would like to buy them, and if you like this blog then I would be delighted if you followed me on twitter. I’m online there far too much and always interested in conversation.