I had lots of things I was going to do and then I picked up a book #amreading #amwriting

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I lived my life in books #amwriting

I have never been a person enamoured with that thing called adventure. If there is something exciting going on, I am usually heading in the other direction. For me adventure is trying out a new restaurant, or cutting an extra inch off my hair.

I think the technical term is ‘novelty averse’.

I am the sort of person who feels deeply emotional when hearing an anecdotal story about someone I have never even met. Homeless puppies, sagas of lost journals, can really tear me up. If there’s a spider trapped in a sink, I am the kind of person who rescues it—Ok, maybe not the spider.

Despite this I have lived a million adventures within the pages of a book, and particularly bloodthirsty adventures at that.

Yes, I will confess at this point that I possess particularly violent taste when it comes to other peoples adventures. Torture and killing is absolutely fine in the quest of a good story—the more brutal the better. Our heroes wouldn’t have a chance to shine without a few trials and obstacles in their way.

Let’s face it, a walk in the park never made a hero—unless the walk in the park happened to involve thwarting an attack by alien vampires with secret plans to destroy the earth.

Perhaps it’s just as well that I stick to the books 😉

I love adventure…inside my book #amwriting

I have never been a person enamoured with that thing called adventure. If there is something exciting going on, I am usually heading in the other direction. For me adventure is ‘trying out a new restaurant’, or ‘cutting an extra inch off my hair’.

I think the technical term is ‘novelty averse’.

I am the sort of person who feels deeply emotional when hearing an anecdotal story about someone I have never even met. Homeless puppies, sagas of lost journals, can really tear me up. If there’s a spider trapped in a sink, I am the kind of person who rescues it—Ok, maybe not the spider.

Despite this I have lived a million adventures within the pages of a book, and particularly bloodthirsty adventures at that!

Yes, I should confess at this point that I possess particularly violent taste when it comes to other peoples adventures. Torture and killing is absolutely fine in the quest of a good story—the more brutal the better. Our heroes wouldn’t have a chance to shine without a few trials and obstacles in their way.

Let’s face it, a walk in the park never made a hero—unless the walk in the park happened to involve thwarting an attack by soul-eating aliens with secret plans to destroy the earth…

Perhaps it’s just as well that I stick to the books 😉

The writing apprenticeship #amwriting

At the bottom of the article is a wonderful video, and well worth a watch for those who might be struggling to match their writing passion to their desired quality of work.

There are a few takeaways, but amongst them, that it is Okay for it to take time between starting your writing journey and achieving that illusive thing called quality.

Here’s a great notion to wrap your head around…most writers, even successful writers, still consider themselves to be amateurs. Not sure what that makes the rest of us, but I guess at its heart, we should simply only ever strive to do better tomorrow than we did today, should make our next book better than our last, and should not judge our first work too unfairly.

We have to start somewhere, and we have to learn along the way.

I recently went to a writing seminar, and as always at such events you quickly get into a discussion with fellow writers, about what you have done so far in your writing journey, and what you are planning to do next.

I was surprised by the number of people who wanted to be a writer but had written virtually nothing to date.

I realised that I was nothing like them, and that my own journey was considerably longer and slower.

Were these new writers being overly ambitious? Perhaps they were, or perhaps they were simply starting from a higher baseline than me. One thing I have realised from my own writing journey is that I am incredibly slow, and I have (in my old age) become comfortable with simply reaching my writing destination at my own snail-like pace.

So, here is my writing journey.

As a child

Sometimes parents just know their children love books – I was one such child. As long as I can recall I was either being read to, or reading for myself. I consumed books at a voracious rate, and my whole family indulged me. Not sure what to get me for Christmas or birthdays? Just get me a book, and they did in vast numbers. I read them just as fast. Pretty much at any point of my childhood I was reading age relevant books. I loved the fairy tales of mythical places and imaginary kingdoms, talking animals, dragons, castles, that was right up my street. My mother bought me a new ladybird book every week, and it was my absolute favourite treat. Sleeping beauty, The Princess and the Pea, The Roald Dahl collection, Aesops fables – these were my staple reading as a child. Later, I progressed to books such as The Mill on the Floss, and The Hobbit. 

Young adult

I started writing myself just after university (over twenty years ago now), and I have been writing pretty much ever since. It ebbs and flows as with all things in life. That pesky thing called reality and work can get in the way, but I have always been drawn back to write. And of course I never stopped reading.

I write a lot

During the last 20 years I wrote hundreds of parts of books, and a total of 2 full books, before I considered myself close to proficient. That’s a lot of writing. I wrote whatever and whenever I fancied. I didn’t constrict my ideas or my genre; I just leapt right in and wrote.

I considered this my apprenticeship of writing. I have no formal writing qualifications, I have the usual high school exams and good grades in English language and literature, but went on to complete a degree in maths and computing, and my career is based around that.

Regret 

If I had one regret it would be that I did not stop to consider what I loved doing when I was younger, and that I had selected a degree that would complement my love of writing. But that’s just life isn’t it, we don’t always make the perfect decision, and we learn from whatever we do.

You know when it’s the one

I guess some people, such as the ones I met on my writing course, just know straight off that they have found the ‘one’, and some people, like me, have to battle through a vast and extended apprenticeship before they decide to commit to publishing a book.

One thing I do not regret is all the years I have spent writing, or the books I wrote that were not quite right. They taught me a lot.

We all have to start somewhere.

As the video mentions, we all must pass through an apprenticeship of some kind, whether that apprenticeship is long or short doesn’t really matter, the important thing is that we keep going and we come out on the other side.

I realise that I am not a finished product, that my life will teach me much more about writing, and that I will ultimately look back on my first published novel and realise it wasn’t my best. And that is a wonderful thought—to expect that I will always keep improving.

I also realise that we all have to start somewhere, and that the most important step is simply to start.

I hope you enjoy the video 🙂 and happy writing!

Divided Serenity out now on all Amazon stores, and free with Kindle Unlimited.

Divided Serenity Book Cover

Arguing with a fool #amreading #amwriting

A wise old man once said that “arguing with a fool only proves that there are two.”

I came across this video a few days ago and I have played it about ten times since. When you are a writer, you never simply watch things and move on. If you are anything like me, then everything you come across in life gets analysed to death.

So, what do I like about the hapless wildebeest and their short but funny show…

I like the fact that it is short, and yet still manages to be powerful.

This got me thinking about long stories and short stories. I have read books of all lengths. I am just as comfortable with a well structured novella, as I am with the epic ten book series you can get in the fantasy fiction genre. I have seen both good and bad examples of both – the novella where you think ‘erm, where’s the rest of the story?’ and the fat novel that waffles on and on with out making any credible progress until you just want to shake the hero or heroine by the neck and demand they make a decision – anything just to move the damn story along.

I also like the fact that it is funny, and yet that does not detract from the depth of its sentiments.

I have read books from nearly every genre, and there is nothing more powerful than books that manage to make us both laugh and cry. I do like moody books, dark books even, and sometimes comedy is just never going to fit. When it does fit, and we balance the fun with a deeper message / theme / whatever it is you are trying to convey – then you have something very special.

Finally, this makes me think about people.

Sometimes when you read a book (or write a book), you stop and think ‘why on earth did they do that – that is stupid’, but we forget, that in life people (and wildebeests) can, and often are, blessed with moments of extreme and unfathomable stupidity.

It was writing a scene not long ago and someone did something ‘foolish’. After, I procrastinated the scene. Was it credible? In character? Can intelligent people have moments of ‘crazy’? Can our less mentally astute have moments of ‘genius’?

Throwing the odd spanner at our characters is what makes them interesting.

And sometimes you just need a little stupid doing what it does best.

The waves of reading and writing #amreading #amwriting

When I first started writing, I had no end goal in mind. I used to write and read like a ping pong ball, bouncing back and forth across the net between reading and writing in rapid succession. In any given day I might read a book of one genre, write a scene in a different genre, and flick back to reading a book in another genre still.

I did this for years, dabbling in reading styles and writing styles and genres of every kind.

I have noticed a change, though, more recently as I have focused on writing complete books … my reading and writing activity now comes in waves.

When I write I become very focused on the writing. It’s like I’m caught up in the process of creation so comprehensively that all I do is write, and I keep doing this until my creative brain is numb. It pulls at me and consumes me, it’s like I fall into the creativity head-space as if it were a very deep well. It takes all of me, and the ideas buzz about like flies, darting in and out of my focus.

When writing, I make lots of notes, jotting ideas down here and there on little scraps of paper, and noting things to check, verify or change.

The speed and intensity builds up until I reach whatever self-directed threshold I desire, such as finishing the draft or perhaps a significant section of the book.

It’s only then that I lift my head and look up and realise that I have been performing the task so exclusively that I don’t know how to do anything else. I look out into the real world; I had forgotten it was there.

During the creativity stage I cut myself off from new information, but after, I find myself reading with the same voracious appetite that I had previously allocated to writing. I often download a few new books to my kindle, and check out the latest posts on all my favourite blogs that I had forgotten about during the frenzy of the writing time.

When reading, I make lots of notes, jotting ideas down here and there on little scraps of paper, and noting things to check, verify or change.

There is probably a third wave around editing, which I feel is a very different skill to either writing or reading, and requires a mind-set shift again. Reading, editing and writing require different thinking patterns, and I find trying to flick between the three too rapidly delivers a poor outcome for my work. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who have the enviable ability to jump between the three activities easily, but for me there is a definite speed and quality drop if I try to incorporate all three too closely together. There is also a saturation point when doing any one of the three for too long, which also has a negative impact.

So for me, reading, and writing (and editing) happen in waves. They have natural saturation points, and when I transition between them I need to relearn / remember the skill again.

As a writer I need all these phases. I could not write forever anymore than I could edit or read forever, and if I tried I would soon find my work bland without fresh input or ideas.

I love the way that both reading and writing generate new ideas in completely different ways. When we write the ideas are internally focused on the book we have in development. When we read the ideas are externally focused, but they still drive changes and ideas for our book. To be a balanced writer and to get the very best out of our work we need our reading and writing waves, however quick or slow they may be.