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Take your story from idea to object

You prepare a synopsis, with all plot points from beginning to end via email. Don’t think of it as a teaser, I will need to see the spoilers and points where your story turns. Also, don’t worry if there are gaps. This will be where I come in.

 

You then fill out  your synopsis, email it to me, with a small consultation fee.

 

I will contact you with questions to clarify points in your story, your wishes and expectations.

I prepare and send you a report which highlights key areas, based on your concerns and my observations. If you have any questions about my findings, then you are free to ask as many as you need to.

 

You then prepare a new outline/synopsis based on my findings, which will give you a solid framework to complete or revise your story.

 

For an additional but reduced fee, additional consulting sessions are available if you want further revisions or want a more detailed report. It is all done with the sole aim of making your story the absolute best it can be.

 

You are not bound to follow any of my suggestions. I waive right to any additions you use, nor even entertain the thought of asking. It’s all yours, to use or disregard as you wish. You retain any and all rights to your work, and everything you share with me is in strictest confidence.

Contact me for further details: thelov3w3mak3@gmail.com

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This morning’s pages went deep into the supernatural/spiritual element of the book. It also allowed me to do a small measure of foreshadowing and make some connection to events that will pay off later in the book. There was a great degree of poetic license, sensory information and I aimed to capture the emotional power of such a change in perceptions rather than make it like a destination that could be reached with a stout walk and a nod to Google maps.

I understand enough about magic to see that it’s about changing your perceptions. Arthur C Clarke once said that any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  We can talk to people who might be thousands of miles and hours apart on devices that fit in our pockets, yet we are still unsatisfied. Perhaps it’s because we cannot truly say what we feel, sometimes, but still I think about these things especially when I write about such things, tangentially or otherwise.

It made for a dense two pages, and I was pleased with the execution of it. It will continue into tomorrow, I think, but it’s a palate cleanser, a sign that we are not in the world that we know, but somewhere else. Whether that is a good or a bad place depends upon the perception of the reader and the needs of the story. I did some research on vision quests, and found that the anecdotal accounts lack something, so I placed the writer’s caveat of ‘make it all up’ on the issue and found my way into it like that.

I finished Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon yesterday. It was an intense, powerful book that managed to be arousing, melancholic, shocking and disturbing whilst maintaining a lovely phrasing and energy throughout. Someone commented that they had read it twice, and still not understood it, and I came away with more of an impression that it touches on themes rather than says ‘this is this.’ It was a beautiful book and it provoked some interesting thoughts and ideas for me to explore, personally and creatively.

As a bit of a palate cleanser, I read Attica Locke’s Pleasantville, which is the third book to feature her lawyer protagonist Jay Porter. I had not read the previous books, but I enjoyed it, as it took an approach similar to The Wire, in that it shows the interplay between ambition, public image and personal passion whilst hanging on a murder charge that did not take as much of the book up as I had expected. There were some interesting choices here, it is chockful of internal details and in Porter, there is a wounded protagonist who is doing the right thing, at some personal cost. I enjoyed it because it was solid, made it’s points and did not cheat me, as a reader, out of any visceral experiences contained therein.

Thank you for reading.

 

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Two Pages (30/10/16)

 

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This morning, with the new book, I worked on a little exposition, telling rather than showing, but that can be reshaped and parsed out. Sometimes it is good to get out on paper where you are going, and allows me to foreshadow as well. Not that it was a negative thing to do, you understand but it was what was in me at the time, so I went along with it. There’s a lot of story, something came up in the writing that will hopefully give me the setting I need to really punch up the third act climax and getting the internal conflict into play will allow me some breathing room when I need to take the pace down.

The voice is there, I’ve found the rhythm, I just keep going until it’s done.

I have been reading Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, but ended up finishing Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman last night, for some relief. Pynchon is enjoyable, but it’s dense and complex writing, a playful genius but still daunting at points. Not that this is a negative reflection on Gaiman at all, I love his writing. It’s so smooth and conversational, he communicates myth and magic really well, so it was a delightful way to finish the evening. I will resume Gravity’s Rainbow this morning, I think. It’s a masterclass and a wonderful, lusty, entertaining story dressed in some exquisite writing.

I will be posting some more writing here later today. A drabble and another piece, both for the writing group. Then out with the dog and some more reading. Thank you for reading this.

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Two Pages (29/10/16)

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I am now eleven pages into the new book, it’s starting to find it’s voice, and the balance between the language and the story is pleasing. You learn from your failures in writing, and those lessons are the soil from which your next work grows. For instance, I’m far more aware of narrative tension as a tool to keep the reader interested. Asking questions, and then delaying the answers until the need is great, but not so much that you run out of road and have to answer them in breathless, deathless bursts of prose.

I’ve been reading a bunch of Barry Eisler’s work on the Kindle, as it’s available via Kindle Unlimited, which is firmly in the groove of muscular, propulsive techno-thriller. The latter books lose a little momentum but they were enjoyable and easy reads, and reflect Eisler’s growth and focus as he goes on. If anyone is heir apparent to Tom Clancy, then I would recommend Barry Eisler as he does a good job. His latest, Livia Lone, was superb and I hope that he writes more about her as the balance between story and action made it a poignant and involving read.

I have also enjoyed Dear Thief by Samantha Riven, which is an educated, meditative book that also happens to be awash with grief and eroticism, written in an epistolary style, which is a narrative device that can lead to navel gazing that alienates the reader. Here, though, Riven crafts a story that is humane, poignant and full of painful truths. It moved me quite deeply, and it’s one that I would recommend to anyone with the strength to bear it’s truths.

I will be posting some more work later today, so I hope that you will have something that enlivens your weekend. Thank you for reading.

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Two Pages (28/10/16)

 

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I am making good progress on the new book. It took a little adjustment but the changes in setting and language have allowed me to develop in ways that surprised me this morning. It is a balance between serving the story, avoiding cliche and not doing service to the culture that I am using to give colour and texture to the story.

Fortunately, I know where I am going with this, and although there is room for exploration, which I always allow myself in order to give a maximum amount of expression to the work, the path is clear and I walk it each day, two pages at a time. I know that I am wilfully vague about the details, but it’s been my experience, that if I tell you what it’s about, then I lose the incentive to write it.

It is important that the work I do, reflects the influences and person that I am at that particular point. The amount of reading I do influences the quality of it. I do not plagiarise, because it is pointless and too easy. I feed off the reading that I do, see how a particular writer goes about achieving an effect or works out a sequence and then look at it in the context of my own writing. The old maxim of ‘write what you know’ is oft-discussed and misinterpreted, it can be an effective block of the creative impulse but I think that it’s a nuanced discussion.  I write whatever is in me at the time, about the things that can sustain interest for an entire book. I know who I write for, and that allows me to focus on the simple act of turning up each day and doing it.

Thank you for reading.

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Two Pages (27/10/16)

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I wrote another two pages of the new book this morning. Yesterday, I worked on the structure of it, using Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid so I know where the beats and obligatory scenes are. I also did quite a bit of reading for research purposes. It’s not historically accurate but I like to work in some nods to the culture, and where it doesn’t work, I just make it up. I’m aiming for plausibility rather than accuracy with this, atmosphere and also working in an entirely different setting without some of the touchstones that have informed earlier books.

Technology, essentially. Although, as Arthur C Clarke said, any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, so it’s all the same thing, just portrayed in different ways. The language I am using is different, still english, still hopefully in my voice but it’s meant to evoke different effects and another sort of atmosphere.  I am making overtures towards finishing off The Ogden Review, as we’re deep into the third act and it’s a bittersweet experience because I’ve enjoyed writing them.

I finished a couple of books yesterday in addition to the research material, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, which was gorgeous and moving, Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook, which was a different experience on the page versus the (very enjoyable) film, which is always present with adaptations. I also finished Spark by John Twelve Hawks and Night Music by John Connolly. I also took a lovely long walk with the dog as well, went out into the marshes and just took everything in.

Thank you for reading.

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Two Pages (26/10/16)

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I started writing a new piece in longhand, having finished editing She’s Here. I won’t start on Lawful Evil in 2nd draft until enough time has elapsed that I can go back into it with a new perspective, transcribing and editing as I go. The work continues for me, always.

At my writing group last night, we discussed NaNoWriMo and one of our members is doing it this year. I did try it once, and came away with a graphic novel script called Ghost Limb Palm but it was not an experience that I felt benefited me personally or professionally to any degree. My work routine is constant, and it allows me to write to a constant degree, to detach the process from the achievement and to still achieve.

Every month for me is NaNoWriMo because I don’t stop working. I am either editing or working on something new, and that’s when I am not working on short stories or poetry. I am not disdainful of it in the slightest and I applaud anyone who takes it on. It’s important to know what you don’t benefit from, as much as what you do.

I went to the library as well yesterday, picked up a book called Spark by John Twelve Hawks which was a techno-thriller, with a lot of pulp energy that I finished this morning and I am now reading Night Music by John Connolly, which is lovely and perfect for the time of year.

Thank you for reading. I continue to grow and thrive, as I always have. Writing gives me courage, to see the worth in those who do not see it within themselves and to take flight without forgetting where you start from. I wish that for everyone.

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Two Pages (19/10/16)

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I wrote two pages of Lawful Evil, the second section of background exposition narrated in first person. These pieces don’t go always go into later drafts verbatim because sometimes I cut them into pieces and seed them throughout the work. With these, and an earlier section, I like the voices that I used here. It’s a perspective that I have seen done in other books and it lends weight to the different textures of the book.

Editing She’s Here was productive this morning, cut some extraneous details and tidied up some of the language. I tend to work to a rule of cutting around 10% but sometimes it has been more, and that gives me an opportunity to put forward the intention of the scene. I am putting more narrative colour in terms of talking about Tommy’s emotions and relationships. Finding where the pain and emotion within me lives and putting it onto the page.

The writing makes me feel pretty. There are a lot of times in life that you need that place where you are kind to yourself, especially when circumstances deny you that opportunity and my writing allows me to do that. It’s keeping me upright a lot of the time, and allowing me to function at points when I otherwise would not.

It does not mean that I put anything less than my all into it. I focus on making the story sing and mine whatever quality is within me.

I am reading A History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. It is the first Booker Prize winning book I’ve read. Awards attract my interest but my passion for reading is too inclusive, I know what i like but I am always willing to give different genres and stories a chance. We all have our favourites, but I enjoy trying, failing, succeeding with different authors. The book itself is intense, challenging but it moves at a breakneck pace, moving in all sorts of different directions before returning with a controlled mastery of history and setting. I am reminded of James Ellroy, who has always combined history, crime and the ambitions of others into blistering, exhausting stories with a similar amount of skill.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

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Two Pages(13/10/16)

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The two pages this morning were solid, the back and forth of the relationship between the protagonist and her mother has been a quiet source of pride for me in capturing both the narcissism and it’s impact. I know a few narcissists, and I hope that I have done them proud. It also allowed me to go and revisit the earlier part of the book for reference, which is something that always makes me feel especially competent. I love it when I read it, a reference to something that you experienced as a different person but now seen in an entirely different light. What was text becomes subtext, and what was subtext becomes text again.

I used the quote above, because so often, strong emotion is seen as impediment as much as inspiration. Either in using your art to resist it, or explore it, in the same way that you would handle fissionable material with proper protective materials. All emotion is energy trapped by a thought, and our emotions are layered, they form traps and barriers as well as they do weapons. If I have said hurtful, dismissive things then it has been because I have felt hurt and dismissed and in it’s own way, it’s to continue a severed connection, usually to something that felt real but turned out to be illusory. James Baldwin once said –

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However, and this is where I lose the literary cachet and respect that the last paragraph might have garnered from you, I like to use emotion in much the same way as the subway scene in Ghost shows. All your love, your hate and focus it to the tip of your finger and then push. Sometimes it’s exhausting, like pushing a penny uphill with your nose and I am well aware that I am touching on ‘woo’ here but stay with me. If you can get it out of your body, then that energy goes into a page.

A sentence.

Three words.

I love you. Sometimes from the same person, that can lift you up like taking flight, then in a different context, you no longer believe them and it feels like a date stamp, a meaningless gesture and you feel betrayed that they would use that. Now you can say that word in any number of ways, and have it mean any number of things. Words have a utility beyond imagining, it’s why I love them so much. It’s why I built a blanket fort out of them to hide inside when the world is too much to bear.  It’s not the same as throwing yourself into your work, because no spreadsheet can ever comfort you. It’s a distraction but art/writing etc is where you can take what is useful and discard the unnecessary parts.

People do that to one another all the time, and artists are above all else, people.

In other news, I am now free to finish editing the rest of Until She Sings. After a tangential introduction from a former acquaintance, I am going to bite the bullet and invest in Pro Writing Aid, as a nifty bit of software on annual subscription which illuminates my flaws and sends me into spasms of fearful anguish at my appalling grammar. It’s an investment I will make in myself, part of an ongoing reinvention in order to keep pursuing my goals. There are no more notes coming from the agent now, as they said that it would be repetition of points already sent and fortunately, I have already done a solid run through so it’s more pruning and weeding than digging for the last part of the book. If this is to be my first published book, and I cannot say, because as much work as I’ve put it into it, it doesn’t guarantee me of anything at all. The work is what will last long after I have gone. I am not afraid of rejection,  just don’t enjoy it and having experienced it, professionally and personally, I would rather focus on the professional rejection because I can do something about that. Art harder, as Chuck Wendig said.

I also pitched Lawful Evil and the new untitled book, which will be a personal work expressed through metaphor, names changed to protect the guilty and all that but outlined and informed enough that I can talk to the agent about it’s veracity. Things are moving faster, my cultivated self image and ambition is reaching escape velocity and good things are happening.

Ten thousand joys, ten thousand sorrows.

Thank you for reading.

 

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The Ten Perfections Applied To Writing

 

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So, if you’re a long term reader of the blog, then you might be aware that I am interested in spirituality. I’m not a magician or anything like that, but I do take an interest in certain philosophies, mainly Eastern but I do appreciate stoicism and have been reading Marcus Aurelius and Seneca but the one set of tenets that I do return to quite often is Buddhism. I like it’s rooted in human behaviours, that there’s no external deity to worship and I draw comfort from the attempt to aspire to an ideal. There are buddhist bigots out there, Myanmar is a sad example of such but nothing and no one is perfect, which Buddhism allows for. I also like Taoism and Zen as well, most religions are fascinating to me, and there are rich seams of poetry and sensuality within each of them.

So, I have been listening to an audiobook by Jack Kornfield which talks about The Ten Perfections, virtues of the religion, all delivered in his soft, warming voice, interspersed with parables, jokes and illuminating stories. I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of faith because there is a lot you can learn from considered and informed voices without a dog in the fight.

I thought about how it would apply to the practice of writing and how they might be intertwined with the Ten Perfections. Here are five or so, that might be interesting.

Equanimity – A balanced, even mind applies in respect of how you portray your characters. If you can understand that no one considers themselves a villain, that ‘good’ people are flawed and duplicitous without diminishing their goodness. Establishing and practicing this is a good way to achieve depth in your stories.

Compassion – Unsentimental is the caveat here. You show your love for the characters by making them suffer, setting them challenges between them and their goals. Their reaction, their desire is what fuels the engine of your story.

Generosity – To yourself, in terms of caring for you, physically and emotionally is a form of generosity. When you’re giving everything away, be sure to keep something for yourself in order to maintain and empower yourself. In terms of your writing, take delight in what you are creating, it’s the cheapest form of entertainment to tell yourself a story and yet the most powerful. Be generous to your characters in how you tell their story, protagonist and antagonists alike.

Morality – Your passion and genuine emotion are what will draw the reader in and keep them there. We can forgive clumsy writing, inconsistent plotlines and bad cover art if we sense that we are reading something genuine and heartfelt. Your morality informs your writing, either in opposition or consolidation. Explore that on the page – write about a homophobic nurse forced to care for a dying gay man, or a white nationalist who finds themselves working alongside a Puerto Rican. Depending on your point of view, try to explore different viewpoints with the same passion and insight that you would confirm your own.

Renunciation – I characterise this as the fear of missing out or chasing trends in writing. Renounce the voices of others only when you have found yours, be the best version of you on the page that you can be. Don’t be JK Rowling or Stephen King, they’re already out there and they got there through hard work , luck and determination. Be the best version of you. It can also refer to the discipline of a writing practice, or making sure that you read more, and to do so consciously.

           Wisdom – Your life is source material. If not the objective experiences, then the emotions that you have experienced or the things that you have learned from them. The life you have lived and live has all the colours you need to paint a masterpiece, sometimes you will need blend colours and nuances to get the shade that you need. You have lived, and learned, the difficult part is in the translation sometimes. Imagination is that path, but it is the wisdom of experience that will give you the strength to walk along it.

 Effort. There is the effort required to write, or develop a sustainable practice of writing and maintain it. There is the effort required to research and improve your craft, the effort to read rather than watch television or play videogames. There is the determination to market your work as well. Effort is important to the development of an approach to writing.

 Patience. Writing for a reply to an email that may offer success or feedback. Replies to enquiries or about submissions that seem to take their sweet time in arriving. Seeing people get deals, retweeting fan art and glowing reviews whilst you’re still waiting to find out if what you’ve written is actually any good. Patience is important but do not be passive about it. Work on your material, seek to improve in some small way to ensure that the time spent in patient anticipation was not wasted.

Truthfulness. Honesty on the page is everything. Yes, writing is a series of entertaining lies interspersed with truth. Tell the truth through the observations and actions of your characters. It is free therapy, and earnest, unvarnished truth resonates with readers in a way that the most elegant, glorious language never could. If it is uncomfortable, keep a straight face and say that it is just fiction. Stick a hobbit or a ninja in there to distract them. Yes, you’re making things up and having a fine time doing it but hold some measure up to the light of the truth within and about yourself.

Determination. Better work than yours will be ignored, lesser works than yours will be feted and celebrated. Some people will do less to get further and faster than you. Your work will sometimes feel like a trudge through a muddy path. Your family will demand more of your attention, at exactly the point that your second act falls to shit and phone calls will interrupt your most sublime reveries. This is where determination comes in. It applies regardless of whether writing is a hobby or a career for you. A strange fact is that the more effort you put into something, the better you will get and then your enjoyment of the hobby will gain depth and find new meaning. There’s something almost perverse in developing a level of aptitude for no other reason than your own pleasure. We’re encouraged to get better for the salary increase, the title but when we do it for the soul’s reward, there is something truly sublime in that.

When your heart is breaking, writing makes sense. It takes determination to write through your pain but it makes it easier to bear it all.