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Two Pages (09/10/16)

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This morning’s pages were good, took on the challenge of showing a little more description of the protagonist’s love interest/ally  and their house. It is something that I may lift entirely and place earlier in the book but sometimes insights arrive when they’re ready to be written down, and so long as you know where you are and what you are doing, then that is half the battle. I also looked at my list of obligatory scenes and made some notes as to which I have done, and where they are, as well as started to sketch out some of the major ones later. Yes, you can skip back and forth, but I like those scenes to come to me with the force of momentum and a sense of being due, rather than overdue.

I did not work on Until She Sings last night but will do so today, spent some time giving feedback on a friend’s short story that took some detail. Feedback is a potentially dangerous thing, which is why so many people are reticent to give it. Too honest and it appears cruel, too soft-spoken and it appears patronising. I aim to strike a balance between the two. You cast bread out on the water, you get back cake and who doesn’t like cake?

This next part is the rest of the Ten Perfections as applied to a writing practice.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

 

Writing is so rewarding for me that the more I have aligned my life around it, the happier I have become. It has made me rich in terms of spirit and mind. If you can find a groove to set into and you are present with it, it’s a thing of genuine wonder to me, and I feel successful already. My ambition is to build a life that allows me to do more of that. I am investigating the process to get into teaching, with an aim to develop as a teacher of creative writing. I’ve spent decades doing things for other people all the time, and although it was not time wasted, I can see that a future where I am sourced in my wonder and craft would be a thing of joy for me. If that groove becomes a rut, then the solution is to keep digging until you find that the air is fresher underground.

Inspiration is like a moth, killed by the smallest casual nudge so learn to work without it. Then, when it does arrive, you can appreciate and enjoy it’s time with you.

Thank you for listening.

 

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ambition, blogging, books, character, craft, creative writing, creativity, editing, emotion, empowerment, experience, fiction, hunger, inspiration, passion, process, psychology, purpose, reading, stoicism, Uncategorized, wisdom, writing

Two Pages

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I wrote three pages this morning. I do specific meditations around my writing, to get me into the right headspace where I can work in a place of focus and excellence. They work for me, which is the main thing. I can and do write without them but I look at life as an athletic performance and push myself with it. Meditation, focused writing practices all help me remain productive and keep aiming to write as well as I possibly can.  I have also edited the last notes on USS which worked out really well, punching up the work to a better standard than previously.

I do the work. I listen to advice from the people who have a vested interest in my success and growth and I don’t get critics as such yet, even so I would welcome them as an opportunity to suck less. I do not necessarily go in for the magical thinking aspect of writing in my practice. There are definite moments of satisfaction, it lends itself really well to making me more interested in people and to listen more than I speak. I’ve experienced the sweep of literature many times which is why I take such pleasure in reading regularly and part of that is what drives me to write. I’m not original, simply working to get to a point that my work gives someone else a good experience.

If my book helps someone pass time on a commute, make the wait for an appointment less turgid or occupy an evening then I will have already been a success.

We write because we read.

We read because we write.

I know myself through my writing. What my relative strengths are, and where I can improve. I know that working daily keeps me motivated and consistent, I know that I can write through pain or illness, that writing at the start of the day is more effective than at it’s end, and is easier to protect that time. I know that there is always more to learn and that simply delving into writing advice is trying to quench your thirst by opening a fire hydrant. You have to find what works for you, and you alone. If you outline or dive right in, then it is whatever gets you through to having finished work that you can edit or send out.

I know this because I spent more time choking on the fear of my writing not being perfect than writing. I have always written but it was not until the last six years that I have finished anything. It’s interesting that I’ve learned more about writing and myself in that time, a period of evolution ratcheted up to breakneck speed and still learning all the time.

It’s broadened my taste in reading. There are genres and literature that are open and of interest to me now that were not before. I am relentless in learning as well as being entertained. I’ve got past my reticence of older books, finding awe and an almost drunken delight in Dickens. I’ve got Doestoevsky to work through. I’ve always enjoyed Hemingway but now I can articulate how marvellous a trick it is to work with such spare language. I can go back and see how bloody marvellous Stephen King is. It’s had me at the feet of the work by Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Sarah Waters, Alice Hoffman and Gillian Flynn. I return to A Song of Ice and Fire with newfound appreciation for the scale of the work, it’s earnestness and grandeur.

It’s made me less tolerant of my own affectations and dissembling. Making writing my purpose has enriched my life and I work towards it, through the weeks of inertia, the rejections for the short fiction that lit me up like a firework but get knocked back with a polite email. I have made sure that my love for the work is sourced in the process rather than the outcome in order to inure myself against disappointment.

I considered myself a success when I wrote a book through to the end, everything since then has been a blessed bonus but I still have my ego and my ambition, my awareness of myself is far kinder and more encouraging than it used to be.

So maybe there is magic in that.

There is always the work though. That’s enough for me to be going on with.

Thank you for reading. Please leave comments and questions below. I really appreciate them and reply to each one.

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Two Pages (19/09/16)

I have started to hit a big point in the second act now, which necessitated some research and some of that was upsetting to me, a thing that happens in other parts of the world that I cannot find a single justification for. We all have those practices or beliefs that we look at and it locks our brains up with disgust or horror. This background detail would warrant a book in itself but here, it’s allowed me to define a character in a way that reflects the main themes of the book.

Sometimes I actually think I know what I am talking about.

Bit of a restless day yesterday, did some editing on Until She Sings and at this stage, there’s merely nuance to contend with, chores inbetween and posted a story here that has been well received. The main thing yesterday, as it is every day, was advancing Lawful Evil another two pages and keeping in mind the structure.

It’s not an outline to follow, it’s a guide to keep me moving forward and to know where the next beat needs to go. It is a way of showing respect to the form and genre that I am working in, and giving the reader what they want.

Just, perhaps not in the way that they expect. I’ve found that a lot of attempts to subvert are affectations, rarely as clever as they believe themselves to be and receive muted feedback. I’m not subversive or iconoclastic in the slightest, because to me that weds me to the opposition and puts me in competition with it. I am only in competition with myself, I push myself forward and will happily help others if they need it. I view writing as a gift that requires development and self awareness, it makes me kinder to books that I don’t enjoy as much because I know what effort goes into it. I used to indulge in the recreational bitterness of insulting popular books but in truth, it doesn’t make me any better to disparage something that other people enjoy. I live and let live, I have preferences and boundaries, tenets and strengths which are mine and I don’t impose them upon anyone else.

I love the process of writing, even these spacious days where there is only the work without the reward, because the work is the reward. I can write, so I write. I’m not crippled by physical or mental health issues, sure I get up a bit earlier but that’s my choice and it means that I produce work every day. I used to be afraid of it, I probably regret not pursuing this sooner but then I wonder if I would have been saying or writing anything of worth, seeing as my life experiences inform my writing indirectly. I spent more energy and took on more grief not doing this because I was afraid of not being perfect, of not deserving this, of not knowing the secret password to Writer Land.

There isn’t one. It starts when you finish things, when you risk rejection and turn down things because you’ve got writing to go.

So, thank you for reading. If you have comments or questions, please do so.

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Two Pages (08/09/16)

Things are progressing well with Lawful Evil. The change in focus and impetus serves as something of a life raft at difficult points, working from a story grid gives me a sense of direction but also room to breathe, and to be surprised by what emerges from the id.

My process, if you’re interested, is based on the simple baseline of two pages a day on a new project, longhand in an exploratory draft or on the laptop when in a subsequent draft, which is where I am also editing. Actual straightforward editing, I’ll give myself five pages a day at a clip. I write every day, because it creates momentum and allows me to keep honing my craft. I don’t feel entirely comfortable when I am not writing, and working a full time job, means that I like to get the work done before I head out for the day. I like to write early, so I get up around 0400, meditate, suck down some coffee and then get into it. In my leisure time, I like to write later at night, but mostly between job, obligation and such, the writing gets done so that I know, no matter how my day goes, I’ve attended to my heart’s purpose.

I read as my main form of leisure, on two levels, writer and reader. Reading as a reader is taking pleasure in the words and the images, the swoop and heft of a spell being cast. As a writer, I am a cannibal, a scavenger savant who looks at the how and why, tries and discards, borrows and stitches parts of other effects into my own toolbox. I don’t plagiarise, it’s laziness incarnate and futile in this current era, but I do look at the underpinnings and think about how it might apply to my own work. I don’t chase trends or look at what’s popular outside my reading interests. I work on my own writing, and work at being better at it, finding that what once was a struggle moves to the subconscious and new nuances and problems arise. It’s a matter of failing better, harder each time out and each book has been it’s own challenges, defeats and triumphs.

I have an agent, which I am grateful for, they’re supportive but the majority of the work is done under my own steam with support from friends at various levels and times. Otherwise, I do like to be around people, not as subjects or sources but to relax in the direction of their attention. I don’t think you can write to any degree, in any style, unless you have an interest in people. Even the 41st century cyborg deserves consideration in terms of their inner life, and you can borrow that from the conversations you overhear and engage in.

I sometimes worry that I sound brusque and dismissive, but I come from a place where my approach works for me and perhaps only me. I happily contribute to a writing group at my library, but I am no expert, simply someone who’s found their path and wants to walk it for as long and as successfully as I can manage, learning with each step.

Again, please leave comments and questions below. Thank you for reading.

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Find What You Love And Let It Kill You

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2013/apr/26/james-rhodes-blog-find-what-you-love

Do it because it counts even without the fanfare, the money, the fame and Heat photo-shoots that all our children now think they’re now entitled to because Harry Styles has done it.

It is in you, you know. To do great things. Wild, passionate things that scare and excite you in equal measure. Take them out and make them work for you rather than against you.

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Project Laughter 22/08/2015

It got quite nasty this morning on the page, and it was a surprise to me but I went with it.  Penny had something to say and I wanted to challenge the self image Tom has of himself, because grief and unspoken resentment lead to some strange conclusions. It adds an additional layer to the story, other than the central conflict although it reflects another aspect of it. There are clumsy notes and those will become apparent during later drafts but the main thing, the approach I use to take me through resistance and insecurity is to write. Two pages a day, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth or having a perfect vision of a scene in my head and then on the page, it feels like I UM PRETTY THINGS HAPPEN but then the point happens that i feel something come to me and i write well.

I can revise or edit a bad page, but not a blank page.

I allow myself the element of surprise when I write – BOO – because it often allows for associations and connections that lead to better and more honest writing from me, which in turn allows for a better story that has more of an organic element to it. There is a rough three act structure, some overarching controlling idea which usually makes itself concrete later in the process and also some startling reversals that lead to books becoming very different animals than i originally intended. Here, it started as one thing and became something else entirely, which i enjoy as a creative experience. I love to discard and find things that work on the page for me, because i have no interest in being anyone else. I’m not the next (INSERT FAMOUS AUTHOR) I am the first me. Each book, each word is finding out something that was not conscious before.

I am on my mission and it feels like success to me. Sometimes it is slow going, as time doesn’t allow me to do all that I am capable of in a day but this is for me right now. Soon there will be something to send to the agent, and a period of editing and transcription from longhand, new projects to develop and ultimately more work to do, but I enjoy having a process that sustains me against writer’s block and the chaotic nature of life.

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Project Laughter 255\2015

I’ve concluded the date but I still have the pair of them together.

You show certain things in order to create values that you’re risking later and also to show character. There’s also a personal pleasure in writing Evelyn and how her assertiveness contrasts with Tom offstage. I enjoy writing women as much as men and I hope that it shows on the page. I have the characters all established in broad strokes but there’s room for development and space to test them.

I’ve been deep in research and studying the structure of the genre means that I’m applying what I’ve done against what I’m already doing. Certain tenets and approaches lend themselves to this genre, mainly the importance of intimacy and emotional truth.

These scenes are relatively light because of the progression towards fear and unease. I am excited about it because I want to see if I can tell a different sort of story than I have before.

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