How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Word…

Word Heart Black
Way back at the end of 2013 I posted a short piece celebrating finishing my second novel. It went something like this:

And the last line is finally on the page! The Architect’s Apprentice is finished and the bad guys are finally unmasked. Course, there are still questions, leaving plenty of scope for a follow up…

So, what now? On with the next one, I suppose. The trouble with writing on a regular basis is that I don’t really want to stop in case whatever talent I have disappears out the window. So, in a few days, when the dust has settled, and I have the title, then like a bus at the end of the lane, I’ll hop on til I reach my destination…

The new novel was ‘The Hounds of Hellerby Hall’ and I’m happy to say it was a fairly straightforward process that took me three months to reach what most folks would term the first draft. But how easy is it to jump into that next kettle of literary fish and simply keep going?

One of the things I used to worry about was how I was going to come up with another idea for a novel/story/article etc. In this case, as with much of my writing, I didn’t have a darn thing in my head except the title (which I’d lifted from a piece about a completely different set of characters). What concerned me most was this:

What if I take a break and then come back to writing to find there’s nothing there – no ideas, no inspiration, no nothing?

That question seemed important, but now I don’t worry about it. The answer (for me, at least) lies in a simple philosophy:

Don’t Stop Writing!

Well, okay, I know what you’re thinking – Hey, I’m a writer, I’ve just finished a mammoth project, I deserve a break. And that’s fine, but the way I see it is writers are like athletes – maybe not quite as fit, but in need of the same thing that keeps those guys and gals at the top of their game, running, jumping and swimming – exercise. And we get that exercise by doing what we do, pushing ourselves harder, honing our craft, developing our use of language. And if there’s a shortfall in the Inspiration Department? Keep writing anyway – sooner or later it’ll make sense.

So after I finished Hellerby Hall, I started the next one, and then the next one and so on. And those days when I don’t do very much work on one of my novels, I spend my time blogging, Tweeting, Scriggling and Hubbing and even if I’m not banging away for hours and hours writing stuff that’s mind-blowing, exciting or fascinating, I am writing. And that’s all I need to do.

And yes, of course sometimes I’d rather watch a movie, but come on – you don’t get to be a bestselling author if you don’t put the time in. Just sayin.

Meet and Greet Weekend @ DBDO: 2/12/16

Dream Big, Dream Often

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It’s the Meet and Greet weekend at Dream Big!!  There are a few simple rules that will help make this MnG the most incredible networking experience:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!  So don’t be selfish, hit the reblog button.
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and Meet n Greet your butts off!

See ya on Monday!!

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Saying the Same Old Thing…

Typewriter Table Words BlogsizeOne of the challenges in writing novels is how we use language. A big part of that language (obviously), is the words we use to say what we want to say. And while there are a fair few words available, it can be tough to constantly come up with new ways of saying the same thing.

The way I work is to write my novel/story/whatever until I get to the end and then start editing/rewriting/honing my prose etc. And to be honest, I’m always amazed, and sometimes a little embarrassed, to discover some of the stuff that has to be given the boot. Here are my worst offenders:

Really
Yeah, I know, it’s one of those redundant groups of letters that get chucked in on the way to somewhere else and really isn’t needed. See – just there.

He/she raised an eyebrow
This is my albatross. In my mid-range novel The Architect’s Apprentice, I found myself popping it in without thinking. By the time I reached the end I found 17 people raising their eyebrows in reaction to just about anything.

In order to
If writers were hung, drawn and quartered for using this one, I’d be in bits by now. The sensible thing, is of course, to replace it with ‘to’. Easy.

Then
This is another one on my bugbears and I have trouble finding replacements for it. Being somewhat unspecific, it should be swapped for words or phrases that are specific.

Inclined his/her head
This goes along with all those other things folk do with their heads: swivel, turn, drop, shake, roll and so on.

GazeNot Written Yet 250x
Characters do occasionally have to look at stuff/people/events. Mine do lots of gazing, glancing, staring and peering so maybe it’s time I added some more appealing descriptions of what we do with our eyes? (He said with a glower).

He said/she said
Dialogue tags are one of the small changes I’ve been making to my work. I remember reading Mark Billingham’s Sleepyhead and noticing how little he used them. Nice. However, it’s a difficult habit to escape. (The author nodded, as if to affirm this fact).

Sits/leans back/forward
My characters are forever shuffling around in their seats to get closer or further away from whoever they’re talking to. So far I haven’t discovered a way to stop them doing it. Damn them all!

I never buy a book without reading the first page and it’s only if I can get past that first page that I’ll consider buying it. Of the dozens of books I peruse by indie authors, it seems that an author’s first book, perhaps unsurprisingly, suffers most from poor quality writing. Sometimes it feels like an epidemic – like some many-tentacled literary monster, poisoning texts, chapter headings and even titles.

Poorly-constructed sentences, grammar and spelling errors, repeated words (unless used as a literary device) are a few of my regular aggravations. And of course, the same things irritate me about my own writing. The more I write, the more I feel the need to adjust my writing style to make it better, more readable, memorable. But learning how to write better is part of a writer’s job and even though I’m complaining about it. I also love it! (Have to stop using exclamation marks…)

‘Cold Comfort Farm’ by Stella Gibbons

Cold Comfort Farm Gibbons
Cold Comfort Farm
5 stars copy

I’ve wanted to read this novel since seeing the movie version back in the late 90’s (starring Kate Beckinsale, Eileen Atkins and Ian McKellen), but it’s taken me til now to actually get around to it.

Stella Gibbons was working at the Evening Standard in 1928 when the paper decided to serialise Mary Webb’s ‘The Golden Arrow’. Gibbons took on the task of summarising the novel and as a consequence, her low opinion of Webb’s writing prompted the creation of a rather more satirical version of the day-to-day drudgery and despair inherent in rural life.

It’s an odd book. Set at some future time when air-postmen and video telephones are not uncommon, the story concerns Flora Poste, who goes to live with her relatives the Starkadders following the death of her parents. Encountering a shambolic and haphazard existence at the farm, she sets about educating family members and workers alike, in the hope of enabling them into adopting a more modern way of life.

One of the things I love about Cold Comfort Farm is the language – the text is peppered with wonderfully bizarre character names such as Harkaway, Caraway, Urk, Mrs Beetle and (best of all) the mysterious Aunt Ada Doom, whose obsession with having ‘seen somethin’ narsty’ in the woodshed when she was young, and her refusal to countenance change in any form, hangs over the farm like a giant magnet, keeping its inhabitants from doing anything that might in any way enhance their dreary lives. The dialogue too, is littered with strange, but authentic-sounding rural terms like sukebind, mollocking and clettering, as well as unusual farm animals including Graceless, a cow with a wooden leg.

At times the writing might have benefited from a little considerate editing, but on the whole this is a highly enjoyable read, particularly the ending, where the description of the farm and its surroundings is quite lovely.

 
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