Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Writers, write. Dreamers, dream.

     Writers, write. Dreamers, dream.

     These four words have been in my head now for some time, though in fact, I'm not entirely sure of where they came from - perhaps I read something similar in a book once or else in a magazine, or perhaps it is indeed, as I would like to believe, a completely original thought. But wherever and whenever they came from it doesn't matter - what matters most is that these four words sum up my entire writing ethos, namely that a writer writes, i.e. they produce 'stuff', whereas a dreamer merely thinks (and talks) about the ideas they have and either does nothing about it, or at least attempts to write something, only to give up somewhere along the way.

     The Year Zero

    Now, I'm not one of these old-school Tory traditionalist types who bangs on and on about 'dreamers' as though they are somehow to be equated with 'losers' or 'drop outs', hopelessly naive and doomed to failure. I distinctly remember - when I was about thirteen or fourteen or so - standing rigidly to attention in assembly at school whilst the headmaster droned and hectored on about how his school was not a place for dreamers and that it was a place for doers and achievers and others such. Now, as I stood and listened to this lecture (well, I couldn't go anywhere else could I?) I found myself disagreeing with him, for if I was anything at all back then I was a dreamer. Since at the time I was about as popular as a fart in a bath tub I couldn't exactly do anything else ... My imagination was my palace and my dreams my panic room. A voracious and highly-addicted daydreamer, I used to wallow in this ethereal state for weeks upon weeks at end - well it made up for my shortage of friends at any rate!
     Now when I look back upon those 'halcyon days' I vaguely remember that at the time I had some pretty solid ideas for a novel. It was going to be called The Year Zero, and it would be well over 1000 pages long and would be a stunning, Nobel-prize winning masterpiece that would describe and chart the after-effects of alien contact with Earth. Of course, I say that it was amazing but really how do you know? How many words did I write of this great, all-encompassing novel? Zero. I wrote absolutely nothing. I just took the unwritten novel around in my head for weeks and months and then finally years until eventually and inevitably it drifted away like last year's leaves and I forgot about it and went to university. All writing projects start and begin and are fuelled and supported by our dreams, but ultimately if we don't make a genuine attempt to write them down and develop them then like all dreams they will eventually fade over time just like The Year Zero did.

     Writers, write. Dreamers, dream.

     Stephen King in his book "On Writing" (which I highly recommend by the way) says that he writes 2000 words every day no matter what (not counting the time he spends reading, which is a whole other subject for another blog post) and that a rookie writer should be looking at chucking out 1000 words a day. Great advice for sure, and if you can manage to churn out this amount you will be well on your way to writing your first novel in no time at all. Since the average novel can be anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 words in length then you could potentially finish your novel in 50-100 days. Now, I can already hear your groans "But I don't have time ... I have this to do, that to do etc." And you are absolutely right - you do have lots of things to do, so if you don't quite churn out 1000 words a day or even write every day then not to worry. The most important thing for you as a writer is that you DO write. I've never been convinced by the necessity to write each and every day, but for me that comes more from the fact that like you I am also incredibly busy. For the last two years or so I have settled into MY OWN RHYTHM of writing approximately three chapters a week in three separate sessions - since I write between 2000 and 3000 words per chapter this means that I'm currently writing between 6000 and 9000 words a week (as a result my first novel Jack Strong and the Red Giant was written in just under a year, with its sequel taking even less), which is of course roundabout what Mr. King recommends. However, that's my schedule and I'm happy to say that it suits me fine - what you have to do is find a writing schedule that suits YOU.
     Now whilst I don't necessarily recommend writing every day I do insist that you write at least once or twice every week; you have to keep it regular so as to keep your skill-sets sharp, and to keep the narrative and characters fresh in your mind, not to mention to have a chance of finishing it. Another thing that you should consider as a matter of course is every now and again (say every 3 or 4 months or so) spending an entire week or even a month writing. Give yourself a target - ten chapters for example - and then hit it. I do. And if ever you find yourself backsliding on your schedule and your targets just remember the mantra "Writers, write. Dreamers, dream." Sure writing is as tiring and unrewarding as hell sometimes, but most of the time it's really enjoyable and takes us to places we scarcely knew existed in our own minds, and if - god forbid - we ever do give up and let the flood slow down to a trickle or a drought - then that's where these dreams and ideas and stories will ultimately remain - in our heads, where no one else can see them, read them, or enjoy them - so go on get writing!

     Writers, write. Dreamers, dream.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

What the Blog?!

     Why the blog? Why now?

     I've been writing poetry now for over fifteen years, Children's and Young Adults novels for three years, and blogging for ... well zero. So why am I picking up my proverbial 'pen' now and sharing my thoughts on writing and the writing process in the form of a weekly blog?
     Well, there are four distinct reasons. First of all, I figure that any kind of writing is good for the writing process. The more I write, the better it will be in both the short and long-term for my overall writing fluency, whether I am writing novels, poems, or (if something really goes wrong with my writing career) essays. Every time you write something it's like building a house, but instead of bricks you have words and grammar and the more you use these the better you get at writing just like the builder gets more accomplished at building with every house they build.
     Second of all, since I have just published my debut novel "Jack Strong and the Red Giant" on Amazon, I figure that by establishing some kind of platform online that it may help me shift more of my e-books from the huge, sprawling warehouse that is to the walking, mobile libraries that are people's kindles.
    Thirdly, as I'm a writer I find that when I'm writing I think about all sorts of ideas about the writing process - ideas about narrative, character, setting, dialogue, colour, sound, and smell etc - you name it I've thought about it. So I want to use this blog as a way to unlock the ideas within my own brain and then share them with you.
    Indeed, this brings me onto the fourth and final point: as a part-time writer I have, like the vast majority of part-time, wannabe writers, a real full-time job that, rather like a pet dog, demands my full and complete attention if not 24/7 then certainly going on 12/7. So since I have had a great deal of experience balancing my time and jumping from my novel one minute to my full-time job the very next I feel that I have some good, worthwhile advice to offer those of you who find themselves in a similar situation.

    Final Word

    Oh and one more thing that I think is really, really important. You don't have to agree with me. At all. Writing is the very definition of SUBJECTIVE and since we are all different people with different ideas and different tastes it makes sense that we will also have different ideas about what makes a good piece of writing. If there is one thing that I can't stand it is writers who claim that there is only one way - their way - and if you don't follow them then you're going to fail and never get published. They are wrong of course - there is no correct template, no singular course to follow, no road map to success available to buy at your local book store (well it's Amazon now I suppose). All that we can do is write as much as we can, read as much as we can, get people to read our stuff and give honest, constructive feedback, and hope that someone out there in the confines of some vast (advance-paying) publishing house finds our work decent enough and worthy enough to publish. After that it is all down to the reader ...

For more info on my debut novel, Jack Strong and the Red Giant about a bullied boy's adventures in space check out the link below: