In the grip of a mania!

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So, my assertion that I would write a short story has got quite out of hand… I have already written two and am now working on a third!

I am reminded – and not before time – of the power of just sitting down and starting to write. Even if you don’t think you have anything to write about. Or rather, especially if you don’t think you have anything to write about.

What a magical and wonderful feeling! Just have to make sure I keep going.

Living for Horror

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Hi everyone! How’s it been going? I have had another extended absence, but happily not as long as the last! Let me update you…

The writing has been sporadic at best, but not non-existent, so I’m looking at that as a win. I obviously did not waste my time training as a dental nurse, instead opting for another office job which, while just about paying the bills, does not require me to splinter my attention too much.

Like many people during this pandemic, I have been trying to get back in touch with the things that make me happiest. In particular, the long Christmas break I’ve just had has given me a chance to re-evaluate my priorities and what I want out of life. It’s all too easy to lose sight of these things, especially when you spend all your time ensuring you are meeting everyone else’s expectations of you, and neglecting your own.

However, I have lately been feeling more inspired after immersing myself in every aspect of my first love – horror. Everything from books, to movies, to music, anything with darkness and terror at its heart.

So, it is my intention that my next post on here will actually be a new short story that I am going to begin working on imminently! I sincerely hope that this will be ready in the next few weeks, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Wish me luck!

It’s Been a While…

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Wow. That’s an understatement! It’s been almost 3 years since my last post. Ergo, almost 3 years since I last wrote a single line.

During those years I have filled my time with a 9 to 5 job, Netflix and music. To tell the truth, I hardly recognise myself anymore.

Obviously unsatisfied with my job, I have taken various educational courses to try to broaden my experience and knowledge ( none of which were writing related, I might add), even thinking about going to university to study physiotherapy. And now I have left my insurance job to train as a dental nurse.

What on earth am I doing? I’ll tell you: anything and everything, apart from the one thing I should be doing!

Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m really inside my own body anymore, let alone my own head. I honestly don’t know who I am or what to do about it.

So, I’m doing the only thing I can do. The only thing I’ve ever really been able to do. Write about it.

Maybe I do know what to do, after all.

The Bump In The Road

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It has been a good long while since my last post. Truth be told, this is the first thing I’ve written since then – discounting CVs and job applications.

You see, it’s all well and good having these lofty dreams of writing full time and achieving something wonderful and satisfying… but, as I have been told all my life, creating wonderful things rarely pays the bills, nor does it keep a roof over your head. Hence, I am now a working stiff again.

To be perfectly honest, I have welcomed this change in a number of ways. It’s great to have some money coming in again and not to have to worry too much about that. And I also feel a little less like I’m losing my mind from cabin fever! These are all good things. But the aspect that I hadn’t really considered before – though now it seems painfully obvious – is the social interaction.

Many people think that writers are quite hermit-like individuals by nature, and shun social occasions of every sort. That being around other people is, at best, an inconvenience, at worst, downright torture. No doubt there are writers out there, and non-writers alike, who do feel this way. However, the majority of us are a little bit more middling on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Indeed, I do find that too much time spent with certain people is quite exhausting, and I am very comfortable with my own company. Having said that, I also enjoy social interaction immensely, and I find it very easy to get along with most people.

And this is what I have been missing all these months. After all, what do I write about if not the human condition? Genre- and medium-specifics aside, that is essentially the core of every art form: the examination, analysis and interpretation of what it means to be a human living in the world. I believe it is impossible to write about these things without connecting with your fellow humans in one way or another.

I expect that is why I have been moved to write this now. I am finally beginning to feel the hot spark of inspiration igniting within me, making me feel somehow more like myself again.

It’s a good feeling.

Adult Content in Novels: What’s The Big Deal?

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I belong to a few writer’s groups online and on social media and I have noticed a very strange phenomenon amongst some of the members. Some of these people, all mature adults I might add, refuse point blank to include any profanity or sex scenes in their work. Now, of course I believe such things are an individual choice that is entirely up to the writer, but I have to say, as a reader I would be very concerned about trying to read a novel where the characters do not display normal human behaviour and characteristics.

I have heard a few authors complain that whenever they attempt to write a sex scene it turns out sounding cheesy and ridiculous. I don’t really understand why this should be the case. If you are a  writer, and you have ever had sex yourself, then you should be able to write a sex scene.

I have also heard some insist that swearing has no place in “proper” literature, that a true writer has the superior vocabulary to render swear words useless. This is all well and good, and I agree in so much as I myself don’t swear much in real life. But can all your characters be so lofty and all have the same personality? Well that’s not very realistic, is it?

In my novel there is one quite detailed sex scene. I do believe this is important to the story as it cements the relationship between two characters. I didn’t feel at all awkward writing it, and I have since had some very favourable feedback on it from my beta readers. It’s not frilled up with lots of corny and unnecessary adjectives. It’s realistic. That’s exactly what I was going for.

Also, most of my characters swear from time to time. Some much more than others, as it is a part of their personality. I wrote them this way because that is what real people are like in the real world. And the real world is the setting for the story, not some fantastic, fairytale dimension.

All these aspects have a dramatic effect: they turn my creations from being characters to being people. And that in itself is a magical thing.

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I personally can’t stand reading or watching something and thinking, “no real person would ever say that.” But, as I said earlier, it is up to the author. However I would urge those authors to ask themselves what it is that they are so afraid of.

No, You Don’t NEED a Boyfriend!

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This post is a bit different to my usual fayre. It’s about relationships, based on observations of people around me. Some of these people I know very well, some I am merely aware of.

There is one phrase I have heard spoken many times by various people, and it is one that I have never been able to understand the meaning of: “I need to get myself a boyfriend/girlfriend.” It makes no sense to me. Or there’s an even worse one: “You need to get yourself a boyfriend/girlfriend.” But why? Why do people feel the need to be in a relationship?

I am 35 years old. Up until 5 years ago, I was single almost all of the time. And I was very happy. Yes, you heard me correctly, I was HAPPY. Because I actually quite enjoy my own company. I’m quite an interesting person with a very vivid imagination and many things in life that I enjoy doing and being.

I have lived with my boyfriend now for a few years, and this also makes me happy. Because I find him as interesting as I find myself, but in very different ways. And he feels the same about me. That’s what makes it work so well. It wouldn’t be worth it otherwise.

Sometimes I see friends or acquaintances’ relationships breaking up, often after several years together, and I am alarmed by how desperate some individuals are to find someone else immediately. It’s as if they believe that, unless they find an “other half” straight away, they will somehow cease to exist themselves. Like their own individual life has no meaning without another to validate it.

This feeling saddens me greatly. But I cannot, in truth, honestly understand it. Some people would rather be in a bad relationship than be alone, and this, to me, is indicative of some sort of mental illness. But an extremely common one, unfortunately.

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Yes, I am happy in my relationship. But if I had never met him, I believe I would still be happy, regardless. For, if you cannot be happy and content with your own company, what could you possibly have to offer someone else in a relationship?

Dad

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Been thinking about my Dad today.

It’s been 13 years to the day since he passed away. He wasn’t a young man – 70 years old – but he would have been otherwise healthy of it were not for his diabetes.

It was grim at the end. He’d had kidney failure and been having dialysis for some time beforehand, but it was finally his heart that gave in. He didn’t really want to continue living anymore, that much had been evident for several weeks prior to his passing. So it was a relief of sorts when the end came. His suffering had become unbearable for all of us.
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Apologies for the maudlin nature of this post, but this year the anniversary has an especially thought-provoking slant to it. As this year, I now know that I myself have the very same disease that ended up taking my Dad’s life.

I am currently healthy – stomach bugs aside – and not suffering any diabetic complications. So far, so good. But today, I am forced to wonder what the future might hold. I’m only 35 so I expect to have many long years ahead of me yet. But if I’m honest, memories of what my Dad went through towards the end are never too far from my thoughts. That is certainly true today, more than most.

Ah, well. I’m OK now, and that’s what I choose to focus on. I’m sure in future posts I will tell you stories about my Dad and the rest of family, but set in much happier times. I look forward to this very much, for these are the strongest memories I have of my family and my childhood.

For now, let’s spare a moment to think about our fathers, living or passed. And if you are lucky enough to still have yours, don’t take him for granted.

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“Life” Gets In The Way

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It seems an age since I last posted. This has been mainly due to being distracted by having to find a “proper” job. You know, one that actually pays the bills. It’s a drag, I know.

So anyway, I did find a job (office admin, zzzzzzzz!) I was there for a whole two weeks before coming down with the stomach bug from hell. For half of last week I was dividing my time between bed and the bathroom. It most certainly was not pretty. I’m still suffering the after effects now.

All these things have definitely not been conducive to creativity. And after I had been making such great progress too. I had received some very helpful corrections and feedback from my favourite beta reader, my own dear sister Soraya, whom you may remember me mentioning in my very first blog post. I need to find the time, and the concentrated energy to implement her suggestions before I can even consider publishing.

Also, if I manage to keep this day job despite my medical woes, I may be in the market for a professional editor. Funds permitting, of course. So if anyone out there is a professional editor, or can recommend one, please let me know how much you charge and I shall see if I can afford you!

My Writing Process, Such As It Is…

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I was recently asked by one my lovely followers to share a little insight into my writing process. I must admit to having been a little surprised at the question, mainly because I can’t recall anyone ever asking me that before. It seems that this is the type of question that writers ask of other writers, so, with this in mind, I shall endeavour to put into words a little about the way I prefer to work.

I’ll start with the ideas. Like most creative people, I don’t have a particular “system” for coming up with ideas for what to write about. When I come up with a basic plotline first, this is most often something that I have gleaned from a half-remembered dream, or perhaps a skimmed over newspaper article. Either of these scenarios invariably involves some emotive situation, often poignant, sometimes downright terrifying. The story I’m working on at the moment was inspired by a nightmare I had many years ago: I dreamed I was a child, running through my own house, running away from something, someone, who was trying to hurt me; someone who I had trusted for my entire life was chasing me, trying to kill me… From this little snippet I have managed to build ideas for a five-book saga, but of course the events that occurred in the dream are a miniscule part of this story as a whole.

Another way that some stories come about is the sudden and complete visualisation of a particular character. Occasionally, though not often, a fully-formed character will just pop into my head: what they look like, their personality, history, and even their name. This is a particularly powerful event, especially when the character doesn’t seem to be inspired by anyone who I have actually met.

When I have my initial inspiration, whether it is a story or a character, I just start writing and see what happens. I always hand write my first draft. I used to think I was probably alone in this detail, due to its time-consuming impracticality, but I have since discovered hand writing the first draft is a very common feature of the writing process, especially for writers of fiction and poetry. I can’t speak for other writers, but for me personally I find that the ideas flow so much better and more easily through the pen than through the keyboard. This could be at least in part due to my history as a bit of a technophobe and the fact that I have always associated computers and typing with work, rather than a creative process that I can enjoy… At any rate, I struggle finding the words when I try to type them in the first instance. I fervently wish this wasn’t the case, as I would obviously be able to complete a novel in a fraction of the time, but there you go. It is what it is.

Once the first draft is done, I will type it all up, editing as I go. When the second draft is done, then I will get my beta readers on the case, looking out for typos and plot holes, and generally anything that doesn’t make sense. I would advise, if possible, that as many of your beta readers as possible are readers in your own genre. If you are a horror writer, such as myself, there is no point at all in having the opinion of, for example, a chick-lit reader. They will not be able to tell you anything useful about your book. If your beta reader doesn’t like reading books of your genre, then they will not like your book, no matter how good it might be. Also, they will not be able to tell you where it needs improvement, as they will not be familiar enough with the tones and nuances that are common to your genre.

Once all opinions are in, weigh them up carefully and with as much objectivity as possible. This does not mean that you have to take notice of everything that they say, however. But if the same advice keeps recurring from different readers, you must seriously think about taking that advice – bearing in mind, of course, that your beta readers may very well be avid and meticulous readers, but they may not be writers themselves, so you may find that their advice is impossible or impractical to follow. So, if they tell you that they didn’t like a certain part because it made no sense, or it contradicted another part, or they just felt that it didn’t sound very good, then by all means take that criticism on board. On the other hand, if they start trying to tell you how you should have worded something, or that they would prefer it if the story progressed in a different direction, then please take these suggestions with a pinch of salt. They are, after all, only their opinions, and the story is yours to tell, and yours alone.

This is the stage I am currently at myself, awaiting the advice and opinions of my beta readers. When all this advice has been weighed up and either applied or discarded, and my final draft is the very best that it can be, then I will be ready to publish.

I have decided to go the self-published E-book route. This is purely my personal choice and I have no particular reason to recommend it, other than the obvious fact that you don’t have to rely on another individual’s personal opinion to get your words seen by an audience. This way, writing can always remain something that I can do quite happily for myself without having to worry as much about how it will be received by others. And if other people enjoy what I write as well, then that’s a bonus.

Well, this post has ended up being much longer than I planned! I personally find it fascinating to learn how other writers work and the similarities and differences between theirs and my own processes. So I hope this has been an entertaining or even helpful read for some of you. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert in the field, but I have been reading and writing all my life and, in truth, nothing in the world means more to me.

So, whatever else you do or don’t do, make sure you keep plugging away. Write as much as you can about anything that moves you or fires your imagination. Not everything you write will be good, and you mustn’t expect it to be. But don’t be put off by that. Sooner or later, you’ll end up surprising yourself.