Work in Progress Blog Challenge: Dark Energies

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Dark Energies

It’s sharing time again!

I’ve been invited by fellow writer/blogger Zenobia Southcombe (you HAVE to love that name!!) to take part in the Work In Progress Blog Challenge…

This is probably the most fun blog hop I’ve come across. The idea is that I post the first line of the first three chapters of my current work-in-progress, then nominate four other bloggers to do the same. And not a bucket of ice-cubes in sight.

I’ve bent the rules ever-so slightly to also include the first line of the prologue/introduction, so there are actually four lines here. In my defence, the first line of Chapter 1 couldn’t really get much shorter.

These lines come from my first full-length novel Dark Energies; a contemporary urban mystery spiced with a healthy dose of romance and quantum physics. The story unfolds from the POV of Dan Carter, who is desperately in search of something to fill the void in his life. When he’s contacted out-of-the-blue by a mysterious young woman via a social networking site, it looks like he may just have found it. But you should be careful what you wish for…

Introduction:

Edward Stretton somehow knew that neither he, nor anyone else, would ever see his wife again.

Chapter 1:

Why am I writing this?

Chapter 2:

The hallucinations didn’t begin immediately, nor were they all that strong to begin with.

Chapter 3:

Sam’s flat could only be described as cluttered.

I hope you enjoyed that micro-peek into the dark and disturbing world into which Dan finds himself inexorably drawn. If nothing else, this challenge has shown me that the first line of Chapter 3 seriously needs some work!

And now to nominate the next 4 bloggers:

Jeni Frontera

Andrew Toynbee

Dyane Forde

Lauren Sapala

Over to you comrades, enjoy!

Fools, Horses and Writers

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Self-marketing for writersOK, so here’s the thing about marketing yourself as a writer on the interwebz.

It’s bloody hard work.

Hemingway famously said:

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

And he never had to use Twitter.

So Who Made You The Expert Then?
“Ah yes,” you may be thinking sagely, “but just who are you, young whippersnapper, to deign to tell me how to promote myself or my novel online? What makes you such a guru eh?”

Continue reading

Hello, Mojo?

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Not coming out!I think I’ve lost the mojo.

Now, I’m not 100% sure what a mojo looks like, but I’m pretty certain there hasn’t been one around here for a while.

This is my first blog post in 3 weeks. I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been beavering away at finishing the novel. But it isn’t. In fact, the last time I touched the novel was a fortnight ago. And that was the first time in a month.

I still yearn to complete the novel and to crack on with number 2. I still love writing. I’m still hopelessly addicted to the idea of writing for a living.

So what’s gone wrong?

I have pondered and mulled and cogitated and, on occasions, even ruminated. And I think I have come up with an answer, or something very much like one.

It feels a lot like work. And I’m slightly scared.

When I sit down to edit the draft (for the umpteenth time), I feel like I’m trudging over old ground when I want to be gliding gleefully across virgin territory, meeting new characters and plunging them into breathtaking adventures. Not hanging around with the old crowd who I know so well that I can predict their every action.

I’m also scared that re-visiting the novel will cause me a) to become convinced that it’s a simmering cauldron of turgid ineptitude and b) that to transform it into a banquet for the senses will require another 5 years of undaunted effort toil.

Therefore, I find it far easier and vastly less terrifying to fire up the X-Station and sneak around like a ninja, shooting unsuspecting monsters upside the head.

After which, I feel a profound sense of disappointment at not having spent the hour finishing my masterpiece and propelling myself toward the life I most desire.

Writer’s Fear. It is that of which I am in the grip I believe. And it’s hidden my mojo somewhere.

Has anyone seen it?

When Words Take A Holiday

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Rules of writing you can break

“Write,” they all say, “just write.”

To be a writer, one has to write. And one is expected to be able to pull the very act of writing out of a hat at the drop of… erm… another… hat…

Anyway.

“Just write,” they all say. “Plough on through. Whether you feel like writing or not. In the face of writer’s block. When you have so many ideas you can’t choose the next one. In good times, bad times, sunshine and showers, just write!”

That’s another rule of writing I’m breaking, OK?

Sometimes all you can do is not write. Some days you even sit down with the best will in the world and all good intentions of cranking out a couple of thousand words at the very least. You have the time and the ideas.

Then the words don’t come.

Sometimes the words go on a little mini-break to the coast, dragging a suitcase full of fish-paste sandwiches and Cornettos behind them. Then you’re left sitting in front of the keyboard wordless and it’s not very long before motivation, desire and The Muse all sidle away to catch up with the words and get some ozone in their lungs. And, if I know my Muse, a couple of sneaky G&Ts.

You find yourself scraping together clunky phrases, ambiguous sentences, painfully poor prose, excessive alliteration and generally forced writing which is no fun to write or read.

So I think that sometimes it’s OK not to write. You’re still a writer.

Am I right?

Killing Your Darlings

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The Rules of Writing

It seems there’s barely a day goes past without someone somewhere posting about the “rules” of writing. Now, I’m not entirely sure that I agree with this; I feel there are far too many so-called rules imposed upon one of the most creative pursuits imaginable.

Creativity doesn’t follow rules – creativity bends, warps and downright breaks rules. Look at James Joyce, Flann O’Brien, Dalí, Picasso, Man Ray, John Lydon… you can add plenty of your own favourites to that list.

Or, as Thomas Edison so beautifully put it:

There are no rules here, we are trying to accomplish something

Of course, some rules should be followed, but only because they work. I prefer to consider these principles, not rules. A couple of examples which will be familiar to all writers:

  • Active voice is more dynamic than passive and drives a more immersive story;
  • Showing will deliver a more lasting impression than telling every time;
  • Adverbs will slow down your plot and bog down your readers;

However, there are others which simply beg to be broken in the name of trying something new. One of these, for me, is the advice to “kill your darlings” – that is, no matter how much you love a particular phrase, situation or scene, if it doesn’t fit the story, you have to get rid of it.

Really? Says who?

Unless it’s a major glaring departure from the rest of the book, I reckon you can work it in. OK, so I have a hard time imagining blue-skinned beings from the planet Morgos landing on the deck of the Pequod with laser harpoons – although it would, admittedly improve the tale no end (you can read my thoughts on Moby Dick elsewhere in this blog.)

Otherwise, if you create something of which you are justifiably proud, should you really allow perceived wisdom to stifle that creative impulse and shut it away in a box labelled Conformity?

One of the key purposes of any art form is to bring innovation to light. By adhering too strictly to what should actually be flexible guidelines, writers – particularly new writers – run the risk of inhibiting themselves and diminishing their work. When we start out on the writing journey, we find ourselves suddenly (Elmore Leonard says never to use “suddenly”, but sorry Elmore, been and gone and done it) in the midst of a wilderness with no signposts. So we turn to age-old wisdom and advice. This has to be framed somehow, so is given the label “Rules of Writing.” Before you know it, off we go down the path previously trodden by everyone else and end up creating something which… well… has been done before.

I have one particular phrase in my novel which I love. I’m very proud of it and I believe it encapsulates a feeling we’ve all had at one time or another in our lives. I have never seen it expressed in the way I’ve put it (apologies if that sounds arrogant by the way.)

But…

It didn’t fit within any of the versions of the scene I had written. I knew it was the right place, the right time and the right phrase. But it stuck out like a sore thumb nonetheless. “Kill your darlings,” my inner editor yelled over and over again, “get rid of it!”

So I did. And I missed it. And the scene missed it, And the book missed it.

That’s the point at which I tore up the rule book and decided that rules are indeed there to be broken. It would have been far easier just to lose the phrase and move on. Instead, I stuck to my guns, re-worked a whole chunk of the scene and lowered the prominence of that phrase, so it blended seamlessly.

And do you know what? It works. The scene is stronger, more natural and imbued with greater significance.

So before you succumb to the safer option of following the rules regardless, I say try throwing them out of the window, but make sure they land within easy reach just in case you need them again in future.

Am I wrong? Have you fallen foul of rule-breaking in your own work? Or do you find a little occasional bending a liberating experience?

Now We Are One

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Happy Birthday Jumping From Cliffs

It’s just over a week since a landmark passed me by unnoticed.

Jumping From Cliffs turned one year old this month! I published my first ever post on the 23rd of May last year.

It’s quite extraordinary where the time goes isn’t it??

It set me to thinking about what, if anything, I’ve achieved in my writerly ambitions in that time. And you know what? Actually quite a flippin’ lot thank you very much!

*grin*

  • I have finished the first draft of Dark Energies
  • I have made my first pitch to a real-life baby-eating literary agent
  • I have courageously shared a sample of my writing with the unsuspecting public at large (yep, that’s you lovely people)
  • I have won awards (thank you all again!) – some of which I have taken up, others of which I simply had to put on a back-burner due to lack of time and a dearth of captivating facts to impart about myself

And the list continues…

Well poke me with a fish-fork if that isn’t really quite a lot for 365 days. Who would have thought it when that first tentative post staggered and stumbled its newly-born way into the spotlight glare of the internet?

However, two things in particular stand out as the finest and proudest moments of my journey so far…

1) I have learned a truly STAGGERING amount about the art and craft of writing which drives all of us through every waking – and many a somnolent – moment. It has been said far more eloquently by far greater writers than I, but immersing yourself in creativity and surrounding yourself with talented people really does teach you far more than you ever thought possible.

Which leads me, in customarily long-winded manner, to the other Most Important Thing:

2) I have met the most incredibly supportive, encouraging, talented, enthusiastic, creative and utterly unspeakably wonderful (and, of course, terribly beautiful) bunch of fellow blogging writers that any man could wish to have yomping along by his side.

Yep, that’s you lot again.

Your blogs, along with your comments on mine, have taught me, encouraged me, motivated and inspired me beyond measure.

So grab yourself a piece of cake and a fancy party hat (mine’s the pith-helmet) and join me in celebrating! And, unless I get eaten by a Tyrannosaurus, I’m thoroughly looking forward to continuing this amazing adventure over the next 365 days.

A Piece of String

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Cat measuring string

Image courtesy of Stefan Tell

I have stalled.

A couple of weeks ago I fired off the first 50 pages of my first novel to the first agent I have met. A week of firsts.

With the sense of a job well done and 4 years well spent in writing the novel, I then settled back and waited for my ship to come steaming into the harbour amid a riot of confetti and bunting.

And I waited…

And I waited…

I waited some more…

Then I did a bit of pacing about…

Then I went back to waiting…

I really am rather concerned about this agent. Clearly he has been taken gravely ill. Or has lost his job. Or is embroiled in a protracted and painful relationship meltdown. Or is stuck in a shed. Or has been eaten by badgers. Or his eyes have fallen out.

Surely he can’t just not like the book and isn’t telling me? Impossible! Inconceivable!

Maybe my email got caught by his spam filter and any day now he will spot it sitting there.

I shall go back to waiting.

The question is… how long does one wait before chasing up an agent? Is two weeks inappropriately needy of me? Or does it imply that I set too little stock by the quality of my work? Should I have called last week? Should I email tomorrow?

Meantime, while all of this is going on, I have, as I stated at the very outset, stalled. I have written not one word in those past two weeks, nor have I pursued the myriad marketing opportunities for my book and my personal author brand (OK, I hate the phrase “personal brand” because I reject entirely the notion of people as brands, but it fits here so I’ll cheapen myself and use it). I have, in short, assumed that just one phone call away was everything I have ever dreamed of.

The most nonsensical part of this whole farago is that I know for absolute fact that there is an immense chance of getting rejected by every agent on the planet, yet still I thought: “Ha. Jolly good. Made it first time. Now to relax with a piping hot crumpet and become a world-renowned author overnight.”

I haven’t even submitted the self-same 50 pages to any other agencies yet. I did get as far as underlining a few in the Artists’ & Writers’ Yearbook with an orange pen, as if by some alchemical happenstance this would cosmically alert them to my presence and have them clamouring at my door in a frothing maelstrom of acquisitional lust.

Still waiting…

So, rather like a little field-mouse poking his head out of a stuffy burrow as the first tendrils of spring waft their freshening way to his nostrils, I shall endeavour to shake off the langorous turpitude in which I have been cloaked of late and re-double my efforts.

I shall write. I shall research. I shall pitch and query and synopsificate. I shall do all of this and much much more!!

As soon as I’ve checked to see if my agent has replied…