Paul McCartney vs Justin Bieber – My Writing Process Blog Tour.
My phone vibrates and when I look at the screen, see the DM icon from Twitter. Who could be contacting me? I swipe the screen, and I see the name and I’m both confused and delighted that it’s Voima Oy.
In my head, this is how the conversation went…
“I’d like to tag you in my Writing Process Tour”, she says. I picture her, non-camera phone in hand, standing in a Chicago street typing to me, she is sheltering from the wind in her majestic coat, cats dance around her weaving in and out of nearby shadows. She contemplates cloud formations.
“Seriously? I’m sure you mean someone else. I don’t mind if you’ve made a mistake.” I reply, from my not-so-mystical East Anglian surroundings, genuinely thinking she’s hit the wrong name in her phone.
“No, I do mean you. Honestly.”
I’m at a loss for what to say, so I say this, “Yeah, but that doesn’t make any sense, it’s a bit like…Sir Paul McCartney asking Justin Bieber.” Then I worry, “..oh, and you’re Paul McCartney in that previous statement,” I add, just to be sure she doesn’t think I’m trying to pass myself off as an ex-Beatle and her off as JB.
I then sit there grinning with delight that she has asked me. Then, I worried…for a variety of reasons.
So, in this tiny event is a snapshot of me as a person and writer. It is how highly I rate Voima, how much I doubt myself, and how privileged I felt to be asked. It also demonstrates that my imagination conjures fictional images all of the time. I can’t turn it off.
Check out her site, connect on Twitter. She is thoughtful, caring and kind. Just see that amazing Avatar image and think that’s how she writes. Her work is dramatic, stylish, unique and mystical.
Quick shutouts are due – Thanks to Natalie Bowers for convincing me to join Twitter. Indebted thanks to Flash Fiction legend, incredible writer and untiring supporter Jacki Donnellan. Finally to Rebekah Postupak who has a secret machine from the future to help her cope with being a talented writer and looking after a thousand baby dragons, fifty of which shout ‘play time’ every Friday, across the globe.
In the future, I will be adding a page of awesome people to the blog. If you are not on it – tell me!
What am I working on?
Trying to balance work, with family and my new hobby is hard. And I’m just writing, editing, reading fellow writers, communicating, blogging – I don’t have the extra responsibility of noble people like Rebekah, Natalie, Alissa, Beth, Emily June or Rebecca.
I interact with some wonderful people online (who I constantly fear are Turing Test robots from a tech giant), currently, these people have a big influence what I do and when I do it.
I have been submitting to Flash Friday Fiction and helping to promote it to others. I will try and do this every week. It is a magical place; it’s given me a reason to write, it prompts creativity within me, it’s a warm cave to hone skills, and a gentle experienced wing that protects my fledgling body until it’s strong enough to fend for itself in the scary writing world.
Encouraged by Flash Fiction kingpin/charity champion, Karl A Russell (A is for awesome, BTW), I have been submitting to Luminous Creatures Press (run by Beth and Emily June) and The Angry Hourglass (run by Rebecca). I’ve also posted twice to Finish that Thought (run by Alissa). These are free competitions, run by selfless and dedicated community writers. These are keeping me very busy; exhausting me physically and emotionally. But they are making me think, create, submit and learn. I have never been more inspired or productive – so thank you to those wonderful people and the unbelievable talent that inspires me there. Who needs sleep anyway?
I have a pen name. I thought long and hard about this and it took a while to set up, but I’m glad I did it. In many ways I have the relative freedom and don’t have to worry about the call from my boss asking me to explain the content or tone of one of my stories. I don’t have to worry that if I apply for a new role, they’ll have one of my stories printed next to my application form, which could be both embarrassing and highly awkward.
This year has been prolific (by my standards). I’ve written more in the last six months than I have in the rest of my lifetime combined.
Apart from the Flash Fiction writing, I have a few ideas for longer pieces of work. I have never written anything over ten thousand words. One thousand is a marathon. The only way to think of this is loads of mini Flash stories joined up. I’ll have a crack at it later in the year – NaNoWriMo seems like a good place to start, but I know this will be like nailing jelly to a wall.
One WIP is for a book based on darkness, how people change, how it changes city dynamics, the things that we say and do and often regret in daylight. It will have three to five alternating characters. One of these is unconventional. This is big in scale, and I’m scared and excited by it.
There is another tale, about alternative worlds and travelling between them. This has been done many times, but I think I have a slightly different spin on it, I’ve started this work already (hinted at it in one of my flash stories).
And, another about mythical beings in ancient Ireland, the people that fear and interact with these creatures. These people link to Ireland of today. There is also the fact that it’s not Ireland at all.
And another about…
You get the idea.
I firmly believe that the more I read and support others, the better my own writing becomes – so in essence, this is an ongoing task.
I have mentioned that I am a writer, but I feel nervous saying this. There should be a test – some form of validation. I feel uncomfortable even thinking it. My writing life is mostly secret. My family have only read my work in the last few weeks. My workmates will never read it; I like the separation – work is work, writing is writing – unless I put them in my stories, but then, they’ll never know anyway, will they?
How does my work differ from others of its Genre?
I thought I did SF, but then I realised I hated hard-core SF, because readers (sometimes) complain that there is not enough science, or there is too much plot or character development (I have honestly seen people say this about Iain M Banks). It’s a very specialised genre, which requires real knowledge and one I’m not good enough to be part of.
Then, I came across the term Speculative Fiction. Many of the writers and tales I enjoy fall under this umbrella term for fiction that has some form of otherworldly quality (SF, near future, dark fiction all count). I like this.
My writing has been described by others in contrasting terms; beautiful and brutal, highly visual and character driven. These words are not mine and I feel uncomfortable using them. I guess it just shows that my writing style varies depending on what I’m doing.
I’m painfully aware of my weaknesses and lack of talent and technique (these stalk and terrorises me as much as any creature I can conjure). I have a very long way to go with grammar, punctuation and dialogue (no $h1t, Sherlock); I have zero confidence with these aspects of writing. I need to learn more about pacing and rhythm. I need to make longer stories. I need, perhaps, to go easier on myself.
Sometimes I read the way something else has been written and think it looks like something I might have written (only they’ve done it much better, Marie McKay is a prime example on Flash! Friday).
In short – I’m nothing special.
Why do I write what I write?
Because my head hurts with ideas. At the moment my imagination is in overdrive. Some of this is likely to make you worry, please accept my apologies in advance…
I visualise Image Ronin ordering sharks from ebay, in preparation for word domination, laughing at us from IR-HQ in Queensland. I wonder if David Shakes sees the world in vivid images and if he has a franchise of Shakes agents around the globe (and does he own the copywrite to handshake and milkshake?) I imagine Karl making notes on train passengers and planting bits of their psyche and foibles into other worlds, worlds that will win over judges as well as readers. Does AJ Walker avoid blue and white colours? Does Avalina dive-bomb people she doesn’t like on her island with her quadcopter drone? Does Stella await Sunday nights wishing the time zones would be moved (like I do). Talented Kristen, she’s the nice one, but surely that must mean there is a horrible one somewhere. Who is it? Where are they?
So…my imagination is overactive and I need to channel it. Imagine my spaghetti brain, but with extra layers – maybe it’s more like a lasagne; filled with hundreds of competing characters and worlds and universes. The pasta is going squishy and the meat content is leaking out. It’s no wonder I have headaches. At times, I am not sure if I am keeping these characters imprisoned, or if they are holding my mind hostage. Either way, giving them freedom alleviates the pressure.
My upbringing, my history, my job, my religion, and especially my family – all have a major role to play in why I write what I write, and why I write at all. It is incredibly important that I remember this.
These authors astound me with delight, awe and terror: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Philip K Dick, Iain M Banks, Isaac Asimov, Neil Gaiman, China Mieveille and James Frey.
Having said all that, I am probably equally inspired by the writers around me.
As a teenager, I completely adored the Fighting Fantasy books. I still encourage my children to read them today. They took me to worlds where I was the hero. I was in the adventure. I made the decisions and lived or died by them. I could not get these books out of my head, and still can’t today. Incredible concept, beautifully written and illustrated – these were the immersive foundation stones of computer games today.
I’m mesmerized by stunning visuals and vivid storytelling in film and TV. Music has a place too.
In addition to fiction, I dabbled in poetry on a creative writing course. People said I was poet, that I had a talent for it. To call myself a poet would be even more fraudulent than saying I’m a writer. I feel even more stringent tests are needed for the word poet. I would fail any test that didn’t rely on cheesy rhymes or trying to make bad song lyrics. However, I fell in love with Haiku, I thoroughly enjoyed it and got a real buzz from creating it. It takes real thought and skill. I’d like to do more of it.
How does my writing process work?
I get ideas from photo prompts, music, film and books. I’m starting to realisee that I am more of visual person. The photo prompts trigger more creativity than the word ones. I’ve used a search engine image of the day more than once to generate a story idea. I have also used local newspapers to get ideas (oh, the fun I’ve had using classified ads and dating columns).
I try to find unique angles on them, or skew them in some way. This just helps trigger a flow of thoughts. Sometimes these come to nothing. Sometimes I write them down, work with them, then scrap them entirely. I used to hate this, used to fight it, protect the invested effort – now I just move on – generally much better things come. Sometimes stories take disproportionate effort. Sometimes they just flow like a pub urinal on a Saturday night (without the chewing-gum and lemon-cube blockages), and I know I’m happy with them, even if they don’t win anything. I find that walking helps to add flesh to skeletal ideas.
Sometimes the ideas are too many. I need to get them down, but I am walking or driving. I have installed a voice app for my phone, I want to use it more, but I’m terrified I might set it off when I’m at work.
I don’t have set formula or template for writing, or a place to do it. Unlike many others I prefer silence, I like to be completely immersed in the story. Normally, characters and settings come first, then vague plot outlines (never knowing how to join them up). I rarely come up with a title first, sometimes this happens, but rarely.
I find editing both soul-destroying and liberating. I’m trying to get better as I go along.
I often say this, but I feel I am just a pre-school child, learning from those around me. I’ve learnt a staggering amount in just a few months and it excites and scares me how much more there is to learn.
Passing the baton (to three people more worthy than me)
I met Liz through a writing challenge earlier this year. She won one of the nine awards on offer. She has stayed in touch and checked on me when I was flagging with writing exhaustion. Her writing has great imagination and a sense of mischief or playfulness. I enjoy her blog too. She has found it hard to find time for fiction, but this is where Flash Friday has helped. She is bright, funny and full of potential.
Visit her wonderfully named blog, Bitsa – find Bitsa stuff there (sorry).
His work is simply stunning. I also met Van on the same challenge as Liz (he also won an award). His writing is so incredible that two of his stories actually made me cry (I wasn’t alone). One of them I reread a few days later and it had the same affect. He has also written work that has terrified me. All this with 500 words! You can only judge a writer by how they make you feel and for me, gifted and talented are words that don’t do him justice.
Toni was a fellow Dog Days finalist on Flash! Friday. As well as crafting a brilliantly written and highly humorous story, she greatly impressed me with her other skills, such as marketing and promotion. Things I don’t think I will ever find comfortable, but I stand in awe of people that can do them (and she does this incredibly well). At the time she was also highly supportive of me and others, and went out of her way to interact with fellow writers. She’s also had a book published, which has been very well received, this is something I aspire to, but she’s already been there and done that. She is taking her Dog Days story and letting run free elsewhere. I’m really looking forward to her article.
Check them out. Follow the trail of tasty and plentiful breadcrumbs, and check out the magical and twisting the family tree of writers. Thanks for everything – M