Tuesday, 27 July 2010


A sort of updatey blog post today.

Progress on The Steel Walk continues in patchy fashion. I have to admit, writing for an hour in the morning before work does appear to work, and I’m certainly getting more words done on a regular basis than I have ever done before. I’m up to around 63,000 words at the moment, which is traditionally where the story grinds to a halt and I wrestle with the idea of just jacking the whole thing in (A Boy of Blood and Clay imploded at this point). Fingers crossed, that hasn’t happened yet, but I do know from the previous two books that the last 40-50,000 is always a bitch, and it certainly isn’t going to get any easier.

In happy news, I’ve had another short story accepted by The Hub, which should be in the next issue. Hurrah! I’ve been reading George R.R Martin’s short story collection Dream Songs, which is equal parts inspiring and daunting. I think what impresses me the most about his short work is that with many of them I could see an entire book written about the characters featured, or just set in the worlds he has created. I’d love to get this sense of scope in my own work, but I think that’s a way off yet.

I have also been thinking about blank-spacing. You know how you often find that ideas occur to you when you’re doing some sort of monotonous physical task and you’re not thinking about anything in particular? It’s day dreaming I suppose, and it’s an important part of a writer’s life. I notice that a lot of writers talk on their blogs about going for walks (especially when stuck for ideas) and this often helps them on their way. Justin Cronin, author of The Passage (soon to be gracing tube carriages everywhere, no doubt) came up with most of that book while out running. I have found that I often come up with short story ideas while I’m in the shower or washing up (this rather suggests that I need wet hands to think of anything good…)

Anyway, it appears that simply sitting and staring into space is not enough; we need to be physically occupied, as if once our bodies are distracted our brains can start thinking again. I have decided to call this Blank-Spacing- mainly because it sounds all business wordy and more official than Day Dreaming, and it sort of describes how you need to empty your head about before excellent ideas fill it up. When I was little, I used to ride my bike around the close on an endless circuit with one of my soft toys stuck in the basket, and I used to tell him or her stories as they occurred to me (usually it was Louie, Donald Duck’s green baseball cap wearing nephew, or Mousie. I think you can guess what sort of toy Mousie was).

Ideally I’d like to go for a few walks, or perhaps take up skipping. Or knitting. Or kung-fu. Or break dancing. This blank-spacing/day dreaming period is quite vital I think, but what with life and writing already taking up all my time, it is very difficult to allocate a decent amount of time to it.

I’d love to know how other writer’s handle day dream time. Is it vital to you? Does it happen when you’re supposed to be doing other things? Do you consciously pursue it? Tell me!


  1. When I used to write short stories and wanted to get going and come up with something I'd take the dog for a walk.

    I'd just start saying cool lines or monologuing to to the dog speaking as if I were a character in a story I've yet to write or come up with, or even just describe the walk and what I could see in my head...

    Some times I'd sound like a dork, other times like I'm in a piss poor Philip Marlowe story, or just a nutter but every now and again I'd click on something...It was kind of like mental doodling and the dog didn't mind all the walks either! ;)

  2. Congratulations on getting your short story into The Hub.

  3. @Lee- it's worth the dorkage and the nutterdom, I think. Maybe it's partly about being busy with something else so that we're "allowed" to day dream. And the dog gets some walks out of it too.

    @Elaine- Thank you very much! :) I am very lucky to get a second story in there.