Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Editing, the Second Draft and Serious Business

So the second draft of Ink for Thieves is finally finished. I’ll probably need to give it one more read through before I pass it on to my brave and wily beta reading team, but for now the big chunk of work is done. At least, on that book it is. The next couple of months will see more pulling out of hair and knuckle chewing as I read my way through the rough draft of Dead Zoo Shuffle and realise exactly how much delicate surgery that book needs before it’s readable- along with plenty of merry hacking, amputating and other bloody works.


Last night I remembered something Stephen King mentions in his book, On Writing. He said, (I may be paraphrasing slightly here) that you “shouldn’t come lightly to the page”. The first time I read that I don’t think I really understood what he was talking about. I thought perhaps he was suggesting that writing, real writing, was always hard work and could never be fun, which clearly wasn’t true at all. Now, having slogged my way through my first novel-length edit and emerged with what is, hopefully, a much shinier and sexier book, I think I’m starting to understand.


I think he’s talking about an acceptance of the sheer work involved. Yes, it’s fun and there are moments when the story suddenly comes together and the characters wander off to do what they want, and then the writing is exhilarating, but what you are doing is serious business. It is art. And you may well have to write this damn book over and over again until it is any good, and that thought is daunting, but no one ever said this was going to be a walk in the park, where gnomes massage your toesies and butterflies waft their secret songs into your ear holes. Much of the time in fact it’s rather more like heaving a giant dung ball on your back (that may or may not have a diamond secreted in it somewhere) and hauling it to the top of an impossibly tall mountain while goats with sarcastic eyebrows frown at you in a judgemental manner. But that’s alright because this is hardcore, this is SRS BSNS.


At least, I think that’s what he was talking about.

Friday, 27 May 2011

A Brief Visual Blog



And that pretty much sums up this week.

(Drommies, by the way, are small goat-like creatues quite essential for the survival of Juido and Andros in Ink for Thieves)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Upcoming Story in Hub Magazine, and Kittens

So in celebration of the fact that I have a short story coming up in Hub Magazine soon, I will:


a)      Do a snoopy dance (you will have to use your imagination here)

b)      Post a picture of a kitten


a)      and c) point you towards my previous two Hub stories, just in case you haven’t read them. The Sea, The Sea, The Sea is a tale of growing up, growing older and the terrible mysteries of, well, The Sea, and Jump is a story about how infatuation doesn’t always lead to flowers and chocolates. Sometimes, in fact, it leads to frogs.


The new story popping up presently in Hub is one of my favourites; a story initially scribbled into the back of my notebook whilst sitting on a train heading back from the SFX Weekender. As you can imagine, I was nursing a stinker of a hangover at the time and I think some of that hopeless terror and misery seeped through into the story.


Anyway, as soon as it’s up I shall shout and holler on here and possibly even post another picture of a kitten. Watch this space!


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Douglas Adams: So Long and Thanks...


When I was little two of my aunties worked in care homes, and I would sometimes be dragged along to visit if there was a teacher training day or some such. My mum and my aunts, in their trinity of wisdom, would sit me down in front of a bookcase full of second-hand novels, knowing this would keep me out of trouble for hours. On one of these visits I happened to pick up a battered paperback that was to change my life: it was The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.


I think I must have been around 10 or 11. That book coursed through my neural pathways, upgrading my brain in all sorts of exciting ways. My sense of humour changed drastically, moving from the Russ Abbott Show to Monty Python, from the Chuckle Brothers* to Blackadder. I began to think about the universe and my place in it, and got my first real introduction to science-fiction outside of Star Wars.


Ford Prefect became something of a hero to me, with his responsibility avoidance and blithe confidence. Ford didn’t want to save the Universe, he wanted to go to parties and get smashed. He wanted to do stuff and write things and not worry too much about the consequences of those things (like describing the Earth as “mostly harmless”). He was cool and interesting and didn’t quite fit in on our planet, and when you’re a teenager, these attributes are extremely attractive. Still are, really.


I read all the books in a fever of excitement, and then nearly expired with glee when I heard that there was not only a TV series but the radio series that had come first. The fact that each version veered from somewhat familiar to wildly different only pleased me more.


I look back on it now and I think I was supremely lucky to be introduced to Douglas Adams at such an impressionable age. Adams was witty and wise and a fantastically clever writer, whose tangents took you all over the wildly unlikely galaxy, often just to give you a punch line and something to think about. As I got older I read some of his thoughts on science, the natural world and Atheism, and much of what he said helped me to sort out my own confused thoughts on, yes, life, the Universe and everything. Just today I came across an article where Bop Ad talks a frightening amount of sense about the internet, and this was some 12 years ago.


When he died, 10 years ago today, I was a little bit heartbroken; I felt like I’d lost a hero, and the world had lost someone who knew more about what was coming to us than was reasonable or sensible. But I suppose, as I look back now on exactly how much of an impact that well-loved, battered paperback had on me, you don’t ever really lose your heroes. I still know where my towel is.


If you would like to listen to Marty and I blathering on about how totally froody Hitch-Hiker’s is, you can have a listen to the Box Room Special Number 42.



*Alright, to be fair, I never did like the Chuckle Brothers. Do now though, weirdly.