Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Self-Doubt and the Ego and All That Gubbins

Writers and their egos, aye? I mean, blimey. Yowza. We’ve got ‘em, all right.

            There have been a few flare ups online recently, a few megaton drama disturbances in the force set off, shall we say, by a writer’s ego. There was the very recent self-publishing hoo-ha featuring the author now referred to in our household simply as 92K (a drama that has probably actively harmed the profiles of all self-published writers, so thanks for that). And there was the infamous blog post by Christopher Priest concerning the Clarke Awards; say what you like about him, but Mr Priest clearly isn’t burdened with a howling lack of confidence in his own abilities (I loved The Prestige, didn’t love the blog post so much, mainly because it was a bit rude, and the need to be polite at all times is written in big bold letters on my British DNA).

            Self-belief is good, I think. It’s important even. There are times, of course, when it tips over into a slightly obnoxious belief that you can do no wrong, but I suspect you need a strong core of self-belief just to keep going with writing; the road is long, and the set-backs are many.

            Which worries me sometimes. Where others have self-belief, I have doubt. Lots of it. You know, I think I’m pretty good, and I’m proud to have earned compliments from readers and writers I admire for my work. But I doubt everything I write (I’m doubting this right now), I agonize over every line, even continually reassessing the current project to make sure I’m not thundering off in the wrong direction. This doubt, this lack of confidence, can make writing very hard sometimes, because the sense that I might be writing a load of old gibbering rubbish is always there. And maybe it would be easier if I just believed that every word dripped from my pen was glittery deep fried genius. It probably stems partly from shyness, a general dislike of blowing ones own trumpet, and partly from feeling that super over-confidence is unsightly and rude (that British DNA again).

            The writers I most admire are not, I believe, towering ego monsters. Writers like Neil Gaiman, Michael Marshall Smith, and John Connolly are always gracious, witty, wise. They are extraordinary writers, which I am sure they are aware of, but always you sense that their feet are planted safely on the ground somewhere, and there is no danger of any heads disappearing up buttholes. I admire writers who behave with grace and charm, and twitter is gratifyingly full of them (you only need to scan the list of people I follow to find a ton of them). Terry Pratchett, who I sense probably doesn’t suffer fools gladly, radiates kindness and wisdom, and at no point can I imagine any of these writers having a hissy fit online or banging on about how everyone else is wrong.

Perhaps my discomfort with writers who are utterly convinced of their own genius is my own problem, and perhaps I need pump up my own ego, but there is a kind of wisdom, I think, and even a joy, in knowing that you haven’t quite learned everything yet. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Actual Copper Promise Update

The other week when I ask twitter what I should blog about, a number of people rather sensibly requested an update on The Copper Promise. I cheated slightly and wrote a short story set within the Copper Promise universe; a bit naughty, I know, but who can resist a tavern by the name of the Scurvy Lemon?

So this week, given the lack of curiously named alehouses around, I'll do a quick rundown of where everything is.

Part 2, currently titled Masks of Ruin, is in its third draft at this point, with everything almost where it's supposed to be; I'm affectionately thinking of Masks of Ruin as the "difficult child", but it's nothing years of therapy won't sort out. Part 3, nominally titled Prince of Wounds, is in its first draft, and given that this was the child who excelled at school, went on to be a handsome and sexy astronaut and eventually manned the first mission to Mars, I don't think it will need the severe editing-kick that Masks of Ruin needed. In short, Part 3 was a lot of fun to write.

So I'm currently on Chapter 3 of Part 4: titles being kicked around at the moment include God of Tides and Upon the Ashen Blade, but these are subject to sudden bouts of indecision. It's too early to tell yet whether Part 4 is going to be a dream to write, or a nightmare - I know it's going to be fairly complicated, as The Copper Promise has grown hugely from a quick little novella about dungeon crawling - but I will say this: normally at around the 60-70,000 word mark I start to get restless, a little twitchy, and I start to wonder about the next project. I want to be writing something fresh. Well, I'm over 100,000 words (argh!) on The Copper Promise, and it's still a world I never want to leave. I spy sequels on the horizon...

Friday, 18 May 2012

Two Adventurers Walk into a Tavern...

A short story for you today, featuring Wydrin and Sebastian. It's short and quite silly, and I hope that it might make the wait for Part 2 a little less annoying (big thanks to everyone on Twitter who wanted to hear more about the Scurvy Lemon). If you've not read The Copper Promise and would like to know more about this pair of rogues, you can get a copy here

scurvy_lemon.doc Download this file

Friday, 11 May 2012

My Favourite Meme


Writing: The Beginning of All That

I’ve been working very hard on The Copper Promise lately (no, really, stop laughing), typing away until my fingers are nothing more than shiny little nubbins, so consequently I haven’t come up with any interesting blog ideas lately. So in lieu of something good, I thought I would do one of those self indulgent posts about how I started writing.


I’ve always loved stories, of course. When I was very wee, I asked for a desk for Christmas, and the year after that I wanted a typewriter (gods, I have always loved having a desk). I wrote lots as a child and then tons at school, and then it tapered off somewhat and I got distracted by art college, with its poshery and paint and dodgy vodka in the union bar. I started writing seriously, I suppose you could say, on one random day in my early twenties.


I came home from work in a bad mood. This was back when I worked for a certain bookshop, and I know some people will say: “You worked in a bookshop! How could you possibly have had a bad day? You whinging numpty.” – believe me, it is possible to have a bad day, particularly when you’ve heard a lot of “Have you got that book? It was on that table last month and I can't remember what it was called or who it was by. Don't you know any of the books?" This happens more than you would believe… But, anyway, I was cheesed off, and I decided, in a desperate act of therapy, that I would sit down and write a scene that had been stuck in my head for some months. It involved a girl becoming a witch via a really rather nasty and brutal ritual, and once I’d written that I found that, a) I felt better, and b) I wanted to know how the girl came to be in that situation in the first place. Those were the seeds that became the book Bad Apple Bone (still the best title I’ve ever come up with, I think) and over the course of a couple of years, writing in fits and starts, I eventually finished it.


This was a big deal for me. I’d thought about writing books before, but I’d always considered it beyond my abilities – I wrote short stories, picture books, and essays, but not books. But I’d started one and finished it, which proved that actually, I did have the attention span for these things. After that I got involved in NaNoWriMo, where I wrote a short children’s book called Bird and Tower, and the next year I started writing a much longer book called Ink for Thieves… Somewhere along the way I realised two things; that writing books made me happy, and that I couldn’t stop. In fact, writing seemed to satisfy two very basic needs of my personality; the need to make things, and the need to control everything (Yes, writing is a control freak’s dream: “You will all do as I say! Dance my puppets, dance!).


And that’s how I came to be writing a sword and sorcery serial that’s getting longer and more complicated by the minute… I look back at the years when I wasn’t writing books and I worry that I lost time there, that I should have been working on it ever since I got my first typewriter and that little desk with all the stickers on it. But the important thing is, I got there in the end. And art college does get you access to some really cool libraries.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Random Story Thursday: Six Months, Nineteen Days


A short story for you, my little crickets, on this soggy grey Thursday.

(Note for the curious: technically this story is set in the same world as this one I recorded yonks ago for Dark Fiction Magazine, although you don't need to have heard that to get this. If you get me. You get me?)

Six_Months_Nineteen_Days_final.doc Download this file