I had a great deal of fun at the end of 2019 when I reviewed all of the research I’d had to carry out for my short stories throughout the year. Thorough inquiry is no guarantee of a good narrative (my wife, an excellent editor, has put several exhaustively researched but poorly written stories out of their misery), it is an end in itself.Continue reading “Things I had to Research in 2020 | Blogging”
Category: Writing Advice
Ayr Writers’ Club | Writing
I’ve wanted to expand my writing skillset for some time now. I’m comfortable with writing my short stories, flash fiction and haiku, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that my narrative creation goes down the same neural pathways, that I’ve made for myself a little story niche. It was with this in mind that I decided to join Ayr Writers’ Club.Continue reading “Ayr Writers’ Club | Writing”
Flashback Fiction | Interview
I had a piece of flash fiction called ‘Foundering‘ published in Flashback Fiction this week. They ask all of their authors to answer a few questions on their inspirations, influences, and favourite historical fiction writers. If you’ve got a piece of historical fiction sitting in your drafts folder I really can’t recommend them enough. The editors were approachable and went to great efforts to promote and advertise my work.
Read my interview here.Continue reading “Flashback Fiction | Interview”
Confab | Writer Interview
I am delighted to feature this morning in an author interview on the blog of Sam Kandej.Continue reading “Confab | Writer Interview”
Writing Idiosyncrasies | Opinion
I’ve been rather scatter-gun with my blog posts of late. I’ve had to rearrange some ballast on deck, with more attention paid to my doctoral literature review (finally completed) and work. This temporary realignment has reminded me of how much I miss blogging. I’ve certainly engaged with the writing community, but it never feels quite the same when you’re not posting your own content – the only person circling at a party with nothing interesting to say. Continue reading “Writing Idiosyncrasies | Opinion”
Things I’ve Had to Research | Blogging
Malcolm Gladwell is associated with the ten-thousand hour rule. This holds that ten-thousand hours of deliberate practice is required if a person is to become world-class in any given field. Being world-class in precisely no fields, I can nevertheless safely assume that in many cases such practice must necessarily comprise a high ratio of tedium and repetitiveness. Colonel Sanders’ recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken was rejected over a thousand times before he hit upon the secret which would make him famous, whilst Michael Jordan estimated that his nine-thousand missed shots contributed to his ability to score baskets under pressure.
Blog or Journal? The submitter’s quandary.
I’ve been blogging regularly for almost a year now and it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I try to publish Wednesday/Saturday as a (frequently broken) rule. The discipline is healthy and often forces me to write late into the night or to try to jumpstart the creative process in order to get ideas for stories or articles.
I do, however, find that I am asking the following question of myself on a regular basis:
‘Should I be submitting this to a magazine or journal instead of publishing on my own site?’
Continue reading “Blog or Journal? The submitter’s quandary.”
Good Editors and Good Practice: Submitting
This is the last article in my series on writing. It addresses a subject feared by some authors and relished by others – that of submission. There is something magical about sending a story out into the world. Once it leaves your laptop it is open to interpretation by anyone who reads it. Consequently, myriad worlds and characters are born from your imagination. How many is down to who you choose to submit to and how you go about it… Continue reading “Good Editors and Good Practice: Submitting”
Polishing the Pebble: Editing
Call me masochistic, call me an oddball, but I love editing. Perhaps it’s my long-missed vocation as a substitute English teacher talking, but if I can’t look at a piece of raw writing and make it better then I might as well take up watercolours or piano.
This is where the art of writing really begins for me. Due to the aforementioned masochistic streak, I keep all of my drafts upstairs in a filing cabinet. Just occasionally I’ll dig out the first draft of a piece like ‘Tagged’ and, once I’ve finished shuddering at the raw product, I’ll marvel at just how much it has changed from its original form. For me, a first draft is a chunk of stone hewn from a rockface. When editing, it’s time to park the plant equipment and bring out the hand chisel. Here are a few tips that I’ve found useful when adapting my first draft…
Getting Toothpaste Out of the Tube: Writing a First Draft
The first draft is the worst part of the writing process for me. Why? Because, that brilliant, vague, abstract idea in my head is forced through the imperfect filter of my keyboard. First drafts are always a disappointment to me; I never write as well as I imagine I will.
Nevertheless, until science dictates otherwise, authors are forced into a grotesque mockery of what will hopefully end up as a presentable piece of writing. There are no hard and fast guidelines as to how best to get the toothpaste out of the tube – this is the perhaps the most organic and unstructured part of the writing process – but here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful.
- Use your planning
If you’ve planned well (as discussed in A Skeleton to Flesh Out and Storytelling on the Bus) then use that planning. Trust your instincts – if it was a good idea when you first wrote it down in pre-planning then it is a good idea now. There will usually be a time somewhere in the middle your first draft when you feel things aren’t working and when the easiest thing is to move onto another project. It is at this point that you must fall back on your plan. Grit your teeth and follow what you wrote – bad writing can be edited, but off-the-cuff plotting can lead to a project being abandoned.
- Minimise your distractions
Find yourself somewhere quiet where you can sit and write for at least an hour without being interrupted. I won’t say don’t have your phone near to you. I won’t say don’t write in front of the television (guilty as I write now). I won’t say don’t listen to music. Just be aware that these distractions will influence your writing.
- Leave your writing on a good note
First drafts will usually take more than one sitting to complete. I find it helpful to leave my writing in the middle of a rich vein of inspiration. If I walk away from my desk at a difficult section, I am less likely to return any time soon. When I stop, my fingers should be dancing over the keyboard. Ideas should be fizzing and snapping around my head. I should arrive at my writing the next morning and be able to pick up exactly where I left off – tappedy tap.
- Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be…
Once your first draft is done, save it, print it out, file it away, and forget about it. Get some space; get some perspective. I always stagger my projects so that I never edit a piece directly after having written it. I come back to a story with a fresh ear and often pick up mistakes and discrepancies that I had skipped over. A professional editor is useful because they view writing from a coldly and analytically. Writers can go some way to achieving this by letting a draft rest before taking the red pen to it.
Thanks for reading. As always, comments are welcome. Previous instalments in my writing advice series are available below
Igloos in the Tundra – Idea Formation
A Skeleton to Flesh Out – Pre-planning
Exploration and Sterilisation – Research