Thursday, April 30, 2009

Missing, Presumed Not Needed.

Sometimes, what you leave out is as important as what you put in.

When giving descriptions of your world, or of the people in it, overdescription should be avoided. Do you really need to describe the thunderous looks on the face of a demon AND the effects it has on the mortals around it? Or will a reference to the demon's look and its effects suffice?

I'm reading my way through Terry Pratchett's Discworld series at the moment, and what stands out above everything else are the sparse descriptions that he uses. He rarely describes the look of disgust on the face of a witch, but he does describe the effect it has on a wizard.

Iain M Banks is another writer who has a sparse style.

Keeping descriptions to the minimum (take note Miss Rowling) keeps the pace up, the interest high and allows the reader to fill in the gaps.

The hard part is deciding what to leave out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Openings

I spend a lot of time, maybe too much, working on my openings: chapters, lines paragraphs etc.

I will write, rewrite and rewrite again until I'm happy with it. And that's before I get started on the rest of the novel.

How much time do you take over your openings?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lest I forget...

...which I did yesterday. Despite a promise to myself to write something on this blog every weekday (subject to illness, holidays and technical problems), I forgot. In my defence, I was reading and writing most of the day.

I've rejigged the opening to my novel again, this time focusing on one of the main characters. The feel of the opening lines hasn't changed, just the focus, and it has better structure because of the change.

Instead of seeing the village where he lives and slowly zooming in on his house, I've started at his house and am having him walk around the village whilst his cleaner is at work on his bachelor pad.

It's still way too long and rambling, but I always find it easier to remove things than to have to pad a story out. I've also continued my reading of Terry Pratchett and Toby Frost to get some idea of modern comic pacing and style. Recalling my 'stand-up' days can help with writing comedy stories, but they are different beasts.

Onto other things, the answer to Friday's question is: Carry On Cleo. The line was uttered by Kenneth Williams who was playing Julius Caesar. The film is one of the best of the series (along with Carry on Up the Khyber and Carry on Sergeant) and worth a look if you want a peek into English humour. Despite the opinions of some, it hasn't changed all that much in the last century.

Finally, I have another script reading tonight.

In two weeks I shall be performing on stage, and fear is staking me like a hungry Lion...thankfully I'm armed with a phaser.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Infamy, Infamy...They've All Got It In For Me.

The title has nothing to do with the post, I just like it. (Can you name the film that line comes from? Answer on Monday)

Last night's rehearsal went well, despite me forgetting some lines. It wasn't not knowing them that was the problem, it was the terror that suddenly overtook me when performing in front an audience. I'd forgotten how scary it can be.

On the plus side I do know the words (I repeat them several times a day), I just have to put actions to them now...and change the phrases I don't like with something more suitable, for which I have permission from the director.

It forced me to face some questions about dialogue:
- How much dialogue does a particular story need?
- When should dialogue replace description?
- Is there an ideal amount of dialogue?

In a script, there is only dialogue plus a few brief descriptions of the scene and an occasional piece of direction (empty water from jug etc), whereas in prose you have to fill in the gaps.

What about a situation when both are appropriate?

I usually use dialogue. What do you do?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Writing Dialogue

One thing has become clear whilst learning my lines for tonight's rehearsal: bad dialogue sticks out.

Here's a test for you: pick a page of your novel/short story with lots of dialogue and try to learn it all. See how long it takes and what mistakes you make when learning.

Anything that is difficult to remember may be wrong for the character.

The script I'm learning for tonight has several parts to it that are difficult to learn as they don't seem to fit the character or his speaking pattern. This may be due to bad dialogue, or, just as likely, that I don't understand or know the character well enough.

It makes me wonder about the 'bad' dialogue that I've written in the past. Either I didn't know the character well enough, or the dialogue was wrong.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm Nearly Famous Now

Well, the audition went well and I got the part. We're performing in three weeks time and all I have to do is learn a page and half of dialogue for tomorrow's rehearsal and everything's fine.

One of things I am looking forward to, as a writer, is acting out other people's dialogue. By doing so I can discover what dialogue works in certain situations and improve my own dialogue when writing.

That's the theory, but it's still only a side issue compared to getting back on stage and doing one of the things I enjoy most: being the centre of attention (Did you think I had no ego! Mwar ha ha ha)

Back to the script: London accent (tick); water filled boots (tick); plenty of ham (tick). On with the show.

p.s. The play's called 'Soapsud Island'.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Beginnings

Over the next month I am facing a lot of changes in my life, some positive, some not so. What I do know is that I will be a different person because of them.

Tonight I'm having an audition for a part in a play put on by a local theatre group. I've wanted to get back into performance arts for some time and this part has come my way. I'll see where this leads and hopefully I'll be able to use my writing experience to help the group.

Another major move is that I'm temporarily moving back in with my mother. Now that my ex-wife is getting her own house and I can not afford a house of any size locally, it means that I will be spending a lot less time with my kids.

The divorce has really hurt them, but I'm glad that I've been able to keep the 'family unit' together for this long. The kids are a lot older and wiser and more able to cope. I hate to think of the state they'd be in if I'd walked out on my ex three years ago after her affairs started.

The short and sharp of it is I can kick-start my life again and get back to what I LOVE doing: the creative arts. I've restarted writing and have made a better fist of if this time. I will also make sure that my children get to see me performing this time, instead of being kept away from it by my ex.

My past has been a 46 year long lesson in which I've learned good and bad ways of doing some things. Some of it I've applied, some of it I have yet to apply.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

Monday, April 20, 2009



Litgirl01 has been kind enough to honour me with an award for...(drum rolllllllll)...'great gratitude/attitude'.

Thankyou. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I would like to thank everyone for this award. It has come as real surprise, not least...(does a 'Gwyneth Paltrow' or any other Oscar recipient you care to think of)...and my pet goldfish who died when I was four, giving me the inspiration to continue my life's work.

So now it behooves me to follow the rules of nomination:
1. Post the logo on my blog (tick)
2. Nominate 10 blogs with great gratitude/attitude (half tick)
3. List and link your nominees (tick)
4. Notify them of the award (will tick later)

My list is
1. Cindy Wilson
2. Nathan Bransford
3. Bookends
4. Justus Bowman
and finally
5. Litgirl

In order to get the list up to ten I nominate you all twice. Why these blogs? All five of them have provided me with inspiration through their blogs as well as some sane advice in the world of writing/publishing.

p.s. I'm right chuffed.
p.p.s Who dreamed this idea up? It's wonderful.

--------------------------------------------------

As a struggling writer, the hardest part is getting noticed, which is why we all need a market for our stories.

First Edition is a newish short story/poetry magazine in the UK and they welcome submissions from anywhere in the world, providing that they are in English.

Submissions can even be sent via email and they will post the magazine to anywhere in the world.

It may not be for you, but check it out anyway.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home - Day 12

The last fortnight has been an interesting self-observation. What have I learned?

I dither, procrastinate and put things off. Not just writing, everything.

I have some tax forms to fill out (not done), paperwork to file (still on the floor) as well as writing to do.

I do get things done in spurts, but taking that first step is hard, harder than it should be.

However, I have done more reading over the past fortnight than I have done in the immediate past, and have sent some writing off for publication (I hope), as well as getting some critique back on another piece.

All in all, I cannot blame the kids for a lack of output, only my fear and lack of organisation. Knowing that I will be moving house in a month's time doesn't help either.

Next week...no excuses. Except the important things that just HAVE to be done.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home - Day 11

Result!

Four pages of my aunt's autobiography typed up this morning. Reading planned for the rest of the day, and some more writing this evening.

Back to the grind...no...back to the joy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home - Day 10

Same as yesterday: kids up to their own things and I'm dithering.

One thought has been coming into my mind time and again over the last few days, and it relates to a conversation with a minister some years ago. We were talking over some problems I was having at the time and about the advice other people were giving. His comment, said with a heavy sigh was, 'advice is easy to give when you don't have to follow it'.

Although I can relate that to several things that people have said to me recently, I also wonder how much of the advice given by people to us as writers has been followed by the givers? To put it another way, what is the quality of their advice?

Something to ponder.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home - Day 9

After a productive weekend...well almost...I've gotten back into the swing of things again today.

Writing-wise I've polished an SF short story and submitted it to Pantechnicon, a magazine who published my very first SF story last year. This afternoon I intend to read some more as well as continue with my aunt's autobiography.

As this fortnight comes to an end, I'm coming to the conclusion that it isn't the kids interrupting me that's been a problem up till now. There are always interruptions (some welcome, most not) and plenty of 'reasons' not to write. I tend to use those reasons as an excuse to avoid writing, partly because I don't have the vitality for life that I used to have, partly because if I don't write I won't get rejected...yes, I'm scared of rejection sometimes.

But I have been able to use the time to tidy up old work, revisit old stories and realise that some of them aren't the masterpieces I once thought. I have also been able to redirect my novel, which is similar in scale to getting an oil tanker to do a handbrake turn.

So it's been a useful exercise and one that I will continue for the rest of this week and repeat on every school break.

On other matters, I came across a blog via the Christian Writers Yahoo group written by a published author called Gail Gaymer Martin. The most recent post is about self-publishing and POD.

Have a great day.

p.s. No doolally PCs or PC users today.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home - Day 8

It's Easter Monday and my birthday, so I took the day off.

I did finish another book over the weekend (God Emperor of Didcot), which my kids hated as I laughed out loud so often. Don't they like their father being happy?

Back to the writing tomorrow...assuming that there are no panic calls from people whose PCs have decided to go doolally.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home - Day 5

Another day, another infected PC. At least this one was easy to fix and allowed me to get home quickly enough to carry on writing.

Writing wise I've polished the first chapter of one of my novels and passed it around to my writing group for comments. I've also pondered the thoughts of the group from yesterday's short story evaluation.

The kids have been quiet (one's decided to sleep), probably due to it being cold and wet outside and the fact that they all stayed up late.

The rest of the day will be set aside for reading and hopefully finishing off a novel or magazine.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home - Day 4

Too much work, not enough time...for once.

It's not the kids that have been the problem today, it's been the work. A few pages read this morning (God Emperor of Didcot - REALLY funny), but nothing else.

All of a sudden everyone's PC is breaking down. Typical: nothing much for weeks, then it all happens at once, just when I want to get down to some writing and see where my time goes. Why can't PCs break down in a nice neat order, well spaced out over time? It's a conspiracy I tell you, a conspiracy.

Tonight WILL be a writing/reading night...(ring, ring)...you're computer's done WHAT!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home - Day 3

Two kids in, one at a friend's house = relative peace.

It's mid-afternoon and I've tidied up another short story and sent one out for an email evaluation to my writer's group. I've also trawled through my half-started and almost finished short stories to see if anything is worth continuing with.

Reading-wise, I've finished off one book which I wished I'd never started, and began reading another one which has had me in fits of laughter several times in the first 30 pages.

Displacement activities have been:
- making lunch
- buying a couple of storage boxes and a monitor riser
- working on a website to earn money

So far I've done more tidying up and finishing off with regards to writing this week, but I have restarted my reading and am achieving the goals I set some time back of one B.E. per week.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home - Day 2

Today I've done a lot more reading (and will continue to do so). I've also outlined a short story about Dinosaurs and brought together a few facts & ideas to support it.

A large 'distraction activity' has been a long business meeting about the drama courses I sell.

The kids have been otherwise occupied. My youngest has discovered a PC game and the two teenagers have slept in, then showered after they emerged from their stupor.

Two days gone and I've done more writing/reading/planning than I've managed in the previous fortnight. So far, so good.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home (WWTKAH) - Day 1

It's mid afternoon and I've managed to finish off a short story, read two chapters of a novel for critiquing at the writer's group tonight and read some more of 'Absolution Gap' by Alastair Reynolds.

So far, I am being left alone whilst the kids settle into the Easter Holiday.

'Distraction' activities include transferring several pieces of music to mp3 so I can play them on the PC whilst I work; doing some washing and drying it; taking the boys out for lunch; reading news.bbc.co.uk to 'keep up with events'.

BUT...I haven't been disturbed.

One weekday down, nine to go.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Writing With the Kids

My youngest son finishes school for the Easter break, meaning that I'll have all three boys at home for two weeks. In a peculiar twist, this actually gives me more time to write.

I don't have to think about getting him out of bed, off to school, nor do I have to collect him later. My eldest two get the holiday off, despite being home schooled, as it makes sense to have them fit in with Lukas' school timetable, so there is no work to set or check.

Although there will be the odd fight and disagreement, and sometimes the kids will fight too, for the most part they will keep each other amused or do their own things.

That means I can shut the front room door and do some work...at least, that's the plan.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Paint and Draw



I don't draw or paint that often, but sometimes I just like to sit down with some paper and some pencils or brushes. It helps me to unwind and I find that reproducing nature in some form brings a little peace into my mind.

This one was painted with ink and I decided to give the flower a blank expression...or is it 'da Vincian' enigmatic smile?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Where Do You Work?


What does your workspace look like? This is mine.

Put a picture of your space on your blog...if you dare.

Rule 1, no tidying before taking the photo
Rule 2, no apologies for the 'state of it
Rule 3, no animals to make it look cuter...or stuffed toys
Rule 4, laugh at mine
Rule 5, don't make any rules
Rule 6, do it NOW!