The Write Side of Life: Work in Progress Update – Chapter 2

Chapter two is done; handwritten and transcribed, first and second draft done!

homer

I’ve got to say this way of working, handwriting and then transcribing seems to really suit the way I work. I’m not really someone who uses outlines. I tend to write a general set of paragraphs that describe how I want the story to start and finish, and a vague of idea of what happens in the middle.  I am very much a ‘pantser’ and I like to see where the story is going as I write it in a similar way to how someone would read it for the first time.

plot

Therefore this method of writing allows me to slow down a touch and sort my thoughts out. I can reflect on what I’ve just written and think clearly about how the next chapter will progress and link up to the previous one.

Now, I know that you’re probably thinking at this stage, ‘Slow your roll, Kid. You’re only two chapters in‘ but I have to say, I’ve never felt this comfortable and confident going into my third chapter before so something must be working, right? right? Guys? Hellooooo……

We’ll see if this positive energy keeps up as the work continues so stay tuned. As for how chapter two went? Well, pretty good I think. There wasn’t many speed bumps which is something I was nervous about. There was a lot of exposition that needed to go into this chapter as one of the main characters is set on his mission but I think I got it all in there without any info-dumping, and ‘hopefully’ I’ve also managed to keep it compelling. Who knows? Maybe when I read it back for editing, I’ll feel differently but for now, all is good in the hood.

So, it’s onward and upwards to chapter three which I am currently in the thick of as we speak. This one may be trickier as I’m changing character focus for this chapter but we shall see. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s finished but until then…

porky

Thanks for reading,

Tim

p.s.

Did you notice a few piccies in this post? Hopefully it will make my ramblings a bit more interesting.

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The Write Side of Life: Harper Lee, A Tribute

‘Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.’ To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Ask any writer, reader or lover of books and I bet they will be able to reel off a list of authors and books that have shaped their lives.

I am no exception. My parents tell me that from a very young age, I devoured books. Quite literally at first as I was only a toddler and my first instinct was to pick up a book – usually upside down – and stick it in my mouth.

As I got older and realised exactly what books were for, my love affair intensified.  At school I worked my way through the wonders of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. When my reading ability grew I moved away from these and started finding myself getting into trouble for reading the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz (apparently, these books were too old for me and I shouldn’t have been reading them but that’s another blog post for another time). They are all authors who I still love. You’ll always find me first in line when at the book shop when there’s a new Stephen King book released.

But when I started my first year of GCSE English, I was presented with a book which – I say wholly without exaggeration – changed my life. It was the story of two young children living in America’s South in the 1930’s and their perspective on the case of a black man being tried for the rape of a white girl; the black man’s lawyer is their father.

I don’t need to tell you of  course, that the book was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Like me, most people’s first exposure to the book was during English at secondary school. I know that because of this, because of being forced to read it at school, a lot of people have bad memories of the book. But for me there are only good memories.

At it’s most basic, To Kill A Mockingbird is quite simply a wonderful story of the experiences growing up and being confronted with adult situations at a young age. For me however, there was something more. The way Lee wrote of all the characters- from the boisterous, ever curious, Scout Finch to her stoic, Everyman, hero, Atticus Finch- made them all feel completely alive and real to me. The way she uses descriptions of the hot stuffy weather in Alabama to emphasise the growing tensions in the town made me believe that I was actually reading something more than just a fiction, that this could have been a real place.Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention how Lee perfectly bolts on a ghost story to the proceedings with the sub-plot of the mysterious local town legend, Boo Radley.

Into all of this she deftly interweaves life lessons that are relevant to all children growing up around the world today, not just in the 30’s. This is beautifully illustrated in the quote at the top of this post, about how we should preserve things of beauty, not spoil them in any way.

It was all of this and so much more, from Lee’s poetic prose to the the way book shifts effortlessly from  a being a heart-warming coming of age tale, to shocking thriller to uncompromising look of the state of a nation divided and back again, that lead me to the decision that more than anything else in the world I wanted to be a writer.

Now, I know that the stuff I write, Sci-fi and Fantasy could not be further removed from Lee’s work but it was all things I have mentioned above that made me want to give it a go. I strive to write as well as Lee did and I constantly find myself going back to my now very dog-eared copy when I am in desperate need of inspiration. Something that happens quite often.

The other thing that I am grateful to Harper Lee for is that because To Kill A Mockingbird was so different to what I usually read that I went out seeking other works in a similar vein. I found I wanted to learn more about that time period and so started researching which led me to a love of history and, in a round about way, blues music.

As I write this, I feel guilty. I feel guilty for a number of reasons. One is that I still have Go Set A Watchman on my ‘to be read’ pile (I’m going to rectify this over the coming weekend).

Another reason is that even though I love this book so much and believe it is such an important book, I don’t feel I have ever championed To Kill A Mockingbird enough. I should be shouting about it from the rooftops, handing out copies to complete strangers in the street.

If you’ve never read it, I implore to go and get a copy and spend some serious time with it. If you read it at school and hated it because you had to write essays about it (something I loved doing BTW, but then again I’m a huge nerd), I beg you to revisit it. Read it without burden and through fresh eyes. It may change your life.

I shall be going back to it tonight and raising a glass in memory of Harper Lee, in thanks for the effect she’s had on my life. I hope you enjoy it to.

REST IN PEACE, Harper Lee (1926 -2016).

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Tim

 

The Write Side of Life: Reader Questionaire

I saw this on a rather wonderful blog I found today called The Bookie Monster, which you can find here. It looked like a fun little exercise and I thought it might give you the chance to learn a little more about me. So here goes:

1. What is your favourite book?

This is a question I’ve been asked a lot over the years. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and came up with two. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Shining by Stephen King. The reasons being are that these are the two books that sparked my love affair with books and also the reason that I wanted to become a writer myself. Maybe one day I’ll get to tell such imaginative and well loved stories.

2. What are your goals? For the year? For your life?

For the year, I want to get my blasted manuscript finished and ready to start submitting to agents. I hope that by 2016, I’ll have a big pile of rejection. For life? Well, doing this writing lark for a full-time career would be nice but that’s just a pipe dream.

3. Are you a writer? If so, tell me about your work.

Yes and, erm read this blog?

4. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Somewhere hot and sunny with a beach and with free-flowing whiskey.

5. What was the last movie you saw in the theatre and was it worthwhile?

Big Hero 6 and yes it was. One of the best animated movies I’ve seen.

6. I’m curious, are there any books that you’ve tried to read and simply couldn’t finish? This is a no judgement zone. 

There are but I’m not going to name them. I don’t feel that would be fair to the authors, editors or publishers that created them. They work extremely hard to get those books out there and into the hands of readers.

7. Are you currently working on a new book/project right now? If it’s secret, you don’t have to tell me about it. If so, however, I hope it’s going well.

I am. It isn’t secret but as I’m still working  a lot of it out, I don’t want to go into too much detail and commit myself to things within that project that might change. Suffice to say, I’m working on a book, a couple of competition entries and also making this blog something successful and worthwhile.

8. If you could live in any of your favourite books, which one would you choose?

That’s a tough one as many of my favourite books have aspects that would be amazing to experience and others that would be downright terrible and horrifying. I guess as long as I didn’t have to go to anywhere like Mordor or the Lonely Mountains, Middle-Earth would be fun.

9. Are there any book-to-movie adaptations that you think are just incredible? That you absolutely hated?

Obviously, The Lord of the Rings absolutely nailed how you adapt a book as did the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird. Ones I hated, well the film of The Road was a major disappointment for me. It was like they kicked out the main themes of the book to include more bloody violence which was only really hinted at in the book.

10. What do you look for in a book that you want to read?  What’s the first thing to capture your attention?

Even though you’re never meant to, I do judge books by their cover. If it’s got a snazzy illustration or a dragon, it will get my interest. I then tend to scan the first couple of pages and see if I get hooked.

11. If you’re an author, what do you do when you first get an idea for a book?

Scribble it down, and then lose the bit of paper I scribbled on. Or failing that, jot in a notebook or on my phone.

12. How do you feel about different genres? Romance? YA? Sci-Fi? Poetry? Do you have any favorites? Any least-favourites?

My favourites are SCI-FI and Fantasy but I will give anything a go. Hell I’ll read the back of a cereal packet if that’s all that’s at hand.

13. If you could meet any writer in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?

Stephen King so I could steal his mojo and become an amazing author.

14. Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Both. Depends on the subject matter.

15. Are there any characters that everyone loves that you can’t stand? Or vice versa?

Not that I can think of. Those Night Garden things bug the crap out of me.

16. What do you like to do besides reading/writing?

Watching movies, TV and Football. Also some outdoors stuff such as rock climbing and hiking. I also have a fondness for classic cars, not that I can afford one.

17. If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

Being an all round good guy would be nice.

18. What is your favourite guilty pleasure book?

I don’t have one as I’m not ashamed of any of the books that I like.

19. Do you have a reading goal set for this year? 

Currently just to keep recording them here and read lots more than last year.

20. Tell me anything about yourself that I haven’t asked. Random fact. Weird human trick. Whatever.

My favourite food is sausages.

There you have it. If you like what you’ve read, have a go yourself and either answer the questions in the comments or link to your own blog in the comments. I’d love to see how your answers differ.

Thanks for reading.

The Write Side of Life: What’s in A Name?

So, when writing fiction, your characters are going to need names right? Of course they are, not only does it give you the single most essential piece info on who they are but they are also pretty damn useful for distinguishing who is doing what in your story.

With that mind and also thinking about the fact that you, dear reader and I both have names,  and that we call other people by their names; you would think it would be pretty damn easy to come up with some decent names for my characters, right?

WRONG!!!

You see, the big thing for me when thinking trying to come up with a character name (and I’m sure this is true for other authors out there) is that the name I craft have some meaning behind it. Sure, I could just buy the ‘ Penguin’s Big Book of Futuristic/ Fantastical Baby Names’ (BTW I’m pretty sure that ain’t a real book and I just made it up. Any prospective parents out there, don’t go trawling Amazon for it. Just pick ’em from Game of Thrones instead!) but then I would just be assigning my characters arbitrary names. Sure they may read well and roll off the tongue but, for me at least, a character name should be so much than that.

If done well a good character name can give so much more information about who that character is. You can use regional names to give a clue as to where your character is from, or their lineage; You can use historical names to again give the character some lineage but also as a clue to what type of person they are; Certain names carry very obvious meanings to them which you can use to speak volumes about your character. If you are writing particular kinds of Sci-fi and Fantasy you can go off the rails and make-up crazy sounding names that can, if done well, add to the world building of that story.

And this is where I tend to struggle. Einstein once defined stupidity as the act of repeating the same action over and over again but expecting different results each time. And that is what coming up with names can sometimes be like for me. As I predominately write Sci-fi and Fantasy stories, I do have the luxury of being able to make up completely new names but this is also where the problems arise. I, like Einstein’s stupid person,  come up with a name, think it’s great, write it down and immediately think ‘Man, that sucks’: Then lather, rinse, repeat until I’m ready to throw my computer out of the window.

Now, if your still reading, you may be wondering how I get any writing done. Well I do actually come up with names, eventually. Here’s how I do it:

Research

If I’m wanting to use an existing name, the first thing I do is Google it. I check out where the name originally came from and what meanings it has attached to it. This way I can make sure that it fits to how I want to portray that character and not contradict with who they are. It’s also a useful thing to do if you are using regional names. For example, you don’t want to assign a name to your Chinese character only to find out it’s a Japanese name.

Say It Loud

This may sound crazy but it’s true. I do this both with existing names and names that I’m making up. If the name sounds right when spoken, if it just rolls off the tongue, then the chances are it will look good written down too. Also, if the name sounds good it will be memorable, and everyone wants their characters to be memorable, don’t they?

Alliteration

Again, it may sound crazy but it is true. Try playing around with some alliteration when naming your characters. It can be a fun exercise and you might end up with something that stands out. Think of some the great characters Marvel have come up with who have alliterative names; Reed Richards, Victor Von Doom, Pepper Potts, Jessica Jones, Stephen Strange. I could go on but I won’t.

So there you have it, that’s why names are important to me and also how I come up with them.  The reason I have written this is because I’m currently banging my head against a wall trying to come up with a main character name for my current project. It may sound like a bit of a first world problem, and it probably is but hey we all need to vent.

If you’re having similar troubles, or have name suggestions that I can steal you think might inspire me, let me know in the comments below or through the usual social media gubbins.

Thanks for reading.

The Write Side of Life: The Whys, Whats, Wheres and Whens

Having checked out my site stats for this blog recently, it occurs to me that I might get a bigger readership if I actually post regularly.  So, in light of this rather obvious epiphany, I’m bringing back my ‘Write Side Of Life’ title. I set this up with a view to regularly talking about my writing process and maybe giving out some hints and tips along the way. Im going to attempt to do a post under this  title every week. It might not be the most amazing thing ever published to the net but hopefully you’ll find something interesting along the way.

To kick things off, I thought I’d talk about a few questions that everyone who writes will get asked at sometime in their life, be they a rank amateur such as myself or a bestselling novelist, adored the world over; why, where, when and what do you write?

Let’s tackle these in reverse order shall we? That means ‘When do I write? The simple answer is whenever I can. Not being a full time writer who does this as a day job, means that I have to fit my writing around my actual paying the bills job and my responsibilities at home. I write whenever I have some spare time; be that when at home with nothing to do, if I get to work early, lunch breaks and like this post is being written, on the train going to and from work. Which leads quite nicely into:

Where do I write? Basically, wherever I can. My laptop at home, my work computer and even my mobile phone, which is where this post is currently being composed (that’s my excuse if there any grammatical or spelling errors *winks*). I still go to good old pen and paper which I always carry with me so really, I guess the real to where do I write is everywhere.

So, now we know when and where I write, you’re probably now wondering What do I write?
As you’ve possibly already gathered, if you’re a regular here or follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I mainly (attempt) to write Sci-fi and Fantasy stories. They are, for want of a better phrase, my bread and butter; my go to genres. And it isn’t just in my writing. They’re the main genre of the books I read, the films I watch and the t-shirts I wear. I do, however, try to not confine myself to these genres, as maybe obvious from the short stories already posted on this blog. I think for creativity’s sake that it is always good to step outside your comfort zone. For example, the writing competition I am currently working on an an entry for, is for crime thrillers. I ve never written one of these before so am relishing the challenge, although my entry does have an SF element to it but I believe its always good to bend genres if you can.

This brings us to probably the hardest of these questions to answer and that’s why I saved it until last: Why do I write? There’s probably about a million answers that I could give to this; over active imagination, boredom, dream job of being a full time author but really the simple, most straightforward and honest answer I can give is because I have to. It’s hard to explain but in my head ( and I guess this also ties into having an over active imagination) I feel like there is all these stories, or ideas for stories, all boiling away, bustling and fighting each other for space and sometimes it feels like if I don’t get these stories out they might actually drive me insane! I know, rhat probably sounds crazy too but I can’t really think of a better way to describe it. I’m sure other writers and creatives probably feel something similar but they could most likely express it more eloquently than I (I’m good with fiction but talking about myself is a mess).

So there you have it, the why, whats, whens and wheres of my writing life. It might not be the most insightful thing you read today but hopefully it was a little bit interesting and that you now know me a little better.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

The Write Side of Life: Happy New Year and I’m Baccckkk!!!

Some of you may remember that back in early 2014, I re-launched this blog and also launched my attempt at an on-line novel, Isis. If you follow me on twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, you probably remember me spamming up the airwaves with this stuff. In March I then decided to take a break from writing the on-line novel for reasons such as work, wedding planning and writing for a couple of competitions taking priority of my time. There is a more detailed reasoning in an earlier blog.

 

I fully intended to come back and carry on Isis. In fact, in the time between then and now, I have written several more chapters. It has always been my intention to finish it, and I will. Unfortunately for those of you who were following it (I know that wasn’t many but thank you all the same), and also for myself, it seems that Isis is on indefinite hold. Let me try to explain why.

 

In-between last March and your reading of this, a few things have happened in the world, and in my life. The first would be that I got married. Planning a wedding, getting married, enjoying the party, enjoying the honeymoon and last but by no means least, enjoying being married takes up a lot of time; time that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy as much if I was feeling the pressure of having to make sure that I stuck to my, albeit self-imposed, deadlines. Also, in that time, I have ideas for other stories and other writing projects have reared their heads and I am very easily distracted.

 

Another thing that has happened to me personally in this time is, almost as a bi-product of working on Isis, that I have become more determined than ever to write a book for print publication. As with pretty much all aspiring authors, it is my lifelong dream to get an agent and get published. With that in mind, I have been handing most of my writing time to that particular project and aiming for 2015 to be the year that I least get a manuscript submitted.

 

As for what happened in the world, well unless you live under a rock, you’ll know all about the terrorist organisation called, dahn-dahn- daaannnnn, Isis. That’s right folks as I was writing about a terrorist attack by clones from a planet called (that’s right, you guessed it) Isis, a terrorist group called Isis were carrying out horrific attacks in the name of religion. As my story sees many of the attackers from Isis using the ‘R’ word, I felt there were just far too many parallels being drawn that I felt way to uncomfortable. So until the situation with IS is sorted, or I can figure out a way to change the story but remain true to my original idea, I feel it is best to draw a line under it for the meantime.

 

As I’ve said above however, that doesn’t mean I’m not writing and as we are in the new year, I felt this site needed a ‘re-re-launch’ and this is what this is. Part of my writerly New Year resolutions is to heavily build up this site into something of meaning and quality. So, in the coming year expect lots of short stories, writing tips and advice and hopefully an invite to read my debut novel (fingers crossed).

 

Whilst on the subject, if you have any New Year resolutions to do with writing, I’d love hear them.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Tim.

The Write Side of Life: Sorting Out Priorities

Welcome to my occasional feature, The Write Side of Life. From time to time, I’ll be using this column to talk about my writing, the progress I’m making with various ‘works in progress‘, lessons I’ve learned and writing tips I’ve picked up along the way that you may find useful for yourself.

For this first instalment I want to talk about priorities. When completing any type of writing, be it a novel, short story or some kind of essay or article, I adamantly believe that you need to sort out what’s most important to your writing. For some people that maybe the story and where it’s going. For others it might be sorting out which character needs most developing. It can vary from writer to writer.

For me, this week anyway, the priority that needed sorting has been which of my works in progress to be concentrating on. I currently have two ongoing projects. One is a novel that I am writing to submit to publishers and agents in the hopes of getting a book deal. The other has been Isis, the ongoing story I have been posting on this very site and then bugging you all about on Twitter and Facebook.

When I started writing Isis, I already had an outline of the story planned out and basic outlines for each chapter as well as detailed plans for each of the point of view characters and how they would fit into the narrative. The idea was to write and post a chapter every two weeks. The idea behind this was to give myself time to write the chapter, proofread it and then step away from it before giving it another couple edits and posting it. It also means that people have time to catch up on previous chapters.

As I am sadly not a full time writer, I do have a day job which takes up the majority of my week and means I only really get evenings and weekends to write. The fortnight gap between chapters not only meant that I could take time on each chapter but that I could also divide my precious writing time between Isis and the aforementioned novel. For the last few weeks this has been my system and it seemed to be working.

This week however, a rather large fly has dropped his arse, well and truly in the ointment. Now this isn’t your regular fly, the oily black, filth ridden, pox spreading kind that can ruin a jam sandwich in the blink of an eye, it’s actually an excitable bumbly cartoon fly who has arrived with news of a short story competition. The prize is publication in  one of my favourite magazines so I’d be a fool not to enter.

Nevertheless, this competition does put my system on the Fritz. Instead of being able to just split my time in half for each project, I now have to fit in a third and as my writing time is quite limited, it means I have to sort out my priorities.

Now, I know at this point, it probably looks like I’m whining about a first world problem but I assure you, dear reader, I’m not. I’mm not upset or distressed about having another writing project. I love writing that’s the point. I’m genuinely excited about the competition and really want to win. Not only because it’s one of my favourite magazines, but also because it will get my work out to a much larger audience. Who wouldn’t be excited about that?

So in light of the above, and with the deadline for the competition looming in April, I have decided to put Isis on hiatus for now. I know that there has only been a prologue and two chapters so far but I really want to concentrate on this competition and write the best entry I can. I also want to make sure that Isis becomes the best it can be so for now the priority will be the competition.

I’d love to know what kind of similar challenges, if any, to those I write about here that you face. So drop me a line in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

‘Til next time…