I hate gardening, but I love gigging

Saturday, March 31, 2007, 6:43 PM

I hate gardening. There's no other way to describe how I feel about it. I hate mowing the lawn, I hate weeding the beds, I hate pruning things. I have a good mind to just concrete over the lot and be done with it. I know this is entirely irrational, but I resent losing precious weekend hours just because the sun decided to show its face. Grrr!

Conversely, I love gigging. Tomorrow evening, I and the singer-songwriter I gig with will play for the first time in ages. We have a few more coming up in April, and I'm looking forward to them too. Gigging is cool (except for those occasions when you get a bad crowd).

Other things I hate, in no particular order...

1)Able-bodied people who park their cars in disabled spaces. How stupid, selfish and ignorant can a person be? They deserve to have their tyres slashed and their licenses revoked. I'm not disabled, and it pisses me off - how angry must disabled folks be about it?!

2)People who leave shopping trolleys in parking spaces instead of wheeling them fifteen feet to the bay provided by the supermarket.

3)People who think it's okay to leave their litter in public places such as cinemas, restaurants, parks, streets, anywhere, because it's somebody else's job to pick it up. IT'S NOBODY'S JOB TO CLEAN UP YOUR CRAP!

4)Paying good money for a product, then having to damage it in order to remove it from its packaging.

5)People who use mobile phones in the cinema.

6)Groups of people who stop to have a conference on the footpath, forcing everyone else to step out into traffic just to get by (this can also be applied to people blocking supermarket aisles).

7)People who abandon their cars when they nip into a shop or other place of business, rather than using a parking space, blocking other people in/out, just to save themselves having to walk an extra twenty feet. I swear, some poeple would drive into the shop if they could.

Okay, I'll stop now before I have a stroke or something. God, I'm turning into a curmudgeon! As you might have guesses, I had to do two things I dislike today: 1) Gardening and 2) Going into town on a busy Saturday.

Making progress - Word count 19,503 (wp) 25,000 (pr)

Sunday, March 25, 2007, 8:18 PM

The new novel is progressing at a very satisfying rate. It was slow going for a while, there, but it's doing nicely now. I think this is going to be a longer novel than the last, maybe something like 120,000 words using printer's rule, so I don't know how long it'll be until I have a first draft complete. The last novel took ten weeks from start to finish, but this time it's a steeper hill to climb. I passed the hundred page mark today, though, so I have a nice feeling of accomplishment to keep things moving.

Sometimes, when you look at the amount of work it'll take to write a first draft, it seems like an impossibly huge task. But I remind myself of two things - first, I've done it before, and second, I only have to do the same amount of work I've done already three or four times more and I'll have a novel. Looking at it that way, it doesn't seem quite as scary.


Is anger a good reason for writing? Word Count 17,871 (wp) 22,000 (pr)

Thursday, March 22, 2007, 11:03 PM

So, my new novel is gathering steam. I have made the decision (wisely, I think) to let my last novel sit until this one is finished. This is for two reasons:

1) To maintain, and build on, the current momentum I have with the new novel. I know from past experience if I leave something withough finishing it, there's a good chance it'll never see completion.

2) To make sure I come back to Conduit with an objective eye, or as far as that's possible, and don't make any rash decisions just because I'm frustrated with it right now. I'm still pretty sure I need to reappraise the opening, most likely moving it into a flashback sequence later in the novel (I have a perfect place for it). But I don't want to manufacture a new opening as a knee-jerk action just to fill the gap.

Anyway, on to the title of this post. My new novel is based on a rather dark short story I wrote a few weeks back. The story itself was very hard-hitting because of the violence involved, though it's mostly hinted at, rather than shoved in your face. To be concise, it was a fairly brutal tale. Once I was finished the story, I found it wouldn't leave me alone. It kept nagging me, saying there was more to explore. So, I started writing, changing the climax of the short story and allowing it to be the trigger for the rest of the events that unfold.

Like many people in my part of the world, I find my country a frustrating place. This place is a dichotomy, a place of contradictions. We are renowned as a friendly, welcoming people, yet racism and animosity to outsiders is rife throughout our society. We mostly live our lives in relative peace with our neighbours, yet we are defined by division and hatred. I feel safer here than I did when I spent a few years living in Manchester, yet I have been twice directly threatened by paramilitaries (once by republicans when I was a child, once by loyalists when I was in my early twenties). I love the place where I grew up and I never want to live anywhere else, yet this is the country where as a five-year-old I had to shelter under a table because a bomb blitz was in full swing, where my school friend's father was shot dead in front of him, where I can't get a taxi to go to my house because the cab firms in my town are run by one paramilitary group who won't allow their cars into certain 'enemy' areas ... and I could go on, but you get the picture.

So, basically, this novel is allowing me to vent a lot of the frustration that I, and many like me, feel too impotent to work out in normal, everyday life. And all sides are in the firing line. My (very nasty, really) protagonist is a one-man wrecking ball who's going to see that everyone gets theirs, from the paramilitaries, to the politicians, to the corrupt security force personnel, to the complacent bystanders who let it happen - everyone. Like Dirty Harry, my guy has it in for everybody. But, the question I ask myself is this: should that kind of venting, that working out of frustration, be the fuel for a novel? Sure, a little grist will give anyone's writing flavour, but at what point does it become self indulgent? Should I try to moderate my writing, restricting how much my feelings of anger at my country's injustices influence it, or allow that passion to charge it?

Answers on a postcard, please. :)

PS - Bizarrely, I'm also finding a strange kind of black humour creeping into this novel. What should be a grim, bleak tale actually has some funny moments. Weird.


A Painful Decision

Tuesday, March 20, 2007, 10:22 PM

Having come back to my last novel, Conduit, after more than a month away from it I feel I've got some distance on it now. There are things I'm not happy about in terms of the plot (one aspect in particular) and I'm starting to realise that making the opening chapter a flashback might have been a mistake. The first chapter, as much as I like it, is set fourteen years before the main events of the novel and as such is really back story. I need to find a way to get to the real story from the start. I have some ideas I've been toying with, so it looks like I might have to make that difficult choice to cut the first chapter altogether and replace it with a new opening that will get the ball rolling.

That in itself will mean some structural changes to the overall story arc, but it will allow me to look at other aspects that have been troubling me.

Had the idea of cutting the first chapter come up two months ago, I think I would rather have cut off a finger. Actually, that's an exaggeration, but you get the idea. With a little perspective on it, I think I can make the cut and hopefully make it a better novel, and also make it more focused, and possibly even come up with a decent hook for it!

Question is, do I stick with the current novel until its first draft is finished then go back to Conduit to make the required changes, then after that go back to the new novel and start rewriting it? That would be the sensible thing to do, but I might find it hard to resist temptation and wind up going back to Conduit sooner rather than later. I guess I'll just see how it goes.



That's better! Word count 16,152 (wp) 20,000 (pr)

Now, that's more like it. This weekend, including today's holiday, I clocked up 4000 words. I think the previous slow progress was caused by a particularly difficult couple of scenes, but the last part flowed much more easily. And I'm enjoying it, too.

I am concerned about a few things, though.

Firstly, genre. It's not really horror, although there's a supernatural element and even a little bit of gore, which I normally avoid. It's not exactly a thriller, though there's lots of action and tension. And it's not exactly a political piece, even though there's a lot of politics involved. So what is it, then? Being unable to define a genre for a commercial novel is a big problem when trying to bag an agent. And is this even commercial? I mean, it's not exactly popcorn stuff. But it's certainly not literary, either. I guess the only thing I can do is write the best story I can and not worry about pigeon-holes.

In other news...

I allowed the first pages of my previous novel out into the wild over the weekend by submitting it to Elektra's Crapometer. As always I got a very useful and constructive critique, particularly from Sex Scenes at Starbucks, a blogger whose opinions I very much respect. She prefaced her comments by saying she was going for the jugular, and I quote, "because I believe you can handle it".

I took that as a compliment. Her critique, as it always is, was fair, useful, well explained and thought out. I'm grateful she took the time to do it because it shone a light on the writing that I can use in a very practical way to make it better. So, SS@S, if you read this - thanks for that.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that critique is incredibly useful, especially if it's done well. I confess I take criticism in regards to writing much better than I do in other aspects of life, but maybe it's because I'm a novice and I know I've got a lot to learn. As an old saying round here goes, I know enough to know I know nothing.


Oh, btw - I need beta readers for my last novel, Conduit. I'd be happy to return the favour if anyone has a complete novel they'd like my thoughts on (depending on genre, of course - there are some genres that I never read so couldn't provide a useful opinion on). If anyone's interested, there's a cryptic email address over at the top right corner of this page - drop me a line.

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2000 words a week - too slow! Word count 11,980 (wp) 15,000 (pr)

Thursday, March 15, 2007, 8:53 PM

God, writing my new novel is like pulling teeth! After another week I'm only 2000 words along. I'm going to have to really knuckle down this weekend and get at least 4000 or 5000 more done. Monday's a holiday for St Patrick's day, so I'll at least have a bit of extra free time to spend on it.

No other news to report, except that if you like monster movies, and don't mind reading subtitles, then go and rent The Host. It's a Korean film and the best of its kind I've seen in a very, very long time.

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Slow progress - Word count 10,047 (wp) 12,500 (pr)

Thursday, March 08, 2007, 10:01 PM

I'm finding my new novel harder going than the last. I'm not sure why, because if anything I'm more enthusiastic about this story than I was about the last. I've only written 2000 words since my last post about it, and this is bearing in mind that with the last novel I was averaging about 1500 to 2000 per sitting. Mind you, I did write a 2000 word short story in the meantime.

The fact that I'm insanely busy at work isn't helping. My business is doing quite well, and I'm thankful for that, but it does sap the mental energy I need for writing. While I might feel a sneaking resentment for the writing time I'm losing, I have to remember my business allows me to own my own house and drive a BMW. My writing means nothing in that respect, so, you know, perspective and all that.

In other news:


Another year, another election to a non-existent government. Once again my fellow countrymen have baffled me with their democratic choices. One large group of people have voted for dated, intransigent, reactionary, power-for-its-own-sake idiots. Another almost-as-large group of people have voted for a party founded on bloodshed, a party whose hypocricy knows no bounds, a party whose leaders have been feeding off the misery they created for decades. It seems all the sensible people stayed at home yesterday. Mind you, I can't really talk - I voted for a woman cos she's kind of hot. I despair, I really do.


I bumped into an old friend at the video rental place that I haven't seen in years. We had a good chat. I was struck how you can not see someone for so long then slip right back into a conversation as if you had seen them only yesterday. Yet at the same time, I have friends I've been close to all my life that I've found it hard to communicate with at all recently.


Old Tom - a short story

Sunday, March 04, 2007, 4:00 PM

I've removed this story for personal reasons - I think it hits a little too close to home for someone who is still getting over tragic loss.


Another short story coming up

I had intended not to write any more short stories for a while, concentrating instead on my new novel. But a dear friend of mine suffered a sad loss on Friday and a new story came to me as a result. I ended up writing more than half of it on my little PDA in the middle of the night, before transferring it to my computer the next day for completion.

As before I'll submit it to Elektra's Crapometer for critique, assuming she doesn't mind getting another one of these from me. After that, I'm done with short stories for the time being - honest!

A new novel is underway - Word count 8060 (wp) 10,000 (pr)

Friday, March 02, 2007, 7:47 PM

Yes, I am writing a new novel. It is a development of the short story FOLLOWERS which you can find a few posts ago. I'm excited about this. I think it's a novel that will be exciting, thrilling, entertaining and all those good things, but will also have real depth. There are challenges involved, not least of all the fact that my protagonist is a monster. He has knowingly killed men, women and children. Can a reader sympathise with him? He is genuinely remorseful (the fact that his guilt manifests itself as his victims proves that) plus things will develop throughout the novel to bring out his humanity.

I've also got a zinger of an ending in store. It'll be action packed, but there is a twist that will come as a real punch to the gut - in a good way.

Of course, I'm now filled with self-doubt about whether or not I can finish another novel, even though I've already proven I can. The gargantuan task is daunting, and I can foresee many, many insanely late nights and a dwindling social life ahead of me. But it will be worth it. This is a story worth telling.