Getting Started

Cropped A3 Poster with Red Button

I’ve talked about quite a few elements of writing over the last few years, but since I’m starting a new series of blog posts about writing, I thought I would start right at the beginning.

Getting started on writing.

Off the mark, writing a novel can seem a pretty intimidating thing. For a start it’s a lot of words – thousands upon thousands of words. Even a typing monkey would need a good chunk of the year to fill up a Word file with the odd million characters or so that would equate to say 100,000 words, which is the length of a typical paperback fantasy novel.

So how do you do it? How do you know what to say? How do you sustain that input over such a long period of time?

As the hackneyed old phrase goes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. That’s true, but it does not tell the whole story. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but then continues with another, then another . . . until the journey is done. It’s sticking to the process, keeping the momentum in the forward direction.

To use a writing Australianism: it’s about ‘bums on seats’. Physically spending the time it takes in front of your computer (with Word open, not Facebook :)).

No matter how much progress you gain from each of your single steps, the key is sticking with it. Everyone has periods of their life where they are tight for time. That step might be 10 minutes snatched from a harried lunch hour. It might be half an hour hiding in the emergency exit stairwell with a notepad. Twenty minutes on the bus with an iPad. It might be a precious hour in the quiet of the house before the crazy day starts and the kids clamour for breakfast, or a midnight hour stolen from your sleep.

It doesn’t matter when. Although one thing I do know: the earlier in your day you can manage to write (or work on your story), the easier it tends to be. Days seem to get more hectic as they go, demands increase – and energy wanes. But that’s individual choice.

But what to write?

Well – why do you want to write? Think about it for a moment. Only you can answer this. And the answer gives you the solution.

Every single story has a way in.

There will be a creative spark that drives the process. It might be an idea for a character, or an undefined sense for a story that blossoms into a frenzied exploration of setting. Or it might be a single scene – a key clutch moment where the story starts, or perhaps a heroic triumph in the latter part of the story.

Whatever it is, expand it. See it. Write what you see.

But however you find your way in, just stick with it! You are bringing something new into the world. You are creating something that has never been before.

Worried about writing something that will be like everyone else’s novels? Well, think of how many rock songs have G C and D chords. The variations are endless. With work and tenacity, you can bring a unique edge to anything. The odds are that if you stick with your initial conception, that spark that was the genesis of your work, you will find an expression all your own.

But what about characters? Storyline? Setting? Building a plot? Improving your expression? Your craft? Getting published? Marketing?

Don’t worry about that now. Just start. Just keep going. Keep your energy up. Seek out like-minded people or others that encourage you. Take in creative work that charges you up (writers are also readers – don’t forget that!).

One thing is for sure, your novel will never exist if you don’t start – and you don’t keep going.

Welcome to the journey. . .







Creative Burnout

Having finished off my Urban Fantasy, Distant Shore (my Next Big Thing:)), and sent it sailing away into the unknown, I’m back to working on my Jakirian fantasy series. As usual, starting a new project is like trying to get blood out of a stone. Added to the normal challenge of changing channels is the creative burnout I am experiencing from the massive push I gave Distant Shore in the lead up to completing it. I’ve never put so much into a piece of work. My creative storehouse of energy is doing a really good impression of a hole filled with super-hard concrete. I reach in and just get blank grey.

That’s not to say I’m not making progress. It’s just painfully slow. When you’re firing, and the work is flowing, all those myriad little creative solutions you need to rework prose and rewrite come so effortlessly. Now – not so much.

At the moment I’m just gritting my teeth and hoping that time will allow the old creative engine to crank up again.

How do you deal with creative burnout? Anyone got any ideas?

Re-establishing the Flow

Frustrated_Writer_PicSo. The beginning of the year again. I’m still getting used to writing 2013 dates. They seem supremely weird for some reason. Perhaps I have been unsettled by the odd number. I guess the ‘3’ rather than the ‘1’ or ‘2’ really means this decade is going to scroll away like the others.

In any case, it’s time to get back into my Urban Fantasy manuscript. Having told all and sundry about it through the Next Big Thing, I guess I better deliver!

I had hoped to get a first draft completed by the end of last year, but factors conspired to keep me away from the desk. I even did NaNoWriMo for the first time, but posted a pretty pathetic effort somewhere upward of 20k. Usually I am pretty consistent, but last November turned into the worst writing month of the entire year.

So I’m back, trying to build up a head of steam. As usual, my experience of starting on a manuscript is like pulling teeth without anaesthetic. All the various story elements I had managed to keep in my mind at the same time, and the feel of the prose, have all vanished away. Disappeared with all the reindeer back to the North Pole.

Right now I’m looking to find my way back into the story. As usual I need to try the back doors, which date from an early era and are prone to be left latched, rather than deadlocked.

I spent a few days trawling through my journals and found the entries where I first toyed with the ideas for the world, the history and magic. Then I found other entries with notes from books on New York history. These had helped me – along with a visit in 2009 – to get the feel of the place. Then it was back to my story notes, and my character backgrounds.

I’m not quite there yet, but I am starting to feel the right creative energies building again. The path is starting to open up. [Not that I wouldn’t opt for the round-the-world trip if I won the lottery right now, but then again I’ve never needed much encouragement to look for the nearest escape hatch.]

How do you find your way back into your manuscript after a break?

Art Intersections

Hi, everyone. Yes I know I promised, but I still haven’t managed to get the photos from the pistols and parasols ball at Genrecon onto the same computer so I can upload them. I will though – next week!

In the mean time, having been laterally inspired by the convention last weekend, I have been thinking about how different types of art can inspire each other.

The first time I saw an illustration inspired by one of my stories I could hardly describe the feeling – I think honoured would be the closest, probably followed by awed – that another creative person would be inspired enough by my own ramblings to produce another piece of art.

The first illustration in this vein was inspired by my story The Buggy Plague, which was an action/survival story set on Mars. It was a two-page sketch, with the central character Chas in her skin-tight biosuit in the Martian dust before the approaching bulk of an Assembly and Service Unit, whose rogue AI was directing a swarm of exploration buggies forward like its own personal army. For that I owe thanks to the editor of Orb, Sarah Henderson, who also commissioned artwork for my story The Cook (which surprisingly enough was about the escape from intergalactic slavery by a group of humans cherry-picked from Earth during different epochs – although the key character was actually a celebrity cook working for the alien slavemasters).

Art endlessly inspires itself – books to films, books to music, music and fine art back to fiction and poetry.

I remember reading the introduction in Duke Elric by Michael Moorcock. I was surprised to learn he was involved with music in the 1970s and how fiction inspired so much of what they did, particularly lyrically. It put me in mind of so much of the classic 70s rock – Rush, Led Zeppelin etc – that was often inspired by Fantasy fiction. The Battle of Evermore comes to mind.

What are your favourite Art Instersections? What other forms of art inspire you? Or better yet, how has your work inspired others?