Tuesday, 21 October 2014

This is the End


It is done.

Done and gone.

Which is rather a relief, since facing my critism and the decision to cut, cut, cut, I feel as if I have been scrambling to catch up with myself. Letting go the hopes of dreams and facng the grinding reality of the hard work it takes to produce something of quality. No indulging in writers block- edit, make notes, reread, research! No clinging on to writing that simply does not work, or is not good enough- cut it or improve it. No complaining that you cannot find the time to write. You want to be a writer, be a published author, then you simply have to make the time. It's your job.

This can be difficult, life can be difficult. I'm a single mother, so I know this all to well. There is always housework, shopping in ill weather, a ravenous child needing love and entertainment, homework and all the other myriad demands of parenting. Joyous, hectic, exhausting.

And then there are the inevitable dark times. I was sexually assaulted in the spring, my nose broken. A family member passed away. At the beginning of the summer holidays I suffered a nasty concussion, which has left me with neuropathic damage. It was a bit shit for awhile there and lets just say that such injuries, and the emotional fall out, are not very conductive of writing.

But you have to persevere. No matter the loss of control that life leads to, you are the only one who can control your actions, your reactions, can work toward your goals. Even if that means pushing self imposed deadlines forward two months and planning for a slower rate of writing. Even if that means struggling with frustration and guilt. You have to keep on keeping on. Don't yearn towards dreams and let others drag you down. Be the dream.*

My title has changed. Before I had been working with Song of Sorrow but, well. A Song of Ice and Fire is a rather good series, you may have heard of it, and Song of Stone is also a very good book. There are enough songs out there, I think. Now:

The Otherside
Of Bloody Reflections
Refractions of Fire 


Of Bloody Reflections is complete at 110k, about 60k of which is new material and the rest much revised. Some days, during the revision, I was deleting as much as writing per session. This is good, considering my criticisms, but an odd feeling none the less. The whole has been restructured, during editing I pulled each character into separate files: Mera, Llew, Tomas and alt. The better to edit without getting sucked into the story. Then woven back together always considering pacing: of tension, of action, of suspense and mystery, of character development. The closer to the end the more the earlier scenes were tweaked and expanded. After the restructure came line edits, which were not that bad due to half of it having been previously edited and my habit of reading through and editing when creativity isn't really flowing, or when a subplot arc is complete/reaching height. I don't know that I'll ever be happy with it (no, brain, perfection is not attainable. It is a paradox!) but it is much improved. A good story.

Last night I started contacting my beta readers, six of them already have it. I thought I would feel nervous and twitchy (I mean, nobody has read the new material, gasp) but...It's good this feeling, nice, like I'm finally back where I should be. Proactive.


Next: Working with betas, then tackling the synopsis, covering letter and searching for the right agent. I will do some posts on these. Then NaNoWriMo and using the random scraps of scenes and notes to start Refractions of Fire.

But for now I strongly suspect that something is rotting in my kitchen. Adieu!


*Yeah, that is down right cheesy I know.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Hammer & Tongue National Final, Fuck Yeah


They day for me was chaotic, between a lack of trains, trouble sorting babysitting, time broken by the demands of food and friends...you know how it goes, sometimes. But for all that, for what I could attend...the gig was good.

More than good. My fingers itch to take up a pen again and revisit my poetry that has had to be relegated to subconscious soup of late.

The final took place in the Royal Albert Hall's underground Loading Bay. High ceilinged, bright lights casting comforting shadows, gratified rock gods circling benevolently around a cross country, cross continental audience that awaited words and rhymes with grins and rapture. And booze, obviously. And nerves for those who watched the stage they would soon ascend.

And ascend they did, with diverse offerings, and each and every one should rest easy today with a sense of pride. Because you are all awesome.

There were about 50 poets performing from Bristol, Hackney, Cambridge, Oxford, and Camden chapters as well as Bang Said the Gun, Apples and Snakes, Outspoken and the qualifiers from the Roundhouse, Glastonbury, the Commonwealth Games, Strawberry Fair, Farrago, Word4Word and the BBC and Scotland slams. Too many to detail here.

Some of those I had the pleasure to hear, to see, and stood out in memory were Torrey Shineman, whose naked cartwheels called bullshit on supposed beauty ideals. Tom Gill's unfortunate serendipity and pop culture references melded with beats and bleak humour. David Lee Morgon's call that we all become crazy santas and fight for the rights for all children to know love and safety. Rik the Most's critique of an education system in thrall to the meanness of averages, remembering those doomed to drown in mediocrity. Tim Ledwitch's remembrance of a friend who died of cancer but was not lost to it, a pain that demanded we embrace the thunder, dance in the rain. Justina Kehinde whose brutal words wove elegantly, and without succour, the reality of female genital mutilation.

Kate Tempest enticed and awed with a guest performance. Who is, to put it quite simply, fucking amazing. Given a choice of a couple of pieces of shorter, known material or a longer, new story we called for the latter and were gifted with the a modern retelling of Tiresias. Woven with all the verve and energy and delicacy you would expect, blending the ancient and the contemporary, interspersing stabs to the heart, claws to soul with bright flashes of knowing humour and that smile.

Then, the individual slam winners. There were two this year, both wielders of vaginas...and talent and fury and wisdom.

Vanessa Kissuule, candidly sharing philosophical life hacks and an introspective critique on the infrastructure of the event and judgement.

Leyla Josephine, in conversation with Beyonce, refusing to accept domestic violence with a blase booty wiggle and a memory of her introduction to sex through the gnarly visuals of hardcore porn.

Congratulations, and thank you to all who performed or worked their asses off to put on this event.

And you? Want to try your luck, think you may be next years winner? Want to be entertained, inspired or help choose who gets to compete for the title? Then check out whats going on in your local area because the regional slams start this October.




**Edited for greek idiocies. apologies. This is why editing is a valuable tool.**

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Little Good News


I've had my first short story acceptance!

Somebody Else will be featuring alongside the tales of other talented writers in the Fox Pocket anthology In an Unknown Country by Fox Spirit.






The release date is yet to be confirmed but likely to be in S/S 2015.

I'll post more details when I know them. In the meantime you could always have a read of their other publications and blog posts. :)


P.S. I'm still editing a Song of Sorrow.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Rejection Blues and Burning


I'm editing again. I cannot honestly say that the first draft is done, as I'm never quite comfortable saying that until it is ready to be read by another. And it would be more accurate to say this is, at least, the second incarnation.

This time last year I had just started my collection of rejections. I did my research, soon encountering the vast sea of my ignorance and dived in regardless. I've always found learning by fire a good way to temper knowledge/action, and yes I blundered, a bit, occasionally. Ahem. Instead of the coldly calculating wisps who slid easily into snide that I had been fearing, and seen much moaned about online, I found my correspondence with agents, and their assistants, to be rather friendly. Even the form rejections are written with a hand that holds yours comfortingly, perhaps offers advice from an experienced perspective. It is important to remember that agents are people and, not only that, but people who read. We all want good books.

Over the autumn I carried on writing the next part of the story, carried on submitting, researching, learning. There are some sites that advise that writers can collect a 100+ rejections before getting that longed for acceptance. I've always thought you would do better to try and identify why it elicits such a negative response. A few may just be down to luck or a matter of taste. If it is just based on your covering letter then perhaps that needs to be improved, but if its on a call for your first chapters? That strongly suggests it's your writing, story, or characters (or worse, dread of dread, the whole lot).

"trap of over writing"
"far too overly florid"
"it just didn't grab me enough"
"need to have a better idea of what the main drama and thrust of the plot is"
"the writing can be tightened up and simplified"

Some of the constructively critical barbs that struck. It took a few months for objective scar tissue to form, for me to figure out whether it was just the first three chapters that were a shambles or if the problem went deeper. To figure out how restrictions cause friction, how to utilise that and when to let go and recognise that structure is not rigid, but more a glue, an anchor, a backbone. Your writing does not hang from, nor frame, your plot but flows from it. There is a part of me amused that one of the themes explored is that journey, those concepts of innocence and experience.

In the spring I burned around 51k of prose, plus an unknown amount of sentences, paragraphs, phrases, a few characters; sub plots died or evolved. The 30kish that had been the beginning of book two merged with the old, contracted, expanded. The chronology fell to chaos. The arc in Of Bloody Reflections was shaken down and combed over, redistributed and refined into a duology. I certainly understand the value of a working synopsis (not notes or plans) better now. Like an ultimate spoiler guide/battle plan/literary analysis.

The discordant mess of  Song of Sorrow settled, slowly, into something approaching a story once more.


I've missed my self imposed deadlines, but am not too fraught over it. With every cliff I jump off it gets a bit better. I think. I mean...not just florid, not just far too florid, but overly far too florid! Florid to the third degree. FFS. That haunts me.

But summer is maturing into autumn once more, and the writing has ripened.

Soon it will be ready to be read, again, for the first time.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

When the End is Nigh: Understanding Narrative

   On lock down.

Pressure of last ch.s, followed by yearned for and feared readers, leads to much stereotypical anguish.

Coffee, how I used to drink it, and cigarettes, note to self:

Less words written is more.

Re-read: MS; structural edit and synopsis, time-lined plot/s/arcs/themes/clues. Re-examine chara's action/reaction vs motivation/conflict. Hold disparate threads clear in mind and view as a whole.

Word count is important (whatever it may be): data to delineate pattern of story structure. All those pies from childhood, less strenuous to an already chaotic mind.
-how aligns to classic structures?
-how/why differentiates?
-overlay/overview

//buisnesshead: Look at what sells in market, commerciability consideration to temper creativity.//

Re-writes: Understand what you meant to say, but probably failed at.
-Keep final ch.s trim//pacing
-Expand within rise/fall of earlier tension (just replace the unnecessary description from where your subconscious knew where something was meant to be but wasn't quite a kenning exactly what it was yet.)
-Keep taunt

Restrictions create necessary friction but beware constriction. Don't hold back. Let go of fear and remember the smell of books on a rainy summer day, curled up around another world.

(also: blogging doesn't count)


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Made Glass

Softly gently dust is blown from
these hidden gems, these hard worn gleams
of dreams, memories.
When fear crowds close.
When grief keens.
Edges of reality in blurred sharpness.

Moments caught in grass, in conversation, in books,
in the sky setting like blood.
And always laughter.
And adventure.
When life trespasses briared boundaries.

And sometimes in seems,
caught in striken impasses,
that those moments never last
they linger, made glass.