Confessions of a Writer.

I was tagged in this interview series by the always lovely Annelisa. So here is a blog post in which i answer some questions about writing and me.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
I started writing stories when I was in primary school (most of which I never finished) and I wrote a lot of poetry in my teens (most of it terrible), but I didn’t have any particular aspirations to be a writer when I was young. In primary school I wanted to be a jet fighter pilot and by the time I finished high school I was actively pursuing a career as an actor or a rock star. My lack of red carpet appearances and worldwide smash hit singles will probably tell you that neither of those panned out for me.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I realised that I wanted to be a writer. I started writing as part of a therapy exercise and it expanded from there and became the start of the novel that I am working on now. My wife at the time was very supportive and sent some inquiries to every lit agent or publishing person she could find and we got some very positive responses.

Life got in the way and I gave it up to get a real job and try being responsible and stuff until about a year ago when I realised that I have always been a writer, whether I thought of myself as one or not and that it was what I wanted to do. At which point I picked it all up again and decided that I was going to make something of this writing thing if I possibly could. At the very least I didn’t want to regret not having given it my utmost.

What genre do you write?

Most of what I write falls under the Literary Fiction tag. Technically also Non-Genre Modern Fiction, but that sounds incredibly beige and boring. I also branch into speculative fiction sometimes.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?

My major WIP is a novel currently titled ‘Coming Clean’. Its central character is a young man who is a heroin addict and general avoider of responsibility that discovers he is going to be a father. It follows his journey through breaking out of the addiction cycle and coming to terms with impending fatherhood. It is the novel that I mentioned in my first answer, so I officially started writing it about 15 years ago now.
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

The first piece that I can remember writing was in 3rd or 4th class and it was a story about my friends and I. We went on a camping trip and ended up foiling an evil genius with an army of robot sharks.

What’s the best part about writing?

Having written.
Being ‘in the zone’ where words just flow out of you and the rest of the world around you ceases to matter.
Less people question my coffee and cigarette intake or weird sleep cycle.

What’s the worst part about writing?

Not being in the above mentioned zone.
Those times when you look at your work and think it’s all crap.
People who think writing is a) easy b) just a little hobby that I have.

What’s the name of your favourite character and why?

I don’t love any of my characters more than the others, I just love them all differently.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

Umm…yes. It varies wildly, and I’ve never really kept track of it. I’m a single parent of three children so a lot of my writing time is in blocks of an hour or so that I manage to grab as well as the occasional all night writing binge.
The best time for me to write is late at night when the kids are in bed. Plus I am a night person in general and I find my creative mind is generally more active at those kind of times. 1am to 3am is usually my sweet spot.

Did you go to college for writing?

No. My writing education consists of having always been a reader and reading many, many interviews with writers. Early on I had a mentor of sorts. A family friend that was a scriptwriter and generally Literary minded, he pointed me in the direction of The Paris Review among other things.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?

It depends on the circumstances.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

Me personally –

“You should. The world needs writers” which is what my Father said to me when I first told him that I wanted to be a writer.
“Once you think your story is finished. Get someone else to look at it for you” – Kevin Ansbro
I’m also just going to throw some quotes out here that I’ve found helpful:

“Remember that the first draft is just you telling the story to yourself” – Terry Pratchett
“Write hard and clear about what hurts” – Hemingway
“Write drunk, edit sober” – Hemingway
John Steinbeck also wrote a wonderful letter of writing advice to a friend’s niece that I have always found helpful. Here if you’re interested.

What advice would you give to another writer?

Just grit your teeth and write, get it out of your head, judge it later.

What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
Um. Nowhere specific mostly. To be honest I have found most of that kind of advice and support though the writing community on Twitter that I have gotten to know over the last year. I’ve gotten to know some of them quite well and would happily meet many of them for a coffee, drink or debauched weekend of questionable decisions and excessive consumption (remember, bad decisions make good stories).

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

I still play music, I write and record songs from time to time, just for my own amusement these days. I dabble in visual arts, collage and painting. I have the occasional binge on computer games and I run a Tabletop Roleplaying game group that meets online once a week.
I also enjoy long walks on the beach and staring bleakly into the void.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Kinnara by Kevin Ansbro (but if he asks tell him I said something else or he’ll get a big head). No, really, it’s a fantastic book.

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

Neil Blomkamp’s Chappie. One of the things that I love about it is the characters of Ninja and Yolandi. Because I went from finding them really distasteful characters initially to genuinely caring about their story by the end of the movie, despite them still being basically the same people which is no small feat of storytelling.

What is your favourite book or series of all time?

Sorry, can’t narrow it down to just one. How about my top five?
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
Small Gods – Terry Pratchett
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Candide – Voltaire
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

Who is your favourite author?
Didn’t I basically just answer this with the last question?

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

Basically just to keep going and finish the first draft of this novel I’m working on. I also plan to submit some short fiction that I have written to as many places I can think of in the hope of having some of it published.

Where else can we find you online?

Other than this blog I can be found on Twitter @out_ofthe_fog , come say hi if you haven’t already. I also have a G+ profile that I do nothing with, doesn’t everybody?

To keep the ball rolling i would like to tag the following:






For the benefit of those tagged, the interview questions are below.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
What genre do you write?
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
What’s the best part about writing?
What’s the worst part about writing?
What’s the name of your favourite character and why?
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
Did you go to college for writing?
What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
What advice would you give to another writer?
What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
What is your favourite book or series of all time?
Who is your favourite author?
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
Where else can we find you online?


So, i watched Sicario

I don’t normally do movie reviews, but thought i might put my two cents out there after seeing Sicario at the movies tonight. Don’t worry, i’ll be brief.

Broad strokes. It was okay, but not great and it’s not a movie i’d go out of my way for. I could see the story it was trying to tell, but in the end it really lacked the emotional punch needed to make an impact (on me at least). The phrase “inch deep ocean” comes to mind. Big concept with no real depth.

The main problem i felt was that the script diluted itself by being unsure about exactly which story it was going to tell. The story of Kate the FBI agent and here experience with the war on drugs and the Mexican Cartels, or an ensemble piece. It dithered between them and so we didn’t get the focus on either that might have led the audience to being involved.

I also felt that Emily Blunt’s character was written as female so that she could be the emotional foil for the rest of the cast. You know, so all the guys could just be hard arses around her and she could do all the emotional stuff. Which i have issues with for a bunch of reasons.

There was also a LOT of tension building without particular purpose scattered throughout, which got kind of annoying.

Without the benefit of a giant screen and really loud stereo effects it would have been a lot less engaging than it was.

Final score for neatness 2 1/2 out of 5.

What did classical literature ever do for you?

This is a follow on from a guest blog post by Mariella Hunt over on about Classical Literature. I had some subsequent conversation with the two of them on on the subject via Twitter and it got me thinking a few things.

Mainly, what is Classical Literature and what does it offer for readers?

For a lot of people the term seems to bring up writers of the western cannon like Bronte, Eyre & Dickens. A lot of those same people encountered those writers in school and found them dry and unrelatable. But for me Classical Literature encompasses so much more than just these 16th-17th century writers. I don’t myself find much interest in reading the above mentioned authors, although it is worth mentioning that most people will be a familiar with ‘A Christmas Tale’.

Which brings me to my wider point, if you look at Classical Literature not just as ‘grown-up’ works written before the 20th century many of our beloved children’s classics fall under this umbrella. The adventure stories of Robert Louis Stevenson were something that i read as a child as well as those of Jonathan Swift. These works were not considered children’s stories when they were published and Swift is a brilliant satirist if you read him again with an adult eye. His style can be found echoing through the works of writers like Terry Pratchett if you look for it. Probably one of the most well known children’s stories is ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Lewis Carroll was definitely not writing with children in mind. He was a mathematics professor and Alice was written as an allegory for his own views on “new” mathematical theories of the time (the string theory of his day) where he imagined the sort of crazy world it would be if it were run by the rules of these new theories. There are many, many other examples like these stories, just think back about the classic stories that you absorbed as a child and see how many of them have origins further back than the last hundred years or so. Just about every story that a Disney animated movie is based on for example.

Probably can’t get past this point without mentioning the Brothers Grimm, who’s works were read at the time of printing as sensational horror stories, which explains the amount of death, gore & awful things happening to people contained in their fairy tales.

Stepping away into more ‘grown-up’ works if you will, there is a wealth of other authors out there that go beyond. One of my personal favorites is Candide by the french satirist Voltaire, but it is far from all that is out there. Here is a list from Goodreads of some pre-1900 Authors that you may find some titles that interest you among.

The thing that i wanted to say the most of all when i started this post is that all of this literature can offer you so much as a reader and i urge anybody who hasn’t consciously picked up an old book to do so, because it is totally worth it. Classical Literature offers many things like a window into the world that existed before our modern one. But, most of all they offer you BLOODY GREAT STORIES! Stories that have stood the test of time and been read and loved over and over again by generations of human beings since they were written.  As a reader, don’t you want great stories?

America, please put down the guns.

America, please put down your guns. It’s making me despair for you. I am moved to write this after seeing my twitter feed light up in the last couple of hours  with news of more deaths of innocent people.

My heart goes out to the victims and their families and everyone in the surrounding web of people whose lives will have some tragedy  in it today.

As an outsider from another country here’s how it looks:
It looks like you have a sick fetish with gun violence that makes me fear for every single American that i know.

I love so many things that have come from you America, but you have a problem.
I dont know of anybody who wouldn’t think that any of it is less than a tragedy, but it is still happening.

Every time you talk about it, after every senseless death the same people seem to jump up and say that guns themselves aren’t the problem. They are right of course, and it goes much deeper than that. Why these things happen is a large and complex issue that you need to deal with.
However, guns are part if the problem and they are the tool that is used to create these tragedies. You have to start removing them, it’s that simple.

An arsonist isn’t dangerous purely because they have matches, but before you start working out why they light fires the first thing you do is to take away the matches.

It’s the same with guns. Its that simple.

What’s the best way to support a Writer?

The short answer to this is simple : Buy their books & recommend them to other people, post reviews and contact them in some way to tell them you enjoyed their work, spread the word about them in general any way you can. But, I have a more in-depth question in mind.

I have recently bought a few books written by Authors that i have gotten to know on Twitter. Because, I like them as people and would like to support them in their creative efforts (who says  a social media presence doesn’t sell books) and their books looked interesting to me. I do this because I am first and foremost, a reader. I am also a writer working towards becoming published myself and as such I want to support the industry that i am trying to become a part of. I saw that sentiment in a quote somewhere a while ago, but cannot recall for the life of me who it was.

While I was engaging in this process I started thinking about which way of buying their book would actually result in the most amount of  money making its way to the author and I confess that I have no idea of the answer. There are so many different avenues now. Aside from e-books vs physical books from a bookstore there are also many online discount book retailers that you can buy a new copy of a book for a lower price than most bricks and mortar stores.

The only similar experience that I have is from the world of music where I am aware that if you buy a CD directly from a musician (either from their website or their merchandise stand at a show) then they will receive a greater portion of the profits than if you bought it from a retailer of some sort.

I am making the assumption that there is an equivalent process somewhere in the publishing world. I don’t know what it is at this point, but I would like to find out.

With no actual evidence to speak of, the basic assumptions i have to begin are these:

  • Ordering either an e-book copy or physical copy from someone like amazon would possibly be the same net result for the Author. I assume the price difference for a physical book is basically the production cost added onto the e-book price. Though i may well be wrong, it occurs to me that in general people are less comfortable paying as much for an electronic copy as they are for something solid so the price difference may be higher.
  • Buying from a discount retailer of physical books like the Book Depository is possibly less for the author than buying from a standard retailer.
  • Buying from a bookstore may not get more back to the Author than buying online despite the higher sticker price as there are more people between the sale and the Author to take their cut on the way through.

None of these of course covers the fact that there are also things like individual contracts for Authors who are traditionally published and other variables. But I am looking for a general kind of answer to how I can best ensure that the most amount of my money actually gets to the person who wrote the damn book.

I am at a point with my writing where I am about to start looking into the various ways that one can become published and get your material out there, so hopefully in my research I will discover at least some kind of answer to this. If I do, I will share it in a new post at some point.

In the meantime, maybe some helpful soul that has already done the research will reach out to me and provide them.

Children who experience Childhood Trauma do not “just get over it”

violence hurts

Humans are relatively adaptable beings which is why we are thriving and not dying out like other species. Horrendous disasters such as the Philippines typhoon, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the nuclear disaster in Japan, the major wars of our time, and horrific famines see great suffering, but these events also inspires survival through adaptation. It turns out we possess a strong survival mechanism in our brains directly linked to our bodies, fight, flight, freeze, flop and friend (fffff).

traumaIn fact, the survival part of our brain, which is primitive yet effective, is the first to develop in utero starting at around 7 weeks. It regulates our breathing, digestive system, heart rate and temperature, along with the ‘fffff’ system which operates to preserve our life.

If we have to dodge a falling object, jump out of the path of a speeding car, keep very still to avoid being seen, run for…

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Juggling creative seeds and maintaining momentum.

I’ve seen quite a few articles about whether or not you should attempt to write more than one thing concurrently. Like all advice about writing there is no shortage of differing opinions on the subject.

I find it helpful to hear others opinions and how other people do things, but at its heart writing is a creative endeavour and each of us has their own method. I treat advice about writing like a buffet, i read it and give it a chance and then work out what works for me. I figure it’s the best way to go, forging your own path and all that. It appears to be working for me so far, but i am also not yet a published author let alone a successful one so i guess time will tell on that score.

Generally speaking the advice i have seen falls into two camps.

The first is that you shouldn’t write more than one thing at once, you take that single project and hammer at it ignoring all other ideas and distractions until it is done. With the sideline of stopping briefly to write down any ideas for working on later before continuing on.

The second is that it is possible to work on more than a single project at once. Most also strongly state that you need to be quite organised about it to do so and there are many variations on the theme and ideas of how exactly to organise yourself and ooh this handy piece of software.

I’ve found that i don’t subscribe to the first first camp, i do not have a single project that i work on to the exclusion of all others (I currently have four). This post is ostensibly about how i deal with having multiple writing projects going at the same time. Firstly i confess that i am not super organised in general. Creating routines and helpful habits is something that i have only come into fairly recently in my life. Partly this is because of the rest of my life. Writing is incredibly important to me, but i am also a single parent to three children and a person with PTSD (i hate the word sufferer, victim etc when applied to an illness because i am a fucking survivor and a warrior dammit! Attitude is very important when dealing with your own mind and words have incredible power.). These two things alone can cause much disruption around any plans that i might have to sit down and write, and do on a regular basis. These are not excuses, just factors and i do my best to work around them so that i can still manage to put regular amounts of time into my writing.

Back to the point of this post though. How i approach having multiple projects. The first thing is that i do have a main project, one that i consider the most important and put the most work into. Currently that is a manuscript for a novel that is at a best guess about 2/3 of the way through first drafting (sometimes in my head i refer to this as the the ‘Grand Work’, but then i feel like a wanker and stop). Everything else is considered in my mind to be a side project. I currently have three of those. The first is a novelette (? i think that’s what it is officially, it is a 9000 word story so too long to be called a short story comfortably) that is almost ready to be released into the wild. The second is an old hand written short story that i am transcribing and revising, The third is another novel, which consists at the moment of a few short pieces that i have written for it and a collection of mental notes and ideas. I’m quite terrible at writing down ideas for my stories, never seems to happen. I am however blessed with some special part of my cortex that doesn’t forget them – i am generally not great at remembering to do practical things and have an extensive system of lists and reminders for dealing with  my everyday responsibilities – but story ideas and even whole passages that find themselves in my writing eventually can seemingly be stored in mind for all perpetuity.

My basic method really is that i cycle between the four of them. I usually try to work on them in the order that i have listed them above. I start with the main project and if i am getting nowhere with it, i put it down and move on to the next. A method so far that i find this means that no matter if i am stuck i will always end up getting some work done on at least one of them.

This is by no means a rigid system. it is only in the last 6-12 months that i have begun to put regular amounts of time into writing. Prior to that i went with the ‘when the muse strikes me’ kind of method. Which meant that i would write in short bursts with gaps of anywhere from days, weeks or even months before i would write again. it doesn’t take a lot of mathematical skill to work out that at that kind of rate it was going to take me a very long time to finish anything, if i ever did. As i have talked about in another post, i started my original novel back in my early twenties and wrote as much of it as i have because i was doing it regularly. It is this regular writing that i now try to make sure i continue. By regular, i do not mean everyday either. I do write most days, but i also have days where i do not write for one reason or another. I do find however that if it gets longer than a couple of days i start to feel compelled to write again, like i am losing a link to something.

In addition to my normal writing i also have this blog, that i am starting to add to more often these days, possibly a sign that my efforts toward getting myself into better writing habits is working. I do have a note file with ideas about things that i could use for blog posts, how many of those will ever see the light of day i do not know. Plus i am also involved in a fledgling tabletop role playing games publisher, for which i do writing as well. Which is of a quite different style to my normal fiction (talking about the difference between the two is one of those notes in my blog ideas file).

While this may not read like the most awesome and efficient way of doing things it is working for me so far, i am moving forward and making constant progress and have gotten a lot more written since i started doing this. When i first decided to put regular time into writing again i tried out the first camp theory and picked one thing and kept on it, which ended with me spending a lot of time staring at the screen willing something to appear. Which didn’t get a lot done really.

I’m doing better than i was before, so i call it a success for now.

Writing a bio for yourself is hard.

Seriously. I’ve now spent somewhere around 4 hours procrastinating and trying to come up with a “short biographical statement” that i am happy with. It is to accompany a submission to a literary magazine for them to use if they publish the story.
I find it hard enough at the best of times to write about myself directly. I do it indirectly through my stories all the time, there is quite a lot of me and my experiences spread throughout my work. But here i am now stumped for what is essentially a couple of sentences worth of copy after i have edited and revised a 9000 word story.

The trouble is that i am really critical of anything i come up with. It’s too boring, too wanky, too serious, trying too hard to be funny etc. I’m probably placing way more emphasis on it than i need to, but there is a part of my brain that is screaming out “this is how the world will know you!” and assigning it massive importance. Which is pretty much a trigger for crippling self doubt for any introvert.

How do other writers do it? Do they spend as much time obsessing over it as i have today?

Why I started writing again after I had given it up.

I heard a line from an old Ani Difranco song recently and it made me think a little. the line was this one:

“Art is why i get up in the morning,

But my definition ends there,

and it doesn’t seem fair,

That I’m living for something,

I can’t even define.”

I have plenty of times where i question myself and what i do. Why i am a writer, and why do i put so much of myself into something that is so nebulous and so obviously doesn’t pay the bills. The answer comes back to something simple. Because I have to. Feeding that creative spark nurtures me in ways that nothing else does and I need it. Other than wanting to be a Jetfighter pilot when I was a little, being a writer is the earliest thing I can ever remember wanting to be. It has had times of being very submerged under the weight of getting a real job and being a proper grown up and a litany of things I did when I was younger because I thought it was what I should do, but that desire has never left me. During the years when I filed it as a youthful dream that i should just forget about, writing still spilled out of me in small ways. Random poems, phrases and sentences that i would scribble on scrap paper and ideas for stories would still come to me.

About a year ago now I pulled out a manuscript that I had written in my early 20s, It is somewhere in the vicinity of 60,000 words. I have no exact idea of the word count because it was written partly by hand and partly on a typewriter. There is no electronic copy of it with a handy automatic word count, so i can only estimate. Because, i do not have the patience to actually go through and physically count them. But it is a solid piece of writing that i spent a year and a half on, much of it was written in a notebook as I sat behind the counter of a little chinese restaurant that i worked at the time. For some reason the owner didn’t seem to mind that when it was quiet I just sat and wrote. Luckily for me at the time i guess.

When I dug that sheaf of paper out that I had carried with me through many, many moves I remembered that I have always had the intention to go back and finish it and try to have it published and I decided at that point to try this writing thing again and to give back to it the zeal that I had approached it with then, where I made myself keep writing regularly, even when I didn’t feel particularly inspired. because that is how I had managed to hammer out that sheaf of paper covered in words.

Why? Because even though I sometimes feel like a self conscious wanker for thinking it, I feel like I have something to say and because as two very important people once told me way back when “The world needs writers”.

art is the reason