Demon hunting’s a young mans’ game isn’t it? Actius and Grimsby – an excerpt.

About a week ago I started on a new writing project. I didn’t intend to, it just kind of happened. I had the idea and went to do what i usually do which is write a couple of seed paragraphs and a few notes before moving it to the backburner to be finished off at some point in the future.

However, this was one of those stories that doesn’t want to stay in and I wrote close to 3000 words in about two days. Which is a lot for me, someone who usually feels pretty accomplished with 500 in a day. The ideas for it flowed thick and fast and I already now have 3 chapters for what I thought initially would be a short story.

The elevator pitch was a Fantasy/Horror with a Romance element featuring a Demon hunting middle-aged Gay couple. I mentioned this on Twitter and quite a few people liked the idea. I’m pretty happy with how it is progressing, so I have decided to share the opening couple of scenes.

It doesn’t even have a working title yet which is weird for me, so for now I’m using the names of the two main characters. Without further ado I now  introduce you to Actius and Grimsby:

     Jolting uncomfortably at the movement of the cart on the uneven road Grimsby tried to find a better position among the sacks of grain. After a fruitless minute of wondering how a bag of stuff could be so bloody uncomfortable he gave up and searched inside his jacket while steadying himself against the edge of the tray. At length he pulled a dented flask out, removing the cork with his teeth to take a swig.
“So, where are we headed to again?”

The reply came from what at a casual glance seemed to be a pile of discarded clothing that revealed itself to be a man. He sat up from where he had been laying in an attempt to nap. “I really wish you would pay attention once in a while, honestly, what do you do in that head of yours while the High Magus is talking?”
“Daydream about not listening to the High Magus mostly.”
“How someone with as much blatant disrespect for authority as you ever became a Warden I’ll never know,” said Actius, shaking his head and reaching his hand out for the flask “Come on. Give me some, seeing as you’ve got it out already.”
“That’s what you said the night I met you if I recall correctly” Grimsby said, handing Actius the flask with a smirk.
Actius rolled his eyes and tried not to laugh. “You are a terrible human being sometimes, you know that?”
Grimsby drew himself up in mock indignation “I’ll have you know that the human blood in me is deeply offended”
“…and the demon blood your grandmother let in is laughing its tits off I’m sure” Actius said, drinking gingerly from the flask. His face froze for a second as the liquid hit his throat and caused him to cough before he sucked in some air desperately while patting his chest.
“Makers breath! What ungodly concoction have you been drinking?”
“It’s a brew Finster and I cooked up while you were off chanting rhyming couplets with the other Magi. You don’t like it?”
“I’ve used nicer things to clean bloodstains out of my robes,” answered Actius with distaste “Sometimes I wonder if I should worry about the ideas that you and that alchemist friend of yours come up with.”

Actius snorted and moved over next to his partner “Let me in, I need a pillow to rest on.”
Grimsby lifted his arm for Actius as he snuggled his lithe frame in beside him.
“You need to trim your beard.” He said as he found a comfortable place for his head on Grimsby’s barrellous chest.
“But my beard is what makes me handsome, without it I’m just some potato faced slob.”
Actius moved up to kiss him delicately on the cheek, before laying his head down again “Well, there is that I suppose.”He said as he closed his eyes. “We’re headed to Ashvale by the way, something about a poisonous fog.”
“I’ll just follow your lead then.”

Grimsby pushed back the cowl of the robe to gently run his fingers over the electric blue rune that had been branded onto his Husband’s forehead long ago. Even now – twenty years after he had survived the choosing and become a fully initiated Magus – the colour of it stood out brightly against the deep brown of his skin, as if it had a source of light inside it that kept it bright. He had always been secretly jealous of the aesthetic of the Magi’s branding compared to the tattoos that signified him as a Warden. Actius had always said that the knotted ropes of black ink symbology that began on the back of his hands and rose up his arms to curl around his neck were impressive, especially when he charged shirtless into battle. Not that I do that much anymore, he mused. He brushed across the greying hair on Actius’s temples, mentally comparing it with the grey he had noticed in his own beard of late and wondered if they were getting too old for this kind of lark. Dismissing the thought for some other time, he leaned back a little and tried to sync their bodies with the swaying of the cart as it continued its way along the road.


Grimsby looked back toward the hamlet of Ashvale as it lurked furtively among the low hills in the way that all of the border towns seemed to do. If it wasn’t for the permanently flaming pyre atop the tower of the Magus in its center Ashville would probably fade into the surroundings with ease. But, such was the will of the Makers. If the Maker of Fire demanded a permanent flame over their holy site, then a permanent flame was what they got. After all, if the Magi were denied the source of their power on account of the tantrum of a miffed god they would all be fairly screwed.

Thinking of the cosy bar in the Sundered Hound and the warm stew and good ale that he had recently imbibed he sighed and turned his attention back to Actius who was surveying the open country in front of them. He was using a hand to shield his eyes from the afternoon sun that stabbed its way down through fitful grey clouds, the expression on his face neutral.
“Hagen asked if we could check in on the ward stone while we were out here and make sure the enchantment is up to scratch,” Actius said matter of factly.
Grimsby groaned in complaint. “Must we? You know those damned things give me awful headaches.”
“Despite your discomfort, yes. Myra was taken ill after inhaling some of the fog we’re here to investigate and they’re short handed at the moment.”
“I suppose you didn’t think to suggest that someone else do it did you?”

Actius paused and gave his partner a sideways look “As a matter of fact I volunteered to do it. The Wards are our primary defense against the horrors out there in the valley and if they fall Maker knows what kind of work we’d be up for to stem the tide. Imagine how much complaining you’d have for me then.”
Grimsby harrumphed sheepishly in reply.
“If you want to complain about about headaches, go find a spirit talker and whinge to your Grandma the great hero Klara Ironhead. Then you can tell her not to make doe eyes at handsome demons”

With that Actius pulled his robe tight around himself and began to stalk across the sparse ground, boots crunching on dried grass and rocks as he went. Grimsby hefted his pack and followed him wordlessly.

Thank you for reading 🙂


*Insert Blog Post Here*

So, I haven’t written anything consistent in the last few months and nor have I done a blog post in ages. Getting back onto the horse can be tricky once you’ve been off it for a while and it’s annoying and frustrating. I’ve been very good at not beating myself up for falling off it in the first place, I took a necessary break from quite a few things, including my social media accounts in order to sort out the mental health issues I was having (for those playing at home I had a major depressive episode earlier this year and it took me a while to get back onto some sort of even keel).

That being said, it doesn’t make it any less disheartening to look at the stats on the writing app I have on my phone (Writeometer if you’re wondering, tell them I mentioned them and they might send me money – *laughs*) and see that it is now 77 days since i last posted a solid word count and it’s only been dribs and drabs since then. Most of that in truth has been re-writing. The raw font of creativity has not ushered out its goodness for a while and I’m starting to feel a bit anxious about it if I’m being totally honest. It’s not that I haven’t had thoughts or ideas – I still have plenty of those – it is more about …

The slip ‘twixt brain and page.

AKA getting the damn things out of my head and onto a page or a screen or a clay tablet or literally anything at this point. Which is why i am doing this post now, it’s like doing stretches before exercises or something, mostly just a train of thought that I’m going to put out onto the interweb for… reasons.


An inspirational blog post in four parts:

  • *Heartfelt personal anecdote*
  • *Piercingly insightful realisation*
  • *Encourage others to do the same*
  • *Pithy motivational one-liner*

I’m off to open Scrivener now and do the thing with the alphabet for the wordforming and the storymaking.


Five Days Deep.

This was originally posted  as part of the Train of Thought Blog project and is still hosted there. If you like it, go have a look at some of the other contributors works as well.

I normally enjoy trains and traveling on them, but I hate this one. An all stations ride that takes forever between each station and waits for eternity at every single one of them. At each stop I curse any passengers who need to use that particular waypoint. Muttering profanities in my misery.

It is midday on Boxing Day. The second worst day of the year to use public transport if you are in a hurry. Surpassed only by New Year’s Day and I am in a hurry.

I am on my way home and want this train to get there as fast as possible. I am running desperately from the fakery of having to act normal around my relatives. Hanging badly because I have been unable to silence the gnawing chatter of my cravings. It has been a week since I stoned myself into oblivion and I can feel it.

For five days I have silently teetered on the edge of screaming abuse at everyone around me. I made pleasant talking noises and tried to ignore my entire body screaming incessantly at me for more heroin. Just one hit to tide me over, a small one if it had to be, but a hit. A hit was all I needed to feel better. But, that cupboard had been bare.

It was Christmas, so I could drink without suspicion.  But, it just made me drunk and edgy because the constant creeping itch that crawls my body won’t let me relax for a second. I dutifully hugged Aunts and Uncles and talked to cousins I hadn’t seen for years. The whole time just wanting to be alone so I could curl into a tight little ball and weep with frustration.  Be able to let out those great, painful, tear-less sobs that I hope will exorcise the demon I carry. The one that sits inside my head, scratching at the back of my eyes with its insistent little claws. The one that screams “Feed me! Feed me!” Over and over again until it becomes a keening wail of loss and need that I cannot block my ears to. It ebbs and flows, but never disappears completely. It is always there, a fingernail on blackboard mantra that sets my teeth on edge. A demon dirge that makes me nervous, twitchy and unable to sit still.

I’d heard of food turning to ash and vinegar in people’s mouths before, but always assumed it was poetic license. Whereas now I understand it perfectly. Every time I had to sit at a table heaped with festive treats my stomach would turn at the thought of food. But, I would choke down as much as I could so nothing would seem amiss. Only to throw it up later while I ran the taps in the bathroom to cover the sound of my retching.

My family doesn’t know of my addiction so I hide my withdrawal symptoms. Because, if they knew, the sympathy would be unbearable and once I fell into those well-meaning hands I wouldn’t escape without a fight. Besides, it gives me something to focus on. Compared to my cravings, the challenge of appearing normal to a whole bunch of people is a welcome one.

But, that’s over now and I am on this frustratingly slow train home during what is my longest clean stretch so far. I could swear that some of the puffy bruises on my arms have begun to fade a little. A sign that I might actually be getting somewhere. Of course, the battle has only just begun and those bruises taunt me whenever I see them. Softly whispering entreaties that slither around inside my ears like satin tentacles, enticing and revolting at the same time.

I sit alone in the emptiest carriage I could find, staring out the window without really looking. The elation of the doors closing behind me as I stepped on board has long worn off and I have begun to slide down again into the dark places in my head.

I can’t just sit here any longer, it’s too much. Feeling the need to move I stand and walk toward the end of the carriage. Then it hits me. All of the horror that I have kept at bay. A physical wave of craving hits me like a massive breaker at the beach, knocking the wind out of me. I stagger as I walk, suddenly gasping for air. My stomach spasms painfully, punctuating the spinning of my head. I grasp the edge of a seat as my sight begins to strobe. Spots and great coloured splotches appearing in front of my eyes as I fumble my way forward. Knees suddenly too weak to support me collapse and I flop into the seat under the window. Huddling against the wall and clawing at myself as I begin to shake and shiver in my torment.

I remain there. Slowly rocking myself from side to side with the rhythm of the train as I wait for this feeling to fade, afraid to move in case I can no longer control my body. Waiting for it to return itself to me and hoping that this godforsaken locomotive will reach my station soon.

Writer Q&A Tag


I was tagged for this by my good friend Aila Stephens. You can find her Q&A here. Full disclosure that this is my second time being tagged in this particular game and am presumably now an honorary member of the blogging sisterhood. I’ve already answered one round of questions in this post ‘Click me’. But there were different questions this time and there’s nothing that says i can’t do another one, so there. Besides, they’re fun to do.

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link to their blog in your post.
2. Answer the questions that the blogger who nominated you has provided.
3. Nominate ten other bloggers (or up to 10)
4. Create ten questions for your nominees and notify them of their nominations.

Aila’s questions

1.) What object is closest to the left of your computer and how could you use it in the zombie apocalypse?

Umm, it’s a mason jar cup with a candle inside it. I’m probably screwed. Why do i not keep a flamethrower in my living room for questions like these?

2.) You’re in the woods; it’s dark. Suddenly a branch cracks on the ground only a few feet behind you and all the little hairs on your neck stand at attention – what is the *first* thing you hope it isn’t going to be?

The anthropomorphized spirit of all of my ignored To-Do lists coming to hunt me down.

3.) What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Strawberry. I was the kid who ate all the strawberry out of the Neapolitan tub when everybody else went for chocolate. It is surprisingly difficult to find nice strawberry ice cream by the way. It’s an under appreciated flavour. I’m also partial to a good vanilla ice cream. ‘You say boring, I say Classic’.

4.) What known (doesn’t have to be well-known) superhero would you be, and which of their villains would you most want to face?

Not strictly a super hero because he doesn’t have special powers, but he’s been wearing purple tights and fighting baddies in comics since the 1930s. I would choose to be The Phantom, ‘The Ghost Who Walks’, milk drinking puncher of bad guys (I wanted one of those skull rings so badly when i was a kid). I read the comics religiously every week  and just – don’t talk to me about the movie okay?

Villains? I would totes want to face his old nemesis the Singh Brotherhood pirates.

phantom 1


5.) What charitable organization is closest to your heart, and why?

The Samaritans. Because their family support workers were invaluable to me when i was first dealing with becoming a single father.

6.) What is your absolute favorite thing about yourself?

The fact that i have grown and evolved a lot as a person in the last few years.

7.) What is your favorite season and why?

Early Autumn, when the weather is good to wear jeans and a t-shirt without being too hot or cold. Also Mid Summer because I love the summer storms that we get here on the East Coast (but I’m not a fan of the heat).

8.) Do you have any special talents?

Devastating charm and disarming wit. The ability to get up every day and keep going.

9.) What were your three favorite posters that hung in your bedroom as a teenager?

A poster of Sid Viscous from the Sex pistols playing bass.

An 80s poster of Samantha Fox in a leather biker outfit and impractical stiletto heeled boots.

One of those digital art trippy sphere posters that were so popular with stoners in the 90s.


10.) You’re a guest at a well-attended party, what are you most likely doing?

  • Being deeply involved in conversation with one or two people.
  • Wandering around awkwardly trying not to embarrass myself.
  • Hiding outside with a cigarette and using Twitter on my phone in order to look busy.

It took me a month to come up with 10 people to nominate last time, I’ll start with one and add to it later.

Sarah Mitchell Jackson of Running Without Slipping blog.

EDIT: Here are my questions that i forgot to put in 😛

  1. Do you believe in the “You must write every single day” ethos?
  2. What was the last book you read?
  3. How do you find balancing time to write with the rest of your life?
  4. Are you a Planner or a Pantser?
  5. What are you currently working on?
  6. How do you handle criticism of your work?
  7. When people ask the inevitable “what do you write about?” how do you respond?
  8. Who are the Writers you admire and why?
  9. How much of yourself is in any of your characters?
  10. Where do you write from? What fuels the stories you choose to tell and why?



Writing from in the dark.


I had a realisation a little while ago about where it is that I aim to write from. It came about during a conversation with a friend. We were talking about how everyone has deeply held secrets about all kinds of things, the kind of stuff about yourself or your past that you don’t tend to share with just anybody. What they are varies from person to person and a lot of the times they are just embarrassing rather than criminal in nature. We got onto the topic of sharing those things and the idea that in your life you are probably lucky to have one maybe two people that you know and trust enough to share those kind of things with. Also that, quite often, when you do tell somebody they’re nowhere near as bad as they’ve felt to you once they are spoken out loud.

Which got me thinking about writing, because I realised that a lot of what I write about and the kind of feelings that I try to capture in my stories are those kind of things. The deeply held emotions and thoughts that everybody has and yet not many people feel comfortable talking about on the regular. I feel that my writing is at its best when I tap into a vein of these uncomfortable emotions. The unspoken feelings that everybody has.

Because, empathy for a universal experience is something that connects people to a story. You know when you’re reading a book and you have that feeling of “this book gets me”. Empathy can be a weird thing  and it doesn’t have to be a direct parallel for it to resonate with the reader. Think of emotions as a colour wheel, if you hit a shade that the reader has felt before they will more than likely be able to connect that emotion with something from their own experience. It doesn’t have to be the same or even a similar experience, just one that invokes the emotional colour for them to be able to connect with it on a visceral level and in doing so become more involved with what they are reading.

And that, is what I’m aiming for and where I try to write from. I like to sit down there in the dark with the things that don’t get talked about and give them a voice.

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?

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.

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

A finished first draft

Well. I’ve now got a completed story in my hands, courtesy of the fact that i printed it out, because i like the tactile thing of actually being able to hold it.

Something that i have always struggled with in my writing is finishing things. I have many stories that are in that almost done state, because i struggle terribly with finding a satisfactory ending or end point for them. Ideas i have by the truckload and for every one that i write down there are dozens that are still floating around in the aether that is my imagination.

This current story that i finished this morning. Actually finished, wrote it all the way to a point that it has a conclusion, is a story that i began last year during my (sort of) participation in NaNoWriMo. It coalesced together as a ball of different ideas and bits and pieces that i have had over the years and lined up wonderfully into a single entity. Clocking in at just over 8000 words it’s either a long short story or a short Novella, no idea and i don’t care all that much to be honest, because it’s finished!

The thing i find at the moment is that although it is incredibly satisfying to have actually finished the damn thing, it is also kind of an anti climax, because the practical side of my head basically says “You’re finished, now what?” and my head starts pushing forward into things like editing and second drafts and wondering about the how and what of doing something with once i get it to a point where i feel happy to try and put the thing out there into the wider world.

But, i am trying my best to just sit for the moment in the satisfaction that i have a story that i am happy with and enjoy this as a personal milestone.

My NaNoWriMo

I have decided to participate in the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I learnt about it a couple of days before it began and thought it might be way to focus myself on writing more regularly, something that i have been working on and had varied success with so far. Up until this point in the last 6 months since i seriously decided to take up writing again and actually try to do something with it i have written in short intensive bursts with large gaps in between. This process has gotten me to a point where i have a decent jump start on the beginnings of a novel that i have a fairly decent outline for and a half finished short story that i had begun in mid October.
I had realised that years ago when i first attacked the idea of being a writer and had written up a manuscript of approximately 70,000 words, i was writing much more regularly than i have been. Back then i was writing something almost every day. This was partly helped by my then job as the front of house in a small chinese restaurant. I was it out the front and so when there was unfilled downtime (it did mostly take away business, so a fair bit every shift) i would sit at the desk near the kitchen door and write. In hindsight the owner was kind of relaxed and didn’t ever say anything about me sitting and writing while i was at work. The upshot was that i wrote at least a little on most days and kept myself in a pretty good habit of adding to my manuscript.
I had been thinking about these things and feeling that while it’s great to write when inspiration hits, and I’m usually quite productive when I’m writing during those times, it may take a very long time to get anything significant finished (like a whole novel). I was also realising how easy it was to get distracted, sidetracked or just to put it off in favour of other things. Like any good relationship i felt that i really needed to be making time for writing rather than just doing it when it was most obvious that i should.

So. #NaNoWriMo. Its 50,000 words in a month challenge spoke to me in some way and i decided to give it a shot. I hoped for two things going into it.
1. That i would get some writing done this month.
2. That i might connect with some other writers out there in some way.
There are precious few people in my life that see my writing in any more than the “It’s nice that you have a hobby” frame, so the second one was just as appealing as the first.

My goals going in? I kept them modest and have kept them that way. My aim is to have completed my short story by the end of this month. Anything else beyond that to be considered a bonus.
(Though i do admit to some moments of fantasising about having a completed novel by the end of November).
I have always used word count to some degree as an “I’ve done something and am making progress” indicator, but it’s always been for me about the quality of what those words are doing than just pure numbers. So the fact that my word count so far this month is only a little over 2,000 doesn’t bother me. My story has progressed, and I have discovered some deeper emotional subtexts in the original piece that i began and so I’m happy with what i have written so far.
I have been thinking about my stories more and working on them more regularly. My expanded goal is to continue any momentum i build up this month and take it with me.
The second part of my goal has been quite successful. I engaged with the NaNoWriMo hashtag on twitter (before now i was a fairly inconsistent twitter user) and amazingly have made some connections and had conversations with a bunch of other writers from around the globe. An experience that i have found quite satisfying. Although, receiving follows from people who have actually had books published does sometimes make a part of me feel like a fraud for having ‘writer’ in my twitter bio. 

I also recently discovered that taking myself out of my normal space can be a productive move. I went to attend a local write in at a library and found that nobody else appeared to have showed up. I went in search of a coffee and decided that i had been going to write today so i set up shop in the cafe and went at it. An hour and a half later i had banged out a touch over 1000 good words and discovered something new about the story i was writing. I think that i will do that more often now. I do feel that part of the success of it was that being an introvert i hate sitting in public on my own without looking like i have something to do. Writing gave me something to do.

Conclusion. So far so good.  I’m fairly sure that i won’t meet the 50,000 word point that i need to “win” on the NaNoWriMo website. But so far it has been a positive experience for me that has seen me focus more seriously on what it is that i wish to do and if i ever want to get to the point of ‘Writer’ being my actual occupation then, that is the first step.