I Dream of Ghoulie (and Fossils. Lots of Fossils)

I’m off to Lyme Regis for a week of fossil hunting and sunshine (hopefully – the forecast looks good!) this morning. Forget sandy beaches and palm trees- this is what my heart longs for:

We’re staying in a cottage, so the chances of an internet connection are slim, so no blog next week. But before I go, I’d just like to mention the dream I had last night. I know dreams are usually pretty naff and of no interest to anyone but the person who dreamt it (‘And then my socks got up and commanded the zombie apocalypse! I mean, what’s that about?’), but I wonder if this one might resonate…

I was in a field (I think it was a park near to my childhood home), and there was some kind of Fayre going on. But there were no human punters, just lots of ghouls wandering from table to table, inspecting the humans who were bent over the tables, scribbling furiously. I wondered what they were up to, so I went to have a look. I was immediately charged by a ghoul. One of the humans looked up, thrust a pen and a piece of paper in my hand and said: ‘write! that’s the only thing that stops them!’.

So I sat down and wrote. And lo and behold, the ghoul calmed down.

I wrote for ages, but then my pen ran out. I couldn’t find another, so I tried to run for it, with one of the ghouls chasing me. I woke up just as it got me in a cold sweat.

No,. what do you think that was about?! (And yes, I that was rhetorical…)

See you all soon! I’m off to find me a whole load of Ichthyosaur  (yeah, dream on!)

 

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Heavy Engineering 2: The Sequel

Or ‘Things I’ve learned and mistakes I have made whilst revising’

I’m still in the thick of my revisions, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. Not that this story will be anywhere near completion when this stage is over – still have loads to do – but (hopefully) the industrial heavy lifting will be done relatively soon, leaving me with a halfway coherent tale. Maybe. If I’m lucky.

Most of it has been by trial and error (mainly error), so I’ve decided to blog a list of things I have learned during this stage.

1) You can’t afford to be precious. I murdered a darling the other day that actually, physically hurt. It was only a small scene, but I liked it. But, at the end of the day, it added nothing to the story. So it had to go. Along with most of the first draft. Because first drafts are shit.

2) Be prepared to re-write most of your draft. I’ve mentioned this before, but I am still staggered by how much I have had to re-write. Not one chapter has escaped, and most of them have been almost totally re-written. I was worried that I was re-writing too much, but according to far more experienced writers than me, this is totally normal.

3) Don’t sweat the small stuff. I have a big note on the first page of my folder which reads ” STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE PROSE AND GET THE REWRITE DONE”. Because when you’re hoofing chapters around, the last thing you need to be worrying about is how many adverbs you’re using. Leave that for a later edit.

4) Keep meticulous tabs on your changes. I didn’t and had to spend over an hour yesterday renaming all my files because the chapter order had changed and I hadn’t kept up to date with renumbering my files. Learn by my mistake!

5) Print out and keep an up to date hard copy. I know lots of people do everything digitally, but for me, having a hard copy to physically write on and move around has been a godsend. Even when my computer files were names wrong, I could sort them out because I had the physical hard copy in from of me. Without that, I would have been well and truly screwed.

6) Remember to concentrate on what you have done, not what you haven’t. Just for your sanity’s sake. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed at the sheer amount of stuff you still have to do, so take a moment to remember how far you’ve already come.

7) Don’t be afraid to experiment. Not all your revisions will work, but it’s not time wasted.  Even if the scene doesn’t make the cut, or ends up being just a flight of whimsy, I’ve found these still count towards learning about your characters and the world they inhabit.

8) Save often, and in multiple places. Five minutes ago, my 3 year old daughter decided to play on mummy’s laptop whilst I was cleaning her potty and managed to delete this entire blog. Yes, that actually happened. Thankfully, I had saved it. In the past, this wasn’t the case, and I’ve lost entire chapters due to either my own incompetence (saving over files I shouldn’t have saved over) or my kids mucking around with my computer.

9) Try to revise / re-write in order. Again, this is just my experience, but jumping around all over the place has just meant I now have double the mess to clear up. Now I note down my ideas and save them for when that scene would naturally come up in sequence. That way, I know the build up and how to approach them properly, rather than guessing and then having to re-write most of the re-write so it fits in my the previous chapter’s re-write.  (Boy, that’s a lot of re-writes!)

I was going to add in a ten, something along the lines of ‘try to enjoy what you’re doing’, but that’s so lame I’m almost ashamed to admit to it. So I’ll sign off with a simple ‘you’re not alone’ and then go and stare, half in despair, half in happiness at my half finished second draft.

Laters!

Happy Death Day, Mr Lovecraft

March 15th, 1937 – the day of HP Lovecraft’s death. Has any figure influenced weird / horror / supernatural fiction greater than this man? I honestly don’t think so. Even if you don’t know who he is (shame on you!), his themes run rampant throughout much of the horror genre.

I first heard of HPL’s work via Metallica. I was 13 years old, and had just heard Ride the Lightning. The last track – The Call of Ktulu – intrigued me, and so I decided to find out about this ‘Ktulu’. Now, bearing in mind this was back in 1990 and the internet did not exist, I wasn’t all that successful. But I did happen to read an interview with the band that hinted to Lovecraft’s dark works.

At that point, even without reading a word, I was hooked.

I found my first Lovecraft tale in a gothic horror anthology a year later, at the age of 14. Consequently, The Dulwich Horror is one of my favourite tales. I was firmly in my ‘horror’ stage at this point, reading voraciously anything that had a black cover with something lurid painted upon it, but where a lot of the writers I usually read resorted to gore or cheap jumps, there was something genuinely unsettling about Lovecraft’s nihilistic world view – that we are not alone, and that in the grand scheme of things, we just don’t matter. It also appealed to my own obsession with things beyond the normal sphere of human experience – alternate realities, forbidden lore, chaos magick (basically anything ‘weird’, ranging from ancient life to occultism. If it’s weird, I like it) – and I’ve never looked back.

So, if you’ve never entered the weird, unsettling and decidedly purple world of HP Lovecraft: The Complete Works of Lovecraft

… go on. I dare you.

The Writing Gestapo

Don’t do this! Don’t do that! Don’t you ever DARE think about doing that! Filthy writing muggle! Good writers NEVER resort to that! Dirty, Dirty, Dirty!

I’m not joking when I say ‘if I have to read one more list of so-called ‘rules of writing’, I am going to chin someone.

Yet another one popped up yesterday, with the usual stuff – adverbs bad, only use said so it becomes invisible to the reader (am I the only reader out there who finds that annoying? Even as a kid, the repetition of ‘said’ irritated me. I conform now because so many people tell me its the right thing to do, but it does annoy me just a teeny bit), make every word count etc – and, as usual, half of it conflicted with stuff on other lists and other advice you get (exactly how do I be true to myself and write what I want to write when I’ve also got to do as you say or my writing is worthless?).

I think it all came to a head when, last night, I found myself agonising for half an hour on how to remove the word ‘suddenly’ from a sentence. No matter how much I rewrote, rejigged and revised, that little forbidden word was what it needed – sometimes, things do happen suddenly, and whilst I agree it is a hideously overused word, it is still a word there to be used.  But I know that if I keep it in there, what feels like a million people will all jump on me, screeching ‘NO ADVERBS! NO SUDDENLY! WEAK WRITING!’ until my eardrums burst.

Then there’s the absolute joy of trying to write emotion and not resorting to cliche. And yes *weary sigh, I know too much is a bad thing, but sheesh, whether we like it or not, hearts do pump when you’re scared, people do glance at each other when they  fancy one another and teeth do grit when you’re in pain. When tingling toes, or frazzling hair is a sign someone fancies someone else, I’ll use it. But until then… what? Just WHAT, Mr List? How exactly do I get my characters into a place where the reader believes the might just have a thing for each other without resorting to something my readers recognise within themselves?

I know these lists are meant to be a helpful guide to steer people in the right direction, but when you’re being told ‘don’t use ‘was’, or ‘get rid of all uses of there was / there were / was + ing constructions’, it gets a bit much. Yes,  try to restrict their use and use stronger verbs instead, but get rid of them completely? Seriously – give it a go. Try to remove every single bad thing these lists say are mortal sins from your writing. Because I have tried it, and I ended up with a nonsensical piece of utter shite. And to make that a readable piece, I ended up with a blank page.

Claire has had 3 hours sleep and is in a terrible grump this morning. Let’s just call this ‘The List That Broke The Camel’s Back…’

NB: I will note my amusement in the amount of boobs I had to trawl through to find an appropriate picture for this blog. Who knew a ‘Novel Writing Rules’ image search would deliver boobies? They really do get everywhere…

The Bother In Burmeon

Exciting news! SP Moss’ first book, The Bother in Burmeon, is due out soon (April 11th), and she is having a book launch at the Brooklands Aviation Museum:

http://www.brooklandsmuseum.com/index.php?%2Fevents%2Fdetails%2Fthe-bother-in-burmeon-book-launch%2F

SP Moss is a Word Cloud friend of mine, and if I can get childcare sorted, I am really looking forward to going to this.

The Bother in Burmeon is a retro-style adventure for 9-12s, set in the S.E.Asia of 1962. With more than a nod to Biggles and other Boy’s Own classics, it’s a ripping yarn choc-a-block with danger, beasts, bombs, baddies – and some jolly good chaps. (Taken from the book launch website, and I couldn’t say it better myself!)

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Burmeon?ref=ts 

It’s just so wonderful to hear of this kind of success… I hope  Susan knocks the socks of everyone. Needless to say, my pre-order is in! ^^D

 

 

 

Weird Fiction Sought!

I found this out this morning, and whilst I haven’t got any weird fiction published (yet!!), I know people who do, so I thought I’d spread the word here.

 http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/mar/09/weird-fiction-electronic-universe-ebooks 

I am nominating Ien Cleary’s sci fi / weird fiction mini Trilogy Wormybrain and Stinkfoot,which you can buy for a measly 77p on Amazon – what have you got to lose?!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wormybrain-and-Stinkfoot-ebook/dp/B006UYECZY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331366885&sr=8-1

I have also nominated the Lovecraft Ezine:

http://lovecraftzine.com/

You can also tweet your nominations on twitter, using #weirdfiction

Let’s put weird fiction back on the map!

(Note – please excuse poor linkage. I have used the link button, but it seems to want to show the whole damn link, rather than the title. I shall try to rectify that when Emily (now known as Tiny Spawn) is not hollering at me.)

How you turn my world, you precious thing…

And to cheer up my day, here’s a picture of David Bowie in tight trews

Ahem. Such an education for a young girl.

Anyway, that’s enough Bowie-area distraction, ‘cos the important bit isn’t His Bulgeness, but the Labyrinth behind him. And if you’re currently writing / rewriting / revising your story, you’ll know what I mean.

I realised something last night, and it scared me a bit.

My writing style is changing.

Like the Labyrinth, it’s on the move, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

In a way, it’s kind of annoying me. It kind of implies there was something wrong with my ‘old’ style, and it means that I now have a novel of two halves – the bits I’ve re-written recently, and the bits I re-wrote when sleep was a blissful fact of life (i.e. before Emily came along). And so I now have not only the task of sewing up the gaping holes of my plot after my rather exuberant evisceration exercise (it was too brutal to call it mere editing), of adding in all the bits I had forgotten the first time round and all the general revising / editing of the stuff I actually want to keep, I now have to make sure all the bits have the same voice.

You know, I think Sarah had the easier task… at least she got to Oggle Jareth’s Boggle!

*trudges back off to the Labyrinth armed with a red pen…*

 

(Oh, and I’m thinking of what I might actually call this novel (Dragonsoul is thename of the trilogy, because I am nothing if not arrogantly optimistic about these things). So far, A Cuckoo in the Nest is winning. Although I did write ‘Cockoo’ just then. Uh, whoops?)