Breathing fire

I am doing some writing.

I know, I know. I’m every bit as surprised as you are. But it‘s true. I’ve finally got a bit of leeway in my schedule (I think – I’m always terribly worried that I’ve either forgotten something or that the jobs I have on my plate will take longer than anticipated) and I’m using it to create.

Breathing Fire is the third in the modern fantasy series that began with Oneiromancer and continued with Our Kind of Bastard. It’s an absolutely pointless thing to write as I have no home, nor even a hope of a home, for the first two books; I should be doing something unique and entirely standalone rather than revisiting old characters.

Well, tish and pshaw to that. This is the book I want to write. And now I’m a self-publishing veteran (if not an earner) there is always that option.

I don’t want to say too much about the story yet, but it revolves around cursed books, grief, terminal (?) insomnia and evil industrialists-cum-venture-capitalists. It’s set in the environs of Bradford, which is where I grew up. I’m fed up of the London-centricness of British novels, which is rich seeing as Oneiromancer was set there. Still: London, Brittany, Bradford – I’m moving things around, at least.

And that’s really all I’ve got to say for now. I’m first drafting, and doubtless what I’m producing is pretty terrible. A first draft is all about getting the story down on paper; of finding steps and mis-steps and of trying not to get too bogged down in a morass of one’s own making.

But it’s fun, and exciting, and though it’s a slog it’s my slog.

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For those what missed it I did an interview with the wonderful Runalong Womble the other week. If you want to read about New Gods, about my influences, the problems of writing sci-fi, and my book recommendation for the world, head along here – and check out all of Womble’s other interviews whilst you’re at it.

Oh, and maybe buy and/or review New Gods? Cheers. You’re the best.

Writing is fun

It’s fun, writing. I mean no, it’s horrible, a unique and vengeful form of torture. It weakens the soul, erodes the buttocks and is no good for diet, digestion or dignity. But apart from that it’s fun.

It’s a massive challenge, writing anything, let alone a novel. It’s worse when you feel like you’re stuck in mud, striving desperately to shift the merest inch. And the road, should such a thing exist, is a switchback, easily lost, and sometimes we must reverse course to make progress.

And even then, when all the kinks are unbound and the thing laid flat upon the paper, it will look nothing like the golden model that originally shone in the mind’s eye. It will have been watered down, irrevocably changed by the needs of ‘logic’, ‘consistency’, and ‘taste’.

And yet I maintain that it is fun. There is not enough fun in this world right now, and so I am resentful about all the things that are getting in my way at the moment. I have proofreading to do, deadlines to meet, edits to edit.

It has been a long time since I could just sit back, untethered by expectation, and create.

I can just about see the pages through the foliage. Recently I have carved out brief moments where I have been able to take my manuscript, the same that I’ve been mucking around with since February-ish, but which got lost in August as Other Things arose to bury it in the morass.

I can see it. I want to get back to it. It’s called Breathing Fire and I’ve written enough of it to worry that it’s not very good, so that’s something. I’ve also written enough of it for it to have a shape already, and there are flashes that I was to nurture and grow and hot-house.

Other things are currently in the way, but with my machete I will hack my way back to the trail and scamper after loose lost pages, scribbling on them as I go, until I find my way to the clearing and the great heart of the story is to be found, a bloated, sweating carcase fanning itself slowly with abandoned plot-lines.

And then I’ll complain about not having enough paid work to do. You watch me.

Sack the juggler

And… breathe.

It’s busy times again and I must work on working on: I must find myself time to write. Recently I’ve been somewhat swamped with the dirt and diesel of modern life. Only now can I take stock and see what I’ve been missing.

I’ve barely presented any new writing at my weekly group meetings because I’ve been so buried in self-publishing, and in proofreading and copyediting that, though I have virgin writing to share, I’ve not had time to actually go over it and do the inevitable rewrites.

I’ve managed to carve little half-hours, here and there, and I’ve been inching on with my very brandish-new project (not the thing I’ve been editing; that’s Our Kind of Bastard. This is the as-yet-untitled sequel to that and Oneiromancer) but that’s slow, painful going, not helped by the piecemeal approach.

I’m juggling these things but sadly not very well. It’s more just waving balls around rather than a jaw-dropping transcendent many-limbed performance.

Sack the juggler.*

I’ve just handed in another editorial assignment and, though I do have another project checked in, things currently look a little calmer out in front of me. The self-publishing is done (bar any possible far-too-late edits, should any typos have crept through, and possible promotion opportunities). So it’s time for me to get back to what I do best I’m here to talk about.

I have to get better at balancing my time. I need to reprioritise and maybe say no to things sometimes. Because I’m not doing the fundamentals right now. For good reasons, maybe, but still, I’m failing.

I’m also eager to get back to it. I miss creating and picking away at a novel; as I said, it’s what I’m here to talk about and for too long I’ve not really been doing it.

So let’s get to it. No time for this! Whose idea was it to write a stupid blog anyway?

*How do you kill a circus? Go for the juggler

Weasels

The problem with being a human being is that you not only have to be strong to organise an event, or review, or interview or whatever, you also have to be strong when the actual time to do it comes round. And then you have to be strong when the results come in, too.

Case in point: in the run-up to the publication of New Gods, I decided I’d darn well gird my metaphoricals and try to arrange for the book to be reviewed. And, in a rare fit of energy, I decided to double-down by offering myself for interview by someone else. To my surprise, both fishing expeditions bore fruit (or possibly fish). Great! Go me!

No good deed goes unpunished. Now I have New Gods reviewed by a highly respected blog/website, and this is absolutely brilliant. The only downside… I’m not feeling strong anymore. I don’t know if I can face actually reading the review, which I kind of have to do in order to retweet and otherwise promote it.*

No matter that the review is probably positive (I was tagged in the promotional tweet, which is always a clue). Not having a strong day today. Can’t even face positive comments. Anxiety is a cruel mistress.

As for the interview, it’s only via email, which makes it a lot easier. I don’t have to make an appointment to speak to someone. But still I have to puff myself – and then the benighted thing will only go and be published and I’ll have to promote that and then I’ll immediately realise what a berk I was…

Writers have to face these things all the time. It’s a profession where rejection is the norm, and that rejection can come at any time. We must be bold to put ourselves out there; we must be keen and eager and, on that good day, we can face that probable-no. But we have no control as to when those rejections come in. Can we be strong every day, eternally powerful and vigilant?

I know I can’t. Somedays the brain-weasels just can’t be faced directly, must be approached sidle-wards, armed with a Long Stick of Poking.

The older I get, the more I realise that this is, in fact, modern life. I envy those who have strong days all the time. And it’s why I try not to get cross with people for taking time with things. I mean, I try not to get cross with people at all, but I’m only a deeply, deeply flawed human.

Now the review has spawned another interview, which is brilliant! I’m something of a publicity whore, which might seem to contradict all of the above.

Except it doesn’t. Because I can make myself get up to perform, no matter how weaselly the brain.

The writing game is not so dissimilar to a performance. Long hours of rehearsal, fearsome critics, great rounds of indifference.

And so I must go and do my little turn on the catwalk once more.

Happy weaselling, folks!

*The more astute amongst you will have noticed that I’ve just linked to said review. Well I have actually skimmed it, now. But it wasn’t easy, and I don’t know if I dare actually read the spaces between the words