Release the bats – Review

This was a book I bought after listening to an interview on radio 4 given by its award-winning author DBC Pierre. In the interview, it described the book as a journey in getting started writing. I was so excited at the idea of a book that really covered a new author and their life struggle to get published that I asked for a copy for my birthday and was duly presented with the same.

What can I say other than I was very sadly disappointed, the book was the worst book on writing I have ever had the embarrassment to own. The focus of the book was less upon writing than it was on the author’s dependency upon narcotics and alcohol.

If you want to know what effects drugs have on a writer or even a young human being – there are probably much better options. If you want a book on getting started in a writing career, can I suggest not buying this one; it has obviously been published on the back of the literary award of the author but I have no idea why it was accepted or published; for me it is nothing more than a literary disaster and would be best recycled for use in the smallest room in the house. However, I should point out that the paper is highly absorbent and not really suitable even for this purpose.

Don’t show – don’t tell

One of the best known tips in writing is to show not tell but a challenge to write about the word façade had me thinking; everybody that we know presents to us a façade, like it or not it is the truth.

Think about it, when we meet someone for the first time we weigh them up, we look at their mannerisms, check out their job role, look at how wealthy or poor they appear and from all of that initial information we assess which of our many facades we are going to present to them.

We all do it, even if we might want to deny it. We never open up completely to someone we don’t know. We feed them just the right amount of information to test the waters; can we trust them? Can we relate to them? Can we even understand where they are coming from?

We use a façade but we probably don’t think about the fact that they will be using one too.

I think this is really important when we are writing. We create our characters then we have to reveal them but if we do that totally at the beginning of our story then we are not being real. We do need to show not tell but we also need to keep their real selves safe until our other characters get to know them. We want the reader to relate to the protagonist but shouldn’t we reveal them in a safe and realistic way?

Facade

Stein on writing – Review

Sol Stein is a well-known author and editor and his take in this book is all about structure and editing.

He gives clear examples of how to craft your work, review it and edit it. I found it a little dated with references to what is expected in the 20th century but that is when it was written and it doesn’t take away any of the good examples of what not to do or how to redraft your work.

It is very much about editing and restructuring but it is worth having just for that.

Don’t get too bogged down in this before you have your first draft on paper but reading it before writing might help you to avoid common mistakes as you go along so that you have less to do afterwards.

 

I don’t disagree!

Of course I do disagree sometimes, but it is one of those words I really dislike because when someone says “I disagree” it is normally in quite a forceful and confrontational way. When I’m writing I might use the phrase if I had a powerful, dogmatic person trying to overpower an argument or discussion, but it isn’t something I like to come across in real life.

It’s funny how one word can build deep emotional response in someone; disagree has me instantly wanting to avoid even writing about it. That is something I can use in my writing. I wonder what other words evoke such powerful emotional responses in people.

I need to go and have a real chill out having been thinking on this for a while – I really do hate confrontation.

Disagree

When you start a story but it never gets finished.

When you start a story but it never gets finished.

One of my problems with writing, and life in general, is that I’m a starter rather than a finisher. That’s the problem when you have a creative mind or talent; you focus on something for a short while and then something else grabs your curiosity, so you head off to do that instead.

This happens to me again and again. I never have a problem with finding things to do because I always have something new on the go. This does have its drawbacks though; as can be witnessed by my new studio that was built, eventually, for somewhere to do my oil paintings, but got filled with stuff on a temporary basis until I got it sorted out. It then became my studio for my silk painting, my mosaics, wood carving, wire sculptures, weaving, bee keeping and of course for my writing.

You will probably have guessed that my studio has never actually been used for any of these things because it has become a temporary home for all the stuff that goes with all of them. The writing, thank goodness is the exception; that has been established at a new computer desk inside the house. Well I say it has, but actually I’m currently sitting next to that desk using a laptop on my knee because the chair for the desk is still in the studio under a load of stuff.

That’s why I had to change my style of writing; I like many others had this great notion of writing a book and having it published but actually planning a full novel and structuring it is a lot of effort and of course the chances of me sticking with it to the end are fairly small. I now write short stories, no more than around three thousand words which is something I can complete in one sitting.

There is something about completing a task that is very satisfying and I’m learning from that. Now my challenge is to get the chair out of the studio; it will take a bit of digging as it is under the loom and various other bits of equipment; and to sort out a number of short stories that have the same characters and settings so that I can do the NaNoWriMo challenge of fifty thousand words in a month. After all a novel is simply a book made up of small chunks called chapters and those can all be short stories in themselves.

Unfinished

Should I put my writing out there?

Is it a strange coincidence that a lot of writers have very few Facebook friends?

Of course well known authors will have many likes and followers but I was just scrolling down another writer’s Facebook page and as I passed the cursor over those that had commented (mostly writers or those who want to be from the comments) it tells me how many Facebook friends they have. It appeared that the majority had less than 100 friends.

Is this a symptom of their writing I wondered?

Well, if like me you have started to put your writing blog out there and people have started to read it then of course the consequence may be that you will start to lose friends (or at least acquaintances) because they don’t like your writing. Most people don’t know that you can simply unfollow someone so that you don’t see their every post. So is it worth putting your blog out there?

Of course it is; writing is an art form, you don’t have to be good in other people’s eyes to be a writer or an artist. In fact if everybody thought you were good then there would be something very wrong, either you would be an unknown artistic genius or more likely, everyone would be saying they liked what you wrote even though they hated it.

Get over it! Art is for the artist, if other people like it; all well and good. If other people hate it; that’s fine too; we all have our own tastes, likes and dislikes; so you shouldn’t take it to heart when people don’t like your work. The same of course comes to getting published; some publishers will love your work and others will hate it, but if you never send it to them you will never know.

There is absolutely no need to send what you have written to a publisher and it may be better for you not to do so. If you love writing, enjoy seeing your words in black and white, or any other colours, just write them. Use whatever medium you choose; be it pen and paper, typewriter or computer but just enjoy the delight of letting your mind flow into the world of the scriptorium.

Funnily enough I haven’t looked to see how many people are un-liking my Facebook page; I’ve never cared how many I had in the first place. What I do know is that those that like my writing will follow my blog if they want to; and it is nice to see a following of more than just myself. It might even mean that there are others out there who appreciate my ramblings and since I get an email every time I get a new follower, it also means that I can look at their writing too and that has given me a whole plethora of new reading materials.

More important for me is the fact that writing is good for my soul, or at least my mind. I find writing a release from the real world and somewhere that I can relax and let go of all my STUFF. That’s an important tool for keeping my stress levels down, keeping me happy and possibly even sane; or at least slightly less insane.

I enjoy writing for the sake of writing not because I have to do it, not for anyone else’s benefit, but for the sheer pleasure of seeing my mind flow into that scriptorium, and it will be there for others to love or to hate as they will.

Of course if you are sending your work to publishers, and I do send stories to magazines and competitions, you need to keep that somewhere offline until it is published or you may infringe the publisher’s requirements, but you can like me, write some things to send to publishers and others for your blog, you then have two channels to play with.

Dilemma

Just Write

Writing for publication can be stressful, time-consuming and heartbreaking when the rejection letters come in. The answer to this – don’t write for publication, just enjoy writing and don’t have that pressure, although it would be nice to get something published one day, there is no obligation to have your work published and if you can write prolifically for the sheer enjoyment of it then you will have a collection of work that sometime in the future you can collate, edit and if you want to – then you can send it to a few relevant publishers to get their views on what you have produced. Sometimes you don’t even have to do that – I’ve had quite a number of little things published because the publisher has asked if they could include them in a book and sometimes they will come back and ask you if you could produce more along the same lines. So I’m hardly a successful well-known author but I do have a fair bit of published work.

The reason I write is because I enjoy it. I always thought that I’d like to be a writer, but never felt good enough or perhaps I just wasn’t confident enough to give up my day job to take a chance on it. I read hundreds of books about how to start writing – that was a heavy investment. I bought course after course on how to become a writer – another heavy investment, but one day I came to realise that all this book and course buying was simply prevarication and that I would probably never become a “real writer”.

Then one day someone upset me by misrepresenting something I’d put on social media. I was furious and I found myself in front of my computer; anger flowing through my veins like lava from an enormous volcanic eruption, the flames of destruction vomiting from my very brain cells and it all got channeled onto the page in front of me; it was terrific, it really was “terrible and horrific”. This was my first bit of exciting dramatic fiction and it flowed for a day and a half. This wasn’t me writing about me, this was me writing about the pent up frustration with authority that had been building; not just throughout my lifetime but for centuries. The bile and frustration spewed onto the page almost incinerating the computer with its sheer passion and truth.

I’d found something special about writing that I wish I had found about fifty years earlier – writing is good for the soul and a fantastic way of dealing with stress and frustration. You can do things in a fictional world that you could never do in reality, at least not without being locked up pretty quickly.

From then on I’ve been writing on a regular basis, not every day but damn near every day. I find myself becoming more and more creative. I can sit in a public place and without knowing who people are, can turn them into fictional characters with their own intriguing story just waiting to be told. On other days I may write a poem, it might not start out as one but it may end up as one. I might write a prayer, a limerick or a short story, but the point is I will just write. I’ll write whatever comes into my head at the time and when that doesn’t work and there seems to be nothing there, then I’ll go back to one of my stories that are developing over time. I have at least three different storylines on the go at any time. When one isn’t working one of the others will be and if none of them are working for me then it’s time for something new.