The ONLY Rules of Write Club You’ll Ever Need

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It seems the internet is awash with rules these days. Everyone who’s ever written anything from a short story to a seven book saga has an opinion on how it should be done. Do this. Do that. Do these three things and you can’t fail. For the love of God, don’t do that!

You get the idea.

But as far as I can see, there are only two ironclad rules of writing that professionals and wannabes alike should ever adhere to. That’s right. Two.

So what’s the first rule of write club?

1. There are no rules!

And the second?

2. Guess what? There are no fricken rules!

I have spent years, nay decades, in the pursuit of perfectly formed prose and precision crafted plotlines that adhere to (air quotes) ‘the rules’ of writing. And do you want to know how many stories I’ve sold? How many books I’ve published?

None. Nadda. Zip.

It’s not that my writing is bad (I mean, it may very well be. You tell me) it’s that I rarely finish a project, so nobody ever gets to read it (except maybe my mum and only to stroke my own ego). When serendipity strikes, I drag out the rule book. I bind her with restrictions and gag her with rules (heck, I’ve even waterboarded her ass on occasion) until she’s nothing more than a shivering, incoherent wreck of her former, glorious self.

Then one day I had an epiphany. These people, this faceless multitude, don’t know me. They don’t know how I work or in what direction the cogs in my head turn. Who, then, are they to tell me how to write? They may as well tell me how to dream.

You’ve got to get that write brain churning, through whatever means you have, in whatever form it takes, and tell the know-it-alls to shut the hell up.

No shirts, no shoes, people. And if this is your first night at write club, I suggest you do just that.

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Delusions of Literary Grandeur: A Writer’s Struggle with Her Own Magnificence

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I don’t know about you but the writer in me has an overwhelming belief that the tome to end all tomes is locked inside her head. A magnum opus, if you will, that will blow all other magnum opuses (opei?) out of the water. All she has to do is get that baby on paper and sweet ambrosia will spill forth in abundance, deifying the writer and gilding her words in gold.

In short, the writer in me suffers (greatly, it seems) from delusions of literary grandeur.

This is the source of all her woes: why she suffers from writer’s block and why she hardly ever (pretty much never) finishes anything she sits down to write. You see, the writer in me has such a disproportionately skewed opinion of her own potential that the reality always falls vastly short of the dream and why it keeps her reaching for the bottle time and time again.

It’s that age-old quest for perfection, people.

And the age-old excuse for not writing.

You see, one must wait for the fates to align in order for great prose to be wrought. Or so the writer in me proclaims. There is a time and a place for greatness and this isn’t it. Today just doesn’t feel like a writing day.

Perhaps tomorrow the Gods of Prose will smile upon my sorry soul and my tale will finally get told.

So until tomorrow, I’ll just sit here watching telly and getting pissed.

The pragmatist in me though, screams for rationality. The real world citizen in me, with all her flaws and foibles, wants to take that self-obsessed, denizen of delusion and punch her in the damn face. ‘Get over yourself!’ She wants to say. ‘Stop arsing around and get some words on paper!’

Because until you do you’re not a writer so stop telling people that you are. And FYI? Only through sheer tenacity and the expulsion of bodily fluids (granted, optional) will your dreams even have the chance to become a reality. Never mind a world event.

It’s a bitter pill, I know, but there is no gemstone that wasn’t first mined, shaped and polished. No masterpiece that wasn’t first dreamt, honed, bled over and despised for its imperfections.

So just get over yourself and write.

Today’s as good a day as any.

The Long and Faraway Gone

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Before you join the long and far away gone,
With their glossed gibbous eyes full of revelry and sighs,
Let us waltz through the fields of our dreams my love,
Those candy-spun schemes of ephemeral youth.

Pearlescent was joy before cracks dulled the sky,
And age pricked our ears to the pendulous chime,
That hourglass of time where lost lovers shoal,
Through waters stilled in rapturous grace.

Sing before silence steals our words my dear,
Let us whisper of love in a velveteen haze,
Drape white-knuckle kisses on tremulous lips,
And bid long goodbyes to the red setting sun.

Staring at the Sun

 

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A story is a ray of light. A blinding beam of conscious thought emanating directly from your soul. This light is bright, blinding even, and if you look directly at it, or for too long, you’ll be seeing spots for hours. Trust me, I’m looking at one right now.

But hidden within the white light of a story concept, or indeed a completed work, is a spectrum of elements and plotlines. The trouble lies in avoiding the bedazzlement long enough to see their hidden colours at work.

I don’t know about you but I have a problem discerning the elements of my stories. By that I mean theme, voice, plotlines, purpose etc. Every scene has to relate to the theme. Every event has to have a purpose. Every plotline has to weave perfectly into the next. Yadda, yadda etc.

When I first unearth that precious nugget of brilliance I am at a loss as to how to break it down into these so-called ‘essential elements’. My initial excitement of the find is soon dulled by doubt and self-loathing and, more often than not, the story is swallowed by thunderheads before it’s ever had a chance to shine.

In short, I suffer from story blindness.

Something happens, when I take a concept and try to refract it.

All the colours look the same.

I mean what is thesis anyway? What is theme? Aren’t they essentially the same thing? And what about the message, the lesson, the philosophy I’m flogging? What is my voice? What is my style? Are my plotlines coherent? My characters well rounded? I mean, jeez, all I wanted to do was write a story about a chick with gun who robs a space station and makes off with the key to the ninth gate of Hell, or some shit! (I’m thinking of calling it ‘Zelda Get Your Gun’) I don’t want to be bogged down in the boring stuff, the literary mechanics of the thing. I just want to write a ripping good read. Do I really have to refract the light? Can’t I just invest in a good pair of sun glasses and hope for the best?

Abso-bloomin-lutely I can!

Kid you not, I have spent years trying to disassemble my stories without success. For me it ruins the aesthetic. I’ve learned that if I bog myself down in trying to be clever my story will never get off the ground. So I don’t. Not anymore.

And do you know what?

The rainbow reveals itself anyway. The very act of writing is all the refraction your story needs. I mean, sure, it’ll still need a little shaping and a shitload of polishing for its colours to really zing but they’re there. They always were. They were just hidden behind the light.

What I’m saying is, don’t sweat the small stuff when you’re writing. Instead, look up into that ominous sky of roiling doubt and self-loathing and marvel at the rainbow you’re painting.

The Goldfish Evolution: A Thought on Modern Technology

 

 

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I had a dream the other night that I was a goldfish.

There I am cruising my bowl, glubbing water and suchlike, when WHAM! The bowl shatters and I’m sent flipping through the air. Stop laughing, that shit was scary! So anyway, I face-plant the carpet see and as I glub my last a notion strikes me: this dream may not be as far-fetched as it seems.

I mean think about it.

We live our lives through our various trinkets of technology: computers, tablets, phones, sat-navs, you name it. Our worlds are getting smaller. Our lives are becoming insular. Mark my words, it won’t be long before we’re all circling our own little fish bowls, viewing the world with a skewed perception of what’s real. And let me ask you this, what will you do if your cyber-bowl smashes like the one in my dream?

Just saying.

Training for Everest

Before I go any further I feel I should say, straight off the bat, that I’m not training to climb Mount Everest. Phew! I’m glad we got that cleared up. Now, where was I? Oh yeah…

So I’ve announced to the world that I’m going to write six novellas in six months. You heard me right. Six novellas. Six months. What the holy jeebus was I thinking? I may as well have said I’m going to climb Everest (now the title makes a little more sense doesn’t it? I repeat, I’m not actually climbing Everest)! But this challenge isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds, you know, and I believe there is method (if only a little) in my madness (of which there’s a lot).

*Note to self – I use brackets way too much (and also ‘notes to self’)

You see, when I first sat down at my computer after that infamous vacation in Procrastiland I thought I could just pick up where I left off. No bother to old H. B. It’s just like riding a bike, right? I’ll have a few novels churned out in no time. Easy-peasy.

Wrong. It’s hardy-wardy.

During my absence the muses had grown flabby and belligerent. The Forge was in a terrible state. Everything was in a guddle and the cleaning hadn’t been done in months. Dust coated every idea and doubt shrouded every other. My thoughts were incoherent and out of sequence. The cat had gotten into my plotlines again and major characters had upped and left without so much as a by-your-leave!

I couldn’t blame them really. I’d neglected my writerly duties you see, left those poor souls to fend for themselves while I was away having a rare old time doing, well, nothing much at all really. I couldn’t sleep for the shame of it.

So why attempt this seemingly impossible thing, I hear you ask? In the face of such adversity?

Exercise and experience.

Imagine if you will that you are at base camp, Everest. The sun is shining but there’s a chill in the air that would freeze the knockers off a nanny goat. Sun-faded bunting snaps and flutters in a brisk Himalayan breeze. You’ve neither slept right since you got here nor felt you’re nose in weeks (can you ever feel your nose?). The summit is but a distant dream piercing the Nepalese sky but the sheer impossibility of the feat does nothing to dampen your desire to accomplish it.

That being said, you will most certainly die if you try. Even the most eager adventurer wouldn’t dare attempt the climb if he’d never in his life climbed before, now would he? I think we’re all in agreement when I say, that would be suicide.

Nobody wants to be an icicle at the end of the world.

If you’re gonna conquer Everest you need guile by the bagful, determination but the truckload, experience in abundance and training in spades. The body needs to be conditioned to withstand the cold, the thin air, the sheer challenge of the thing. It’s true that almost anyone can train for it, and lots of people do every year. It can be done folks. But here’s the twist – it’s not Joe Bloggs from Chigwell with all his experience and enthusiasm that I look to for inspiration.

It’s the Sherpa who carries his arse.

Sherpas. Now those guys are badass. If I can be anyone in this little vignette, I want to be a Sherpa. Those guys aren’t just trained for Everest and all she has to throw at them. They were born for it. Everest is in their blood. Scaling her many faces is second nature to them and they summit every time.

The mountain is their bitch.

I want the mountain to be my bitch too. But my mountain isn’t a snow-capped she-devil at the back of beyond. My mountain is simply to finish a full length novel. The way I see it, writing is a perilous endeavour not dissimilar to summiting Everest. Only a few survive to tell the tale and it’s just as taxing on body and soul. Okay, it might not leave you heaving for air or puking in your boots (maybe it will – depends on what you’re writing, I guess) but if you haven’t done it for a while then you’d better dress for the cold because it’s going to be a long night in hell. S’all I’m saying.

That’s what these six novellas are all about for me. They are my training for the big event, my rite of passage, so to speak. Six minor peaks in preparation for the big one. You never know, a couple might be quite good.

I’m getting ready for the big climb people. Maybe I won’t make it past base camp or maybe, just maybe, I’ll see you at the summit.

Farewell Procrastiland

Ah, Procrastiland. How I’ll miss your labyrinth of cobbled digressions, leading nowhere except the sorrowful bottom of a wine bottle and endless televisual diversions (damn you, Game of Thrones!).

I bid adieu to your wily warrens of iniquity where countless hours are squandered on endless rumination. Hear me! For I’ll ne’er return to that twilit bay where inertia ebbs and flows with the tides of the sea. No more, I say!

I’m coming home to the Forge to get those creative juices flowing once again. I’ll re-jig my little blogosphere (done, boom!) and get cracking. No more playing truant at life! No more chocolate martinis by the pool (ock, really?).

I’m champing at the proverbial bit to get some new stuff on here. She who dares and all that. So keep a weather eye on the horizon my blogger chums, and watch for my signal!

2016 is going to be a productive year for old H. B. you see if it isn’t!