Inciting Incident (courage of your convictions). 

And so it begins, chapter one, page one, we write our first line, and we start our tale.

My original draft made the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan look like a teddy bear’s picknick.

I pulled no punches, spared no blushes, the opening incident was intentionally cruel in its delivery.

I added no trigger warnings – gave no option but to be immersed in what was happening. 

Some subjects work well with kid gloves – and some don’t.

Amy’s tale deserved the honesty I gave it.

Time passed, the tale was completed and then offered out for critique.

I presented the first chapter to a writing group.

It wasn’t the rape, wasn’t the violence or indeed the cruelty that they balked at – nope it was why would a woman go walking/exploring on her own???

I tried to explain, to defend my rational, but they were not for turning – there was a credibility collapse with a young woman walking alone through Cairo at four in the morning – change it!

So, I did.

No longer was she off wandering (alone), now she was stolen from the middle of a crowd.

As the huddled masses jostle for taxis home Amy is plucked from the crowd and the tragedy that initiates our tale is carried out.

Version ‘new’ was carefully crafted to explain every act – to reinforce the notion that Amy as a blameless victim – no naïve culpability [?] in her own tragedy. 

And as well written as the new version is, I don’t like it – but I’m now scared to change it back because the ‘credibility’ of my first incarnation was so universally rejected.

To my own self be true, or to the critics do I surrender?

I don’t know.

Stay safe – remain sane!

Haircuts and Hairshirts

Strange title, that much is true, but it seems that since my last confession, this is all I’ve achieved. 

Participants and acolytes of the scribbling craft set themselves targets, decide upon numbers of words to be written, and the time allocated in which to achieve it. 

Many will claim to have hit these targets, to have written tens of thousands of words, to have dug drainage ditches, manned a food bank for the poor and deserving, and indeed many will also have learnt to play the cello.

Me, I’m sporting a new haircut, and wearing a metaphorically uncomfortable and itchy shirt as penance for my lack of discernible output. 

It’s not that I haven’t been trying, and we all love a good tryer, it’s just that my efforts have borne little or no fruit. 

I’ve tried to hide behind the ever popular “I’m editing” as some sort of defence – and to be fair it works up to a point, but only up to a point. 

So, in my defence I have rewritten a passage here, a phrase there, and added a few new ones at the end of the current scribbles, but I know its not enough, not something I could proudly stick on the fridge next to my potato print paintings. 

I have sat down, fingers curled poised to pounce, hot tea within easy reach, and written practically nothing. 

And today I’m looking at my lack of progress, debating the wearing a hairshirt and considering flagellation (both scouring, and shirt are obvious metaphors).

Although, truth be told, I’ll probably just go for another cup of tea and browse social media for another hour or so!

Perchance that is the problem…

Stay safe – remain sane!

Confessions from a Pantster.

I don’t plan, not when I’m writing, and truth be told no too much in life either.

But this is about my scribbles. 

I have a rough idea, a conceptual imagining of where I’d like to be at some abstract point – but I’ve no roadmap, no plan or detailed scheme mandating how I get there. 

I have every admiration for the spreadsheet creating, post-it-note posting, notebook referencing organised writers who know every twist and turn before they type so much as ‘Once Upon a Time.’  I do.

Me, by contrast, I open the door, and I am as surprised as the reader about what’s on the other side, or indeed that in the middle of the field there was a door.

Sometimes flying by the seat of my pants pays dividend, the tale becomes free flowing – and for me that’s great.

I never planned to have fairies in my tales, but now they are there.

I had a moustachioed twirling villain all but tying the damsel in distress to a train track; but then he fell in love, and everything changed.

Our heroine is the victim, but she can be cruel and vindictive too.

Neither scenario necessitate or preclude being a pantster or planner – but I’m not too sure I’d have been able to plan these depths to each character from the get-go.

This isn’t a VHS/Betamax argument (how old is this writer?).

Plotter or pantster are aspects of the creative processes that suit the individual writer – nothing more.

Me I fly by the seat of mine.

That’s it.

No words of wisdom other than you should enjoy what you do – and if you do that then I’m sure that will transfer to the narrative.

Stay safe and remain sane.

A Warm Coat.

We write, we write some more.

We delete whatever it was we wrote, and then we write some more.

Whatever was deleted is reinstated.

We write a bit more, change our mind, alter the narrative ever so slightly and then redelete whatever it was we removed the first time.

The narrative looks good – we like what we’ve written, and we feel brave enough to offer it out to the world for Beta critique.

Amy Grace: Home is the fifth instalment in our historic fantasy thriller. 

Four Volumes [Thomas Payne; Magic; Gotham & Prison] are in the can – this one we are still kicking around.

From earlier reviews we know certain readers like some bits, and some, no matter what will never like other bits – we take the rough with the smooth.   

We value their opinion.

Critique is the lifeblood of a drafting scribbler. 

For the feedback we patiently wait.

And then someone says “It was so easy to get back into the life of Amy.  It was like putting on a comfortable warm coat.”

That’s it, I am done. 

It’s not a review from the Booker Prize committee – but I’m banking that one. 

That one I’m keeping.

Stay safe and remain sane!

Telling Tall Tales.

I can write.

I can tell tall tales.

I will tell you of the terrible events in a Cairo alleyway, the scars that such things cause; and you will wipe away a tear or two.

I will tell you what it is like to fly through a thunderstorm, the wind, the rain, the dancing with the lightning; all the time screaming life affirming declarations as you do.

I will do that.

I’ll make you angry, probably make you sad too. 

But I will also give you highs.

The sheer joy that is love – this I will tell you about again and again and again.

We will celebrate this love.

We will mourn its loss too.

We will seek revenge.

We will suffer for our desired justice; and then stare into the abyss that is the blackened remnants of our soul.

I will do this for you.

We will fight magic, embrace Celtic folklore and travel to the dreamworld that will stitch it all together. 

All of this and so much more, so very much more will I give to you if only you’ll read my scribbles.

And therein lies the rub.

It doesn’t matter how good the journey I offer if nobody ever takes the trip.

I can write.

I can tell tall tales.

But I cannot get an agent.

I cannot entice someone to take a chance.

If they did, they wouldn’t regret it.

But I cannot get them to.

I can write.

I can tell tall tales.

Play On.

Music is the food of love, so play on.  Billy the Bard wasn’t wrong when he wrote that.  The emotional blanket in which we wrap our words helps so much with the development of context. 

‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M a suitable example.  If this were playing in the background of a scene, it would set it so quickly, it would provide a near universal shorthand for melancholic introspection. 

A kitchen table, a hunched figure reading a letter, Everybody Hurts playing on the radio – you almost know the words being read (almost).

I think it works while we’re writing too.

The tunes that we immerse ourselves in help format the narrative we type – or at least they do for me.

Writing that sad scene, that tear jerking moment where the near crushing enormity of loss that crushes your MC would be hard to write if ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams was playing on a loop.

We have been writing such a scene, and the stripped-down simplicity of the music that accompanied my typing (I think) helped me create a more distilled/raw emotive scene.

The artist that was my muse?

The Cure, the album – Disintegration.

Still (happily) typing away.  

Stay safe – remain sane!

Round and around it goes, where it stops nobody knows…

It’s a rhyme we all know.

It’s also a reflection on my writing style.

I am a gardener.

Not one of those from the MaddAddam©™ trilogy (thank you Margaret Atwood).

Nope, not one of them.

More I’m a plant a seed and see what (if anything) blooms scribbler of tall tales.

Not knowing the route is sometimes great if you’re a riding the roller coaster in the dark/with your eyes closed kinda person, if you just love the thrill of the ride, then (like me) just plant away and see what happens!

This is all good, fine and dandy, until you box yourself into a corner you (obviously) didn’t see coming.

Do you spend time correcting the preceding text?

This strategy (can it be called such?) has a remarkably high tendency for unforeseen cul-de-sacs. 

But, to counter that, so too is opportunity to follow that random trail and find your lost city of gold.

Some risks are worth the reward.

I have the complete freedom to fly by the seat of my pants (aka pantster) with my tales.

I have an ending in mind – the route flexible enough to win an Olympic gold.

So, point if any of this blog entry?

To thine own self be true, create your art with joy in her heart, even if that heart has been burnt in the sulphurous pits of hell – remain true to it. 

That’s it.

Keep the faith, stay safe & remain sane!

Musings From a Comfy Chair.

So, it was agreed by the cosmos that my time is not yet over, the sands of time for me (despite rumours to the contrary) have yet to run out!   

I’ve had my second dose of the plague – and despite my flouncing around pronouncing to all and sundry that my demise is imminent, I have indeed survived.

Some may call my fight with Covid truly heroic and inspirational – others may cruelly snipe that my struggle was melodramatic indulgent hypochondria…  to them I simply say “haters gotta hate”!

My brush with mortality did allow me to progress (in my debilitated state) my WIP a few pages closer towards completion. 

It has already been noted that I have started this tale more than once, rewritten the beginning middle and end, killed off, resurrected, and then again re-killed characters – yet, despite it all, I’ve managed to push my tale forwards.

Hooks have been moved, intended plot lines abandoned and new ones written.

The bare bones of the narrative remain more or less as originally envisaged, the interaction between characters an ever changing (and oft deleted) landscape.  

We are still on a ship, still travelling towards Ireland from America.

We are still looking to include a scrape or two that will necessitate the sacrifice of some passengers – their bloody and violent demise a tragedy that is sadly unavoidable…

We are debating a love interest – it has been a while (two books back) since our MC had such – so maybe it’s time to remedy that omission?

We are still enjoying telling tales, still genuinely thrilled by where my imagination takes me, the creative process remains the joy today it was on day one. 

It is also true that we are still frustrated by our lack of exposure (readership), and indeed it is a matter of public record that each rejection from an agent still cuts deeply. 

So, in summary – I am still alive (hurrah), and I am still writing away.

The offer of employment for a suitably qualified agent still stands.

Whatever it is you are doing – please stay safe, look after yourself and those you love, and please stay sane!

Introspective naval gazing.

Yep, it’s that time in the writing cycle.

We’ve reached that point whereupon we (again) question why we are doing this.

Other than participating in a hobby cheaper than golf, are we achieving anything?

Our initial goal has been achieved.

We have gone beyond the opening line and written a book – the mythical tale that is within us all we have given birth to!

Nobody’s read it though.

The spine has yet to be creaked…

We wrote one to see if we could, and then we wrote another because it was a rush to find out what happened next.

That second book morphed into a series, a trilogy that now sits at five volumes.

Still no chiropractic intervention…

The industrial rejections are a constant.

Their judgement unwavering.

NO.

So, what to do, indeed what to do?

Who are you?  Who, who, who, who??

We know the lyrics to this song, we know the catchy chorus, but knowing the song and adequately answering the repeated question aren’t the same thing at all. 

Buy me a cup of tea, possibly add into the mix a nice traybake and we can happily gossip about the lives that we’ve led, the complexities of the universe and our respective places in it. 

But ask me to submit a pithy paragraph that would entice a person I’ve never met to ‘pick me’ and read my submission…  palpitation overload!

I am overthinking this trial. 

I know I’m putting far too much thought into it, but if this ‘narrative’ is my shop window, my chance to entice you into the emporium of Telling Tall Tales, how indeed do I sweeten the lure?

I’m a 50 something bloke.  Married, live on a farm, and I’ve had a few jobs, travelled a bit – seen some of life, cried at it too. 

I love books, music, castles, tanks and dinosaurs …  I write tall tales, I stretch credibility just enough so as not to be ridiculous. 

My tales are all compassionately told – no exploitation, no demining put downs or dismissive tropes.  I try my very best to be kind amongst all the cruelty.  I try.  I do.

My scribbles have merit.

They may need polishing – I cannot debate that.  But even in the state that I present them, they are still a journey worth taking, time worth investing, pages worth turning!

So, me, how does being me entice YOU to read my wares – the answer to that I honestly don’t know.

I am beyond naïve in my hope that a good tale will carry itself – me the writer nothing more than an anecdote after the fact – never the appetiser that takes you to the main course. 

But, if I cannot get you into my shop, if my window dressing isn’t enticing – what hope a tale well told?

I don’t know the answer, maybe while walking the dogs a flash of genius inspiration will strike me (and I’ll remember it!), or possibly I’ll hope that my submitted biography is just enough to keep my tale away from instant rejection…

We all have dreams – this is mine.

Stay safe – remain sane!