Category: Writing About Writing

Writing, Getting Started Again

Writing, Getting Started Again

I get it. I do. For whatever reason, you stopped writing. What happened? Maybe you just finished up a big project and gave yourself a break. Maybe you just lost the lust for it and fell away. Did white screen syndrome hit you like a brick in the face and you couldn’t face it ever again? Maybe every time you sit down to write, the rest of the internet gets its claws into you and drives you into a YouTube/Wikipedia/Twitter loop. Whatever, it happens, and I get it.

I love writing, but much like most everything else on the planet, it’s about good habits. Good habits are hard to grip (unlike bad habits, which welcome you with open arms, latch on to you and refuse to leave you alone), and if you let go for even a second, they slip away.

The gym. Eating right. Meditation. Shaving. Showers. Speaking to people. Y’know the stuff – chores, really, that are ultimately good for you and quite irritatingly make you feel amazing.

I love writing, but I’m best at it when I’m knee-deep in the middle of a project. Getting up in the morning to write is the least stressful thing in the world when you did it yesterday, and the day before, and the day before. I’ve written previously about my loose-end struggle after Grim finished. I’m only just now shaking off that rut with some fresh ideas and a dodgy first draft of a short story in hand.

I love writing, and maybe you do too, but if you struggle to do any when you’ve been away from it for a bit, I’m here to help.

To be used in order or isolation, here are three ways to get yourself writing again.

Bet you missed that background image, didn't you? It''s so relevant to writing

Writing Rubbish

When I came out of Grim, I was in editing mode. Because of that, I found myself scrutinising absolutely everything I wrote. It slowed me down and it badly held back the right-side brain that was trying to do all the fun, creative work.

You gotta write some rubbish to calm down that left side that’s being all boring logical.

When I was learning about writing (believe it or not, I did sit down with some people to learn some of this crap) I was taught that the easiest way to write rubbish is to pick a subject at random, set a timer, and remove the safety net beneath what you write.

Open a dictionary and pick a word. Timer set to five minutes. Pop out your delete key. Go nuts.

This pulls the absolute coolest ideas right from the excellent creative side of the brain.

Does it make sense? Rarely, very rarely. It’s usually just gibberish, but the creative side of your brain fucking LOVES gibberish and you should occasionally feed it.

Writing What You Know… Because It Happened To You

If you’ve been a reader here for any length of time, you’ve seen me tell stories as opposed to writing anything of any worth or with any type of depth. Danny stole forks here, Jamie fell off a wall here, people nearly died on a jet-ski here – it’s all nonsense that’s happened to me. I do this for two reasons. The first is that I find it deeply amusing, the second is because it’s good, easy work that keeps me writing.

Writing a story that’s happened to you is an excellent way to help get you back on the horse. It gets you familiar with writing again, even if it doesn’t at all strain your creativity. It’s a great way to wake up any dormant muscle memory or try out a new style of writing without having to worry about what actually happens.

Imagine the funniest story you know, go write it down. You’ll want to do it again and again with different stories until you’re awake enough to make something up.

Writing on the Drink

…he said, sheepishly.

It’s not a new idea. Hemmingway said it best, ‘write drunk, edit sober.’ So… aye. When you’ve written rubbish enough to want something of substance, and when you’ve blethered out enough glorified non-fiction to start to crave fiction, just go to the off-license and get a bottle.

I’m not saying get absolutely brutal and sit down in front of a blank page. Just trade out your coffee for a can of cider. Or like… two cans of cider. Or, y’know. A two-litre bottle.

Seriously though. Yes, seriously. I shook myself out of a funk with a can of cider to hand as I wrote recently.

There’s science to it, I swear. Much like a little bit of coffee turns you into a working machine and too much coffee turns you into an easily-distracted, slevering and jittery mess, a little bit of booze loosens up the imagination. It allows you to worry less about common typos, sentence structure, plot-holes, uncharacteristic behaviour, how loud you sing, all that stuff. That’s for the second draft to sort out. First drafts are a drunk man’s game.

And once that first draft is out of the way, hey! You’re writing again. Look at that. Easy as piss, right?

What do you do to shake yourself out of a rut? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to throw me a follow on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… most places, really.

Additionally, that book I kept referring to is still very much on sale, and it probably will be until the end of time – you can get it here if you’re into humour in your contemporary fiction about the grim reaper being crap at his job.

Catch you next week!

It’s Gavin

Now What?

Now What?

I don’t know, I mean…

Is this technically some kind of break-up? Not to sound dramatic, but if I spend time with something every day for two years, that makes it a relationship of some sort, right? And now I’m not spending time with that thing anymore so, what now?

What now… indeed.

I’m referring – of course – to my book, Grim. A funny contemporary fantasy about a terrible, clumsy grim reaper and friends, on the hunt to find his missing daughter kidnapped by a whisky-swilling lunatic. To everyone that’s bought and read it so far, HOLY SHIT THANK YOU, and to anyone else, here’s the link and HOLY SHIT THANK YOU IN ADVANCE.

(I’ll write more about the book in the future, once I know more people have read it. If you’re not sold, I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago with some reasons you should be: Five (Grim) Reasons Why.)

Grim and its cast have been kicking around my life for a bit now, and as delightful as it feels to share them with you (pretentious writer quote of the day, check!) it’s also a bit sad because I don’t really know what I’m doing anymore. I trained myself to get up at remarkable hours to write, and now I just get up and stare at my screen for a couple of hours.

And it’s only been a week. One week since I set Grim upon you all and I’m already haunting the flat. I’m getting really into cooking eggs in different ways. That’s interesting, right? I can boil the perfect egg. My scrambled is excellent too. Don’t talk to me about frying. Frying an egg is a dirty son of a bitch and I don’t want to talk about it.

So, some things I need to do:

Selling the Book

Because I couldn’t really make up my mind about how I wanted to release Grim (hello another link to a previous blog) the “marketing” for Grim has been uh… non-existent. I’m not really very good at selling the book.

Recently, I was talking to a guy about Ready Player One – a book. The subject was on the table, and I just didn’t mention the fact that I was releasing one. It took one of my pals to jump in and do it for me. I’m getting better at it (you’re welcome, woman who cut my hair and lady who served me at Asda!), but overall it needs work.

I’ve hard to learn words like ‘reach’ and ‘engagement’ and how to use hashtags for what they’re actually intended. I honestly thought hashtags were just fun ways to say things that were somewhat relevant to your post: #ohdearIfelldown, #MumproblemsamIrightladies #tragicsextales and #shitlikethat.

This knowledge comes with the sad side-effect of jumping on my phone any time it lights up, just to see Google reminding me that I’m late for work. #standard

A dream I dreamt the night before last: I’m going door-to-door trying to sell Grim to people, and if they seem disinterested, Jason Statham leaps in (against my will) and goes FULL JASON STATHAM, PISTOL AND ALL, threatening the poor person in their home until they order the book in front of him. I’m in the background pleading with him, telling him it’s fine, but he won’t have it.

To be honest, it’s not a bad idea.

Exercise and Music – The Neglect

Two things I’ve been neglecting since I went full commando on Grim. First up, exercise. I collapsed into a proper junk-food and lying-on-arse cycle. ‘But Gavin!’ I hear you say, ‘your diet is bloody atrocious all the time and exercise has always made you cry!’

Yes, dear reader, you’re right on both counts. I mean that I’m struggling even by my own meagre standards.

I believe there is no way one person, with just twenty-four hours in a day, can hold down a full-time job, a relationship with a partner, a gym schedule AND write a book. I don’t believe it can be done. And that’s not even including weekends for plans with friends or – in another life – a family! Something had to give, and it was my diet. I’ll go through phases of a gym membership. It’s more effective sometimes than others, but if I’ve got a book to edit, I’m going home and grabbing whatever’s fastest out the oven before I sit down and get to it (that’s if I make it back past the Chinese, Indian, Domino’s, Gregg’s, Subway and anywhere that sells Pot Noodles).

So yeah, if I’m still getting up early like I did when I was writing, I could feasibly spend that time moving.

I’ve also been neglecting my guitars. I’m in a band, we play covers and have two songs of our own. I wrote one of those songs – barely – and I still don’t have lyrics for it months down the line. I could be spending some of this time with the guitars. Get my callouses back and all that. I can’t remember the last time I played Torn by Natalie Imbruglia (he elaborates, as though there is any other song called Torn that matters). That’s not acceptable.

Writing More

I have a new book stewing. There’s a new book stewing, but I’m determined not to sit down with it until the new year at the earliest. That’s a good way to lose two years, gain another stone and get kicked out of my band. I’ll resist the urge to dive down that well for now.

Short stories, though? I could do short stories. Is that something you guys would occasionally like to see here on a Friday?

I spent a whole book writing about a Reaper that took over when Death fucked off to live on the moon (yep!), I want to know what he’s getting up to up there.

Then, of course, there’s this little site of mine. What else could I be using this spot for, now that I’ve got spare time? There are the aforementioned short stories, there’s definitely some legs on Story Time with Gavin about my tragic friends and me. I could review stuff. I have thoughts about things. I could do that, but typically I get angry and ranty. I’m still frightened the Foo Fighters are going to break my heart again.

It’s definitely a break-up

I mean, all the symptoms are there, right? When people break up, they throw themselves into something else. Their career, their image, creative outlets or pretty much just anyone they can find, but they have to resist starting a new relationship too soon!

I mean, all I’m really not doing is drinking my weight in alcohol on a weekday- nope, wait, I’ve been out twice this week.

Eh, it was sunny. Don’t judge me.

It’s Gavin

 

 

 

So, Gavin… What’s Your Book About?

So, Gavin… What’s Your Book About?

A wee story.

I’m at an establishment. Low lighting, nice drinks, wearing a shirt and all that. It’s a friend-of-a-friend affair, so I’m meeting new people. Since I typically tell people I’m a writer before I say I let a headset ride me so I can pay rent, the subject of my book comes up. This triggers the lovely person to ask me the question that destroys me, that haunts me, that keeps me up at night.

They ask me what my book is about.

Gavin, I say to myself, you’ve been writing for two years – tell the lovely person what your book is about.

Y’know what I say?

‘It’s in a world where the duties of the grim reaper are like a council job? Like, regionally? And this guy gets brought back to do it after he died sevent- oh, you have to die to be able to apply, but you apply when you’re alive. Anyway, he gets brought back to do it and gets told he was never supposed to get the job because he did really poorly in his interview before he died. So he gets told he’s only got twenty-four hours to live before he has to die again. So he goes to see his daughter, but she’s missing, so he has to find her while being the grim reaper.’
‘Oh right…’ they reply, with a pout and a nod.
‘It’s kind of a comedy… and an urban fantasy…’
‘Okay, sounds good… when’s it out?’
‘I don’t know that either, I’m-‘

Look, the conversation dies quickly, and it shouldn’t. I need that conversation to thrive. That conversation has the potential to pull that person in. I could exchange Twitter handles or take an email address to update them when I have more release details, but I fluff it because I DON’T KNOW WHAT MY BOOK IS ABOUT.

I am the master of the anti-elevator pitch. I’m great at explaining what my book is about when the lift breaks down. I rule the conversation on my own book as long as I’m given half an hour to explain the ins and outs of the world in which it takes place. Ask me to tell you what my book is about in a thousand words or more, and I’m your guy!

I had to sort it out.
The book it’s- it’s written.
I’m releasing it.
It’s coming out.
And because of the whole self-publication thing, I’m in charge of making people want to buy it. For people to purchase the book, I have to tell them what the fucker is actually about!

I set myself a plan and all that – days to release certain information. A trickle of info to slowly build hype for my book’s release. The first thing I planned to do was release the cover and a sentence… just one sentence about the book.

SURELY, I could come up with a sentence.

Two weeks ago I sat in front of my finished blog on an unpublished page, a finished cover above an unfinished caption, leering at a pair of pop-tarts leaking heat, and eventually I stood up, wandered off to the toilet and had an upsetting bowel movement that changed the landscape of my day.

I’m not alone here, though. I know I’m not (about my book problem, not the upsetting bowel movement which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I think it was something I ate. It probably wasn’t anything to do with a nervous book-release-induced breakdown. Probably. I updated my Instagram bio to reflect it and everything. Don’t check, I changed it back to something somewhat professional. Sell the book and all that! 14TH OF JULY PEOPLE. Wait, I forgot where I was, hang on).

*cough*

I’m not alone here, though. I know I’m not. Are there any first-time authors out there who think their book is a simple piece of work that can be brought back to a sentence?

I think the key phrase there is the fact that I’m a first-time author. I think it’s easy to get caught up when writing a book. In that fateful first draft when there’s barely even a plan to follow, a good idea comes along and you think ‘GOD DAMN THAT NEEDS TO GO IN HERE,’ but the issue is that this idea needs to be seeded from the start. Before you know it, you’ve just added three paragraphs earlier in the book to feed this idea. If you do this seven or eight times, you’ve got one tiny little story idea that flays out into nine of them, but now your whole draft is horribly off-balance because you’ve been writing by the seat of your pants. So, when the second draft comes around you need to balance that influx of brilliant ideas, and suddenly your book is bordering on bloated, and that one wee idea you started with is almost lost. Your cute 70’000 word novel has become a 120’000 beast, and you can’t fathom slicing out any of it for fear it causes waves that affect the rest of the story.

Editing is a bitch – duh – but you manage to skim a chunk of those words off. The book is smooth, streamlined, ready to go. Nine ideas down to four stories, together to make one big story. But when someone asks what it’s about…

Recently I took some excellent advice for starting a book. Hindsight is fucking hilarious.

The advice: write your book’s key sentence on a bit of paper above your monitor – keep it there, drill it into your mind. Before you start throwing paint at a wall, remember what colour you actually want it to be when it’s done.

It was on the toilet during that awful defecation mentioned earlier I realised I had to retroactively apply this advice to my book to get my sentence, so…

Why did I start?

What little gem of an idea did I have before it became a beast of four stories?

Well, the grim reaper is a local job.

Great. What else?
I cast my mind back to a whisky bender with my friend Mercer, and awakening the next morning with ‘what if he’s terrible at it?’ scribbled up my arm.

Well… he’s bad at it.

Still one sentence, cool – what’s his mission though? He’s a reaper who sucks at his job, but what’s he doing?

He’s… looking for his daughter.

Bang.
Type of book? Google it. Fantasy elements in a modern, real-world setting. Contemporary fantasy – a child of URBAN FANTASY. Straight urban fantasy? Bearing in mind, Gavin, that your main character is getting uncomfortably pleasured in a bus-stop on the first page. FUNNY URBAN FANTASY.

GRIM is an urban fantasy with a funny bone – a story about the local grim reaper that’s horrible at his job, on the hunt for his missing daughter.

Aw man, I nearly burst into tears when I got it… but I stopped myself because I was on the toilet.

You should see the struggle I had trying to write my blurb. That was a laugh and a half.

No, it really wasn’t. The blurb nearly killed me. I’m still not sure it’s right. I don’t want to talk about it.

Sorry, you had to read about my poo there for a bit. Enjoy your Friday!

It’s Gavin.

It’s Gavin, staggering into self-publication

It’s Gavin, staggering into self-publication

I have a dream.

No, Gavin, you can’t start a blog like that. For fuck’s sake. Try again.

I have a… goal? An endgame for which I’m shooting?

Ugh, screw it, it’s a dream, okay? Just be cool.

Anyway, my dream is to be an unemployed writer of fiction. I’m two-thirds there, I’ve just got to work on this pesky employment issue of mine.

Here’s a day in the life of future Gavin: I wake up and make myself breakfast and coffee, walk my two dogs (Grohl and Hawkins), then come back and do some writing. After that, I’ll get lunch on the go, watch some TV (or do something to stop myself melting into a gluttonous couch monster – maybe I’ll go a run), review the morning’s words or write some more. I’m not a complete waster, I’ll pick up around the house, get the dinner on for my girlfriend coming home. We’ll eat said dinner, discuss our day, watch TV, walk the dogs again, go to sleep. At the weekends I’ll drink abusively. Whatever, no pressure.

That dream is entirely possible, I know it is. All I’ve got to do is be a terrific writer.

I love writing. I do it every day. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do – as early as school when I used to write my friends into gruesome horror and murder them.

So I spent two years of my life making a book. A beautiful book, proudest thing I’ve done in my life to date. It’s lovely. ‘I made you,’ I breathe at my screen. ‘Holy shit I made you.’

And now what? Oh, right… publication I guess?

I started traditionally. I wanted an agent. I heard that was the first step in becoming a kick-ass writer. Get an agent to do all the work for you while you sink into writing a sequel. Great.

I took my rejections, naturally. Taking rejection is part of the process. I know that. But after I took ten, I went to the internet for advice (yes, the delightful cuddle of the internet – the same place that I went to for a stubborn headache and it diagnosed me with a broken leg).

There are two different types of writer on the internet when it comes to the subject of rejection.

The first says I shouldn’t stop sending queries to agents until I’ve been rejected by anywhere between fifty and eighty of them. Given that they’re none too keen on fighting over a new writer, I need to send each of these queries away five at a time. Each agent can take anything up to eight weeks to get back to me. Roughly eight weeks per five agents – between fifty and eighty agents.

I just don’t have that kind of patience.

Other sites told me that if I take as few as ten rejections, then chances are my book just isn’t good enough. I should go write a better book, they say, but I’ve worked so hard and… shut up, stop saying mean things about my book.

So, self-publication then? Nah. That felt like a cop-out. I couldn’t get an agent, so I had to self-publish. There aren’t any professionals (of the ten queried) that think my book is good enough, so why should my book be out there? I mean, if professionals don’t like it, the general public won’t like it, right?

(Just so we’re clear about my mindset here: one guy – one guy who doesn’t even know I exist – said my book was no good because ten agents didn’t want it, and I believed him. This is my first post on my first blog, so I understand it’s a tad early to get all preachy, but seriously – don’t let anyone who hasn’t actually seen what you can do tell you you’re no good at it.)

I went to see La La Land at the start of the year. That’s relevant, I swear, I’m not branching off into a review. I went to see La La Land and came out feeling made up and full of all kinds of inspiration to take the plunge. I had this epiphany halfway through the film where Ryan Handsome Gosling is trying to get Emma Beautiful Stone to put on her own show instead of crippling herself in auditions anymore. She asked Ryan Gorgeous Gosling, ‘what if people don’t like it?’ His response hit me so hard it nearly put my teeth out: ‘fuck ‘em,’ he said.

My attitude changed.

I’d been thinking a lot about my approach already. I’m a forward-thinking-future-fucker (#forwardthinkingfuturefucker) in almost all aspects of life. I threw away my CDs as soon as MP3 became a thing. I don’t believe a record sounds better than high-quality streaming. There are so many ways to stream film now I don’t even know why I waste space with DVDs either. I legitimately stared at the scene selection screen for twenty minutes last time a binge-watched Lost because I couldn’t be arsed getting up to change the disc. I’m rambling. The point I’m making is that I’m always looking for new ways to do old shit, but for some reason I’m stubborn about publishing my book traditionally. Why?

The word is validation, sadly. A professional in the business thinks my book is good enough to publish, and that means I’m a good writer, and so it doesn’t matter what anyone else says about it. The agent is a buffer. The agent is one person with the important opinion. Sending my book to that one person is much safer than showing it to the whole world.

It lacked guts. It lacked confidence.

And then a new thought occurred to me: my book – my beautiful book about a moron as the grim reaper for his wet little island – was gonna rot in my room with only a handful of people having read it. That idea just didn’t sit well with me, not even a bit. What use is a book if it’s not being read, right?

So I strapped on my big-boy testicles and…

On the 14th of July 2017, I’m releasing my book – Grim – to be read by anyone with a Kindle.

I’m now a guy with a cover, and emails that I need to send, and records I need to keep in case (God forbid) a few coins tumble towards me in light of this release.

Am I terrified? Well… yes, entirely. If I think about it too much, I struggle to breathe. But I bring myself home with a thought: I’m one step closer to unemployment.

Man, I can’t wait to be unemployed.

It’s Gavin