Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Advice for new writers

Yet again, I'm here with an apology for not blogging more often...

Things have been busy, and at the moment I'm ferreting away at my short stories, trying to get them all to behave themselves. Soon, I'll have enough for a collection. And after that, I'll go on holiday.

A couple of weeks ago, I taught a short story writing class. I was asked what advice I'd give to young people who want to become writers. I will share the advice I gave then, again on here. And just for the record, this advice applies whatever age you are.

It's really pretty simple. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Some people manage to make a living from writing, usually by taking on paid commissions, some people don't. (I'm the second type: I support my writing with a day job.) Either way, the answer is still the same. If you want to be a writer, you have to write!

So my advice to anybody who wants to write is, find a way to do it. Try to get yourself into a position where you can work compressed hours, or part time, so that you have a day or two a week that you can devote to writing. If you can't work as few hours as you'd like, maybe devote a day at the weekend to writing, too. It might mean that you have to give up other things, like doing fun things with your friends, or spending time with your family. This choice is not a fun one to make, but unless you're in the luxurious position of not having to earn money, and having the freedom to write full time, sometimes you have to make sacrifices in other areas. Also, it will help a lot if your other half is supportive. One thing I did a lot when I was starting out, was that I cut down on doing things that were taking up a lot of my time. I stopped doing volunteer work and didn't socialise so much. It was rubbish, and sometimes I slightly resented it, but it also meant that I manage to write a novel, and get it published. So there's that.

On your writing days, make sure you write. Don't make excuses for yourself. If you're on a writing day, and you don't feel like writing, write anyway. Just write one sentence, and then another one. Then another one after that. It won't be long before you've got started, and you'll soon wonder what all the fuss was about when you got up that morning and didn't feel like doing it. Whatever you do, don't go on the internet. Just get to work.

My other big tip (it's no secret) is to keep at it. Writing is horrible sometimes, especially at first. But it gets easier the more you do it. Writing and imagination are both muscles that get stronger with use. Cultivate them. Make them do 50+ reps every time you sit down at your desk. Also, try to surround yourself with writer- and artists-friends who are going through the same thing, and who will be able to cheer you on a bit. And keep going!

Good luck!

Currently reading

Fishnet Kirstin Innes

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Genus: Spring issue of December Magazine

"My brother was born strange. As a child, he spent hours gazing into the distance, clenching and tapping his fingers, all when he was supposed to be minding the seedlings. 
You only had to walk one end of the greenhouse to the other, taking the watering can in hand. You gave every tray a sprinkle, more if the earth was dry. Each day the seedlings grew a little; it was part of the job to keep an eye on them, see whether they had grown big enough to go out into the furrows outside. I'd been doing it myself since I was six, and tall enough just to see over the shelves. But my brother, though he had been doing it longer, did it poorly. He would put the can down at the end of the hut and look out of the window, mouthing words as if there were somebody standing on the other side – somebody none of the rest of us could see."

My story, Genus, appears in the Spring 2015 issue of December Magazine. You can buy the mag (or read the story - you have to write your name & your email address in the boxes, it's really easy) by following this link

As ever, it's really exciting to have a story appear in print! And particularly exciting to appear in December, which is a really long-running and very established literary magazine. It was in this magazine where the early stories of Raymond Carver & Joyce Carol Oates first appeared. It's exciting to be amongst such distinguished company! 

Currently reading

Angels Denis Johnson
The Man in the High Castle Philip K Dick

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Short Story writing workshop

Hi! Sorry for the total radio silence. The reason for my quietness (on here at least, not on Twitter) is because I've been ferreting away on some short stories. I've been really busy and now I nearly have enough for a full collection.

Anyway, I'm running a Short story writing workshop as part of the Big Bookend Festival, in Leeds. The workshop is entitled "Ideas are everywhere!" and it's about finding ideas for short stories everywhere you look. It's on Saturday 6th June at 1.00 and tickets are £3. You can book through the Big Bookend website

More soon. 

Currently reading

The Keep Jennifer Egan 
Ubik Philip K Dick

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Hello, hello?

This is my first blog update for ages.
I haven't updated for a while, because I've been concentrating on writing some short stories. It's time for me to stop saying that I'll write a short story collection, and time for me to actually do it. So that's what I've been doing at the moment. It hasn't left a lot of time to update my blog, although strangely, it has left me with enough time to fanny about on Twitter. I'm not really sure how that works, but who am I to argue with the laws of Physics? 

The writing seems to be going pretty well at the moment, thank you for asking. 
The cat is fine, thank you for asking. 
Hope you are all well too. (ULTIMATE POLITE BRITISH SIGN-OFF.) 

Currently reading
Yes Please! Amy Poehler
A Gate At The Stairs Lorrie Moore

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014: Round-up post

2014 really has just been the most amazingest year so far.

Those of you who've been reading my blog a while will know how hard I've worked - and how thankless it felt, at times. All those years of scratching away, of sending my work out to rejection and indifference... I feel now, like all of it was worth it.

Soon, I'll do a blog post of what a year of being a published writer has taught me. But, for now, a short list of highlights. There were so many, I had to leave a few off the list. But hopefully you won't mind that. Here they are...

Favourite things this year:

1. Seeing my book. Holding it in my hands for the first time.
2. Getting longlisted for the Not The Booker Prize; seeing it creep up to No. 2 in the Amazon rankings in "Literary / Thriller" as a result.
3. The review where a writer referred to Barney, the hapless social worker, as being "heroically avuncular."
4. My friend texting me to say she kept on trying to borrow my book from the library, and that in the end she'd had to reserve it because it was out on loan all the time.
5. Being shortlisted for the Gladstone Library Writers in Residency programme; the judges wrote me to say they enjoyed the book for its subject matter, particularly. (I didn't win one of the residencies, unfortunately. Next time!)

Other ace things that happened: 

1. Mentoring for the Womentoring project was a really fulfilling, and enjoyable thing I did this year. I was able to see my mentee's work come on in leaps and bounds, and be there with her as her ideas about plot and character really solidified. I'm on a break from it at the moment, but hope to be taking mentoring applications again from February 2015 onwards.
2. Fictions of Every Kind won a small grant from Leeds Inspired, which will enable us to bring short story writers from further away, to Leeds. The first event we're running using this money is on April 14th, themed Relativity, with award-winning authors Zoe Lambert and Avril Joy. Keep watching for further events, as the money will allow us to be much more ambitious in what we can do.

Rubbish things that happened:
My cat was sick for a week or so. But he soon got better again. It turned out he'd eaten something he shouldn't have. Here is a picture of him, for all you cat fans out there.

Plans for 2015:
1. Write more. I'm doing a lot at the moment, and have finished the 1st draft of my second novel. Without going into too much detail, the novel is about a sad angry man living in an abandoned hotel. I'll be heading more into a borderline/speculative direction second time around. The rewriting will probably take me the rest of the year. I'm obsessive like that.  
2. Write more short stories. 
3. Take more pictures of the cat.
4. Go on holiday, which I haven't done for about 3 years. I might have forgotten how. (Though I have just booked flights to an exciting sunny location, so there is definitely hope.) 

Currently reading

The Secret History Donna Tartt 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

This is what I've been doing...

...it's also why I've failed in my Mid-Year New Years' Resolution to update this blog more often.

More soon.

Currently reading

The Girl With All The Gifts M.R.Carey 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Pragmatic R&B song

Here is a song I co-wrote with These Men, a barbershop quartet from Leeds, and one of my favourite local bands. Morgan from the group told me once that they struggled a bit for lyrics sometimes, and we talked a bit, and decided to collaborate.

This song, which doesn't really have a title other than 'Pragmatic R&B song', is about a chap trying to get off with a lady. Rather than promising to 'make it last all night' or 'take her to heaven' or whatever, he promises that he'll always do his share of the housework. You can't say fairer than that.

This video was taken at the launch of These Men's EP, "Four Short Songs About Love."

Currently reading

100 Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez