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Monday, 12 November 2012

REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

At the very last moment, I decided to continue blogging. That is a lie – even this last-minute post is written ahead of the game. Time travel at work, once again. The eighteen-blog cycle ends, and starts afresh. That, too, is a lie.
   Somewhere along the way, I was forced to write an emergency blog post – with those words in the title. Meaning I’ve blogged nineteen times over this eighteen-post stint. Let’s blame someone. Kacey Vanderkarr. She dragged me into an internet writing game. I released unpublished fiction on the blog.
   Another post told my audience that I’d turned my back on nonsense like that. This caused a disturbance in the realms of space and time. Now I’m left unsure. I prefer not to release snippets of fiction on my blog…
   Been there. Done that. My personal carer, Dr Anton Phibes, is employed to prevent this foolishness. There’s me, and there’s the blank page. Then there are the readers who tackle my work in e-book form. I don’t feel an overwhelming desire to share fiction at an intermediate stage.
   True, my blog opened with a short story on a stormy Hallowe’en. I had to put something on there. True, I believe a fiction author’s blog should contain fiction. But not too much. Admittedly, you can read an entire novel on this blog…
   Yes, I’m in two or three minds about placing fiction on the blog. Dr Phibes holds to one view. None of that nonsense, now. I participated in a novel that ran from blog to blog. How I managed that without seeing my carer run amok, I’ll never know.
   He’s there to ensure that I don’t go wild with the concept of social networking. I’m permitted to go mild with social networking now and again. That’s it. Blogging is pretty much my limit. And I almost quit blogging today. Dr Phibes would approve if I crashed my blog into the sea. My 0.75 readers may object. I can see my in-box being flooded by a complaint.
   What’s next? More blogging. Thoughts on publishing, from an author on the run. The same thoughts. Don’t stop writing. Keep going. I almost stopped blogging so that I could tackle more writing. And I may yet abandon blogging, if Dr Phibes gets his abominable say. So what happened to that intergalactic space cockroach porno I was working on? Knew that would raise a smile.

Yet another disruption to a blog post. I spent an evening wavering. Not contemplatively. I just didn’t feel well. My choice was to shut down and recover. See if I could recharge anything. Overnight, dreams told me that I was placing things in order. Symbolically.
   Quite how I came to that conclusion after being stalked by the Archbishop of Canterbury, travelling on the London Underground, I’ll never know. There were many lost socks scattered in those subterranean passages. Women dressed as knights assisted.
   Imagination at work. Even lying down in a dark room last night, my mind was sparking with ideas. Ill, the imagination rattles on. I feel better today. Feeling better hasn’t suppressed the imagination, fortunately.
   There is something about feeling down or out-of-sorts that propels fiction. With my strict publishing timetable consigned to the dim and distant, I entered the loose planning phase. All part of my scheme. I took ups and downs and converted them into words.
   Instead of dealing relentlessly with the back catalogue of ideas, I found myself conjuring a lot of new material. My approach to writing is changing. Gradually. And it is the electronic publishing of my work to a strict timetable that set up all the changes.
   For the better, I hope.
   What advice is there, for writers thinking of following in my digital footsteps? It’s still the same advice. Read. Write. Experience the good and bad in writing. Find out as much as you can. It’s all there, on the internet.
   Read copyright law.
   Be prepared to act alone. For the sharp end of writing is done alone. Be prepared to publish as part of a writerly community. I’ve had conversations with countless authors. Sometimes you are just shooting the breeze. Occasionally, you become mired in technical discovery.
   For the most part, contact with other authors is limited. You say hello and ask a question or point something out, then you are off on your way again. Clicking links. Or setting them up. Try to avoid becoming lost in the maddening swirl of the internet. Though try to become lost in the maddening swirl of the internet at least once.
   The one place you should be lost is in the maddening swirl of your own writing. Just get through it. That advice applies whether you write fiction or non-fiction. It applies whether you plan to publish or not.
   I feel it is important to champion writing, no matter the purpose of that writing. You may be reading this thinking that you’ll write a novel and that novel will go out to the world. There are plenty of people who have no desire to publish. They write stories for themselves. Nothing wrong in that.
   Yes, I feel there is something wrong with people who want to publish yet declare loudly that they can’t bring themselves to. These cries for help are easily-silenced by the command – PUBLISH. What are you scared of? Shadows. Misty nothingness. Failure?
   Never be scared of that. Failure is important. Writing a story that draws to a clunk rather than a conclusion IS IMPORTANT. You’ll do better next time. Experimenting with the second person narrative, in which you describe everything using the word you, and failing in that experiment…
   IMPORTANT.
   Learning how to handle flashbacks within flashbacks, failing every single time, will be frustrating. Until you finally get there. I know the hardest advice to follow is the advice to keep going. Keep failing until success comes to you.
   I bang on about this, knowing I was going to end my blog. Ending a blog doesn’t end the writing. The Fiction Factory is still slowly grinding out material amidst a cascade of sparks. My doubt doesn’t diminish the advice to have doubt. Use your fear.
   Perhaps you are ill. Tragic events surround you. Life takes a sponge to your plans, and wipes them off the board. Declare yourself a writer and you must write. Never mind if the writing is crap. At least you are writing.
   Feeling low? Climb. Or sink, if sinking leads you to another route. Use whatever works. Even if something appears dreadfully negative, it may carry you to the place you find most useful. Lamenting the near-crash of my blog should be gloomier than it is.
   If I had ended my blog in these closing paragraphs, I’d still have encouraged people to write. Maybe blogging isn’t for you. I recommend it. Doesn’t make blogging the law. There’s a real feel of winding down, but I’ll still blog. Stay tuned.
   Perhaps it’s a sense of perspective that I’m seeing, as I cast this blog post adrift on the vast ocean that is the internet. After a year of blogging, I can see where I’ve been. I took a trip on a twisty road with many alternative routes. If I managed to get one person writing in all that time, I’ve done okay.
   About now, I should end on some fantastic upbeat message of hope and pastel-shaded sentiment. But that’s not my thing. I’m a grumpy curmudgeonly figure, fending off sentiment with a cauldron of near-boiling cynicism. Cynically, I couldn’t quite see my way to stoking the flames for the full effect.
   Over this year, I helped other authors. Often in minor ways. The minor ways are important. If you are stuck in a gremlin-packed avenue, you’ll appreciate the tiny piece of technical advice that comes your way and unblocks the traffic-jam.
   Occasionally, I helped out in a major way. Something I never thought it wise to do – until now. Publishing my own work was anti-climactic. I pressed a button. Job done. I’m going to be far more interested in seeing other authors publish. After the help I gave, I want to be sure that I didn’t ruin anyone as a writer.
   The internet has this unfortunate effect of destroying tone and concealing meaning. Often, I’ve seen advice handed out by writers as though the law. I know that these writers aren’t dictating. The internet is stripping warmth from their words.
   So I’ll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude. There must be 50 ways to…whoops. Paul Simon reference. I’ll repeat myself. Advice freely given is free to be ignored. My advice is to read and to write. Read crap stuff. Learn from the crap. Write. Just get it down. Worry about how crap it is later. Stop worrying about how crap it is. But do worry.
   Worry about being unpublished when that van hits you. You might fall into a river laden with terminal levels of shopping. Two lorries, heading for a motorway collision, risk ending your literary career in a way that a poisonous review never could.
   Write your way through hell and back. Learn as much as you can on the trip through fire and brimstone. Perhaps most important of all – know when your story is finished. Let it go. I let my first few books go to a timetable. Deadlines are important for self-publishers. Stick to them.
   Learn from failing to stick to a deadline. See what went right and what went wrong. You are always going to be too close to your own writing – so damn well accept that. What is it you want to achieve? Ask yourself every time you write a story.
   The comic book writer/artist Howard Chaykin tackled western stories almost solely to embarrass himself into learning how to draw horses. He could have concocted a western without a single nag in the tale. But he went for it. To hell with the criticism he’d face. He could draw people. Why not horses?
   Ask yourself what you want to achieve, in writing a type of story you haven’t tackled before. You should ask yourself what you want to achieve in writing a type of story you’ve tackled many times. If you have to dredge the internet for advice, do so.
   Remember what I said about advice freely given.
   Time to end this blog post, though not time to end the blog. I struggled to hit 1,500 words this time out. Then, true to form, I managed to ramble across the finish line with words to spare. Keep writing. Don’t give up. Learn. Not just in an educational way. In a visceral way – by learning from mistakes. Enjoy writing. I do.

NEXT EVENT: REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE (VOLUME 2) IS PUBLISHED.


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Update. I scrapped the collected blog posts. The blogs exist on the internet, but not as collected volumes. HERE'S A BLOG POST ABOUT THAT.

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