Jonathon Dean

Writer. Human. Nerd.

Tag: Writer

Holy Hell It’s Warm!

Get out your pasty, pasty legs! Britain is in the midst of a heatwave, taking even Manchester to temperatures as high as 32°C, which is fully double the temperature that anyone was expecting. It’s even got so high that at times we’ve been hotter than most of the Mediterranian nations where we usually go to get some sunshine and out of the drizzle. And now Manchester is actually in the midst of a wildfire, without even a sniff of rainfall on the horizon.

The trouble is… Britain’s just not deisgned for this. We don’t have air-conditioning in our homes (or in many workplaces),  there is virtually nothing to do outdoors on nice days aside from pub beergardens, and all the buildings are designed to stop heat from leaving. The result? All productivity in the country stops dead, because honestly, who can work when they’re an exhausted ball of sweat?

Naturally, I’m no exception. Fresh back from a trip to the Czech Republic, where I watched many bands and enjoyed many beers, and suddenly I’m thrust into an upside down world where Britain is gloriously sunny! So much for cracking on with the dozen lots of work I’ve got to be getting on with. I’ve basically melted.

Translation? I’ve not managed to write anything new in a while.

Still, can’t stick around here typing all day. There’s basking to be done.

Oh, still here?

I see my blogging has been as regular as ever.

Since I see I haven’t updated anything since the beginning of the year, I’ll preface this by pointing out that I haven’t exactly done much of interest since then. More running exams, more writing work that pays the shells off peanuts, and the occasional stint of making cushions and curtains, because life is occasionally bloody strange. See, the most interesting thing that’s happened lately is that my girlfriend has opened a shop in Manchester’s alternative marketplace, Affleck’s. Add that to her pub job, and we’ve not been getting to spend a great deal of time together lately, excluding when I’m hanging around the goth shop looking like the bloke sent down from maintenance to put up some shelves.

Thing is, up until yesterday, my laptop was in a bit of a state, and would overheat and shut itself down with any movement whatsoever, which is not what you’d call ideal for a piece of technology whose main selling point is portability. Regardless, it has meant that for some months now, I’ve not been able to get out of the house and take my work with me in the way that I would like, and have in fact been confined to a cold house so that my laptop doesn’t burn itself out half way through whatever work I was doing. But this week, the trusty thing finally gave up, and I was forced to buy a new one with the money I definitely don’t have. However, since my livelihood is almost solely dependent on being able to type… yeah, that was something of a necessary expenditure.

But it does mean that I can now venture out of the house with my laptop again the way it was meant to be – and as the days start to get warmer again, that means getting to work in pub beergardens again! Huzzah!

A Cracking Start to the Year

A new year, and already I’m ill with whatever it is that seems to be going around lately. It would have to be just when I’m busier than I’ve been in quite some time, wouldn’t it?

One of the things I’ve been loaning my corporeal form to is exam invigilation, which is an unusual job as these things go, whose main required skill is the ability to keep oneself occupied for long periods of time without succumbing to any form of existential anxiety and screaming your soul out as you claw the flesh from your face. Thankfully I’m rather more stable than that.

That aside, the most important skill is the ability to remain silent for three hours at a time. Which, thanks to the aforementioned illness, is proving to be the most difficult part of the job. Generally, I consider myself one of the very best at sitting in a quiet room and keeping myself occupied with a book and phone/tablet for long periods of time – unfortunately at the moment that’s been requiring tag-teaming with someone else while I quietly nip out into the corridor and cough up several of my major organs, and then make my eighth lemsip-or-brew of the day.

Irritatingly, it is this very coughing-myself-into-an-early-grave issue that’s also getting in the way of me actually doing anything with the large amounts of time that I’m spending sat alone. I could easily be planning a project, working on my social media presence or similar – and actually getting paid for it! – but instead I’m forever rushing out into the corridor to attempt to turn myself inside-out instead of doing anything that is in any way useful.

Tellingly, the most significant writing milestone thus far in 2018 has been a rejection email for a short story I submitted over two years ago. I did vaguely wonder if they had simply not bothered to read it – that is a bloody long turnaround, after all! – but in the end it turns out that they just didn’t like it very much. I’m not sure whether that’s reassuring, or just damning.

Still, with the year getting off to this kind of start, it can only get better, right?

…right?

2017’s almost over, and what have we learned?

In this latest entire journey around the sun, what have I learned?

Well, first off, that breaking a limb 1) hurts, 2) is hugely inconvenient, and 3) really doesn’t help with the whole “let’s try to type all the time” side of things – which, if you think about it, is basically 90% of everything these days, particularly when you would really like to write for a living.

Second off, that all that time spent not-really-being-able-to-do-any-writing also seems to have a deleterious effect on my ability to actually come up with anything that I would like to write about for the length of time necessary to hit the 90k+ word count of the modern genre novel, without wanting to launch my laptop and its (admittedly electronic) contents out of a window and into the path of a passing bulldozer. This is also a gargantuan problem. How can I even sit and type about something now that I’m physically able to once again, when I’m struggling to come up with any ideas I want to spend any time with?

Third off, querying agents petrifies me. Like, properly petrifies me. And it’s not a question of showing people my work either, that I’m perfectly happy with. Here’s the issue; you get one, single attempt per agent per manuscript. There are a finite number of agents, and so a finite number of attempts that you get at redrafting and submitting each query letter, and manuscript. And of course, without having an agent (or the ability to throw infinite amounts of money at professional editors), you’re reliant on the feedback of people who know about as much about the whole process and what agents and editors are looking for as I do. Which means I can never have enough confidence in the finishedness and polishedness of my work to take the gigantic gamble of submitting them to my first choice agents, because it means that I don’t ever have the opportunity to submit that work to that agent ever again, and potentially several years’ work disappears into the void along with the many thousands of pounds I’ve spent on rent over the years.

All in all, a lot of self-discovery this year… I can only hope that 2018 starts looking a bit more positive than 2017!

Staying Regular

So I’ve had this site for a few years now, and yet it feels like I’ve been neglecting the actual “blog” portion of it.

That’s largely because blogging isn’t actually as fun or interesting to write as fiction, and so I tend to skip over it. For someone like me, for whom a “schedule” is something that the rest of the world obeys and I tend to just drift straight past, the idea of knocking out a few paragraphs of something every week sounds perfectly sensible and easy in principle, but in practice it’s something that I’ll just plain forget to do.

But I’m making the effort. With liberal use of various reminders, alarms and scheduling tools, I’m actually going to make this blog a regular weekly blog. Who knows, I might even get around to writing some more Stories Behind Stories content as well.

The big issue that arises then is, well, what the hell do I blog about? Who cares about what I’m doing with my time? (Hint: it’s not much) Who cares what some unpublished writer on the internet reckons about writing?

Still, even if it’s a case of slamming my head on the keyboard a few times until some vague, half-formed stream of consciousness dribble falls out of it and forms some vaguely word-looking shapes on a screen near you, it’s more than I was doing previously.

I can’t promise you it’ll be good – but I can promise you it’ll be here.

Probably.

My Productivity is Fractured.

So, here’s the latest hiccough in my productivity:

Can you, uh, can you see the problem here? I can type, but it is one of the world’s slowest things trying to type with only my left hand. Not to mention how astonishingly uncomfortable it is to sit at a keyboard with the strange angle my right arm has to be (and don’t even get me started on trying to capitalise or use punctuation!).

So why is my entire arm bandaged up and near unusable? Would you believe a minor fracture in my little finger? No? Neither would I, but that’s what it is. Unfortunately, the fracture is so close to the joint that my wrist needs to be immobilised too.

Apparently, the unofficial name is a “boxer’s fracture”, since the usual way that part of the hand gets broken is by punching something damn hard with improper technique.

But that makes me sound a lot cooler than I am, because I just tripped over a cycle path kerb.

Fracture clinic appointment in just over a week. Let’s hope I can take this bloody thing off by then and get back to work.

Redrafting and Querying – Story of a Writer’s Life

The last two months since I finished Draft Zero (and then Draft One) of Airborne Empire have been a flurry of nothing.

 

There’s something soul-destroying about months spent redrafting and writing queries, then redrafting the queries, redrafting the manuscript and everything else. I think it’s the perceived lack of forward momentum involved. Don’t get me wrong, redrafting is important, and it absolutely improves the work, but there never seems to be an end-goal in sight. When you hit the George Lucas style of tinkering around the edges, you can drive yourself mad with it, but it’s still work that never seems like it’s done. At least with writing a first (or zero-th) draft, there’s a definite point when you’re finished.

 

As a result, months of rewriting and working on queries just feel like busy work; you’re pouring time and effort in, and getting no sense of accomplishment in return.

 

To make matters worse, the other writing project I started in the meantime needs more development work than I had imagined. Which, naturally, means I’m not doing the bits of that that I enjoy either.

 

Still, at least the news hasn’t been uniformly depressing so that I don’t really want to write Stories Behind Stories posts at the moment and… Oh, yeah, that one’s happened too.

Never mind.

Who Invented Query Letters, Anyway?

I think if I had to go back in time and pick one thing to just never exist, it’d probably be ironing.

Alright, and the concept of social class.

And bananas.

In any case, query letters would be somewhere up there as well. Near-ish the top.

Because at this point I think I’ve spent almost as long writing, rewriting, redrafting, researching and junking the query letter for The Twist than I spent writing the novel in the first place. I know there’s some arcane formula for the perfect query letter out there (that may actually be what the Voynich Manuscript is), but there’s just no straightforward way to twist my brain around that formula.

The difficulty, clearly, is that there’s very little to actually go on, and to judge your own query letter against. I know what a good book reads like, because I’ve read (almost certainly) thousands of books in my lifetime. By contrast, I’ve read maybe a few hundred query letters – and those are mostly drafts or rejects over on QueryShark. While QueryShark does a great job of pointing out flaws and going over what to do and not to do, it’s still not even close to wiring my brain up in the right way to be able to see what does and doesn’t work, and to instinctively know what a good query letter looks like.

Which is all, of course, compounded by the fact that there are limited chances to actually submit it once it’s been agonised over.

Still, we keep at it.

 

© 2018 Jonathon Dean

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑