Jonathon Dean

Writer. Human. Nerd.

Tag: Writing (page 1 of 4)

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!

Well, this is embarrassing…

So my plan to post an update every Sunday didn’t exactly go to, um, plan.

Alright, so I’m only a day out, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t too bad, but still. Two weeks in and already I managed to forget to blog? Doesn’t exactly bode well for the future, right?

I’ll make my excuses now; I’ve had a busy week. I’ve been doing some subcontracting work lately, looking at survey responses from Iraqi refugee camps for Save the Children, and it’s left me a little bit drained.

There’s really only so many times you can read statements from parents talking about their children drowning in unsupervised areas of the refugee camp, or from children talking about how their family members have been killed or kidnapped by terrorist organisations, and still want to come and type out some light observations about spaceships.

It’s easy to just drop into a funk about all this – after all, it is pretty depressing that these camps not only have to exist in the first place, but the fact that so many of these personal horror stories go largely ignored makes it so much worse. Of course, we all know that these things go on, in a largely abstract sense, but to see them written up in such a clinical, emotionless way that auto-translation software delivers is an entirely different experience.

I guess the thing about fiction is that we can choose to use it as an escape from the harsh realities of life, like the refugee camps, the hunger and misery, the abuse of human life and the future and livelihoods denied to so many, or we can use it to bring these abstract horrors into sharp relief, putting characters we get to know and love into the same situations we have in real life. Ordinarily, I’d take the second route every time. This week, though? I need an escape.

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.

What Do?

I’m torn at the moment.

I don’t seem to have any particular writing projects ongoing any more. Which means I’m antsing for a new one, which means I have to pick and develop one from the big long list in my brain, which means that actually being able to sit down with characters I know and put them on the page is kinda not really possible.

I’m also wanting to write more short fiction, since it’s been a while since I had one of those published, and I wouldn’t mind being able to have a few more pieces of my actual fiction online for you guys to read (and maybe add a new page to the site to list off my published fiction and where you can find it) – but for the moment that is quite a small amount, and I think having a tiny amount listed would probably look worse than having none listed at all.

Which means I can pretend to have had loads published, when really there’s not been a huge amount as I’ve tended to neglect the short fiction aspect of writing in recent years.

This was a cunning plan up until the point where I told you about it. Whoops.

Now, I’m not really one for reading authors’ websites. Most of my reading materials tend to come from the charity shop, as I’m not fond of reading ebooks and commercial book prices tend to get very expensive very quickly if you read quite as much as I do.

I know, I know, I’m hoping to make a living out of reading, and Kant’s Categorical Imperative would suggest that buying books almost exclusively from a charity shop isn’t great (honestly guys,  stop waving your degrees in political theory at me, mine’s already giving me dirty looks), but then there can be no ethical consumption under capitalism anyway, so this is a systemic problem and Kant can have an ethical ghostfight with Marx over it if he wants.

(Before you write in, yes I know that’s not a Marx quote, and apparently comes from the Tumblr hivemind – but I reckon Marx would have agreed with it anyway, and some ghost or other has to fight ghost-Kant, otherwise he’ll start trying to organise ectoplasm for maximum utility.)

So, as I was saying before that particular tangent, I don’t tend to read author webpages, particularly not of ones like myself who haven’t managed to attract a publisher’s eye with shiny things (agents, publishers, if you’re looking, I have some shiny things for you to look at), but it seems to me that there’s little point with no actual fiction on display. Who wants to read the blog of a writer who, as far as you can tell, hasn’t done much and isn’t very good in any case?

So short stories should be my current goal, but I can’t say I’m as fond of writing them as I am longer projects.

In any case, blog posts where I write about ghost-Kant and my own lack of committing to a new project for 500 words don’t get a new project committed to. But then, very little seems to these days.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a blank word document to stare at.

Handsfree Summer

The whole ordeal is over – more or less – which is marvellous news! It means that I can get back to work… sort of.

After almost four months with either a completely or partially useless right hand, rather a lot of things have started to slip. My typing speed, for one, has simply plummeted, and it’s going to take a lot of practise to get that back to anything like what it should be.

Other things are a bit ambiguous as to whether or not they are technically problems. See, my hand has broadly healed just in time for various trips and events that obviously eat into my writing time, though I’m not exactly the first in line to call these things “problems”.

Taking part in the Manchester Day parade, for example, was a lot of fun.

Not exactly a problem, per se (though my wings did keep getting caught in various things), but with a lot of preparation and recovery involved with marching several miles in the blazing sun pushing a giant phoenix float. Not something that leaves me a great deal of time and energy to get the writing show back on the (paper?) road.

And this was just a few days before the other big issue-but-not-issue; a week in Corfu with the girlfriend. Technically I’m claiming the amount of swimming done counted as part of my physiotherapy, because, well, it can’t have hurt, right? But living in Manchester, where summers are an endless procession of grey, miserable days, interspersed with the odd bright day that turns to rain the instant someone lights a barbecue, a little bit of guaranteed sun is required to not go mad. And who can argue with this?

So this leads me to the next predicament; Metaldays. In a week’s time, I embark on a ridiculous road trip through Europe, to a  7-day metal festival in Slovenia, and then back again. That’s another two weeks where writing will be… let’s say difficult, for various reasons, some of which aren’t even alcohol related.

So that’s seven days. Seven days to get as much work done as humanly possible.

It’s… it’s just not looking good, is it?

Cast-away!

Isn’t it nice having two hands?

Time for another update on the hand front; after two months, hand surgery and the implantation of wires into my hand (making me a temporary cyborg – huzzah!) the cast is finally off, and I can shower without a plastic bag taped around my right hand for the first time in a long, long time.

 

Since the cast came off and the wires were yanked out with a pair of pliers and no anaesthetic (both causing pain and ending my cyborg status – boo!), I was hoping the recovery would be swift and easy. Unfortunately, the human body doesn’t like that so much, meaning that the two months immobilised in a cast have led to a pretty hefty amount of muscle atrophy, and a massive drop in my ability to move my wrist and fingers.

 

So here I am, typing slowly, clumsily and wrist-brace-ily, waiting for a letter telling me when I get to start physiotherapy, and the long journey back to actually being able to use my newly de-prisoned hand, and the very strange-feeling new skin that lurked beneath the cast.

 

Joining the Cast

Another update re: the hand, since it’s been over a month since the last blog post.

Long story short, rather than getting my bandages taken off at the fracture clinic appointment, I was booked in for surgery, and now there’s a pretty hefty wire holding the bones in my hand together, underneath an even bigger, solid plaster cast.

I advise the squeamish to look away now.

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Pretty hideous, right? Trouble is, now I’ve seen it, I can feel the thing in the side of my hand.

Another three weeks of this, and then I get to start the exciting world of physiotherapy.

Trouble is, I’ve achieved basically nothing in the last month. Partially because typing is difficult, clumsy and painful, and partially because I’ve been on codeine for big chunks of it.

Three weeks, and then with any luck I can get back to writing, back to being able to use a knife and fork, and back to showering without a bin liner taped over my arm. Huzzah!

Genre Tax

With taxes being big news on both sides of the Atlantic, from the Tories’ major u-turn on their proposed raise in NI contributions for self-employed people, to the continued questions over Donald Trump’s refusal to release  his tax returns, we should take a look at taxes.

Tax forms a major part of the proper functioning of a modern society. As the saying goes, nothing is certain but death and taxes, and the same is true in your fictional world. As we’ve already looked at death (twice), it’s time to take a look at tax. Continue reading

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.

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