Jonathon Dean

Writer. Human. Nerd.

Author: Jonny Dean (page 1 of 4)

I’m Just Not Very Good at this Blogging Thing, Am I?

Another few months with nothing, and I’m beginning to hear the cries of the literally nobody who reads thig blog crying out for some update as to my progress.

Or rather, vastly more accurately, I’m not sure what my own progress has been, so I’m clarifying it by paying to host a website and typing it up for nobody in the 21st century to read, but to be found as a fragmented curiosity in the space year 8999, as a relic of that time humanity got collectively baffled enough to print out the entire internet onto stone slabs as part of its ongoing global effort to put its fingers in its ears and pretend to be several centuries earlier.

As I type, various rounds of submissions of Airborne Empire have been shot across the internet, thankfully for the moment still electron-based (stone slabs are expensive to post), and a few form rejections aside, most have simply ignored it. Which is about right for the modern era, but holy hell is it depressing.

Meanwhile, my new project sits at a third of the way to completion, largely because I’m struggling to think of way to stop the remaining, tournament-based two-thirds from seeming circular and repetative, but to no avail. Answers on a postslab.


Where has the Year Gone?

So the new students have moved in, the streets of Fallowfield are once again carpeted in vomit and broken glass, and the bus and pub schedules have returned to normal. But hell, we’re at the end of September already?

My plan was to have my latest project, conceived and tentatively played with as it was at the end of 2017, all done and dusted and ready to be sent out to prospective publishers by the end of 2018. Seeing as I am now somewhat less than a quarter of the way through the first draft, that does appear not to have happened.

Nor, indeed, does any further work on Airborne Empire, due to a supreme difficulty in getting folk to actually return feedback which might allow me to do another editing/polishing pass.

Not as easy as it looks, this writing thing, is it?

I’m a Writer Again!

So this week I’ve actually managed to do some writing!

I know, exciting, right?

Since breaking my hand last year, and the resulting 8 months or so of casts, surgeries, more casts, physiotherapy sessions and so on, all of my writing habits were effectively destroyed. Really, I can’t stress the importance of developing good writing habits. Without them, I’ve been lost, and really struggling to get any writing done at all (you may have noticed from the fact that my blog’s done basically nothing for rather a long time). Only now am I starting to rebuild them properly, and I’m seeing my productivity shoot right back up again.

That’s not to say that was the only problem. For months I’ve been having idea after idea, working on it a little bit, then realising either I couldn’t make it work, or it needed some pretty major rethinks before I had a chance of being able to write it down in anything like a reasonable timescale. Those projects might see the light of day eventually, but right now, they’re pushed to the back burner. Finding the right idea, and I think I just may have found it, is the thing that makes you want to work on this every day.

Either way, I’ve got my idea, I’ve got my mojo back (baby), and I’m ready to rock.

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.

Green (But Lazy) Fingers

So I’m failing on the writing front – having done surprisingly little fiction writing work since the beginning of the year, in fact – but I am at least succeeding on the “growing chilli plants” front, in that most of the seedlings I planted a few months back have resolutely failed to die, despite their sole source of care being me, a man whose plans today involved leaving early and going for a swim, but in reality involved a mini-pizza for breakfast and a stop at KFC on the way to the pub.

I’ve tried growing plants a number of times over the years, only to see the lot of them drop dead at a moment’s notice due to some combination of overwatering, underwatering, overfertilising, underfertilising, too little sunlight, and too much sunslight. Because plants are finicky little buggers who need to buck their ideas up and stop being entitled snowflakes. These guys seem to be still alive – and it feels suspiciously like someone’s rushed out to the plant-pound and replaced the seedlings with identical ones every time they die so I don’t get upset.

Whether they’ll live long enough to bear fruit, and for that fruit to ripen in my cold, cold rented house is anyone’s guess. But I’m already having to look into greenhouses, and even have elaborate plans to knock together a moving greenhouse so that I can actually use the one patch of sun in my garden from time to time rather than turning it over to some green scroungers on a full-time basis. Who knows, I’ll probably blog about it again.


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?


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!

Another Trip Around the Sun

So Friday was my 29th birthday, making that a new personal best for laps around the sun.

As you might imagine, I got a little bit merry for a few days, and as luck uniformly has it, a friend’s birthday happens to fall the day after mine, and he traditionally has a house party on the closest weekend. Which means traditionally, I tend to spend my birthday celebrating someone else’s birthday.

Not that I mind too much – I tend to assume that nobody would be that bothered about coming to drink for my birthday anyway – but it can get a bit strange spending your birthday going to birthday parties with all the usual trimmings but which aren’t for you.

Statistically, most people probably know a few people who share their birthday, particularly in the age of sprawling social media networks of friendships. I know at least four. So where does this vague desire for acknowledgement come from? After all, it’s not like I’ve earned anything that requires recognition, all I’ve done is survive another year without accidentally dying (though admittedly this year I broke a limb, which I’ve never done before!).

It seems utterly irrational to me, and yet it’s somewhere here in my brain anyway. Some matter of family socialisation, most likely, that persists into adulthood even though logically I know I don’t care a great deal.

So the question is, if that’s still in there, what else is? And how much of that goes to explain the nonsensical paths that modern society is taking?

Losing the Plot

I think I’m having something of an existential crisis.

See, I’ve been writing stories for years perfectly happily, but in the last few years, I’ve really started to delve into the theory of it all. There’s a lot of great material on the internet that makes studying this an absolute breeze. Brandon Sanderson, in particular, seems to genuinely enjoy helping new writers and teaching people about the art of writing, and his stuff is great.

The trouble is, the more I learn about how plots and narratives are constructed, the harder I find it to put one together. My mind just keeps telling me that what I’ve got is a string of scenes rather than a plot, no matter how closely they resemble a plot, my brain will simply tell me it’s not complete.

I’m pretty sure this is a paradox borne of some combination of the Dunning-Krueger effect and impostor syndrome, whereby the more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know. Unfortunately, this was largely the case with my Ph.D. studies as well, and the primary reason for my taking an interruption.

Let’s hope the same paralysis doesn’t set in here too, eh?

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