The Marathon, then the Sprint

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Last week, I had the fun experience of going on a blog tour. Of course, I didn’t take my own advice for it: I set out on the tour without having time to get everything written in advance of the day it was due online. This is, largely, because of my trip to Leap Castle on Tuesday. I didn’t sleep, and so when I sat down to write again, it was Wednesday night and I hadn’t slept. Such is life.

That tour was to mark the end of my Writing Olympics, with an event-by-event guide for others to do some of the same things I did. With the book out in the world, however, I needed something else to fill my time.

Let’s put my life into context. I took a week off to write Balor Reborn, including booking time off work. I had holiday hours owed to me, so it made sense to take them. The blog tour helped to pass another week of my life. However, I’m now faced with something else entirely: impending teaching practice. This isn’t, in itself, a bad thing. Nor are the lectures due to start in college afterwards. The problem with them is that they inhibit starting a longer project that I won’t have time to commit to.

With that, I’m going from a marathon of a project like a novella in a week to something new and exciting: flash fiction. What this means is that the sequel to Balor Reborn won’t be written for some time. I need to establish a schedule once college starts, and while I would, under normal circumstances, get that book written before lectures start, I have to prepare lessons for unknown age groups, while also working on a research paper.

Life is rather full, then, if I could only get myself focused.

I had planned to get to work at eight this morning. I didn’t bother myself getting out of bed until ten. Well, I suppose staying up to watch the closing ceremony of the Olympics had something to do with that. However, it’s a disruption I canny afford on a regular basis.

I have a lot of work to do, this month. An annoying amount of work. However, that’s why I’m writing flash fiction. I need to remain creative, and while I will be attempting some longer work in the month, I can’t focus on a novella. There’s too much work in the writing process. Flash fiction is new for me, though, and it’s letting me explore some of the stories that I want to tell but don’t know how to introduce. So far, the two stories I’ve written are suitable back stories to Modern Irish Myth books, while also serving as stand-alone pieces.

I need that. I need that sprint. The stories don’t last long, and I still get a rush from writing them. It’s not the same, but the idea of sticking to under one thousand words is so fresh to me that it’s exciting. I’m hoping to stockpile on them, to stick them up for Flash Friday every week for the foreseeable future. I figure it’ll be a fun way to write some Irish myth and ghost stories in a short space of time, that can be read by people in a short space of time.

So, best get sprinting.

What about you? Do you write flash fiction? Comment below and leave a link for me to read a story you wrote.

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“I’m sick of your lies! Secrets and lies! It’s always secrets and lies!”

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That wonderful quote is from The Simpsons. Unless you live in a cave, I don’t need to tell you what that is. (If you live in a cave, you must tell us how you found the blog… or even accessed the Internet!) I thought the line was appropriate to us, as writers, and to myself as an added extra, as an actor.

Now, I don’t know about other writers, but I have an awful habit of writing my friends into my fiction. A lot. Literally only last week I wrote a novella called Stepping Forward filled with some things a friend of mine may or may not want me to show anyone else. Ever. He has the first, and possibly last, reading privileges for this book; if he’s not happy with what I’ve said, then it goes into the archives of useless first drafts and remains a secret. As fiction, it’s already a lie. Despite the many truths in it, it’s a lie. For one thing, it’s set on August 25th 2010, June 21st 2011 and November 14th 2011… unless I’ve been asleep for a year and half, that’s the future. Therefore: lies.

I think it’s something we all have to accept, if we write fiction: we’re going to be lying for pretty much the rest of our lives. We could even be revealing secrets friends told us. Of course, at this point we have to allow our friends to actually read what we’ve written. Sure it’d be rude not to!

This is all food for thought, of course. If you’re subtle enough in your writing, your friends might not even realise that they’ve been massively incorporated into the creation of your fiction. Or, you know, they might not be bothered reading it. That’s always a possibility.

Now, it’s not just friends secrets that get put into books; Dan Brown likes to pretend he reveals the  secrets of the world in his many lies; I like to tell people stuff about myself. Usually it’s not something too dramatic, but it’s stuff I couldn’t say directly to someone. Once again, I’d request they read the fiction, the lies. Fiction’s fun that way; there’s no telling what’s true and what’s not, so when they turn around and say “You nutter”, they might just be referring to something you made up. (I am awaiting this exact phrase when the novella has been read).

As to that acting reference… well, like writers of fiction, actors lie for a living. Children lie, too. Everyone does. Lying is an important part of our society. Much of our culture is made up of lies. We enjoy them too much to try rid the world of them. Honestly is good, sure, but it doesn’t entertain as much as lies do. Lies are the canvas of fiction through which we thread our secrets, our hopes and our dreams; a million and one thousand things going through our minds all at once, crashing about, creating a mad world of fiction that can be set in any time and place we can imagine, defying every law of physics if we want, warping the very idea of a constant reality. Lies are sweet, delicious chaos.

So, this has been me bluffing my way through a blog post. I’ll be trying to be a little more coherent on my own blog soon, while also maintaining my policy of secrets and lies. I hope this has been at least mildly entertaining. If not, please complain. I love complaints.

A World Devoid of God

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I’m ill, and trying to rest. A bit of audience participation is called for, I think.

For a novel I’m planning, set in the future, I want something quite dramatic to have happened. We’re talking World War III, but I’m not content with nuclear bombs going off all over the place. I want it to have been darker, far more sinister than that.

Many people know I vehemently hate religion in all its forms, so I’ve decided I want a future world for my novel that is devoid of religion.

I had an idea: at some point in the past (in our future, obviously, this novel is set a few hundred years in the future) religious intolerance between the western world and religious fanatics such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban, brought rise to a creeping, inevitable civil war on Earth. Every country. Every city. Every street and home and office and school and playground and park. Everywhere, Christians turned on Muslims. Muslims turned on Jews. Hindus and Sikhs also took sides. Sporadic fighting, civil unrest. Street warfare. Nowhere feels safe.

And just as quickly, this fray is joined by all those without religion. The atheist. The scientologists. The humanists. Everyone who classed themselves as having faith and belief, but no religion, turns on everyone who claims to have religion. If you carry a crucifix, you’ll die. If you’re seen coming out of a mosque or church or synagogue, you’re a prime target.

What begin as isolated attacks, soon escalate into full scale world war. Countries become divided, some governments standing by their chosen religious belief, others denouncing religion and fighting for free will.

The result is devastating. Cities everywhere lie in ruins, yet no bombing raids have been carried out. Martial law rules over most countries, yet no military invasions have taken place. And, most noticeable, religion has become a thing of dim memory. Bible, Torah, Koran, all are burned on the same pyres. And so the world begins to rebuild itself from the poverty of war, trying desperately to rebuild society.

Two questions I want you all to answer for me:

1, How do you think this all came about, exactly? What were the events, the catalysts?

And…

2, What is the effect? What is this new, post-war world like without religion in it?

Oh, and any other thoughts you wanna mention would be fantastic.

Comments below, much appreciated. Right, I’m gonna try and sleep again. The only time I’m not coughing is when I’m sleeping. It hurts to breathe. I can’t even walk upstairs to the loo without feeling like I’ve just climbed Everest.

For My Own A-Muse-Ment

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So… I’m doing this blog thing for the very first time, and I have mentioned to various people in various places that I was worried I would have nothing to say, which everybody seemed to think was very funny, but really, it’s a worry.

It seems that the more I try and think of something interesting to say about writing the less I have to say. Does that mean writing is not very interesting? Well, most of the time it isn’t, no, but some of the time it is. One of the most exciting, though possibly not so interesting, parts of writing is employing a muse, and it just so happens that this is what is on mind at the moment, so, I’ve decided to start by talking about the muse (calm down, calm down, I’m not going to start talking about Muse!).

As many people may already know, I don’t plan my writing, I let it happen. That doesn’t mean I only write when I feel like it, I’d hardly ever write anything if I did that. Another writer once said to me that he was a big believer in letting the muse come to him and if that didn’t happen he would just go to the pub. On this particular day I was struggling with writing more than two words and going to the pub instead really did seem like a better option, however, while he might have spent another afternoon in the pub I stuck it out at the computer and ended up writing a good few pages. Some people call this bum glue. Or just determination. The point is, if I waited for the muse to come to me I wouldn’t write half as much as I do.

Now, this is a tricky one because some parts of writing fiction don’t require the muse, but the early stages, perhaps the parts when the more organised writers are doing that thing they call planning, does. If I am two thirds of the way through writing a novel I don’t really need my muse anymore, in fact he/she has drifted away by then to get on with their lives and the character has emerged as a separate being from the person I started out with for inspiration. But any earlier on in the process I usually do need them. And if they don’t come to me of their own accord, then some gentle persuasion can be used to make them. Looking at photos, listening to music, trawling the internet for interesting news stories or, my favourite, spending a little time in the presence of someone who you would like to become your muse!

So, who are they? Well, obviously I’m not going to tell you who mine actually are! But a muse can be a place I’ve been that I’ve loved, for instance I’ve written a novel and two short stories and some articles based on the time I’ve spent in the Lake District, or it can be family members, friends, or someone I’ve fallen in love with. Some of my characters are five people rolled into one with bits of each of them in there, some are one ‘real’ person, who I have so transferred to the page only the name is different. It has to be someone or something that I want to think about a lot. Only by thinking about someone or somewhere pretty constantly for a while will allow them to become part of the writing, part of the story, because I am carrying them with me, along with the story, which all the time is emerging around them. If I didn’t do this, writing becomes ‘flat’ and boring, and if it’s boring for you as the writer, it is most certainly boring for the reader.

Philip Pullman once answered the dreaded question ‘where do you get your ideas from’ by saying ‘sitting and thinking’ and that’s basically it. There are a thousand things to distract you from this, including going to the pub (although you need those things as well or you’d have no experiences to write about, but perhaps that’s a blog for another day!) So, I suppose, if you just love to sit and think about blancmange (I know, but it’s the first thing that came into my head), then that’s your muse and that’s what you’ll end up writing about. Or, if like that other writer I mentioned, you go to the pub every time the muse doesn’t come to you, you might not write anything at all, or you might just write about being in pubs, which might not be so bad….