First Steps

Like it says on the front page, I won summat this month.

The maths, of course, is a lie. There’s been a ton of submissions this year, and far more failures than successes. I’ve learnt so much, yet made minimal progress, if you decide to count acceptance as the benchmark. The reality, of course, is that there’s been so much growth and renaissance regardless.¬†You never stop learning. Success doesn’t allow you, in this version of reality, to sit back and assume suddenly you’re good. Nope, this is a first step. Small, tentative but undoubtedly with determination, and most importantly forward.

I’m already looking forward, working on stuff for submission over Christmas. The stuff in my Big Book of Poetry that has failed will be looked at again, and if anything in there remains worthwhile of a retool, it will happen.¬†This year’s lessons are well-learnt: don’t keep pinning your hope on the same thing, diversify, learn from mistakes, keep looking for a focus, don’t get distracted.¬†The most important point of all however is to BE MYSELF, and that means that this is a victory and is celebrated as such.

No other bugger’s gonna promote me, so time to get on with it.

I’m a published poet now. That’s bloody brilliant, that is.

Making Your Mind Up

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The novel editing really started to work when I fixed my writing playlist.¬†The thing is 25 tracks, hour and forty-one minutes of music that is now constructed as an accompaniment to my narrative framework. Having that playing as a constant background has given my¬†mind the opportunity to ‘live’ in this imagined Universe for a week or so. With that has emerged the nerve to edit out increasing portions of sub-standard or largely unnecessary¬†dialogue. The result when dead wood is removed remains hugely satisfying

There’s also been a fair bit of addition too: now 25,000 words are done, I’ll go back tonight and have a read through, to make sure my narrative voice is consistent. After that, we have a genuine impetus going forward, and I’ll see you back here on Friday with an update because nothing else really matters right now. This task has been holding me back, quite literally for years, and to be moving forward with it now is beyond satisfying.

Right, that’s quite enough talking. TIME TO WRITE.

NaNoWriMo 2017 :: The Beginning

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Okay, people. November’s always been a big month for words in this parish, and 2017 is already shaping up to be the most significant¬†yet in terms of how I do the entire writing gig. I have decided what I’m writing and it is one of the many Works in Progress¬†that has existed on my hard drive for some time. In fact, I even got as far as making a book cover and a lovely Twitter synopsis, both of which will be retooled along with the original narrative. Having read through all that I have to begin with yesterday, to say I’m excited is an understatement.


For me, the biggest single problem that occurs in a NaNo ‘month’ is the conviction of an idea from inception to completion. This time around, I’m tackling a complete plot (with the exception of a hole in the denouement) and updating my writing style, plus adding some vital background and depth along the way. Getting to 50k this year, therefore, is of largely secondary significance to having a working and complete draft on completion.¬†That’s my bigger aim: finally, finish a piece that I feel is one of the strongest narratively that I have ever produced, then set about seeing if I can’t get someone to want to publish it.

So I can devote 100% attention to this task, I’m taking November off from the Book of the Month project and the various stuff that normally takes place. However, there will be content here for the whole 30 days, with a subsidiary¬†project that’s already in the planning stage. If you follow me on social media, I’ll be mentioning it as time goes on, but it is being created in the hope that I can give back to the Community that has helped me to fulfil my own potential as a writer in the last few years.

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In the buildup to November 1st, I’ll be sharing some of the thoughts I’ve had on this process, and there’ll be regular writing updates throughout November itself. If you want a more personalised view on how things are going, here’s a reminder that my personal site exists and that I’m far more likely to swear and challenge your traditional notions of sexuality there than anywhere else.

GSME #3 :: Hard Rain

This week has been full of revelations. The most significant one by far entails what’s now happening as I try and bend Twitter to my will in terms of views:

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Trying to force things to go your way on a platform where other people define the rules will not go well. I can pretend that it matters I’m dictating content, but inevitably the best work comes when that isn’t the case. Twitter is an immensely organic space, and that’s become more apparent to me now than at any point in my current progress. However, there are those who manipulate it to suit very specific ends, but to do this successfully requires a pretty high number of followers. I’m also beginning to suspect that the rumours over exactly how many accounts are run by real people may be true: the sensible people are already jumping ship and even the President of the United States has gone quieter than usual. If your job is to fool the robots and appease the people who are using Twitter as a chat client? You’ll need to know how both parties think and operate to succeed.

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The midweek blip you can see above was caused by this tweet, which was subsequently retweeted by Mr Jonathan Pie to his 50k followers. As you can see, engagement is pretty much woeful but the number of people who at least acknowledged the tweet is significant. That magic 5% is quite hard to hit with the more followers you possess, unless you’re pushing hard with pictures and means to draw individuals in. The timing is important too: after 9 hours the tweet was forgotten, useless as an advertising tool. This is an indicator to smart people that when you Tweet is almost as important as what is in it, and why understanding your audience is an important factor in guaranteeing long term success.

This also means that in a break from normal practice, I’m following people now whose sole task it is to sell Twitter as a way to be popular. These accounts effectively offer you filler for your own feed: the virtual equivalent of a well placed designer throw or a piece of important pottery by an upcoming artist on a shelf. The accounts that offer you inspirational quotes, funny asides and carefully-selected news articles do so entirely to fuel their own pretensions of grandeur, and the more retweets they can manage, the better becomes their reach. I’ve discovered that this is what people can also legitimately claim to be a ‘job’ though I’ll freely admit, talking to robots does not sound like my idea of fun.

However, undoubtedly there is money to be had, or else why else would all these people be so desperate to keep trying to up their followers?

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Last week’s lessons are simple: don’t try too hard. By far the best work I’ve done on this platform involves not sweating anything: in fact, the more spontaneous and organic I allow things to become, the better the return for my effort. What it also means is that I’ll be rethinking a few of my approaches to other stuff this week: I am spreading myself a bit too thin, and as writing for me is the main goal here (and not becoming a new media guru ahead of that) I’ll be dropping some plans that had been considered going forward. Also, I promise I won’t start filling my feed with pointless yet cleverly structured rubbish. All of my Tweets remain 100% home produced and farmed, with letters and words purely of my own devising.

That alone should make me unique in parts of this Community for some time to come.

Wood and Water :: One

As promised, today is a passage that originally began life as a short piece of an Open University creative writing assessment. It’s subsequently been edited and now has the potential to start a short story.

Enjoy


He knows what they search for is close.

The boy¬†and his father have been travelling since first light, descending through the purple-hewn valleys of heather and scrub grass, moving further from light into darkness. The child’s¬†belly rumbles, demanding sustenance, but to ask for water and the bread his grandmother gave would be considered a weakness. On this day, hunger or fatigue must be forgotten, buried deep within. The moment they cross the perimeter of the copse something passes through the slim, strong body, understanding that they should head east, towards the river.¬†He had expected his father to lead but now he holds back, and his reticence is no longer of concern. It is the boy’s turn¬†to strike forward, driven by instinct. Memory¬†sparks;¬†words planted¬†the night before. Him and her by the bonfire, dark green¬†ritual paint applied to a willing¬†forehead. His mentor’s¬†instructions repeated, learnt by heart and mind: the wood will call, hear its bidding: yours to carve and turn, change and transform. The¬†whole creates your¬†staff, and then¬†our¬†training begins.

You will not choose the wood, son of the forest. It already calls to you.

The boy is suddenly startled, flock of birds escaping the ceiling of thinning leaves above him. The last tendrils of his twelfth Hot Season are shrinking away, blue skies filled with ever-thickening clouds; warmth bleeding into cooler air, sharper gusts of wind from the north. He should be in the fields, gathering grain as his sisters are, but he remains Chosen. Of all those girls in the village who had trained and learnt the Words, hoped to be favoured by the Elders, it had been him they had picked. Seven generations had passed since the last Lone Son, and much already sat on expectant shoulders. He had stared intently into raging fire, hoping for inspiration, and there grew the twisted remains of this fallen dark oak, felled with others in the recent storms. Nature had been nothing but thorough in its decimation of both land and life. It had called him here yet he was uncertain, and his father had reassured, soothed the fear. This was the right path, and they would tread it together.

‘You see, it isn’t dead.’

From the twisted and buckled remains of the stump there grows a¬†branch, thickness of the boy’s upper arm and about four times the¬†length, still very much alive, covered with a scattering of tiny twigs. It looks totally out of place, desperately clinging to the remains of its parent, last vestiges of life before death. The wind lifts suddenly, moving the leaves from the copse’s edge in a wave of sound, rustling through the space around them both. Aran¬†closes eyes and listens, hoping to hear something more than he knows¬†exists, but for now it is only the wind. There is no truth without the wood, conduit between his world and the Earth, and so he goes to the branch, reaching out a willing¬†hand to touch.

As his palm grasps the bark there is noise; cry of anguish, unexpected anger. A sudden stab of pain to the back as an arrow hits from behind, cleanly passing through ribcage and flesh as he falls to the ground. The soldier has no time to react, dead as a bloodied body crumples to the earth, life slowly leeching into the soil, back to the land from which he came.

It takes a moment for the boy to recover and understand what has just happened, given a Waking Dream like countless ones before, except this is not about family but a total stranger. Beneath him lies a soldier from the time Before, fighting man who died, whose remains lie buried under leaves and dirt and history, bound to the tree and that branch which will become his staff. From the past, through the roots of Earth and time, his message is passed and understood. We will fight again, and you will lead us. Aran Mennas turns to his father with a measure of understanding: he was right to believe in him. This destiny is right and solid, without hesitation. The tree provides the weapon, with which he will both see both future and hear wisdom from the past.

This place is where destiny begins anew.