Why I Love Writing #4; Nothing Is Ever Wasted

I suppose actors must feel like this too. I’m too introverted to have ever given acting a thought, but I can empathise with the urge to play around with emotions and reactions. To consider them, analyse them, practice them even. For this reason, writing offers up another reason to love it. Nothing is ever wasted. Nothing is ever meaningless. Everything I experience or observe in life can be used in writing.

This happened to me today, and then I started thinking about it, which led to me choosing it as the next reason on this series of posts.

I was out dog-walking when some recent worries suddenly caught up on me and I dissolved into unexpected tears. There was no one else around, so I guess my brain just seized upon the opportunity to let rip for a moment or two. My youngest child had a routine operation last week which all went well, but the recovery at home has been a lot tougher than we expected. To check all was okay, I’d called my surgery to request a phone call from the GP who had wanted to see my son as soon as possible. I knew in my gut and my heart that my son was going to be okay, but I guess a number of days holding it in and generally being exhausted had caught me up. I had a little cry about it, but then my mind did what it always does when I get emotional about something.

I started imagining I was one of my characters. I slotted instantly into a book I have not yet written, but have planned and plotted. A potential scene, a very upsetting one, started coming together very quickly in my head. My tears quickly dried up, but in my imagination, as my character, they carried on flowing. Before I knew it, I had walked further than I had intended, and my mind had shifted my worries from my real life into the fictional worlds I so often visit.

It’s fair to say, I used my genuine emotions to imagine how my character was feeling. As the anguish turned to anger for my character, I started to feel pissed off too. I snapped out of it at the appropriate time and felt a swell of excitement for the book I’m not yet ready to write.

I’m not sure if other writers will get this, or know what I mean, but I tend to feel that in my life, uncomfortable thoughts, emotions and experiences are quite welcome, because I can use them to improve my writing. The same goes for boredom, frustration, elation and excitement. Anything. Everything. Nothing is ever wasted or forgotten. The tiniest things, the most mundane of moments, the passing of time in a doctors surgery, the wind in my hair as I wander down a narrow country lane, the people in the distance, the cars passing on the road, the buzzard in the sky, the rain pelting down, the clutch of fear in my gut, the exhaustion pounding at my head, the hilarious thing a friend just said or did, the minor characters who all play their part in the story of my life, everything, anything, all of it is useful. All of it is observed, considered, anaylsed and absorbed. All of it is fuel. All of it is material. alone-2666433_1920.jpg

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Why I Love Writing #1; I Don’t Have To Live In This World

There’s so much to say about why I love writing so much, I thought I would pen a little blog post series on the subject. It’s easier to break it down into separate pieces that way. There are just so many reasons I love writing!

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If anyone asks me why I love writing, I’ll usually answer by explaining that I get all these characters and ideas in my head and just have to write them down, or I would go mad.

But it’s really so much more than that. For me, writing is very similar to reading and the things that attract me are the same. When I’m absorbed in a really good book, it’s like entering another world. We all know that feeling. Maybe you get it from reading or from watching films or from listening to or playing music. You’re removed from the real world. You’re lifted above it and beyond it. You’re in the past, or the future, on another planet, another time, living and observing and experiencing another life. For a small and precious amount of time, until something in the real world interrupts you, you are gone. You’re not part of the real world and are utterly disconnected from your real life.

For me, writing provides the same thing. When I was a child, I was shy and awkward and extremely quiet. I melted into the background and both liked and resented this. There were things about the real world and my real life that I did not like and wished to escape from, and writing gave me this. Maybe even more so than reading a book, because writing your own stories is even more liberating. You’re in control, you’re like God, the puppet master, creating and destroying and moving people around like chess pieces. Once I started writing, I drifted away from the real world quickly and dramatically. I created my own.

People used to say to me all the time; ‘you’re in your own little world, aren’t you?’ And it was true. I really was.

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People still say that to me now, and these days writing is there when I don’t want to live in the real world anymore. And let’s face it, things are pretty bad right now. It sometimes feels like the destruction of this planet is something I simply cannot bear. It’s so pointless and needless, so utterly senseless how can any sane person possibly understand it? And then there are people. Human nature, such a complex, multi-layered thing. There are days when I’m floored by how cruel and heartless humans can be and I truly fear we’ve reached the end days, not just on the planet, but in our humanity. It feels so desolate and without hope. Of course, there are just as many days when humans surprise and delight me, and I remind myself that most of them are basically good and trying to be good. But on the bad days? Writing is an absolute Godsend. I couldn’t survive without it.

It’s in my head when I can’t physically get to pen, paper or laptop. So I’m already removed. I’m calmer. Less weighed down, less frantic, less panicked. Like when I was a kid, I’m off inside my own head. Entertaining myself. The stories go with me everywhere. I am never alone. And then when I get the time to sit and put pen to paper, or tap at the keys on my laptop, I’m gone again. I’m lost inside my own head and I’m free.

To me, writing sometimes feels like a rebellious act. Because when it revolts or disappoints me, I cannot be forced to live in this world. I’ll go if I want to. I’ll check out. I don’t have to stay. I can write.

 

Stuck Inside A Story (For 28 years…)

That’s how it feels. That’s what it is. Stuck. Trapped. Held prisoner. I can’t get out. But do I really want to? Evidence would suggest not. Sometimes I wonder what exactly I have done. Created a world, created characters, used some magic and a lot of hard work, an imagination I can’t control, and there you have it, an alternative reality I can’t escape from.

I had no idea this would happen when I started writing as a child. My first attempts were hand-written stories about lost and abandoned animals, heavily influenced by my love of Watership Down and other similar books. I didn’t write my first story about real people living real lives until I was 12 years old. What happened to tear me away from my quaint tales of lost dogs and runaway bunnies? Well, weirdly, this.

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And this.

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Watching The Lost Boys gave me a few vital ingredients for the story that would go on to hold me prisoner for the next 28 years. It gave me the main idea, the main concept and it gave me some characters. Or at least, it inspired me to create characters who would turn out to be the kind of people I wished I knew in real life. As for Stephen King, it was around this time that I started my collection and was well on my way to becoming a truly obsessed fan. Add to that strange mix, the recent divorce of my parents, the usual teenage angst and rebellion, and I had me a story. Remember the bit in The Lost Boys when the younger brother realises his mother is dating the head vampire? That’s where the idea for The Boy With The Thorn In His Side came from. It wasn’t called that back then. It wasn’t called anything for ages. But I kept thinking…what if your mother was dating a monster? Only not the vampire kind, the real-life kind? And what if no one believed you? And what if you only had yourself and your best friends to try to battle this person? It was a weird mix of asking ‘what if’ questions, my parents’ recent divorce playing on my own fears, a dewy-eyed fascination with the actor Corey Haim, and a love of horror and fascination with the darker side of human nature that spawned this tale.

In my mind, my main character Danny, who is 13 at the start of Part 1, looked a lot like Corey Haim, who I was quite a bit in love with at that age. Once I had him in my head, his character started to grow and evolve, and I think I wrote that very early first draft pretty quickly. I remember it was my absolute obsession for a while. I hated to be away from that story. I’d rush home from school and up to my room to pick up my notebook and pen. I’d write endlessly and passionately. I suppose at the time I had no real idea of what I was doing. I was sort of trying to invent friends, I think. People I was intrigued by, people who had drama in their lives. I felt like I was a character in the book too. I was so proud when I finished it. I even started a sequel. I showed my English teacher and she read it and gave me a merit certificate I had to go up in assembly to collect. I remember being embarrassed but happy. The certificate said I had written a novel. At age 12! I don’t think I have the certificate anymore, but here’s the book.

 

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I started rewriting it after that. I had invested in an electronic word processor. It was the most exciting machine in the world to me! I could sit there and tap away and watch my words appear on this mini screen, before hitting print and then holding typed pages in my hands. What also happened to me at that age was that the story crept inside my brain. It kept me awake at night. It was company. I was never, ever bored. I’d look forward to bedtime because I knew I could lie there and think about my story before I fell asleep. I watched the scenes in my head like a movie. I heard them talking and arguing. Inevitably I came up with new ideas and extra bits, but mostly I just let them play it all out, and most of those imagined scenes have never made it into any of the books. It was just me, a fly on the wall of a made-up world, watching them live.

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Here’s one of the many pictures I drew of the characters. Only some of these made it into the final version.

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I rewrote that book again at aged 16. I’d started and not finished tons of other stories in that time. The book had opened a floodgate, forging a lifelong addiction to writing. But that one story, I couldn’t ever let it go. I rewrote it again at 19. I thought about it constantly during the non-writing years of balancing early motherhood with self-employment. The same story, the same characters always in my head, coming back to me night after night. I was 34 before I finally returned to it. I started writing in notebooks again, just like when I was a kid. Snatching spare moments, writing before bed, suddenly entirely addicted all over again, but this time it had to come out, it had to be finished.

I finally released it in 2013. The Mess Of Me snuck in and was released first because The Boy With The Thorn In His Side was so long and needed so much work. But finally, it was out. A real book I could hold in my hands! I’d done it. So now they would fall quiet, surely? I’d stop thinking about them. I’d stop playing out more scenes.

Well, no, not exactly. Before I knew it I’d penned a sequel, This Is The Day and released that too. That should have been the end of it it, but yet, it still wasn’t. The story itself was so enticing to me, and I was so invested in it, I couldn’t stop imagining other endings, and I guess, truth be told, in my head I did not want it to be over. So the stories went on. Every night, hi guys. What’s happening now?

I wrote an alternative ending in 2016 and included it in Bird People and Other Stories.That was supposed to draw a line under it, but it only made things worse. Now I couldn’t get the thought of other endings out of my head! What if this happened instead? What if? What if? For the fun of it, I started writing a screenplay in a notebook. Brand new material that led on from the original ending of book one, slotting in and delaying the ending, but finishing up before This Is The Day. This was only supposed to be for fun. To get it out of my system. To indulge myself even more than I already had. What the hell, what did it matter? It was for fun. I didn’t have to explain that to anyone!

Except now I do. Because that screenplay became a total obsession. I carried that notebook around with me everywhere. I grabbed every spare moment I had to write into it, getting this new story out. I absolutely loved it. I was so excited about it. I just couldn’t put it down. So eventually, after a lot of thinking and plotting, I came to a decision. I would do it. I would split the book back into two parts and this new material would be part three. Part Four would be This Is The day but it would need some reworking. Then suddenly, parts five and six emerged…

I’ve now accepted the truth. And that is that this story and these characters will never let me go. They are part of me and part of my life and I’m going to leave each book open, just in case I want to revisit it again.

There are new characters introduced in Parts Five and Six, and these also get their own spin-off book or possibly series with characters from both appearing in the others. So, as you can see… this thing could run and run.

So, if you are interested in reading this story, which began when I was 12, followed me through my life and has now evolved into at least a six-part series, you can start with The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part One which is available for pre-order on Amazon now and is released on 9th November. This is a reworked, revised edition. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part Two is also available for pre-order now and is also released on 9th November. Both at the special introductory price of 99p.

I plan to release the brand new Part Three in January an Part Four in February. By then I hope to be into the second or third draft of Part Five…

And the weird thing about this story is that I wrote it purely for myself, I indulged myself entirely, became utterly lost and absorbed and have still been unable to climb free from it. So I don’t really expect anyone to buy it, and I don’t really mind if they don’t. It feels weird to even try to plug it if I’m honest. Like this one is just for me. Like this is my mind, my imagination, my daydreams and to imagine anyone else wandering around in there is almost unsettling. And if it holds me prisoner for another 28 years? I think I’m okay with that…

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The Return of the Voices (and the Nervous Stomach)

Back in April, I blogged about the strange feeling of dread and nerves I was experiencing when I thought about writing, in When Writing is the Cause of and the Solution to Anxiety It took me a while to work out that the reason my stomach kept taking a nose dive was my writing. There was, however, a huge sense of relief when I finished the first draft of what will be The Boy With The Thorn In His Side- Part 3. I discussed this in First Draft Relief as The Voices Fall Silent. After that first draft, everything calmed down. The voices from this particular story shut up and while that did allow the next lot of characters to pipe up, I felt a lot better. My nervous stomach went away and I almost forgot about it.

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About a week ago, something very annoying happened. I got an idea for a new book. I really, really didn’t want this to happen. It actually makes me feel physically sick to even think about it!

And this is why;

  • at the moment I am trying to decide whether or not to release Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature as it is, probably in September. Although, as I talked about in my last blog post, How Do You Know When It’s Time To Quit?, I am also considering another edit and possible rewrite. I change my mind about this on a daily basis. I am listening to all the advice I’ve received in feedback from publishers and from beta readers and anyone else who has commented, but I do still feel that the story is the way I intended it to be…so as you can tell, this book which has been two years in progress, is still plaguing my thoughts…
  • I have A Song For Bill Robinson and Emily’s Baby both written. Both need further edits and both need feedback from beta readers to move forward. But at the moment, both books are just sat there doing nothing, while I feel the constant gnaw of guilt and unease about the fact nothing is happening…
  • Currently, I am working on The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. As explained in older posts, the original book and its sequel This Is The Day have been reworked into a series of four books which will be left open for the option of a fifth. Parts 1 and 2 just needed tweaking, while part 3 is entirely new, and part 4 is a reworked version of This Is The Day to tie in with the events of part 3…Tired yet? I am! Parts 1 and 2 are finished and awaiting frot covers and formatting for ebook and paperback. I have just finished the 4th draft of Part 3 on my Kindle and will soon dive into the 5th draft before I ask my beta readers to read it. I am working on Part 4 right now, and don’t think it will take more than a week or so, as only a few bits need changing. There is some relief with this series, but already a few ideas have crept in for a potential book 5…
  • The Day The Earth Turned, a 4 book YA series has been waiting for its turn for a good year or so now. I’ve plotted it, devised characters, and written short stories to keep it at bay. I’ve even dived into writing it and got as far as chapter 7. Once I have finished messing around with The Boy series, this series will be the next new, fresh thing I work on. That could be as soon as a few weeks time!! Exciting!! But those voices are getting louder and louder…
  • There are also sequels half written and neglected for The Mess Of Me and The Tree Of Rebels, but these will have to wait even longer now thanks to this bolshy new idea marching into my head last week!
  • I’m not going to tell you too much about the book so far, only tease you by admitting it’s been somewhat inspired by watching Breaking bad and Supernatural! Weird, I know, but the writer’s mind works in very strange ways. I didn’t want a new book idea. You can see how much I have going on, plus if you check out my upcoming books page, there are other books in the pipeline I’ve not even mentioned in this blog post. They will just get pushed back too as this new idea is a very insistent one.

So, with the new and unwanted book idea came new voices, names, characters, lives, homes, friends, lovers, backstories and shit loads of dialogue. They just don’t shut up! They are living and breathing and growing and evolving each and every day. Everything I do, everywhere I go, they are there too, demanding to be born, urging to be moulded and shaped into something real and living. I already know far more about these new characters than I wanted to. I’ve tried to ignore them and it’s not worked at all. They are just there!! They are just so alive.

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And obviously, the nose diving stomach is back. In a bad way. Like I’ve said before, it’s a lot like the feeling you get before an exam. My stomach lurches and twists and tightens. Sometimes out of the blue, for no reason. Other times, it’s because something to do with one of the books has popped into my head.

So I now know for sure that this anxious feeling is connected to book ideas…

So what to do about it? Other than try not to panic? And try not to die before I get all these books written and out of me?

I’ve done two things that have helped already, and one is something I’ve done before with other novels in waiting. I wrote a short story which I will include in a future newsletter for those of you subscribed to get a very, very early glimpse of this new book idea of mine. That eased things a bit.

And I’ve done something new. I’ve started a diary here on my blog, which will remain unpublished for now. It’s a diary of a novel from the first (in my case, unwanted) seed of an idea, to the finished product available to buy. I thought this would be really interesting to look back on once it’s all done!

So I write an entry when something has moved on with the novel idea. The first few entries contain notes about the original idea and the last few I wrote include possible names for the characters and more details on their lives and conflicts…

I hope this will be an interesting and cathartic process for me, plus I will have all the notes safe and sound in one place for when I start writing it!

Just one more thing to mention! This new idea? It is somewhat connected to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, in that some of the characters will appear in the others’ books…!!