I often see fellow writers on twitter post about not being able to write, and I’m guilty of the same posts.
This got me to thinking – how hard do you all find it? I always feel like I don’t have enough time, like whatever I do there’s always more to write. I tend to have a few projects going on at once and chip away at them. Nearly every free moment is spent working on them – research, planning, editing etc.
There’s so much more I know I could be doing, but there’s only so many hours in the day. Like many writers I dream of a day my writing will support me financially. Would I be more productive with every day spent writing? Or would all that free time be detrimental?
Perhaps I’ll look back at this period of working two jobs and writing and think ‘Damn I was motivated,’ or alternatively: ‘How did I ever manage to get any of it done?’
I think I DO find writing easy, because I enjoy it. I love editing paragraphs down, making them slicker, I revel in finding my own mistakes and restructuring scenes so that they flow better. I love starting a new short story, I love deleting pages of unnecessary text.
As mentioned in my previous post I’d never been to the annual literary festival in Hay-on-Wye. It’s not too far from where I live but getting there without a car is a bit of a nightmare. Fortunately two lovely friends of ours were also going, and offered us transport!
I didn’t really know what to expect, other than books, and there were plenty of those to be found. When it comes to book shopping I’m awful. I tend to grab something that catches my eye then um and ah about it for an hour. This time was no different. I was captivated by Yiyun Li’sbook Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life from the moment I saw the cover:
I don’t know what I liked about it so much. It was sitting alone on a desk full of other titles. I picked it up and read the first few extracts, then put it down, feeling guilty that I wanted to buy the first book I’d picked up. What followed was roughly an hour of walking around, occasionally returning to see it still alone on the table. I bought it, obviously, and I don’t regret it. I’m only a dozen or so pages in but already it’s shaping up to be a stunning read.
After that we bumped into two people. Firstly Amanda Palmer, a very talented singer-songwriter from America, who just so happens to be married to Neil Gaiman – the reason for our visit. My partner didn’t want to pass up the opportunity and stopped her to say hello. We didn’t want to bother her with any photos as she was busy and in a rush, but Nicole was incredibly happy to have had a moment to speak to her.
After that we were waiting around for our friends to come out of their talk with Chris Riddell – UK Children’s Laureate. It was his final public event in the role when who should walk past us but Neil Gaiman himself, having just left the talk.
I’d brought a few copies of Death Echo: Vol. 1 with the intention of leaving some around the event as surprises for anyone who wanted them. This didn’t go to plan as it was an awfully humid day with dark clouds overhead. Leaving a copy of my book out in the open to possibly get ruined by the rain didn’t sit right with me so I kept a hold of them. Giving one as a gift to a writer I’ve long admired is another story.
With some convincing by Nicole (behind every awkward man is a strong, confident woman ready to kick them into action) we nabbed him and gave him a copy. He could have snubbed us and I wouldn’t have blamed him, these events can be insanely busy and it’s difficult to stop and chat to everyone. He very graciously accepted it as a gift (making sure I’d signed it!) and even posed with us for a picture:
We learnt later that by stopping him a small queue built up and he didn’t get away from there for some time (sorry!). I hope he enjoys the collection. Just the knowledge that a writer I respect so much reading my stories gives me a wonderful tingly feeling.
Onto the main event:
The main reason for our visit was to see Stephen Fry interview Neil Gaiman. This wasn’t until later in the day but there was plenty to see an do. All the same when the time came we first in line:
The event included Neil reading a story from Norse Mythology, Stephen reading a story from his upcoming collection on Greek Mythology, Amanda Palmer reading a beautiful poem, and Chris Riddell, drawing sketches of everything in the background on a projector. It was a beautiful thing to witness. After that was a book signing by Neil. I think perhaps the organisers didn’t realise how popular it would be, with a queue that apparently didn’t die down for four hours!
Fortunately Amanda was nearby to entertain the masses:
If we could have stayed for her full show we would have, but what with the drive home and work the next day we had to go 😦
In many ways I couldn’t ask for a better experience. I got to see some brilliant people do and talk about the things they love, and I got to be a part of it.
p.s. Big thanks to all the organisers and staff who worked their butts off (and are still there now, still working their butts off.)
You can buy my first collection of stories available in paperback and Kindle here: Death Echo: Vol. 1
This coming Bank Holiday Monday (28th) I’ll be mooching around the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts! I’ve never been before so I really don’t know what to expect, other than a mountain of books.
I only have tickets to one ‘show’, but it’s a corker – Stephen Fry interviewing Neil Gaiman!
I went to see Neil Gaiman talk about his latest book, Norse Mythology, in London not long ago and it was amazing. I can only imagine how superb it will be seeing this pair natter on.
That talk will be later on in the afternoon, but I’ll be there all day. I dread to think how many books I’ll end up buying! I might even take a few copies of Death Echo: Vol. 1 to Frisbee at people (Disclaimer: should anyone be injured by a copy of Death Echo I am in no way liable).
Will you be there? If so keep an eye out for me! Any suggestions on things I should definitely do or see? I’m sure I’ll miss a tonne only being there one day!
The weather should actually be good, too! Now it’s just a few days away I’m really excited! Aaaaaagh!
Most of my characters didn’t DO romance. Which is weird because I’m all about love. Between partners, family members friends. Love is very important to me. Yet in writing I struggle with it. I realized a few days ago why I avoided it – I was afraid of it! Or rather, I was afraid of doing it wrong.
After spit-balling some ideas around with a friend I decided to take the plunge with writing romance. Hold up, Seb, you just said you struggle with it – why dive into romance? Well, random voice inside my head – when you struggle with things it usually means you’re having to learn something NEW. Learning is cool.
Learning IS cool, right?
Here’s the beautiful bit, though: by pushing myself into one project outside my comfort zone I’ve been able to re-evaluate character relationships in another, far more developed story. I’ve been able to let my guard down and really get into the nitty gritty details of their imperfect, unlucky, but ultimately beautiful love.
I’m not sure if there’s a moral here.
That’ll do for now. Anyway, I’m really happy that I have this whole new window open to me. I’m not afraid of it any more. THAT’S IT!
Death Echo released just over a month ago. I promised myself I’d let things rest for a few months and take it easy on the writing side of things. I can never keep promises like that. Don’t worry, I’ll forgive myself.
I always do.
Most echoes peeter out, get weaker. Death Echoes are different. They grow over time. What might have seemed like a tiny windows into another world can become unstable, they can change, warp, become distended.
Death Echo: Vol 1 is out there and accruing some lovely reviews. But as ever with creative exploits one must drive forwards and not dawdle.
Death Echo: Vol 2 is most definitely underway and if things go well it might even come out before this year is done (no promises!). I have a huge amount of ideas as to where to take the series and the feedback has been massively helpful.
But enough about that! For the time being it’s back to novels for me! I’d like to introduce my next big project:
A Kingdom Obscurer Novel
I wrote Proper Magic last year and it came to around 65,000 words. By the end of it I was happy with the characters, the world, and most of the events, but I found the story itself lacking. I felt like I hadn’t done them justice. An important part of writing is knowing when to delete and rewrite your work. This was one of those occasions.
So I set myself a task – now knowing the characters and the world I had to do it all over again, but with better pacing, action, development and world building. I just reached 15,000 words and it feels amazing. I feel like this could be the one, not to jinx it or anything…
Proper Magic is a sword and sorcery/heroic fantasy with a comical, quite often subversive edge. So expect related blog post to be coming from me about the process. I’ll be going into more depth about the characters as things develop with this second run.
That’s all from me for now. Oh, and Happy Easter for Sunday!