Tag Archives: writing

What I’ve Done This Week #1…

Well, not very much as it happens – certainly not as much as the first week of last year, when I was burning both ends of that candle and kicking out my final draft of Slipwater, but definitely more than I wrote in the final week of last year. I’m going to take that as a positive and move forward from there.

The short story I’m writing at the moment has been on the books for several years, and has gone through a number of name changes along the way, but I have settled for The 07.43 to Blackford Station, which is of course, subject to change.

It’s an old-fashioned monster story – something I’ve wanted to write for a long time – and is centred on five teenage friends as they take the morning train to school. I have over 3000 words down, and I’m probably looking at twice that upon completion. I know the beats I want to hit, so hopefully I can finally put my mind to it and put this story to bed once and for all. .. by the end of February.


Random Bits of Paper…

ideas41200x630bbI’ve kept many notes I’ve written over the years – from stories I’ve since had published, all the way down to stories that I never even got around to writing. Not yet, at least. Frighteningly, some of these notes and ideas go back to the early nineties. It’s so long ago, people actually liked OJ Simpson.

I went through a whole pile of stuff today, all of which I wrote before I had seen any of my words in print. Some notes and ideas are documented on A4 sheets of paper, but most are written on torn promotional leaflets, or the backs of supermarket receipts, such was the urgency of my thoughts two decades ago!

It’s interesting to look back at these things, and it’s certainly an eye-opener to see just how prolific my thoughts were in those days, but while it’s reassuring to see that I took any and every opportunity to write down a thought I considered potentially useful – no matter how trivial – it’s also sadly frustrating that there have been many moments since those days when I have not been nearly as eager to… do my job.

Sure, a lot of the ideas I thought were gold then are actually complete shit now – in fact some of them were bad even then, but there are a few diamonds in the rough there… a few of which I still intend to get around to at some point. Sometimes an idea needs to breathe first and live later.

A lot of my notes from those days are no more than a few words or a single line, completely devoid of context. This obviously meant something to me when I wrote it at 17, but it means nothing as I stare at the paper at 41. Even with a little creative hindsight, the best reason I can come up with as to why I wrote WHEN THEY WAKE UP I WILL DISAPPEAR, in isolation on a slip of paper, is nothing more than an approximation.

Still, sometimes the why is the most interesting part.

This is What’s Under the Bed…

I’ve written hundreds of stories in my life, over a million words (you’ll have to trust me on that one). I’ve written comedies and thrillers. I’ve written romance and drama. I’ve written sci-fi and fantasy. I’ve written westerns and stuff for kids. I’ve even penned some erotica (much to my mother’s embarrassment), but what I’m writing now is possibly the first real monster story I’ve tried… well, ever.


I mention this only because for the longest time – in my head – I was a horror writer. I think somewhere in there I still am. I read horror and that’s what I wrote, or so I thought. But looking back over those hundreds of titles and those million words, it turns out that very little of it would actually fit in the boundaries of the genre. Maybe ten percent; fifteen at a push.

I’ve always wanted to write a pure, no-nonsense monster tale – one that doesn’t necessarily live in the real world, and doesn’t feel the need to apologise or explain itself either. Sometimes horror just is and creatures just are.

This may just be my first time.

Mum, Do Not Read This Post…

I mean it

Is she gone? Ok…

I have long considered myself A Writer – in the broader sense of the phrase – whether I get paid for it or not. The money that occasionally comes with it (while nice) is immaterial to how I view myself. After all, why should the level of remuneration determine who or what I am? I don’t want to be a part of a society where we are all just the sum-total of how big our wallets are. Is that really how I am supposed to measure my self-worth? Writing is what I do. It’s what I have always done, and I will continue to do it for as long as I’m here. Period. Pay me lots or pay me nothing – it doesn’t matter to me; I’m a writer either way…

…But over the last couple of years, the writing has nearly killed me. That’s not a figure of speech or an exaggeration; nor is this, as the stand-ups would say, a ‘bit’. I was close to no longer being alive, and – although there were several contributory factors (both emotional and physical) – in my head, the writing has been the root cause of everything, and it almost pushed me over the edge without the proverbial parachute.

Very often my words will reflect, to some degree, what’s going on beyond the two-dimensional world of the keyboard, and as such you will find most of the key moments in my life have been marked, referenced, and represented in my fiction at some point and in some way. But as cathartic and liberating as that can be, the writing is predisposed to darkness, so it means I’m invariably taken to some murky places.

I have been depressed. Most of the people around me would probably argue my ability to perform such a self-diagnosis, but that doesn’t matter. I was. Sometimes you don’t need a degree or a comfortable couch to see depression in the mirror; in the same way that if there’s a bone sticking out of your knee, you know (at the very least) that you’ve broken your leg. I just saved everyone a little bit of time. I’m not saying it lightly, nor am I trying to court sympathy, but it is true. Perhaps I still am depressed: I don’t really know for sure. What I do know is that I’m coping better with the demons inside my head today than I was then.

I read an article a while ago that suggested creative people (and, for the sake of argument I’ll go ahead and include myself in there) are more susceptible to depression than people in any other walk of life. Even dentists. But don’t take my word for it: Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, and Mark Twain are just a handful of the famous authors who have suffered. It’s something to do with the way we are designed – the way we are programmed to think. We’re just different. We have hidden depths, and sometimes a mind can lose its way down there. I know that is certainly true of me and mine.

Well, I’ve been here, alone in this metaphoric room, for a long time. There is little light, and I have no key for the door. There have been long periods when I didn’t think I would make it back out – and perhaps more importantly, moments when I didn’t care if I did. I think it’s difficult for ‘non-creatives’ (to coin a phrase) to empathise, and that’s not intended to sound as pretentious as it possibly does. I’m merely talking from experience, and the people I have surrounded myself with over the years.

Why don’t I just give it up then?

Well, you see, the thing about the writing is – I am not really in control of it. I never have been. Now of course, the negative suggestion within that admission is that the writing is something I do not wish to do, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have always wanted to write, and I am glad that I can do so to a (seemingly) reasonably high standard, but it is an addiction of sorts. I cannot not do it. It’s my drug of choice. Writers will often say similar things in an attempt to romanticise their craft, or to create an enigma, but I’d like to present it more as… why.

For the majority of the time I write whatever needs to be written. Sometimes other parts of my life are temporarily knocked off balance by this. I forget things. I zone out of conversations and into whatever world I’m creating for my characters. I can be short-tempered and (even by own standards) overly sarcastic. I occasionally don’t see the bigger picture, or what’s going on around me in the ‘real world’, if I’m focused on the detail of a story. Usually the upset is temporary, but infrequently the collateral damage leaves scars, and sometimes those scars don’t heal all that well. In the past, I have always scored these off as necessary evils, but in my darker moments I often question the validity of it all, and the impact my passion has had on those around me.

So in short, the writing has simultaneously enhanced my life, and very nearly destroyed it. I don’t know where I’d be without it, but I certainly don’t think I’d be… me. It is a fundamental part of who I am. It has come to define me, and – for better or worse – I have to accept that.