A late Christmas post…

I learned to write with a fountain pen. Well, that’s not entirely true; I taught myself to write shortly after I taught myself to read, when I was very small but already as stubborn as I was going to get, and desperate for a never-ending stream of stories. But when I finished nursery school, I was given a Waterman fountain pen with pineapples all over it, and from that moment onward I was to write with a fountain pen.

I haven’t owned one for a very long time. I like medium-sized nibs, because they make the pen glide and I like the wider lines. I used ballpoints, because they were cheap and I was poor. And most of my writing never saw much hand-written work; I just typed it all straight into my computer.

But I missed it. And I added a fountain pen to my Amazon wishlist, and hoped someone would buy it for me this Christmas.

My husband, in his ever-lasting wisdom, couldn’t find the link to my wishlist. He did ask a mutual friend, but basically ended up winging it. He gave me a Walking Dead board game – which I can heartily recommend and which our zombie-hating friend (I know, isn’t it weird that I even let these people into my house?!) had to admit was really fun – and a Haynes manual for the Millennium Falcon, a calligraphy set and some stocking-stuffers…

And a Parker fountain pen with a medium nib.

“It’s just that writing is what you love, and what you want to do with your life,” he said.

I’ve begun writing my first drafts in fountain pen. And you know what? It’s making a huge difference. It’s bringing me closer to the story, and because I’m writing a lot more slowly it’s forcing me to slow down and consider what I’m writing while I’m writing it (which I usually don’t do during a first draft).

But most of all… Most of all, it’s reminding me that Christmas isn’t about the monetary value of what you give and receive, but about showing someone you love that you know a way to make them that little bit happier.

I hope all of your Christmases (all 2 of you, I’m talking to you!) were amazing, too.

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From ‘Once Upon a Time’ to ‘Happily Ever After.’

One of the hardest things for me to get used to, as a writer, was my process. I had this idea – and I’ve seen it reflected in a huge number of writers and aspiring writers – that you write one single draft and then that’s perfect as it stands.

Of course, I read books about writing or articles on perfecting style, and they all mentioned how instrumental it was to write multiple drafts and edit scrupulously, but I had this complete and utter, “That doesn’t apply to me, because I’m pretty damned special,” attitude.

Then I decided to start writing more seriously – to turn it into something I worked hard at, rather than something I shook out of my sleeve every now and again. And wouldn’t you believe it? It made a huge difference.

I made my husband read a first draft, once. Having written it, I was full of new-baby smugness. “Behold, for I have made it, and it shall be great!” I cried as he bent toward the laptop and peered at the letters I had artfully (or so I thought) arranged.

My husband, you should know, is honest to a fault, sometimes. It makes for an intriguing combination with the fact that he’s also a complete and utter troll, but that aside, for a moment… I realised he wasn’t too impressed, and reminded him that I wanted his honest opinion.

He looked at me, sombre. “I hate it, babes,” he said. And he began to list the reasons why.

[I feel that I must stop here to explain that this is precisely why I asked him for his input. I really did want honest feedback, and I wanted to know what he thought, rather than what I wanted him to think. If, however, you feel this may enrage the crap out of you – pick someone else, yeah?]

I had to wait a little while. That “I made something, therefore it is GRAND” feeling had been wounded, and my first internal response was a senseless and protective anger. I let that die down – it took about ten minutes – and then began to think about the things he’d said. And damn the luck – it all made sense.

He loved the story, he said, but he hated the way it was told. A bunch of it had (unsurprisingly, to anyone who knows me even a little) descended into needless profanity. There were a number of other issues with it, which I can’t remember but which were nevertheless embarrassingly real.

I re-wrote the story. And then I edited it. And suddenly I realised my writing was a million times better when I put in the work. And that having the best finished product possible is a lot more important than being able to do it in a single draft.

Nowadays, I write anywhere between two and four drafts – completely, from scratch, every time. And then I edit. And I edit some more. And I edit some more. It takes a lot longer, and sometimes I just get sick of the story I’m working on. But when I’m done with something, I’m done.

I guess writing is like anything else – you’re never done growing, and you’re never done learning. But if I could give every writer, aspiring or not so much, a single piece of advice, it would be to develop a process that puts in the work and reaps the rewards of that work.

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Ah! Eek!

Since Richard Salter linked here from my interview with James Moran, I guess I’d better have some actual content. Oops!

So sorry to those who clicked and caught me here in a blog’s version of a state of undress – I have a lot on my plate, right now, and like so many others I sacrifice my blog first and foremost in the struggle for time-in-which-to-do-things. I’m terribly ashamed of myself, and you can expect a post with 100 iterations of the sentence, “I’VE BEEN A VERY NAUGHTY GIRL,” sometime in the future (at a handily unspecified time that will forever remain there).

So, here are the details, for now. A sort of blogospherical CV, if you will.

I write sci-fi, horror and anything in between. Once upon a not-so-long-ago, a man called Richard Salter added me, on Facebook. I saw that we shared a writer and a publisher in our friends lists and confirmed the add, figuring one can never have too many industry contacts… Right?

And then Richard changed my career. Ever so slightly. First by posting calls for writers to work with him on World’s Collider, a shared-world sci-fi anthology set in the near future and soon to become alt-history (or so we who know what happens hope most fervently!), then by taking a gamble and welcoming me aboard despite my rather astonishing ability to render a summary of any story as boring and lifeless as a clump of forgotten hair in the shower drain.

Oh, and he’s responsible for my following Open Casket Press who have published a short story I had lying around in their Horror Carnival anthology (American link here).

And now, since Richard was short on time, I volunteered to do some interviewing on his behalf for the series of World’s Collider interviews.

Life is sweet, you guys.

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I’ve deleted all my old posts – published and in various stages of construction. I didn’t like where it was going; everything was generalised and nothing was personal. No more.

I’m not going to promise that every post, from here on in, is going to belong to a single genre or deal with a single topic. But I’m going to start writing blog posts the way I want to, rather than the way I think they should be written, or will be expected to be.

I’ve got a lot of stuff to tell you guys – whether you’re reading, or not.

My first post is coming soon. We’ll get stuck into my journey to turning a career of article-writing into something more creative and more focussed on what I want to write (although, as I’m sure I’ll mention later, to some degree you’re always making concessions). It might be unbelievably boring. But that’s okay, because this blog has to be here for me, before it can mean anything to you.


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