The evolution of machines

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Some of my most frank and brutal comments have hit people like a curve ball from left field in the past. Some of my literary plot devices have been hailed by readers as invisible walls they simply didn’t see in front of them when they hit, even though I’d built the walls with words before their very eyes. By ever more trusted accounts, I am quite the accomplished writer, with my various successes in publication and paid work standing as proof. This is down to focussing on what is my full-time job, now that I am free of all but welcome distractions.

The writer is always looking for different ideas; unusual takes on things; sometimes experimenting with different kinds of writing: challenges. As is obvious to my – really quite substantial – readership, my writing tends towards horror and science fiction. I have written fantasy and fanciful stories though and resist being pigeon-holed, so like most of my contemporaries, I am constantly looking for new ideas. I trained with The Writers’ Bureau and mentored for the RSA before settling my scores with life and deciding that it was the writer’s life for me.

Ideas for writing come from the very thing which writing encourages: reading. As a writer, I read a lot: books, magazines, newspapers; anything which my eyes and other senses can absorb. A poster, an advertising slogan, a news item, a song, a name and so much else can plant a seed in the writer’s mind. Then we cede. Many ideas become lost tales, all stored away in a place of forgotten things. Some germinate and produce drafts of short stories or the bases for books. Us writers juggle several projects simultaneously. Some initial drafts become second, third and fourth drafts; some go further. Fewer still of those become final and submitted for publication. The rest are in the writer’s slush pile, a fairly tall example of which sits on my writing desk. Some will be revisited; others will go into the forgotten place. With so many works in progress on my desk, it’s no wonder I’m able to compare myself to my literary influence, Paul Auster: the amount of work I have means that I am satisfied if I produce one page of finished prose at the end of a working day. I have many propositions for stories, some fantastical but anything is possible in fiction, in the right hands.

My current workload is a load of short stories I’m writing and re-drafting for the webzine to which I’m a regular contributor, a couple of articles for a newspaper and my second novel. The latter is going very well. After much abandonment and re-adoption of the larger project, I have lately been able to focus myself enough to at least build a chapter plan and timeline. Although I wrote The Paradoxicon in the space of around six weeks, now that I have Bloodstained Knaves better planned, I know that it will be a much longer story, given what it needs to encompass: it is potentially an in-depth study of post-apocalyptic life in a city which is both fascist and anarchic. It’s a huge undertaking compared to my first book, which was semi-autobiographical but I’ve researched the subject matter and I know I can pull it off. The remaining question with those in my inner circle who I share ideas with is, how did this society come to be? Much research into theoretical post Holocene scenarios permitted me to complete the synopsis of what should be a good read.

The immediate project though is a short story for eventual publication in print: not pulp fiction to fill space but a potential work of great merit. By my own admission, I churn out material which is no more deserving of where it ends up but the piece I’m working on at the moment will stand alongside my short story, COGS as one of my best. The latest one is as far detracted from that other controversial story as is almost possible for it to be, this new one being a somewhat whimsical tale. But it’s based on one of those ideas which sometimes occur to writers when they read something and get hit by a curve ball from left field: the article was about oil drilling platforms.

I had a fairly lengthy discussion with one of my editors today, who noted that this blog has become much more of an interesting read now that it’s not simply about me: editors can be the harshest – but embraced – critics. She’s right and now that most other concerns have been sloughed, I’m still writing about me but in a more insightful way. Now that I’m able to concentrate on writing, I’m better placed to provide insight into the practice. Hopefully that’s what I’m doing with The Writer’s Life section of this new-look blog.

And I’m pretty confident of pulling off the current proposition: that of an oil rig which falls in love.

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