Creative Spark during Lockdown.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I can improve my writing. The lockdown has provided me with plenty of time to not write, but when I have found the time it has been fruitful but not as productive as I would have thought. I started thinking of how I could improve my situation, but I wasn’t sure how and hoped for something to spark my interest. Some kind of inspiration to jump out and slap me in the face. Well, maybe not that because that would hurt but perhaps a nudge or tap on the shoulder. Nothing was happening until I received an email from ‘Writers Online’ (https://www.writers-online.co.uk/writing-courses) which is linked to my ‘Writing Magazine’ subscription. They advertised several courses in different areas, publishing, novel writing, selling your work, but one caught my eye.

Short Story Writing Course.

Now, I’ve been writing short stories for years and reading all kinds of different articles and blog posts on the subject but never took the time to learn the basics. This ever so slightly annoyed me but I only have myself to blame. I consider myself a writer but, after starting this course, a writer that still has a lot to learn.

The course is broken up into 8 units and an assignment that links to each one. You are assigned a tutor to guide you along the way based on your level of experience and writing interests. Mine has provided some valuable feedback on the stories I have written for the first 2 assignments. These were to write a story dealing with conflict (Love conquers All or Man or Woman versus loneliness) and to write a story about an out of work character searching for employment. Each required me to use skills learnt from the accompanying unit. I have learned so much already including how vital a theme/message is to my stories and how-to layout out a short story beginning, middle, and end. Both of these points are things I have considered previously but not put nearly as much thought into as I believed. Though annoying, I am not dwelling on it (well, maybe a little) and aim to improve from here and most likely make more significant strides than I have before.

When I first read about a message driving my story, I immediately thought back to a short story I had completed 6 months ago. Although I like it, it has no theme. It’s just…something that happened. When I thought about it, I didn’t really care about either of the main characters. After the first unit, First Principles of Writing a Short Story, I made plenty of notes about potential improvements. Mainly, what the theme will be and how the characters will develop along with their conflicts. I did all this after reading only the first few pages of the course.

It may seem obvious to learn the basics before tackling anything in life, but it is something I have overlooked. From here, things can only get better for me as a writer. Hopefully.

Have a good day, and thanks for reading!

Editing and The Info dump

Info Dump – A very large amount of information supplied all at once, especially as background information in a narrative.

Recently, I finished the First Draft of my latest story and found myself in a slight rut. Where do I go from here? After some soul-searching, I settled on my next project. I will go back to a previous First Draft of a different story, finished April 2018, and start a love/hate relationship with it through the art of editing. I think it’s been long enough, right? I have learned about editing in the years since then and actually find myself looking forward to this edit more than I thought. However, this quickly diminished when, as the edit had only just begun, I discovered that past-me liked to use a lot of information dumps. I seemed to be so quick to get my story on the page that I didn’t stop to think at what point that should happen.

The 2018 First Draft is a story about Searchers who hunt down and kill or ‘Search’ for demons around the North of England. There are Searchers all over the country and indeed the World but my story centres around Manchester City Centre and Salford primarily. The main focus is our hero, Aaron Watch, and his struggles to do his job and deal with other issues he would love to ignore. Issues around such things as his family, his love life, his fellow Searchers and the fate of life on planet Earth. Just a few things, not everything. He’s not greedy, you know.

I realised early on that past-me was eager to get out any information to help these elements move along. He did not stop to take a breath. As I’ve been editing, I find myself shifting in my chair as another info-dump cascades all over the page. Thankfully, I’ve just been given a new office chair to work from home, so this shifting is slightly more comfortable than it has been.

In some cases, I have taken the information away and put it somewhere else for safekeeping. In other cases, I’ve just deleted it and never looked back. This initially made me pause and wonder if I was too hard on past-me. Still, soon I started to like the deleting and remembered that I can’t be too precious when I’m editing. This is a first draft after all. I know from past edits that I probably need to be firmer in my editing. That is easier said than done, given that this is my creation. I can’t be mean to it. Can I?

It is, however, a nice way to find out how I’ve changed and grown as a writer. If I was doing the same things past-me did now, I would worry. Although I would think it’s a good idea so I would not worry. Would I be happy with all the info dumps? As I write this, I shift again in my chair.

With that said, the edit is going well so far. I’m only 38 pages into the 155-page novel, but I am getting into a rhythm so that must be a good thing. I also have to remind myself of what the story actually is. On plenty of occasions, I have no idea where I’m going. I rewrite something then realise I need it and have to put it back to make the whole thing keep moving along. I’ve stopped feeling so precious about my writing though, at the beginning I was reluctant to delete, but now I just do it and move on.

Thank you for your time, and I hope you are well. If you’re editing, all the best. It’ll be worth it in the end.

Realisation and Reward.

Hello,

Hope you are well.

Have you ever found yourself not enjoying the writing process? 

Throughout my time as a writer I have wrestled with this particular question and it has made me doubt if I should be a writer at all. I’ve tried to keep the above pushed to the back of my mind, but recently, I’ve come to terms with it.

I enjoy all the other parts of the writing and creation process. Well, those I’ve done so far (I’m unpublished). But sometimes when I sit down to continue with my WIP, I find it hard and not very enjoyable. Although, sometimes I’ll be writing an action scene or a tension-filled scene and rarely look up from the keyboard and I REALLY enjoy writing these types of scenes. In general, however, a more significant part of me just wants the story to be finished so I can edit it within an inch of its life and shape it into my final vision. 

What sparked this particular realisation was an article I recently read by Lorraine Mace (https://www.lorrainemace.com/) published in the June Addition of Writing Magazine. Entitled ‘Reluctant Writers Roundup’, she discusses how she and some of her writing friends sometimes don’t actually like the writing process. They have numerous notebooks and paper lying around with unfinished WIP’s contained within them and in one case, a novel that had been left unfinished on an author’s laptop for fifteen years! That, actually, is not far from the age of some of my unfinished work. I think I’ve got a story that is around ten years old that is incomplete. I need to rewrite the whole thing as my original story went off on a ramble down a country lane somewhere. It turned into one huge note taking and time-consuming exercise. No wonder I don’t want to go back to it.

This all made me remember those times I have sat down to write and felt like I was swimming in cement or that my brain just could not be bothered to help me out for whatever reason. I always managed to complete at least half a page in those times and what helped me was a reward at the end. This has helped me over the years to finish numerous stories. By allowing myself a small reward at the end, may it be playing on my favourite game for a short (to long) time or having a few biscuits or reading a few pages of my current book, it gives me that extra push to get things done. I finished a story last week (Awesome! Get In!) using this simple routine. I’ve carried on this routine through to other aspects of my writing journey (blogging mostly), so fingers crossed I can keep moving forward. 

Hope you have a good day! 

What’s in a dream?

Hello, 

I hope you are well. 

I almost started this post with, ‘I had a dream’, but I won’t. Even though I kind of just did. 

Anyway, my current WIP revolves around an office worker, Michael, who is plagued/haunted/blessed (not sure which one it is yet) by his dreams. These dreams involve two entities that seem to be trying to make him realise something and/or guide him through his dream. What and Why, he doesn’t know, but as they begin to inhabit more and more of his dreams and impact his working and personal life, he has to unravel the mystery quickly before it threatens to consume his WHOLE existence. 

Well, that’s what I’ve got so far anyway. I’ve had the idea for about a year now. It is based around how dreams can impact our lives if we want them to. After all, we are in control of our dreams? Right?!

I don’t usually dwell on my dreams. It’s only every so often I’ll dream about an uncomfortable situation or distant friend that they sometimes make me think more about it and its source. This always ends up with me shrugging my shoulders and carrying on as they are not that frequent at all. Although, I do have a recurring type of dream. One where I’m late for work. I hate being late. I used to be okay with it. Too laid back, really. But over the last few years, I’ve become more time conscious, and I’m always SO relieved when I wake up, it’s the middle of the night, and I can have more control if I’m late or not. 

This all leads to a dream I had a few months ago, which has helped me much with my current WIP. The dream was about being late for work. I woke myself up from it but found myself in another dream with me being late for work again. Then, I woke myself up from THAT dream to find I was in another dream. This one had nothing to with lateness and made no sense (something about a swimming pool?) before I finally woke up in the real world. As you can imagine, my idea factory went into overdrive. 

What would happen if I kept waking up in different dream levels and never in the real world? 

My WIP has only really come into focus after having that dream which filled a gap in my story idea I didn’t know was there! That’s a decent dream. Wouldn’t you agree? 

So, have you ever had any recurring dreams or woke up to find yourself in another dream?

Stay safe and all the best with your WIP or idea for one. 

My first Monster Story and the joys of the First Draft.

“Not what I thought it would be. Must try harder. But I am happy with it. I’m always happy when I’ve finished a story.”

The above is my own critique of my first attempt at writing a monster story. Back on November 5th 2019 (https://johnrsermon.com/2019/11/05/some-kind-of-monster-this-monster-lives/), I blogged regarding how I was starting my story about a rampaging monster and a curious man looking to find out more about it. As the story progressed and ultimately finished, the monster itself was not harming anyone but trying to better those who it felt were doing the most harm amongst the human race (Abusive boyfriends, Fraudsters, etc.) There was one monster for each country on Earth and each went about trying to change the world by violence against material things only and making what it has deemed to be the eviler members of the human race face up to what they have done and change. The bigger the monster, the more hate in that country. The monster disappears once the evil is removed or at least made to retreat.

Now, this wasn’t my original plan for the story. I decided to start and see where the story would take me (#pantser #pansterforever #pantserandproud) and although I do like my story and wonder what it could have been. With the monster movies I’ve been influenced by having a lot of destruction and I do really like it when monsters fight monsters. Humans killing giants’ monsters seems a bit weird to me. But behemoths raging at each other is always something I sit up straight to watch on the big screen. And sit up straight to read about, really. Obviously, the remaining who knows how many re-drafts of the story can address this, but I can already see that it will be way different than my first draft.

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re writing a story and when you have finished, you immediately know that the first draft and the last will be many MANY miles apart? And possibly not even close to being related?

That’s how I’m feeling about my monster story. Sure, I am quite happy with it, but that’s what first drafts are for. I’m currently in the process of planning how I change things but keep the same themes. The monster was born from the negativity in the world. I think the other characters around the beast, the two people looking for more through curiosity and the women on a wild ride to try and kill the monster, will need to be fleshed out a bit. I feel like all I’ve done with the first draft is to draw an outline for them. The more drafts I do, the more detailed they will get. Hopefully. But, as I say, that’s what first are for. And I think I love them for it.

Hope you have a good day.