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.

12 Daily Habits of High-Achieving Writers

2. Participating in creative activities outside of writing that keep your brain engaged and your heart happy.

12 Daily Habits of High-Achieving Writers

Hello,

Above is another useful post from Novelty Revisions (www.megdowell.com). It details a number of ways you can help yourself and your writing as well as things to consider along the way.

Click the blue link above for the full post.

I hope you find this useful and are having a good day.

12 Simple and Effective Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills Over Time

6. Keep a journal — and keep it casual.

12 Simple and Effective Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills Over Time

Hello,

The post above is from a wonderful blog I’ve been following for a while now and gained a lot of inspiration from, http://www.megdowell.com ‘Novelty Revisions’. Click the blue link above for the full post.

In a number of ways, 12 in fact, this post shows how taking a long term approach can pay dividends for your writing.

I’ve found taking my time has helped massively when it comes to my writing. It may seem obvious but I can write and improve and write some more at my own pace. Also, it stops me from worrying about other authors who have accomplished more in the same time I’ve been writing. Its my writing journey, nobody else’s.

Hope you enjoy it.

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.

The Hunt: Part 3.

https://johnrsermon.com/2020/01/27/the-hunt-part-1/

https://johnrsermon.com/2020/01/30/the-hunt-part-2/

The hunters scaled the car wall and onto the road. Their target moved at high speed down the middle as cars calmly drove to the sides. Sam and John smiled as they received cheers from the crowd. The lizard screeched back at them before jumping down from the road and into trees nearby losing the helicopters in the process. The hunters warned off the people with their cameras on the ground from following them as they kept chase.

“You talk to me about putting the public in danger? Oh, my days! Your aim is all over the place, and you fire bullets like they’re going out of fashion.” Said Sam.

“I’m firing the bullets to keep the target in my sights. It keeps feigning to go up a tree, and I keep stopping it. Unlike you and your archaic bow and arrow. Your arrows aren’t even sticking into the trees.” Replied John. Sam elbow barged John out of the way and smiled as he fell to the ground. John glared at Sam as he ran off. The lizard had now climbed a nearby tree and was moving quickly between the branches to stop Sam from getting a clear shot. Sam withdrew an arrow, but before he was able to fire, John speared him in the back with his shoulder and knocked the arrow out of his hand. Sam rose quickly and flew at John with carefully placed punches and kicks, which John was able to parry, but when he tried to retaliate each attack did not land and was pushed away. Each hunter was equal to the other, and as they fought, the lizard slowed down and stopped still in his tree and watched for a while. It slowly descended and continued to watch from the forest floor with its head twitching in different directions before stopping still again and calmly watching the fighting hunters.

“You really are predictable.” Said John as he kicked at Sam’s head only to miss as Sam spun on the ground and tried to land his kick, which John swiped away with a stiff forearm.

“How can you say that? The same person trained us. That makes no sense.” Sam said as he pushed John away and jumped into the air to try and land a punch from above. He missed as John took two steps backwards. “You are basically a blonde version of me.”

“You wish. You’re a brunette version of me.” John said. “And I didn’t say anything.”

“Don’t you lie to me.” Sam said.

“He’s not lying.” Said a smooth voice from next to them. They stopped fighting and watched open-mouthed as the lizard morphed into a twelve-foot-tall man-lizard and stood on its back legs.

“Did you know they could do that?” Said Sam.

“No. Not at all.” Said John.

The man-lizard grabbed both men by the back of their heads and smashed them together. He recoiled and squinted as the crunching sound filled the trees and scattered some nearby birds. He then grabbed Sam’s hands and closed his eyes. Two huge black and green limbs changed into human arms and hands matching Sam’s. He carefully grabbed Sam’s bow and an arrow and fired one through John’s eye. He then took John’s hands and waited for the change to happen again. Once complete, he grabbed one of John’s guns and shot Sam through an eye. He placed the relevant weapons in Sam and John’s hands before looking carefully in John’s bag. The man-lizard found John’s spare bullets before searching Sam and locating all of his remaining arrows.

“Thanks for the chase and the fun, gentleman. And for the ammunition.” He said nodding in appreciation to the prizes he had just collected. With both eyes closed, he changed back into a lizard and disappeared into the night.

The Hunt: Part 2.

https://johnrsermon.com/2020/01/27/the-hunt-part-1/

The lizard’s arms and legs flailed up and down as it struggled to run away, knocking people into the road and to the ground as it tried to flee. Cars screeched around it and ploughed into signposts and buildings and people. John bounded over the vehicles and quickly helped as many people as he could. He bounced across the vehicle roofs with some people cheering him on as he did so. John stopped for a moment and removed and launched a dagger. He punched the air and gestured to the growing crowd as the blade grazed the side and split some of the scaly skin from the lizard’s tail. The lizard threw up its head and howled as it kept moving.

“Stop showing off. It’s making its way to the tunnel. You know it can escape to the sewers that way, right?” Said Sam as he finished moving down the building and jumped onto the pavement.

“Really? I did not know that. Thank you so much, big Sam, for pointing out the most obvious thing known to any hunter worth anything at all.” John said as he continued and jumped on top of a recently crashed car. The lizard moved fast now, hitting its stride between people and vehicles and towards the tunnel.

Both hunters pushed their way through the panicked or mesmerised crowd and made sure to thank those who actively moved out of their way. The helicopters above followed them with spotlights. Cameras big and small followed them on the ground. Some more heroic passers-by tried to slow their target down but were dealt with efficiently by a powerful lizard limb. The tunnel approached, and Sam stopped on top of a post box. John looked back and groaned through his teeth. Sam took off his coat and aimed his arrow carefully.

A Land Rover coming through the tunnel suddenly started to swerve as the driver let the fear overcome him as the giant lizard hissed closer. Sam aimed and fired an arrow into one of the car wheels that burst and the car jolted and flipped over in front of the tunnel entrance. The crash caused several other vehicles to crash, and in no time, they began to pile up and block the tunnel.

“Dam, you Sam. Don’t put the public in danger like that.” Said John as he watched the lizard scale the cars and scurry up and onto the road running over the top of the tunnel.

“It stopped the demon going through the tunnel did it not?” Sam shouted back. He put his bow away and grabbed his coat before joining John again on the chase.

The hunters scaled the car wall and onto the road. Their target moved at high speed down the middle as cars calmly drove to the sides. Sam and John smiled as they received cheers from the crowd. The lizard screeched back at them before jumping down from the road and into trees nearby losing the helicopters in the process. The hunters warned off the people with their cameras on the ground from following them as they kept chase.

The Hunt: Part 1.

The monster slithered up the side of the building. One hunter climbed after, and another pursued on the ground. As it moved swiftly between the windows and ledges, the grounded hunter fired his gun, shattering concrete and glass around the target. The climbing hunter stopped and fired arrows from a balcony but did no better and shook his head as the monster disappeared onto the top of the roof.

“Watch your aim, Sam. Stick to the roof and push it towards me. I’m going to try and gain some distance on the target from the ground and catch it as it comes down. Keep it in your sights.” Shouted the grounded hunter.

“Oh, well done. Tell me to run across the roofs instead of on the ground. The harder option and one better for you, John, so you get all the attention. As usual. And keep it in my sights? Such a hard task to do, given that the target is twelve feet long and half that wide.” Bellowed Sam as he planted his feet on the roof and caught sight of the lizard. He quickly fired an arrow, which shaved the side of its head. The lizard stopped on the edge of the rooftop and hissed down at the ground below. Its head bent right around, and it roared at the hunter before leaping across to the next building and landing awkwardly.

“Wind your neck in, Sam. You know I’m not much of a jumper. You excel at such things. We need to catch him.”

“Him? IT more like. And wind my…wind your neck in Johnny boy. And get rid of that smegging bag. It only slows you down.”

“I’ll get you for that Sam. Or should I say, Samwise.” John shouted as he disappeared from Sam’s view. Sam gritted his teeth, and one hand moved naturally onto his stomach. When he realised, he removed it and extended his spear. After five significant steps, he vaulted across to continue the pursuit.

The wind began to make his eyes water as Sam moved between the various obstacles on top of the building. A head followed by a long, greenish-black tail whipped up and down not far in front of him. The lizard slipped and favoured his back-right leg, and Sam saw his chance. He vaulted forward and as he landed the tail of the beast flew across his face, narrowly missing his nose but catching his spear and snapping it in half. Sam was now within a few feet and leapt to grab hold of the creature’s tail, which whip-like smacked him on the head. The lizard spun around and head-butted him in the chest, sending Sam thudding down onto his back. The lizard hesitated for a moment before moving towards the edge of the roof. Sam dragged himself across and watched as it scurried down the side of the building and weaved between ledges and windows. Debris started to fly in all directions and began to rain down onto the people below who rapidly started to scream and run. He glanced to the side to see John running to keep the chase alive.