New year, new start.

I’m not doing a conscious new year resolution this year. I’ve never done one anyway, but next year is a good year to continue this vow. Why don’t I take part in the culture of promising to do something that you know by the 4th January you’ll no longer have any intention in doing?

Ahem. I guess that is a pretty good clue as to my feelings towards it. I find new year’s resolution to be like making plans when you’re absolutely drunk. Your intentions are good, and you’ll never be so sure that you’ll success in your endeavours as in that precise moment. But it’s a pretty slim bet that the grand scheme you come up with while pissed, will actually come to fruitation. And it’s a pretty slim bet that you’ll manage to change something in your behaviour just because the numbers you put after the date are going to change.

But I like the new start idea. And with that in mind, I’ve made a new start with my novel. Literally. I’ve rewritten the entire beginning. And I’ve looked on it with a fresh pair of eyes too. It’s okay to get rid of things because they aren’t working. That’s the beauty of the new start. The reason I was having so much issue with it, that everything about it was confusing me so much, was because so much was going on in it. There were characters and potential characters and characters who would be in the quest, and characters coming to battle and,- no. My original plan was to have all of the Roman gods coming to earth to battle for control of it, but that’s going to change. Having a whole human cast and a whole god cast was going to mean a lot of hard work, and how I was going to achieve it without having a million and one characters and how I was actually going to get to that point wasn’t making sense in my head.

So you know what? I scraped it, and I’ve never felt so confident about writing my novel. Now there’s one god coming to earth, and I know exactly where steampunk is, and exactly where the science fiction and fantasy is, and what they need to find on the quest, and who ‘they,’ are going to be. The antagonist now has a reason for actually being an antagonist, and not just being a dick for the sake of being able to laugh sinisterly on occasion. Feel free to read my ‘Carpe Mortem,’ page for the revised description.

And now, I should be off writing my novel. But it’s New Year’s Eve tomorrow, so that new start can wait 48 hours, right? Instead I’m going to plan things out in my head while watching Arrested Development, and so should you be.

Not planning things out, I mean you can if you want, but Arrested Development is an awesome show and you all should be watching it right now.

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Christmas time!

Hey, since it’s Christmas, there’s going to be a short blogging break while I, y’know, get drunk and open presents and eat lots. Like you should be doing. So, get on with it!

I’ll also need to get my pedal to the motor with work post Christmas, so hopefully my next blog post will be able to talk about the wonderful progress I’ve made with my novel. I can always hope after all, and maybe I’ll get a Christmas miracle.

Have a good festive period however you choose to celebrate it. Catch you soon, guys.

Photoshop is not my friend.

Photoshop is not my friend. It’s not the relative I don’t get on with but am still polite to for Christmas. It’s not even my enemy. Photoshop is the person who is part of your friendship group who you are forced to get along with even though the mere sight of them makes your heart sink Every time they talk your teeth involuntarily grind. You want to talk over them. When everyone talks about how much they like it and how easy they are to get along with, you snort and start heavily drinking to cover up your dislike.

These are my feelings about Photoshop. As part of my creative writing degree, I have to work with it in order to design my book cover for my writing project,’ Carpe Mortem.’ It’s not the first time I’ve tried working with this software. Throughout my GCSE media studies, Photoshop kept rearing its ugly head, trying to make me give it a go. While I finally bit, it unleashed me into a world with layers, and tools and commands and MAC computers and as my mind boggled at all this new information, it came to a very definite conclusion.

I can’t use Photoshop.

I don’t have any artistic ability. I can’t draw. I can’t use graphics. I am not creative in this way at all. Even my doodles in the margin of my notepads look like they were done by three year olds. I have best friends who can do all kinds of wonderful things, and are perfectly placed by their Illustration or Animation degrees. Me? I have trouble drawing a cat with all four legs and the proportions just right.  This just isn’t going to work. I took extra lessons back in GCSE land and managed to create something pass-worthy, then decided to forget about Photoshop for the rest of my days. The plan went pretty well, until the beginning of my third year when we were told we were to ‘design book covers on photoshop.’

My heart did more than sink, it collapsed into the floorboards and refused to come out unless it was given a greasy breakfast. But I decided I wasn’t going to let my nemesis beat me, not at this hurdle. I was going to master Photoshop. I was going to become a design whizz!

Spoiler alert. I didn’t master Photoshop.

I took all the classes. I listened to all the lectures, completed all of the tuition tasks. I even looked up extra demonstrations on the internet. But when I tried setting out to my own book cover, it didn’t come as easy as the lecturer had made it look a couple of days earlier. I faltered. I looked up more ‘how-to,’ things on Google. I begged for help from all of my artistic friends. They told me all the codes and ways to make Photoshop do things. I made three book covers I was happy with.

I have a new relationship with Photoshop now. A mild acceptance. And a strong belief that when I have to make my book cover for real? I’ll beg, bribe or blackmail a friend with skills to do it for me. I’m sorry Photoshop, it’s not all your fault. But as Avril Lavigne would say, why do you have to make things so complicated?

Do you take thee, for writer or poorer?

Do you take thee, for writer or poorer?

People say don’t date a writer. We’re seen by the rest of mass society as  nocturnal moles sitting by our computers at all hours of the day, only able to see the worlds being created in the screen, reflected in our massive rimmed glasses. If we get cornered to step into the real world and forced to be ‘social,’ for a change we sit twitching in the corner before attacking the gin and pinning some poor soul down to an in-depth conversation on one of their characters. Because we think everyone cares about our non-existent entities as much as everyone else does, you know. *

So what happens when you’re a writer, and you end up dating, well, a writer? You might laugh, scoff, and say pointedly ‘what’s the odds of that happening?’ Well, it happens. It’s happened to me. Me and my partner are both bookworms, video game addicts, harbours of Random Facts Nobody Needs to Know and Nobody Wants to Know, and writers. No, I really don’t know what the odds are, although the odds are probably lessened when you ended up on the same writing course.

We both work on the same genres novel-wise, but we have different styles. I genre-cross, adding steampunk to fantasy, with mutants and space ships and all things of things. He’s a traditional fantasy guy, although he’s got the gift of children writing too which I envy with a passion.  He also likes playwriting, which I’ve never been able to get my head around, although I enjoy writing scripts for television and film. Our writing clashes quite a bit. So do our styles. I like typing, he works by hand. So we’re not that similar when it comes to writing. C’est la vie. At least we both like bacon, things might be more challenging if that changed.

Some people might paint this idyllic image of you and your partner becoming some kind of supersonic writing pair, writing your novel epics in bed together all Lennon-esque. Maybe for some couples, you’re lucky enough to be like that. Me and my other half have tried several times to work together on projects. He likes to have a plan and structure and know where things are going, even if he doesn’t have a set guide chapter-by-chapter. I like flying by the seat of my pants and just having the vaguest of the vague idea what’s going to happen. Needless to say, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were just going to have to work solo for a while.

Just because you make a good couple, doesn’t mean you make good writing partners. To be fair, maybe we didn’t pursue it well enough. We weren’t the best of influences on each other, and after procrastinating, making tea, looking out of the window, discussing everything but our novel, petty squabbling and the like, it’s easy to come to the conclusion we’re just not a good team because we’re too similar. In every good writing partnership there needs to be someone who will give you the kick up the bum you need and to get you actually writing instead of bumming around. Neither of us are that person. That’s not to say we couldn’t come up with a story together. We spark off each other really well when it comes to making a plotline, and can come up with fantastic worlds just while cooking dinner together. Our processes are just different.

So, there’s the bad. But there’s also the good. Someone who will understand when you’re writing for hours at a time, someone who won’t try and drag you away from the laptop because they ‘never see you anymore’. Someone who will always be willing to read your half-written extracts that you’ve been working on all day but only changed one word. (think of your partner as a free beta reader. It’s not taking advantage when you offer them a cuppa in return.) And someone . You can bounce ideas off each other, talk things through with them when you’re getting a serious case of writer’s block, and sometimes be given a perspective you would have never considered before. Of course, you can get this from a non-writer. But the only person who can really get in the mindset of a writer, is another writer.

Plus, when you’re both sat writing in the same room, and you look over to see them all engrossed in their latest project, it’s a truly lovely moment. When your other half comes up to you, bright-eyed and enthusiastic in their latest project and pleading for you to read it and give you their opinion, you know exactly how they feel.  And it’s always useful when you’re stuck ranting in a party because your character won’t do what you want them to do, that there’s someone there to steal the gin for you and nod in all the right places.

Hiding your baby fiction, not your baby photos.

It can’t have just been me and my friends who did this. You’re young. You’re naive. You have a basic grasp of grammar and spelling, and maybe even a keyboard. The keyboard’s not important, except in many years later when you want to crush your forehead against it for considering such a idea.

You have an imagination, an idea that wants to be heard. You write a story. But here’s the clincher, you make your friends the main characters, names an’ all. Their own personalities, (or what you deem to be their personalities, which isn’t usually what they consider their personalities to be at all,) their own turn of phrase, hell even their choice of outfit reflects their real life. You ask them what their favourite weapon is, what type of fighter they want to be, what familiar they want by their side. You fix them up with their dream other half with cheek bones like sawdust and hair like a racoon’s nether regions. And then you unleash all kinds of hi-jinks as your friends demand to read it and usually complain at how much the character isn’t like them at all.  Sometimes you might be brave and finish the story. Most of the time though, you’ll reach the point where you’ll either realise the thinly veiled characters are a disaster area and stop writing, or more likely, you’ll just get bored, give up, move on.

It’s easy to cringe about it now. It’s enjoyable to relish the superiority you have now, to rejoice in how much of a better writer you are now, how much more talented you are, how you’d never fall down that slippery slope again. What a mistake, you snigger to yourself behind your adult coffee granules and copy of Pensions Weekly. But is it really altogether that awful a concept? Sure, it’s not usually the best piece of work you’ll produce in a lifetime. It’s a legal backwater of ‘if this was ever rewritten and you tried to publish it later, all your friends would probably still have grounds to sue you.’ It’s always a little cheesy and runs the risk of you pandering to your friends as they order you to put them in this situation or make them answer a problem in a certain way.

But think back. Was that one story not one of the most fun pieces of work you’ve ever written? I remember the first time (and as it turned out the last,) I wrote a story about my friends. The idea behind it was that anything and everything happened, and it certainly fulfilled that brief. The only time I’ve come as close to free-form writing since then was Script Frenzy and NaNoWriMo, and even then I had come too far into the lion’s den of grammar and punctuation and things having to actually make sense, the world having to have logistics, the plot having to be cohesive. When I was ten? None of that mattered. It was a whirlwind ride of riding-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writing, and it stretched my imagination to its limits and beyond. It was also one of the only times you begin writing, and immediately have an established audience desperate to read every word. Unless you’re writing a series of books which really take off, you almost never have that market as soon as you open a word document. Not only that, but there is an interactive element. Your friends may give you ideas you’ll never have even considered, and they’ll feel personally involved and responsible for the direction in which the story has gone. And yes, they’ll pipe up if they feel the characterisation is shoddy. It may just be because they don’t want themselves misrepresented, but it’s all valid criticism after all. Unless someone’s only commenting because they want themselves to be the super-duper Mary Sue, it’s going to expand a character in a way you originally would not have thought of.

Plenty of people claim to have based their characters on real people, after all. I can’t count the amount of university lectures I’ve received where someone has mentioned how ‘I’ve based so-and-so off my mother, my sister, my dog. They have the same personality trait as someone in real life, and I just disguised that a bit.’ And that’s perfectly okay, as long as the entire character isn’t just one of your bosom buddies completely slotted in there for comfort. Or your enemies, because there’s probably a lawsuit in there somewhere. So if the idea of real life influence isn’t the thing that’s being criticised, then what is? Why is ‘including your best mates in your first ever novel,’ really seen as such a terrible thing? Because it’s easy to look back and laugh, but if you can look back and go, ‘okay, it’s not great, but there might be something still in this that I can use for my writing today.’

My point? It’s a natural process, a form of real life fanfiction if you will. And it’s easy to scorn and snort with derision at how immature you were when you wrote it, how immature the whole idea is now, but . Take a look at Facebook recently, and the new trend for statuses. The ‘pick five of your friends, and label them according to a common theme. Who would be the dashing captain of a spaceship, the one who dies first in a zombie invasion?’ I know it’s not exactly novel writing, but it’s still creative nonetheless. And if after writing one of those statuses it sparks the imagination enough for someone to write a story out of it, then it’s no bad thing.

Sometimes it’s useful to look back at what you did before, so you can improve the right now. And you know what? It’s easy to forget, but it’s okay to write for fun sometimes. It doesn’t all have to be serious novel epics where every plot point is in the right place. Sometimes enjoying what you writing slips your mind, and gets taken over with the urge to be serious and proper and produce masterworks we can be proud of. But you can be proud of the fun little stories too. Have a go at just sitting down, and letting your imagination fully dictate what you write for a change, instead of the pressure to be perfect.