University and Starlings

It’s been 7 months since my last post and for that I am truly sorry. It’s been a very busy 7 months, I’ve moved house twice, started University and got a new job – not that any of that excuses it.

Now that the Spring term is well underway – in fact we’re heading towards Easter very quickly – I wanted to share what I’ve been up to at University. The first term was great: POETRY! I’ve been writing a lot of poetry over the last few years and so it made the transition from studying at home to studying at University that little bit easier to handle.

I’ve now got to grips with some really beautiful traditional forms of poetry; sestinas, villanelles, ghazals, ballads and sonnets. If you’re not sure what any of these are I would highly recommend looking them up as the poetry that is produced in these forms can be exquisite and moving.

Here is a sonnet I wrote as part of last term’s work.


I dreamt last night that my chest was rattling,

overcome with the pressure of a scream

I opened my mouth and out flew starlings.

The sunlight splintered off the darkened stream.

Slick like oil their feathers fell from the air

and covered my boots right up to my ankle

until every black body was left bare.

When I opened my eyes all was tranquil

and my bedroom was filled with a silence

made deeper by the memory of their cry.

They ripped from my throat with fearful violence

before the sky itself fell down and died.

Alone in the dawn of our wedding day

I observed my dread and sent it on its way.

It may not be to the standard of Shakespeare but I felt really involved when I wrote it, because of this I am proud of my little piece of writing. If it doesn’t engage a single other person, it at least engaged me when I wrote it.

Now I can’t wait for summer, partly as a break from University deadlines but mainly because my creative juices have been refreshed and I am itching to get back to my novel. I am waiting to give myself as much time as I can to work on my essays and critical work before I give six week, guilt free, to finally complete my first draft.

All the best, my fellow bloggers.


Finding my stride

Over the last three days I’ve managed to pen 3,000 words. For me this is an achievement as I’ve had some major ups and downs while writing my novel and a good day of writing a few weeks ago might be opening it up, reading a bit of it, doing a little editing and then giving up.

So, what changed? Firstly, I’ve had some very good news. I’ve my place at University has been confirmed. I’m very excited of course but oh boy am I relieved. I’d already handed in my notice at work!

After I got this news, I started looking at my novel again.

I’d like to share a few pointers that I’ve picked up from various blogs. There are some really good tips out there and not all of them are for everyone but for me, these worked.

Turn off the word count
As I’m sure we’ve all heard a million times before It’s quality not quantity that matters and to be honest I agree. I was brave and turned off my word count and I found I was pleasantly surprised at how much I’d achieved by the end of the day.

Shorter writing intervals
I limited myself to writing for an hour before taking a break. The breaks weren’t very long but they were enough to help refresh me. There have been a couple of times where I’ve come back and been a little bit lost but a quick re-read helped me on my way again.

It’s not something I’ve really done before. I had a rough outline of the plot and an strong idea of the place, time and history of my sci-fi story but that’s it before I launched myself at it. Before I started on the novel again I made sure to plan it out so I now have a storyboard that is at least 3 chapters ahead of me. I plan to keep it that way and move the storyboard along as I write.

Don’t stress the little things
It’s important to remember that writing is better than not writing. If you sit with a blank page for half an hour because you can’t find the right word to start with just put down anything – put down Woopywapper if it helps. Editing is a lengthy and agonising process so don’t try and do it until you have something on the page! Not only that but it really does help to force yourself to writing sometimes; inspiration isn’t a given thing, you have to find it.

I hope these tips are helpful to others. If you have anything that helps you please add them in the comments below!

Tenses, Narration and Narrative – Decisions I don’t want to make.

As the title of this post suggests I’m doing a little editing on my novel draft. Although I haven’t done that much as far as word count goes I’ve come up against some walls and I’m now forced to make firm decisions about the structure of my writing.

First of all, the tense I am using. Currently, I am using present tense and for various reasons I think this works well with the book so far. However, I’m worried about the strain this puts on the reader, particular as the pace of the book picks up. In the past tense I can allow some movement in time which makes backstory and context much easier to slip into the main plotline. I can’t have a dreamy character who is constantly going off into his memories as it wouldn’t work, yet, the story I’m developing is vast and so backstory is essential.

Present tense has seen a rise in popularity with new authors so much so that past tense is almost considered archaic. In my opinion, past tense is preferable and I don’t consider it to be out-of-touch. I don’t mind reading a book in present tense but it needs to be the right kind of book. I find it frustrating when I see that more books are being written and published in the wrong tense but the debate for this rages wide across the internet and is not really for me to add to right now.

Alongside this, I have been writing in first person and to be honest, first person and present tense writing is both hard to read and perhaps verging on aloof and conceited in style. I also have concerns about how well first person narrative fits with my writing voice; I like to be specific with my description but my main character is a man. That’s not to say that men aren’t descriptive or specific but if I’m writing from his point of view would he really be noticing the beauty of that crisp, cold day in London? Or would he be more focussed on getting to work? That is where third person comes in handy because while I’m the one putting the ground work in, my character retains his integrity.

The third and granted the least important decision I need to make right now is whether to include chapters. If I do include chapters it means that I need to think of the story in rounded sections; day by day or event by event. If I decide on this route then I can always take them out later and have a continuous prose without too much hassle. It is a bit more difficult to put chapters in where they weren’t before but I haven’t used them so far in this draft.

For me, these decision have needed deliberation but I know that to some writers it comes fairly naturally. Perhaps my ability to choose has been warped by my recent stint in scriptwriting but all in all I think I’ve settle on past tense, first person and no chapters.

The reasoning behind it is that past tense would help the flow of the story. I started in present tense as it is set in the future but I think that the amount of information I need to pass to the reader would be better digested in the past tense. I’m staying with first person, I only have one main character, the rest are minor and so his monologue is the most vital to the story progression and will help keep the reader connected. Chapters are easily changed but for now, I won’t include them as I haven’t so far.

How do you make decisions with your writing or do you feel it should all flow naturally? Comments below are always welcome also put up links to your blog if you’ve also posted about these dilemmas as I’d love to read it.

Would you buy poetry for the Kindle? Also a Poll!

I have a small collection of poetry that I have written over the last year or so. It is almost enough to be considered a book now and I’m considering working on this to make it publishable.

My quandary is whether to self publish. I have read many articles that say how poetry is hard to get published, most professional publishing houses do not take poets these days as they are unlikely to make a profit from the sales. This makes me think that it might be worth self publishing but this would probably cost more than I can afford just for simple printing.

This leads me to the title question. Would you read poetry on your Kindle or buy a poetry collection that was published online? If so, would you expect this to be cheaper than a novel that was published as an e-book or would it depend on the content?

So many questions, I would really appreciate feedback on this and if anyone has tried self publishing or getting a collection published before.

Building confidence by writing rubbish – Sharing a short story about Joshua

I have 14 days to write 2,500 words. These words aren’t just any, they are the words that will prove that I have what it takes to attend University (official, brick building style University not OU anymore).

These words are split between two tasks. The first is to write a journey that can be either actual or fictional. Very little detail is given with this task which opens it up so wide I can’t even decide what kind of journey to choose. It could be a physical journey on a bus, train or in the car or even a journey of discovery, spiritual or otherwise.

The second part is a review. Fortunately, I’ve read the book in question and so I can use my 14 days to write fully instead of having to speed-read the subject matter!

As the title of this post suggests, this is more about whether I have confidence in myself as I find I’m doubting my ability to do anything right now. Particularly, doubting my ability to write.

I find that by writing gibberish, I think clearer. Ideas flow a bit easier because it really doesn’t matter what I write. Although, I very rarely use any of the gibberish as it tends to be.. well, rubbish! I thought I’d share some here today, however as its getting late in the evening and I’ve had a full on day at work, the crud is flowing nicely in my tired brain.

So, today it happened. In a world where time doesn’t happen, ever and things are solid most often. We find a protagonist named Joshua. He is a small semi-cellular being with hair and a face with all the features where they should be. I like Joshua because he likes cake but I also think he has a good attitude to life.

He has a journey to go on where he meets dragons and monsters and a big hairy antagonist named Victor. I don’t like Victor so much as he likes olives and one of his eyes is quite a bit larger than everything else on his face. We’ll talk more about Victor after we have visited Joshua’s house.

When I was a child I would have loved to have lived in a house like Joshua’s house. It has a big garden with flowers in beds and a lawn that you can walk on without shoes on. I like the colour of Joshua’s house too, its pink with a big yellow stripe in the middle of it so it looks like a present. A beautiful present for me, all wrapped up with a bow.

That’s why I stole the keys and went inside..

Here I met Victor for the first time. He was sat at the dining room table with a big bowl of olives, all different colours. Not only do I dislike the taste of olives by the smell too and so I instantly took a strong dislike to the man I had just met. I tend to accept people based on their smell mainly, if it is a good smell I will mostly likely think you are the cheese’s knees. If it is a bad smell, well, some associations just can’t be broken. So, Victor is the dirty, hairy olive man that I don’t like.

I’m going to skip to the good stuff now because I’m boring myself with all this talk of olives and faces and pink.

Joshua met a big ferocious dragon! His teeth were as big as mountains. His eyes were the colour of blood. His scaly skin was thick and as hard as concrete. He had a soft, kind heart full of candy-floss and butterflies though. Mr Big Dragon hid his heart behind the nasty scary stuff so that no ghastly girls could get at it. They might eat poor Mr Big Dragon’s heart. I licked it once. It was tasty.

Joshua used all his magical hero powers to fly up into the air and stab Mr Big Dragon in the nose. Unfortunately, Joshua is quite small compared to Mr Big Dragon so it actually felt like having a nose hair pulled out and one single tear fell from Mr Big Dragon’s eye.

That stung a little.’ he said and Joshua laughed.

I hope you have enjoyed my random act of writing. I also hope that it has given you the confidence to write, wherever, whenever, HOWEVER you see fit. Funny, serious, scary, sensual… everything. Nothing is pointless.

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Before I go into a more in-depth study of The Blade Itself I should start by saying a little about the book as a whole. This book is the first by Joe Abercrombie in a trilogy called The First Law. As such, it should be read with the knowledge that the story intends to continue. It is a fantasy novel with integrity, something not easily pulled off but Abercrombie does it with style. I have added the blurb in below as I think it is the best way to sum up the characters and I didn’t feel I could add much more by trying to re-write it:

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught up in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian, leaving nothing behind but some bad songs, a few dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a jar. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendships. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government… if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is fantasy with a real cutting edge.

The main characters are complicated, mostly undesirable and so their introductions to the reader need to be done slowly so that they don’t appear too detached or confusing. Abercrombie has a unique and wonderfully effective way of doing this; he introduces the psyche of his characters so that they are believable.

Abercrombie adds humour to the book in the way the characters (particularly Glokta) think and feel about their situations in both monologue and touches of dialogue. I liked the way this lightness didn’t detract from the gritty reality of the story; it was just enough to make it feel a little more like true life and not just a series of painful incidents.

So, to the painful incidents which are frequent throughout The Blade Itself. I have read a few short reviews of this first book and many have noted Abercrombie’s excellent way of describing a fight or action scene. I have to say that I have never read it done this well; you can almost hear the bones cracking and smell the smoking flesh. However, I feel again that Abercrombie has held back in just the right way so that the book remains approachable with a deep and intriguing story.

The way that the story builds is as I indicated at the beginning; only to be judged as the first of a series. It has slow beginning but it thickens quickly as the characters start on their own personal journeys. Soon they start to link, slowly and gradually they begin to meet. Half-way through we are surprised to meet yet more new additions and it almost feels like the book is a little crowded – that is until the end. I will stop, no spoilers here.

Overall, I am very much looking forward to continuing the journey. I feel that Abercrombie has a great many more twist and surprises up his sleeve.


NaPoWriMo – Day 30 – Patience

Today was a day to learn some patience. Firstly, the patience to wait for the end of my working day. Secondly, the patience needed to complete the paperwork and the journey home. Finally, the patience to be quiet and wait for a small and frightened creature to find its feet.

Today we adopted some cats from the rescue centre, a very timid pair that will need a lot of patience and care to come out of their shells.


time ticking is a crafted measure
it is human to wait for a happening
to create the happening to wait for
to sit with patience for time

NaPoWriMo – Day 29 – Never Again

National Poetry Writing Month is now coming to an end. With only one more day to go I would like to thank everyone who visited my blog and showed support for my writing.

Overall the experience has been enlightening, to write so intensely for such a long time has built my confidence in poetry and with sharing my work with others. I have certainly learnt much over April, about different poetry styles and about how to make myself work even when I’m not feeling inspired – a skill that every writer needs to develop.

Never again

What made me think this was a good idea?
Clearly, I have far too much time on the brain
if a poem everyday didn’t conjure up fear.
Perhaps I went temporarily insane
or I had drunk one too many beers
and become immune to the pain.
So I piped up and called you all here
told myself there was something to gain.

NaPoWriMo – Day 28 – Clear Blue

The prompt for today on the NaPoWriMo website is to explore your favourite colour. Well, mine is blue and so I did as was suggested and looked around the house to see what things were coloured blue.

In doing this I found that not only is blue associated with the sky, the sea, water and depressed moods. It is also a signal for cleanliness. A lot of cleaning products come in blue packaging – kitchen paper, air freshener, dishwasher tablets, cloths, toothpaste – as well as medicine cupboard essentials.

Clear blue

It’s as clear as a cloudless night
the line of decision in the sand,
the ticking down of an hourglass
and as blue as early morning.

Will it be forgiven with a kiss
if I forget my morality
and as life gives rise to life,
is it enough just to love you?

I could hide the truth and leave
a fortuitous gift for some
is a sever to the knowing few
when a caged fear is shared.

In my hand I hold clear blue,
change that is born on the line
will leave nothing untouched
when the still balance is tipped.

NaPoWriMo – Day 27 – The Cruel Cats

Hopefully we will be adopting a pair of cats soon. I’m very excited but I’m also worried about the birds and creatures in the garden. There have always been cats at home but I remember them most when they were old and a bit soppy.

Now I’m starting to think about when they were younger and I’m not looking forward to feathers behind the sofa or mice in the kitchen.

The Cruel Cats

Have you ever seen a cat
swallow a mouse whole?
Or sitting on the garden path
strip a Jenny Wren to its bones?
You might think them cruel
for dealing the hand of death
when there’s food in their bowl,
but what does it mean to keep a pet?

It started with a need
a guard for the barn
to keep mice from the feed
so, ‘stay with me cat, on my farm.’
Its a history inside of them,
an instinct, if you like,
to guard the food of the human home
and catch an extra bite.