Finding the Holy Grail of writing

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Many, if not all authors know writing is never straight forward; I am not talking about the technical aspects or grammar, but about finding the time to write when your mind is focused, when it is in the ‘zone’ for ‘that part’ of your story.

The Holy Grail of writing is when your thought processes are at a peak and you have the time, the undisturbed, uninterrupted time, to transcribe your contemplations cohesively into your manuscript.

Finding this Holy Grail has been an elusive search for me over the last year or so, regarding the novel I am currently working on.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking of writer’s block, that is something I do not suffer. It is also nothing to do with finding the time; I have written and published three books in the past year and I am working on three more as I write this.

I am speaking purely of the mental alignment of skills, mindset and time when in search of perfection. (Although we shall never attain such it is always good to have it as a goal.)

I should have published my story, FLOYD several months ago but I am still working on it in short dribs and drabs. I never seem to have the right mental disposition and the amount of time I need together; hence the book is half drafted and half a jumble of odd notes, part paragraphs/chapters and such.

By the way, I am not downhearted and this is not me moaning, although it may sound that way! It is just me clearing my head by sharing my frustration with you.

It is, however, a frustration I bought upon myself by having several projects on the go at once… and then tasking myself with more. Which makes it even more frustrating.

I doubt if I shall find much time to continue writing FLOYD before December… oh wait, then there is Christmas and family, followed by New Year and Friends… so, maybe I can continue in earnest come mid-January, or maybe February or…

In the meantime, I would love to know your views on this (first draft) excerpt from FLOYD. It is (at the moment) the start of the opening chapter, or at least somewhere very early in the story, as it sets the scene, a sort of preamble to introduce Floyd himself and the background of his, let’s say, delusions and future actions.

Oh, FLOYD is a revenge story, in the blood-bath slasher genre. It is not for the queasy… although this section does not contain any of the gore… that comes a little later, but it comes in big bucketfuls. 😊

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FLOYDan excerpt.

Floyd jumped out of bed with a start, uncontrollably staggering two steps backwards. In that half-awaking instant, Floyd saw his wife, Molly, lying with her hands above her head, wrists bound and fastened. Pools of blood soaking into pristine white bedsheets. The fear in her eyes sent shivers running down his spine and a cold sweat to form over his skin.

This dream happened every night for the past four weeks. But tonight, was the first time he saw anything in full colour. The other times it was blurry monochrome, or just a voice, a sweet, lilting voice whispering to him. Tonight, was different, it did not simply wake him but startled him into jumping from the bed. He could feel his heart pounding.

At first, Floyd thought the voice echoing in his head was nothing more than a remanence of a dream as he woke. He let it go. Tried to forget it. But the whispering came back night after night. First a giggle, then a sigh, which faintly smelt of spearmint, before turning into those softly spoken words. A voice so close he could feel lips brushing his ears as she spoke.

“Kill the bitch.”

“That’s the way.”

“Did you see the surprise on her face?”

Tonight, Floyd did not hear her voice; but he knew she was there, watching him. Smiling.

He blinked twice, shaking his head to clear the image from his mind.

Molly pushed the quilt away from her face exposing a tousled mess of blond hair. She half-opened one eye and, disgruntled, wearily mumbled, “What are you doing? It’s the middle of the night.”

Floyd slid back under the cover and snuggled close to Molly. It was a dream. It was just a dream he told himself as he shut his eyes. Her body was warm and comforting, but it could not dispel the dark foreboding lingering within his mind.

She groaned, slurred something unintelligible, turned, moving away from him. Floyd lay quietly on his back, willing sleep. Each time he began to drift off he was jerked awake by the vision of blood and the scent of spearmint. Sleep was fugitive.

At three-fifteen he carefully slid from under the covers, trying not to disturb Molly and crept downstairs. By six-thirty Floyd had drunk two pots of tea and re-read yesterday’s newspaper, twice.

When Molly eventually arose, he was grilling bacon for breakfast.

“I couldn’t sleep, so…” Floyd gesticulated towards the grill with the tongs in his hand.

Molly tore off some kitchen roll. “Put mine in here. I must dash, busy, busy day ahead. I’m not sure when I’ll be home.”

Floyd gave her a quick peck on the cheek as she headed for the door. With a half-hearted wave, she left, hooking the door closed with her foot. He watched from the window as she drove her Range Rover off the drive and along the street until she was out of sight. He felt a certain disappointment wash over him. He was hoping to talk to Molly at breakfast this morning about his recent feelings, his nagging doubts which were growing daily.

Floyd looked at the clock, six fifty-five. The house seemed exceedingly quiet; which, on consideration, was rather strange, because from three-fifteen this morning he sat alone, the only sound the rustling pages of the newspaper. The house was no quieter now than then but somehow the silence was louder.

Being alone in the house was something Floyd was becoming accustomed to. Since Molly moved companies she had become…become…now, what was the word…fixated? obsessed? with her job. When he commented on the amount of time she was spending working, Molly said it was a thing called ‘commitment’.

Whatever it was Floyd felt it was pushing them apart, an inexorable drifting kind of parting. One which was almost imperceptible day by day. But when he looked back over the months, the changes were there, noticeable, obvious, definite.

Molly generally ignored him now; she was always on the phone or laptop when she was not working late, or early, or both, or at the gym or the hair salon, or having her nails painted or legs waxed.

The main thing which irked Floyd most was none of this, not one little iota was for his benefit. It was all for her work. All those new suits, the blouses, the stockings and shoes.

Once, not so long ago, when Molly slid into a pair of stockings it was to tease him, to excite him. It was a signal sex was unquestionably on the agenda. Not any longer. It seems stockings were de rigueur in Molly’s new corporate world.

Several weeks back Floyd began wondering if she was having an affair. Maybe a seedy sexual liaison with someone from her company. He followed her one morning; sat the whole day outside her office building.

Nothing.

When she left the office in the evening, he followed her. She did not do anything other than visit the hair salon.

Which was a problem for Floyd.

Not that he wished for his wife to be having an affair, but because it left him with a dilemma. What changed between them? Why was Molly so distant? What, if anything had he done…or not done? These were unanswered questions; questions he wanted to broach this morning over those freshly grilled bacon sandwiches.

Floyd glanced at the clock again. Five minutes past seven. His first appointment was at nine-thirty, so he needed to leave the house around eight o’clock. As he threw his bathrobe onto the bed Floyd flashbacked to his dream: Molly spread-eagled, bound on the bed. Eyes staring in terror. He looked down at her.

He shivered. It was all too real, unlike any dream he experienced before.


While you wait for me to finish writing FLOYD I have many more books I am certain you will enjoy. Have a browse around my WEBSITE  or check out my Electric Eclectic novelettes HERE.

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Do you share my literary DNA?

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Now, here is the thing.

Do you believe your writing has been enriched and influenced by the books you have read?

If so, is it just the good books, the ones you love, the ones which made some connection with your soul?

Or… would you say the bad books have an equal hand in affecting your stories?

By ‘bad books’ I don’t mean the poorly written, but stories that aggravated, annoyed and even rasped on your sensitivities. The ones that you recall for the opposite reasons to those you loved, which means, in their own way, they too made a connection with your inner being.

So, did those bad books achieve the aim of their authors and if so, should we consider them good books for that very reason?

Something to ponder.

Here’s another matter for thought while on this topic.

I don’t write stories which have any direct connection with the books that made a mark on me. Like the historic African based fiction of Wilbur Smith; whose books I devoured as a teenager. My books are not based in history, in Africa or in any set time, as it happens.

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Neither do I attempt to write like Criena Rohan, (Deirdre Cash), whose book, Down by the Dockside still resonates with me today.

16279954While I enjoyed such wonderful works as Catch 22, Life according to Garp, and Do not go Gentle, I have never tried to replicate those authors style or attempt to write in their chosen genre.

In fact, I write the only way I can; by scribing the thoughts and feelings flitting through my mind at any given time. Oh, and as quickly as I can, before those very contemplations disappear into the amnesiac blankness of absolute… now, what was it, where was I?

So, I wonder how much and how many of those authors I read, the ones who pen compositions of illusion, write of their imaginary netherworlds and create the fictitious lives of the characters inhabiting them, find their way onto the pages and into my own work, without my being aware of their presence.

Are we, us writers and authors, part of all those who have gone before? Do we inherit, by some magic, some mystery, a trace of another, many others, literary DNA?

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Are our own stories part of a continuous evolution of literary nature? Are you, in therefore my brother, my sister, my sibling or, in that context, my child?

If so, are you writing my words, is your hand guided, even in part, by that which I have written before?

Or are my words part of you?

Now, there is something to contemplate.


Thank you for reading this post on Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

I do hope you will read at least one of my books, either an Electric Eclectic novelette or one of my prime works. All can be found on my website right, HERE

Keep Happy, Paul

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About:  Questions on Editing.

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I often see writers asking for an editor on social groups.

Frequently the post asks for ‘someone’ to ‘help edit’ or ‘look over’ their book. (Which is not a book at all just a manuscript and more often than not, only part of a first draft.)

Occasionally the person posting may ask for a ‘beta reader or editor’.

The common factor is, to the eyes of an experienced author or publisher, the people asking have no idea who they need, what skill set that person should have or, indeed, the actual reason they need ‘someone’ to ‘edit’ their work, which, in all honesty, will be a far cry from the thoughts they hold when they ask the question in the first instance.

This naivety is not wrong. We have all been novice writers.

However, my issue is twofold.

Firstly; whilst inexperience throws up challenges and situations one has not encountered previously, we live in an age of information, of high-speed access to seemingly limitless data.

It is simple to research almost any subject using the interweb.

Therefore, the questions posted should, at the very least, show some understanding, reflect some basic perception of the subject enquired.

My second issue is; those who openly show such naivety are susceptible to exploitation by those who prey on the gullible and there are many sharks swimming in the social media pond.

Too many times do I hear or read about a writer paying a large fee for very little, if any, return or results from the promises made by charlatans and thieves.

Too many times, do I see indie authors and newbie writers fall foul of ‘schemes’ run by the scammers who scoured the internet looking for those types of naïve questions.

Don’t get me wrong.

We all need help and to ask questions from time to time. But please, research first. Do some homework beforehand, so when you do ask, if you still need to ask, you can define your question to specifics.

This will not only deter many of those sharks looking for easy prey but will allow genuine respondents to answer your queries more accurately and with alacrity.

Nuff said.images 

Now, here are twelve, yes, twelve editorial roles.

Okay, I am being a little loose with the term ‘editorial roles‘, but I am doing so in response to the type of questions asked on social media, the ones which prompted me to write this article in the first instant.

The first two roles, possibly three, of the following are not, at least officially, considered ‘editors‘ in the true sense of the word.

The reason I have added them here is they do or at least can form critical roles in the process of readying a manuscript for publication.

 

The first is the oft-misunderstood role of the Beta Reader.

Beta readers are people you ask to read your work, often at a relatively early stage, to get their opinion.

Experienced authors will give each beta reader a certain task and will often create a questionnaire for them, ensuring the author gets the correct form of feedback they request.

Beta readers are initially chosen from the public, as volunteers. Often authors build up relationships and trust with several readers and ask them to review on a frequent basis.

However, there is a rather scary rise of the ‘professional’ beta reader. This is someone who will charge you to read your work on the premise of ‘experience’. It is doubtful they will hold any editorial, journalistic or academic qualifications.

This anomaly of the growth of the ‘professional beta reader’, is due to Amazon clamping down on ‘paid for/professional’ book reviews.

Those people have simply changed the way they operate, the outcome is as false and as fake as it ever was.

My advice; give them a wide berth. No, even wider than that… RUN in the opposite direction, fast!

 

The second is the frequently overlooked Critique Partner.

A critique partner tends to be a writer, or experienced author, who coaches another writer to help raise the quality of their work.

Not a true editor but will undoubtedly play a part in identifying editorial issues as the work progresses.

You only need a critique partner for guidance when developing a story for publication.

 

I find this a ‘dodgy term‘, Online Editor.

Basically, the term ‘online editor’ includes anyone you can find online to look over your content.

The people who call themselves online editors are most likely freelancers and their skill sets will vary enormously.

If you hire an online editor, it will be in your own interest, both financially as well as regarding peace of mind, to ensure they are well-versed in the type of editorial work you are employing them to undertake.

AND… I cannot say this clearly enough. Be certain they are qualified AND experienced to edit in the language you require. For instance; even a well sort American editor may not fare well with a British English work.

Some online editors are genuine professionals with qualifications and a good client list. Others may not know one end of a pencil from the other.

Okay, that is those three out of the way. Now the list of professional editorial roles.

A Commissioning Editor.

Sometimes referred to as an Acquisition Editor.

These people are the ones who look for books and/or articles for publication.

This is the person you address your enquiries to should you not use an agent or if you are a freelancer who wishes to pitch an idea.

Commissioning Editors are generally employed by organisations and companies and have little to do with the indie community.

 

The Developmental Editor. 

Developmental editors work with writers to get their manuscript ready for publication.

If you need guidance on moving your story forward, it is the developmental editors place to help. They will also aid you in producing a manuscript to a publisher’s house style or preference.

Some Developmental Editors are also professional ghostwriters.

 

Content Editors is the role most writers refer to when speaking of an ‘editor’.

Content Editors consider all the writing encompasses.

Regarding fiction, a Content Editor takes a full overview of the story. They will highlight inaccuracies and suggest changes to the plot, the characters, settings, locations and such.

 

Copy Editor.

Copy editors, also known as Line Editors. Occasionally these are also Content Editors, look at everything from the factual content to the writer’s use of grammar and the formatting of the manuscript.

These editors can and often do, do it all.

Often whatever they find will go back to the Content or Developmental Editor who will make, or advise the writer, to make certain changes to the work.

 

The Proofreader.

While you can ask friends and fellow writers to read your work and pick up any errors, nothing beats a good, experienced and qualified proof-reader, not Spellchecker or even Grammarly, ProWritingAid, WhiteSmoke or GingerSoftware combined.

A Proofreader will look over your content, usually after it has gone through the other stages of editing. This means a Proofreader is the last type of editor in the chain of editing.

Major publishing houses contract proofreaders for a final perusal of a book just before it is due to go to press after it has been typeset and formatted. This is to pick up any glaring grammar and punctuation errors created during these processes and any that have been missed previously.

Generally, a proofreader will not give feedback on quality, content or development.

 

This is not one many indie authors will use. Associate Editor.

Associate editors mainly work for newspapers or magazines. This position is also called the ‘section editor.’

Associate Editor often has the same type of responsibilities as an Acquisition Editor in that they seek stories or content for publication, but it is more often limited to a set area, such a politics, celebrity or world events and so on.

 

Contributing Editor.

Contributing editors usually work with publishers of magazines and newspapers. An older term not used so much nowadays is that of Roving Editor or Editor at Large, both mean the same thing.

Some indie authors and writers may cross paths with a Contributing Editor should they write articles for publication in magazines or newspapers on or offline.

 

Chief Editor.

Also, Executive Editor. The person in overall in charge of articles, story and/or content. They are the ones responsible for the final product.

 

Editor-in-Chief.

The Editor-in-Chief oversees the editing department and manages the other editors.

They are responsible for maintaining the voice of the publisher’s imprint, upholding its philosophy and mission.

I hope this clarifies the editorial roles and where they apply to indie authors.


Paul White has produced two books especially to help writers and authors of all abilities to make the most of their resources.

Each of these books is crammed with facts and information which answer most of the questions posted to writers and author groups on social media. 

These books contain tips and links to many author resources. Download your copies of The Frugal Author and Lots of Author Stuff you Need to Know right here, right now.

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Inspiration does not have to be Pretty.

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A good writer has no need to look for inspiration and ideas, they will come flooding unto them.

The fact is, each moment of every day we are surrounded by a million and one stimuli which only need us to recognise their being. We must feel, hear, sense what is around us, what is happening in front of our eyes.

We must allow our perception to absorb, to let our mind create fiction and fantasy from implied interpretation. We must permit our creative seed to run wild.

nathanblog4-700x375I have written on this subject before, albeit from another perspective, in a post called The Curse of the Muse

 

This post is a little different.

A short while ago, possibly a good few months past, I read a post on a social media site from one of my connections. I think ‘friends’ is the general term used.

I was touched by the raw honesty of the post; so much I saved their words so I might use them as a basis for my own writing, either in situation or character creation.

I feel a little guilty for ‘stealing’ these heartfelt outpourings, yet, I am acceptive to the reasoning of creativity and the understanding of where, how and by what means we writers find our inspiration.

You see, most of my works, regardless of genre or setting, focus on our humanity, on social and personal interactions and on life itself.

The following is an edited version of the social media post mentioned. I am sure you will understand the reason it resounded with me, especially if you are a reader of my books and other works.

***

This is it… 

“This isn’t poetry.

It’s not placed on a pretty post.

There are no pictures to pull you in.

This is just me needing to vent and I suppose those who want to know will read it through; there are a few thousand of you, maybe more and I’m just this sickly, tiny, thing who is easy to overlook.

My life isn’t an open a book, but should the play ever be released it will read like a tragedy of comedic design, one that tears the heart and rips the mind.

Irony, you’ll find, is the underlying theme.

I was everything I was told I would be; yet with time viewed through a rear-view mirror, I am nothing which holds value beyond the front door and those therein are on their way out.

I’d leave too, but domestic skills, they don’t count and writing words has yet to pay the bills; besides, without a degree to back up the lines, there are those who say I’ve spent the last three years wasting my time.

It’s pride, I know, but I’m pushing four decades old and I’m not sure I’m equipped to go back to the shit I did before I became a mom and wife.

I mean no offence, but I’m better than a burger to flip, or the next bag of groceries to sack, my mind knows too much to do that any longer.

I could go back to school, try and educate, but what do I do with the stack of debt that’s all late?

I have no resume. That’s the cost, the loss, of being nothing more than a stay at home mom.

What now?

Who am I without the domestic, the wife, the parental role to play, day to day?

So much needs to change and I’m scared to death I’ve waited too late.

Surely this cannot be my fate?

Even this, the sound of my self-pity makes me sick; but this decline of mine, it didn’t happen overnight.

It wasn’t quick.

My worth was stolen by minuscule measures, so slender the slices, I failed to feel the knife and yet looking at my life there’s nothing left but a bloodied mess.

I should find my way out of this.

I’m not as weak as I seem, but at this moment, I am on my knees.

This is not who I am, but damn, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be.

I’m a little lost and there’s no one looking for me.”

***

I titled this blog post, ‘Inspiration does not have to be Pretty’.

It does not.

Neither do the resultant writings. But I genuinely believe our words should be honest, open and emotional. After all, these are the driving factors of life, our lives. It is what we all have in common, it is what we all respond to… even in fictional stories.

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings.


Please subscribe/follow this blog if you have not already done so. The button is on the top right of this page. I appreciate your support, Thank You.

Visit my website (HERE) to see my books, works in progress and other projects currently underway.

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Selfie!

Stewart who?

A short while ago I wrote a post as a guest blogger for Noreen Lace on her ‘writing 365’ blog.

The post is about the love one must have for writing to succeed as an author.

These are some of the words I posted on Noreen’s blog.

But it’s just a dream, I guess.

I write to leave a trace of my being, however faint that may be.

I hope, or dream, at some point in the future, someone somewhere will dust off the cover of one of my books and open it. Turning the yellowing, fragile pages for the first time in a millennium.

As they read my words, they shall hear my voice echo through the centuries, be touched by my narrative. I wish them to become one with my story, lost in the world of fantasy and fiction which inhabited my mind generations before… Then, I would not have lived for nothing.

But it’s is just a dream, I guess.

What brought this to mind, was reading one the newsletters I subscribe too, one I often use as a ‘go to’ area for inspiration.

Now, obituary’s may not be everyone’s first choice or idea of inspirational reading material but believe me, there are many strange and unknown quantities revealed in an in-depth obituary, which is why I subscribe to the ‘Notable Obituary Newsletter’as I do with a blog called ‘Defrosting Cold Cases’.

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Yes, I do write crime and murder and psychological drama, not exclusively, but they have become a major part of my overall works, so there is no need to call the police… just yet.

As usual, I digress from the main thread of this post.

Taking my statement above, call it a legacy statement, I connected the thoughts I carried when I wrote it, to one of the obituary notices in today’s, (Feb-4th), newsletter.

The notice is about the death of a man called Stewart Adams.

His name probably means very little, if anything, to you; yet this man has affected many people’s lives, possibly… make that probably, most humans on earth, and yet as I have said, most of us have not heard of him before now.

If I said Stewart Adams was a British chemist, would that help?

No? I thought not.

However, if I ask you, asked anybody, what ibuprofen is, I am sure you could tell me it is an anti-inflammatory pain killer.

In fact, it is one of the most commonly used drugs of its kind and Stewart Adams was the British chemist who led the team that developed ibuprofen.

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Stewart insisted he was his own guinea pig, he always tried out the drugs he developed on himself.

“I always felt it was important to take the first dose before asking others to do so,” he said in a 2012 interview with Trends in Pharmacological Sciences.

His creation of ibuprofen came about during a search for a better drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Possibly one of Stewarts most notable quotes is from ‘The Telegraph’ newspaper interview with him in 2007.

“It’s funny now, but over the years so many people have told me that ibuprofen really works for them and did I know it was so good for hangovers? Of course, I had to admit I did.”

So, we have here the legacy of an intelligent man, a man well respected in both his professional and social communities and a man whose legacy most of us have ingested and benefited from at some point in our life.

Yet, very few of us have ever heard his name mentioned. In that respect, he is almost as unknown as say, you or me.

Which, in my regular rambling way and via my twisted neural pathways, leads me to say this;

No matter how many or how few books you write, how many or how few you sell, by publishing just one, one small short story, you are leaving your own legacy, a mark of your being here, here in this world.

Do not have concerns about becoming famous or well-known. Do not try and chase false celebrity, for no matter what you do, how you affect others’ lives few if any, will recall your name.

Be happy with what is and what you write. If you are honest and true to yourself, your soul will live on forever in your words.

My own words, those written above, then become as much yours as they are mine.

I’ll repeat them again, leaving out the ‘just a dream’ part.

I write to leave a trace of my being, however faint that may be.

I hope, or dream, at some point in the future, someone somewhere will dust off the cover of one of my books and open it. Turning the yellowing, fragile pages for the first time in a millennium.

As they read my words, they shall hear my voice echo through the centuries, be touched by my narrative. I wish them to become one with my story, lost in the world of fantasy and fiction which inhabited my mind generations before… Then, I would not have lived for nothing.

Write on 😊

Paul


P.S. take a look at my Crime & Violence collection, three books of short stories I know you will love.

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Kindle

Volume 1             mybook.to/CandVKindleV1 

Volume 2             mybook.to/CandVPaperV2

Volume 3             mybook.to/CandVKindleV3

Paperback

Volume 1             mybook.to/CandVPaperV1

Volume 2             mybook.to/CandVKindleV2

Volume 3             mybook.to/CandVPaperV3


 

Why author’s should listen to the radio more often.

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Okay, so this is another long (and boring) title for a post.

But you know what? I have found oblique or inferred titles do not get the views, irrespective of how well thought out those titles may be, and regardless of the quality of the post’s content.

Possibly, this is because many readers just ‘don’t get’ them? Or it maybe it is because people think the writer is being ‘a bit too clever’?

So, here I am with a plain statement for a blog post title. At least this way you get the gist of what the article is about… or do you?

Read on to find out…

I am a regular listener of the radio. I don’t just mean music radio, the odd quiz show or sport. I am referring to ‘talk’ radio, interviews, articles and in-depth discussions.

Serious radio, if you like to call it that.

I got hooked on listening to this sort or broadcast some years back when I did a lot of driving. Sometimes music becomes monotonous; there are times when even your favourite and most loved tracks won’t cut the mustard.

Then you have the ‘Radio Presenters’, we used to call them DJ’s back in the day.

But that was when DJ’s were star celebrities, when everyone and, I mean everyone, knew their names because they were bloody good at entertaining and engaging all who were tuned in.

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Unlike the inane, immature, crass drivel which spouts from the mouths of the current drove of unprofessional, clearly uneducated people who host many a radio shows, both on national and local stations.

Okay, rant over. Back to the article…

When you have many miles to drive, listening to intelligent and informative conversation, presentation and debated opinions is often welcome company.

I have found many a premise for a new story, or a character base, or a situation to set my tales within, by listening to such programmes. Some of those inspirations are still with me, unused. Some are notes, other simply bullet points, an aide memoir waiting to be built upon at some future date.

Others have found homes, they are now part of my story worlds awaiting the next reader to uncover their being.

Yes, one’s muse may be triggered by many things. All writers, I am sure, gain inspiration from a million stimuli each and every day; films, TV, magazines, social media, overheard conversation, observed actions… the list is limitless.

BUT…

For me listening to the radio has become a prime source for stimulating my creative juices.

I think this is because when one listens exclusively, that is without accompanying visual input, the mind can focus more accurately, its subconscious, or semi-conscious, concentration allowed to fix, to centre on the words alone without distraction.

Yes, when driving the main emphasis and attention is clearly applied to controlling the car and reacting to all which is around you. However, your cognitive ability allows another part of your mind to absorb and assimilate the information you hear, clearly and precisely, without conflicting with the prime task in hand, that is your driving.

When I hear something of interest, I take a mental note of the time, channel and programme name, so when I am home, I can go to the broadcaster’s website and re-run the article I heard earlier. It is then I make my written notes and detailed memos.

Allow me to give a couple of examples by way of explanation.

 

The following is from an earlier post, (January 2015), called ‘Subject Matter’. https://wp.me/p5nj7r-2H

A few days ago, while driving home I tuned into a programme which was delving into the issue of female autism. This report was enlightening enough regarding the subject itself. I found it full of stimulating information which I could, and still can, use in my future writings.

However, one statement touched my heart to such a degree I knew I had found a wonderful gem of inspiration.

One of the experts discussing this condition told of his interview with a young sufferer who, upon being diagnosed, said to her doctor, with much relief;

“For all my life it felt as if I had a black spot inside of me. I thought it would never go away”.

That one simple sentence was, for me, like finding a pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow. Those of you who are artistically minded will, for certain, understand the enormity of such a stimulus.

Another example, which I have already taken advantage of, by writing a poem called ‘My heart’, was during a play where one of the lines was about skeletons ‘kissing with their skulls’.

I wrote the following poem shortly after arriving home that evening.

Here is that poem.

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My Heart

My heart is a grave for lovers

Where skeletons embrace ever crumbling lust,

And skulls kiss in breathless anguish.

 

Scarlet blood long soaked into the ashes,

Forgotten passions abandon, the cast-off flesh,

Sensuous agonies of the soul

Haunt faded moments embezzled by time.

 

Rise up from the earth,

Stand upon your tombstone,

Seek your absent self, your withered spirit

Wandering aimlessly in immortal eternity.

 

But look not within my heart,

For it is but a grave for lovers.


This poem and many others can be found in my book Shadows of Emotion.

Shadows of Emotion (kindle)

         Shadows of Emotion  (Paperback)         

OR simply paste, ISBN-13: 978-1500510312 into your Amazon search bar.

 

 

 

 

Associating the Oblique and Ambiguous.

 

Firstly, a note:jot_a_note

It is a while since I have written a post focusing on the process of creative writing.

The reason being, I have said much about other ‘stuff’ associated with authoring and publishing. Stuff I felt important enough to warrant writing about.

However, doing so led me away from the core value of this blog, which is to give, in my usual rambling and rather haphazard way, tips, advice and suggestions on improving one’s writing skills and understanding of authorship.

Those of you who follow me will know I do not write in a scholarly constructive fashion, because I do not consider myself a teacher or an authority of literary genius.

I prefer to allow indefinite abstract descriptions to suggest and evoke one’s own perceptions and introspection to convey the messages in each of these Ramblings.

In my heart of hearts, I believe the soul of the writer, the artist that lays within, is the greatest asset of all. No one can learn to write unwillingly; the writer must have love and passion above teaching and education.

A writer must want to write, above all else.

So, with those matters cleared away, I guess it is time to reveal what this article is about.


‘Association’

As a mass noun, the definition of this word, according to the Oxford English dictionary is, ‘The action of making a mental connection’.

Regarding fiction writing, I would take this two steps further and say it is, ‘The action of making a mental, sensory and emotional connection within one’s imagination’.

However, to create such a powerful, multi-sensory consanguinity within a reader’s mind, requires the writer’s understanding and needs them to be adept at wordsmithing.

To me, the word ‘wordsmith’ is a wondrous, self-describing noun.

Imagine standing before a blazing forge, gauntlet covered hands, leather apron, large metal tongs holding a glowing red-hot bar of iron. The other hand wielding a heavy hammer.

Smell the fire, the heat, hearing the Smithy as he pounds the almost molten metal into the shape of his choosing. Not an easy task, one which takes many re-heatings and coolings of the metal. One which takes countless strikes with the hammer against the solid block of the anvil before anything recognisable is formed from the raw metal.download

This is what I envisage when thinking of the word ‘wordsmith’.

My ‘association’ is with the hours of sweat and toil it takes to form a loose jumble of letters and scattered words into a coherent and meaningful sentence. To mould and form each word so it fits seamlessly with the next, so they all flow in a smooth, well-paced fashion to complete the paragraph.

The result of a Blacksmiths work is more than just flattened and twisted metal, it is a product purposely shaped into a functional object, decorated to enhance its appearance, creating an article of both beauty and reason.

Such should be our undertaking as writers. Our words should not only serve the functionality of revelation but create a pathway of beauty and intrigue for our readers to follow. Our tales should hold within their very form the pure essence of captivation, of fantastical fiction.

To do this we must weave that very essence, the distillate tincture of association within our words.

“That’s fine for you to say,” I hear you mutter.“But how do we do that?”

My answer is to consider the word this post is about, consider ‘association’. The association of words.

Now, many of you will be thinking ‘thesaurus’ because that is what a thesaurus is all about, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no.

You see, when I talk of word association I am not merely speaking of functional words you may find within dictionaries and thesaurus. Neither am I considering which words may be grammatically correct. I am talking about creativity, of creative writing. Of breaking the rules when it lends to better or even great storytelling.

Those among you who write poetry may, or at least should, have a greater understanding of the flexibility of words, how they can be moulded to convey more than their basic meanings. Particularly when two or more are used in conjunction, oblique, ambiguous or both.

Wordsmithing in fiction writing utilises what is learnt through the poetic principle, includes and encompasses it within the whole wordsmithing process.

As a way of explanation, I’ll take an excerpt from one of my short stories, ‘The Bridge‘, taken from volume three of my short stories collection, ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’

Out of context, I think this is a rather unremarkable excerpt. Even so, once studied while holding the concept of association in mind, its secrets are revealed.

The Humber Bridge is monumental. It is suspended by a mass of giant pythons, twisted metal cables one hundred feet above the sludge brown of the river. From tower to tower it is one mile and the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.

Yet, for all the earth destroying steel and concrete construction, the bridge has an illusion of beauty that is enhanced by nature itself. Somehow the two blend, even complement each other, an amalgamation of converse contraries.

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The Humber Bridge

Firstly, the suggested size of the bridge is stated, in an emotional way, by using the word monumental.

It is then revealed to the reader this is a suspension bridge.

Using the term ‘mass of giant pythons’ is suggestive of and leads into the next sentence ‘twisted metal cables…’

Here are the first wordsmithing associations.

Most people know what a suspension bridge looks like. The story could be told by simply stating this bridge is a vast suspension bridge.

The following words about metal cables could have been just that ‘metal cables’. But the addition of ‘twisted’ is used specifically because of its association with the commonly held image of snakes.

We have now created an image in the reader’s mind of ‘giant twisted pythons holding up a bridge’. Which is a far better read than say, “a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables”.

To continue, the height of the roadway on the bridge is given, one hundred feet, so is the fact the bridge is above a river.

So, once more, the story could read “… a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables one hundred feet above a river…’ Which factually would be correct, although it does not make a very captivating or entertaining read.

Moving on, the incorporation of the words ‘sludge brown’ is purposeful. Not only to transfer the perceived visual perception of a dark river but to almost subliminally link back to the snake imagery by suggesting colour association while taking into consideration most people visualise a river as ‘winding’ or ‘twisting’. Another correlation.

While this imagery of bridges and pythons is building in the forefront of the reader’s comprehension, there is also the fact the author is creating an atmosphere of dark foreboding; or at least the idea of something ominous germinating.

Sludge brown, twisting, python, mass, all have links with the nefarious.

The next ‘s sentences structure reinforces this unease.

The factual description of the bridge is given, but this is enhanced by a form of predicate which strengthens the sinister. “… the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.”

Reaching out, grabbing, blackened, fingers; all strong adjectives which focus on creating a sensory awareness of the underlying drama.

While a person may not be fully aware why, or what effect these words are having as they read, you can bet your bottom dollar their subconscious will. Personal and social belief, acquired by myth, legend and the silver screens of Hollywood has conditioned us to be susceptible to even the slightest of suggestive input.

It is also a long-proven fact when one reads, they absorb far more, far quicker than by any other method of communication.

The above example is a rather direct and implicit one. But there are stronger yet more oblique instances.

Like these, from my poem ‘Doorway’

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This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Simple. A wooden frame. Harsh nails, forged from iron, blood and sweat in the furnace of forgotten hopes. Spikes driven deep, driven through, splintering the flesh of being, binding into cold stone of indifference. Hanging forever, bearing the pain for an eternity.

But not so simple. A sign, a warning, a barrier. Invisible in its presence of possibilities lost, scorned, unfound, unbelieved. Open but empty, a nothingness that stops you dead in your tracks.

Division.

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Lost or gained or never had. Can you lose what was not? Can dreams die or do they fade away; decompose as out our living bodies rot with age upon our bones.

What is there, beyond the gaping opening of the way?

Future, or past repeated. Mirrored fears steeped in time, awaiting our return from where we have never been. A destination desired by myth, by greed of those who will not step this way, cowering in the shadows of mediocrity, of sallow existence, of being too far from any door to be truly known, except by repeated words, all meanings lost in the whisper of time, misinterpretations and vague comprehension.

What ifs lay as a carpet of likelihoods, a vastness of possibilities, probabilities, stretching away to the rims of risk and horizons of chance; choices to be made, taken, grasped or passed up.

Prospects scorned or lies waiting to trip the unwary traveller, to crush your skull, your hopes, your faiths until they crumble into a dust of inferiority until your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience.

Know your place.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck. Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

How long the openness. How soon the slam of too late shall shut out the light from the other side, of this side or that, or the other, and so vice-versa. Versa-vice.

Sounds vanished, diminished. New hope runs down our legs, incontinent imaginings puddling beneath our feet, wasted.

There is no return. Time flows by, constant. There is only now, just then, what was. Already you are too late, it has gone. Stealing away those possibility’s which once were yours and now belong to another. Maybe not yet born. A foetus of stardust, a twinkle of forlorn wishes.

Maybe they will be the ones who shall hesitate at the gates of option and chance. Maybe they will settle for comfort and the familiar and choose not to stumble blindly into the realm of the unknown?

Or maybe they shall pass this way, step through the door and into the future of destiny without looking backwards?

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

You choose.

..

Without getting too bogged down in technicalities, (not my thing), I will just highlight a few instances from the above, and then leave you to read and re-read the above poem and find the associated words which link together to create the stories own vibrancy.

First, ‘cowering in the shadows of mediocrity’.

One may expect to read ‘Cowering in the shadows,’ I am far from the first to write those words in that order. But then consider the use of ‘mediocrity’, it is not generally expected in this framework.

What are the shadows in your story associated with? Think of an indirect but implicit word and use that or another to suggest the ‘feeling’ you wish to create. Pair words which are oblique or ambiguous to create new meaning, to create the atmosphere you intend.

Forget about those ‘rules’. Ignore the grammar check in word or Grammarly or whatever. There is no substitution for the mind.

Secondly, take ‘your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience’.

This conveys a strong message from the initial simplicity of what may be expected until the string ‘humbleness and subservience’ appear in conjunction with the rest of the sentence. Those reading are expecting something far simpler, say ‘the castle, or maybe ‘the house’. But inserting ‘humbleness and subservience’, leads the mind to immediately think of servants kneeling on the cold stone floor.

Linked with the previous segment of the paragraph that mentions prospect, lies and faith the ambiguity is one of suggested religion and loss of belief or at least a trial of personal conviction.

Often when using oblique association, or creating one in such a way, it strengthens the powerfulness of the imagery formed.

imagesIf this includes creating your own metaphors or making new words do so. Shakespeare did not suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by only using the accepted words of his time.

Using this ‘sideways’ form of association, not only in poetic context but in storytelling, can produce a weighty and influential transcript that will hook the reader both openly and subliminally.

Good storytelling is not just about style and content; it is not all about narration, it is not simply getting all your words in order, it is all of this melded cohesively and working in harmony throughout the entire structure of your manuscript.

It is about modelling the words you use, moulding and melding them to conceive something new, something uniquely yours, it is about practised and proficient wordsmithing.

When editing, read, re-write and work each individual sentence. Hone it, sharpen it, until it has its own perfect edge and then move onto the next.

Never skip a word, examine each one; examine its place in the sentence and change it, one word by one word, sentence by sentence, polishing and shaping and forming each little detail until every sentence is a magical story in itself.

Do the same time again and again, until every detail shines clearly.

Only then will your tale truly deserve to be called your ‘finished’ work.

Anything less is less.


The first excerpt in this post was taken from ‘Tales of Crime & Violence, a three-book collection.

You can get yours by following the links below.

UK http://amzn.to/2zZFWFN

USA  https://goo.gl/Q0DXRq

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Hluhluwe Umfolozi, feeding lions and a rather intangible abstract notion.

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©PaulWhite

I was asked recently, by Francis de Aguilar, a writer friend, what first caused me to “Become interested in African wildlife.

 

A simple question.

I told him it was after visiting South Africa, particularly the time I spent in the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve. 

However, Francis’s question stayed in my mind; although I answered him, it left a nagging doubt in my mind I was wrong.

I was wrong.

After pondering for a few days, the truth unravelled itself. I now knew the correct answer.

My interest in Africa and its diverse multitude of wildlife was first stoked by reading the novels of Wilbur Smith.

wr1
©PaulWhite

Back in the early seventies, I picked up a rather dog-eared and worn copy of ‘When the Lion Feeds’, which I devoured within two days. I followed that book by purchasing ‘The Dark of the Sun’, again read within a few days.

I was about sixteen years old and, for the first time, ‘hooked’ on a particular author.

I read all of Wilbur Smith’s books up to the 1991 publication of ‘Elephant Song’. My favourite book, (excluding any of the ‘Courtney or Ballantyne Novels’) must be ‘Eagle in the Sky’…or ‘Cry Wolf’…or ‘A Sparrow Falls’….or…

But I digress.

 

The real answer to the question posed to me by Francis is; it was reading these books when I was a young man that stimulated my imagination, made me think about the heat, the vastness, the veld, the bush and, of course, the animals of Africa.

For years, I carried my imaginings of the world Wilbur Smith planted in my head with his words, until one day I had the opportunity to visit Africa myself.

I was not disappointed.

The continent is mind-bogglingly vast. The scenery, the smell, the sun, the animals, the people, everything exceeded my expectations, bettered those imaginings I held onto for so long.

This I find is something rare; very few places ever exceed our own imaginative conceptions.

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©PaulWhite

I have returned to Africa many times, to different areas, different countries within this vast dark continent.

You may have heard it said, “Africa captures, not only your heart but soul and once you have been, you can never really leave.”

These are some of the most honest words ever spoken.

I am here now, but part of me will forever remain in Africa.

Now, being a writer, I cannot leave an article like this with just one conclusion when I know there are always several stories to be told about everything.

Therefore, I would like you to also consider this, from Wilbur Smith’s point of view, or maybe, it is just my own interpretation of what I think his view may, or could, be.

Who knows? But I’ll write my thoughts out anyway.

I wonder if dear old Wilbur thought of me when he wrote his first novel?

I don’t mean me as an individual, as a single person but as a conceptual being. I wonder if Wilbur thought he may influence some young man, somewhere in the world, to fall in love with Africa as he typed out his very first paragraph of ‘When the Lion Feeds’ way back in the early 1960’s. (The book was first published in 1964).

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©PaulWhite

Then, my thoughts ask the very same question of myself.

Do I have an image, a conceptual ‘personage’ in my mind who may, one day, be influenced by my own work, by my writings, by the tiny little black shapes, these strange runes of ink I scattered across countless pages?

The answer is yes, I do have such a notion, albeit a rather intangible abstract.

Which leaves you to ask yourself the same, do you?

Think about it carefully, do you?

If you would like to take part in making my rather intangible abstract notion a reality, then please start by reading ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’ a collection of thought-provoking stories which are not quite as you may think they may be…

Just click the cover image.  WtIPV1small

Thank you, Paul.