Starting Point

“The writer walks out of his workroom in a daze. He wants a drink. He needs it. It happens to be a fact that nearly every writer of fiction in the world drinks more whisky than is good for him. He does it to give himself faith hope and courage. A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul and that I am sure is why he does it.” – Roald Dahl, Boy

So yeah, this is the blog.

I’ve started this more or less to overcome my writer’s block/stumble.

But first, some background…

I’ve been writing ever since I’ve been able to… well… write. My original opus was a ten-page picture-book horror (in all senses) called The Horrible Eye (I’d been reading Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks at the time). From there, I finished my first novellette (fantasy) at about 13, to be followed by a bloated science-fiction opus (with lesbian romance and world-shaking geopolitical plots) at about the age of 16. Both of these are now thankfully lost on an old Amiga 500 hard drive in a format unreadable by modern computing science.

After that came a family melodrama (which I can call by the name now without feeling embarrassed) which was part of the inevitable “novel as therapy” part of being a young writer. I submitted this for publication and was (not unreasonably) rejected. May still return to it in years to come. I still felt good enough to start on a sequel of sorts, but then…

The Elite series of games are one of the world’s most long-running videogame series, and was also one of the first games in which there was no “goal” or scoring system. This, of course, leaves a big blank canvas for the mind to fill. The original game was released with the novel The Dark Wheel by established SF and Fantasy Author Robert Holdstock.  This was followed up with both sequels to the game, particularly (for me) the nicely dark stories contained in Further Stories of Life on the Frontier.

This was followed by a slew of fan-fiction across the internet (a simple Google search will net you a good sample, ranging in quality), and I found myself drawn to the Elite Bulletin Board System (now defunct) hosted on Alioth.net.

This lively community had an array of good authors, writing in an array of styles, and I got drawn in to a particular project, a multi-author epic known as the Huge Plasma Accelerator Saga (or, as it later became known, Saaaaargha).  It wasn’t deep, it was Space Opera at its  grandiose and moustache-twirling best, and it was a hell of a lot of fun to both write and read. This was a challenging, but very rewarding enterprise, even after the roster of core authors was reduced to four. It got me hooked again on writing Science-Fiction / Speculative fiction.

I wrote a few more pieces (most of which are no longer available, but I may repost as a retrospective analysis exercise) before I decided to embark on something a bit more ambitious.

… and then, things changed…

At the time I was doing a Development Studies degree, which had a significant load of anthropology, economics as well as a little bit of colonial studies. Science fiction has always been about projecting different societies (either human or otherwise) and working out how they tick, and how they can break.

At the same time, the Second Intifada was also burning up the news, which led me to think to myself that maybe it was worth looking (in a sci-fi context) about the effects of long-term occupation on both the occupied and the occupiers.

So I sketched out a plot and began writing, posting installments on the EBBS. Feedback was generally positive, so I continued, though at a far slower rate than I’d like. Unfortunately, around this point, the EBBS began to die from neglect (the sequel to Elite (Frontier:First Encounters)  has been one of the greatest examples of Vapourware in existence, until the coming of Elite: Dangerous).

So a combination of new responsibilities at home (children) and decreasing peer-group pressure to drive me past those distractions brought forward movement to a near standstill, which whipped me with guilt, but not (unfortunately) enough to drive progress. I’m stuck at about 85% of first draft status (my first drafts are generally pretty complete in any case) struggling to weave all the plot threads together into a semi-cohesive whole and finish this sucker off.

So more or less, here I am.

Get to the point, already!

Yeah. Well the point of this blog is going to be as a motivator. I’m going to use this to discuss the writing of my novel, as well as writing in general. Also, I’m going to use this as a spur to keep me working on the novel, thinking about the novel and working to perfect it. Of course, if I was Asimov…

“On February 5, 1981, I signed the contract, and within the week, the Doubleday accounting system cranked out the check for $25,000.
I moaned that I was not my own master anymore and Hugh O’Neill said, cheerfully, “That’s right, and from now on, we’re going to call every other week and say, ‘Where’s the manuscript?’” (But they didn’t. They left me strictly alone, and never even asked for a progress report.)” – Isaac Asimov, Foreword to “Foundation”

It should go without saying that I’m not Asimov, although a $25k advance (even without allowing for inflation) would certainly give me additional impetus to continue. 🙂

I’m not overly bothered whether I get readers or not, I’m instead going to focus on making coherent posts that crystallise my thinking, for myself if for no-one else, and build such a buzz in my brainpan that they overflow onto the page.

So here we go, and hopefully, here we go forward….

P.S. Contrary to the opening quote, no writer has absolute freedom. That’s something we’ll delve  into later.

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One Response to Starting Point

  1. Pingback: The price of a half-bright idea | Dispatches from the Gilded Cage

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