Saturday, 25 May 2013

My secret conceptual second life

Here's something you might not know about me. Not only am I a wannabe writer. I'm also a wannabe musician.

I have a guitar. Sometimes I actually pick it up and play it. Sometimes I even manage to convince myself that it doesn't sound to bad.

But that's not all. I'm actually a member of a band. And it's not just any kind of band. It's a conceptual band.

Okay, so there's an obvious question here. What exactly is a conceptual band? To be honest, I'm not completely sure myself. All I can tell you is that as a conceptual band, we play conceptual music. We're actually working on a conceptual album as I write this. And once that is released, we plan to go on a conceptual tour, playing our conceptual songs in a series of conceptual live concerts.

I can't wait to be a big conceptual rock star. All that conceptual fame and fortune. Fighting off those conceptual groupies.

Of course, it's never as easy as you think. Unfortunately, my conceptual bandmate and I (there's just the two of us) have recently not been getting on so well. It seems that we've had some disagreements over conceptual creative and musical differences. I'm afraid that if it keeps up, we may have to have a conceptual breakup. And where is that going to leave me? I'll be forced into a conceptual solo career instead.

Anyway, there isn't really any further point to this post. I guess you could say that it's a bit of a conceptual blog post. But if anything changes in my strange, conceptual second life as a musician, I'll be sure to let you know. Maybe I'll get some conceptual videos up on Youtube, or get up to some conceptual hijinks on an airplane

Till next week, I hope your fun will be more than just conceptual.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Avoiding cliches is the biggest cliche of all

It should be pretty obvious really, shouldn't it? Everybody knows that we should avoid cliches like something that isn't the plague (but is still really bad).

Just last week, I was reading another one of those blog post tips for writers thingees that was going on about all those cliches you should make sure you avoid. And this one even came from an agent.

Yes, yes, I've heard it all before. Cliches are boring. They're lazy writing and they devalue your story. We've heard them all before, yada yada yada.

You know what  I think. I think that constantly being told to avoid cliches is becoming more boring than the cliches themselves. I think avoiding cliches is the biggest cliche of all.

When you look at what is up there on the bestseller lists, you see how much of a lie the avoiding cliche thing is. What's the first thing you usually see? More of the same. Volume 27 of this series of volume 238 of that series. More of the same of the same of the same. It's pretty obvious if you ask me. We're not bored by repetition. We love it. We embrace it. We're all constantly crying out for more of the same, more of those good old cliches.

And I think this is especially rich coming from an agent. From where I'm sitting, they're the ones helping to perpetuate this whole repetition thing. In their position as gatekeepers for the industry, they're the ones who have a big say in what gets through and what doesn't.

Funny thing is, when you actually try to push something that does things a different way, and tries to strive for something that avoids those cliches, what do you get. "Oh dear, this is a bit hard to categorise," or, "This is going to be a bit difficult to find a market for." I know. I'm one of those shmucks who actually took the avoiding cliches thing seriously and tried to do something a bit different.

At this point, I suspect it's all a bit of a lost cause. And besides, I've pretty much decided that writing a cliche free story is nigh on impossible. Because, as I look more closely at that list of cliches we should all be avoiding, the main thing I can see is that there actually isn't much left. By the time I get through expunging all of those cliches, I don't think there's anything left I can actually write.

So I say embrace the cliche. Enjoy it for what it is - a mechanism that allows your reader to place your story, and make some sense out of what it is.

That's enough of my rant for this week. Here's one final cliche to finish off with - hope you have a great week. 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Here tomorrow, gone today

I'm pleased. I managed to come up with a nifty title for my blog today.

I'm even more pleased. I have a little bit of an idea of what I might actually write about.

It's something I've seen mentioned over and over in the world of independent publishing: it's a marathon, not a sprint. That's all very well, but sometimes I wonder how long the race is meant to last. 

I have to admit, I'm quite partial to sprinting. I'm actually a pretty quick runner. Or at least I was, back in my younger days. To be honest, I couldn't tell you the last time I broke into a serious run (although recently I have had a few races to try and catch a tram, and I can tell you I was seriously pooped afterwards).

But I understand the whole marathon vs sprint thing. We can't expect to be overnight successes. It takes a lot of time and work (and most likely luck) to get yourself to the pinnacle of writing success. The question I have is, how long is that marathon meant to last?

It seems that for some people, the marathon is substantially longer than for others.  Take as examples some of my favourite writers. Douglas Adams is a good case in point. When Hitch-hikers guide came out, he seemed to become a big writing star out of the blue. But if you look closely at the biography on his book blurbs, and all the different jobs he had done, you realise that it didn't just happen overnight. There was more than a bit of work before it finally did.

Another case is Kafka. On the surface, not much like Adams, though both did find different ways to write about the absurd. Kafka didn't get famous during his (short) lifespan. It was only after his death that a friend published the manuscripts (after being told to destroy them). Now, of course, they're recognised as true classics.

I guess what this is saying is there are marathons and marathons. Some have an end point that is further away than others. And if you know anything about the origins of the word, you know that Pheidippides, the original marathon runner, dropped dead as soon as he had completed his great run.

I don't want that to be me. I'm more than happy to do the hard yards, and I like the idea of producing something with lasting worth. But I also want to make it to the finish line - and last a bit longer after that too. I don't want to be here tomorrow, gone today.

Hope you all have a good run too. 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Excitement and adventure from the very beginning

This is a really great and exciting opening sentence that will grab your attention straight away and make you want to read the rest of this post.

Well, maybe not, but I thought I might try it anyway.

I've been reading blog posts about opening sentences. I know, I shouldn't be doing it. I'm so opinionated as it is, all that's going to happen is I'm going to get all hot under the collar about other people telling me what to write and how to write. If I want to start my stories in a way that someone else doesn't think stories should be started, that's totally my business.

Once I got over that, I did have a bit of a think about it (I know, that's not always a good idea either). As it is, I reckon the opening sentences in my books are actually not too bad. So what if the opening to my fantasy story is pretty much exactly how I was told not to start a fantasy story. And if my detective story opens in a way that I'm told a detective story should never open. I can live with that, because that's just the kind of person I am.

So I really wasn't too concerned about changing the opening sentences for my stories. But what I was concerned about was my blog. Maybe one of the reasons I always seem to get bugger all hits on my blog is because my opening sentences are crap. Maybe it's time to reassess my approach to how I start up each of these posts.

Obviously, I need to cut to the chase, get straight into the serious blog action, and not beat around the bush with my usual form of bloggy blah. No more meandering along with sentences like "It's a lovely sunny day as I sit at my computer, looking out the window at a flock of birds effortlessly dancing through the air in tight formation" or "I sit at my desk, a tall, slim man with black-brown hair and a drawn expression on my face as I try to force my brain into action". Oh no, we're going clean and mean and no messing around.

Mind you, I seem to have hit a problem right away. Get straight into the action? What sort of action am I talking about? I'm beginning to get a feeling that it isn't just the beginnings that are a problem for my blog - I suspect the middles are also a bit of an issue. And also, given that I have no idea what this is actually leading to, I think I may have a problem with endings as well. for coming. See you next week.