Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The post-Con buzz (and harnessing it!)

For a writers blog, I don’t do many posts about my actual writing, do I?  Well, hold on to your hats…

I am, at the moment, working on a war-themed novella (which I’ve been procrastinating over for ages) but I now also know what I’m going to be writing after that and it already has a home, which makes the project all the more exciting.

Just to backtrack slightly, I had a grand plan last year.  I’d finally (after a couple of years) corralled my ideas for a novel-length expansion of my novelette “The Mill”, opening it out with a psychic and a haunted house and a failed TV medium.  I had high hopes, I wrote a synopsis and the first three chapters, I had it critiqued and then the publisher I was really keen on rejected it.  A huge dent to my confidence (even though he was very complimentary about my writing and the structure of the piece), it really took the wind out of my sails.  A little while later I had my heart attack and that, as you can imagine, didn’t do a great deal for my writing mojo.  I wrote some short stories (which were asked for, several of them will appear this year, a few next year) and turned the novel pitch over in my head - I got more feedback on it, all positive, but something about it nagged me.  I don’t know if it was the rejection, or maybe that it was tied up in my head with my heart attack, or maybe that I didn’t want to revisit the depths of grief that I’d plumbed to write “The Mill”.  Who knows?

Earlier this year, I was invited to contribute a war-themed novella to a collection that a publisher I have a lot of time for was putting together (forgive my being vague, as soon as it’s announced, I’ll let you know).  I agreed (of course, who wouldn’t?) even though I’d never written anything set in a war before.  I spoke with my Dad (who’s a WW2 buff) and ran through some ideas with him and a story fell into place that I thought could work well.  I had a couple of short story commitments to finalise first but my writing mojo was still limping along and they took a while to come together.  The failed-novel-pitch was still rattling around and I knew I wanted to work on new novel, but whatever idea I had seemed to feed back into the pitch somehow.  I did get the shorts written (both in a burst of activity as deadline day loomed) and made more notes on the war project.

Then I realised that Edge-Lit was coming up.

I don’t really know how to explain why Conventions (and gatherings of like-minded people) are so important to creative types, but they are.  You go along and talk to your friends, about projects and problems, you talk about films and books you’ve read, you go for a meal and a drink and have a laugh, you simply exist, surrounded by creative people who are all bubbling with the same enthusiasm as you are.  I love Cons and I’ve never come back from one without feeling like I could take on the world with my writing - even better, I had a great time at this Edge-Lit and felt great.

So I decided to use that buzz and energy, to harness it for the power of good (or not, depending on whether you like my writing).  I made notes for the war novella, I wrote the opening few paragraphs (always the hardest, in my opinion) and then I let it simmer, so that when I got back from Edge-Lit, I could use that creative energy and power on.

And you know what, it worked a treat!  The war novella is trundling along quite nicely now and the monsters have just been revealed in all their glory, leaving the heroes having a hellish job trying to survive.

Part of the NSFWG gang - Tim C. Taylor, Ian Whates, me, Neil Bond
Then, a fortnight ago saw the once-a-month treat that is the Northampton SF Writers Group (or the NSFWG), of which I am a member.  I really enjoy our little gatherings and this time, a few of us stayed on and chatted over drinks and more of that creative buzz was generated.  As I drove home, it occurred to me that a section of the failed-novel-pitch (the psychic section, whose chapter generated the most attention and interest from my pre-readers) could work as a standalone novella.  The arc for the character was complete, it fed into the climax perfectly, it didn’t involve the grief and I’d enjoyed writing it.  I let the story roll around in my head overnight and the next morning, I wrote up a brief synopsis.  I emailed Pete May at Hersham Horror Books, who'd asked me a couple of years ago for a novella and told him I thought I had one.  I sent him the synopsis, he liked it and we’re on for next year.

These events were then capped by the announcement of the British Fantasy Society Awards 2015 nominees, where I appeared in the Best Novella category, courtesy of "Drive".  As I blogged at the time, it's long been an ambition of mine to get onto the shortlist but what I didn't expect was how good it felt to have the acknowledgement of your peers.

So I don’t know if it was creative energy developed by Edge-Lit and the NSFWG or if it was just a case of me making certain decisions in my writing but whatever it was, it seems to have worked.  I’m enjoying the war novella, I’m enjoying the fact that I have novella ready to go but, most of all, I’m enjoying the writing.

This is going to be a creative summer and I’m looking forward to it!  Roll on FantasyCon!

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