Thursday, 11 March 2010

Hunger and Fear

I am planning a novel. There, I’ve said it, now I’ve made it concrete and whoever might be reading this is a witness. I need to do this, because as much I enjoy the act of writing, as much as I love creating, as much as I love the whole process that goes into producing a new piece of work - even down to the artwork - I need to find the hunger again.

The hunger?

Back in the day, I wrote at a terrific clip and when I first discovered the small press in 1998/99, I could write three short stories in a week. Now, that seems like some long-ago magic that I can only just remember, but thankfully I keep afterwords to everything and so I have the proof that it did happen (only the once in that case, to be fair, but I was regularly producing two or three stories a month). I was also very lucky, with the small press still heavily in printed bloom at the time, so I not only got a lot of material published, I got physical books and zines to put on my ‘writing shelf’.

In 2000, I began studying for my professional exams, which meant night school two or three nights a week (depending on the module) and I also decided to start writing a novel then too. Since 2000, I have only written a handful of short stories, the bulk of them due to editors asking me and I assumed that my short story engine had conked out and stopped beating myself up about my lack of progress in 2004 or so. The thing was, procrastination had begun to take hold and really dig in, not helped by the lack of time I had - with the studying and then, later, with having a son. Now don’t get me wrong, having my boy and spending time with him is wonderful and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but my head never really got around the “do two things at once” puzzle.

Matthew is coming up for five now, safely ensconced at school and we have our nightly rituals that, I hope, both of us enjoy. He’s in bed, usually, for 7.30 and I know that I should put in an hour or so after that but it’s a case of trying to tempt myself into it.

So procrastination and being out of the habit is a big chunk of what I need to combat, to re-achieve the hunger, but there’s also fear to contend with. Yes, fear. Not of failure, as such, because you should never be scared of attempting something new on the off-chance that you might not crack it first time. It’s more the fear of actually living up to what you’re capable of. Is this story any good? Are you still cutting it as a writer? Does this work? Worse, is the idea original? I read a lot of genre material, I also read a lot of non-genre material and there are several times where I’ve had what I think is a cracking idea, only to discover that I’d been inadvertently plagiarising something else (example - I almost never started my novel “Conjure”, because the witch in it was originally buried in an oubliette and for a long time, I couldn’t convince myself I hadn’t copied “The Ring”).

At the moment, I have two ideas on the boil - a (might-be) Zombie Quest novel and a (sort of) haunted house novel. I’m really keen on the Quest one, but I’ve just critiqued Gary McMahon’s exceptionally good “The End”, which touched on a lot of set pieces I’d already noted. We wouldn’t produce the same work, I realise that, but in the back of my mind, I’d be conscious of stepping on his toes.

So the haunted house novel then? I think so, except that I have to convince myself that the cult I want to include in it isn’t a cult at all, that this isn’t about a nasty man in a ruined palace (which I did with my other novel, “In The Rain With The Dead”), but it’s something else altogether. And the key selling points? Well, it’s the agents of the house (which I think are very cool and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like them before) and what’s in the cellar.

So I’m working on the timings, of when to write. I’m working on the fear, that my ideas for “Shine Like It Does” are pretty originals. And now all I have to do is feed that hunger.

I’ll keep you posted.
This was originally posted at

No comments:

Post a Comment