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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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harrypotter

An Awfully Big Adventure

I have a number of friends on the internet who I’ve come across through writing stories.  One such person is Glempy, also called The Rogue Verbumancer, who you may remember from guest posts like this one, and my almost monthly entries for the Pictonaut Challenge.

As the general setup of Pictonaut implies, Glempy is one of those writers who likes to get other people writing.  This predilection could stem from pure philanthropy, or it might be orchestrated so the man in question has a ready-made support network of peers gnashing their teeth and churning out #amwriting tweets at the same time as him – it’s impossible to know for sure.  Still, whatever his reasons, the outcome is a positive one – lots of stories for you to read.

With that in mind, I would like to tell you about Sir’s latest project – The Life and Times of a Working Barbarian.

Choose Your Own Adventure #45 You Are A Shark (1985)
Picture by Paxton Holley (http://blog.paxholley.net/)

Do you remember Choose Your Own Adventure books?  You read some of the story, then had the option to choose what happened next – for instance, ‘to go through the spooky arch turn to page 62,’ or ‘to climb the rickety ladder turn to page 4.’  The story was in your hands, and anything could happen – if you made a bad choice the hero might actually die, or at least be horribly maimed.* 

The idea of Working Barbarian is to resurrect this storytelling model.  Glempy has assembled a group of writers, including yours truly, who have agreed to relay The Life and Times of a Working Barbarian in gripping internet instalments.  After each instalment there will be a list of ‘what do you want to do next’ options and you, the general public, get to Choose Your Own Adventure by voting on whether you want the Barbarian to go through the spooky arch, climb the rickety ladder or stroke the adorable cthulu kitten.   

I’m really excited about this project, and if you’re excited too then you should CLICK HERE whereupon you can subscribe to email updates or follow the blog so that new posts appear in your reader.  You’ll also be able to find out a bit more about the merry band of people involved in writing the thing.

The first part of the story, penned by Glempy himself, goes live on Monday April 8th.  Hooray!

*Bear in mind this was pre Song of Ice and Fire / Potter – main characters being senselessly killed was unusual back then. 

The Book Blogger Files #1 – Roof Beam Reader

There are approximately 8 zillion trillion gillian book blogs on the internet – but how do you know whether the reviews on there will actually match your own tastes?  I figured one way might be to find out a little bit more about the people writing them.  This is why I now present The Book Blogger Files – a series of interviews with the mysterious literary enthusiasts behind the keyboards.  First up, freelance essayist and creative writer Adam Burgess, also known as Roof Beam Reader (the name is a reference to a story by J.D.Salinger).

Continue reading “The Book Blogger Files #1 – Roof Beam Reader”

Fanfiction: A Brief Introduction

A guest post by chemistry researcher and fanfiction veteran Seneska.

Have you ever read a book and thought some characters were clearly capable of so much more? Or wondered in a hilarious television sitcom why they didn’t just stop and think for a second, giving us all twenty minutes of peace? Have you (and I know the answer to this already) watched the Star Wars prequels and thought “I could have pulled better films out of my arse”? Congratulations, you are two steps away from becoming a writer of fanfiction. It’s all uphill from here.

What next?

The next step is to think of a scenario you want characters to perform. Then, finally, you have to actually write it all out.

It’s usually that last phase where people fall down, but it’s only that extra drop of dedication that makes the brew complete. That is where the distinction lies between a reader/watcher/player of a medium, and a fan. A fan doesn’t see writing out all this stuff as a trial. I have managed to write a thousand words of A-Team fanfic in thirty minutes; a fact that I’m not particularly proud of, and one wish I could repeat the when it comes to my work…

Fan communities are generally considered to have started with the onset of Star Trek: The Original Series, with magazines written by fans for fans. The arrival of the World Wide Web to our daily lives, however, made the fan’s life much easier.

Getting involved

I first got involved in a fandom with a Lord of the Rings online forum with my best friend a decade ago when we were 16. There were discussions about creation myths, the evils of technological advancement and poetry… and all that was just supplied by JRR himself! The people involved with the community were friendly and very forgiving, unless you asked them whether a Balrog has wings. My first steps into fanworks (fan- fiction, poetry, videos, art etc) came by re-writing well known song lyrics to make them LotR-based.

Knitted Draco by Nicky Fijalkowska (knitforvictory.co.uk)

Never been kissed

It was my best friend who first made the jump to writing her own fanfiction. She had a thing for Draco Malfoy, so she dated him, fictionally. It was all a bit bite-y from what I remember reading… And therein lies the main issue people have with fanworks. The people writing these stories blatantly have too much time on their hands, meaning that they tend to be quite young. After all, who wants to do homework when there’s romance just a click away? And if there is one thing that is on a teenager’s mind it is sex.

Not all fanfic is romance, but the majority is. Unfortunately, inexperienced and hormonal young adults aren’t necessarily going to deliver quality fiction. That’s where the community comes in.

Help is at hand

The community will help edit works and offer development advice, so that adolescents grow into reasonably good writers (and maybe even lovers). It takes time and practise, but I’ve known fanfiction authors develop huge fanbases, the strength of their popularity letting them branch out into being professional authors. They wouldn’t be where they are today if they hadn’t written those stories about Draco Malfoy and his jeans.

Labour of Love

The first rule of fanfiction is that money can’t be made from the work of the fan. If you try to make a profit, you’re breaching the author’s intellectual property.

You also need to be aware that some writers don’t like fanfiction on principle. They feel that their creations are for them alone to play with. Others are happy that their works generate such fannish (the preferred term to fanatical) tendencies. Regardless of their personal viewpoint, very few original creators will ever admit to reading fanfiction, in case of any copyright issues if similar plot points turn up in a sequel.

For some people it’s a form of expression. For others it’s about the two hundred friends you make while doing something fun. For others it’s about Aragorn and Legolas and their obvious gay love affair. Whatever floats your boat, the fan community can accommodate you. You’ll almost certainly learn something along the way.

For more from Seneska, follow on Twitter @Seneska.

For examples of fanfiction that has led to publication, check out Molly Ringle’s blog, or her LoTR parodies (Fellowship, Two Towers, Return of the King).

A Story

What do Jedward’s Birthday, Liam Fox, Justin Bieber, Siri, We Are the 99 Percent, the Rugby World Cup, protests in London and the Korean Grand Prix have in common?

They’re all featured as keywords in this blog post, because they are the things people seem to be talking about on Twitter today and I want to see whether mentioning them drives more traffic to this page.

I don’t have a lot to say about any of them though, sadly.  So what I might do is incorporate them all into a short horror story, as this month I’ve been claiming I can write a short story every single day (turns out I can’t – it’s really quite hard).

 

It was John and Edward’s birthday, and they were celebrating by dancing around their kitchen to the new Justin Bieber album.

Continue reading “A Story”

Mister Grumpy

My last email from Andrew of Far too Snug and Twitter fame.  You may remember the other day we spoke of what book shops do with genre fiction and where I would like to be shelved if I was a published author.

I think when you are editing the 12 books you should insert a recurring character. I always meant to do that with a guy called ‘Mister Grumpy’ but I’ve never quite got round to it. This is mainly because when you are trying to sell an individual story to lots of different magazines it doesn’t really make any sense to have a character whose presence is explained in another story.

I think most people write based on an initial idea that develops and snowballs. It isn’t a conscious effort on most people’s parts to think ‘Today I will write a space opera’. However your interests will certainly shape the kind of ideas you have. In your case you have had to do research into the genres you haven’t been as familiar with as others, yes?

Do you feel that writing lots of different genres will actually sharpen your voice, as you will have to find your way of writing each one?

Maybe when you’re published you find yourself having to write a certain way. Madeleine Wickham wrote her  books before finding success with the Shopaholic series under the Sophie Kinsella pen-name, but the latter’s success allowed her to return to her initial interest in writing more Wodehouse-esque novels (which, incidentally, got described as ‘Literary Fiction’ on World Book Night. They seem more like comedies based on the descriptions though).

For example, I have recently read The City and The City by China Mieville and The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. Mieville’s previous books have been fantasy/steampunk, so City… was shelved in that section. Raw Shark… was Hall’s first book, and is shelved in Fiction, but there’s certainly overlap between the two to my mind involving conceptual space and the human mind’s compartmentalising of things. Either could be shelved in the other’s section.

Both are very good, by the by.

With that in mind, would you rather be a popular fantasy author who moved into other territories but still got shelved in the same place, or a critically acclaimed Fiction author who dabbles in other genres?


I think that writing in different genres will challenge me and develop my voice in other ways, yes.  I hope it does, anyway.  And of course the more research I do the more likely that is to happen, because reading other books in the genre gives you an understanding of what works, what doesn’t; what has already been done to death and what might benefit from a different spin being put on it.  The main thing that’s come out of this so far is that I need to spend more time reading and absorbing other people’s stories – I perhaps don’t yet know enough to be as clever about things as Dianna Wynne Jones or Neil Gaiman, but I’ll get there!

I think I’d rather be popular than critically acclaimed, to be honest.  I would like to think people were reading my books because they enjoyed them, rather than because they’d been told by a panel of self appointed experts that it was clever or deep.

I don’t think I’m in too much danger of being critically acclaimed though, because my sense of humour comes through in everything I write and unfortunately I do tend towards the silly.  I would edit things out that looked in danger of becoming too serious or po-faced.  That isn’t to say that I don’t write well or have interesting ideas… but I’d rather be Pratchett than Tolkein.  Although if I come out with anything as good as China Mieville does I’ll be insufferably smug.

I do sort of think I’d get annoyed if I got pigeon holed in one genre, but there again it would depend on what that genre was.  I can’t envision writing the same character for 30 crime books, like Ian Rankin or MC Beaton – but if I was writing fantasy, the nature of the genre might well involve overlapping without having to focus on the same protagonist every time.

Freedom to write and do different things is always nice, because if you open yourself up to new experiences it can give you other viewpoints and ideas that work quite well in separate contexts.  As well as writing fiction I do local news journalism, cultural comment and reviews, and the odd comic or illustration; then when I return to 12 books I’ve got different ideas and perspectives to filter in there on top of specific genre research.  However, if I had a character like Harry Potter or Rebus that people really loved and wanted to hear more about, I can’t imagine that I would say no!

In summary – I would like to be popular and able to dabble in a few different genres, but my main hope is that people enjoy reading what I write.  Preferably enough that I can make a living out of it, one day…

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