Life

What I learned about writing without the internet

On Wednesday evening our internet cut out because the bill hadn’t been paid. We only got it back this morning (Sunday for anyone in a different time-zone).

After the initial shock of not being able to check Facebook 14 times in an hour, I got pretty bored. Bit my nails a lot.

Typewriter

Okay, it wasn’t exactly like this.

That night, I set myself a goal of writing 500 words of a work-in-progress. Small and achievable. When I hit the 500-word mark, I just kept going. And going.

On Thursday, I opened up a file, a short sci-fi story I’ve been chipping away at for a long time. It’s the longest story I’ve written so far and every time I went to work on it, it seemed like such a mammoth task I chickened out and did something else.

This time I felt the same anxiety about getting stuck in, but printed off the whole thing and went through it page by page, making edits with a red pen.

On Saturday I sat at the kitchen table with my laptop, propped up the pages with a stack of books and a bit of blue-tack, and went to work, editing, cutting, re-wording sentences. Adding scenes and taking out ones that didn’t work. I think I started at around 2pm and didn’t stop until I’d reached the last page at 9:30pm.

Even in between the writing, I did things like make breakfast for everyone and offered to go to the shop for trash (if you know me well, you know these are not things that happen often).

Now the internet is back, and while I’m glad I can look up whether or not they make secret cameras that are undetectable to security scanners (they don’t) and what the word ‘runnygazoo’ means (n. nonsense), I’m a little sad. I have absolutely no willpower, so avoiding the internet completely is a hard sell. What I am going to try though is giving myself an allowance of internet, an internet-free zone during the day and only double-clicking that little icon in the evening. Can I do it? God knows.

Tomorrow is Day 1…

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READING & RUM

This blog post started life suffering from depression.

It opened with the sentence “Let me begin by saying that 2015 was, for me at least, like a silent fart in an elevator.”

There was a completely asinine title: “New Year, New Me (Or Something to That Effect)”

There were cliches: “picking up the broken pieces” and “dotting the i’s”.

There was evidence of failures taken to heart: “I made big plans at the start of the year…”

There was passive voice.

It wasn’t working. It read too much like someone else, some cookie-cutter type who Googled the phrase ‘a deep and never ending sadness’ and regurgitated the results verbatim into a text box.

I became twitchy, easily offended, a touch insane. I asked a friend to read a story of mine. He said “Sure – but I’m busy right now.” I stomped around the house for a bit. Drank two glasses of milk and ate three Drifter bars in quick succession. I belly crawled to the Playstation for help, diving into GTA V and unleashing an artistic rage bomb on the artificially intelligent people of Los Santos. I drove around aimlessly, got a terrible haircut, smashed up a bus stop with my (Michael’s) bare fists. I lit an oil tanker on fire at a petrol station with a jerry can. I met up with two members of the Epsilon Program in the mountains, was abducted, drugged, robbed of my clothes and left in a field in the hot sun, stumbling around like a sick antelope. I got a text from Marnie of the Epsilon Program asking me to donate $500.

I donated the $500.

Then I switched it off. Nothing seemed to appease me.

Then I picked up a book and started reading. I’m a writer. I should be reading, a LOT. Or at least a lot more than I’ve been doing.

But, Netflix. You know how it is.

FUCK IT, I said. Off went the TV. And I felt sort of, kind of, a bit better. Also, I held a games night and got people I liked round and drank rum and shouted and let off steam.

So let it be known:

READING (& RUM) SAVES LIVES.

 

March: A Recap

March is nearly over which is both a blessing and a curse. I wanted to finish edits on a slipstream short story I’m working on called Wife Is Such An Ugly Word today but life got in the way, thanks to one of the cats having an “accident” all over a live 8-plug extension cable. Don’t know how many plastic molecules I inhaled but it wasn’t a great way to start the morning.

My Goodreads Books list (the one that contains everything I’m in as either contributor or author) looks set to expand from three distinct works to about seven, which does nothing really except make me feel good whenever I look at it.

Sent back my final edits for Babymaker, a short sci-fi piece about a woman living in a dystopian society that encourages women to have as many children as possible in order to support the ongoing war with North Korea. It will be appearing in GIVE: An Anthology of Anatomical Entries from When The Dead Books. It’s great to read a story you’ve more or less forgotten about and find that, hell yeah, you still love it. The book’s release was delayed, but huh, that only heightens anticipation in my eyes.

Grimdark 3Grimdark Magazine Issue #3 is out after an early release – it’s our biggest yet, with short fiction from the likes of Kelly Sandoval, Siobhan Gallagher, Peter Fugazzato, excerpts from novels by Luke Scull & Mike Brooks and an article on Grimdark in gaming by myself and Jeremy Szal. Plus the second part of R. Scott Bakker’s story The Knife of Many Hands. The fabulous cover (see left) was produced by Aussie artist Austen Mengler, and you can find more of his work here.

We also had another writer’s group last night, with me leading the charge and organising a few activities. I asked everyone to bring their favourite book, one that had a strong voice or style. Over a few glasses of wine, we each read a page out loud and picked a scenario from short scenes I’d clipped from a magazine. We wrote for 10 minutes in the styles of our chosen books, then swapped books and tried to write the same scenario again, but in a different style. It was a fun experiment and it pushed everyone out of their comfort zones.

Sent out six submissions, got one acceptance, so a quiet month in that respect. April’s nearly here, have dusted off the Big Story (can’t bring myself to call it a novel, it’s just too scary) and am planning to have a read through before I go to Ireland. Am terrified. If anyone has any tips for jumping back in to a manuscript after leaving it for a long time, please leave a comment!