Thursday, 2 September 2010

Weird Things I See: Volume One

(I'm not happy with my re-write of the character guide at all. It reads like the washing instructions on a pair of discarded sweatpants - boring, unnecessary and a little smelly. My last version was way punchier and I even managed to slip a few jokes in. But of course that one has gone to the great writing room in the sky and I'll never get it back... lousy laptop. I'll keep working on it, but in the meantime I promised you something to read, so here's another thing that I've been working on.)

I see some pretty strange things when I'm walking around this city. Well, I think they're weird - a lot of it can probably just be explained by simple human nature. Humanity is just one of those creatures I'll never truly understand. Like the platypus. I think that's one of the reasons why I write - because you humans make no sense to me, so by chronicling what I see I hope that one day I'll figure it all out and be able to join the human race instead of sniping at it from the outside like a leper jealous of everyone else's clear skin.

So in addition to offering you all some of the finest writing guides available on the web (unless there's anybody else trying to do this) I'm going to be presenting you with first hand accounts of weird shit that I've seen. I don't know, maybe it'll make some sense to one of you.

This one I'll call;

The Fountain Child and His Weird Grandparents

Okay I'll admit it's not the punchiest of titles, but as you read on you'll discover how any other possible title might get me arrested.

I was coming out of the gym the other day when I remembered that I needed some groceries from town. The usual stuff, bread, milk, duct tape and 'various assorted lubricants.' It wasn't raining too much and I could still feel my fingers. It was a nice summers day by English standards. So I decide to walk the long way through town, past all the tourist areas and the other places where I probably wouldn't get mugged.

There's a square between me and the shops. The type of place were tourists can sit around on the benches and watch people go by. There's these little nozzles built into the pavement that squirt jets of water into the air. I can see kids weaving through the spray - laughing like they don't know that this is the best time they'll ever have. One day they'll have to get jobs that they hate, get stuck in a relationship with some cash vaccuming succubus and then it'll all be downhill once they squeeze out kids of their own. Let them have their fun, I say, and I'll get on with my wandering towards the food store.

One of the kids catches my eye. You know how sometimes you see something really wrong? Like you spot a guy yelling commands at one of those invisible dog leashes? Or you see a woman pushing a pram with no baby in it down an empty road? A shirtless old man yelling obscenities to the sky? It was one of them things - it immediately drew my attention and at once I wished my attention was anywhere else.

There was this kid, can't have been more than two or three, parading through the fountain jets in nothing but a nappy. I say parading because that's exactly what it was - put a stick in this little fuckers hands and some Mickey Mouse robots might just appear behind him.

He looked like something you might see in a documentary about orphans in Calcutta. Except he seemed so happy. I figured, why wouldn't he be? It's technically a summers day and there are people milling about - one of them could be his parent or guardian. He wasn't in any immediate danger. But I wondered why his parents weren't stepping in to call him back. Like I said there were people milling about and according to the tabloid presses every single one of those people was probably a paedophile.

I should point at at this point that I loathe children. I can't communicate with them on any level. They terrify me because if they decided to pelt me with rocks like everyone else does, then I know that I'd have no possible defense. It's a primal thing with me - I want to spend as little time with kids as possible.

That being said, I still looked around to see if there were any adults watching (but not watching too closely) and sure enough there was an elderly couple nearby. You can trust the elderly, and even if you can't, it was an elderly couple I'm talking about here. The least threatening thing you can ever encounter in a public setting that doesn't need a forklift to support it's own weight.

The old man in the couple looked like a kindly grandpa figure. The kind of person who would look comfortable in a tweed jacket and farmer's cap no matter the weather. The sort of person who carried Wether's Originals and let you stay up past your bedtime. His wife (because I refuse to use the word girlfriend to describe part of a couple that was probably alive when Hiroshima was known for it's football team) fit the image of a grandmotherly type. She looked like she baked cookies as a sole means of recreation. She was holding a camera and filming the child with a look of pride on her face. It was a totally innocent picture of grandparents watching their grandchild at play.

I say play - because by now the child was doing a hula dance sans hoop in front of the jets of water for the amusement of the octogenarian film crew. It was like he'd just been released from Gary Glitter's basement. It was about as obscene as an upside down Christian cross in the middle of the cemetary. Writing about it makes me feel dirty.

Then grandma turned the camera off, looked to her husband and the two of them shared an intimate, but toothless (literarlly) smile. I don't know if I imagined the specks of drool dangling from grandpa's gaping mouth, but for the sake of dramatic effect let's say that I didn't. If the couple had been any younger I'd swear that they looked like one of them just mentioned 'handcuffs and whipped cream.'

Then the woman slipped the camera into an inside pocket of her cardigan, linked arms with her husband and with one last lingering glance at the crowd around her dissapeared like an elderly, cookie baking ninja.

Meanwhile, the kid kept dancing like Ian Huntley had a fresh bucket of lollipops. I got away from the whole scene as fast I could and vomitted in a nearby bin. Not entirely unusual for me since it was late afternoon and by that time I'm usually drunk anyway.

I don't know; this probably isn't right is it? I'm pretty sure I witnessed something that if it isn't immoral must certainly be illegal. Any thoughts? Should I have reported this is a crime? Should I maybe not be writing about it on the internet? Are the police and The Sun newspaper already on their way over here?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Just a quick one

Just so you know that I haven't given up on this whole journal idea.

Here's what happened; I'm working on a post about how to write a good main character. When I'm starting a new story the characters are usually the first thing I come up with, it makes sense that I start my writing journal off by talking about character development.

Ideas? I've got plenty of the bastards - far too many for just one post. You see, it's not enough to just talk about my opinions, I have to explain them, give plausible examples, trample any potential arguments and stick a few stupid jokes in there for good measure. Like a fat man on a cinema seat; it takes up a fair bit of room.

So I did three little ideas - three is, as I'll get to at some point, a magic number in writing. I expanded these three and then started work on the main body of the post, and I've been there for the past couple of days. I'm not one of those guys that can conceive, plot, draft and produce a new idea every day, I'm just not that good. My first drafts usually come out like sandpaper and I need to smooth down all the rough edges before I'll even consider letting anybody read them.

Things were going well - I looked set to finish it off tonight. I spent an hour and a half plugging away in this blogger window until I had the entire article written out sans jokes.

I tend to write the main body of this stuff and then add the jokes in later. It's easier for me to be funny if I'm reacting to something and I don't feel as if I'm being entertaining if I'm not being funny. So the joke writing stage takes a fair bit of time (which is why this entry has had no jokes in it so far - this is just stream of consciousness stuff).

I thought I'd be prudent and copy and paste the entry into a word document. I use a dinosaur of a laptop that tends to stutter worse than me on a date. When I use hotmail this thing shimmies so much that just picking out one e-mail is like picking out a single vein from a still-beating heart.

I highlighted my whole character article, right-clicked and waited.

I kept on waiting.

Maybe the machine hadn't registered my right-click properly, it's happened before.

So I right clicked again.

And my character article vanished. Two days of work gone and I couldn't get it back.

So I did what I usually do in these situations - namely, I panic, cry, drink half a bottle of mouthwash and then write about my problems. That last bit is what you've just read.

Now I have a back up. It's just that my back up has everything I've written up until today, so all I'm missing is the hour and a half that I put into it today - and most of the jokes.

So I just thought I'd drop by real quick to let you know why there hasn't been anything new here, even though I promised you all (Hi Mum!) that there would be. I'm not one of those weekend writer types that I'm going to be moaning about a lot in the future, no sir! I take all my writing very seriously. Perhaps too seriously.

There'll be something new here tomorrow - either I'll get the character article done or I'll post the other entry I've been working on (one that I had originally planned to be third up, since it's shorter than my other two). Either way drop back tomorrow around this time and see what's here.

Update on what I've been doing: P.I story that I'm working on is crawling along. At the moment my main character is getting his arse thoroughly kicked by life and some of the other characters. It's great fun to write something like this - it's totally different to anything I've written up until this point.

I also discovered a website that pays for decent short stories. My only problem is that there's a word limit of 1,500 words, and most of my shorts are way over the 4,000 word mark (they're short by comparison to the bible). So I need to work on something new, been plucking away at an idea which might fill their needs.

I got a rejection letter from another agent. This one didn't even take the time to send me a form rejection notice, apparently all they've done is scrawl 'No Thanks!' at the bottom of the letter that I sent them. All my writing stuff gets sent to my parents house, along with my bank statements and wage slips (it's the only address I've ever really learned) so I'll need to go visiting before I can see which agent it was. Suffice it to say it doesn't look like this agency can act like proffesionals, so I don't think I want to deal with them. It's like asking out a pretty girl and discovering that she's a horrible person - it's more of a relief than anything else.

I also don't have a day job anymore. This is a shame, but it's also an opportunity to try out something new so I'm not complaining (much). I just hope I get another job soon. Until I start making money from writing (which might take a long time) then I'll need a day job to pay my rent and fund my myriad addictions.

I've also been killing some time here it's a little collection of short horror fiction. A lot of it is well-written, some if it is quite light in tone and there's quite a few stories here that are unsettling. It's great. Fair warning though, if you don't like those chainmails that threaten you with ghosts if you don't send them to a million people - you'll hate the stories 'WITNESS' and 'I used to be fearless.' By reading them you apparently invite the ghost into your home. So far I'm relatively ghost free, but just thought I should warn you if you're one of them nervous temprament types.

Other people collect stamps, I collect ghosts that are trying to kill me. Maybe I can get these ghosts, Bloody Mary and that TV chick from 'The Ring' to battle each other for the right to kill me. They might all do it at once. I'll keep you posted in any case. It might make an interesting youtube video.

On that note, I'm off to sleep. I have to be up fairly early in the morning to go canvass the city centre with my CV. I plan to fling copies from the rooftops and see what happens.


- Writerman

Friday, 27 August 2010

First JOURNAL entry

Remember playing in the playground as a kid? Because what else are you going to do in a playground, right? Those older kids sold drugs - and when you got older you probably bought them. But for now I want you to imagine what it was like to just be a kid, cavorting about the playground - specifically the slides, because they relate to the metaphor I'm about to hit you with.

Remember how the slides used to take so long to climb? They seriously built them wrong. All those steps up the back end? They seemed to take forever. You may as well just not bother and go play with something else. The swings were pretty cool and they didn't take nearly as long to start.

Some people managed to persevere. Some people said 'to hell with the climb' (or they didn't, because you're not allowed to say hell when you're a kid, not if you want to get into heaven) 'I'm going up, the slides look fun!' Those steps up are pure torture on your little, not-out-of-short-pants-yet legs.

But once those kids got up there they were flying freer than any five year old child can fly.

This laborous metaphor sort of sums up how I feel about writing. Or it would be, if I wasn't legally prohibited from remembering my own childhood. It's a hard slog up those first steps. But once you're over them the rest is magic. The hardest part is starting, folks, every journey, a single step and all that.

Actually, it seems like it would be much easier to just straight up say that in the beginning. But I've already worked on the metaphor now, no point in going back to change it.

My name is Matt Holland. For the purposes of this (blessedly one way) conversation, you may refer to me as 'Writerman' because that's the only name that I could think of that blogger hasn't already given to someone else.

What's all this about?

I'm glad you asked, me-but-in-bold-type, because that's exactly what I wanted to say next after my sliding metaphor.

I am a writer. Why do I write? You may as well ask why a dog spins around in circles before he goes to sleep, why do monkeys throw their poo around, why do elephants look like happy old people? The point is that they do. Those animals do all that. I write.

It goes beyond a simple hobby for me. It's not my job either (at least not yet). But I do it because it's who I am. It's what I love to do. While the rest of the people I know are looking forward to getting home to a loving family, or going down to the pub with their mates, or waiting the car park for their next victim (whatever they do to relax) I'm looking forward to writing. I can never wait for that sweet thrill of kicking off my shoes, making a massive cup of coffee and hammering words into haphazard sentances.

Am I good at it? No. Or at least I'm not good enough. One of the sad things about this creative medium is that you'll never be as good as you should be. A musician might hear a beautiful melody in their head and then produce that, note for note with their instrument. They may not get it precisely right, but they can get a good approximation. Good enough that you know what they're going for. A tune is a tune, the audience hears it and the musician hears it and you can mostly assume that they're listening to the same thing.

All a writer has at his disposal are words. Clumsy words that have a brutish tendancy to misspell themselves whenever you're mid-flow. You can imagine a scene - but then you need to express that scene with nothing but your vocabulary.

"It was a lake, but had those thingies in it."
"There were some trees there too."
"The dog was brown."

All of these examples represent bits of terrible writing that I have produced. Except for the first one - unless you want to get all meta-quantum on me (please don't). It doesn't exactly make your heart leap in the same way that a photograph or a painting can. Those mediums let you see things exactly as the artist does. Writing leaves a lot of room for interpretation - especially if you can't stretch your vocabulary far enough.

But that's also why I love it.

Okay, genius. If you're a good enough writer to have an online journal. Why aren't you published?

Over the line, me-but-in-bold-type. I do my best. I actually have a book doing the rounds at the moment. There could be literary agents out there, right now, at this second, preparing a rejection slip for me. Isn't that exciting?

The point is - I have written two and a half full length novels and a multitude of short stories.

I look through forums and comment posts and myspace pages and I see people everywhere claiming the mantle of writer. Although these people claim to be working on their novel, they will give some excuse like 'I never get time' or 'I can't get any good ideas' or 'stop following me home, seriously, I'm beginning to regret adding you to my friends list'. They claim to be writers, but all they offer you are misspelled journal entries and badly lit photographs.

I think writers, even terrible ones like me, always find time to write. They rearrange their lives so that the craft comes first, they spend all day thinking about it and then all night getting it done. Or they do it in the morning and think about it at night - however it works for them. They don't claim to be working on a book and then spend their time watchin telly.

You can see these people in the real world. The sort of person that carries a notebook everywhere they go but will only take it out when people are watching. They like the mystery and creative aloofness that comes with being a writer, but they put no work into becoming one.

Because writers aren't aloof, or mysterious, or magical. They're just people, like you and me, that are spending a lot of time making an easy job look difficult.

Well, I'm making it look difficult in this first entry. Just to prove my point though.

Starting up this journal is my way of slapping the stupid out of you - assuming you are one of these cafe writing liars, and my way of trying to encourage you if you are on of the people that actually works at their craft every day.

Plus it won't hurt to make my presence known to the internet. Especially with my novel getting shopped around to the agencies. If they ask for another sample of my work I can just point to this online journal and get my rejection slips that much faster.

So what can we expect out of you?

Bad comedy. Tasteless jokes. Blaming the government for all my problems. Lengthy metaphors. Just the usual, boring, journal-y stuff that people stick in these things.

What you won't be getting out of me is the word 'blog' or at least if I use it, it won't be in reference to my little corner of the internet (here and some parts of The Escapist forum). Because I believe that the word has been co-opted by the corporations. I'll probably go into why I hate the word in later entries. But trust me, I have good reasons.

Basically, I have a secret but I'm not going to tell you. How does that feel?

I bet it feels awful.

But seriously, me-but-in-bold-type. I've had the idea for an online writing journal of writing for some time. It's a subject that I'm passionate about. It's all I know how to do, really. So I'm going to write about writing - hopefully get some dialogue going with the people who read this (may I just take this opportunity to say, 'Hi Mum!'). Maybe I'll make us all better writers, maybe I'll just scribble away in this thing like a blind prisoner scribbling on the walls of an empty cell. That is to say I'll scribble on here until I go insane.

More so.

Why do you write?

Because of spite and caffeine and the voices in my head. Next.

What do you write about?

Right now I'm working on a full length novel about a private detective who is also a wizard. Earlier in the year I wrote a short novel about a sexless loser learning how to play guitar to impress a girl. The novel that's being stamped for rejection by every literary agent in the country right now is an oversized thriller set in a modern day fantasy world. Think a D & D world but with cars and you're part way there.

I'm eclectic. I tend to try and fuse three or four ideas together into one story and sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes it does and I'm rewarded with a book that's sort of readable.

I like to read a lot. My favourite authers (off the top of my head) are Steven King, Charles Bukowski, Sergei Lukyaneko, R.A Salvatore, Anne Rice, Edgar Allen Poe, Phillip K Dick, Elmore Leonard, George Orwell, PJ Tracy, HP Lovecraft,, Terry Pratchett and Lawrence Block. Those just represent the authors whose books I can reach from my chair - I have three stacks of books piled up in one corner of the room. If I compiled all these books into one stack it'd be taller than I am, it'd be architecturally unsound and I'd still have plenty of books to spare. I love reading.

This eclectic reading of sci-fi, pulp and fantasy has translated into eclective writing within the genre of sci-fi, pulp and fantasy. Sometimes trying to combine all three. It's what I like to read ergo it's what I like to write. It may not be high literature but that's a subject for a future journal entry.

What's your update schedule?

Basically I'll update this journal every time I update your Mum's vagina with my dick. That is to say, a lot.

See? I'm neither gentle nor kind. Just ask your mother.

But to say it in a less insulting way - I'll try to update when I can. I make no promises that I'll have new, entertaining content on here every day, but I reckon it'll be pretty often. I have a lot of ideas for future entries all bubbling up in the mad science pot that is my brain. I'm sure to discover more things to say as I go.

So you just spent the past hour writing this? What about these supposed novels that you write?
When do you work on them? Huh? Do you ever work on your novels?
You're just a hypocrite is all!

Stop ganging up on me!

I actually did do some writing today. I dumped 1,000 words into my P.I story. Mostly it's just flavour stuff, nothing plot related yet. But there's a plot there and it's moving around. I reckon I'll be done in a month and I don't reckon I'll be posting it here.

Most days I'll be doing my actual, novel writing before I come here.

So there is it. Matt 'Writerman' Holland now has his writing journal of writing.

I've taken up enough of your time, I'll let you get back to your porn and wikipedia research (into porn) now.


(Which is something I've always said every time I finish writing something for the internet. Been doing it since I was eighteen or so. Y'see it sort of sounds like the word 'peace' when you say it out loud - I thought it was the height of wit when I was in my late teens. It's just what I say to remind me of the gutter I crawled out of.)

- Writerman