Wednesday, 31 August 2016

This book sounds familiar...?

So here I am, merrily tapping away, writing a new book.  It's going well.  It's the first project to break 20k words in a couple of years.

In a completely unrelated occurrence, a book arrives in the post for me.  I can't remember ordering it, although I must have because it...well...arrived in the post.  For me.  This isn't uncommon (not things arriving in the post, but me preordering books and then forgetting about them.  It's like Christmas every so often when unexpected presents appear).

As soon as I read the blurb to remind myself of what it is I've ordered, I have a weird moment of weird.
This book sounds familiar.
So I start to read it.  Quickly.  Without enjoying it.  I read it within a day just to get through it.
Yeah...this is my book.  And I don't mean, this copy in my hand is my book.  This book is telling the story I've been working so hard on.
Oh, crap.

Okay, let's break this down.  So I ordered a book and then forgot about it, only to crack on with a writing project that, oddly enough, is incredibly similar to this very real, very published novel that I am holding in my hands.
I know what you're thinking.
I started this project after ordering this book.  I forget having read a plot line from the blurb, and then end up taking it as my own and created my own book from it.
Sorry, but there are two flaws to this supposition:
1) The blurb isn't that informative.  It's informative enough to give me the sinking feeling that it may be a little similar to my own work, but not enough for me to create an entire story from it (if you see what I mean).
2) I started my project before I preordered this book (I checked my Amazon order history).
(Perhaps I should have started with point 2...)

The funny thing is that the story is about quantum mechanics and the Many-Worlds interpretation of a number of leading theories, specifically Schrodinger's equations.  It's entirely made funnier because of this fact.  With the possibility of a new, tangential universe being created with every observation made by every possible observer then, of course, there is a universe in which two people end up writing the same story.  Anyway, moving on from this, I'm thinking practically about it.
It's not unreasonable to say that this type of Sci-Fi is very in at the moment, so it's not surprising that I've come across a piece of work that is akin to mine.  Except, the applied science used in this book (I refuse to name it - I refuse to!) is pretty much my own.  So not only have we written on the same topic, but we have taken it to the same level in terms of deriving technology from it that would, essentially, allow the protagonists to access other alternate worlds.  That's weird.  After that, of course the stories are going to be similar as the same ethical and philosophical ponderings are bound to come up.
So, yeah.

Surprisingly, it hasn't stopped me from pushing on.  I decided, once I finished the book, that I could do better.  And I would do better.
The science isn't in depth enough.  I'm aiming for hard sci-fi, the stuff that makes your head hurt on the first reading.  I'm working my buns off trying to wrap my own head around elements of science that I never thought I'd ever want to get to grips with and I'm not going to let that go to waste.  
The published story is, at its heart, not about the science either.  It's a love story.  And that's okay, it works, it makes it more mainstream (and I really don't mean that as an insult!) but I'm not looking to take away from the central themes of identity and probability and all that good stuff in mine, so I'm not diluting mine down.  Even if that makes it less marketable.  I'm writing this for me, I suppose.

I hope this means something to others out there who have found themselves in a similar boat.  I know your pain.  And it takes a lot to just accept the reality that someone else out there, effectively, beat you to it.  Of course, I wish the book didn't exist, but it does, however I'm going to outdo it.  That's my resolution.

(If you want to know which book it is, let me know.  It's a pretty good read, if you aren't rushing it...)

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Just keep on writing, just keep writing, just keep writing

Sometimes you just have to push through.

On nights like these, it's a real struggle to write anything of substance and I have (and probably will tonight) walk away from my projects with this sense that the stuff I've just put down is nonsense.  
It's hard not to find that depressing or frustrating.
On nights like these, I have to remind myself that at least I did something.

I used to wallow in self-pity when I hit blocks like this and ended up brutally editing stuff I'd just written because I knew it was bad and wasn't up to the calibre I'd expect of myself.  Then I realised that that was the worst thing I could do.  Mostly because it ended up with having nothing left after ripping it apart and I ended up feeling worse about myself for having wasted valuable time to arrive back where I'd started when I'd first sat down.

It's very hard, but allowing yourself to write crap and silencing that inner voice that is telling you to go back and just delete it is super super important.  It feels like continuing to run when you have a stitch.  Well, sort of.  Clearly I don't mean it physically feels like that, but in terms of just pushing through the barrier and continuing on, even if the goal is so far ahead that you can't see it, writing and running feel quite similar.  You go through these periods of not doing your best.  You stumble, run out of puff, start walking, stop, start, stop again, feel like quitting...eventually, however, you (hopefully) continue on and accept the fact that this may end up being the worst race you've ever run but, at least, you're going to finish it.
Wow, that was a long sentence.  See?  Shitty writing all over the place.

Tonight I'm allowing myself to spew out terrible prose.  It's there still because it's contributing towards my goal, even if most of it ends up being edited out it's still forwarding the story.  Without it, I'd still be stuck in the same spot.  At least I'm moving past a bit that I'm clearly not doing well with for whatever reason.  Hopefully, when I return to it, I'll be able to hit that bit with a little more focus and enthusiasm, making more out of it than the first time.  What's good, and what I have to remind myself of, is that it's content at the least.  I have an idea of what I want to happen, even if it isn't very well explained or whatever.  I've been in worse situations where I have written myself into a corner and can't find a way out.  That really really sucks.  That's when you know that it's either a lengthy rethink and rewrite needed to make it work or allowing a massive plothole to form right there and then.  I've had to settle for the latter and just continue writing.  That leaves you with a sinking feeling, I'll tell you.
Maybe because I've had that experience, knowing that I'm writing crap tonight isn't so bad.  At least it makes sense in the grand scheme of things and is pushing me forward.

I've had similar experiences at Uni with writing essays.  You can get in such a muddle with everything you want to say and explain that you can end up writing awful waffle.  That's another instance where deleting and waiting for the "perfect" rendition of the work to spontaneously pour out of your mind and appear on the screen is completely the wrong thing to do.  You're getting bogged down in the detail.  Again, I had to allow myself to have verbal diarrhoea a few times until the word count was hit, before wading back through the nonsense to weed out the stuff that mattered.  That ended up working quite well and it's definitely translated well to writing.

The new project I'm working on, The Aperture, is generally going very well so, when it comes to nights like tonight, I just have to ignore the doubt and frustration and take a page out of Dory's book.

Pixar FTW.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Writing is about accepting that you may be embarrassed later...

Confession inbound, people.

I used to write fan fiction.

Somewhere, buried deep in the darkest depths of the internet, hidden on a long-forgotten forum are some incredibly cringe-worthy bits of Dark Angel fan fiction.

If anyone remembers Dark Angel then, congratulations, you win many cool points (only redeemable in conversation with me, and what for I don't know*).  If you don't, then you aren't missing a great deal, just mostly Jessica Alba racing around Seattle on the back of a motorcycle and beating up villains whilst wearing heels.  Well, I say all this but truthfully I quite like the series still and [EDIT: I had to go back after finishing this blog and redact what was almost an entire paragraph critiquing the series.  I'll bore you with that in person, unless you have cool points to spend and can cash them in to avoid that happening entirely].

Let's get back to the point (there was one, I promise).  I have come to terms with the fact that I probably embarrassed myself then with my fan fiction and may be doing exactly the same now with The Great Hand.  At least this project isn't essentially me living out my teenage fantasy of being a slim, athletic super hero.  It is, however, a reflection of me (unsurprising considering I wrote it, right?) and that's just a tiny bit terrifying.  I'm a private person (other than my propensity to bother my friends with entirely too many pictures of my daughter) and prefer to keep my life to myself, but here is an iteration of me on the screen (maybe one day on paper) for everyone to examine.  Button, my protagonist, is confused, anxious and lost at the beginning of the book.  I won't spoil it for everyone by revealing whether this state endures until the end, but it's safe to say that these character traits dictate a lot of her decisions.  I was a total mess throughout most of my early twenties and Button became the vessel for a lot of this angst.  Now, I'm happy to say, I have plenty enough distance on this period in my life that I am able to look at her and her behaviour and see it as alien to my own, but I'm still working on not finding her embarrassing.
Because I do.
I find my fictional character embarrassing.
This is because I'm still too close to it to be able to go "hey, it's fine that Button is essentially me at that age.  It's totally okay that that's out there for almost anyone to see.  I'm absolutely, 100% cool about that.  In fact, I embrace it!"  Still, I'm doing it, the book is out there, I'm letting it be and will have to just deal with the consequences.  This isn't even touching on other concerns which include worrying as to whether my spelling and grammar are right (I know there are still errors aplenty abound in there - I WILL FIND THEM AND DESTROY THEM).    

Okay, so my point (here it is, I told you it was coming) is that I am prepared to be embarrassed at some later stage in my life when something about this project comes back to bite me in the bottom.  At least with my DA FF (as we called it in the business), it's buried and it only came to the attention of a few fans on a forum that probably doesn't exist anymore**.  This, however, is on the internet good and proper AND I've drawn it to the attention of my friends, the people who I don't intend to cut and run from if it turns out that this was all a horrible mistake.  Or when.  When this turns out to a horrible mistake.

Despite all this, however, I'm going to keep doing it and will have to keep bracing myself for the outcome.  And I think more people should do the same.  Put up your stuff, even if it's just a rough draft or whatever the equivalent is, whether it's painting or modelling or vlogging or amateur porn, because I am pretty sure that you get better a lot quicker when other people are involved***.  If you're lucky, like I am, you'll have friends who'll review your work and give you pointers or support or both.  You may even be surprised, as I have been.  People who don't know me, who only have my work to go on, have actually bought my book.  Real, honest to Hand, humans with actual money have paid for my book.  They may never get it if I don't reach my goal (PLUG PLUG) but still, that's incredible and has made me feel pretty good.  That wouldn't have happened if I hadn't of risked the embarrassment.

Okay, I think that made sense.  Most of it.  Enough of it.

Speak soon,
Sammy Bee

*Please avoid the obvious joke.
** Please nobody try to prove me wrong and find the stuff.  Your eyes will probably bleed as soon as you look upon it.
***Particularly when it comes to porn AMIRITE

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Welcome and Inkshares

Hello hello!

Welcome to this...whatever this is...enjoy reading my thoughts, if that's at all possible.

I want to get straight into it and talk about Inkshares.

Here's where my campaign to get published is right now.

I went into this completely unprepared, on a whim, almost.  I've never really tried to get published, other than send my manuscript to a few publishers and agents.  This is my first real attempt...and it's not a brilliant one at that, either.  After first getting over the immediate shock of the fact my work is up there for serious, real writers to see I then moved onto realising that to get this to happen I'd actually have to show faith in my work and ask people to support it.  I don't do that.  I've never done anything like that.  I used to hate the idea of anyone reading my work for fear of them criticising what is a very important part of my life, one that I have kept under wraps for a long time.  Still, I did it and here I am, talking about it.  

What I really wanted to say about Inkshares is how it's already done me a world of good.  For anyone reading who hasn't clicked the link above (how dare you!) or doesn't know me personally, therefore hasn't received one of a bajillion updates on the campaign already, you'd think that me saying it's been a good move is because I've gained loads of preorders already.
Well, I haven't.  Not really.
This isn't to sound ungrateful - please don't take it as that.  I am eternally thankful to my friends and those awesome people on Inkshares who don't know me for putting actual money in to support me.  What I mean is that Inkshares gives you this crazy chart of how many preorders you need to be generating a day or week or whatever to hit your goal and I am nowhere near that.  Not to say that it won't happen, that I won't have a late surge of support, but I have honestly (already) made my peace with the idea that I probably won't hit my funding goal.  I'm only a week in.  Chalk that up to whatever you like, realism or negativity or whatever.  In any case, that's where I am now.
So what I mean by "it's done me a world of good" is that I've had a chance to talk with other real writers.  People like me who probably don't have a hope in hell of attracting a publishing house to them and not because their work is bad, but because this area is just saturated with amateur authors and budding manuscripts and you need to already have x number of accolades against your name to even get noticed.  Oh, and an agent.  That helps.
Anyway, here I am having joined an awesome Syndicate (shout out to Break The Bechdel With Strong Female Characters!) and started chatting with some of its members.  I also paid money to support another author and intend to do more of the same, once I'm not so poor.  It's pretty awesome, actually.  I am helping other people achieve their ambitions (in a small way, admittedly) but it's lovely and I'm enjoying trying to help get some great pieces of work off the ground.  As I've said, I have made peace with the idea that I probably won't hit my goal but that's okay, because going forward I would have made some great connections with other authors and maybe have gained a readership, however modest.

So, go check out my book if you like, I think it's pretty good.  Going forward, I am feeling positive about another project I started a month or two ago.  It's a voyage into hard Sci-Fi and it's kicking my bum, but that's okay.  My brain feels like its pooling and dripping out of my ears some days, although that may be me feeling the effect of trying to write after having a giggling toddler wake me up at 4:30am.  Who knows?

Speak soon,
Sammy Bee