A New Chapter

Hello all!

I created this blog a couple of years ago, with no clear idea of what it was going to be or where I wanted to take it. Well, now I do. I suppose I should explain . . .

 So, last year I accidentally sold my sister’s soul to the devil. Now before you freak out, you’ve got to understand, she totally deserved it.

Last year in August, when the summer holidays were in full swing, I was out walking in the Mausoleum Woods in the Lincolnshire Wolds when I thought up those words. I don’t know exactly where they came from. I didn’t know who was saying them, why they were saying them, or even if they were true, but for the remaining two hours I spent walking, and then the next half an hour driving home, they were all I thought about. When I did finally get a chance to sit down, alone, at my laptop, I typed them out and found that there were other sentences lurking beyond. I spent the next two months linking those sentences, following that trail of imaginative crumbs, and ended up with a book. I called it, The Miracle of Harrow FallsAnd I was proud of it. I mean really proud of it.

Yes, okay, I’ll admit, there were holes in it (gaping caverns, in fact) and character’s were sometimes doing things they probably shouldn’t have been doing, and saying things they should very well have kept to themselves! It was rough. By heck it was rough, but it was there. A book. A brand new, finished, diamond in a great big pile of rough.

I spent the next few months polishing that diamond, chiselling away the pointy edges and smoothing over all the bits that hurt when you read them. By March of this year (2015) I was ready to send it off. To agents. Literary folk. The gatekeepers to the kingdom longed after by so many dreamers. I have written four novels since beginning this quest nine years ago, and each was better than the last. This showed in the quality of rejection I received after wrapping them warm and sending them out into the world. My first novel, which I completed while at University, was bad. Hence, not even a letter of “sorry not for me” came after it. Just . . . nothing. And I deserved it. I knew nothing of the world and naively thought myself a master (ha, how fickle we are). Next, when I was 22, I tried again. At 23 I sent off my next novel. This was also bad. Not as bad as the first, but still bad. Deep down I knew it. But I received letters back. They still said no, but they were letters. Someone had taken the time to respond. It was progress.

Around this time I read a quote by Neil Gaiman saying: “All writers have one million bad words inside of them. In order to get to the good stuff, you must first extinguish those million words.” Or something to that effect. So, between the ages of 23 and 25, I wrote every day (near enough) and tried my best to extinguish those million words. In that time I wrote 3 books. None of these will ever see the light of day. They were mine. I called them, The Dark Ones. But then, at 25, I had an idea. I knew this was not going to be another Dark One. This was going to be something else. Something real. It was called The Witching Circle. I loved it. It wasn’t perfect (at this point I accepted that I’d never see any of my works as perfect) but it was good. I sent it off, again, for the first time in a long time, and again it got rejected. But these rejections were different. The agents didn’t send copy-and-paste replies, or ignore me completely. They were personal. Complementary. They said things like “You can clearly write well, but it’s not for us” and “I don’t think I can sell this, but this is a subjective business . . .” etc etc etc.

When I received the final rejection (rejection 7 I believe) I went for a walk to clear my head. On that walk I imagined those words, wrote The Miracle of Harrow Falls  and sent it off.

Two days ago I got a reply from an agent. This said she liked my book and wanted to discuss it further. I was at work at the time, just about to log off my computer and start marking my books (I’m a teacher now, believe it or not!), and when I read them, my legs gave way. I slumped into my chair, re-read the email half a dozen times, and then called Helen. I said: “I’ve done it. Someone hasn’t said no.” They hadn’t said yes either, but they hadn’t said no. THAT was new. That had never happened before.

I have since spoken to said agent over the phone and await a Skype call over the weekend. Still, they haven’t said that they want to rep me, but they are taking the time out of their lives to help me with my book. When I look back, I see a pattern. Book one: no reply. Book two: standard rejection. Book three: personalised rejection (and a few complements). Book four: A one to one discussion.

I am not deluded. I know that this may amount to nothing, but I have hope. I have determination. I have the guts to push forward. I have the courage to pursue my dream, beyond the ends of the Earth if I must.

This blog will chronicle my journey. The names will be hidden. Including my own.

I am the Imagination Man, and this is my journey.

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The writing blog . . . is it worth it?

I write every day. It is a part of my daily routine and it is one that I love and look forward to immensely. My day at work flies ever faster when I have a story or character on my mind, and the joy that is sitting down at the end of a long day to get it down is unmatched, in my opinion. 

I am writing a novel – well, an adventure novel for children – but mostly my time is occupied writing short stories. Back in the 1900’s (in America especially) the way to get your name  out there and build up a readership was through short-stories. Magazines paid for good quality fiction and allowed good writers to build up a respectable CV which would inevitably help sell their future novels. Everyone was a winner. The likes of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman discuss regularly that their early careers began with short fiction, and it is through their advice that I myself began writing. Short fiction allowed me to tighten up my stories, flesh out characters and build on plot in a way that just writing novels never could (not as quickly, anyway) and I have been lucky enough to have had some of my short stories published. 

But things are changing. Magazines are on the decline and are being replaced with internet only eZines and blogs. Most do not pay, and those that do require a submission fee. This may not be a bad thing as the internet is a vast place . . . but that does not necessarily mean exposure. 

I started my blog because, after meeting with other writers, it seemed like the thing to do – changing with the times and all that. And when I search through the Freshly Pressed blogs I can see that hundreds, if not thousands of aspiring writers are blogging on a near daily basis, and sure, they are attracting the likes of other aspiring writers, but in terms of helping their/our careers, I have to ask . . . 

IS IT REALLY WORTH IT?

Is our culture of prolific blogging taking us away from the one thing that we really want . . . to write good fiction? Writing blogs is still writing, yeah, okay, I get that, and if you want to get into journalism then swell, good for you, but we fiction writers should be writing fiction, yet people out there seem to spend most days writing about writing stories, instead of getting any down on paper/screen. (I of course see the irony in the fact that I am contradicting myself, but shush! That’s not the point.)

I guess what I want to know is: 

  • How many writers have been plucked from these blogging sites and given contracts/career boosts? 
  • Do agents/publishers see blogging as a positive thing? Or has it ever impacted on a decision to take a writer on? 
  • How are writers nowadays getting their work out there?
  • Is anyone actually benefiting from all of this, and does it even matter? 

Personally, I write short stories and send them to online magazines (the UK is short on paper magazines that accept the type of stories I write) and in the meantime I am writing a book which I will eventually send to agents with a list of prior publishing credits. This is the old way of doing things –  the way my writing heroes went about it, but technology and the internet has changed that. People blog for pleasure and that’s great, I have no qualms about that. If blogging for you is a bit of fun and a means of discussing/socialising then great, I am not talking to you. I am directing these questions at people like myself. People who want to make a career for writing.

How are you doing it? Has anyone done it differently, and succeeded? I am intrigued by the lives of others similar to myself, and the stories and adventures we writers undertake along our road to publication. What do you think? Is these opening of social doors a good thing, or bad thing?

 

I.M.

The Man Behind the Imagination . . . a Tribute

My journey as a writer had a somewhat misguided beginning. I decided to take the writer’s journey when I was just 15 years old and obsessed with a certain horror writer named Stephen King. As far as my immensely naive self was concerned I was to become the next Stephen King and send the rest of the world cowering behind their bed sheets . . . and I gave it a shot, a serious shot, too.

Writing lesson one: Be the first of you, not the next of another.

I was a pale imitation of Stephen King and that was obvious in my writing. The stories had imagination, but the writing was terrible – there, I said it, and so should you. Recognising that you are not all you could be, or that you are heading in the wrong direction is key to taking yet greater steps along the pathway to success. This is not to be confused with experimentation, because that is key also, but trying to copy another writer will get you no further than fan fiction. It took a university lecturer to point this problem out to me, and the manner with which he did this changed my life forever. (My writing life, at least).

Writing lesson two: Read EVERYTHING!

My university lecturer told me to go away in the summer holidays and look up a man called RAY BRADBURY. Who the hell is that? I thought, having never heard of him before. Luckily I was good at following advice, and I did what I was told.

I purchased a copy of The Golden Apples of the Sun, an anthology of short stories by Mr Ray Bradbury, and I consumed the lot in under a week. I was amazed. His stories were written decades earlier yet were more relevant now than they’d ever been. The imagination behind them, the fantasy and sci-fi blend that he pulled off so well, the poetic nature of his writing that just flowed from the page stunned me beyond belief. I had found my muse. When ever I read one of his stories my own imagination kick-started into life. His words were the fuel for my thoughts, and I was unstoppable. The first stories I ever had published were born from my Bradbury Buzz!

That is not all, however. Not only was Ray Bradbury a terrific writer, he was an inspirational speaker too. The interview with Ray Bradbury below gave me the get up and go to write my story A View Through a Window (Story 2 on my homepage) and that also went on to be published.

He talks of writing everyday and reading everyday. During his interview above he sets a challenge to all budding writers. Read a short story a day, for every day of your life. Unrealistic, you say? Well, yeah, okay, I kind of agree. I managed to go for 3 month doing just that but I lacked the discipline to keep going. That isn’t to say that I didn’t learn a lot. Filling your mind with so many words and stories is invaluable, and I challenge you to try it and tell me you aren’t the better writer for it.

Anyway, I’ve talked enough. What I wanted to say was Thank You. Thank You Ray Bradbury, God rest your soul, for you have inspired me and made me the writer I’ve become today.

Maybe one day my novel will sell and I will be able to spread his message further, but until then this will have to do.

If you want to be a writer of fiction, whether short stories or novels, watch the interview below and read Ray Bradbury’s anthologies. You’ll thank me for it once, then thank him for a lifetime.

If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.

Ray Bradbury

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