#2: The Ladder to Inferna

‘Tales From Inferna’ is an ongoing web serial. Part writing exercise, part homage to the pulp-fiction genre. Click here if you’re interested in learning more about the scope and goals of the project. Below you’ll find Issue #2, but be sure to start at the beginning with Issue #1 

ladder

Yura couldn’t climb the ladder any further.

‘Guys,’ he croaked, his arms shaking.

His companions pace quickened.

‘Guys!’ Yura repeated, louder this time.

‘Quiet!’ said the man furthest ahead, climbing ever faster.

They were leaving him. Leaving him to die. He could feel the miles of nothingness below, prickling his back, willing him to fall. He glanced downwards, wondering if he might have enough strength to climb back down. But that path was madness.

‘Mikki, please! I need help!’

The man furthest ahead continued to climb, but there was another behind him who paused.

‘We can’t help you, Yura,’ said Mikki.

‘I can’t climb anymore, Mikki,’ begged Yura. ‘Please don’t leave me behind. You’ve got to–’

‘Shut up!’ shouted the man farthest ahead. He was now out of sight, hidden by the darkness of the tunnel.

‘What our charming leader means is, any energy spent talking is energy not spent climbing. So unless you want to decorate the floor a nice shade of Yura, I suggest you get moving.’ With that, Mikki started climbing again.

Yura found himself all alone.

When Yura was young, he and his friends would play in the tunnels pretending to be hunters. Sometimes they would dare each other to climb the ladder. Yura was the only one who ever made it to the top. Back then the top of the ladder hadn’t been very far; a padlock and a metal grill stopped anyone who shouldn’t be there from climbing too high. To a gang of children though, it was as if Yura had touched Inferna itself.

But this was no longer pretend.

‘Yura!’ came a voice from above. ‘We’ve found the last hatch,’ said the voice again. It came from the leader of the expedition, Koko. ‘Get your arse up here now.’

Yura began to climb, each movement a trial. His body protested in agony, any moment now it would fail and he would plummet to his death.

As his grasp started to waver, two pairs of hands seized him and hoisted him upwards through a narrow opening.

He collapsed. He heard his pulse thumping in his ears, and faintly, the sound of a hatch being closed.

They were so close.

He wished his old friends could see him now: Yura the hunter. It still hadn’t sunk in. He was going to have the adventures they had all imagined, live the life they had dreamed of once upon a time.

‘You still with us, kid?’

Yura opened his eye to see Mikki and Koko standing over him. In the dark, with their identical suits and masks, it was impossible to tell them apart.

‘I’m ok,’ said Yura smiling, holding up a thumbs-up. ‘I am ok.’

Koko shook his head. ‘This isn’t playtime. We’re here to do a serious job.

Yura saw Mikki roll his eyes. ‘I know the circumstances aren’t ideal, but it’s the kids first day. Let him have a little fun.’

‘We’ve got hundreds of miles to walk,’ Koko started. ‘Rough sleeping. Nothing but disgusting liquid nutrients to keep us going. All to find a needle in a haystack. Not my idea of fun.’

‘Come on,’ said Yura, smiling. ‘Any day walking on the surface has got to be better than a day down below.’

Koko was silent, for a moment. It was only now Yura realised how thick the mood had been.

‘Let’s not forget why we’ve been sent up here. Amorak is dead. A man I once considered a very good friend. For some reason it just had to be me they sent to find his remains.’ said Koko. ‘So no, to answer your stupid question. The days up here are not “better”. I, for one, want to get this done and go home. Shape up and take this seriously, or maybe you’ll die up here too.’

All day Yura had worn an excited smirk, only now did he realise how it had been grating on Koko’s patience. The verbal walloping caused his face to yo-yo from a deep shade of red to a sickly pale white.

Koko stormed ahead to the next room, muttering.  

‘He’s moodier than usual today,’ said Mikki, offering a hand to help Yura up.

‘I didn’t mean to upset him.’

‘You haven’t done anything. You’re excited to see the surface, no shame in it. The dead bloke we’re looking for, Amorak, is a sore subject with Koko.’

‘Why?’ asked Yura.

‘It’s a whole thing, let’s just leave it at that. Come on, before he explodes again.’

The followed Koko into the next room. One much larger than the tight tunnels and shafts the three had been navigating for most of the day. At the far end of the room, Yura eyed a giant metal door and did his best not to smile.

Koko was kneeling on the floor, spreading open a map. He patted the edges down as they bounced free and let out a frustrated sigh.

‘This is us,’ Koko said, pointing to a section of the map. ‘We’ll hang about here for a bit. It’ll get cooler when the sun starts to set, meaning the suits don’t have to work quite so hard—meaning we’ll save some fuel.’

‘Are you writing this down?’ said Mikki.

‘I… I didn’t bring a pen.’ said Yura.

‘He’s joking.’ muttered Koko stone-faced. ‘He does that.’

‘Oh crack a smile you moody old git,’ said Mikki.

Koko ignored him. His finger slid across the map, resting on a series of crudely drawn houses. He then traced it back an inch and tapped the spot. ‘This is as far as I’m hoping Amorak got. If he made it any further I doubt we’ll ever find him.’

‘We’ll find him,’ said Yura. ‘His family is counting on us.’

Koko and Mikki exchanged a look.

‘What’s that?’ asked Koko.

‘His family? We’re bringing the body back for them surely?’

‘Oh Yura,’ said Mikki chuckling. ‘You sweet innocent babe.’

Yura frowned, confused.

‘We’ve been sent to get his suit. Not the body.’ said Koko. ‘One of these suits are worth a hundred of me or you. The ugly truth of it is…by this point, with nothing powering the suit…there’s not going to be much left of him. You’ll need to prepare yourself.’

Yura didn’t understand. He’d seen a dead body before. Life below in the Empyrean was cramped and people died all the time. How fragile did Koko think he was?

‘I can cope with a stiff.’

Mikki and Koko exchanged a look which filled Yura with unease.

‘He won’t be stiff.’ said Mikki quietly,

‘Huh?’

Look,’ started Mikki uncomfortably. ‘Sitting out there in that ungodly heat. By now there’s a good chance he would have…liquefied.’

‘Seriously?’

‘Yeah,’ nodded Mikki. ‘What’s more, if we find him we’re going to have to open his suit and, err, tip out what’s left of him…’

‘It won’t look pretty,’ Koko continued, ‘it’ll smell something fierce as well, that filter in your mask isn’t going to do a thing about the stench. I tell you this because if upon seeing the remains you throw up inside your own mask—you will not get an opportunity to take off that mask until we return. That is going to be one shitty walk home for you, lad.’

Yura’s stomach churned. He felt like he was going to throw up right now. Was he even allowed to take his mask off now? He’d been told to put it on before they’d started climbing. Yura swallowed hard and tasted bile slide back down his throat.

‘Paints a picture, doesn’t he?” smiled Mikki.

Koko carried on, explaining the finer details of the journey they were about to embark on, but Yura’s attention was gone. He could hear the surface calling him.

He’d waited so long to see what was left of the earth.

‘Turn your suit on.’ said Koko finally. He approached a control panel on the wall, and the hum of a huge motor roared into action. ‘It’s time.’

Yura’s heart thumped hard. He did his best to feign a grim look of determination.

The doors opened, slowly at first, then suddenly all at once. The dark, grimy room became illuminated.

There was a terrible light, and Yura found himself blind.

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Finding a Place to Write

A year and a bit ago I and my fiance moved into our first home. It took a while to get settled, but we’re finally happy with the place.

OK, I’m happy. The other half is still moving things around. I don’t really like change, it’s a whole thing. I’m getting off point.

The biggest challenges I faced include replacing a built-in-fridge, getting a second-hand futon (fully-assembled!) up a very narrow set of stairs, and of course, finding the perfect spot for me to sit down and write.

Your writing space can mean the difference between sweet success and that other, dark, harrowing thing.

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Failure, that’s the word

Traditional writing advice suggests your work area should be free of distractions, but not barren enough to stifle your creativity. You should be comfortable, but your space also needs to be practical.

My own search hits a few different rooms, which I’m now going to take you on a journey through, but where I finally end up might just surprise you.

The Study

The new house came with a study? Problem solved, right?

Not quite.

“Study” is actually a pretty generous euphemism we use to avoid telling people, this is where we keep all the video games and the second Playstation. Study just sound more…adult.

The best part is the previous owner had this cool multi-coloured mood lighting installed which helps set the tone for whatever I’m working on.

It does have a desk, but it’s littered with all sorts of gadgets and games, all fun, but not exactly conducive for productivity.

I used this room for a bit, but the numerous distractions and the lack of desk space was killer in the end.

Final Score: 5/10

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I was going to provide actual pictures of these rooms, but that would require cleaning

The Conservatory

The conservatory makes for a beautiful writing space. It’s where I envisioned myself getting to work when we were buying the house. Whether looking at the nice view of the garden or having the blinds drawn to create a cosy atmosphere, the room is just brilliant to write it.

But damn it, it’s just not meant to be.

The room has some hella-comfy chairs, but no desk. That means any writing means having a laptop on my lap—and that means less time writing and more time spent worrying about the damage I might be doing to my fertility.

Final Score: 0/10

Notworthit

Not worth it

The Dining Room

The dining room is…serviceable. It has chairs, a table, no immediate threats to my swimmers. Nirvana right?

It’s practical. But so is an ironing board, and neither set’s my world on fire.

Final Score: 6/10

The Kitchen

Yes, this is where I ended up. Hang on, hear me out – it’s cooler than it sounds.

There’s a corner of our kitchen with a breakfast bar we seldom used. I was walking past one day…and inspiration hit.

Think about it. It’s close as you can be to all the local amenities. Snacks and drinks on demand. Plenty of desk space. There’s even a shelf overlooking the garden I’ve decorated with some notebooks and ornaments.

I’ve got a miniature zen sand garden I can rake when I’m stuck on a paragraph. A little quill and ink pot (stylish but not for actual use, I’m a lefty). A raven figurine I think I got from a Game of Thrones Monopoly set. The whole thing is pretty chill.

If you haven’t got your own writing space, take a look at your house with a fresh pair of eyes. The kitchen was the last place I expected to end up, but now I couldn’t be happier with my little corner of the world.

OK, the stools could be comfier, but hey, they keep me humble.

Final Score: 9/10

What does your writing space look like? What have you decorated it with? Do you put more stock in comfort or practicality? Let me know in the comments.

– H. L

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover (Review)

spider-man

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover is a companion novel to Insomniac Games highly anticipated (but simply named) video game “Spider-Man”, which is due out September 7th 2018.

The novel is all set up for the opening of the game where Spider-Man and the police are set for the final assault and arrest of Wilson Fisk, otherwise known as The Kingpin of Crime.

The novel is intended to introduce you to some of the themes and characters from the game such as the aforementioned Wilson Fisk, Spider-Man, and his on-again-off-again girlfriend Mary-Jane.

Both the game and this companion book take place in a separate canon to any of the comics, games or films that have featured the Web-Head in the past.

In this iteration, Peter Parker is no longer a high-school student. He’s been operating as Spider-Man for a veteran 8 years—the book helps to establish some of the features of this universe such as what villains Spider-Man has collided with already and our heroes current mindset at this stage of his career.

The plot revolves around Kingpin using his philanthropic image to shore up his strength via corporate espionage – a realistic plot, but not what I’m looking for in a Spider-Man story. The pace drops at points and I feel we don’t get to spend enough time with Spidey just doing his thing.

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You know, doing whatever a spider can

The book gives the spotlight to two lesser-known villains Echo and the Blood Spider. Spider-Man’s heavy hitter antagonists have clearly been saved for the game, but the author works with what he’s got and does a very good job developing these two. It’s one of the best parts of the book, to the point where it would be great to see some sort of reference to them in the game.

When author David Liss gets it right, there are someone wonderful interpretations of the beloved characters of the Spider-Man franchise; in particular Wilson Fisk and good old John Jonah Jameson—though it’s a pity the latter is criminally underused, every page he’s on is gold.

Naturally, we spend the majority of the book with Spider-Man, and as the titular character, he’s the most important one to get right. The author does a good job of getting across Spider-Man’s conflicted sense of identity and the pressures he faces operating a duel life.

Some of his dialogue, however, is very hit-and-miss. At its best Spider-Man never quite reaches the savage wit I’ve come to expect, at its worst, he sounds like he’s performing at an eight-year-olds birthday party. That and a general heavy-handedness in getting some points across makes me wonder if I’m just a little older than the demographic this was written for.

It’s also worth noting that the game’s pre-release marketing has built up the leader’s identity of a villain team up known as the Sinister Six as a big plot point, the book seemingly drops a huge hint as to who this mystery character might be—which may upset some of the more spoiler-conscious players.

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I’ll give you one clue, it sure as hell ain’t the Sub-Mariner

Hostile Takeover is unlikely to be ever added to the likes of Spider-Man No More or Kraven’s Last Hunt as an unforgettable classic in the Wall Crawler’s lore. It’s fun, and its an easy read, but ultimately we’re dealing with the Serviceable Spider-Man, rather than the Amazing.

For the most part, the author does a good job, but there is the odd stumble and I suspect they’ve had their hands tied keeping both Marvel and Insomniac Games happy.

I’d recommend the book to someone who is planning to buy the game and wants something to tide them over until it arrives, or to readers who are in love with all things Spider-Man, who will surely get some enjoyment out of this.

Like costumed badasses? How about cosmic horror that would make even the symbiote shiver? Why not check out my free web serial ‘Tales From Inferna’ — follow the blog, or follow me on Twitter @HandsomeLies to keep up-to-date with what I’m working on next.

How it Feels to Finally Finish Something

Last night I finally finished the final draft of my entry for the writing contest I mentioned a few weeks ago. A short story a little less than 2000 words might not sound like much, but it’s the first creative project I’ve completed in five years and I could not be more chuffed.

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My mind right now

I won’t hear any more about the contest until October, but rest assured I don’t intend to take it easy until then.

I’m writing my first novel! The project is still in its infancy so I’ve not got any specific details to share at this point, apart from the fact that I am very excited.

I finished the first chapter over half a year ago, and I found myself baffled by how easy it was to write, and how pleased I was with my own writing, two things I don’t get to experience often.

Despite this, I didn’t pick the project back up after that first chapter. But, now that I’m making more of an effort to make time for my writing, it’s full steam ahead. As I said, still very early days—but at least the train has left the station.

When it’s finished I intend to shop it around, and then possibly go down the self-publishing route if I get no takers.

My long-term goal is now getting this book to completion, but I have lots of other things I am working on in the meantime, all of which revolve around this blog.

Tales from Inferna is an ongoing web serial; part writing exercise, part homage to the pulp fiction genre. You can read more about the project at the link.

Formally launched this month, Issue #1 is available to read now, with Issue #2 on its way at some point in September. A must read for any science fiction, horror or dystopia fans.

inferna

How did the world end up like this? How did we survive? Most importantly, what’s hiding in the sands?

I am also putting the finishing touches on a flash fiction which I’m keen on hosting on a different writing blog for some cross promotion. I’ve got my eye on a place, but if you’re reading this interested and you have your own blog feel free to contact me and maybe we can get something set up. The easiest way to reach me is on my Twitter @Handsomelies

I need to give a warm thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and get involved with the blog this past month—the likes, comments, and new followers have all been incredibly encouraging, and have kept me going whereas other times I’ve quit.

Let me know the content you’re enjoying, the stuff you don’t, and anything new you’d like to see. I am determined to make something of this place and this is the time to help shape its future. Do you want articles like this writing tutorial or more feature pieces such as when I blogged about my notebook addiction? Maybe you like the mix.

This month is the most I’ve written in years, touch wood, I’d like to say I’ve finally got my groove back.

How has your month been? Let’s celebrate some successes and bury some failures. Hit me up in the comments below.

– H. L

 

How Not to World Build in Your Opening

Wularz was the youngest son of the prominent Backth family. They lived on Knaphi, and like many others made a good living trading in Abilia, in the warmer seasons at least. Life seemed good, but Wularz’s family were oblivious to his dark secret…for three months he had been a card-carrying member of the Scisac-Clan. Today he was set to be half-blooded.

This is not the opening to my next project. These are the prototypical first three sentences I read in many a novice writers efforts at writing science fiction or fantasy.

I get it. I really do.

The Backth family has a vast and interesting history which spans for generations, and the lore of Knaphi is so incredible you could fill a companion bible with its culture.

But I’m never going to read that bible. I’m not going to hang around long enough to find out that an Abilia is a sort of cow, and that the Scisac-Clan is a street gang, and to be half-blooded means committing assault on their behalf for the first time. And it’s a damn shame I’m not going to hang on, because that all sounds like it has the potential to be a good story.

But you’ve already lost me:

  • Dropping five jargon words in the first paragraph is a red flag.

  • Naming jargon, and then writing about it in a way which sounds like I should already know what it is, is a red flag.

  • Giving supplementary information about jargon, before I even know what the original jargon even is, is a red flag.

I only need one red flag and I’m putting down the book and considering if I’ve made a bad choice. If I get hit with three flags that quick; bang, bang bang – you’re either getting deleted from my Kindle or you’re going in the bin.

magic girl

You’ve put a lot of thought into your magic-system? Think maybe we can talk about that later? Pretty please?

Maybe you think the main problem with that opening is that it was telling all that information, rather than showing. Well, let’s see how showing the same quantity of gobbledygook is just a big a turn off:

The boy looked so pitiable, Wularz didn’t have it in him to strike him again. He was supposed to see an enemy, but all he saw was a child, no older than one of his brothers.

Drospe, a full-blooded, tutted.

‘Why are you even here Wularz, you’ve not got the balls for this kind of work. If you need extra cash why not just run home and ask Mommy Backth?’

This elicited chuckles from the other Scisac-Clan members. Something snapped within Wularz, thoughts of his brothers faded. He had a new family now.

He struck the cowering boy again, hard enough to draw blood.

‘Well look at that,’ said Drospe. ‘All those years tending Abiilia have given Wularz here a fine right hook. You think your hot shit don’t you, Wularz? You think you got the best right hook on all of Knaphi I bet.’

Wularz ignored him. He was being baited, urged to show disrespect. This was all part of the test, and if he passed, he’d finally be half-blooded.

This is a much better opening, but it’s still got too much jargon for my liking.

As a reader, I’m frustrated this blooded thing keeps getting mentioned and I’m still in the dark, it feels like I’m the last one to a party.

The sentence about tending Abiilia giving the character a fine right hook makes perfect sense to the author, but no sense to the reader.

We’re only seven paragraphs in and we’ve managed to overwhelm, exclude, and also confuse the reader.

tap

Your jargon is water coming from a tap. It needs to drip, any faster and the sink overflows, and then you then slip and die.

Let’s fix it. Cut the mention of the family name and establish it later. Cut the mention the blooded system, and establish it later. I might even cut mention of the Scisac-Clan, and establish it later. We have got a whole book to get this stuff in after all.

Let’s see how the scene looks now:

The boy looked so pitiable, Wularz didn’t have it in him to strike him again. He was supposed to see an enemy, but all he saw was a child, no older than one of his brothers.

‘Why are you even here Wularz,’ tutted Drospe. ‘You’ve not got the balls for this kind of work. If you need extra cash why not just run home and ask Mommy?’

This elicited chuckles from the other men. Something snapped within Wularz, thoughts of his brothers faded. He had a new family now.

He struck the cowering boy again, hard enough to draw blood.

‘Well look at that,’ said Drospe. ‘All those years working on his Daddy’s farm has given Wularz here a fine right hook. You think your hot shit don’t you, Wularz? You think you got the best right hook on all of Knaphi I bet.’

Wularz ignored him. He was being baited, urged to show disrespect. This was all part of the test, it would take a better man than Drospe to make him slip up today.

Now we’re rolling. Our jargon count has gone from nine words to three, but we’ve still got the exact same scene.

Of the three jargon words that are left; two are character names. Names are pretty important in prose, duh. If your reader is only going to remember one piece of jargon by the end of your opening, it better be your weird-ass character’s name.

Anyway, that’s the end of today’s lecture. If you liked the small taste of my writing why not check out Inferna – a  web serial/writing exercise hosted for free on this blog.

Have you got any pet peeves that bother you in the first couple pages of a story? Do you have any books to recommend which ease you into the world, rather than throwing you in the deep-end? Let me know in the comments.

– H. L

Making Time to Write

You’ll notice the title of this week’s blog is making time to right, rather than finding time to right.

In my experience, if you go about your week waiting for the perfect time to sit down and write, you’ll never actually get anything done. It’s an easy excuse to blame the malicious voice for my inactivity the last five years, but at least some of the blame has to fall on my shoulders.

Between my day job, spending time with my fiance, visiting my family, chores around the house, the garden, exercise, and actually daring to sit down to watch some TV and play a video game every now and then, I’m not left with a great deal of excess time.

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I lose like two hours every week just enjoying myself on the toilet

Since I’ve committed to updating my blog once a week, I’ve not actually found any time to do any non-blog related writing. Terrible, I know. I’m never going to get anything done this way, and I can’t exactly run a weekly writing blog if I never actually write anything. That’s just madness.

With that in mind – I’ve decided to keep a very public record of just how much writing I got done in the last week. Shall we?

Day the First (Friday) – Mixed results. While I did manage to drag myself out of bed early, it was to fix a couple of mistakes I’d found on last weeks blog. I should mention that I had a self-imposed writing deadline for a short story that expired today. The plan was to knock it out before work, but that was a no-go now. I had plans later to go to the cinema to see Ant-Man and the Wasp, but I’d surely have time to fit in a little writing after the film, right?

Nope, missed my deadline. Damn you, Marvel.

Day the Second (Saturday) – I woke up at a decent time, but it’d had been a long week at work and I didn’t have a choice, my body wanted a lie in. Not an auspicious start to the day, and unfortunately it set the tone for my productivity, Saturday was a wash.

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Actual photo of me from Saturday

Day the Third (Sunday) – Nope. I wasn’t just tired from work, I’d hit writer’s block for my competition entry. I was dangerously close to the word limit but nowhere close to my ending. This needed to be fixed and frankly, I didn’t the energy to do it. I procrastinated, I did chores, I did everything but look at my work – and because of this blog, I was fully conscious of that decision. Yay.

Day the Fourth (Monday) – I knew the logical thing I needed to do. Sit down and write. Get my story finished, and fix the word count in the editing. I know that’s what I should do. But knowing that apparently doesn’t make it any easier…

Day the Fifth (Tuesday) – OK, It’s just embarrassing now. I was very tempted to trash this whole blog post at this point. I did sit down to write, I just didn’t get down any of those pesky words. I did some editing research, and I did some work on this blog entry – but no actual writing, again.

Day the Sixth (Wednesday) – I did it. It feels like I did the literary equivalent of shitting the bed, but I finished the first draft of my story. I don’t feel good about the work right now, but I know that’s natural. It’s the first draft I’ve finished in some time, and bugger me if I’m not a little proud.

Day the Seventh (Thursday) – What a difference a day makes. Clearly, I’m very bad at finishing projects, but boy do I love starting them. If every book was just the first three pages, I’d have written a million. With the short story finally done I actually managed to knock out a flash fiction in a single night. That’s in addition to putting the finishing touches on the blog you’re now reading. Go me!

Final Verdict: Definite room for improvement, but at least I ended on a high.

I only managed to wake up early one day, and I wasted a lot of evenings lamenting about not writing. While sharing this is a little embarrassing, it is useful. If I’m more conscious of my foibles I should get better at overcoming them.

There is after all, always next week.

How did you get on last week? Did you put me to shame or slip even worse? Give me a shout in the comments below.  

– H. L

Author Stats of an Amateur Writer

#Authorstats is a wonderful hashtag I discovered the other day – published writers are sharing the statistics of just how many years it took them to succeed. All of the garbage books they had to write, all of the rejections they conquered, every step of the arduous journey which kills off so many in the first couple of steps.

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This graph represents the number of stock photos I look at over time

When you start writing it’s not finding the time to sit down and get words on paper, it’s not learning some of the finer details of grammar, and it certainly isn’t thinking of ideas. The single hardest thing an amateur writer has to contend with is the malicious voice that lives within all of us:

You don’t know how to write. Delete the whole thing and start over. In fact, don’t bother. Your writing has no message. Your characters are pale imitations. Your dialogue doesn’t sound authentic. Have you even formatted it properly? Is any of it even formatted properly? Learn how to do that, and all the other stuff you’re not sure of. Learn all of it perfectly before you write another word. You’re going to embarrass yourself otherwise.

For me, that voice froze me solid for almost five years. I hear it every day when I’m at work in my office. It’s often the first thing I hear when I wake up, and after a bad day, it’s the last thing I hear before I sleep.

Today, I’m going to give you my author stats. Unlike the great inspirations, my story doesn’t come with a happy ending, because spoilers, I’m not a published writer. It’s not wasted time though, the last eighteen years have helped me find my formula, not for success, but for perseverance.

If you make it to the end, I’ll even share it with you.

2000 – I’m eight years old, and I’m in English class. The teacher got us to write a story. The first constructive feedback about my writing I remember: Have you ever thought about writing a story without guns or knives? I was also chastised for drawing periods much, much larger than they needed to be. Intellectual snobs.

2001 – I write a rap, not featuring any guns or knives. The teacher loves it, so much, in fact, they tell me they’re going to put it on the school website. I don’t have the internet, but I’m given a printed copy, and to my horror, I see some the words have been changed to help the piece flow better. I asked them to change it back, but I lose my first editing argument.

2003 – My sister gets a computer for Christmas. It very expensive, and she’s not really sure how to set it up or what to do with it, and bless them, neither are my parents. Eventually, I find some sort of word processor on the thing and I’d use it to write. One day my dad discovers a poem I’d written about marching soldiers. He tells me it’s bloody good, and him saying that sure made me feel bloody good.

2004 – One of my friends gives me a floppy disc with a story he’d written. I find this act of transfer amazing, and I’m quick to reciprocate, for a brief time we start swapping stories.

fire

We were just like cowboys around a campfire, only with floppy disks and without the constant fear of dysentery

2005 – My parents enter the 21st century and finally get the internet. Like any teenage boy with his first access to the web, you’ve guessed it, I engross myself in reading and writing Harry Potter fanfiction.

2007 – I move on from fan fiction and, amazingly, begin an even more embarrassing hobby, the world of fantasy wrestling leagues, or e-feds, as they were known. For those (everyone) not aware, an e-fed was a roleplaying website where you would create a wrestling character, be booked in matches against other people, and for some the reason the winner would be determined with a writing contest, of all things. Think Dungeons and Dragons, but for wrestling nerds.

2009 – I enter a local writing competition, you can read more about this one here.

2011 – I’m a year into studying a Business degree at University, I’ve not written anything for a long time. The malicious voice has seemingly won. I don’t know it yet, but a lack of a creative outlet is making me pretty miserable. I go into my second year determined to join a society, and I find a small improvisation drama society. The voice is hating this, it’s determined to convince me I’m an imposter in a sea of creative types. It urges me to quit before they find me out as the fraud I am.

But I don’t quit. I don’t quit because for the first time in my life I am surrounded by people who are nurturing and encouraging my spark. Instead of expelling me, they welcome me with open arms. I start performing comedy, I start acting, I start writing again. The voice isn’t quieter at this point, it’s gone.

2013 – I have the winning pitch, and so I’m selected to write and direct the societies of end-of-year production. It’s a tremendous amount of responsibility. It’s the biggest show they put on all year; the whole thing is a whirlwind which definitely deserves a blog post of its own in the future. The show ends up being, in my opinion, a modest success.

2014 – University is over. I move back home, away from my friends, away from their encouragement. I job search, I start work, I stress. I gain weight.

2015 – The voice is back. Thinking about joining a local drama group? They’re filled with an older crowd, you wouldn’t fit in. You were never any good at acting anyway, everyone was just too nice to tell you otherwise. Even if you could act, you’d need to lose weight before you got back on stage. The show you produced and directed wasn’t even good. You were an imposter. Quit these dreams and live in the real world already. Quit. Quit. Quit.

duck

Quit

2016 – I quit.

2017 – I create this website. I write the first post, ‘A Moment in Inferna.’ I think it’s OK. But try as I might, I can’t seem to write anything else I consider better than awful. I start looking at it again, and I wonder if my first post was OK at all. Actually, I start to think it’s quite bad.

2018 – Well hey, you made it. My sad, sole post was the only thing posted on this blog until three weeks ago.

The voice is still there. I didn’t fix it, because I don’t think it’s something that can be fixed. You have to accept and ignore it and move forward.

It’s nagging me even I as write this sentence, to delete this whole post and start again, or even better to quit the whole damn thing. 

I’m not going to though, not this time.

I’m energised. I have big plans for my writing and for this blog, and for the first time in a while, I’m getting stuff done.

It’s time for that formula I promised. Not for success remember, but for perseverance:

Fear of Unfulfilled Passion > Fear of the Malicious Voice

Something for you to think about until next Friday. Now, how about you give me something to think about, or even better something to blog about, in the comments below.

– H. L