To terraform the human mind?

Science is the subject of todays blog, I feel the need to write and I must be honest with you all. Today no writing tips or reading advice or anything else literary in that way has come to my mind. For any of my readers who are only interested in writing and do not care for science then feel free to look away now.

For me science has always been a field of great interest, at school I excelled and indeed two of my fondest memories from my years in primary and secondary education are as follows: sitting and passing my science SAT a year early and gaining a level 5, and, changing schools in the first few weeks of year 7 and having to sit a science test on my first day in the new school (i.e. having not had any lessons in that school first) and being the only person in the class to received 100%. Call me vain if you like but in what was otherwise a less than stellar academic record those two moments do shine brightly even today.

I found science easier than other subjects because it interested me deeply, I was, and still am curious about our world and the rest of the universe. As a writer it will surprise nobody that I dabble in science fiction and as a reader and film watcher science fiction again is a large portion of what I absorb.

Alas let us talk about the real subject of todays blog and that is becoming a multi planet race. That is to say rather than having countries we will have planets and the human race will spread throughout the solarsystem and perhaps even beyond.

For those of you in the know you will be familiar with the concept and term of terraforming. For those of you not in the know I shall briefly explain. Terra is another word for Earth and as such Terraforming is to literally take another planet and ‘form’ it to be more like Earth and as a by product comfortable for human life.

As you likely also know humans cannot otherwise survive on any planets that we know anything about so for a long time it was thought that we should have to change planets so we can live there. Looking at that in recent times it has become more aparent how difficult and time consuming that would be, not to mention expensive.

One option is of course to forego moving to other planets and simply make other habitats, like the ISS but on a much grander scale. Call me an old romantic if you will but I quite like the idea of visiting other worlds, watching the sun set from a different place in the solar system, seeing a green sky or perhaps even seeing two suns rise together.

My solution is thus: do not terraform other planets, simply planetform humans. To put it simply, our squishy bodies are very bad at surviving things like; low gravity, high levels of radiation, extreme heat, extreme cold, lack of oxygen, lack of water…I could go on. We already have the technology to put robots on mars and in space and we know they do not die as easily as we do. I believe if we really want to explore the universe it would be better done inside mechanical bodies.

Now the science to transfer a human conciousness into a computer looks at present, very hard, very expensive and potentially even impossible so that does rather throw a spanner in the works, but hear me out, not all is lost.

Throughout human evolution (to my understanding, so please correct me if I am mistaken) every great leap forward we have made, such as; developing advanced language, learning to make advanced tools and machinery, inventing art and the concepts of beauty and love. Have been allowed by the most recently developed part of the human brain. So the very core of the brain deals with what we can eat, mate with or will be dangerous to us. The next part of the brain deals with interactions, language etc and then the next again moves onto even more abstract thinking tasks such as art. If we are to be able to truly enjoy a further understanding of the universe, of physics and of all the sciences then we need a new bit of brain. These things don’t evolve over night but perhaps we could enjoy a revolution rather than an evolution.

I believe, and again this may be on flawed science I grant you, that we should be looking at ways to implant a computer INTO our brains. A computer that will be able to lift all of the logic and maths problems that we tend to struggle with into a CPU which we know can be very, very good at dealing with those sorts of things. Therefore freeing up another part of our organic brain to be used for something else. Then who knows, in a few generations it might begin to develop in ways we could never imagine and start solving problems like…how do I live forever inside a robot?

This has been a rant brought to you by Elliot and for anyone who did not enjoy it, I promise to get back to writing stuff with my very next post.

Ja Ne.

On finishing your first draft, what next?

Today is a rather momentus day if I do say so myself. Today I completed the first draft of the manuscript I have been working on since the first of november. To some that may seem quick, starting on the 01/11/16 and writing the wonderful words ‘The End’ on the 25/01/17, to others it may sound slow and for me? Well now looking at those two dates it seems rather quick, but throughout the process it has felt very long indeed.

Today it feels appropriate to discuss what happens when you finish the first draft and luckily, this not being my first book I feel I am in a reasonable position to do just that. When you are writing it can feel like an endless process and as discussed in one of my earlier posts you will undoubtedly hit the wall at some point. That point where it feels like you cannot go on, where every few hundred words feels like a trial but once you do pass that and finish…it can in all honesty get a whole lot worse.

Sure the first draft was hard, maybe it was even torture but what now? Where before you had the constant forward momentum of knowing tomorrow you had to write the next chapter of the book. Now that is gone, now you are left with the question of….what do I do now? So the first thing is to think of what you are NOT going to do.

1) You are not going to send it to anyone, no really, I mean that. DO NOT SEND YOUR MANUSCRIPT TO ANYONE. If you just finished your first draft no matter how good it felt when you wrote it, it is not finished and it is in no way ready to send to an agent or publisher. To do so would be a waste, you will usually only get one chance to make a first impression with a book and if it isn’t the best it can be…well then you just wasted that opportunity. Further you shouldn’t send it to your friends, family or beta readers. The initial edit will be yours and you really don’t want anyone else to read your book before you have had a first crack at fixing the probably numerous problems it has.

2) You are not going to write a new book, I mean why would you? This book is not finished, writing a first draft (though it is more than many would be writers will ever do) is not finishing a book. You wouldn’t stop half way through the first draft to write a different first draft would you? So why stop half way through writing the book. Repeat this to yourself, for this will be your mantra WRITING A FIRST DRAFT IS NOT WRITING A BOOK.

Well now we have that out of the way, maybe we should move on to what you actually SHOULD do. The fact of the matter is you need to get to editing. If you look at how to books or websites you will see lots of different names for specific types of edits and processes and while that is great I would caution against getting stuck in terminology. Like writing itself, editing too will be different for everyone, and indeed for every project.

With my first book I added no scenes and I only took away one, with my current manuscript I already know that there are several scenes I need to add and others I need to change.So where with my first manuscript I went straight to line edits with this one there is far more work to be done. There may be something to be said about that with regards to me having grown as a writer but largely it is just a matter of each book being different.

With that said here is my advice to you. First of all read the whole book with the intention of changing nothing, read it from cover to cover and take it in as a reader rather than as a writer. Then read it again making notes of everything you don’t like or want to change and any scenes you think need to be added (for example, if in one scene you refer to the old bank heist but you realise that you never actually wrote that bank heist, now would be the time to fix that). Once you have written all the things you need to do, read it a third time and make these changes. Once complete read it through again and repeat the process.

Once you are completely happy with the general shape and form of the story then it is time for line edits, by that I mean removing typos, correcting spelling mistakes and making messy sentences much prettier. As before read the book, make the changes and repeat time and time again. There is no magic number of times but I would say this; repeat until you either are 100% happy and feel you cannot possibly improve it, or until you are so sick of reading it that you never want to see the book again.

Once this is done, and only once this is done it is time to consider agents or publishers but that is a matter for another time.

I shall leave you with this: we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive.

Ja Ne.

Do you need to write first thing in the morning?

I attended a writing workshop at a literature festival last year and I had a discussion with a gentleman there who held what I felt was a rather silly view. It soon turned out however that he was not the only one who held this view, as such I feel it would be quite reasonable to speak about it here.

As you may have guessed this particular point of view was as follows: you must get up early in the morning and write first thing. Before you watch the TV, listen to the radio or indeed read anything. His thought process was that if you did consume media, for lack of a better description, before you write then your own personal style and writing will be tainted or in some way changed by what you have consumed.

At first consideration this may seem reasonable, until you think about it, at which point. If you are like me (and of course that is a big if) you will see that it is truly rather silly. After all what are we if not the collected things we have seen, done and heard in our lifetime?

It is my opinion that while there may be very good reasons to write first thing in the morning the above is not one of them.

To anyone who thinks they are at danger of being poluted by what they experience in the day prior to writing I would say this. Do you write in English? Oh you do….did you learn English today? No…you didn’t? Well then you are openly admiting that something that happened to you PRIOR to you waking this morning is informing the way you write. A language is obviously a big thing but it serves to get the point across. You will be informed by the books you have read, the films you have seen and indeed the languages you have learnt. I say jolly good work, for what boring things would we write if we had no inspiration.

The point of this post would be this, there is no right way to write and there is no wrong way. If it works for you, if it helps you, then do it (provided it is legal and morally just of course.) Do not let anyone else tell you how and when you should write, just write.

I shall leave you with this, let us think the unthinkable, let us write the unwriteable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

Ja Ne.

How to read more, a beginners guide

One of my recent posts talked about the importance of reading as an author, and although I don’t want to give any spoilers to anyone who is yet to read it, I mentioned that usually a bigger reader is a better writer.

With that in mind I think there is no better time to discuss HOW you can go about reading more quickly, so following are my tips and advice to you.

Please note there are more than likely numerous places online with information on how to actually read faster, i.e. more words per minute, this is not that place.

Option 1: Set a page goal. This is what I do, I aim to read 50 pages of fiction everyday. To some people that may not seem a lot but to someone who used to read a chapter or less a day, it is a huge change. Reading 50 pages a day means I will finish an average 400 page book in 8 days. (Note, some books have different font and some books are, due to language used etc easier or harder to read than others. Please use your own judgement, you may easily read 60 pages a day of a young adult book but 40 may be better for a vast and deep adult sci-fi story.)

Option 2: Time yourself. This is great for dealing with the problem of different font sizes. Set yourself a goal to read for ten minutes a day, thirty minutes a day or maybe even an hour or more. If you make this time every day you will soon see the pages consumed increase and even if it is only a little, you will make constant progress until the book is finished. (Note, this need not all be at once, you could spend 10 minutes in the morning, 10 on your lunch break and 10 when you get home in the evening to total your 30 minute goal.)

Option 3: Read multiple books at once. Sometimes you aren’t tired of reading, you are tired of reading THE SAME THING. If you have two books on the go at once you can read a few pages or a chapter of one, when you feel yourself wanting to stop you can read something else and it may peak your interest again. For me I can only do this with one fiction and one non fiction, but for some people keeping track of two stories isn’t difficult.

Finally remember, reading should be fun and not a chore, if reading for more than a few minutes a day takes the fun out of it for you…well then don’t do it! Don’t let other people dictate to you how much you should read, if little and often works for you do that, if a whole book a day works then do that.

Hopefully you found some of these tips helpful, if they help you finish a book leave a comment and let me know!

I will leave you with this; terror made me cruel, but books made me kind.

Ja Ne.

End of the book burnout?

At this point in my life as a writer I have completed one full book and am close to finishing two other manuscripts. Spoiler alert: I don’t advocate working on two books at once, but let’s save that for another post.

There are certain points which no matter the book, no matter the subject matter or the characters I will always experience the same things. Some are great, like the burning feeling of wanting to write more and more down that comes near the begining of the project. One is far less fun, and much like the marathon runner, we authors will also hit the wall. It may be 20,000 words it may be 120,000 or anything in between but at some point IT WILL HAPPEN.

First and foremost just knowing it will happen can help you combat it, it’s inevitable, it doesn’t mean your story isn’t good it just means…you are near the end. It also means you need to keep going.

Right now I am no more than three chapters from completing the first draft of what is currently, as a working title, called The Venus Incident. When I began I wrote between 1.5 and 5 thousand words a day and it was easy and it was fun. Now I am struggling to write more than 500 as I plow on through the wall. My mind know’s the end is near and that makes it want to stop, if then…why not now? It begs and I ignore it.

A combination of this feeling or nearly being there and a realisation of all the editing that I need to do, all the scenes I need to add in or change, my mind wants to make me stop.

I must confess, I have no real advice on how to get around this because I have experienced it with every book so far and I have to assume I will with everyone yet to come. All I can say is that you are not alone, do not despair, push on and ensure that no matter how bad you think this first draft is, you finish it.

Tomorrow I will crawl closer to that finish line because I am a writer, and what is the first rule of write club? We write (you thought I was going to say don’t talk about write club didn’t you? Admit it, go on.)

I will leave you with this: This will not be over quickly, you will not enjoy this, I am not your king…..but you will complete this book.

Ja ne.

How much do writers read? + is it important?

You probably already know, without reading any further, just what I am going to say. Writer’s are people and just like any other group of people, some will read a lot and some will read less.

I think when people who want to become a writer ask how much other writers read or if it is important to read a lot, the real question they are asking is this: Can I still be a succesful writer/author if I don’t read a lot?

To this I say there is a short and a long answer. The short answer is probably yes but the longer answer is much more interesting so I really would encourage you to read on. Look on the bright side, if you take nothing else away from this then you will at least be able to say that you read a little more today than you otherwise would have. Small mercies am I right?

So on to the long answer. Some writers swear that reading is one of, if not THE most important thing they do outside of writing. Other writers don’t really read all that much and some used to read a lot but now claim they no longer have the time, none are right and none are wrong in my eyes.

When I was a child I read several books a year, probably three to five and that was enough to get me excited about writing. It introduced me to a medium of stories which I enjoyed and wanted to emulate and so I wrote my first bits of prose.

Through my teenage years I read probably one book a year, maybe two at a push but usually just one and I didn’t write all that much. What I did as a teenager however was spend hours a day pacing up and down my bedroom creating stories in my head. I didn’t write many of them down and if I did it was never the complete story, I would just play them out from start to end in my mind. I played a lot of Final Fantasy and went through a period of wanting to write video games, as such I took a lot of my inspiration from video games and made the stories look like video games in my minds eye.

Now I read more than I ever have before and am intending to read a minimum of fifty two books this year, or in other words one book a week.

So you could say I have sampled the view from all of what I consider the three main camps when it comes to reading and writing.So why don’t I think it is the be all and end all whether you read that much or not? Well because if you take away the writing part of being a writer what is it you want to do? It is to be a storyteller and stories are told in many different mediums. There is film and television, there are plays and other stage shows, there are radio and other audio stories along with likely countless other mediums (can you say sitting around the campfire). It doesn’t matter where you learn to craft stories from as long as you do LEARN.

The way in which reading becomes more important is in two parts: first it keeps you up to date on trends in publishing, if you read a lot of current releases you know what publishers are choosing to publish and what they know they can sell, this gives you an obvious edge when picking which of your projects you should turn into a novel. Secondly it teaches you a lot about writing, you can see things you like and don’t like in the way things are written, you can increase your vocabulary and you can learn about how long chapters should be or when it is and isn’t sensible to swap between character view points and so on.

I will leave you with this final thought, reading won’t make a great storyteller but when all other things are equal, he (or she) who reads the most will probably be better.

Ja Ne.

Onwards to the superbowl…..hopefully

So this is most definitely not writing related so for any of my regular readers, I will understand if you do not continue reading.

Today I am a very busy boy so this is really the only chance I will get to sit by the keyboard and I thought I should say hello to you all, I hope you appreciate this you lucky so and so’s.

I have never really been much of a sports person if I am honest, I never got into Manchester united or Rugby or anything else. The past few years however I have been watching the superbowl and this year I actually followed the entire NFL season. After initialy backing the Patriots and then watching them lose to the SeaHawks a few years ago I decided to stay true to my team and boy, was I happy I did.

I have enjoyed watching a rompingly good season for the Patriots this year, having lost only two games so far. Now through into the ultimate playoffs….which probably has a more official name than that, it might be superbowl glory after all.

I hope other patriot fans out there caught the game last night and enjoyed it as much as I did. Anyway this is really just a quick post to say hello and I hope you all have a lovely Sunday.

I shall leave you with this thought, sometimes a book project can be like a football team. You think it is a winner and then it gets torn apart, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end. Maybe regroup, change players and rewrite and you never know, a year or two later you might be at the superbowl too (The publishing auction of course to follow this weak metaphor through).