YouTube sucks….for study skills

Whats good boys and girls.

As any of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know, I am going to univeristy. I will be embarking on a BA in creative writing to help improve my craft as a writer. As I often do when I want to do something new, I recently turned to YouTube for information. I don’t know about you, but for me, university is a big deal. I WANT to do well and fully apply myself, yes I am there for the experience like everyone else, but if I come away with a 2/1…I will hate myself.

So, away I went, looking into study skills and what stationary do I need to hit the ground running…this was a poor choice of how to spend my time as it turned out. YouTube is great for something, hell it is great for procrstinating your way around doing anything. However, mainstream bloggers and things named ‘Hauls’ have destroyed the usefulness for some things. I started watching in excess of ten videos that had titles such as “Stationary must haves for uni” and “Essential stationary for university”. Correst me if I am wrong, but a fluffy jumper and a pair of bunny slippers are neither stationary or essential. I am not 18 and away from home for the first time, I have lived away from my parents for more than ten years…I know whether or not I need a jumper. I have been out of education for some time and as such thought I might need some pointers on what note books, folders and highlighters might be useful to me…YouTube did not want to help me.

This post is largely a rant, but it is a productive rant, as while I am writing this my mind is going to work in the background devising a clever plan for stationary shopping. Oh yes…there will be highlighters.

I have only about two weeks left before I start university and I have got to tell you I am excited. Let me know in the comments if you have any clever stationary or study tips, or if you are just excited to start university yourself.

Ja Ne.

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Soon to be a university writer

Hello all, sorry…my posts always seem to start with a sorry. Sorry that it has been a while, it usually has, and today is no exception. I feel I have a good excuse this time however, I was in hospital for a few days! I am very well now though, thank you for asking…or thinking about asking at least. Clean bill of health and back to writing.

I am currently editing two books. One, called Deputy, which I aim to self publish at the end of September. A novella designed as a part of an ongoing series as a cure for those who hate long books. Or, perhaps do not hate, but do not have the time to read them. The other, a full length novel which I intend to send to agents for a traditional publishing deal. Editing, as anyone who read my last post will know, is not my favorite form of writing. I love just writing, having to read my own words over and over again while making tiny changes and corrections…upsets me. Sometimes it upsets me because of the foolish mistakes I make (such as putting it’s when it should clearly be its). Other times because I feel reading one chapter of a book seventeen times in a row takes some of the magic away. Nervertheless, today I will edit.

I am working with a very talented cover designer for Deputy and sharing the creative process with someone else is forcing me to be accountable. At some point I need to have a completed draft because he needs the page count to create the cover…therefore I have tricked myself into having to finish the book.

Today is August the 3rd which means it is nearly September (sort of). In September I start something everyone else I know did ten years ago, an undergraduate degree. I will be studying Creative Writing because it gives me the chance to live life as a writer for three years. Surround myself with like minded people and hopefully come out the other side a much better writer than I am now. Truth be told however, it still doesn’t feel like I am going. September is so close yet it feels so far away. I am sure in three years time when I am handing in my dissertation I will be sat here writing to you all about how it flew by, but then time is funny like that.

May I ask a question of you all today? Please answer in the comments if you would be so good. I want to start gaining some traction on this blog and I have discovered that I picked a very bad name for it. A goggle search of the name brings up things like RightMove and estate agents…not this blog. What kind of a name or naming technique should I use to get closer to the top of search results for people looking for me?

P.s. I am also going to start posting short stories here alongside my usual blogs, let me know what kind of stories you like.

Ja Ne.

1984…need I say more?

Good afternoon good chaps and chappets,

Today I have come to tell you that I have read, for the first time in my reading life, something that most people would call a classic. Jane Austen it may not be but few if any could argue that George Orwell’s 1984 isn’t a classic.

The general notion of the book and its over arching ideas have been known to me, as I suppose they have to most people not living under rocks, for a very long time. It has been something that I always thought I should want to read…but never went out and actually read, that is, until now.

It took me just over a week to work my way through and by gosh did I enjoy it. It may seem an odd thing to provide a book review to 1984 now. So many years after it has been released and read by millions, but very few books make you want to stand on a rooftop and shout about how good they were, so when I found out that this was one such book, this is the nearest I own to a rooftop to shout from.

1984 (for those of you who do live under rocks) tells the story of Winston, a man deeply disatisfied with his existence. He lives in a dystopian version of the world where Big Brother makes most dictatorships in the real world look like a walk in the park with candy floss.

‘Thoughtcrime’ is the only crime, daring to think that Big Brother isn’t great or isn’t all powerful or really just having any thought which isn’t what Big Brother would want you to think. If you are found guilty of this then you will be taken and ‘vaporised’ which essentially means written out of history, considered never to have existed at all.

I won’t delve deeper into the story here in the event that anyone who hasn’t read it will go and do just that after reading this.

So, why did I like this book so much? First and foremost it must be said that the calibre of writing in this book is nothing short of exceptional. There are many schools of thought about the way novellists used to all be from well-to-do families and have Oxford or Cambridge degrees. I certainly don’t want to go on record and say I think we should go back to this way of picking writers (not least because I am an uneducated man from a working class background) but there is something to be said of it in regards to this book. The writing along with whatever editing was done is nothing short of phenomenal, in my opinion, which makes for a fantastically fluid read.

The story telling is also exemplary. The world is clearly very well thought out and comes across with perfect uniformity in all descriptions given. There is never a lapse in character or an event or description which seems jarring. Once you start reading you are IN Big Brother’s Oceania and you do not leave it until the book is done.

In todays day and age with politics stumbling over itself as awfully as it is the book may well enjoy a resurgence of popularity as against a changing political backdrop it really is just the ticket.

My only complaint, and this is also a warning, and a note of encouragement. Is that towards the end of Part 2 of the book there is a long chapter. When I say long I mean LONG, far longer than any other chapter in the book and it follows Winston reading a book. Thus, you are reading a very long chapter about another person reading a very long chapter. For me that was the only part of the book I struggled with, I didn’t enjoy reading it, I didn’t really feel it was necesary to have been included and for me, without it, I would have probably supported the book even more. Please do read on however as the ending is really some of the most tense writing I have ever read. You would regret not finishing this book.

Still, it remains to be said that 1984 has quite possibly become my new ‘greatest book ever read’ toppling the previous one that sat there.

What else can I say? Go and read this book, well that and, I suppose I should finish with: I loved Big Brother.

Some of my favourite reads

Hello avid reader.

Today I thought I would offer you something a little different. Today I wanted to speak to you about one of my favourite series of books that I have ever read.

As you probably know, most of what I write is for the younger audience. Middle grade as they call it in the trade or about 9-12 to you and me.

You may not know however, that this is also the majority of what I read. Don’t get me wrong, I can read big words, I can handle serious topics, but I LIKE young persons literature. The pacing is generally better, there is less filler and best of all they tend towards short chapters. Maybe it is just me but short chapters make me feel more accomplished as a reader.

So it may not surprise you that one of my best loved books series is The Edge Chronicles. If you haven’t read them go out now and buy Beyond the Deepwoods, that is the first of the bunch and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Written by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddel these books are truly phenomenal and in my opinion wildly underrated.

Why somebody in Hollywood hasn’t snapped these up to make a movie yet is beyond me, who doesn’t want to see airships and magical woods and devious villains on the big screen?

This isn’t really a review as such, it has been such a long time since I read these books that I couldn’t do one fairly, this is more a love letter to the books.

The illustrations are fantastic and vividly bring the stories to life. The characters are deep and inspiring, there is love and danger and intrigue. Not to mention while being very clearly high fantasy they have not stolen from Tolkein like most. Here they have populated a thrilling new world with an endless array of creatures and races of people none of which feel cliched or tired.

In the days when I was not as much of a reader as I should have been I fell in love with these books and read them quicker than anything else I had touched at that age.

I couldn’t say that it was the reason I wanted to be an author as I stumbled upon that idea much younger but they were certainly the first books that made me say things like “When I grow up I want to write books like these!”

In short, there is little of real substance for me to write here other than the following.

Thank you to Paul and Chris (Yes…I imagine myself on first name terms with these fine gentlemen) and if you haven’t read these books, go and do so, you will not regret the time invested.

Ja Ne
P.s. I am aiming to get a more coherent category section going on this blog as I write more posts. Starting with writing advice, Reading and Lifestyle. Any suggestions or ideas please do comment.

The curse of WANTING to be a good writer

Good afternoon fellow writers, would be writers and just plain old readers.

Today I wanted to talk to you all about something that I feel plagues me, and that isn’t blank page syndrome…oh no. Though, coincidentally, I am supposed to be writing a short story right now and the thought was so scary I decided to do this instead. The matter at hand today is what I would call the desire to be good, always.

There are many exercises that people will suggest to help writers and one of the most popular is a variation of ‘stream of conscious’ writing. For the uninitiated this essentially means to write whatever comes into your mind without stopping to think.

In my time I have been asked to do many such exercises, some where you are given a word to write about, some an idea and others with no prompt at all. This is great for getting your creative juices flowing but I feel that I always stumble at the first hurdle, and I wonder if any of you share this problem.

The problem is, the aforementioned, desire to always be good. Stream of consciousness by its very nature should NOT be good writing. It should not be filled with pretty metaphors and fancy word play. It is an exercise in getting down the ideas from your head as quickly as possible and hoping that a train of thought emerges which takes you in a new direction.

So how does this problem manifest you may be asking? It manifests in TRYING to be a clever writer all the time. Never wanting to put something on the paper that isn’t smart, that won’t make people think, or isn’t going to raise a smirk. Stream of conscious should by its very nature be messy, but I cannot make it so.

Even when writing this blog, which is not prose at all, I strive to write in an engaging way.

I think to sum it up, the curse of wanting to be a good writer, is wanting to be a good writer, always.

What do you think? Is it a curse, or just a sign that you were born to be a wordsmith?

Answers on a postcard.

Ja Ne.

Is self publishing the future? Science says yes

Dear readers, today I want to a broach a subject with you which I know will provoke many reactions.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this blog I would like to pre qualify it by saying the following. I wish to become a published novelist, by that I mean that I will be sending copies of manuscripts to agents with the hope of securing one. I hope that agent will then procure a publisher to print the book and that it will end up in all of the big bookstores around the country and perhaps even the world. With that you should hopefully realise that I do not, as many unpublished writers I’m afraid to say do, hate the publishing industry.

I do think it has its flaws, just like any other business, but I in no way despise or hate it or the people trying to make money from it.

With that said I shall continue by posing a question.

Q) Is self publishing the future for novels?

A) I think that it is, and over the next few paragraphs I shall try to explain to you exactly why I feel that.

The first thing I shall say on this subject is that publishing requires, to a certain degree, a level of foresight not dissimilar to that of an oracle (name that actual prediction guy.)

This is because when a manuscript is bought from an author to be published it is the start of a long process. There will be multiple edits, there will be cover designs coming and going. There will be marketing happening where they try to drum up interest both inside and outside of the industry (i.e. to booksellers and also to readers.) All in all there is generally a delay of roughly one year before a published book will be available in stores for purchase.

Because of this delay the agents and publishers need to think about not just what is selling now in the world of books, but what they think will be selling in a year or twos time. They need to forecast trends that are not yet here and hopefully hit them by the time the books come out.

So why, you might ask, does this become a suggestion that self publishing would do a better job. It has always happened this way so why change it now?

Well, I think we need to recognise a few things here. First, is the fact that sometimes books don’t sell simply because they aren’t available. Maybe there would have been a trend for Gnome murder mysteries last year if some had been published, but the powers that be did not think it would so they didn’t publish them. The reader can only read what IS published, not necessarily what they would WANT to read if they could read anything.

Secondly, knowing that to be published and make a living from writing you have to hit these trends (this is a generalisation and in no way a hard and fast rule) then it also limits writers on what they will choose to write. If writers knew they could publish whatever they wrote because there were no ‘gate keepers’ then the breadth of published works may be far greater.

The third and final point I am going to make in this post, is, I think, the most interesting and potentially the one that gets spoken about least. So far, everything I have said is largely opinion based and may or may not lead to more people choosing to self publish in the future. This right here, is pretty much a dead certainty, so let’s get to it.

Right now, the western world and indeed the financial world in any country is very centralised. It all revolves around banks, the people who hold onto all the money in one central place. We have already seen a huge trend towards non-physical currency and this will only continue and get greater as time goes on.

Please note, when I say non-physical I am not talking about bit-coin or any other similar currency, I mean, everyone spends money on their credit or debit card. Very few people carry physical cash and the establishments which only accept cash are becoming fewer and further between.

This to me suggests only one possible future for finance, something like you often see in science fiction, credits. A form of currency that is not based on any physical commodity. If that happens…you don’t need banks, there is nothing to put in a vault so why build vaults and hire people to run them? Everyone could have their money encrypted on some form of memory stick, or card or even just in some form of cloud storage. Basically, it will mean bye bye banks and bye bye the old world of money.

Why in the world would this mean more people self publish you might ask? Well it isn’t a direct link BUT be aware that money is just one of the things that is becoming less centralised. Most modern technology coming out is leaning towards less centralisation, it is just the way the world is going. Now ask yourself, what is a publishing house if not a centralised authority in charge of editing, printing and selling books? You’re right, it’s nothing, because that is essentially the dictionary definition of a publishing house. If everything else is becoming less centralised then why would publishing be any different? There has already been a massive increase in self publishing with things like Kindle and Kobo and that is likely to increase.

As it stands there is still a stigma to self published works and there will be for some time, but it is decreasing and I cannot see it ever doing anything other than decreasing. Until one day, there will be no stigma. Authors won’t fear being called ‘not real writers’ if they choose to self publish because it will be a very real and very lucrative option for them to take.

Finally I would end on a point I heard about at a publishing seminar. 90% of books that are written and sent to publishers (possibly more than 90%) are never published. Those books will never make a single penny in revenue and will never be read by anyone. 100% of self published books are published, meaning that the vast majority of those will sell at least one copy which is infinitely more than they would have sold had they gone to a slush pile to die.

Ja Ne.

On being a professional writer

Good morning all, welcome, welcome. Please take a seat and get comfortable before we get on with todays blog.

I have fairly recently been given the opportunity to write a story in collaboration with an illustrators work to be included in an anthology of short stories and accompanying artwork. This is with a local University and their MA Illustration students so it is not a paid gig as it were. Though the book will be published it is hardly going to be on sale in big name bookshops across the country.

All of the above being said I still take it as a great opportunity to put my work out there, have it read, collaborate with other creatives and just see what happens. Some people may not, some people given opportunities like this squander them. They say things like ‘well if I am not getting paid…what’s the point of worrying’.

To those people I would ask, do you call yourself a writer? Do you even want to be a writer? If you answer yes to these questions you should refer back to my earliest posts in which I told everyone the cold hard truth. Writers write. It really is that simple and if you ever want to be taken seriously as a writer then you need to start taking your craft seriously.

If somebody recognises your writing as being good enough that they want it included in a publication, whether that be a book like the one I am involved with, a magazine or even a website. Take that opportunity seriously.

If you are given a deadline make sure you meet it. Edit your work time and time again before you send it. Do not present something that you know isn’t your best by thinking things like ‘it’s good enough’.

Quite simply you have to act like a professional first and BECOME a professional second.

Ja Ne.

P.s. I will be giving more details of this book once they are available so any of you who wish it can give it a look.