I cannot write paragraphs…can you?

Hello ladies and gentlemen, how do I find you today? Well I hope, or at the very least, not bad.

Today I need to ask for advice and share something that I would rather not. We all have faults, and we all have things we are not so good at. Never the less it can sometimes be difficult to openly admit them. I shall swallow my pride and tell you all my dirty little secret right here, live as it were, on the interwebs.

I recently finished a draft and preliminary edit on a novella I have written and asked my partner to proof read it for me. It turns out…that may have been a mistake. I am what could largely be described as a self taught writer, I read and I write for myself learning as I go. I have never had any formal tuition beyond primary and secondary school. My partner on the other hand is a PhD student with a stellar academic background. Her job is essentially reading and writing to a very high standard.

When I asked her to proof read my work. I expected a lot of corrections on coma placement, the use of semicolons and other assorted things. What I did not expect was the bombshell I received, something which I feel rather ashamed to admit as a writer, but feel I must to move forward. I cannot write paragraphs, at least, I cannot write paragraphs in a way that would be acceptable in academic works.

Thinking of myself as a writer it really shook me to be told this. As a native English speaker I would have thought that paragraphs are just one of those things that I could DO without really having to think about it. Finding that I can write (in my opinion) very good dialogue with relative ease and yet struggle with something so basic, has shaken me. That might sound a little over dramatic but I do not think it is. I should think it would be the same as telling a professional hairdresser that they have been holding scissors incorrectly for the last twenty years.

So, I decided to go out and visit some bookshops. I looked for books on grammar and punctuation, both for native speakers and English learners. To my surprise there didn’t seem to be anything regarding paragraphs to be found anywhere. I guess the rest of the world thinks paragraphs are as easy as I always thought they were. From now onwards I will be reading like a writer, rather than a reader. Closely inspecting paragraphs to try and find rules and patterns that I may have missed before.

So, before I ask humbly for your help, I shall tell you what I know…or at the least, what I think I know.

1) You must start a new paragraph when you change scenes, E.g. going from outside to inside a house.

2) You must change paragraph when a new character speaks.

3) You must change paragraphs if you are talking about a new idea.

In principle this seems easy and sensible to me, alas, I was informed many of my paragraphs. At least in this piece of work, were split too frequently. Several short paragraphs easily could have been one more complete and easier to read paragraph. I understand that in fiction there are less hard and fast rules and style comes into it a lot more, that being said, I do not want anyone to feel my work does not flow because of poor use of paragraphs.

Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated in the comments, and by all means if anyone knows of any resources then please let me know.

Ja Ne.

Dune…yes you should read it

Hello boys and girls, today we are going to talk about Dune. For those of you asking yourself ‘What’s Dune’ or ‘What is this guy talking about?’ maybe even ‘Did he move to a desert?’….shoot yourself. Ok that was a little below the belt, that being said I am assuming most of you will be aware at least of the masterpiece that is Dune. Maybe you haven’t read it, but you will be aware of it.

So what is Dune? Yes it is a book and yes it is the first in a six book sci-fi series, but what ELSE is Dune? Well for one (correct at the time of writing) it is the best selling sci-fi book of all time, not many books can say that for themselves. It is also one man’s last ditch attempt to get published. The legend goes that there was no publisher willing to take on Dune as it was too long, too grand, too different. Then a small automotive book publisher said ‘yeah, why not’ and since then every other publishing house has probably been kicking themselves.

First released in 1966, Dune is truly a work of science fiction genius that, in my limited view, is yet to be rivalled by ANY other book in the same category. I will start with a brief sort of summary/review and my thoughts trying to steer clear of any spoilers. If I DO add any spoilers they will be towards the end and preceded by a warning. (But seriously if you haven’t read it…what are you still doing here? Go read it and then you can have you own opinion.)

Dune is complete at just over 528 pages in its 50th anniversary edition paperback reprint. It is by no means a short or easy read, but it is certainly worth the work. At it’s heart Dune is a story about a boy who has to become a man. Along his way he will see tragedy, love, war, defeat, victory, death, power…and maybe even the future. Born into a long unfolding prophecy, a strange chain of events thrusts him towards its centre with only one way out. He must accept his ‘fate’ and kick some serious ass.

A lot of people draw many things from the subtext of this book, things about past political situations with middle eastern countries. Environmental concerns, even in some peoples thoughts drug induced brain farts for inspiration. Above all else though, this book is a boys wet dream in novel form. A boy of 15 is essentially made out to be a God…he gets to fight, have essentially any woman of his choosing and ultimately *I cannot say because I promised no spoilers* something even cooler than all of that.

The first third of the book is largely scene setting and isn’t all that fast, but that’s ok in my opinion. Some books need that and this is one of those books. There are three major houses (not dissimilar to GOT in that regard) that we need to get to know. There are rules of the universe, reasons why technology has gone the way it has, reasons why war is fought the way it is. The spice needs to be explained, the prophecy needs some groundwork. Yes the opening isn’t jet fuelled adrenaline on speed, but it is needed. Once you get past this chunk you are rewarded. Not long after the Atredies family arrive on their new home of Arrakis the shit hits the fan and it is all guns blazing until the conclusion.

I have read the entire series and I would recommend that any fan of sci-fi epics does the same. If you cannot stomach a long series though, I would at least suggest you REALLY consider reading Dune as a standalone. Because of the series structure, with the possible exception of book two, you really can view this as a simply fantastic stand alone sci-fi war novel. Attach the rest of the series and it becomes a millennia spanning space opera of epic proportions.

I cannot put into words exactly WHAT I enjoyed so much about this book, but I did, and I think most of you would too. To paraphrase one of the characters of the lost boys ‘How can twenty billion sci-fi readers be wrong Michael?’

Ja Ne.

The Dark Tower, thoughts so far

Hello readers, internet people and the poor ones who stumbled upon this post completely accidentally. I welcome you all with equal vigour.

Today I thought I might write a little about my thoughts so far on the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I have previously written about The Gunslinger which is the first book, now however, I have finished the second and am making headway into the third. It seemed an appropriate time to revisit this wonderful little series. Well it isn’t little is it, it is seven books long and some of them are really rather big books, but I digress.

So, what has changed for me since I last wrote about this? Well the first book and the second book are really very different beasts. I greatly enjoyed the first book, though I didn’t feel it really had much of an ending. That is not a slight against the book really as Mr King did say in many ways it is just one big book. With that in mind, I think it is fine that the book ends like the end of a chapter rather than a book. The first book was about Roland and his adventures in the waste land, it read like a mix between a western movie and a YA adventure book. Right up my alley, lots of guns and gratuitous violence and just a few monsters. Great fun all in all.

The second book is entirely different, it is very character driven. Vast sections of the fairly sizeable book concentrate on the development and ‘Drawing’ of each of three characters. There is still adventure and gun toting, but if nobody told me I would not have thought they were part of the same series. I still enjoyed the second book but it was very different an experience.

The third book so far, seems to be, more of a return to the first in style. Something I am more a fan of personally, I was never one for story driven novels. That being said it is kind of a blend of the two earlier books in many respects and it does intrigue me as to how the future of the series is going to pan out.

All in all I am enjoying the series so far and am very intrigued to see where it goes. I am hoping for some set ups and pay offs starting in book one and ending in book seven but only time will tell if that will happen. I hope it does, seven books is a big undertaking. Previously the longest series I read was Dune but this really does dwarf that collection of books.

Have any of you read the Dark Tower? If so lend me your thoughts (without spoilers) in the comments.

And the tower was closer.

Ja Ne.

What is the hardest part of writing a novel?

Hello dear reader,

Today I would like to enquire, as I often do, are you a writer? If yes I should imagine there is some particular part of the writing process that you find harder or more tedious than the rest. For me, that part is most definitely editing. More specifically structural editing.

I have been thinking about that lately, why is it I find that particular thing such a blooming nuisance? I believe that it is due to a lack of familiarity and it is only something that will improve with time and effort.

Most people who wish to be authors will say things like ‘writing a book is so hard’ or ‘it is too difficult to write a story THAT long’. When I first started writing novels I was amongst this camp but that quite quickly change. Before I had written anything longer than a few thousand words, the idea of writing something that was several tens of thousands of words seemed insane. It was the most insurmountable challenge that writing had to offer, but was it? I don’t think so anymore.

After I finally wrote a book of 25,000 words, I then wrote a book of 50,000 and then a little while later 72,000. I have now written so many first drafts that I don’t really think WRITING a book (read, writing the initial first draft, not the entire process) really that hard. The simple action of setting out to do it, achieving it and then making a mental note of the steps I took to do it…made it seem simple. Writing a first draft now has a sort of a ‘formula’ that I can follow.

My first Novella was only ever really line edited for the most part. I felt pretty confident the structure was as good as it was going to get. With that in mind, I am now enjoying the joys of trying to fix and perfect the structures of some of my newer manuscripts. Essentially this is the first time I am doing that, and as a result, it is proving to be the hardest writing-thing I have ever done.

So what do you think? Is there REALLY one thing about writing that you struggle with and always will? Or is it just another skill you are yet to improve, or better yet, master?
Until next time.

I am NOT a militant vegan

Welcome one and all to my new feature chews-day….see what I did there? Because it is Tuesday….never mind.

So I have been wanting to expand the blog to be more of a catch all journal for my thoughts for a while and wanted to find a way to write more posts. Enter chews-day. Every Tuesday that I post will be a food related blog of sorts. It will go alongside Writing Wednesday and then you know…I will have to think of other ones.

So without any more ado let me talk to you about veganism.

First of all I would like to make the pre-qualifying statement that throughout my life, while not disagreeing with veganism, I have generally disliked or hated every single Vegan I have met or known. (Sorry if you are reading this and are one of those people who were subject to my hate). The reason for this hatred is down to the weird militant view and outspoken nature of many vegans. Vegetarians were never quite so hoity and neither are omnivores, but vegans, they were always a testy bunch.

That being said I decided to make a change, and around about two weeks ago I went vegan. So far I haven’t struggled and I for the most part (barring one tragic evening meal) have enjoyed very good food indeed.

I have always been fairly handy in the kitchen, I can bake bread, I can cook basic meals and I have always enjoyed a broad selection of vegetables when compared to many others. So eating vegetables is hardly a new thing for me but alas, having to check if there are any animal related products in everything…is hard work and definitely makes you think a lot more about what you are eating and buying.

So why, you might be asking yourself, have I one vegan when I say I hate them so much? Well most vegans have always really, really annoyed me, but that doesn’t mean I hate animals. The fact of the matter is that I have toyed with the idea a few times in my life because it seems unnecessary to kill all these animals when we don’t have to.

I have always been into my fitness and indeed I got myself qualified as a gym instructor and then a personal trainer around five years ago but never really broke into the market. Not long ago I went back to the Paleo diet, something I have in the past advocated for weight loss. Why? Because in my experience it works wonders, it was the leanest I have ever been and the best I ever felt. That being said I experienced a very different effect this time around. I still lost weight, revealed more of my abs and felt more energetic BUT there was more. Consuming meat for three meals a day made me become very conscious of just how much death was on my hands. I was eating beef, chicken and venison like they were going out of style. For some reason unknown to me, when I tried to eat like that this time around, my mind couldn’t help but think about all the animals being killed.

Thus a new vegan was born, it is indeed very early and I am sure many people fall off the wagon a long time after two weeks but I intend to stick to this.

I know this post has been little more than a rant and may not be to most peoples tastes but I felt the need to write about it. If you have stuck with me to this point I will leave you with one thought.

In this day and age we know enough about nutritional science, vitamins and supplements and agriculture that there is NO NEED to eat meat or animal products. It has been proven that people can be very healthy on a vegan diet. The choice to eat animal products may masquerade as health concerns but really it comes down to this, we eat it because we like it. It is easy to not have to check, it is easy to eat whatever you want, and it is easy to forget that it was ever an animal when it is packaged in a supermarket. If there is no requirement for human health to kill animals for our food…then why are we still doing it? As a species shouldn’t we be a little too morally evolved for that?

Ja Ne.

The Dark Tower’s Gunslinger is Eli?

Is it just me folks? Or?

Well let’s come back to that thought a little later in the article shall we? What a way to start, with a question, how horrendous of me. Assuming that you, the reader, would want to answer my questions. Anyway, on with the show as they say.

I have just started reading the dark tower series by Stephen King. I have never read any King before which shocks a lot of people, since it shook me too, and this is supposed to be his Opus…I thought why the hell not start here.

So far, I am thoroughly enjoying it, I am about half way and it is traveling along at a rip-roaring pace. Lots of blood and guts and shooting. Also a healthy dose of implied sex or at least implied sexiness. Why is this a big thing for me? Well not because I am a blazing pervert but because of a documentary I watched many years ago.

When I was knee high to a grasshopper I used to play a lot of video games, I wasn’t very good, but I used to play them. One of my personal all time favourite horror games was Silent Hill 2, and I happened to have the collectors edition with all the making of and the such, well my brother did…it was his console after all.

So I sat down and watched the making of and they talked about horror and how there are two things every human is always thinking about. Sex and death, if you mix the two together that creates terror, that is where real horror comes from. Stirring you deeply emotionally in the pit of your soul. Some call Stephen King the (wait for it) king of horror, this sexy death mix hints to me that maybe he is.

So what was I talking about at the beginning of this article then anyway? Is it just me folks…or is the gunslinger very reminiscent of Eli from ‘The Book of Eli’. Technically of course it is the other way around as the film I have mentioned was made a long, long time after the first Dark Tower book was released.

Now maybe this is just a coincidence, or maybe it is a sincere form of flattery but I found it interesting enough to put my thoughts down here. So in the book of Eli he uses knives more than guns but the general persona of the character and the back drop of the sort of wild west dessert that it is set in…rings a little similar.

This is in no way an insult to either, I am enjoying the book and I really love that film, but there you go. What do you think? Any similarity or is it just me? Answers on a postcard…or at least a comment at the end of this post.

Ja Ne. You will never catch the man in black

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.