So hopefully some of my advice will help you to grow as a writer and will give you things to focus on with your next draft. I look forward to meeting the people influenced by my site and thank you again for reading.
Critical mass is commonly defined as the amount of fissile material needed to sustain nuclear fission. It’s an interesting concept and one which doesn’t have to be reserved for that alone.
It could also refer to the point in any situation where something acquires enough momentum of its own to become unstoppable.
And I’m there again now.
Many years ago, back in the time when I struggled to write a letter home after a month spent crossing the Pacific ocean, I never got to that stage with any words put on paper. As long as I had written a bit I was happy, relieved to have done it. I used to get long interesting letters from my wife and family and wondered at the apparent ease that they were produced.
I watched as my wife would spend an hour or two writing to people, it seemed to flow, like a river and I asked her about how she did it. “I’m in the zone,” she said, “and it just comes out.” I never really understood at the time, ‘lucky her,’ I thought.
Fast forward….. I’m writing now, I don’t know where the inspiration came from, one day I just sat down and started typing. And I found that as I did so, just occasionally the story would flow like I had seen in Yvonne’s letter writing sessions. It just kept coming and in the end, I had written things that I didn’t remember thinking or planning.
And that brings us back to critical mass.
In every idea there seems to be a certain mileage, sometimes I will write a thousand words, or two thousand and realise that the idea had nowhere else to go. It’s a Short Story or a Flash Fiction. That’s not to say that it isn’t any good, it just is what it is, complete and that’s fine.
Sometimes it just keeps going to twenty thousand words or so and then a strange thing happens. It develops a life of its own and nothing you can do stops it as it carries on. You think it’s done and another idea springs up to extend the plot or amplify a chapter. It starts to write itself, all you have to do is keep pressing the keys. Before you know it you’ve passed another ten thousand words almost without expending any effort.
My present work is one of those stories.
That’s critical mass and it’s wonderful.
The best laid plans
It doesn’t matter how much I plan which of my projects I want to work on, the voices in my head that give me inspiration always seem to have other ideas.
I started 2017 fully intending to get on with the sequel to the Rocks of Aserol, failing that I had another part finished work to complete, one that had been in my head for a long while and had about 10,000 words already written. Both were coming along nicely.
BUT, after I finished Andorra Pett and got a good response from my editor, I realised something. Reviewing her notes meant that I read the book again and when I did I saw that there was scope for a sequel, which had never been my intention before.
Even though Andorra will probably not see the light of day until later this year, there was no rush for a sequel to a book that I hadn’t even finished yet. Or was there?
The trouble was; the plot was so blindingly obvious to me at that point that I just had to write it down. Which I did, just so that I wouldn’t forget it. I wrote about four pages of notes to be exact.
Now I never normally work this way, I just get the initial idea and write, the story develops as I go along and the end is as much of a surprise to me as I hope it is to the reader.
But this story has taken over, I’m on it every day and I think I will have it finished in record time. Meanwhile, the other work languishes.
Which just goes to show, when it comes to inspiration, you can’t make any plans, there is a voice in my head that refuses to get in line and wait for their turn. A bit like Andorra herself, she is loud and demands attention. What have I created?
Andorra Pett and The Oort Cloud Café will be published later this year, try Chapter 1 HERE.
It’s that time of year again, the time when we all look back on the last twelve months and look ahead to the next. Review our achievements and disappointments. I hope your 2016 was good and that 2017 will give you everything you need.
Personally, I published two books this year; I also finished writing three novels; one that had been on the go for a long time, one that was a recent idea and one that was totally unexpected.
Now I’m in that strange limbo where I’m waiting for the first impressions of my creations from my beta readers, it’s not a nice place to be, will someone else share my vision? Have I explained it properly? And all the other doubts that creep in. But comments are important and I have the power to change in response to them.
And looking forward I still have four novels part written, five if you count the short stories that I write when inspiration deserts me for the novels, there are nearly enough for another collection.
But the one thing that I don’t do enough of is marketing, and I think that lets me down in a big way. After all, if my writing is good, and the reviews suggest that it is, so why don’t I shout about it.
I was always told when I was a child, “don’t be boastful or a show-off,” and I think that colours my attitude to marketing, it’s a fact that we are all prisoners of our pasts and that’s something that we have to overcome.
So my new year’s resolution is to up my game when it comes to telling people about me and my work, now I just need to decide who’s advice to follow, everyone seems to be an ‘expert’ with their own methods and ‘fool proof system.’
It all starts with presence, I need to get my name out there and become recognisable. So I’m going to try to become a little bit more visible. Ahead of the publication of Myra in March I’m offering a free novel for the month of January. And my chosen one is Ribbonworld.
It’s been on sale a while and is selling reasonably well, it has good reviews and deserves a wider audience.
To get your FREE copy, just click HERE
Last week, an interview I did for a fellow author was posted, you can find it HERE
I have also got the manuscript for Andorra Pett back from my editor. Fortunately, she liked the change of style and could only find a couple of plot holes and inconsistencies, so after I’ve sorted it out I will be offering that up as a beta read. The interesting part is that whilst I was walking along the cliffs yesterday I had an idea for a SEQUEL, we’ll have to see where that goes but I’ve already got 2,000 words of it down and have a rough idea of what might be going to happen.
In other news, the artwork for Myra will shortly be off to my cover designer, here it is in its entirety. The artist is the amazing Vicki-Lea Boulter.
Pretty impressive isn’t it? It almost seems a shame to put words over it. You can see more of her fantastic artwork HERE.
Now that we are at this stage, the production process really starts, I have the manuscript ready to be formatted as paperback and epub versions, ISBN numbers allocated and everyone is set up for work in January. All things being equal, we are on course for publication in March.
Save the date, March 15th.
I wondered about writing a Flash Fiction for Christmas, and that got me thinking about how you would celebrate on a different planet. Or even if you would. The date is really just an artificial construct that has grown up due to the physical characteristics of the planet, and events have been fitted into this pattern over millennia. But if you were somewhere else, say you were on a planet with a solar year of 480 days, set light years away and remote, you would have to start again. And that threw up all sorts of questions.
That all seemed a little complicated for what was meant to be a bit of lighthearted storytelling. There was probably enough there for a novel. I only wanted to write a Flash so I set it a little closer to home and made it a bit more familiar..
Maybe you were right
The crew had drawn straws and Martine had lost. I hadn’t bothered, I was happy to stay and let someone else go.
It wasn’t as if I had anyone special to go home for and I honestly couldn’t be bothered with Christmas, all the commercialism and repeat movies, it was for families and kids. The rest of the crew were on their way back to Earth for the holidays, I was the one who was stopping in orbit to watch the shop with the reluctant loser.
I hadn’t been lucky with that, or so I thought. It was typical; Martine was the one person that I had hoped was going home; she was the one who was stopping. I reckoned that the psychological profilers had slipped up with her when they had selected the crew. If I could have chosen someone else to share the fortnight with before the new crew arrived, it wouldn’t have been her. She was the awkward one.
Still, we had to make the best of it.
“Why did you offer to stay?” she asked me, as we watched the shuttle depart, “Don’t you have any family on Earth?”
A lot of us were unattached, the agency preferred it that way, there was less potential for problems as far as they were concerned.
“No,” I said, “and before you ask, I’m not bothered with all the festive stuff. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to enjoy being up here.”
“With me?” she finished. “I know we don’t really get on but I don’t want to have a lousy fortnight with you and a load of Bah Humbug bitching.”
She smiled, she had a nice smile, it was a pity that it hadn’t been on show more often.
“Truce?” I said. She smiled again, “I hope so. Let’s have a Happy Christmas.”
We were in low orbit and passed the whole northern hemisphere twice a day. As there were only two of us we had plenty of work to keep us busy. And as the time had passed we started to get on much better. She opened up, she was very upset to be here, and not because of me. She told me that she loved Christmas and all the festive activities with her family. Her enthusiasm got through to me and I even started to see why people celebrated. I dropped my Scrooge persona for her sake; it was bad enough that she was here without me making it worse.
We had agreed to stop work on Christmas Eve and relax for forty-eight hours, apart from the essential safety stuff. The agency had supplied us with vacuum packed festive treats, but to be honest liquidised mince pies weren’t exactly enticing. But as we couldn’t have crumbs floating around in the cabin everything was made to be eaten through a straw.
As the day drew to a close we chilled and watched the night creep across Europe, we could see the snow clad peaks of the Alps, the sky was cloudless and the twinkling lights of the cities made a living map.
“We’re in a perfect position to watch,” Martine said as we sipped our non-alcoholic festive drinks, at least that was what it said on the pouch. It tasted like spiced apple juice to me. We were strapped in to stop us bumping around; even lifting the drink to our lips was enough to change our centre of gravity and move us around the cabin.
“To watch what?” over the last few days I had got to know her better, she wasn’t really awkward, just quiet and intense and I had to admit the profilers had got it right after all, it was me that had been out of step. I had learned to get on with her and was glad that she had stayed. Her reply still surprised me though.
“To see Santa on his sleigh, we have a perfect view.”
I thought that she was joking, “We could film it; record it,” she carried on; “prove it once and for all.” Surely she was a bit old for all that?
“It would all be a bit of a blur,” I said, joining into her train of thought, “he would have to move really fast; all those houses in one night.”
“My nieces would love it though,” her eyes shone, “they still believe. I think I still want to, because of them.”
“I think we all want to believe,” I said, “it’s better than the real world with all its cynicism.” Had I really just said that? It showed how much being with her had changed me.
There was a rattle from the hull, we had grown used to the occasional piece of dust or whatever bouncing off us, relative motion meant that it was unlikely to do us any serious harm but this sounded like a lot more than usual.
Martine looked at me and raised an eyebrow, “a few bigger pieces, perhaps we should swing the cameras around and have a look.”
“Perhaps its reindeer,” I said, she leant across and punched me on the arm.
“Don’t mock,” she advised; a flash of the old Martine. “Just when I thought you were going all mellow.”
The station suddenly rocked violently from side to side, Martine screamed, or perhaps it was me. All the loose objects bobbed around, creating a blizzard of motion, it was like being in a snow globe that had been rapidly shaken.
“What was that?” I shouted over the wailing alarms.
“There,” she pointed through the port, heading away from us towards the centre of a sleeping Europe was a dark shape. It must have been moving fast, it was already glowing in multiple colours from the heat of re-entry, green and red and gold as it hit the top of the atmosphere.
We both unstrapped and floated around the cabin, cancelling alarms, catching and stowing all the floating objects. As we competed to grab things in the confined space we kept bumping into each other. It turned into a game and we couldn’t stop laughing.
The last alarm to cancel was by the airlock, as I pushed the button, silence fell on us, broken only by Martine’s breathless giggles. I happened to glance through the inspection window.
“Did you put them in there?” I said.
Martine floated across to me; she looked through the clear panel at the collection of coloured boxes sitting on the deck.
“Maybe you were right about the Reindeer?”