Overwhelmed? Think Things Through…

 

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The patented Cat organiser!

Division of Labour

If you’re a writer, whether that be fiction, non-fiction, blogging, or similar, then you probably have a ‘real’ job too. By ‘real’ job, I mean one that you do on a day to day basis (or nightly if it’s shift work), the one that pays your bills, that (just about) keeps the wolf from the door, the boring one, the one you don’t want to do but are forced to.

So how do you find time to write (other creative/art forms are available)? When you have laboured at your regular employment, you need a break, you WANT a break, you have to shift gears mentally and often emotionally before you begin to scribble.

There is really only one answer –

Get Organised.

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Captain Eddie Rickenbacker

Edward Rickenbacker was an American Fighter Pilot in WWI. After surviving the war, he started an auto company, became involved in the aviation industry and wrote a comic strip (Ace Drummond), amongst other things. He is also known for this quote – “I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through – then follow through.”

Often, these sound-bites are nothing more than that, snippets of chat to gain attention, look at how newspapers, and blogs, title pages, it’s intentional, to draw the reader in. But Rickenbacker’s is more than that, it is practical: Think things through – then follow through.

It’s another way of saying – Get organised.

But if you’re anything like me, getting organised is harder than we all think. I understand we all have other things to do, the problem, I have found, is other people. Colleagues probably think that, like them, when the weekend comes, or when you finish work for the day, or have a day off, that it is just that – a day off. Hah! Creative types rarely, if ever, get a day off. Once the paying job ends, that’s when the real work begins for us.

So how do we get organised?

By thinking things through -then following through.

Does your week go something like this?

Regular job – housework – research – family – shopping – writing – regular job – social media – laundry – planning – fix printer – regular job – family – writingmaintaining writers profileregular job – stressing – editingpaid writing job search – regular job – correspondence – job search – regular work – visitors – exercise – elderly parents…

Can you see that there are only 2 slots when actual writing is being done? There is so much more that you could add to this, depending on your personal life, family size, days you work in paid job, other hobbies you try to maintain.

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“I bet Mister Rickenbacker didn’t have all this ironing to fit in.”

So when do you write? And don’t forget, writing is not just the act of setting down words – just like painting is not just the act of laying down colours. For me, a huge amount of the work is done in my head; thinking of ideas, plots, characters, events, moral issues, inventions, possibilities, to misquote Jarvis Cocker, It may look to the untrained eye like I’m sitting on my arse all day.”

Get organised.

  • Get a piece of paper and pen – coloured pens if that’s your thang.

I recommend handwriting this for two reasons – 1.It’s easier to think without feeling rushed when you hand-write, and 2.You probably spend enough time on a computer as it is.

  • Sketch a table of your week; Monday to Sunday. And write in the hours you ‘go to work’ – that’s your paid work in the ‘grown-ups’ world, not your writing.
  • Now look for the empty spaces. You may only have Saturday and Sunday free, and even then you have to spend some of that with the kids. Into these empty spaces jot down what you want and or need to be doing in regards to your creativity.
  • Arrange your empty spaces so you have a balance of work and play, as much as possible given the time you have remaining. Remember, you need time to sleep and play and do nothing – unless you’re really a robot, in which case, meh.
  • After days/hours/minutes have been allocated as you want, break these down into smaller sections. For example, if you’re a blogger it might say, Monday 4pm to 6pm – writing/Friday 1pm to 4pm writing.
  • Break this down to, Monday 4pm to 6pm – research/planning/generating ideas. Friday 1pm to 4pm – write blog post.
  • Try it for a while and stick with it if it works, otherwise, re-jiggle your week. If you have trouble organising yourself, then don’t just read this – do it! Otherwise, you’re wasting time.

 

Think things through – then follow through.

Before you even do the organising activity, Think things through – do you want to carry on the way you have been? If you like your way of working, then who am I to tell you otherwise?! Are you lucky enough to be financially independent so as to not have to go to work? Or, like me, are you stuck in low-paid work with no option of advancement? Does it suit you, does it give you time to write/paint/sculpt/blog?

Then follow through – If you don’t like your working week try a change. If you hate your job, can you move, or find a different one? No-one is going to make the changes for you.

Bloggers

Whip it up in a couple of hours (or so some clients believe!) and hey presto, there’s a witty post. We wish. Bloggers must allocate time for generating ideas – researching – learning about new stuff (that may be technical or other) – deciding what you are going to write in advance. There is tons of advice on the internet to help Bloggers, you might want to spend a little on one of the numerous pre-made Blog Planners out there to help you get organised. Bloggers work to deadlines – whether their own or someone else’s.

Fiction Writers

Just float through life collecting ideas by some sort of osmosis which then transfers itself to the page by another kind of osmosis – Right? – Wrong! Writing the story, whether short, novella, trilogy, is the easy and fun bit. Don’t forget, you need to edit, and this can take as long as writing the bloody thing in the first place! If you are submitting work for an open competition, then you’re working to a deadline. If you’re submitting a MS to a publishing company, you’re working to their guidelines. Do read all the rules. Do make time for your Author Bio and Plot Summary.

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Dear Diary, today I fired my teacher as she gave us too much homework. Time for tea and cake.

Non-Fiction Writers

Probably the most organised of the creative bunch. This lot typically arrive here from an academic background and so are used to working to deadlines and briefs. But if you’re a free-lancer who also hold down a day job, you will need to arrange times that suit you as well as enough time to complete the brief. A diary, actual or E will be your friend.

Think things through – then follow through.

On each of my days off, I go through a similar process.

Write a To-Do list, this will include writing, research, mail, laundry, check for potential submissions, blog, editing.

Work through this list – in any order – do laundry first as it’s like eating your greens before your meat.

Take a break in-between each activity – especially between writing and everything else: this allows my brain to shift gears into the realms of fantasy.

It looks on the To-Do list like I do the same thing over and over, but because I write, then it doesn’t feel like that at all. I write my blog, I write stories; variety of genres, and I am NEVER, ever bored.

Now my monkeys, “Fly, fly!”

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I’m cogitating
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Book Review: Secrets From The Lost Bible by Kenneth Hanson

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Secrets From The Lost Bible

Secrets From The Lost Bible by Kenneth Hanson, PH.D.

Genre: Non-Fiction
Pub Date: 2004
Publisher: Council Oak Books
Length: 221 pages
Paperback : Local Library (£7.39)

‘Hidden away for centuries, these rediscovered ancient texts reveal vital knowledge to empower humankind.’ Back cover blurb.

 

Wow, a pretty bold claim – ‘knowledge to empower humankind’.

Dr. Kenneth Hanson presents us with a number of texts; some which may be partially familiar – Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge, and the less familiar (to myself) Bel and the Dragon, along with previously unknown stories about familiar Biblical figures. I say partially because, as Hanson reveals, even the Biblical texts we may be familiar with have sections missing.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, for those who have never heard of them are, briefly, scrolls – or fragments of scrolls, that have been discovered/uncovered in caves near The Dead Sea. Some date back to the 8th century BCE (Before Common Era), and are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and some in Greek; the initial discovery being made in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd. Since then around 8oo plus scrolls have been found; mostly fragmented. They are divided into Biblical and non-Biblical, with for example, 25 copies of Deuteronomy, texts on law, psalms and more.

Now, I have to make a confession here – I have not yet completed reading Secrets From The Lost Bible – It is, to be honest, taking me forever, but I do only read a bit at a time, plus, I keep re-reading sections (I also have a habit of having two or three books on the go at once). This is one of those books that you read a little at a time and absorb before progressing. It is to be sipped, not gulped – mulled over, not galloped through.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are essentially suppressed writings. Historically, Religious leaders, and possibly political leaders, have excluded them from Judeo-Christian teachings, as they do not conform to what they want society to conform to, namely, their own leadership. The texts have been called heretical by some, revelatory to others. They fit into the bracket – if one must be used – of mystical writings. Take this extract for example, sub-titled Eden’s Children,

‘This book of The Lost Bible (which I present here in paraphrase) teaches that the soul, far from being corrupt, is pure, eternal, and birthed in Paradise:

Happy is the one who came into being…In Paradise there are five trees which no one disturbs year round; and their leaves never fall. If you come to know them, you will never know spiritual death.’

Essentially, the Gospel of Thomas is telling us that we, each individual, is not only born innocent (as opposed to the church’s teaching on Original Sin), but that we can each find Knowledge ourselves – without the need of a Religious Leader. That alone is enough to set many conservative/mainstream Christian’s/Jewish teeth on edge, goodness knows what the Creationists make of it.The Gospel of Thomas was declared Gnostic heresy, and promptly filtered from their system –  Gnosticism and the Kabbalah have been criticised by those wishing to keep their sheep on the straight and narrow – as they perceive it.

Hanson guides us through selected texts with explanations, he examines what lessons may have been lost when those who decided which books to include in the Bible and Torah made their decision to exclude these. He is non-judgemental, he does not lay blame, he simply offers us the works and a way to understand them, and why they may have been excluded. Hanson offers everyone, not just people who follow a religion, a way of understanding the hidden way to find harmony with…. well, if you do not believe in a god, it would be yourself and the universe.

I am finding the book a very interesting read. Hanson provides insights and fills in holes found in the traditional Bible. If you are a theology scholar, I recommend you add this to your reading list. His writing style is very easy and he provides us with short anecdotes of his own personal moments of realisation, and he is joyous in his writing, which can be a rarity in academic circles, certainly not stuffy.

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Section of Dead Sea scroll 

Just because you are a ‘good’ Christian/Jew/Methodist/ETC, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t question what’s in the bible, it has flaws, why does it have flaws? Because it was written by men, and moreover, men who have decided to withhold information from us.

Kenneth Hanson, Ph. D. is an associate professor in the University of Central Florida Judaic studies program and scholar of Hebrew language and literature. He is the author of Blood Kin of Jesus, Dead Sea Scrolls: The Untold Story and Kabbalah: Three Thousand Years of Mystic Tradition.

 

I’m giving Secrets From The Lost Bible, 5 stars

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World Environment Day 2018

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Rant time!

Today. One day. There are 365 days in the year and we are dedicating 1, one, ONE! to raising awareness of our environment.

I find it completely and utterly mind-blowingly stupefying that we can treat our planet the way we do.

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The captivating South Pacific

If you were given a lovely cottage, on a green plot of land that provided you with EVERYTHING YOU WILL NEED FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, would you scatter your rubbish across it? Would you get rid of all the flowers and grass to be replaced with tarmac or concrete? Would you systematically kill off all the pollinators like bees? Would you – to put it bluntly – shit in your own bed!?

And yet, that is exactly what we are all doing. We are all complicit in the plastic-poisoning-deluge-traffic-jamming-exhaust-choking-animal-suffering-I-couldn’t-care-less attitude that embodies humanity today. Our view of ourselves is so ego-centric, so utterly selfish, that we allow our children to die in the thousands because of chemical pollution, we crave money and ‘stuff’ so much, that the consequences of our actions do not even register in our reptilian brains.

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Sperm whale that recently died from plastic consumption

I know, I know, you and me, the ‘little people’, can’t make huge changes, and I so want a mobile phone to keep in touch with people, even though it’s made of plastic and tiny pieces of metal that will never decay when it is eventually disposed of. And I really, really need my plastic laptop so that I can write this nonsense. And I need paper to write on, for work and home – and I do like soft white loo roll to wipe my backside on. And on. And on it goes.

I know people who have said things like, “Well, what can I do? And besides, everyone else is doing it.” ! What a stupid comment! Didn’t you mum say to you when you were a kid, and you copied something daft a friend had done, “If he stuck his finger in the fire, would you?”! ‘Course you bloody wouldn’t – and if you answered yes, then you need your head feeling!

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Hong Kong in the Summertime

My old mum always wonders why we spend so much on sending ships to explore space, when we don’t even know, for sure, what is in our seas. We get medicines from the rain-forest, and so we’re busy hacking it down, for what? We have things we haven’t even discovered in our own back yards. What’s that saying, ‘The grass is always greener’? Well at this rate, children of the future will be saying, ‘The soil is always redder.’ as we speed off to populate another globe, so we can simply shit all over that.

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Was the five pence charge worth it?

There are things we ‘little people’ can do. We have something that the governments and corporations don’t have – voices in numbers. If we all shout out together, we can deafen the fuckers. I’m not expecting you to go plastic-free-stop-using-your-car-sow-seeds-everywhere-recycle-everything-and-share-your-shower-with-the-neighbours, BUT, you can do your bit.

You can make a change. You can clean up and thus save the ONLY PLACE YOU HAVE TO LIVE. And if we all don’t stick our finger in the fire at the same time, then maybe there’s hope for us yet.

WEDblogReduce Reuse Recycle

Visit the World Environment Day web-page –                          http://worldenvironmentday.global/

Learn how to make your own household cleaners (and much more) –https://www.goingzerowaste.com/

Recycle your old bras (yep, someone can use them) at some places around your community, or visit –                                                                            http://moralfibres.co.uk/bra-recycling/

Next time you go shopping, don’t use plastic bags for you fruit and veg, and, at the till, unwrap these items and ask them to dispose of the wrapping (I have started doing this, the staff are surprisingly compliant). And sign this petition – https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-stop-supermarkets-from-selling-raw-fruit-and-veg-in-plastic-packaging

Get your children to walk to school, instead of packing them into your fumy car – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/12/children-risk-air-pollution-cars-former-uk-chief-scientist-warns

Read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, about the appalling effects that pesticides have and continue to have on our land and our selves – because of corporate greed.

Be like David Sedaris, American humourist, writer, Radio 4 infiltrator; who regularly picks up litter from his local area, for nothing other than keeping the landscape beautiful.

To steal from actor Michael Sheen’s 2015 speech on the NHS:-

“…what sort of society do we want to be? What is our vision for ourselves? What are the qualities and the principles that we aspire towards, and choose to defend?”

and to misquote from the same speech:-

“There is never an excuse to not speak up for what you think is right. You must stand up for what you believe. But first of all – by God, do something.”

 

Writing is like…#2

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Update to – Writing is like…Keeping an Allotment – Jul 31, 2017

 

Spring has been late in arriving this year; especially in the North of England. Although there are some things you can shove in early, like potatoes and Early Onions, the rest has been waiting for the ground to warm up.

 

Seasonal Writer

Writing, believe it or not, can be delayed if you are subject to ‘climate’ change. I find that during the winter months, I am more inclined to write multiple short stories – much like keeping the plot (both kinds) ticking over – keeping your hand in for the coming summer months. This is not to say writing short stories is not serious writing – it is, and it’s bloody hard work, especially for those of us who are inclined towards filmic, script-like scenarios.

If you are habitually a writer of novels, this ‘slow’ period might be good for trying new styles (I’m having a go at radishes this year! And historical writing!). Looking for Short Story Competitions is a great way to keep the brain in gear; the ink flowing, so to speak.

Short story writers may want to reverse this and give novel writing a go. Expanding the length of your story pushes your creativity to new levels. Take a look at the latest thing you have written, or are writing, does it really have to be under 5,000 words? Take us on a whirlwind tour of your characters world, create side-stories and let your characters get under the skin of your readers.

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Preparation Done

You’ve sown the seeds – on the allotment and of creativity. Don’t stand back and admire the clean rows of earth and words. Wasn’t there something else you had to do? Did you leave something out? Have you proofread the whole thing? Simply put – does it work?

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about here – Editing – it’s a bitch, but it has to be done. Weed out the obvious nonsense first. Remember, prune back hard, next year it comes back stronger!

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Save. Save Again. And Back It Up

Which brings me to the main point of this update.

I ran out of space on my allotment plot this year. I was offered an unused raised bed, and this morning spent 2 hours clearing it. It was hard, itchy, skin-raking work; and raining to-boot. But my spare seeds have somewhere to go now.

Remember when I told you about losing 3 years of my work? (May 18, 2018 ) I have since learnt my lesson and now have the equivalent of a spare bed on the allotment – an external hard drive!!! When writing, save your piece, next time save it with a #2 after the title and so on and so forth. You might, by the end of writing, have anything from 20 to 50 saves of the same story. Only when you are satisfied that the thing is finalised can you get rid of the earlier saves – then download it onto an external drive. These are incredibly easy to buy, put together in it’s case and use.(Amazon) If you use Windows, then it will be simple, if like me you have Linux, you may have to do a little work to get your system to allow access, but I did it, so can you.

Another way to ensure you do not lose work was recommended to me by a member of Wirral Writers; Amy’s tip is this – e-mail your stories to yourself. This means that, if you don’t use something like Google Drive, wherever you are, you will always have access to your work!

Now spades,  pens at the ready – write, write, write!

 

 

 

Review: Safe (Netflix UK)

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Currently – On Netflix (UK)

Starring – Michael C. Hall, Amanda Abbington, Audrey Fleurot, Marc Warren

Genre – Drama. Thriller

Writer Harlan Coben

Premièred10th May 2018

 

*Spoilers Ahead*

Widowed surgeon Tom has struggled to raise his two daughters alone following his wife’s death a year ago. Things seem to be on the right track for the family, who live in a gated community, because they have close friends nearby and Tom is in the early stages of a new relationship. But the situation takes a turn for the worse when Jenny, Tom’s oldest daughter, goes missing along with her boyfriend.

 

So here’s an interesting collaboration – American crime writer; Harlan Coben, American lead; Michael C. Hall. British locations; Liverpool, Manchester, Cheshire. Primarily English cast; Amanda Abbington, Marc Warren, etc. French ‘suspect’; Audrey Fleurot. Networks,English, French, International.

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Det. Sergeant Sophie Mason and Tom Delaney 

I have a number of issues with this show:

Problem #1 – England: Tom Delaney and his children; and the rest of the cast; apart from Pete (Marc Warren) and ‘Bobby’ (Milo Twomey), live in a gated community – so far so good. However, the reason we are given that it is a gated community is an event that occurred many years earlier – when the current adults were teenagers – at the local school, resulting in the deaths of a number of children. So to ‘protect’ themselves from outside danger, they walled themselves off – this suggests that the school itself is within the gated community. I do not know if such communities even exist in the UK, sure, there are small gated estates, but that’s just residential. Smacks of America.

Problem #2 – Idiot family: So you’re having a party for your mates whilst the parents are away for the night. You discover someone either unconscious or dead aaaaand… you don’t call an ambulance! REALLY?! You have to be kidding. Then dad decides not to get help and ‘hides’ the body! REALLY?! You are fucking joking. Mum colludes (‘cos basically she’s an airhead). They then send texts to the ‘missing’ boy’s family thus ensuring they think he is still alive! WTF?! The reason given for their sorry excuse for not alerting the authorities is… their reputation!!!

Problem #3 – No-one works: Tom; the lead dad, is a surgeon, but spends more time running around the estate and all the haunts he thinks his daughter may be. Pete; also a doctor (anaesthetist?) also doesn’t go to work much. Mr and Mrs Chahal seem to live a luxurious life with no mention of how a teacher (she) and her hubby; who never seems to go to work, can afford it. Helen Crowthorne lives in another large house; albeit extremely neglected, and she doesn’t even seem to have a job. At least the police are doing their jobs properly…or are they?!

Problem #4 – “I did it.” What, you hate your wife so much that you would implicate her as a paedophile?! Wow, this family needs some counselling.

Problem #5 – Same school: Most of the main characters/suspects seem to have attended the same school, then remained in the area; apparently able to afford to stay. And now the kids go to the same school. I don’t know about you, but I do not know a single person who’s children have attended the same school as their parents; especially when you live in a suburb or town where there are many to choose from.

Problem #5 – Archetypes? Check: Smacks of formulaic to me.

The Hero – that would be Tom, the dad.

The Mentor – most definitely Pete, he guides Tom through the lumps and bumps of how to behave; like he’s a grown man and still doesn’t know, in pubs, with neighbours etc. etc. And rolls his eyes at his friends impulsivity.

The Ally – well this can be Pete too, he’s the one who causes distractions to aid The Hero and accompanies him on his journey.

The Herald – Isn’t a character here – it’s an empty bed, time for a life-changing event Tom Delaney.

The Trickster – Jojo Marshall, provides a light break from the gloom of Tom’s storyline. Maybe this archetype fits him very loosely as he’s more of a fool.

The Shapeshifter – Detective Emma Castle. Why is she spying on one of the others. She’s a cop, so she’s a good guy isn’t she? Seems to hover on the borderline – until all is made clear of course.

The Guardian – ‘Bobby’, the owner of the Heaven Lounge. He tries to block Tom, practically telling him to go home and leave off his search. A big flag also waves over this character saying ‘this way lies danger’.

The Shadow – Also Bobby, as he creates a threat and further conflict for Tom.

Problem #6 – Teenage angst. Jenny Delaney can’t confront her father about a tracker he’s had installed on her phone. She has a secret from her mother – that she can’t share with her father. So, instead of having a hissy fit (like most teens), and going mardy in her bedroom because she can’t talk to dad – she ups and disappears!!!!

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Amy James-Kelly as Jenny Delaney

BUT, despite the spiralling lack of believability in this show, I watched it all. All the way through and, well, I kind of enjoyed it. How does that work?

I know many people have gone on about Michael C. Hall’s accent, but there isn’t anything wrong with it. Americans are notorious for getting British accents so very wrong, but if you aren’t London-centric, then it sounds okay to my Northerner ears.

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Marc Warren as Pete Mayfield

The acting is superb; especially, I have to say, Marc Warren( who for my money is not seen on TV or in films enough). People are entitled to their secrets,” he says, thus ensuring the viewer wonders, what kind of secret is Pete keeping? Hall is excellent in a constant state of high alert, panic and fear. Audrey Fleurot is also worth the money with her edgy, slightly neurotic, wide-eyed teacher accused of something teacher’s don’t ever want to be accused of.

The intro theme music is ‘Glitter and Gold’ by Barnes Courtney, love it. An English singer/songwriter, however, the song sounds American to me – imagine opening credits with some sweaty blokes harvesting in the ‘Deep South’, a lovely lass wiping the sweat from her brow as she peers; in her flimsy floral frock, yonder across the fields to a lone tree against a bleeding sunset. Well it’s not that. ‘Safe’, is all big houses, red brick, mock Tudor, green and ‘not so pleasant England’. So a little at odds with the theme.

It feels as though the producers were trying to appeal to as many cross-continent viewers as possible. The story moves at speed, but that’s because there are side stories, red herrings, so many individual secrets that it makes Pretty Little Liars look like a primary school squabble.

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Audrey Fleurot as Zoe Chahal

It was a great idea, and despite kind of enjoying it, I can’t help but feel that Mr. Coben should have edited his story before submitting it. It didn’t ring true. Hubby and I kept looking at each other and going, “What the…? Really? C’mon.”

I’m giving Safe 3 stars

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A Brief Intro To Worldbuilding

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                                         Image from The World Building Institute

Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldbuilding

Engage the Reader

Whether a real or imaginary place, a certain amount of Worldbuilding is required. For example, I recently wrote a short story set in early 17th century, there’s some stuff on the internet about the history of England at that time – however – it was set in a none-existent village, in a landscape partially based on reality, with characters from my imagination – bring on the Worldbuilding – houses, the inn, the church, beehives (skeps), brewery, orchard, river, etc. etc. I drew a map, I collected pictures; of landscapes, of replica buildings, of people, I researched dialect and place-name etymology. I created the village of Hope Ghyll.

Do You See What I See?

It’s all about getting your reader to suspend disbelief – if you go too far, i.e. no psychological realism, then you have lost them and the story is senseless. Lewis Carroll and J.R.R. Tolkien created worlds with fantastical creatures; a land that is always winter, or one whose dangerous element is essentially a visible, intangible evil that can call upon the heinous and chaotic to fight on his behalf. Tolkien was especially adept at showing us his creation without actually describing an awful lot. Instead of slapping a large platter of roast orc, horse sweat and forest before us, he wafted the aroma beneath our reading noses, thus allowing us to create the vision in our own minds – and yet, when we watch the films, somehow we all ‘saw’ the same thing! Now that’s genius!

Fantasy and Sci-fi writers, I believe, have the biggest job of all – pretty much EVERYTHING has to be ‘built’.

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Map of Westeros from Game of Thrones

Geography 

Where does your story take place? An alternative or parallel universe? Another solar system? Are you on planet Earth even? You are free to make the landscape anything you want, and for it to be any place you want, but it must be justified within the story-line. Your geographical location affects who we are – think about the stereotypes of various nations around our world, you don’t even have to look too far – Londoners are a different beast to, say, Yorkshire folk, inhabitants of Los Angeles have a different mind-set from people living in New Hampshire. Remember that quote from Ken Russell’s Excalibur, “You and the land are one.”? Well so are your characters. Which leads us nicely to…

Maps

I love maps. I love looking at the shapes of coastlines, the quaint names of places in Britain; names are very evocative, the distances between one place and another; that in times past, people travelled on foot! I also enjoy making my own. I often create a map when I DM a game of Dungeons and Dragons, there’s something satisfying in being a world creator, the Master hand, dare I say, God. If you can’t draw, use existing places – have a look at Google Earth and take a screen-shot. Not only that, have a look at how our world used to look – the Neolithic Age might be exactly what you’re after for a fantasy ‘off-world’, https://www.eupedia.com/europe/neolithic_europe_map.shtml#early_neolithic. There are templates to be found online of existing and imaginary land masses.

Time 

Depending on where your story takes place, you might want to look at how time works, if you are on Earth, then no problem – or is it? If you are in a fictional Roman Britain, then you are going to be using the pre-Julian calendar; https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/roman-calendar.html, which had only 10 months! Most countries today use the Gregorian calendar. http://roman-britain.co.uk/roman-calendar.htm.

Different planets have differing day lengths; this will affect the character, activities and potential festivals you have in your world. If Counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer has 24 hours to solve a crime on planet Earth, how long will he have on Saturn? Not as long, so he better get a move on!

History

The history of your setting will have impact on the lives of characters your reader meets. If there has been a robot uprising 50 years previously, that is going to shape the politics and lifestyles of them now. If you are setting it in a prehistoric jungle infested with lizard men, how did they develop? What will their relationship to your protagonists be?

History cannot be ignored, we don’t live in a ‘bubble of the here and now’, wherever you live in the world, think about what your daily life is like, what has affected the way your country is run? Is there a ‘ruling class’? How did they get there? What about your own family, maybe there is a story from your ancestors that you can use as a jumping off point? Your hero hasn’t sprung up fully formed – unless he/she is one of those Greek Gods that emerge from the severed head of its parent! – he/she will have a reason that they’re in the position they are, right from the beginning of your story. Know their history.

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         Worldbuilding by games designers is fantastic. Image from Mass Effect 3; The Citadel (Image from WallDevil)

Civilisation/Culture 

Is it a flawed system? Does public transport run late, or is everything perfectly in-tune with the surroundings? Who rules? A Royal family of dragons?! What are the politics? What sort of art/music/dance/sculpture is created there? – If there is, in fact, any creativity at all – maybe you have a warrior based society only. Looking around our own planet, we can see a huge variety of differentiation between countries – education in the Scandinavian countries, for example, is regarded as some of the best, whereas in the Wodaabe culture, because they are a nomadic peoples and the land is everything, they do not have schools or an education structure that many in a Western ‘developed’ country would recognise. What about religion? Even if you yourself do not follow a belief system, chances are your society is moulded by one. There may be laws that dictate your character’s daily life, there may be holy festivals, holidays, observances that shape the mindset of this individual. Every society has a culture – the extent of it’s intellectual achievement is up to you.

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                            Image from Alex Greene’s Klingon language lesson

Language 

You can, of course, write anything you want in your story – it’s your story. You can make up new words for an imagined language, BUT, if you make something too complicated, your audience is going to struggle to read the actual story as they will be so busy trying to work out what the Hell you are talking about! Names; people and places, are a great way of adding texture and signalling to your reader that this is ‘another world’. Baggins, Mordor, Galadriel, Gondor – words that conjure a place and time that is not our own. Tolkien was an expert on the Old Norse language, and incorporated it into his work to give his invented world a real sense of believability.

New Crobuzon, Bonetown, Sil, Besźil – another place and time; totally different to Tolkien’s, China Miéville offers us a future; or alternative reality, that is succinctly expressed with Worldbuilding mastery. If your story takes place in the distant past, again, readers are going to struggle if you write the whole thing in Middle English (see Chaucer), so select the odd word or phrase that gives a flavour to your tale; don’t have your reader struggle over every ‘daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he’.

And Finally

Let’s be honest, Worldbuilding takes time. The amount of time/research/planning you are prepared to put into it will affect your writing when you begin. You should be the expert on this world you have created. You should know EVERYTHING there is to know about it. You won’t necessarily mention all the stuff you have built into your world; like how long it takes to shear a sheep, but it will have an impact on your mind-set as you write and will therefore add some element of realism. Worldbuilding can be hard work, but if you are planning to write a series, then it will definitely be time well spent.

 But most of all, enjoy it!

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You don’t have to go this far! Building for the film Blade Runner 2049

Writing is Like… Bowel Movements

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Toilet Graffiti
Warning
You may not want to read this if  –  you have a sensitive nature, you haven’t eaten yet, or, you have just eaten.

 

Writing is much like taking a dump.

What!?

I shall repeat that – Writing is much like taking a dump. It’s true.

So join me today when we’re going to use (cue Ta Da music) The Bristol Stool Chart to decide what kind of writer you are and what you can do about it.

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Bristol Stool Chart (For Writers!)

 

Well here we are ladies and gentlemen in the world of poo. The Bristol Stool Chart is a real thing, honestly. They use it for patients to point at what their shit looks like and the doctor diagnoses the problem and gives dietary advice, so without further ado, let’s find out what kind of writer you are –

#1 – These writers lack a normal free-flow quality, because research, experience and/or knowledge are missing and there is nothing to retain ideas. Ideas are painful to pass, because the lumps are hard and scratchy. There is a high likelihood of emotional bleeding from laceration of the mind. Even brain farts are missing. You probably like the idea of being a writer more than the actual reality.

Solution – Stop trying so hard, don’t push it. If you’re meant to be a writer it will happen. Otherwise, stop lying to yourself.

#2 – A combination of Type 1 writers impacted into a single mass and lumped together by some vague notions. Mental constipation is the most destructive by far because its size is near or exceeds the maximum opening of the creativity aperture. To attain this form, the idea one is a writer must be in the mind for at least several weeks instead of the normal 72 hours. A history of minor dabbling with writing is the most likely causes. Minor brain flatulence is probable. This writer is likely to be irritable because of continuous pressure of large ideas with little skill or experience to open the dam.

See #1 for solution.

#3 – This form has all of the characteristics of Type 2 stools/writers, but the transit time is faster, between one and two weeks. You write in little bursts, relieving the pressure or build up of ideas. It is likely you will be irritable; with yourself mostly. Brain farts are a minor issue, because creative defecations are regular. Straining is required.

Solution – You know you have something. You can feel it brewing. Get some more variety in your reading diet and you’ll begin to flow!

#4 – This form of writer is normal for someone defecating/writing once daily. Pages may range from 1 to 100, the larger number suggests a longer transit time (thinking) or a large amount of dietary fibre in the diet (reading).

You almost got it. Keep going!

#5 – This is considered the ideal form. It is typical for a person who writes daily, after major meals, (no, not really after major meals, that’s definitely stools). You are a regular reader, you are interested in variety in your life diet, you write daily, because, let’s face it, what else are you going to do? You are a natural creative, but that doesn’t mean you can become lax in your exercise regime!

#6 – Borderline normal. It may be difficult to control the urge, especially when you don‘t have immediate access to a keyboard. These kind of scribblers may be a little neurotic about themselves or their writing. It can also indicate a hypersensitive personality prone to stress.

Solution- you can actually do this, you just worry too much what other people will think of your work. Write for yourself first and foremost.

#7 – Whoa! This, of course, is verbal diarrhoea. Two causes here – It‘s typical for people who are new and inexperienced or convalescing from faecal/idea impaction; ideas have built up and up and have no place to go but out onto the paper. The large creativity centre is stuffed with impacted ideas throughout its entire length. The other; more unfortunate, is the belief that , ‘Hey, I’m good at writing, my mum says so, so it must be true.’ and then proceed to pump out story after story after story of trite nonsense. Some good stuff has been absorbed, the rest accumulates in the rectum of the mind. Unfortunately, it‘s all too common.

Solution – find a trustworthy Beta Reader. Listen to constructive criticism. And slow down before you drown us all in word poo!

 

I hope you found today’s advice useful. Remember – not a doctor!

*Toilet Graffiti from https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/420664421416782750/?lp=true