Book Review: Secrets From The Lost Bible by Kenneth Hanson

Image result for secrets from the lost bible reviews
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.

Image result for dead sea scrolls
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

Little StarLittle StarLittle StarLittle StarLittle Star

Advertisements

A Brief Intro To Worldbuilding

worldbuilding01
                                         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’.

Image result for worldbuilding maps westeros
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.

worldbuilding 5 citadel-cityscapes-futuristic-mass-effect-science-fiction-space-station
         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.

Image result for klingon words
                            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!

worldbuilding 4 budovy-z-filmu-blade-runner-2049
You don’t have to go this far! Building for the film Blade Runner 2049

I Can’t Handle The Metric System

 

The Metric system began it’s life in 18th century France (made compulsory in 1837)

Britain adopted the Metric system in 1965 – coincidentally the year I was born – so why then, do I still measure ale in pints, fabric in yards and my height in feet and inches?!

I’m not even going to go near America with this one! They still use Fahrenheit. Even their brainiest scholars struggle with the Metric system – look at Sheldon Cooper!

sheldonandamy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dstpxhIj52k

My husband was born the same year as me. He always uses the Metric system; crucially when working on art – being precise about measurements is crucial when creating sundials, and you can’t do that in inches!

I’m always saying “Well, what is that in feet?” And he replies “Forget the feet, think in centimetres and metres.” I can’t imagine the size of some creature when described in metres – I need feet dammit!

I just can’t, my brain seems stuck in Imperial Britain!

Anyone remember that scene in This is Spinal Tap, when someone got their inches and feet symbols confused? (Just to be clear, this is 6 inches = 6″. This is 6 feet = 6′). Hilarious – because it’s true.

thisisspinaltap

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pyh1Va_mYWI

 

Years ago, my mother found an article in a British newspaper, it was a little rhyme to help Brits convert in their heads, goes like this –

‘A litre of water’s a pint and three quarters’

‘A metre measures three foot three, it’s longer than a yard you see’

There was more, but I forget it. She kept it taped up on the inside of the kitchen cupboard for years; some of it sank into my skull.

The reason this is an issue now – well, it’s always an issue, but relating to my writing, is because if I (or you) want to self publish, you better know how many inches make 16.84 x 26.01 cm, (that’s the standard size of a graphic novel in case you’re interested). There are many publishing sites online, mostly American, so you know already the measurements will be in inches! But if you are familiar with Metric, then this is a bind. If you are more comfortable with Imperial system,then some companies are going to fry your mind, as they work in millimetres!

 Book (trim) size Height x width
  A6 148 x 105mm
  A Format 178 x 111mm
  B Format (UK) 198 x 129mm
  B Format (US) 203 x 127mm
  A5 210 x 148mm
  Demy 216 x 138mm
  American Royal 229 x 152mm
  Royal 234 x 156mm
  Pinched Crown Quarto up to 248 x 171mm
  Crown Quarto 246 x 189
  A4 297 x 210mm

Standard book sizes from Biddles

You would think in 53 years, we Brits would have a handle on this system of weights and measures, wouldn’t you? But get this –

We are still teaching both systems in our schools now! The mind boggles!

See if you can work out the conversions on this sheet (from 2014!)

 

 

Book Review: Storm Front: The Dresden Files: Book One, by Jim Butcher

stormfront1.jpg
                  Storm Front by Jim Butcher                             

Genre: Science Fiction. Fantasy. Supernatural.
Pub Date: 2005
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 322 pages
Paperback : Local Library (£6.99)

 

“My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. I’m a wizard. I work out of an office in midtown[sic] Chicago. As far as I know, I’m the only openly practicing[sic] professional wizard in the country. You can find me in the yellow pages, under “Wizards.” Believe it or not, I’m the only one there.” Harry Dresden:Storm Front. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Storm-Front-Dresden-Files-Book/dp/0356500276

Briefest Synopsis

Dresden is hired by a woman to find her husband, Victor. She tells Harry that Victor is an amateur magician who has been acting oddly; Harry suspects he is having an affair. The same day, Harry gets a call from Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, director of the Special Investigations (SI) Unit of the Chicago Police Department; Harry occasionally works for the police department on ‘unusual’ cases. He is shown the bodies of two people, who have died by having their hearts ripped out – apparently by magic. Dresden himself quickly becomes the chief suspect for these murders.

I’m one of those people who remembers all the films I have watched, well, pretty much all of them – 99%. I also remember the books I have read. So imagine my surprise when I took this title to the library counter and was informed I had already taken this title out some years earlier. I imagined I had borrowed it with a bundle of too many to read and re-borrowed – then when I began reading it, remembered I had started it and not liked it, so gave up on it.

I decided to read the whole thing to figure out what had curtailed my previous outing with Harry Dresden; after all, it apparently combines many things I am interested in; crime, Private Investigators, magic, humour. It was originally recommended by a friend in the Steampunk community, so I imagined it would have elements of this genre – it doesn’t.

Storm Front is, if you can imagine it, Philip Marlowe meets Merlin. A detective story with a large helping of magic; there are echoes of Raymond Chandler as Harry Dresden pisses associates off with his smart mouth in true ‘hard-boiled detective’ mode. Even when the Wizarding version of the police; the White Council, send a Warden, in the form of Morgan; with his huge muscular stature and mighty blade, Harry can’t resist deliberately annoying the guy.

As a wizard, Harry’s good – no, not good, the best – or at least that is what he tells us – and he is the only one in the phone book! The magic is actually well managed in this tale – Butcher gives explanations in some instances of how magic works, what faeries like to eat, and how wizards get assistance (a spirit in a skull in Harry’s case), there is psychological realism in the magic, which means it doesn’t go too far into the realms of ridiculous fantasy, the emphasis is on Harry’s interior character, his motives, and circumstances which create his external actions. Also, I like that Butcher has written a wizard into the modern world, usually wizards are to be found in high fantasy and wear robes, have beards and make grand gestures (don’t they?) – Harry’s a wizard for the modern age – though I have to say – I was never quite sure whether we were in Chicago of today, or the 1940’s.

I have heard that many readers do not progress beyond this book because of the portrayal of women; victims, seductresses – but it’s Harry’s POV – and he tells us he’s a chauvinist. I have no issue with that, besides Lieutenant Karrin Murphy and Susan Rodriguez are tough women; emotionally, physically, or both. And Harry doesn’t take himself too seriously; he doesn’t always have the upper hand – he has very human foibles.

I think what irked me initially, was my perceived theft of Philip Marlowe’s ‘voice’. Marlowe is one of my favourite literary characters and I could hear him in Harry Dresden – but to a lesser, feebler, weaker degree. But hey, don’t we all write under the influence of previous creators?! So I decided to forgive Jim Butcher and just get on with enjoying the book. And I did.

There are a number of layers to the story involving magic, gangsters, Harry’s history, supernatural elements, that are woven neatly together. You may guess early who did what to whom, but the journey there is pretty cool.

Butcher has an easy reading style to his writing, but is it enough to keep me in a long-term relationship with Harry? (17 books and counting!). I honestly do not know – I might skip a couple and see if Harry manages to grow up emotionally, get a new home (he lives in a basement flat), and get a wash! Often described as urban fantasy, Storm Front is set in the modern day so wandering around the city in a long leather duster strikes one as either immature (like a mardy teenager), or posy – plus, and I know this is not important(or is it?), he is portrayed on the covers as wearing a hat, a fedora to be exact – but he doesn’t actually wear one in the story! Go figure!

I am giving Storm Front: The Dresden Files

3 stars

Little StarLittle StarLittle Star

The Write Way To Connect

Hi folks.

So you still want to write? (you mad impetuous fools *chuckles)

What exciting times we live in, when the opportunities for writers is so huge, huger than it’s ever been, huger than the hugest thing you can think of…

Blogging. Fiction. Travel. Educational. Analyst. Content. Legal. Finance. Freelance. Journalism. Technical. Copy-writing. Marketing. Ghost-writing. Et cetera, et cetera.

WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!

Why are you writing? (Been here before haven’t we?!) What are you writing? Plan your working days and promotional days. Who is your audience?

And when you’ve written your stuff, you need to get it ‘out there’. You need a client, a market – an audience!

Image result for self promotion humorous vintage
What happened when Bob and George didn’t plan their outfits!

A lot of writers today have blogs or web pages to self-promote. What, you thought that would be done for you?!

WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!

Assuming you managed to get your thing written… And assuming someone was interested enough to publish it… It doesn’t mean they will promote it for you…You have to do some of this yourself (unless of course you are lucky enough to get a contract like some woman called Joanne Rowling!)

I’ve mentioned Google Digital Garage before. Get yourself over there and pick up some hints and tips. If you already have a blog, then check out – Your Long-term Social Media Plan.

Also, to help you plan – your posts, your writing schedule, whatever, Kate at Small Paper Things, has created a digital and printable calendar for bloggers to help get organised. Just click on the plus sign next to the words Google Calendar at bottom right corner of screen.

WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!

And when you have posted, printed, published your lovingly crafted stuff, keep on top of it. Revisit it, no not every day, don’t overwhelm people, back off! And it isn’t a cactus either, watering twice a year won’t cut the mustard!  Social media is a two-way conversation, so keep the conversation going, pay a visit every other day (I would recommend) to wherever it is you like to ply your wares.

Related image
“I say, is this The Twitter? I want to tell you about some tosh I have written.”

You probably already have at least one account on a social media site – use it to promote and connect with other like-minded idiots, I mean creative types!

If you have more than one social media site, then connect them all up; it is made really easy to share stuff from platform to platform.

Remember…

Image result for the isolator by hugo gernsback
Despite what Hugo Gernsback said – Writers do NOT write in isolation!

WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!

Now go get ’em tiger!

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Genre: Fiction, Humour
Pub Date: 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 400 pages (PB)
Paperback: £8.99

Synopsis

Eleanor Oliphant has worked in the same office for nine years. Believing she has ‘met’ the love of her life; musician Johnnie Lomond, she resolves to make a project out of winning him over, before ever meeting him.

Eleanor forms a kind of friendship with the office’s IT guy; Raymond via an accident they both observe. Eleanor reveals a little about her past relationships, boyfriend and mother, during their now regular lunchtime meetings.

After a potentially disastrous event, Raymond ends up taking care of Eleanor, thus setting her on the road to recovery.

Eleanor Oliphant struggles with social skills and appropriate responses to pretty much everything and everyone she encounters. She has never, for example, bought a women’s magazine before, but, “I’d worked out that they were the most reliable and accessible source of the information that I needed.” Her life is carefully timetabled, from the Wednesday phone calls from Mummy, to the food she eats for her evening meal. She drinks a large amount of vodka at weekends and has visits from a Social Worker.


I found myself right from the outset, trying to work out if Eleanor had suffered from a past trauma, or if she was a high functioning Autistic. Her attitude to colleagues and people in general is akin to how some people with Autism maintain a distance from others; reluctance to engage in office banter, avoidance of touching other people and such-like. She always has her shopper with her and wears the same clothes to work daily, she even has just two pairs of shoes; practical, comfortable; Velcroed.

Writers, when starting out in the craft, are often advised to open the first chapter with a bang, to create a hook for the reader, grab the publishers interest – but – I didn’t feel any of this when I read the introductory paragraphs. Even the fact that she had her interview with a black eye did not intrigue me. Only after pages 4 to 6, when Eleanor explains her weekly routine; “I usually have pasta with pesto and salad – one pan and one plate.” and a tiny glimpse into her childhood, did I think that there was something more to this than meets the eye.

I’m glad I stuck with it. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine gives the reader an outsiders view of the world – haven’t we all felt a little like ignoring those around us? It is both funny and touching. The reason and mystery Eleanor is alone is made clear very gradually, drop by drop, and poses the question, how vital is human interaction? When she thanks the hairdresser for making her ‘shiny’, I had a lump in my throat. 

Is Eleanor Oliphant Completely Fine? Do read it and decide for yourself!

This is Gail Honeyman’s début novel, for which she won the Costa First Novel Award 2017, it feels like the work of a more experienced writer.

I’m giving Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine 4 stars

Little StarLittle StarLittle StarLittle Star

So You Want To Be A Fiction Writer?

writing1

Where to Begin –

Stop Prevaricating. Easier said than done, I hear you cry. Been there, done that. I have dabbled on and off throughout my whole life (mostly off B.D – before daughter). Then an amazing thing happened, my daughter came of an age in which she mirrored back to me my own criticisms, persuasions, acronyms. She was constantly told as a child to ‘have a go’, ‘just try it’ and ‘just go for it’. I ended my dabbling when she told me to “Carpe diem. You keep telling me, now this is me telling you.” So I did.

Writers are always telling would-be-writers to ‘just write’! I’m going to try and persuade you not to!!!!

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot,” Stephen King says in his book ‘On Writing‘. Do you already do this? If not, why not? How can you possibly expect to write if you are a stranger to literature in the first place?

I cannot tell you how many times I have been speaking to other people and they say, “Oh, I was good at writing stories in school...” or when I painted:- “I got a B in my art ‘O’ Level, I reckon I could do that...” Really? So why aren’t you doing it? Because you were, or are still, ‘good at something’ is not a qualification for being that thing. You have to WANT to be it. To be a fiction writer, you have to BE CREATIVE! If you aren’t, there is nothing wrong in that, just don’t kid yourself that you can.

In a previous blog I wrote that Writing is like keeping an allotment, in which I was quite helpful (I thought), and kind (for me), about planning, editing and so forth. Now I’m telling you that writing is like rolling around in pig-swill for a huge portion of the time. Where to start? What to write? What’s my style? How do I deal with writers block? How do I resolve this conflict between characters? What’s the difference between Show & Tell? Where do ideas come from? Who will read it? Will I be successful?! I’m not giving answers to any of those questions, why? Because I’m a bitch? No (well, partially), but if you are asking these questions BEFORE you begin your shiny new writing journey – I would seriously question whether this is the right choice for you.

By the way, there is no limit on what age you can begin writing; it may be that you have spent your life working, bringing up a family, and now you’re free to follow your dream. You’re a pressure cooker that has been ‘on hold’ for decades – time to release the flood!

writing 2

 

Who are you Writing For?

And why are you writing? This may sound a bit odd, but people write for different reasons:- for fun, as catharsis, as a way to better understand the world, to escape from the world, for money, a natural progression from previous creative activity, or from journalistic based role, because it’s an itch that needs to be scratched. Whatever the reason, be honest. If you think you’re going to make money from being a story-teller, think again; the successful ones we hear about are few and far between.

Stop trying to please others – write for yourself. Some authors advocate writing the kind of stuff you’d like to read yourself; well if you can’t please yourself with what you’ve written, how can you expect anyone else to enjoy it?

Do you know how many new books get published each year? In the UK in 2017, it reached 4.8 billion! Is your effort going to be picked up amongst all those? If you knew you would NEVER get published, would you still want to write? If the answer is an emphatic ‘no’, read no further, just stop right now and go and watch TV.

writing3

Isolation –

We all know writing can be a lonely gig. Hmm, did I say lonely? I’m never lonely – I may work alone, but lonely; never. You have to want to be alone for extremely long periods. For example, you have to world build if you want to write sci-fi, that takes some serious – and I mean serious – inside-my-own-head time. You have to be prepared to miss social events – and not care.

Disconnect yourself from what you might call ‘reality’ and create your own – but be able to re-surface into ‘normality’ and function well. “I have never yielded to reality.” said Philip K. Dick.

Fiction writers spend a lot of time inside their own heads, we stare into space mulling over scenes, dissecting dialogue and listening in on other people’s conversations! Get away from everyone, lock yourself in a quiet place and work.

You do not need to attend conferences on writing to become a writer. All you need is… writing implements of whatever kind you prefer – laptop, iPad, pen and paper, quill, chisel and stone.

writing4

 Let’s Get Critical –

I have read some shit in my time, seriously, there seem to be people who think that whatever they write is worth the time and attention of readers. I have come across horrendous grammatical errors, uncorrected spelling mistakes, and just plain awful stories. Humans, it seems to me, have become less self critical in recent years, the advent of social media and self-publishing sites has led to an abundance of dilute word vomit.

Prepare for failure and criticism. If you are going to ask other people to read your work, then expect criticism; I do. In fact I welcome constructive criticism – without constant practice and critical feedback, I may do the writing equivalent of jogging on the spot.

This goes back to those people who said, ‘Oh, I was good at writing stories in school‘. So what? I won the  100 metres for my school for 5 consecutive years; doesn’t mean I was ever going to be an Olympic runner! If you want to put your writing out there, get a tough skin!

Practise description. Please! I have read stories where – 1. The scene is not described; to the extent that it was unclear if it was indoors or outside. 2. The number of people involved in a conversation was muddled. 3. A different character’s name was used who shouldn’t have even been included!

Also, it must be credible. You can set your story any where, any time, whatever, it can have pink flying elephants – as long as there is a reason for pink flying elephants, then it will work – don’t think because you have a ker-azy idea that it will make you the next Ian Banks or Hunter S. Thompson. Far from it.

As previously stated, Writing is hard work. It may, in fact, be harder than the ‘day job’ I/you do. Why? Because it is all about you – you come up with the ideas, you do the actual work, you put in the hours; it requires self-discipline. Be honest, are you prepared to be that person?

writing5

Never Stop Learning –

So, you wrote your first short story and your friends think it’s great. Is that it then? All you ever wanted has been achieved? Okay, make way for the stalwarts who are still with me.

Just because your best mate says it’s good – DOES NOT MAKE IT SO – and it does not mean you have reached the pinnacle of your (potential) writing career. Keep going, write another, write some more, keep going, and again…

Readers are greedy for more, the audience constantly needs feeding. But that does not mean you have to keep churning out the same old crap. If you want to be a real writer, you must NEVER think you have learnt everything you need to know. Down that path lies mediocrity and complacency, “Nothing is more hostile to art than a culture of complacency.” says Dr. Joseph Suglia.

Expand your reading, try something you may never have read previously; it can be anything, it doesn’t have to be other people’s fiction. Read about coal mines in South America, find out about about farmers markets in Namibia, read about your local area, learn a new language, read about the average number of piglets in a litter (it’s an average of 10-12 ,if you want to know), whatever you do – READ.

I had to learn American just like a foreign language. To learn it I had to study and analyse it. As a result, when I use slang . . . I do it deliberately.” Raymond Chandler.

If I haven’t put you off and you accept all/most/some of what I’ve said, and the urge to expel a creative nugget is wriggling in your belly, bravo!

Now go and write!

writing6

 

*The author accepts no responsibility for broken hearts or dreams.

*The author does not proclaim to be an expert on the above topic, just a weary reader.