“My name’s Gant and I’m sorry for my poor writing.”
So begins chapter one of Snakewood.
As I planned out the book I fretted a great deal over how to immerse readers in the lands, cities and lives of the world of Sarun, in which the story is set. I recalled how vividly I daydreamed myself into Middle-earth as a teenager, following paths and roads hinted at in the texts but never walked. Tolkien’s were the first of many books I would admire over the years that followed for their ability to transport me utterly to an unfamiliar, magical place. Continue reading Hiding the ventriloquist*
I was gearing up for March 17th, when I’d finally see my book sit quietly on a shelf alongside hundreds of others, as though it was the most ordinary thing; just a book, on a shelf.
I was preparing myself to be, well, a bit underwhelmed? The anticipation couldn’t possibly deliver a satisfying payoff, so monumentally had I wished and dreamed of seeing it. Continue reading I used to stand in bookshops pt 2
My debut fantasy novel Snakewood, due out in March, is the realization of a world I first dreamed up as a teenage boy. I’d like to introduce you to the way magic works in that world – no lightshows and fireworks, just thick bad-tasting gloop known as ‘fightbrew’ that makes you superhuman! Continue reading How Sláine and a handful of mushrooms defined the magic of Snakewood*
…as a teenager, then a man in my twenties and thirties and I used to look at the science fiction and fantasy novels and believe I, also, was a writer, when I wasn’t. Continue reading I used to stand in bookshops…
As someone learning the craft of writing, and leaving it rather late to do so, I need to read widely, and read writing of good quality so that I may learn from it. It was inevitable I would become a neurotic reader.
Anyone with a passion for books has or will come to the realisation that they only have about two thousand goes at it in their life. Continue reading The Reader’s Gift
Writers have a problem. It’s harder than it ever was to get published. It’s also easier than it ever was to get published. Continue reading In the land of the blind, could the literary agent be king?
I talked in my last blog-post about the pleasure I get from hard-working prose. Good writing comes from the choices you make with the words you commit to the page. In this blog-post I’m going to look at two scenes from my book Snakewood and explain what I was trying to achieve with them. I daresay this is of limited interest to non-writers, unless you have an interest in why an author chooses to write about certain moments in a novel and not others, out of all that’s possible to convey. Continue reading Making my own words work
What would you say constitutes great writing? For a practising writer like me, good writing isn’t just about what is enjoyable to read, but also about the choices a writer makes when they select words to convey their message.
I thought I’d try to articulate what great writing looks like to me, using an author that delivers effortlessly the kind of writing I love. I’ve just finished Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines, a book very similar to The Old Ways, which I posted about here.
Like that book, the writing is remarkable, better in some ways, Jamie being an award-winning poet. Given poetry involves (for me anyway) a meticulous choosing of words to create imagery, meaning and emotion in a distilled form, her prose is some of the purest and cleanest I’ve read, but in particular, like Annie Proulx’s writing, it has lines that work on multiple levels; efficient prose that delivers depth with the minimum of effort. Continue reading The deliciousness of hard-working prose
I spend some time on an internet writing forum. There have been a few forum threads that have exploded over the titular writing maxim. One post in particular is based on some advice Chuck Palahniuk had written somewhere: ‘you may not use “thought” verbs. These include: Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires’ (quoted from the forum post concerned).
So, it continues:
‘Instead of saying: “Adam knew Gwen liked him”, you’ll have to say: “Between classes, Gwen was always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it. She’d roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume. The combination lock would still be warm from her ass. And the next break, Gwen would be leaned (sic) there, again.”’ Continue reading Show don’t tell
This blog post gives an overview of my very physical take on ‘magic’ in the world of Snakewood.
Now, inevitably, with a fantasy novel, you’re likely to have some sort of ‘magic’, something to make it fantastic in the purest sense.
For Snakewood, perhaps because of my conceptual struggle, as a materialist, for magic, I wanted what was magical about my world to be rooted in it somehow, to be earthy, tactile. I didn’t want some hand-waving and lightning bolts and flames springing out of nothing or great waves of force from mere gestures. Continue reading Worldbuilding part 2: It’s a kind of magic
How to create a convincing fantasy world.
That’s the question I’m sure all writers in the genre wrestle with at the outset. You can get lost in it. All such writers I’ve read on the forums I frequent vary in how deeply they imagine the setting for their story, prior to banging out the chapters.
Most fantasy is set in a faux-medieval context, as is my own first proper attempt, Snakewood. But once you’re in a position to build the world itself, how do you go about it? How do you tie it all together so it makes sense?
Thankfully I’d read a book, Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration, that gave me both an elegant theory for why the course of human history has gone as it has, but in doing so also gave me a way of determining the economic and cultural topology for my own world. Continue reading Worldbuilding part 1 – how prevailing winds shape history’s winners and losers
“Surely if incredibly high sales of authors who don’t close edit their books teaches us one thing, it’s that in some parts of some genres editing is less important to readers than other factors…..the point about self-publishing is that every type of reader can find books that are for them so long as we stop putting actual or implied pressure on authors to conform to some kind of fictitious paradigm”
Dan Holloway, of the Guardian, wrote this in the comments thread here.
I confess I’m rather staggered. The conclusion appears to be that paying close attention to one’s grammar, among other things, is a fictitious requirement if we’re selling books ourselves; something we ought not worry about unless the readers we’re reaching for tell us otherwise. Continue reading Do readers care about grammar?
The final sentence of Snakewood approached, already in my head, and I’m looking at the words unfold like I’m on a train thundering off the rails and over the cliff. Continue reading The final full stop.