Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Women in 19th Century Literature - Cosette, Lucie and Mina

Recently I received an Android phone, complete with Amazon's Kindle app. This excellent ereader allows me to access the Free Popular Classics section of the Amazon store, which holds an excellent selection of classic novels, treatises and essays. Some of the books I have downloaded and read so far include A Tale of Two Cities, Dracula and of course Les Misérables.

A Tale of Two Cities (ATTC) dates from 1859, while Les Mis was published in 1862. Dracula comes in a little bit later, in the year 1897. While each of these novels are very different, a notable aspect of each them is their treatment of their leading female characters, particularly those of the upper classes.

Cover Image, Godey's Lady's Book

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ira Glass on Writing and Creativity

(Reposted from the Mythic Scribes Facebook page, and originally shared by artist and imaginative realist Marc Fishman.)

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people who I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It's gonna take a while. It's normal to take a while. You've just gotta fight your way through." - Ira Glass

Quill pen parchment and ink bottle 9 Back to School Inspired Home Decor Ideas

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ian McEwan on Writing (from Atonement)

"She could imagine herself hurrying down to her bedroom, to a clean block of lined paper and her marbled, Bakelite fountain pen. She could see the simple sentences, the accumulating telepathic symbols, unfurling at the nib's end. She could write the scene three times over, from three points of view; her excitement was in the prospect of freedom, of being delivered from the cumbrous struggle between good and bad, heroes and villains. None of these three was bad, nor were they particularly good. She need not judge. There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive. It wasn't only wickedness and scheming that made other people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have."

Reposted from Reddit. And no, this isn't just a sneaky excuse to put a picture of 'that dress' on my blog...

Les Misérables - How Not To Write A Book?

Ok, yes, that is an attention grabbing headline to describe what is often considered to be one of the world's great books. Please believe me however when I say that I am totally in earnest in posing the above question. Let me also clarify that while I am somewhat critical of the manner in which Les Misérables has been put together, I am in no way passing judgement on Victor Hugo's ability to write. Instead please view this post as a discussion on the book from a reader's perspective.

While most people who have read Les Misérables seem to be fans of the book, just about all of them admit that reading this giant tome is a considerable challenge, and not just because of its size. Personally I've read plenty of large books, more than my fair share of trilogies, and quite a few classics. So in general I have no problem with a huge word count, old-fashioned language, or an archaic style. Indeed, the majority of celebrated classics tend to feature extensive descriptive passages, soliloquies, and essays on the nature of the human condition etc., all of which are often the defining aspects of these great novels. However Les Misérables is a case in point, a prime example of how this stylistic approach can sometimes be taken much too far.

Monday, November 28, 2011

This Week: Writing, Working

So today is Monday, the start of yet another week. After quite a few years of having a very haphazard and inconsistent working and writing schedule, I've finally realized that the standard 9 - 5, Monday - Friday work timetable might exist for a reason. Funny how the bane of the working man might just be an efficient time management tool...

For the last month or so I've been getting off to a good start with Mondays, in at my desk for about 9:30am, like a good little worker bee. (Ok, there may still be a bit of lingering resistance to this approach.) So far today I've gotten a good bit of work done and even had time to browse my favorite writer's forum. I'm planning to get some writing in later, once I've sorted out my various work commitments.

For this week my overall writing aim is to finish the first draft of a short story I'm working on. I've written about 1,000 words so far, so I'm still more or less at the beginning. There's some plot details that still have to be worked through, and minor character development that needs clarifying, but overall I'm happy with how it's shaping up. Once it's done I'll post it online somewhere and put a link here.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dickens the Master

I recently read 'A Tale of Two Cities' by Charles Dickens for the first time. As a child I enjoyed reading the old classics - while many of the subtleties and themes went right over my head, the usually intricate and convoluted plots were enough to fire my juvenile imagination. However Dickens was one of the few authors I really could not warm to. At one point I gave 'Great Expectations' a try, but the grim realism and the gritty depictions of both the characters and their surroundings were just too much for me at the time.

As an adult however, it was these very traits which appealed to me when reading 'A Tale of Two Cities'. Very few writers can set a scene the way Dickens could. Even fewer can infuse a page with a palpable atmosphere, especially when it comes to creating a sense of tension. At these moments Dickens' use of language is masterful, and I think most writers can learn a lot from his technique at these times.

While many classics are written in flowery and often superfluous language, Dickens is at his best when he uses a stripped back, bare, and somewhat modern style. He can make a four word sentence, isolated in a paragraph of its own, speak volumes. One of the best examples of this can be found in Chapter 13 of 'A Tale of Two Cities'. The use of language in this entire chapter is incredibly skillful, and the dramatic tension is powerful throughout. The contrast in writing styles between the beginning and the end of the chapter is also meaningful and extremely clever.

I've linked an online version of the chapter above. If, like most of us, you want to improve your writing style, you may find you pick up a few tips from this great master.

Writers on Writing - Forums

There's a lot of really good forums for writers out there at the moment. While there are many sites that are dedicated to writing in general, there are also a large number of genre-based websites with thriving communities of like-minded authors. If you work in a particular genre it's probably best to find a specialized forum.

It only takes a few minutes to sign up for a forum, and there is usually no obligation to post. Users can browse through threads and comments from experienced and new writers, and of course add questions and thoughts of their own. Forums are also great for motivation, especially if you find yourself getting bogged down with a difficult manuscript.

Every now and then I will link to some good writing forums as I come across them. At the moment two of my favourites are Mythic Scribes and SFFWorld.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How Keeping Busy Can Help You To Write

Writer's block is feared by most of us and can strike quite often. I can't remember how many times I have sat down in front of my computer to write, only to find that I can't seem to get past a certain stage in a story.

Most people will recommended that you take a break at this point and come back to your writing later. While this is often the only option available to you, what you do during that break can also be important. Personally I find that I can think through the problem in my story if I distract myself by doing something else, especially something that uses my hands and leaves my brain free to think.

Below are pictures of some jewelry I've made, which I often do while taking a break from writing. Picking out the colors and assembling the pieces distracts me, but still allows my subconscious to work through stories and ideas.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Kill

First off, here's a link to a short story I published on

Sffworld is a great site for writers and fans of science fiction and fantasy. It has a great selection of author and discussion forums, and also allows members to read and rate each others' work. If you want to catch some emerging authors and get some feedback on your own writing, this is a good place to start!

Personally I tend to read a lot of fantasy, and most of the stuff that I write would be classed as fantasy too. At the moment I am working on the first novel in a trilogy, a few short stories and another one-off novel, all of which  would fall into the fantasy genre. More on those later!




welcome to my blog. I'm working at a lot of different stuff at the moment so I'm going to use this blog to put up some of it. It's also to mention books, films, music etc. that I generally think are awesome/interesting, and to talk about random stuff.

If you find you have similar interests feel free to comment or to follow :).