Tag Archives: Imagination

Is this writer’s block?

I don’t hold with the concept of writer’s block. There isn’t a special flu that only writers get which stops us writing. If you’re a writer, you write and (in my view) that’s an end to it. There are good days and bad days, but saying you have writer’s block is akin to getting a note from your mum to excuse you from the work that needs to be done, and that’s simply not happening.

So I don’t have writer’s block, I’m just finding my present project a pain in the backside to write.

There is no try

I’m trying to write (and as I put that, Yoda is on my shoulder telling me, ‘there is no try, there is do or do not’), so I am writing a short story as bonus content for readers of my next novel (out in June – OMG, that’s starting to feel a bit close!). I only need 5k words or so, which should be a doddle compared to 70k+ in the novel.

So many words, so little plot

Except that it’s the entire opposite of a doddle. I’ve got plenty of words, just not a lot of story. I’ve just had a scrape around my PC and found that the different versions of different stories I’ve started and abandoned amount to – oh my giddy aunt – 18,310. Maybe I should have written a sequel, instead.

A blank, brick wall
Roughly: the contents of my imagination right now.

I keep persevering, since that’s my default response to any setback, but I can’t deny that the odd moment of despair is swimming over me (June – did I mention?!). I’ve tried ignoring it and working on the garden instead (you should see my beautiful strawberry patch!), and I’ve tried bribing myself with chocolate, or staring at a blank screen while the timer ticks along in the background, forcing myself to scribble down something. But still no (useable) story.

New story, new format

My last ditch attempt (inspired by Shadow and Bone, thanks, Leigh Bardugo!) is to try a different format. Maybe (definitely) I’m bored of all my first person linear narratives. I’ll shake things up and try a letter or a diary for a change. I just really, really hope that’ll get the story flowing.

Otherwise, my bonus content might just be a note from my mum!

Dare to Dream: imagination and the Space Station

This week is “Brits in Space” week – Major Tim Peake has finished his years of astronaut training by blasting off to the International Space Station.

I’ve been watching with utter absorption because I love the ISS – to me it symbolises everything that’s right about the human race. Yes, there’s wars and inequality and we’re destroying the planet that’s our home, but if we can LIVE IN SPACE, then we have the ingenuity to solve all those problems.

View of Earth from space
Who wouldn’t want this as their view from the office?

The first time I saw the ISS passing overhead was Christmas last year (want to see it? You can find out when it’s passing your part of the planet on NASA’s website). There was a load of rubbish on social media that you should point it out to your children and tell them it was Santa’s sleigh passing overhead. No! No disrespect to Santa, but he’s magic and that’s eternally out of reach of us mere mortals. But the ISS is something even more special – it’s human enterprise and determination and incredibly hard work and cooperation over a great many years. Best of all (for me) – it’s human imagination made real. It’s the human ability to think, “I’d like to do that impossible thing,” AND THEN MAKE IT HAPPEN.

And on a smaller scale, we can all do this. I’m never going to go into space. It’s really inhospitable out there; I couldn’t even deal with scuba diving. But I can turn my dreams into reality. I’ve wanted to be a writer since the age of four. It’s taken years to develop my writing skills, learn what I needed to know about writing and publishing but I’ve made it and now I’ve published two of my books, with more to follow.

If there’s something you want to achieve, you can do the same. Imagine what it is you want, then set your course to make it real. If you ever feel like giving up, just remember – the Space Station proves that anything’s possible.

A whole new world

I love writing fantasy because in that genre you get to make it all up as you go along – don’t you?

You absolutely do make up a new world, but “as you go along” might be problematic – whatever you create has to be internally consistent and make logical sense to the reader. I properly understood this when my second novel came back from its editor.

When I’d sent it, I made a comment something along the lines of, “It doesn’t have the sparkle of Gatekeeper, but I hope that’s just because it hasn’t had a proper edit yet.” Maybe that word “hope” should have cued me in that I had my own misgivings about the state of the world I’d created in those pages. My editor came back after a couple of days asking how deeply I wanted the edit to go – they thought there were major issues but they didn’t want to take over. That was easy – a sub-standard book isn’t leaving my house with my name on it, so I asked for all the faults to be exposed, no matter how deeply they went.

Back came a LOT of notes, but the focus was mainly on the same area – the world I’d created wasn’t internally consistent. It wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny and required too big a suspension of disbelief for the reader.

As a result I’ve been doing a lot of research into the reuse and recycling of plastic and metal and it’s utterly fascinating. I usually hate research because it eats up the time needed to write the book, but this time it’s fired up my imagination with fabulous ideas to create a stonking new draft.

I've got the stationery, now I just need some words...
I’ve got the stationery, now I just need some words…

This has been a real eye-opener. Research isn’t a tedious necesity, nor a cramp on my imagination. It can be a springboard for ideas.

Now, I just need to find the time to write the thing…

Some of my bookcases

Lie to me!

I write (and read) fantasy, which is perhaps the most obviously “made-up” of fiction genres, and suspension of disbelief is key to spinning a successful fantasy tale.

Suspension of disbelief can perhaps be summed up as ‘don’t allow a little reality to get in the way of a good story’, but it’s more subtle than that. From my experience, fiction contains big lies and little lies and strangely enough, it’s the little lies that trip up a reader (well, if that reader’s me, it does) and cause disbelief to come crashing back and destroy the writer’s hard work.

A couple of examples: in the first episode of the BBC’s Merlin (set in some kind of medieval-ish Arthurian Britain), our young wizard spends time in the stocks being pelted with rotting veg. He also spends a while hearing the disembodied voice of a dragon and then speaking to said dragon in the flesh.  The BBC received far more complaints about anachronistic tomatoes being used in the stocks scene than it did over the existence of a TALKING DRAGON.

Or take the current series of Doctor Who (please, take it away and bring it back when you have some credible storylines which ENTERTAIN). Space travel, time travel, monsters and aliens are all fine by me. What I can’t accept is that Clara gets left in modern Britain for two weeks and becomes a teacher with a permanent job.  Criminal records check, anyone?  Even if she had a stack of psychic paper there’s still a recruitment process to go through.  We might be short of teachers in some areas, but I don’t think we’re yet so desperate that people can walk in off the street and be allowed responsibility for our children.

And the thing is, it’s sloppy.  Whatever fiction you write, you need to check your facts.  So check your facts, and if they’re wrong, change them.  The good thing about little lies is that they usually aren’t integral to the story (Merlin could be pelted with squashy apples; Clara could have become a waitress at a corner cafe) so they’re easy to adjust.

Big lies are part of the contract of fantasy. They’re the dragons and aliens and paradoxical time machines which are needed to capture your reader’s imagination and sweep them into your fictional world. Little lies, on the other hand, are little traps for unwary writers which can catapult your readers back to reality.

Do you agree?  Do you struggle with big or little lies in the books you read or write, or can you suspend disbelief to Olympic level?