16 October, 2013

A Talk by Ray Bradbury

This is the best smegging talk about Creative Writing I've ever seen. Ray Bradbury wrote with such a passion and joy that he's an exemplar to us all if only for his lifestyle. He also firmly believed that his passion for the art is what made his quality.

This video is not only an inspiration, but a plethora of homework from one of the greatest, in my opinion, writers in history. I will do exactly what he says:

Read one short story every day.

Read one poem every day.

Read one essay every day.

Sounds like fun to me. If it didn't sound like fun, I probably wouldn't want to write all three of them.

A quick post, this one, but who am I to yap when you've got Ray Bradbury to listen to? I hope you enjoy.

Thank you Ray Bradbury for being far and away my greatest influence.  If others ever say my work is reminiscent of yours, I will probably weep tears of joy.

10 October, 2013

Why I Write (very short form)

Reading the gold mine that is Narrative Technique by Thomas H. Uzzell, one discovers in the first paragraph of Chapter One the question, "Why do you wish to write fiction?"

"If you expect to secure the utmost benefit from this study," he goes on to say, "I wish you to pause right here in your reading and answer this question seriously. Write it out as completely as you can. Exactly why are you interested in writing narrative? Why do you prefer this form of writing to other forms? What do you hope to accomplish by your writing? What is the greatest success you can think of for yourself in this field? How did you get this way?"

If you like, if you're interested in writing, break down his question thusly and try to answer it. You may surprise yourself with how important such reflection is. Herein lies the dissolution of the myth that technique should not be studied because true art stems from inspiration. Here is your purpose, your inspiration. Craft will only assist you in empowering it.

I've read the beginning of Narrative Technique twice, and I'm re-reading it now for a class I'm teaching. The last two times I read it were before having written Paint the Raven Black, and I often say to people that it's in writing my novel that I've discovered my artistic purpose, and indeed my style, and what sort of fiction I intend to produce. I've discovered who I am as an artist. I was pleased by how readily I could answer Thomas H. Uzzell's question this time around. The last two times, I worked hard at convincing myself I had a full answer. This time I didn't blink. I spoke from my easy chair to the far wall of my study, imagining Thomas standing there, and thought I'd follow his direction and type my speech. And what better forum for an artist than the public?

I write with what Orwell called "political purpose". He meant "political" in the widest possible sense, as in, "of the polis" or "regarding the state (not political state) in which people live" which is a more accurate and socio-anthropologically sound delineation of the Greek word than to merely translate it as "city".

I write because I see a world of insanity that I wish to impact upon, to help people grow, be good to each other, see clearly and appreciate both the beauty and the horrors that surround us. I write to open eyes and influence behaviour, hopefully for the better.

I write for metaphor, for the potency of message and for the beauty of life and small truths that can be found in human behaviour. I believe through metaphor one can touch the human essence of a thing and in offering that piece of humanity, one can make another feel. I believe that's beautiful. I write speculative literature in part because it is a realm of metaphor, and in part because I believe questions of reality and the self are more relevant now than ever. I believe the reasons for that truth are worth criticising, perhaps even fearing, and overcoming. (Note: to fear is not to cower, but to recognise a strong enemy and let your adrenaline surge.)

But most of all, in truth, I write because it cleanses my soul and lets me feel the things I care for. I write what I would want to read, and that so happens to be books of strong theme and "political purpose" as Orwell said. It is not out of pomposity, but the simple fact that books without said purpose don't hold my attention. I write for myself.

I wish to draw a distinction: writing for myself does not make it a self-oriented process. To write for myself is merely to choose those dramas that I wish to invest in, that I feel passionately for, and that I wish others to feel in kind. Why this form of art? Why not write sociological essays? Partly, in truth, because I love books, but mostly because it is through metaphor and drama that one can touch the true emotional, human essence of a thing, give it significance and purpose, evidence its human significance, the weight of it within heart and mind, and make others feel the same. That is the beauty of art. That is my mission and hopefully, one day, a worthy gift to you.

09 October, 2013

Some more thanks, and another story

Here's a really, really old short story from right when I finished my MFA! Paul McAuley gave me a crique on this one on two occasions. In his words after the second critique, it's "still a bit 'one thing after another', but getting there."

At the time I thought that meant I should hide this story away. I sent it off to see if it would sell. It did, but I never told anyone about it. Paul McAuley thought it was "one thing after another," after all. What I've learned since is that when an author that awesome says a thing like that, I've learned to take it as a compliment.

That's why I'm putting it up on my blog.

Another little story, just for you authors who, like me, aren't trying to publish your work because you don't think it's good enough:  at the start of 2012, when I got serious about this blog, one of the first things that happened to me was somebody sending me a message saying, "Aren't you the author of 'Temple of Mirrors'?"

He might even be reading this. If so, thanks again, mate. You're my first ever fan, and you'll always hold a special place in my heart. "Temple of Mirrors" may not be my best work. I may have sold it for $10AU to an e-zine, but over 7000 people have read it, and one of them (Hi!) actually sought me out to tell me how much he loved it two years on. That's the same lesson I learned when someone forced me to submit some stories to my agent. Like Iain Banks said to me, "Send out the best you've got and let the world decide."

I still don't think this story's brilliant, but I don't want to under/over sell it, so here you go. I hope you enjoy!


08 October, 2013

A Post About Not Posting

Dear fans of Everest by Fog,

You'll notice things have gone a little quiet around here.  I'm neck deep in my novel's editorial process, while at the same time working on something new.

That's been a great way to clear my head.  Plotting out a new book has given me a great deal more objectivity in looking at comments on Paint the Raven Black.

I can tell you, editors don't give compliments.  If they did, they wouldn't help you.  Especially when you're relatively new to the game, you want validation.  I've been writing for most of my life, but I'm still not what I'd call a "professional".  I'm newly entering the professional world and getting critiqued by more and more professional people, with increasingly critical eyes.  These are people I've always wanted to impress.  The fact is, I have impressed them.  That's why they're beating the crap out of me now, but that doesn't stop it from sucking.

The new novel has not only given me something to do while I await the return of my manuscript.  It's also given me something else to think about, and most importantly, something else to love.  Enjoying my new, presently untitled project, I'm not so emotional about Paint the Raven Black.

That said, there's a bit of a problem with this blog at present.  The reason I haven't been posting isn't actually because I'm busy.  It's really because I'm starting to feel like a fraud.

I know a lot about creative writing.  I've studied it.  I know how to study it, how to critically analyse technique and how to teach it.  I'm even a pretty skilled writer by many people's standards, but not so much by my own.

There comes a point where my job as a blogger is to be a writer.  If I'm going to keep yapping about creative writing, there's a point where I need some evidence of having actually accomplished something.

That's why I haven't been posting.  Here's why I'll start again.  One important thing about being a writer is that you're out in the public.  It's wrong of me to create a fan base and start letting people down.  That doesn't mean I'll just go through the motions.  On the contrary, it means I'll get professional.  Sometimes you have to write when you don't feel great about it, and I guess that's what I've learned from not blogging for a time.

Luke is back, but I'm going to start posting on creative writing on a bi-weekly basis.  The rest of the posts will be about speculative fiction.  Aside from a teacher, I'm also a writer and a sociologist, and it's the latter two that inspire me into the speculative.  You'll still get a post from me every week, but it's time for my blog to evolve, not just for my career, but for my sanity.

I hope you guys enjoy the new format.  Boys from the Dwarf.