A Little Advice

This week, I would like to talk about advice. For writers, taking advice can be one of the hardest things to do. We think that nobody else can understand what we’re trying to do and tend to shun what others might suggest. My advice is to take advice from those who know; the writers of today, for we are ourselves the writers of tomorrow.

In this blog, I will go through some advice given by such writers as Quentin Tarantino, Neil Gaiman, Terry Gilliam and Stephen King. These are people who know what they’re talking about when it comes to writing whether it be novels, scripts or whatever. Each piece of advice is one that I find helpful and I hope that they are for you, too.

Here goes…

“The first thing you want to do, when you want to write a story, is to sit your ass in a chair.” – Prof John Dufresne

Excellent advice for any of us. If we want to get anything done then we have to come to a point where we stop running everything through our minds and get on with the writing process.

“If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.” – William Zinsser

Writing is difficult and if you come across anyone who says otherwise then you can ignore anything they say because they’re not doing it right themselves. Writing is a pain in the ass most of the time. You have this story in your head and notes made but the time and the effort and the brain energy that it takes to put the story down on paper can be exhausting and, at times, you may wish to scrap the whole lot and just start again from scratch.

“You need to understand your vision and you need to articulate it.” – Terry Gilliam

“I know I can articulate. I can describe exactly what I want.” – Quentin Tarantino

This is some great advice. So many times young writers have asked how to communicate the stories in their mind to the reader. Basically, Terry Gilliam is saying that you just need to tell the story that you want told and describe what you see.

 “Nobody’s ever going to see your first draft and nobody cares about your first draft… whatever you’re doing can be fixed… for now, just get the words down… Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another.” – Neil Gaiman

“People have a romantic notion about writers that the muse comes and you write, you’re inspired and you write but they’ve got that completely wrong; You write and then you get inspired.” – John Dufresne

Always remember that your first draft (there must always be a second) is never the one that you send out. It is not the one that you let people see. It will need some work before it should be read by anyone but yourself. Until the first draft is complete, it is vital that you just write and keep writing, even if you are not inspired.

“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that but you are the only you.” – Neil Gaiman

Again, good advice. Trying to emulate someone else or tell stories that are not of our own actually inhibits the writer. It prevents us from delving into our imagination and creating those new stories that we have inside. What we write must be from our own souls.

“As you come to the end of your writing day do not write out the last bit. Just maybe make some notes so that when you start the following day, you start by writing up the thing that you wrote in note form the night before so you never have that experience of not knowing where to begin.” – Andy Hamilton

I have found this advice very useful. Andy Hamilton has been a great inspiration to me over the years, creating and writing such shows as “Drop the Dead Donkey” and “Outnumbered”, not to mention the classic, “Old Harry’s Game”. I do as he does, writing up a few notes before bed so that I can dive straight in when I restart. I have found this helps me greatly as, by the time I have written up from my notes, I have found my rhythm again and can continue with more ease.

As you can see. The advice that writers can give is invaluable and I suggest that everyone thinks hard about these advisory quotes. We should always be willing to accept help in becoming the better version of our writing selves.

Good writing to you all and I will leave you with a few more quotes that I have found useful over the years. I hope you do too:

“I start with a character and I give that character some trouble…” – John Dufresne

“One thing I still do, over and over, is write in notebooks.” – Neil Gaiman

 “The best advice I can give you is be tenacious, be aggressive and don’t be polite.” – Jerry Lewis

 “I think that the novel is a quagmire that a lot of younger writers stumble upon before they’re ready to go there… Misery started as a short story.” – Stephen King

 “The plot has to come out of the desires, wishes, behaviors, motivations of the characters. They drive the plot.” – John Dufresne

 

Follow me on Twitter: @AuthorMcGowan

Story Generation… Good or Bad?

“… a backward badger balancing on a bendy scout, an old newspaper headline about a dancing accident, a hooded tortoise ranting about elbows and a drinking-well located in a gloomy place.”

What, you are probably asking, am I talking about? Is it drugs that I’m taking or drugs that I should be taking? Well, the answer is neither.

I have been looking around, this week at some of the offerings out there for online story generators. I have always been wary of these except for the three-point kick start elements; a place, an object and a profession. Having a little time on my hands, however, I decided to give some of them a try.

Most of them are not all too good. It is hard for a generator, especially a free one, to include the right number of elements for a story to work and incorporate them in a coherent way. I did find one, as it happens, that has made me think twice. I would never use any generator for my novels but, when writing a short story or some bite-sized fiction, it has it’s uses.

The site that caught my attention was “plot-generator.org.uk” and the reason that it made me stop in my tracks was that what it came up with was almost like it could have sprung from my own mind. Backward Badgers, standing on bendy Scouts; A Hooded tortoise, ranting about elbows; it all sounded very psychedelically sweet.

Obviously these online programs are only designed as a jump start for your imagination and not a way of replacing the planning stages or creation of plot and theme etc. It is, however, fun to play about with and see what kind of madness slips out. Sometimes it can be enlightening and may even give you an idea for your current or next writing project; and if not then you have had a wee rest from straining your writing brain which is always a good idea. Take a break every now and then.

After using this online generator, I will not be using the story-line that it produced but I will be trying desperately to find a home in my next book for a backwards badger, a bendy scout and a hooded tortoise.

Social Media: In My Humble Opinion…

I first started using social media with the introduction of Bebo. Facebook quickly exploded and very soon every man, woman and the family dog had an account somewhere on the web. Today I would like to give a very brief extrapolation about how I have found the more popular of the social media applications, performance wise.

As I go through, I will talk about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, LinkedIn and Pinterest. I will allow you to make your own conclusions and even advise you to try out each of them in turn to see which suits your own needs, whether it be personal or professional.

First of all, let us talk about Facebook. It is certainly a booming venture and the uses that you can put it to have grown incredibly since it’s conception. There are many millions of people who use it and it works for both businesses and for personal use alike. So, you say, what’s the down side? Well, as advertising goes, it is very easy to set up and market your product to hundreds of thousands of people in a very short length of time and the targeting programmes that are utilised are relatively good. My only real issue with it is that it was designed as purely a ‘social’ application and thus, even as it grows, it will always be used mainly for friends and family connecting, posting and enjoying memories.

As someone who uses social media to meet contacts inside the literary world, I find that the only real use I have for Facebook is a stage for my funny cat videos and amusing antics; a mere moment’s release from reality.

Secondly, I would like to say a little something about Twitter, who is undoubtedly Facebooks strongest competitor. I have found Twitter to be a wonderful way of connecting with people inside the industry that I am interested in, whether it be literary, musical, artistic or if you simply like Bird Twitching and are looking for others who do the same of a weekend.

Most of the people you follow or who follow you, unlike Facebook, are most likely people you met through the application and not school chums or workmates. This, I find, is perfect for its purpose. When you find people who are interested in the same things as you are, you follow them; the chances are good that they will follow you back (Unless, of course, it’s someone uber-famous like Brad Pitt or Tim Burton). If the person you find has sent out a tweet, feel free to comment and start up a conversation. It’s all part and parcel of the application and people welcome it.

I have met a great many people on Twitter and am glad of it. There are many others out there who have the same likes as you do, so don’t be afraid to jump straight in.

When Robin Williams died Facebook was aware but the reaction of the ‘Twitterverse’, as it’s known, was incredible. There were people all chatting and mourning from all corners of the globe. Celebrities and common people alike were all conversing and posting pictures of themselves standing on tables as they held sheets of paper saying, “Oh Captain, my Captain,” a reference to his role in the landmark movie, “Dead Poet’s Society” and instigated, I believe, by the lovely Amanda Palmer, writer, performer and beloved wife to Neil Gaiman.

I find, however, that Twitter can, as like most other social applications, take over my life. I am constantly checking it to see if I have any lovely red notifications and also have personal notifications coming through for a few of the people that I have chosen to follow, myself. This gives me a wee message whenever they make a post and allows me to keep abreast with what’s going on in the community.

Next on the list has to be Instagram. I understand that it has come on leaps and bounds since it’s creation but, as it stands, I cannot see any real sustainability. From what I have seen, they have taken a single aspect from other applications, the posting and storing of photographs, and made a whole new application around that premise. With most other social applications out there offering this as an expected element, I do not really see the point of it.

Next on the list is Vine. Now, this application, although I do not use it myself, does have some really great merits. Basically, the way writers, poets and artists use Twitter, musicians and performers use Vine. This gives them a worldwide platform to post their work and share it with the people who matter, the general public. These are the people who will be buying the songs, videos or going to the shows and so having a platform that allows artists, musicians and performers to display their work is great. It is also highly possible that the more popular postings will be seen by producers and others in the business. I would advise this and the utilisation of the YouTube channel option wholeheartedly.

Now, LinkedIn. What can I say? Not a lot to tell you the truth; I have only just found out how to pronounce it properly. I believe it is very useful in the business community and even a must but I have always seen it as an interactive phonebook and not much more. I have no personal use for it, at this time, and so cannot really comment but please try it for yourself if you feel it may be useful to you. You can always come back here and let me know how you find it by leaving a message in the comments section.

Lastly, Pinterest. Personally I found this absolutely irritating. Agreeably, I know that it is used to get posts on subjects that you may have an interest in but the topic selections are too broad and I ended up getting far too many posts arriving on my screen that I had no pinterest in (see what I did there?). Basically, if you like it then I do hope it continues to please but I cannot be having with it, myself.

As I said at the start of this blog, all of this is simply my opinion and I obviously do not wish to offend anyone. If you have anything to say about this article, please, I welcome any comments you may wish to leave at the bottom of this page. Alternatively you can contact me on my twitter handle, @AuthorMcGowan.

Take care and I hope you find the right social media platform for your own personal needs. We’re all different and that is why there are so many options out there.

“Escape”

As I ran across the corn field, hand wrapped around a gun,

I was tired, low and restless after ten days on the run.

The man behind me, running too, was known for being a good shot.

If I’d had lingered any longer, my past would be my lot.

 

Fifteen years and then some, I had paid my debt in time,

Wishing, in my heart of hearts, that I’d never done the crime.

I knew, when planning my dirty deed, it really shouldn’t be,

But I took the job and did the crime before they then transferred my fee.

 

As I glanced behind, to see the hunter, tearing through the corn,

I wondered, for the first time, if this man was even born.

He’d tracked me, friend, from east to west and never had retreated.

If he ever got his hands on me, I’m sure I’d be mistreated.

 

The crime I did, I am not proud, for it was really no good thing.

I had to see the Father and kiss his Holy ring.

Two hours I spent, in solitude, confessing every sin.

And no greater one, he told me, was the killing of one’s kin.

 

I had got the call, one day at home, when reading from a book,

To say that I had a delivery and to come and have a look.

They told me, when I got there, that a girl had brought it in,

The doorman called her pretty, through his cheeky little grin.

 

On the desk there lay a briefcase that I knew would hold a file.

The target of which, I’d never have guessed in a sultry country mile.

I had done this for some time now and so I knew what was to come,

But I never thought to think about who would, one day, be one.

 

As I gazed upon the picture which I took out of the file,

I saw the face of my father, Roberto Fulsome Kyle.

I never thought the day would come, when patricide was asked of,

But, looking on my father’s face, I knew that things had kicked off.

 

I should tell you now, at this point, that my father’s no damned Angel,

And spent his life, in darkness, making theft and murder manageable.

His life had been a rough one and he’d done his share of time,

But the next few years in prison, surely would be mine.

 

As the man who chased me also gained, I felt my heart explode,

If he caught me here, his anger hot, my tale would not be told.

He’d lay me out and take my life and leave me in the dust.

To step it up; to run it off; to make it out, I must.

 

As I reached the end and made it through, I took a sudden left,

I jumped a local and stole his clothes and left my own bereft.

It wasn’t very nice, I know, to steal a poor man’s garments,

But hindsight’s always twenty-twenty through a dying man’s laments.

 

I hopped a train and made my escape with second of time remaining.

As the man ran up, he missed his chance, his pencil neck was craning,

For me around the passengers, collected on the train,

But he never saw me standing and never will again.

 

I know I made it sound like I had made it home and clear,

But you should-now hear the ending, though it shakes my heart with fear.

For the train it never made it to its destination line,

And joined me in the cavern until the very end of time.

 

You can Follow me on Twitter @AuthorMcGowan

The importance of words.

In the beginning was the word

That says it all, doesn’t it? Jesus himself, called ‘the word of God’, showing its importance. Words are much more that we give credit. With words, we are able to communicate freely and with spectacular variance. We did not just create one language but six and a half thousand, or there about, and we are still discovering more and creating more.

Two examples of these newly created languages would be Elvish (JRR Tolkien) and Klingon (Star Trek Franchise). Both have evolved, whether it be through Tolkien’s studious efforts or the Star Trek fan base becoming enthralled with the idea of having their own secret language.

Through the study of certain words, we can see history before us. When the Vikings invaded the north of Scotland, they brought with them Norwegian words which blended into the local vernacular. The Scots, generally speaking Gaelic and English and having a great many family ties in Ireland, the strange fusion that was produced was to last the centuries. The Romans, in invading England from the South, brought Latin verbiage. Even the change in monarchy gave rise to new languages and, French especially, gets thrown into the mix.

Religion, too, throws its stick in. Latin was and still is the preferred language of the Roman Catholic Church and, with each change of Pope, another language is also embedded into the mix.

We therefore have Scotland and England, who were bordering countries and constantly at war with each other, both speaking the same base English language but with different foreign influences. During relatively peaceful times, the two countries mingled and, in turn, they influenced each other verbally and textually. The language wasn’t really set and recorded until Schoolmaster Robert Cawdrey wrote what is regarded to be the first recognised Dictionary.

I use Scotland and England as a mere example. The evidence of all this can be found in any country or community. Words are important. They can tell us who we are and where we come from and, although we must use and love words and books, we must also beware not to overuse. To know when to speak and when to keep our lips firmly shut is a skill we all must learn, especially myself.

Love words; endear them; learn as many as you can and the world will open up to you.

The Final Chapter… maybe.

Since the end of NaNoWriMo 2015, I have been fairly silent. This is because I have been working hard to complete the third in the Bjorn Trilogy, “Bjorn Again”. I will not spoil anything for anyone who has not yet read the first two books but I wished to share with you a small snippet from the chapter I have just completed.

The chapter follows Tomare, the Ninja Thief, as he travels East to the city of Glaschu. Attempting to take the directest route possible, he has ventured into a forest, known to take any man, who entered at night, and turn him insane before taking him fully, never to be seen again.

Suddenly Tomare heard the sound of a voice coming out of the darkness. It was a woman’s voice. Tomare strained to hear what it was saying and realized that not only was it a woman’s voice, it was specifically his own mother’s. His deceased mother to boot. This terrified Tomare to his very bones. His mother had been a stern and forthright woman. A good beating was not uncommon and he still had the mental and physical scars to remember his childhood with.

He told himself to behave, that it couldn’t be his mother. He listened carefully to the words.

“What do you think you are playing at, you young rascal. Going off on some other man’s mission? Is that how I raised you? I think not. If I’d have thought you’d end up like this, I’d have dropped you in the river at birth. I don’t know. You’re a disappointment to a mother and no mistake. Other sons go out and get a real job. They have a respectable career, raising crops or whatever, and bring up a strong family. Where’re my grandchildren, I ask you? I suppose there’s not much chance of that happening now. You’re most likely going to get yourself killed in some pointless way. What’s a mother to do?…”

This went on and on and on and, as it did, Tomare grew steadily tenser and even started to hit himself in the head to try and knock out the grinding voice of his dear gone mother. As she cussed and spoke every discouraging word under the sun, Tomare fell to his knees and held his head in a vice-tight grip.

“Get out of my head,” he screamed at the world in general before he got a sharp pain strike through his head, in one temple and out the other. Tomare cried in agony and, the tears running down his face, he started to beat his head off the ground.

With a flash, the shadow of something living shot past him and the voice of his mother stopped instantly. Tomare’s eyes darted this way and that but there was nothing that he could see. There could be an Oliphant five feet away and he wouldn’t know until he was struck with the largest trunk in the world.

Something else whizzed past him and Tomare was knocked off balance, slightly but enough to worry. Again it happened and again and again. Each time, he was knocked over and he was never able to see it coming, let alone make a grab for one. This really irritated Tomare. It wasn’t playing fair, in his humble opinion.

If that wasn’t all bad enough, small blue lights began to gather around Tomare and circle him. More and more gathered until there were hundreds of the things dancing in the air, around him. As if by a unanimous decision, they all dove straight at Tomare and, as they flew off, they each slapped him across the cheek. What with these glowing beasties flying at him, from all directions, no cheek was safe. Tomare had to kneel down on the ground and put his head between his knees, leaving his rear cheeks ripe for another good slapping.

All of a sudden, Tomare jumped out of his cowering position brandishing the item that he had bought from the stable master. He spun round, swatting everything he could find. As he did, he found to his delight, one hit was enough in any instance. Barely touching the item in question was enough and they dropped like flies to the ground. Tomare could have sworn that he heard high pitched coughing.

Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope you liked what you saw. Take care and read books.

“Bjorn Free”: Now available to buy

Today’s the day and mum is no longer the word. Yesterday, “Bjorn Free”, the second in my ‘Bjorn Trilogy’ after “Bjorn & Bread” (remember the ampersand), hit the online stores and is looking to be a great success. For your copy, please visit one of the links below…

Amazon Uk: Buy ‘Bjorn Free’ (Uk)

Amazon USA: Buy ‘Bjorn Free’ (US)

If you wish to read the first book, “Bjorn & Bread” you can find it at one of these links…

Amazon Uk: Buy ‘Bjorn & Bread’ (Uk)

Amazon USA: Buy ‘Bjorn & Bread’ (US)

Happy Reading

Scott McGowan

“Bjorn Free” Release Date…

The time will soon be upon us. On Monday 2nd of October 2015, “Bjorn Free”, the second in the Bjorn Trilogy after “Bjorn & Bread” will be available to buy on both Barnes & Nobel and Amazon.

For your interest, here is the official Cover…

  

“The Coffer” …a snippet.

This is a snippet from my short story, “The Coffer”. The full story can be found in “Short Stories & Allegories”.

“The Coffer” by Scott McGowan

Augustus positioned himself beside the roaring, ornate fireplace, lying in wait. While he did, he dozed and dreamed his canine dreams, a leg occasionally jerking in reaction to a successful conquest.

It was a cold day in Glasgow and the Gritters were making plans for an early start to the winter snowfall. It had been a short autumn and the frost could be seen in many parts of the city, as Old Jack danced and plied his craft.

Augustus was glad he was inside, with the fire, all toasty and warm. He was a seventeen-year-old Saint Bernard, who was coming to the end of his time. Life had treated him well and he was spending his latter years comfortably and without regret. The cold was not his cup of tea and on days like this he did not mind one bit being kept indoors, where the bitter wind was unable to cross the threshold.

He thought of his master, Tom. He was not the happiest of people at the best of times, but these days the time between smiles was getting longer and longer.

It had been eighteen months now, since his wife had left him, and the papers had come through just yesterday, although they still sat on the mat where they had been left. Tom had little interest in anything that didn’t involve climbing gear and night vision goggles.

For those unaware of Tom’s work, the thought of this would confuse and intrigue the thoughtful mind. In actual fact, when dealt with every day, the truth tends to become pretty mundane. For the outsider though, Tom’s life would seem very exciting and, to some extent, pretty attractive.

To say that Tom was a practiced thief would be to say that Salvador Dali dabbled with paint. Tom, or Thomas Emanuel Throngate III to his mother, was an elitist in his field. There were few people these days who had the elegance or patience that it took to be a gentleman thief, but Tom had it mastered. No gem or heirloom was safe when he had decided to procure it.

The house, in which Augustus now lay, would be more commonly called a mansion, but to Tom it was The Manor. The word Mansion was too low rent a term to pass the lips of such an upstanding member of the social ladder as himself. Everything he did was aimed at successfully scaling the proverbial ladder, rung by rung, because the higher he got, and the more influential the people he met, the better the spoils.

Last week alone he had managed to procure a tenth century diamond, which had, at an earlier date, been set in a broach for the wife of a judge. Tom was of the mind that anyone who did something so vulgar, to something so intricate and beautiful, did not deserve to own such a piece, and so made it his duty to acquire said gem and relocate it to his baroque coffer[1].

This was where he kept all the spoils which he deemed too special to be in the hands of such Philistines and too unique and exceptional to be sold.

After a number of hours Augustus gave up waiting for his master to come home and, easing himself up from the floor, made his way to the awaiting basket in the hall. He settled down for the night, expecting that Tom would be staying somewhere else tonight.

[1] Coffer – An antique wooden chest.

…continued in “Short Stories & Allegories” (available on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble)