Tag Archives: writing

On Losing Words

The first time I lost a story, it was a physical loss. I wrote out pages and pages longhand, and then, somehow or another, ever got around to typing out more than the first paragraph. Months or even years later I opened the file and found that it wasn’t there, had never been there. I hope the original’s still out there somewhere, buried in my parent’s house, but I doubt it. I was about thirteen.

Around the same time, I remember sitting down to write a story and trying several times to get the opening passage right. I’d ball up my failed attempts and toss them towards the bin, because that seemed like the writerly thing to do, but later I got them back and smoothed them out. They weren’t something I could bring myself to just throw away. They were important.

These days when I lose writing it’s usually lest tangible than that – computer crashes or the dreaded harddrive failure, or just plain forgetting to save. All of these instances remain burned into my memory. There’s a passage of my novel that, every time I get to it, even ten redrafts later, always makes me remember the lost version, eaten when Word crashed on an old, old laptop. Writing on a computer is a double-edged sword.

You go through stages of grief – searching through autosave (denial), desperately Googling recovery solutions (bargaining), tears, regret, finally acceptance. You re-write.

I despise re-writing lost words. Occasionally (as with the novel passage above) I comee away feeling like the new version is an improvement, but more often than not I’m certain I’ve forgotten something important. Something of the original is lost forever.

My harddrive failed four days ago and I’m stuck in limbo, waiting for a missive from the recovery specialists. I can’t move on and get stuck into re-writing till they get back to me. I’m preparing myself for the worst, but I can’t shake the feeling that of course it’ll work out and I’ll get those files back. If the worst happens, it’s going to be crushing.

To take stock of what I’ve lost: three short stories I wrote last summer, of which I now have only the opening passages. Two short stories I wrote last week. Two WIPs. The most recent round of edits on my novel.

I made detailed notes on the projects I started last week as soon as I could bring myself to, so re-writing those shouldn’t be too bad. The oldest stories I remember much less clearly, and in one instance, if I don’t get it back, I have a nasty feeling it’ll be gone forever.

I’m dreading doing those novel edits again the most. They were complicated edits, involving an unpleasant degree of arithmetic and fiddling with my time line. I’m reading it a chapter or so a day, noting down when I get to a passage I’ll need to re-restructure.

Whatever happens, I’m determined not to let my new projects die. Harddrive failure is an absurd way to lose an idea.

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My Week In Writing (03/07/17)

20170630_202109Well, to lead with the bad news: my harddrive suffered a mechanical failure yesterday. It happened too quickly for me to be able to back up, so I lost a not insignificant amount of writing. I’ve sent it off for data retrieval so, keep your fingers crossed for me.

Fortunately though, most of the writing I’ve done since my last full back up was novel drafts, which I backed up on completion, so all things considered the damage is minimal!

In better news, I found out this week that my story 3.8 Missions is going to be featured in Shoreline of Infinity’s special anthology of Scottish science fiction for the Edinburgh Book Festival, which I’m very excited about. I’m going to be rubbing shoulders with some book festival authors, as well as Shoreline reprints. I feel very honoured!

This week, I’ve been taken a break from long form fiction, so I wrote two new short stories… both of which may now be gone for good. Fortunately, the two slightly longest stories I started I have at least some of and I’ve written as detailed notes as I could manage on what I’ve lost, so re-writing should be relatively easy…

I went to Hear Hare Here at the Golden Hare Bookshop, where I heard some really great poetry and picked up a very tiny book containing an essay by Phillip Pullman, an excerpt from his upcoming Daemon Voices.

I listened to the first two stories of Big Finish’s newest volume of Companion Chronicles The First Doctor: Volume Two. Fields of Terror, starring Maureen O’Brien as Vicki, is a historical, a kind of sequel to the William Hartnell serial The Reign of Terror. It’s one of the creepiest Doctor Who stories I’ve encountered in a while, delving as it does into a dark portion of French history.

Across the Darkened City, starring Peter Purves as Steven Taylor, is a Dalek story co-starring the incomporable Nicholas Briggs. In my opinion, the Daleks are at their best when their numbers are low, and this is a story that really gets that; Steven is stranded on a strange and deadly world, his only companion, and only chance of survival, an injured Dalek.

Along the way, he grapples with a question that has occupied at least three Doctor Who stories: could a Dalek ever become good? However, unlike its predecessors Across the Darkened City comes to a bleak and unsettling conclusion that’s both shocking and inevitable, with a delicious final twist that I did not see coming.

(If you listen to this boxset, be aware that Across the Darkened City is best listened to after familiarsing yourself with the Patrick Troughton serial Evil of the Daleks).

Next week, I’m planning to listen to the next half of the boxset, plus I’m going to be starting some volunteering work. And I’ve ordered a 2-in-1 tablet to replace the somewhat creaky backup laptop I’m currently reliant on, so that should be an improvement!



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Collecting Stories

TeyaI’ve been working on my Ever Present Novel on and off for over a decade now – hence the name. It’s on hold, I suppose, until I’m confident that I’m good enough to write it.

Part of what makes it so tricky is that the fantasy world where it’s set is just so big, so expansive, that it’s difficult to get in all the necessary information, to convey exactly where it is my characters live, how it fits into the wider multiverse, and what it all means.

It’s a pretty mammoth project, as I’m sure you can imagine – and so, naturally, it’s produced a lot of side stories over the years. I started writing short stories set in the same world around about 2006, and a couple of years ago I decided I might as well try and put together a formal collection.

The collection’s been slow going, seeing as it tends to take a backseat to whatever my main project is, but I have an idea in my head of its general shape. I realised pretty early on that a short story collection is just a more effective way of showing off the breadth of this world I’ve created.

Stories so far include:

  • A story about a teenage runaway who can talk to plants who moves in with a pyrokinetic street performer and experiments with magical ‘drugs’.
  • A story about a group of young aliens living in another dimension coming of age and grappling with the consequences of their world being settled by humans.
  • A story about a teenage genius whose planet is destroyed in an interdimensional war.
  • A story about a young woman from our world (or oneSnake thing very like it) who abandons her life to live in another universe, and gets her fortune told.
  • A story about a young and very talented Wizard deciding whether or not to stay part of his conservative and isolated community.

Those are the ones I’ve written or am currently writing – I have another whole folder full of old stories that need a substantial re-working.

I don’t know if it’ll ever go anywhere, but it’s an enjoyable enough project to be getting on with while I figure out where I’m going next with novel-writing.

In the mean time, here’s one of the better, um, artistic works associated with the collection!

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My Week In Writing (25/06/17)

20170614_192709Well, the big news for this week: I finished Settlement 359! Final count: 153,000 words, ish. I may or may not write a sequel – for now, it’s a happy ending.

So, what next? For now, I’m planning to do a little work on a short story collection I’ve been picking at for a while, featuring characters etc from my everpresent novel (the one I haven’t figured out how to write yet).

I planned to work a lot more on Summer this week, but life got in the way. I’m still not over my lingering cold, and I’ve had a total of three job interviews, with a fourth one coming up on Tuesday. I’m at 2/3 on rejections, so far.

I also had a Doctor Who short story rejected by the charity anthology I sent it to, which means I can now post it only whenever I want, without having to hack it to bits to fit a wordcount. Silver linings.

Still working on my entry for Big Finish’s short story contest. I’ve written the section I wanted to use for a sample, but it’s over twice as long as the word limit.

I started reading After Me Comes The Flood by Sarah Perry, which I found really gripping for the first couple of chapters, but now it sort of feels like everything’s been resolved and it’s still going… I assume it’ll pick up again, if I keep at it.

This week’s Doctor Who was… well, I have complicated feelings. Loved the plot, loved the classic Who references and the final twist, in deep denial about the ending. I’ve no doubt they’ll reverse it next week but frankly it was unnecessarily dark.

Next week: figure out what I’m doing with my life, now I’m unemployed.


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My Week In Writing (19/06/17)

20170617_132652It’s been a strange one. My last day at my job was Wednesday – the last couple of weeks of my notice period just flew by.

I don’t have another job yet, but I’m signed up to do some digital marketing volunteering with a local charity and I have four job interviews in the next couple of weeks – two of them with the same company, weirdly enough.

Settlement 359 hit 150k this week which is very exciting. Haven’t made as much progress as I’d have hoped but I think I’m over the tricky part of the climax so it should be done reasonably soon. Then, I don’t know what I’ll do. Start another novel, maybe!

Speaking of, I finished going over Summer and now I’m going to have to do some tough editing. Boo.

I went to Event Horizon’s fantasy special at Banshee Labyrinth, where there was some really great live music and some interesting writing. I got a copy of Shoreline of Infinity 8, which I’m reading at the moment.

I also went to Edinburgh Pride which is always a bit mixed – it’s a fun event and it’s important to me to go, but there’s usually too many corps and this year, bizarrely, there was a Royal Navy recruitment stand. (I could have forgiven this if they were playing In The Navy which would have been very funny, but alas they were not.)

However, I got rainbow cake, donated some money to some worthy causes in exchange for some very nice badges, and I now own a pride flag, so mostly a win.

I read Bed by David Whitehouse, a charity shop impulse purchase. It’s a good book, but unsettling in a way that wasn’t really for me – frankly a good portion of it just made me kind of nauseous.

I watched two episodes of Doctor Who this week (I missed last Saturday’s). Empress of Mars was some quality Ice Warrior content, but I have to say I’m a little sad that they featured an explicitly female Ice Warrior – up until now you could assume that Ice Warriors aren’t sexually dimorphic so any of them could be female, but alas, now they’re all boys, apparently. (I’m going to assume that Ice Lords are sexually dimorphic but Ice Warriors are not.)

I was really looking forward to Eaters of Light – it’s by Rona Munro, the first Classic Who writer to work on the new series and author of Survival, the final Classic Who serial. I’m very slightly disappointed – I really enjoyed the characters and the themes but I didn’t find the sci-fi especially interesting. Which is better than the alternative, I suppose.

I listened to two Big Finish stories, Criss-Cross and The Two Masters. Criss-Cross is a Colin Baker historical story set in Bletchley Park and featuring new companion Leading WREN Constance Clarke. It’s solid stuff, and I’m looking forward to listening to more Constance stories.

The Two Masters is exactly what it says on the tin, a multi-Master story featuring Geoffrey Beevers and Alex MacQueen as Big Finish’s two incarnations of the Master. It’s a proper epic with some genuinely unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Unfortunately, I also came down with a filthy cold this week – I haven’t had more than two hours continuous sleep since Friday night. Hopefully I’ll be recovered before my interview tomorrow. We’ll see…

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My Week In Writing (11/06/17)


Look what came in the post!

Just a short update this week – I continue to be trapped in job search hell. One of the application forms I filled out today felt eerily familiar – so much so that I had to go through my files, just to make sure I hadn’t applied already.

As it turns out, I had – way back in September. I’ve applied for all the jobs in Edinburgh, and now I’m going around a second time…

Settlement 359 is, sadly, stalling right before the climax. I know where I need to get but I haven’t quite figured out how to get there. I just don’t have the mental energy for it at present.

Good news, though – Wednesday is my last day at my job, so pretty soon I’m going to have all the time in the world. I’m taking a week out, then doing doing some social media volunteering.

I read Sirens by Simon Messingham, one of the books I’m reviewing for Shoreline of Infinity. It certainly wasn’t boring – I blazed through it – but I have some, hm, complicated feelings about it and I admit I’m a touch disappointed. I’ve read one of his Doctor Who novels (The Indestructible Man) and thought it was pretty good so I was expecting more interesting things.

I listened to Big Finish’s Fifth Doctor Boxset, which features two stories, Pyschodrome and Iterations of I.

Both stories feature Matthew Waterhouse reprising the part of Adric for the first time since the 1980s. I’ve heard him reprise the role before, for A Full Life, but this was the first time I’d heard him in a full-cast play, and it really was a joy.

Adric is (unpopular opinion) one of my favourite companions and a big part of the reason why I got into Classic Who. The two stories provide a lovely set of bookends for season nineteen, Pyschodrome adding some much-needed character bonding and development, while Iterations of I provides some more conventional Doctor Who action. If you’re into the Peter Davison era, I thoroughly recommend it.

I also listened to the first two installments in last year’s Master trilogy, And You Will Obey Me and Vampire of the Mind. I enjoyed them, but I’m reserving full judgement till I listen to the conclusion, The Two Masters.

And – as you can see! – I got The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Tale, a bumper collection of behind the scenes interviews. I made a start on it today, and I’m having a great time.

Next week, I’m going to leave my job. It hasn’t sunk in yet and probably won’t until it’s really over. We’ll see how that goes, I guess.


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My Week In Writing (04/06/17)


Inspirational posters

Unemployment still looming. I’m trying to stay focused on the positive aspects, i.e. starting a week on Thursday, I don’t have to go to work any more.

My company’s already hired my replacement, which feels a little weird. It also means that he gets my desk, so I’ve been sitting at my line manager’s desk while he plays an elaborate game of musical chairs with himself. It’s a much nicer desk. The days have been going very fast – I don’t know if it’s being in better surroundings, the knowledge that it’ll be over soon, the fear that it’ll be over soon, or just that I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts!

Earlier this week, my new deskmate said to me, more or less out of the blue, “something something-seller?”
“I’m sorry?”
“I said, once you’re unemployed, maybe you’ll write a bestseller!”

To my knowledge I’ve never talked to her about my writing before, so I was a mite puzzled, but I told her I’m writing a book so… yeah, it’s a possibility. I’m closer to writing a bestseller than a person who has not written a book at all!

I’ve been taking a semi-break from writing this week – I can feel myself starting to burn out and unfortunately it’s the less essential stuff that has to go first. I did start a new story, inspired by listening to The Adventure Zone.

I got a thousand words in before it occurred to me that the premise could have some weird racial overtones if not handled very carefully, so it’s on hold already, which is probably for the best.

This week I listened to Tomb Ship and Masquerade, the latter two volumes in a trilogy featuring the Fifth Doctor, old companion Nyssa, and new companion Hannah Bartholemew. I’m a touch underwhelmed – they’re both decent stories, and I thoroughly enjoyed Masquerade, but I’d expected a trilogy introducing a new companion to… promimently feature said new companion?

Hannah doesn’t figure that heavily in her introductory story, doesn’t show up until episode four of Tomb Ship, and largely takes a backseat in Masquerade before suffering a very unpleasant fate. I’m disappointed but I knew it was coming, so I’m not that disappointed.

I also listened to Jago in Love and Beautiful Things, the first two installments in the fourth season of Jago and Litefoot. I still have some, hm, complicated feelings about the series as a whole, but this season is shaping up to be very enjoyable.

I’ve been listening to the new season of Alice Isn’t Dead, which continues to be super creepy and hauntingly beautiful, and working my way through The Adventure Zone. Catching up on the latter is a strange experience at the moment – the current arc has provoked some discussion, so it’s been difficult to avoid spoilers and every time I see people talking about it it’s like getting a glimpse of some dark and terrible future…

I finished reading The Bear and the Nightgale, which took me a while – I just found it hard to follow. I want to review all the books I read this year, but I’m drawing a blank on this one cause I just plain didn’t get it!

The last couple of episodes of Doctor Who have been a bit mixed – The Pyramid at the End of the World was, while not as good, an entirely worthy follow-up to Extremis but then The Lie of the Land, despite a really exciting trailer, was surprisingly bland. The ending was super disappointing. Ah, well. Next week’s episode looks like fun!

And I made maple syrup flapjacks, which came out pretty delicious!

Next week is gonna be my last full week at work, which feels really strange. I don’t think I’ll fully get my head around what I’ve done till I’ve finally left for good!

I’m going to be spending it working my way through the Doctor Who audios I’ve bought and not listened to and trying to get through as much of The Adventure Zone as I can before I leave my job – can’t concentrate on audio stuff unless I have something mindless to do with my hands!

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