Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Sunday 31 December 2017

2017: The Roundup

At least I didn't quack up.
Writing wise, 2017 was what Aliya Whiteley has called a 'Duck in the Mist' year - an awful lot of paddling going on beneath the surface, but not that much activity above it. I wrote quite a lot, and there'll be more about that in 2018, but comparatively little activity on the publication front. So here's the year that was.


I wrote the final drafts of Wolf's Hill and the entirety of a new novel, The Mancunian Candidate.

I didn't sell any novels in 2017, but there may be news on that front soon. Or not, of course. Such is the business....

The paperback of Devil's Highway was published in February. (It first appeared as a hardback in December 2016, however, so would be ineligible for any awards for 2017, assuming anyone was daft enough to nominate it. For anyone daft enough to want to read it, the ebook's still only £1.99)

Novelettes and Short Stories

Finished the first draft of a novelette, Breakwater, and redrafted to completion.
Also wrote first drafts of four novelette-length (I think) stories. Redrafts ongoing.
Wrote and completed two other stories, currently making the rounds.

Short story 'Deadwater' accepted for publication in Ellen Datlow's anthology, Devil and the Deep.
Breakwater accepted for publication by in 2018.

Short fiction published this year:
'The Adventure of the Orkney Shark' in Sherlock Holmes' School of Detection.
'The Tarn' in The Beauty of Death 2: Death by Water.

Monday 18 December 2017

When You Hit The Wall

It happens to every writer sooner or later, at one time or another. Bad or good, male or female, old or young: sooner or later, on one project or another, you hit the wall.

The words just won't seem to come.

The characters are cardboard.

The writing is stilted and thin.

The story seems flimsy and superficial, with nothing of substance or originality to it. Derivative and second-rate. Nothing to say, and it doesn't even say it interestingly. Even to you, the author, it's boring.

Sometimes, the thing to do is track back through what you've done, to the last place where it felt as though things were going right: figure out where you took a wrong turn, and start from there.

Sometimes, you need to think through the stuff that underpins your story in greater depth: the characters, the setting, the relationships and power-games that underlie it all.

Sometimes, it's just a case of having temporarily written yourself out. The batteries are flat, because you've barely spent a minute away from your computer or notepad in the outside world, letting the details of people and places and things wash over you and fill you up with all those tiny sense-impressions, quirks and turns of phrase that funnel onto the page. There was a giant in Greek myth, Antaeus, who drew his strength from the Earth itself. As long as he was touching the ground, he was invincible. Herakles killed him by holding him aloft, so he became as weak as a kitten, then crushing him in a bear-hug. It's like that for writers - this one, anyway - and the outside world.

And sometimes, it's because the project itself is a dud. Or at least, it isn't the right time yet for you to write it.

Sometimes, too, the cause isn't easy to unravel. Could be that you'll struggle with anything else you try to do next. One derailed project can make getting back on the horse a struggle, can create a series of false starts and aborted novels or stories.

And what can you do?

Sometimes, you need a day or two off - but that can make getting back on the horse all the harder.

Sometimes, you need to get out of the house and get those batteries recharged.

Sometimes, you need to fix the work in progress.

Sometimes, you need to write something different.

(Like a blog post, maybe, especially when your blog's been so disused lately it's got cobwebs on it.)

In the end, though, you just don't give up. Mostly because you can't, no matter how much you feel like it. The writing won't let go of you that easily.

Sooner or later, you'll reach the other side of the wall. You'll climb over, or dig under, or go around. Or just bang your head against it so often that it falls down.

Like everything else, it'll pass.

And in the future, there'll be other walls, and you'll have to work out how get around or over or under or through them.

But the bits between one wall and the next?

They're what make it all worthwhile.

None of that helps, though, when you're banging your head against the wall and thinking that this is the last one and that there's no way through.