Category Archives: Writing

Asian Monsters

It’s been some time since I posted, but I am going to endeavour to make a change to that. A good time to celebrate this achievement is the release of a new anthology from Fox Spirit Books, Asian Monsters.

This is the third in a series from the award-winning small press and follows on from European Monsters and African Monsters. I’m so pleased to have my story in there, and honoured to be among such diverse and talented authors of Asian descent. This is particularly exciting for me because this is the first time I’ve had an accompanying illustration for a story. The cover art by Daniele Serra is incredible as always, and the internal art is by several different artists. Imran Siddiq has illustrated for my story “Aswang”.   Asian Monsters is now available on Amazon. Looking forward to reading it!

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THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP

This comes to me courtesy of the delightful Ren Warom, you should check her out. She’s in the middle of editing her first novel in a trilogy, Coil, and her industry has infected me (and rightly so) or rather, she has nominated me in this blog hop doodah thingy. Normally this stuff make me cringe but it was good fun reading her post as it gets straight to all the juicy questions about a book.

What is the working title of your book?

Where Dead Gods Lie Buried – this is either the first book and/or the series title

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

I was grasped by one of those ludicrous ideas to write a short story a week for a year and just keep working the hamster wheel, churning out a stock of stories. What actually happened was I began free-writing  the first one, showed it to my friend David and we started chucking ideas back and forth. It grew.

The original opening scene was just about a dark, grim city, not the kind of place you’d want to visit on your holidays, that twists and bends under its own corruption. The protagonist walks into this place she calls home and soon finds everything she knows is turning against her.

What genre does your book fall under?

Definitely secondary world fantasy, possibly epic, most likely of the noir variety.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

Gary Oldman, James Earl Jones, Naomie Harris, Miriam Margolyes

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Amid a religious war, a thief on the run joins forces with a monk and an assassin to stop the end of the civilised world.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

Hopefully the latter.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

One year. We chucked away more than 100k, but it was fun.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie, The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. And without the genre I would say books by mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett have similar tones, such as The Dain Curse. There’s a problem to solve, and the person solving it is just as problematic.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 

If I’m honest it was just that feeling you get when you are in the middle of reading a really great story. Yes I am probably pumping my ego by even mentioning those names above, but that sensation made me want to put pen to paper and generate something from within me that would give people a story they can get their teeth into.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

We’re two people writing one novel so that’s an interesting dynamic to work with as a writer and possibly to observe as a reader as well. Our characters are not straight-cut good and bad people; the protagonist is female, non-white and gay; we chose to set it in a world where  there are no horses . . . so that’s been a lot of fun and fascinating too. If you like violence, grim humour and moral ambiguity this might be what you are looking for.

(this question invented by me in case anyone is wondering) What stage is your book at now?

We are currently reaching the end of the rewrite and then the final edits will begin. The aim is to have the polished manuscript fresh and ready to submit in early spring.

And now I have to nominate five people to pass this on to. Thus I present my fab five (who wear me out just observing their productivity):

The fearless Jen Williams – awesome writer of the Copper Promise fantasy novella series, check it.

The tireless Joanne Hall – author of The Feline Queen and other short stories, The Hierath  trilogy of fantasy novels, as well as bustling organiser of cool things such as the amazing Bristolcon coming this weekend. Get a ticket, go!

The irrepressible Anne-Mhairi Simpson – serial YA fantasy author, and now an editor of anthologies too.

The tenacious Nicole L Bates – from across the pond, author of the Empyrean SF trilogy.

The industrious Colin F Barnes – overlord at Anachron Press, crafter of many a fine horror and SF tale, including the latest shiny addition to his arsenal, a cyberpunk novellette series called The Techxorcist. See his post here.

Fellowship, success and coincidence

I had a great chat with YA fantasy writer Anne Mhairi Simpson last night. We took a look at our situations in terms of our writing careers and realised we had a lot in common, same with a lot of our fellow writing buddies. Anyway, see what she has to say about it here.

Altfiction 2012

Hot on the heels of last weekend’s Eastercon I woke at dawn with my tin of cakes and made my way to Leicester. Gorgeous place, beautiful buildings, I wish I’d had more time to take it all in. This was my first Altfiction and it’s significantly more about the craft and business of writing compared to Eastercon, which focused more on fandom. Nevertheless there were plenty of reviewers and readers, as well as writers, who were all enjoying themselves thoroughly as far as I could tell. There was cake, and there was possibly the best fudge I have ever tasted. Everyone was very friendly, warm and welcoming. Even better still, the bar was very reasonably priced.

I began at Mark Chadbourn’s (non) workshop in which he spoke about the business of writing. This was fascinating, positive and really encouraging. It focused on writing as a profession rather than an art, and went into detail about the various ways one can make a proper living from their skills.

Next I went to the New Writers’ panel, chaired by Jon Weir of Gollancz. The authors were Emma Newman, Vincent Holland-Keen, Tom Pollock and Lou Morgan. It seems that most people start their writing career in very similar ways – the imaginative, geeky kid at school that likes to entertain their classmates with stories, for example. But the path to publication varies wildly. Some go the traditional submit/agent/publisher route but there are many serendipitous events and uncanny ways in which things come together. That’s not to deny that there are many years of hard work involved in getting to that stage, but it’s always inspiring and fascinating to hear these stories.

Sunday was more leisurely. There was a fascinating discussion between Kate Laity and Graham Joyce about the Extremely Dangerous Fairy Folk, and their cultural history. I could have listened to it all day.

Straight after was a panel on diversity chaired by Mark Charan Newton with Anne Lyle, Sarah Cawkwell and Adrian Tchaikovsky. Gender parity is a hot topic in SFF at the moment, and it came up again at Eastercon, albeit in a more positive light. I was quite relieved to find that this discussion focused on representation of LGBT and ethnic minorities (or majorities as the case may be). It did touch on the subject of gender, and the dreaded words “As a woman . . .” came out. Puh-lease can we focus on people as writers and not genders?

I thought the panel handled the issues well. I think it is true that fictional worlds in fantasy, secondary worlds especially, must obey their own logic. If we seek to mirror or show an alternate world to ours we often replicate a vast majority of what is or was real, and if we are going to be truthful we need to acknowledge that we live in a world and society filled with many different types of people, who all deserve representation.

The social time was wonderful, the venue is perfect for such an event. I met some fantastic people who I’d only ever tweeted or read about before. It was a very warm and welcoming atmosphere. People often describe the SFF community as being like a ‘family’, and I definitely felt that this weekend.

Thanks to: @RenWarom @Erik_Lundqvist @KTScribbles @FionaSutton3 @ctjhill @hagelrat @mygoditsraining @PabloCheesecake  Adrian Tchiakovsky @MadNad @patkelleher @ClarkeAward @Paul_Cornell @AnneLyle @LouMorgan @tompollock @kaitharshayr @AMhairiSimpson @MarkChadbourn @mariaAsmith and plenty more for a sublime two days.

Eastercon Olympus 2012

My third con ever, and my first Eastercon it was by all accounts its most successful year. No doubt the main reason for that being the main GoH George RR Martin, who featured prevalently in proceedings. This is the first year they have actually sold out of tickets. I felt privileged to be at the 63rd British National Science Fiction Convention. It was held at Heathrow Radisson Hotel, a building someone described as built by an architect unfamiliar with euclidean geometry, and composed entirely of gleaming marble, glass and wood panelling. Confusing as it was, it was pretty luxurious, with a price tag to match (£9.45 for a gin and tonic), and some very strange artwork in the atrium bar.

Unfortunately I was only able to make Sunday but it felt good to arrive when the party was already in full swing, so to speak. The first panel I attended was ‘Promoting Yourself Online’. It was chaired by Danie Ware of Forbidden Planet (as well as author of debut novel Ecko Rising, a hotly anticipated genre mash-up coming out later this year), and the panellists were Elspeth Cooper (Author of the Wild Hunt Series), Paul Cornell, Tom Hunter (of the Clarke awards) and Simon Spanton of Gollancz.

Danie began by commenting on the early days of Twitter, when just a few souls used it and thought themselves very clever, before it exploded in size on an unimaginable scale. Since that growth the importance of Twitter (and to be honest, it was Twitter that the talk focused on) has increased to the extent that, as Danie pointed out, a top-selling author who isn’t on twitter will attract fewer customers to a signing than a newer kid on the block who is actively tweeting.

The panel reflected on what Twitter should and should not be about. There was overwhelming agreement that it should not be the place to push your books, chat about mundane, irrelevant things, nor overshare personal information. They agreed that to promote yourself you do so by helping other people, and by being yourself. Simon Spanton commented on the way that it enables the writer and reader to really get to know one another, and how this can only be a good thing.

Next on my schedule (all worked out by a cunning app available on the Olympus website called Guidebook) was the GRRM interview. This was a fascinating talk, and in the hour and a half that I sat there (it really didn’t seem that long) George described his path to success, the pitfalls of writing and television work, some humorous anecdotes about filming the pilot of the hugely successful television series A Game of Thrones and some genuine nuggets of wisdom for all the aspiring writers in the audience. What resonated with me was his comment on Tolkien (he has been dubbed the American Tolkien, which I don’t think is entirely fair to either man). He said that we are all (fantasy writers) in the man’s shadow, and that it is a common error of the newbie author to spend vast amounts of time worldbuilding, when they should be concentrating on the story and the characters. Tolkien was not primarily a writer, he was a linguist and an Oxford Don. He was drawn to creating languages and cultures at a level far deeper than most people go. George talked of the iceberg of worldbuilding beneath the Lord of the Rings books, the portion that we see above the surface. Our stories, he said, should be akin to ice rafts, it’s not worth fleshing out and wasting time on stuff that nobody is going to read. A language student wrote to him and asked about the Valyrian tongue, to which he replied ‘I’ve written seven words in Valyrian, when I need an eighth I’ll make one up’.

It was a surreal feeling seeing George among the attendees, milling happily without any pretension. I did get a bit of a silly fangirl moment when I asked him for his autograph and could think of nothing to say other than ‘I enjoyed the talk’. I don’t know if it was his beard and bearing but I suddenly felt like a kid brought into Santa’s grotto and overcome by awe.

The dealer room was very large and constantly busy. At the Angry Robot table I was disappointed (and yet pleased) to see that Anne Lyle’s The Alchemist of Souls had completely sold out. I got a copy of Adam Christopher’s Empire State which he kindly signed for me after his gripping first chapter reading of Seven Wonders. I will definitely be buying that book.

Something that pleased me about being at Eastercon was the broad spectrum of attendees, and according to the reports, the near equal gender parity among them. I also noticed this on the panels and it was refreshing to see a lot of women leading the discussions (this in wake of the seemingly unequal gender balance at the recent SFX Weekender). I was disappointed to miss the panel on minority representation in fandom, but I hope in the future we will see an even greater diversity in the SFF crowd at cons.

There was only one low point which I will briefly touch on, the thirty eight minute preamble to the BSFA awards. I was brought to mind of the panel on Promoting Yourself Online when smartphones all around me glowed beneath the faces of the audience, a furious storm of reaction unfolding on my twitter feed. Despite the irrelevant, confusing and at one point offensive nature of this skit, I was completely baffled by the amount of time spent on it compared to the actual prize giving itself, which was over in something like ten minutes. One of the winners was Christopher Priest, who ironically lambasted the Clarke Awards recently for its shortlist (of which he was not a member). His one liner about the quality of the award itself was far funnier than anything in the previous ‘entertainment’.

As well as the panels, readings, stalls and goodybags, what cons are really about are the people. It was such a pleasure to meet people in the flesh who I have read about and tweeted to over the last few months. I caught up with old friends, made some new ones and I would liken to experience to a reunion of the best kind. There were no boundaries or barriers: between ability, race, generation, gender, writer or reader.

Next week: Alt.Fiction!

Lucky 7 Meme/Seven Sentence Snippet

I needed an excuse for a new post. I was tagged by Gayle Ramage as part of this Lucky 7 Meme. Here’s how to play (not compulsory!)

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS (or if you haven’t 77 pages, 7 or 17, or 27 etc)
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

I’ve decided to choose seven from a short story I’ve just finished the first draft of. The working title is ‘Mrs Numler’s Gold’.

“Won’t Lord Slavin wonder where his clerk is?” said Slant, pouring the brandy with a gug-gugging sound into the glasses.
“Still up on The Rise for all he knows. I don’t think he’ll begrudge a restorative.”
“And this nephew of Mrs Numler, what’s your take on it?” said Fonbrace.
Gim sank into the velvet chairback, blowing through his lips like a horse.
“The god damn me if I know, but you can bet he’s not got a good reason for coming out this way, whatever it is.”
“When’s he coming?”
Gim took out the missive shell and showed them the tiny script.
I now tag:
1. Colin F Barnes
2. Ren Warom
3. Tammy Crosby
4. Celyn Armstrong
5. Matt T Dillon
6. Lucy Morgan
7. Mhairi Simpson

The year to come

New year’s eve is a time for reflection, so here’s my little run down of what has happened this year:

Achievements

Completed a first draft of a novel

Something my cowriter and I are very proud of, and still amazed by. The last few months have been a keen learning experience and we continue to hammer the material into shape.

Completed a short story draft

Something I did in a hurry that I found immensely pleasurable. This too is currently subject to editing and rewriting.

Received my first rejections

This might not strike as an achievement, but for me it shows that at least I got as far as submission. Again it was a learning point and I never regard a single word as wasted, it all leads to something.

Entered a rapier tournament

When the opportunity arose and I was asked I faced my doubt and threw myself into it. I thank my instructors for giving me a new way of considering just about any challenging situation – to just face the moment and disregard what has happened and what is to come.

Attended two literary conventions

I decided it was time to serious-up about writing and the social network that surrounds it. Fantasycon and Bristolcon were both fun and educational  – far more than I expected them to be.

Attended two HEMA conventions

As I progress in this martial art I find new ways to grow and develop, and have realised what a huge world of learning and experience there is to be had out there. Fightcamp and Rapier were highlights of 2011.

Completed my practical (five fights) and written (a translation) elements for my Laureando (swordfighting) assessment

I was honoured to be considered ready to take this, and have yet to hear my results, so fingers crossed I have ‘levelled up’ as a fighter.

Bought two swords and a dagger

Okay, this is a bit more than just retail therapy, but I can think of few things more pleasurable than buying weapons. For me it is a physical affirmation of how seriously I wish to take my studies.

Helped to edit two translations

I would expand on this but . . . we don’t talk about fightclub.

Entered twitter, WordPress and the world of social networking

I have two very close friends in my writers group, as well as my coauthor, but twitter has brought me into a world of people with similar interests, where I have made some good friends. So much so that a few of us are planning our own little ‘con’ in Spring.

Goals

Complete editing on the novel and submit to agents

I am confident that we can achieve this. The progress is going well, we are both very happy with what we have achieved so far, and we have a plan 🙂

Submit and become published in an anthology

I was kindly asked if I would like to submit to an upcoming anthology. This was the short story mentioned above. I just hope that it meets requirements. And even if it doesn’t, I had good fun working on it.

Enter Rapier 2012, Swordfish and Fightcamp tournaments

Taking part in Rapier 2011 did great work for my confidence, and as one of only two women taking part I’m fairly sure it gave confidence to my fellow swordswomen to take part in next year’s competitions. Swordfighting is largely a boy’s club, but I have faith that good technique, if I can learn and apply it, will serve me well even against the most strong and brutal opponent.

Achieve Laureando status

I should find out how I fared in the next couple of weeks. If I didn’t pass then I’ll make sure I do next time.

Get fitter

Like most people over the winter season the food has not been kind to my waistline. With more opportunities to spar I hope to improve my overall fitness and achieve better movement.

Write every single day

Until the first draft was completed this went without saying. Since then my focus has been on editing, and over Xmas I have found myself less and less available to commit time to it. I know I can do it, so there’s no excuse really.

Read more books, especially non-fiction

Joining Goodreads has helped, and it’s shown me my reading pattern: I tend to have an audiobook, at least one paper book and an ebook on the go at any one time. There are so many great fantasy novels out there that I want to read – classics as well as debut authors’ work that came out in the last year, but I keep meaning to read beyond my genre, get into scifi, for example. Also there are plenty of non-fiction books full of inspiration for a fantasy author, history ones in particular.

Help other people to achieve their goals, whether it’s writing, swordfighting or anything else that I can assist with.

One of the great things about twitter is that you can learn from other people’s knowledge and experience. On more than one occasion I have been able to offer mine. I’ve critiqued, offered advice about lessons, given feedback, searched for information on a topic. I am deeply grateful to those who have taught me about blogging, writing and publishing as well.

Put our regular content

I don’t want this to be a blog full of random waffle to keep myself at the top of searches, I want it to be engaging and useful. I owe it to those of you who read it.

I wish you all a successful and happy 2012. What are your plans for the year to come?

Bristolcon 2011

My second con ever, and only twenty days after the first one (Fantasycon). Having learned my lesson from last time I went prepared (laptop, kindle, programme, pens, food), and I travelled by train so I could have the luxury of  a bit of me time – for reading, writing, eating and . . . er, tweeting.

It was strange to be leaving everyone else at home and being out on my very own for an entire day. Might not strike you as strange but for the last four years I’ve had two little people to wait on, I mean, care for (three if you include my husband). I left the house in darkness, as the light grew I settled down and read a quarter of Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick and some of the opening chapter of Wolfsangel by MD Lachlan.

The hotel was big, plush and modern, not the cosy, faded grandeur of The Albion. Their wifi actually worked which was a bonus. Because it was bigger and with fewer guests (roughly 150 compared to the 500 odd that were at Fantasycon) there was less of a shoulder-to-shoulder atmosphere with the other guests which had provoked a lot of conversation and made it a little easier to chat to people. However this time round I didn’t have David the icebreaker with me, and coffee, rather than booze, seemed very much to be the fuel of choice.

Soon after I arrived I bumped into Anne Lyle, the only familiar face, but everyone there was very friendly and I wish, as usual that I had spent more time talking to people.

Bristolcon was split into two streams so at any one time you had two options of panel or workshop to attend. In between each one was a reading. Simultaneously they were running something called Kaffeeklatch – a word of Dutch origin which is where a small group of people get to meet and chat over coffee with an author.

I got a very nice goody bag, with lots of sample chapters, badges, stickers, posters and a copy of Brisingr by Christopher Paolini. Which I guess means that I now have to buy the previous books if I want to read it! Read on for more commentary on epic fantasy.

I started in Programme one, where Joanne Hall, the chair of Bristolcon made a friendly introduction. There then followed a panel with Justina Robson (chair), Gareth L Powell, Alex Keller, Joanne Hall, Dolly Garland and MD Lachlan. The subject was If all men are authors, who are the audience?  The general consensus was that anyone should be allowed to write a book, but unless it is well written and edited it should not be unleashed on the public. Along the way there were a lot of insights into the working life of an author and the different writers’ experiences of the industry.

Later in the afternoon I attended The Genesis Panel – how does an novel become epic? chaired by Cheryl Morgan, with Alastair Reynolds, Philip Reeve, MD Lachlan, Harriet Castor and Alex Keller.

This was of significant importance to me because our manuscript is far bigger than we had originally intended, and I wanted some insight into whether this was because we needed to cut it into two books or do some serious pruning. It was very interesting to listen to. I got the impression that publishers are more than likely going to ask for a sequel soon after as they take a writer on board. Sometimes they ask for multiple book contracts, and sometimes they reject the book you’ve written in preference for the synopsis you’ve prepared for its sequel.

I listened to Philip Reeve’s reading from his latest book, Scriveners Moon, part of the Mortal Engines series. It’s a childrens story set in a post-apocalyptic future, I found it very entertaining and Philip has a commanding presence as a reader.

After a couple of hours of more mooching, looking round, eating and tweeting, I went to Mark Barrowcliffe’s (MD Lachlan’s) Write your novel in 45 minutes. Yes, I was intrigued by the title and the challenge. In this time we as a group outlined a comedic tale about an incompetent intelligence officer with an AI laptop that is working like a modern-day genie to improve his standing in life, with farcical results. It was a bit of fun and there were some interesting ideas thrown around, but the serious side of it was getting the stucture of a novel put together, and seeing how Mark (who teaches creative writing) goes through the process of creating a bare skeleton of a plot.

This was followed by a reading from Mark’s new WIP (which I believe he has another pen name for), set in the dark ages. It was certainly very intriguing, full of dark humour in a very vivid setting.

The last panel I attended was The Life Cycle of an Author – or – George RR Martin is not your Bitch, to quote the now legendary Neil Gaiman phrase. The panel consisted of Wayne Simmons (Chair), Joanne Hall, Anne Lyle, Jaine Fenn and Paul Cornell. It was both entertaining and intriguing, as the panellists explored the unrealistic expectations they had experienced of the readers of their work, ranging from ‘do you just write the words in the little balloons?’  to ‘Are you the next JK Rowling?’.

I finished the day by listening to Anne Lyle reading from her upcoming debut, The Alchemist of Souls. I can’t remember if it was the opening chapter but the atmosphere she set was tangible in the reading, and the supernatural elements quickly become part of the story. I can’t wait to read it.

In all it was a great day, busy. I learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of publishing and the craft of writing. I scribbled a ton of stuff for my short story on the train ride home. And I was pleased to meet Marc Aplin of Fantasy Faction, who I didn’t manage to bump into at Fantasycon, and proselytise him into swordfighting, something he has been curious about for some while. He’s promised to teach me how to kick people in the head next time we meet.

What now?

As David has already mentioned we have finished the first draft of book one (or maybe books one and two, or perhaps book one and a bit). So for the first time in two years I find myself without the need to write on a daily basis . . . or do I?

Prior to Where Dead Gods Lie Buried I was ninety thousand words deep into the draft of a YA fantasy novel. I now consider this the beginnings of my training, along with a blog of flash fiction that I did for a year prior to that. I abandoned it and started something new (the short that later became WDGLB), with the aim to coming back to it at some point. In all honesty I think one day I will dust it off, strip it down to a few paragraphs and do it properly. That was when I was a pantser, I am still a pantser, but in small, plottable chunks. Hold me closer, tiny pantser . . .

Anyway, to this end, and to pass the time whilst waiting for David to shuffle all the bits and pieces into chapters and cast his copy editor’s eye over the first draft, I thought to try a short story in the same world.

I’m one of these people who needs a kick start to get my engine running, after that I can go with it. I might crash it into a wall, but I’ve resolved to just keep going if that happens again. So I googled one of those plot generators and it gave me a two sentence synopsis – in fact that’s what got me cracking with my original short story.

I’ve started drafting, plotting and sketching it out – I’m just going to have fun with it, keep myself busy. In fact, shortly after I started Matt T Dillon asked me if I was going to consider such a thing, the man’s psychic!

So watch this space, or rather this space. I may have something for you in the near future.

The Pen and the Sword

Today I want to talk about how my fencing has affected my writing.

My sword school have been planning a tournament for months, their first in something like ten years. I’ve been thinking all along that I would be happy to just hang around, help out, be a runner. I’m not ready for tournament, that’s for people who are ‘really good’.

But the pool of rapierists in Europe is not that deep. And as a result you get widely varying levels of skill. As the weekend draws nearer and nearer we’ve been preparing and training harder and harder – well, at least, everyone else has been preparing. I’ve just been training as normal. A couple of the guys asked if I was going to compete. I just shrugged and said ‘No I’m not ready for it.’.  When they tried to encourage me I said that I didn’t think it was fair on me or anyone else competing to go in half-hearted, you need to really, really want to do something like that. Have a strategy, play to win etc. Ambivalence is not the best frame of mind for success.

Then last week it was announced that there was a space free, the guy who was supposed to fill it found that he wasn’t able to attend. And so . . . I volunteered, telling myself I was helping by making up the numbers. I was amazed to find that I was not all that nervous. I worried initially that I wasn’t prepared enough, but our tutor gave us a drill where we only had to focus on the next hit – as long as we made contact and they didn’t then we had succeeded. You live, your attacker dies, end of. That is basically the premise of fencing, to defend oneself. That one nugget of information was a revelation to me. To focus only on right now, and make right now the best I can do.

What’s this got to do with writing? Well the idea of being ‘good enough’ and being prepared.

Swordfighting is the only sport I’ve ever liked. At school I was the kid who always had a note to get out of games. I hated it – the physical exertion was like a punishment, the competitive element seemed divisive. But it’s only in the last couple of years I’ve discovered Historical European Martial Arts – and it has changed my life. I go twice a week and have to say it is an addiction.

My involvement in the practice coincided with my rejuvenated urge to write, and a lot of the lessons can be applied to writing. Here’s what I’ve learned:

All that matters is your next hit.

The sword –  Don’t worry about if you are 2-0 down or 0-2 up. Just make sure you strike without being struck.

The pen – So what if your last piece got ripped to shreds in crit group? You got a rejection slip? Don’t dwell on it and move on. Write the best piece you can, right now.

Fight your fight.

The sword – Don’t be in obedience. If your opponent comes at you, throw something back, rather than performing according to their motions.

The pen – Don’t worry about what’s popular, what sells. Write your  story, one that speaks to you. If it pleases you, chances are it will please someone else.

Keep moving.

The sword – You can stand your ground and fight them off, but this presents them with an easy target. Keep moving, give them something to work against. It’s actually less straining.

The pen – If your writing freezes up, comes to a part where you’re not sure what happens next . . . keep going. Better to write stuff that can be edited down again into something better than nothing at all.

Enjoy it.

The sword – Don’t focus on winning, focus on making the cleanest hits you can, demonstrate that you are a good swordsman, regardless of the score.

The pen – Write because you love writing. Publication is the end goal, but remember to enjoy the ride. If you enjoy writing something and you are relaxed, the likelihood is that feeling will transfer to your reader.

This last bit of advice came from Doug Hulick, and I think has to be the most pertinent of all. “Have fun. It’s the fun fights you remember the longest.”

So when I enter the tournament this weekend, I will try my best not to worry that I’m not ‘good enough’. Everybody has to have a first tournament at some time. If I don’t get beyond the first round, then at least I can say I’ve done it, and next time I enter a tournament it will be with experience.

And when we come to submit this book of ours, I will do my best to maintain the same state of mind. That if it gets rejected all I know is that we will have to try harder (hopefully with some advice) to make it the best book we can.

How about you? What have you learnt in life that has also found ways of applying to your writing?