Objection and ME

I’m annoyed. Annoyed at myself mainly, but also annoyed at this condition I suffer from. (Last week I published a post about ME, which you can read here.)

As part of my MA in writing I set to writing a World War One novel. There were two main reasons for doing this. The first was that I have always had a love for history, and learning the lessons of the past to contextualise where we are today. As a teenager, I visited the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres. The graves and memorials set off something in me, something that I can only describe as a longing to understand “why”?

The second reason for writing the novel is that I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone of science fiction and fantasy and take advantage of the advice and guidance available on my Masters.

The more I researched the setting the more I saw how much Liverpool was linked to the war, and how much it was shaped by it. Everything around me held some link to the war. There were also several Liverpool regiments that fought in the bloodiest battlefields of the Great War. There were so many stories that needed to be told. I’d also watched a Sky one show called ‘Chickens’ about the conscientious objectors, those that refused to fight in the First World War, and it struck me that even a hundred years later these people were considered to be cowards. It infuriated me, and I decided to put a conscientious objector in my novel; the soldier’s brother.

Through drafting it became more and more obvious that both brothers had a story to tell, and through their contrasting stories would show the greater horror of The Great War.

I’m annoyed because last May (2016) I finished the full manuscript of the novel. (The first part was heavily edited as part of my portfolio work for my MA), and I was fairly happy to start sending it out to agents.

I’m annoyed because I then got very ill. I had the worst sinus infection I have ever had, and begun to feel like I did before I was first diagnosed with ME. I’ve only recently started to get back on my feet.

I’m annoyed because I’ve been sending it out to agents recently, but I’m worried that they will think I only wrote this novel to ride on the interest and popularity of the centenary of the First World War, which to me was merely a coincidence for the reasons I have mentioned earlier. I’m also worried that because it is already 2017 and a publishing cycle usually takes about two years (or so I believe?), that agents/publishers won’t take a risk because they think that it will miss the centenary of the end of the war, and the resultant interest.

I’m also annoyed because the film Hacksaw Ridge came out of left field and told the story of a ‘conchie’ in the second world war. It’s a different story, as conchies in WWI arguably had to go through a lot more, but it’s still a concern that people may feel this novel was written due to that. (I wish I could write 130,000 words that quickly!)

I hope that someone will pick it up. It was a very important story to write, and an important story to tell. I genuinely believe people will gain something from reading it. It would be a shame for it to sit in my drawer for the rest of my days.

If you know someone who may be interested, or are interested yourself, please get in contact. I will be more than happy to hear from you!

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I’ve been busy, write?

Well, look at that, it’s been ages since I made a blog post. I don’t really have any excuses except for that one that everyone always has ‘I’ve been busy’. Well, I have, but I really should have updated this blog more. I guess another reason that I had no updates is because I had no writing exercises to post from my masters course as the first year has now come to an end.

I spent most of May being very busy, coming towards the end of the first year of the course. As part of Liverpool’s ‘Writing on the Wall’ literary festival, they held a ‘Pulp Idol competition’, and I was encouraged to enter by the Master’s course leader. It was a completely nerve-wracking experience. I may stand up in front of a group and talk on a daily basis, but when it comes to reading out my own work it’s completely different. No matter how much I tried to convince myself I would be okay and it wasn’t too different to lecturing, I still got nervous. In the end I think it went quite well, I got up, read well and, I believe, answered the questions from the panel of judges well, but unfortunately I didn’t make it through. In fact, no one that had entered that heat from my class got through, which is disappointing. I did continue to follow the rest of the competition, going to the next heat and final, and I was pleased when my good friend Rob Knipe came runner up in the competition. Look out for his name as he’s now in contact with some agents and with any luck there will be some well written, hilarious sci fi and fantasy books coming to your shelves soon.

The rest of may I spent frantically trying to get ready for the end of the first year of the course. As per usual we had an assignment due. I used mine as an excuse to get the first part of a novel I am writing about the Great War done. It was a great idea at first, a hugely rich period of time and I definitely feel I have a story to tell (more about that in the future. I don’t want to give too much away now do I?), but I was somewhat naive to the sheer amount of research I would need to do. Of course I was aware of the fact of research and I had already been reading about the subject before I had the idea for the novel, but when I wrote something I had to make sure it was correct. The first scene is also set in Liverpool before the war, so I had to make sure that the feel and surroundings were correct. Everything I read unearthed more questions and more lines of research, and as usual with research it grew larger and larger over time. Thankfully I was able to get a edited draft in, and it’s in a state I’m quite happy with. It’s no means perfect, and there will definitely be some factual errors that till need ironing out, but it’s a start and I feel it’s quite compelling. Hopefully it will see the light of day.

So what else have I been doing that has kept me so busy? Well, amongst all that I was learning to drive. I had taken two tests when I was 18, but the examiners in Eastbourne, where I lived at the time, were the most grumpy people I have ever met (which is saying something for Eastbourne) and I failed them both for silly little reasons. So I gave up until now. I had forgotten how much time it took up, not just physically, but also mentally. Anyone that says it’s just two hours a week is underestimating. I may have had one hour lessons the first time, I can’t exactly remember, but two hours are intense. I had to repass the theory test, so that required preparation and the closer I got to the practical test the more nervous I became, and the less I could concentrate on anything else. Thankfully, on the 5th June I passed and I now sit here with a shiny pink driving licence (now to get a car…). But I have to make a note, I couldn’t have done it without the excellent tuition of Autonomy Driving School. If you’re learning near Liverpool then I thoroughly recommend Jan.

After passing, I then spent the entirety of the week, when not at work, recording guitars for the Lazarus Syndrome album. I’m a bit behind on this as everyone else (bar the vocals) has done their part. But, I’ve been busy, right? We all could do with a few more hours in the day. If you want more info on that check us out on Facebook.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope to have more updates for you soon. I’m currently waiting on someone to get in touch with me on a very important project, but I can’t really talk about that yet. I’m off to write…

Thanks for reading.

Write, Write, Right?

So last week was a mad-busy week and this is the first real time I’ve had to sit down at the computer and sum it up. With a new intake at work, which the resultant fresher’s flu I am now harbouring attests to, being absolutely busy. It was the first time I have had to teach more than twentyfour students in one go. I believe I had fortyeight in our new lecture theatre at capacity? That was pretty nerve-wracking to start off with, but I think I’ve got the hang of it now. It’s different, much like the new campus that we have only this week started using. (At points this week, I was finishing a lecture in one building then hot-footing it up to the new building to start another.)

Another new thing this week is that I started my Master’s course in Writing. It’s something that, admittedly, I have only been looking forward to for a short time. When compared to some of the people on the course who applied for it months ago I came across by pure chance in late August, I believe it was. And I lucked out. This was the first postgraduate course that has really caught my eye and inspired me, so I was delighted when I was offered a place.

To be in postgraduate education is really fun. Perhaps studying another course might have been different, but this was incredibly laid back and informative. We started by enrolling and while we waited for our course leader to come over and get us a few of us introduced ourselves. The great thing about the course is that it seems to be a group of like-minded people. While we may not all have the same interests there seems to be something that links us all, even if that is the very art of writing. Once we had gathered (almost) everyone, the course effectively started in the Starbucks on the ground floor of the building. This was a much better icebreaker than the usual, stand up, hi, I’m Mike, I do this and that, introduction that I dread. Even as a lecturer public speaking doesn’t come easily to me. We then moved on to the room in which, I presume, we will be spending the rest of the course. The facilities at LJMU seem fantastic, and much more than we need, with boundary mics on every table and a spectacular view of the city (complete with balcony). Here Jim, the course leader, introduced what we would be doing this semester and with a host of guest speakers and writing workshops, I’m really looking forward to it.

The second half of the class was a writing workshop with Andrew McMillan, and is the main reason I’m writing this blog.

We were given one of a selection of pictures from a magazine as a writing prompt. Then in our own style, be it prose, poetry or screenwriting, we were to write for ten minutes on each of the following:

1. From the viewpoint of the main person in the photo.

2. From the viewpoint of a secondary person in the photo (perhaps someone on the sidelines looking in)

3. From the viewpoint of an inanimate object in the photo.

On the night I didn’t get time to read out one of my stories, partly due to me being too shy and nervous. I think that will improve with time when I have a chance to gauge the level and style of everyone else in the class. Those that did, held up their picture and then read aloud their story. What I wanted to do, ever being a fan of suspense, was to read my story and then hold up the picture. To see if anyone had grasped what it was i was talking about. So here we go (perhaps with slight, typed editing from the written version): Continue reading