Where one writer leaves all his thoughts on books, music, writing and his daily life
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
A Month of Blogging
It's helped me get a lot of thoughts out, though, in a way that nothing else has. On top of that, it's ensured that I stuck to my New Year's Resolution to write every day this year.
But just how much did I write this month? Here are the statistics:
Over the past 29 days, I wrote 24402 words, an average of 813 words per post.
My longest post was 1843 words, on April 11th: The Write Life.
My shortest post was a mere 183 words, on April 24th: Shortlisted. I wrote it on my phone on a bus late at night, unsure what to say.
My most viewed post was Aspiring? from April 6th.
My most commented-on post was When I Grow Up from April 2nd.
This month has had the most views overall out of any other month since statistics kicked in in July 2008.
Let's look at those statistics in terms of what they are equivalent to. During the month, I wrote enough words to have written a novella. My longest post consists of more words than the average required to complete NaNoWriMo. People engaged most with posts about dreams and aspirations in writing.
Considering the amount of work I've had to do, the last-chance days with friends, working weekends, still being in college for half the month, and having two poetry nights to attend, I think I did quite well to have written all that I did. If I were to replicate such writing outside of blogging, I could still write a novella per month, or a 75,000 word novella in three. This is without pushing myself to write the NaNoWriMo minimum every day. Doing that would half the amount of time it takes me write something - given the average words per post - which means that, in theory, even with a full-time job, I could still write a few books per year.
That makes the future much less terrifying.
There has always been this fear that full-time employment would reduce the amount of writing I could do to a bare minimum, and not enough to actually pursue it as a career. Given the fact that I still work a lot under pressure from college assignment and Teaching Placement, I think I'll be alright.
And, for the record, as of this post I have written 24900 words in the month, an average of 830 per post. That's pretty cool, right? If you want to check out this month's posts, click on the following link: http://paulcarrollwriter.blogspot.com/p/april-2013-posts.html
Monday, April 29, 2013
Too dramatic? Okay, let's dial it back a bit. It started last night when, out of curiosity, I search for my own website on Google. Actually, I searched for myself, but I knew my website should pop up in the results.
It did. With a warning. And I immediately knew why.
At some point, a bit of code attached itself to my website. I don't think it's especially malicious, except that it draws spam to the site, and tries to attach itself to links in the description on social media. On a couple of occasions I've had to actively removed the description to prevent the code displaying.
I searched through my site, but I could never find it.
Today, I decided to search everything. Everything. Unfortunately, beginning at my hosting site was probably the worst decision I could have made. It said I didn't have Wordpress installed. That made me worry, that maybe the code had done something. I clicked 'Install' through the host...and lost everything.
So, that sucked.
I panicked, I clicked 'Uninstall', it fixed nothing. In fact, I was left with literally nothing. Not even a Wordpress site without anything on it.
I went to FileZilla. I tried fixing the site manually. Over an hour passed, no progress made. I panicked even more. I Googled everything I could think of to try fix it. Eventually, I decided to try add Wordpress to the site again. I downloaded the most up to date version, because my older files didn't seem to be doing anything.
And boom: the site was back. I still had my posts. I calmed down.
Except... well, I couldn't actually access any pages. And that damned code was still there. I could see popping up as my website got back on its feet, pages not loading quite so quickly as they should. I snarled. In my head, I snarled. I would get it yet, just as soon as the website was functioning.
Google, again. Getting annoyed. Permalinks, that was the answer. And dammit, I made it work. I made the damned thing work.
There was only one thing left to do: wipe that damn code off my site, once and for all.
I went to the Editor in Wordpress, reserved for editing the Theme. I didn't care: I knew what I was looking for. I had seen a word of the code pop up over and over again. I searched for it on every page in the Editor, and finally, there in the Header file, I found it: a massive block of text and HTML links, a beacon for spam bots, a paragraph to paste itself onto social media descriptions of posts from my website.
I killed the bugger, claimed back my site.
It's all calm now. The site isn't dangerous - never was - but that code was there. It was more of a bother for me than for anyone else. Want proof? Google have a diagnostic check: http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=paulcarrollwriter.com
It's all fine. Even back in February it was fine, with the code on it. It wasn't malware, which was a relief to discover. It was just an annoying beacon.
I can stop being all dramatic about it, now, right?
Sunday, April 28, 2013
However, John's brother Hank is but one person who demonstrably created new options for himself. His main field of work, before the Brotherhood 2.0 project, was in ecology. (That's simplifying it.) A few years later, he's a multi-album, sell-out-touring musician (with his own record company, too, DFTBA Records), who runs a major video conference every year (Vid-Con), helped produce a web-series (The Lizzie Bennett Diaries) and runs a number of smaller, but still significant, projects, including a business that sells 2-D Glasses. His choice way back in his teens? To study Science. Hank also considers the greater questions in life, but he's a teaching qualification away from having his own classroom, even for Science, but that doesn't stop him running Sci-Show and co-running Crash Course on YouTube.
But what about someone without a college qualification? Of the people I'm familiar with online, Alex Day - another YouTuber - shows that you don't need to have a degree to make something of yourself. He's a college dropout turned Top-40 musician. (I don't think he liked the course very much, though his one-time membership in Mensa suggests he was more than capable of actually completing it.) He also releases albums with DFTBA Records, along with t-shirts, but released his singles solo. He also has a card game (made with his cousin) called Sopio, and runs Life Scouts.
Do our choices limit our options? Not necessarily. Day and the Green Brothers (John being a former hospital chaplain, among other things, before finding fame and fortune through vlogbrothers and his New York Times Bestselling novels - enough to live on with his wife, son, dog, and a second child on the way) show clearly that their choices in their teenage years didn't stop them following through on their dreams and ambitions. Is it possible for everybody else?
Let's look at it in my case. Technically speaking, I'll be qualified to teach. However, a degree in English also allows for me to work comfortably in a number of different fields, including publishing and journalism. I made the decision to write as much as possible when I was fourteen years old, and that hasn't limited anything I've done in life. Far from it. If anything, I've given myself more options, especially coming to the end of my college years.
But I also have an interest in business. I read about it as much as I can, when I'm not working on essays or studying for exams. I have a business plan in the works (a project I've mentioned before in more vague terms that is becoming less of a secret with certain people, but still very much private), something that has only been affected by one formal choice in my life - to study Business at Leaving Cert level - but is otherwise based upon my own interests.
What's most significant about this, for people who might feel they are limited by what they studied formally, is that something I did privately, out of my own interest, that was in no way connected to my formal education, is now affecting my life in a postive way. Just as Alex liked card games, John loved writing and Hank enjoyed music and videos, my personal interests are impacting on the options I have in life, opening them up, rather than limiting what I can do in life.
Something Dave Lordan mentioned at yesterday's workshop comes to mind as I write this, too: it's not the builders, the electricians or the plumbers he knows who are finding work, but the writers, the artists and the musicians. Working in the Arts is an option, now, more so than ever before, and especially in Ireland.
My recommendation, though, is to learn something about business and marketing if you want to make something of yourself in the arts. (I have an interest in them, and so began reading about them before making the realisation that it was actually beneficial in being a writer.) It's possible to do something without knowing much about business, but it's much, much easier to actually have control over your life when you know how others do - this going beyond mind-set, and into actual practices. There's also the advantage of being reminded of some important factors, like who you will deal with in being an artist (in many cases, retailers, publishers and the media) and how you present yourself to these people; how forecast your money, and the reminder to pay taxes on what you earn (in some countries there's an exemption, or a reduced rate - check with your tax office!); thinking about how to work in the long-term (for businesses, making changes or releasing products); and a whole lot else (especially in terms of marketing) that can make drastic and sometimes necessary changes to how to work as an artist.
Do you need a professional qualification to run a business? No.
Do you need a professional qualification to work as an artist? No.
Both are things you can pick up yourself if it suits you. You already have options in your life, based on your previous choices. Most of the time, as John Green rightly said, your decisions reduce the number of options available to you. However, that doesn't mean there aren't many decisions you can make that will do the opposite. Consider your hobbies, your current job, your current situation in life (married? kids? pets?) and the courses and books available to you, and tell me you have no more options. For most, it's simply a matter of making one more decision.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Heart in my Mouth
Today, the final day of the Heart in Mouth Audio Poetry competition took me out to Swords (immediately after a four hour shift in work). In the Council Chambers, a room that looked way too official for me to enter in Converse and wearing (hidden under my shirt) a Giant Squid of Anger t-shirt. At around four, the wonderful duo of Dave Lordan and Karl Parkinson led some of the shortlisted poets in the competition (including yours truly) and some others that found their way into the workshop (still figuring that one out).
What did I learn? Specifically, that's too much information for a post like this. However, they covered a lot through the collected weaknesses of the group, from stance on stage, volume, pace and confidence. In a single reading (of Bottom of the Bottle), I found some extra confidence for later in the evening. But we'll get to that later.
The workshop, and the food to follow, allowed me to meet some of the other shortlisted poets, people from all walks of life. Long conversations were had about poetry and how long we've been writing and how diverse the group seemed to be. Dave and Karl got involved in the conversations (and one with the latter and a particularly vocal member of the group will stick with me!) and everyone seemed to find someone to talk to, food to eat, and a ridiculous amount of tea.
It was almost a bad idea. Almost.
Right before we began the showcase, the rest of the shortlisted poets who would be attending showed up, along with a couple of the country's finest performance poets. They missed the food, but they were still there to read.
In the end, Dave decided it would be fun to seat us in the centre of the room, surrounded by the audience, all of us in seats that we could get used to, but probably shouldn't. They were just too comfortable, and very official. Nothing like an official chair, is there?
One by one, and counter-clockwise (because anything with a counter is good, right?), we stood at what could be considered the top of the (circular) room, and read our entries. We were a nervous bunch, by and large, some of us less experienced than others, but I really think we did a good job, put on a good show, and did ourselves proud. I found a strange confidence while reading, though I became aware of my pace (too quick) and my eyes (not looking at the audience enough). I think I did alright, though, and a couple of the more experienced poets (including the eventual winner) complimented me on the poem.
So, no, I didn't win. But I didn't really think I might after hearing some of the others. I did manage to sit between the winner and one of the two runners-up, though. (It's possible they meant to sit beside each other and I got in the way, but I didn't get in the way of their conversations during the break. They were fun to listen to!)
It as a great day, really and truly, and aside from having to get a taxi home (my bank account hurts...), I wouldn't have changed a thing about it. I wouldn't even name-drop Balor Reborn to people. (Time and a place, right?) Though, maybe, I might try get more sleep the night before.
Friday, April 26, 2013
1. A Timetable
Admitting to myself that the odds of full-time employment are not necessarily high in the foreseeable future, I've drawn up a timetable for myself. It's divided quite simply into: morning, mid-morning, noon, afternoon, late afternoon, evening and night, with the acceptance that in setting particular times to do particular things I was leaving out a meal per day, and all the household tasks that are necessary for living.
To this timetable, which includes my standard weekend hours at the bookshop, my cinema trip each week, New Comic Book Day's requisite to get into the City Centre every week, blogging on a daily basis (which I have found to be a worthy uptake) and responding to particular emails and duties as they come along, I have added generic tasks. These, being more relevant with particular projects than to the foreseeable future as a whole, are put down as: Non-Fiction, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Poetry and Script. It's not equal, but the timetable doesn't include anything like cover design, keeping up with social media, reading, or the making of book trailers.
I couldn't just remove an hour of work in a particular area for the sake of another task that would occur on an irregular basis and take an unforeseen amount of time, so I've opted to merely designate chunks of the day to the different media of writing.
This is then matched with the second object of focusing on the future:
2. A Daily Review
This requires that I ask myself certain questions (Is the timetable working? Did I do X, Y and Z?) that focus on achieving long-term goals. These long term goals are specified on the same sheet, so I can't just ignore them. They also help in the setting of the next day's tasks.
Setting tasks for the next day will then provide the actual list of things I need to write during the day. This could mean writing a particular novel, working on a task sheet from the New Year, writing haiku on a particular topic, or writing a flash story about a particular myth (because that's my thing.)
Because life is scary and uncertain and I've been living on a timetable for most of my life. Because I need some sort of structure, and I need to continually remind myself to do something worthwhile every day, or I'll fall into the habit of arsing around the house until it gets to the point where my parents would feel guilty about wanting to kick me out, but really needing me to stop living at home for my own good. Let's face it, if I'm not working (at all), I'm not doing anything to change that.
At least by writing (and publishing), I can work towards actually earning something. Not much, but something. A pittance is better than nothing, anyway.
Plus, I need to remind myself to write across a number of different projects, and not just focus on one. I can easily set it up that I don't exhaust myself with writing every day. My tasks will be written the night before, so I'll know how much time I have to do something. I'm not going to say "Write 5000 words of this novel...3000 words of that Non-Fiction book and... yeah, let's add twenty pages of a script." No. That's insane. That's asking for trouble.
While I have written what I believe is the equivalent of that before, in a single day, I don't think it's worth attempting too often. It's exhausting, and I plan on this being suitable for a long-term arrangement, if need be. That means making sure I don't pass out from tiredness after a week of doing it, and keeping my work varied and interesting. Otherwise, I won't actually enjoy it.
I've set it up so that I should enjoy it, though. I should also find some degree of success (i.e. to the degree I've set with my goals) from it, if I keep it up. I don't see it as a bad thing to have a back-up in place in case I really am virtually unemployed. It's not just a fail-safe, but an option to live according to certain standards.
Plus, given the amount of time I'll need to spend at home to do all of this work, I'm less likely to spend money on lunches out (alone...), just because I happen to be out. I'm less likely to spend money I don't really have, because I won't be able to, easily. That is a fail-safe.
I think I can manage this lifestyle. I think having an idea of what to do if there's "nothing to be done" is going to help when the exams finish. It'll be an emotional enough time without having to add despair to the list of emotions I'm experiencing.
So... this is it. Coming to the end of those student days. Coming to the end of when they're fun, too. I have one more week off before exams, and a lot of it will be spent studying. Fun, right? At least it shouldn't be so bad afterwards. In fact, I think things will actually work out well. I'm not dreading June and what it stands for anymore. Funny, that.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
A Writing Schedule
Today, I was looking through different publications and writing competitions, and a thought occurred to me: a whole year could be planned out to respond to every single call for submissions, every opportunity to enter a competition, every poetry night and book signing and reading, weekly meet-ups with other writers...
The list could go on.
Realistically speaking, if I'm not employed the moment I leave college (and that's not speaking realistically), I could set up my own writing schedule, to follow the written word through the week.
An evening a week could go to talking to other writers online (Google has made that very easy to do; we don't even have to leave the comfort of our own homes). This evening, maybe two or three hours, could be used to talk about stories and books and poems in the works. It would, in essence, be a Feedback Forum, like in college, and the easiest thing in the world to do.
Saturday night seems to be poetry night. At least, so far it has been. Let's say I find something every week. That's another evening gone to writing, to performance poetry. That's an evening well spent, in my mind.
Book signings and readings are less frequent, but it's possible to keep track of them. Twitter helps with that, and Google, and simply looking up bookshops online. Many list the upcoming events for the month ahead. Or visit author websites and see if/when they're on tour, and if it's possible to make an event. The Dublin Writers Festival is coming again soon. That's just one season of events that hits during the summer months.
Realistically, we're looking at three evenings/afternoons taken up with these events, per week. What about the mornings?
Once a week, I could search websites and Twitter for calls for submissions, for competitions. Make up a list, cross out anything that's not suitable or that doesn't interest me. See what's left. A couple of hours per day, respond to these items. Simple, right? In theory.
Say I have four more hours to write, without really pushing myself. Two hours for Fiction, two for Non-Fiction. I always have something to write.
Still a couple of hours left. More if I don't have an event that evening. Write a blog post. Record a video. Track sales figures. Contact authors. There's always some small job that needs doing, right? Graphs to make, tweets to send.
But that's a good point: what do I do about social media while doing all of these things? Silence? Auto-tweeting is an option. It's not ideal. It can be very annoying, especially if it's the same things being posted all the time, with no interjections from the tweeter. Worse still if it's just links. That always annoys me. But I could tweet interesting quotations. And short poems. Imagine spending an hour a day writing short poems and haiku for tweeting throughout the rest of the day. Maybe even writing enough for the week. It doesn't have to be automated, either, if I'm home and on the laptop.
I have become convinced, in writing this, that it's entirely possible. Is it a good idea?
I would say yes. Not only would it mean writing a lot every day, it would mean having some structure in my day. I wouldn't just be sitting at home doing nothing, especially not if I gave myself tasks to do every day. It means that when I enter full-time employment, it won't be a culture shock to have to do work between the hours of 9 and 5, and likely beyond.
I've even gotten the ball rolling on the publications. I have a list in a group on Facebook that I'm updating at the moment, making it longer and helpful to more people than just the poets.
So... I think I'm setting myself up for a life of writing. Once the Dreaded Exams are out of the way, I won't have much left to fear. I'll actually be in a position to decide what I want to do with my time, whether or not I find employment (aside from the bookshop). Suddenly, life doesn't look so terrifying.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
In a bizarre twist of fate, I've ended up on the shortlist for the Heart in Mouth poetry competition. It's still settling in.
I recorded my entry on Saturday while my dinner was burning in the oven. I must have made a dozen attempts before I actually made it through in one reading, so nervous about it I couldn't get it right.
I wrote the poem, Say Something, during a time of confusion. I had no intentions then to do anything with it. To me it's still just this poem I wrote in bed, just to write something that day.
I don't really know how to express how happy I am to have made the shortlist.
And now I've been invited to read it at an event with the other poets on the list. It's terrifying and exciting at the same time. I figure that's a good thing.
So, that's the present situation. My thanks to judges Dave Lordan and Colm Keegan for putting me through this far, and to the Writers' Soc at college for their support (in this, and last Saturday.)
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
But then, I know what once exams start I'll need to write, to keep myself at a level of sanity that's possible to work in. I did the same thing during my last teaching placement, got a book out of it, and kept my stress levels down. I know what writing is what I need.
So why do I feel guilty about putting in some time to write instead of studying?
I think partly it's because I know how important all of this is. But that ignores the fact that I do get stressed out over exams and essays and teaching placement, and I need something to help alleviate that stress before I snap. Of all the options open to me to de-stress, writing is the only one that I'm any good at that will produce something of any real value.
I can't shake the feeling. I try to, but I can't. Even writing this, I know I'm only doing it now because I need a break from Walt Whitman and the various critics we've studied this year. I know that I'll have time to finish my journal before I go to bed (because I type quite quickly and I have my plan all set out). So I have an excuse today. It's every other day that's a problem (damn every other day...). I have ten exams to study for. It works out at over twenty questions.
I could do what I did previously, and write about what I'm studying, so I can at least focus my thoughts on something. That's always a possibility. But I have to actually study first. I mean, today I did some work. A lot of it, actually, though I'm not done, but there's a whole lot more to go. It's not going to be as much fun as Whitman, that's for sure.
I suppose, in a way, I'm trying to explain away the guilt. I do my work. I don't always do it early enough to not have to worry about it, but I get it done. And I have plenty of time and very few plans in place that will stop me studying until my brain's melting out my ears.
Am I the only one this happens to? I know some people completely drop their hobbies when it comes to exams, but I can't. It's too much a part of me (plus, New Year's Resolution aimed towards making a good habit out of writing every day) to just give up for a month or two. I don't think I've ever gone that long without writing, not since I started writing properly. Certainly not in the past few years.
What do you think? Do I have anything to feel guilty about, or is this just me thinking I should be doing more?
Monday, April 22, 2013
So I'm talking about writer's block instead. I remember way back when, I used to suffer from terrible writer's block. I would think that I could never write another word again, nothing worth reading, nothing that would make sense, nothing. It would infuriate me, antagonise me, sicken me, and then later I would write something and forget all about it.
I've Googled how to get rid of it, written down lists of how to get rid of it, put into practice so many different things just to get rid of it. It's the common cold of the writing world, and it's a damned plague.
Well, it's all in our heads, isn't it? I mean, really, we're just stuck for words, and then saying it's writer's block. There's something wrong with that, though. By naming it, we're giving it power, over us, over our words, our language. That's bad. That's really bad. The name makes it strong, makes it difficult to get rid of.
A friend of mine gave me a writer's block birthday card once, and I actually use it to get rid of the damn block on words. It's literally a picture of a cinder block. What sort of power does a cinder block have over words? None. None at all. It's perfect.
Tonight, I don't know what I want to say here. I've been saying things to people on Facebook, so it's not that I have nothing to talk about, but it's all private stuff. I have college work to do, and I know what to say there, but I don't especially want to talk about literary criticism or how it's affected by views and opinions of Walt Whitman over the space of three months or so, not here.
It doesn't help that I'm tired. Certainly not. Thinking of what I'd like to say in the public sphere gets difficult the more tired I become. It's why some blog posts go off on weird tangents and express convoluted metaphors that don't really hold up. It's the public-sphere part of trying to write a blog post that makes it difficult to decide what to say. There's a lot I want to talk about that I can't (aforementioned future plans that depend on how my time-line will hold up before I know exactly when certain things will happen), and a lot that's just not interesting enough to share here.
Effectively, I have to force myself to say something every day, for the sake of writing every day, and that's the difficult part. Being creative on command is the difficult part. It's possible, though. I mean, I did it for a week with Balor Reborn. People who do NaNoWriMo have to do it every day. I know how to help kick-start the creativity. That still won't give me an idea as to what I can say that I want to say publicly.
With that in mind, today, I settled on just making it clear that I have to force this a lot. But look, a whole post out of that. It's not just a "What" that I have to write about, but the "Why". The "Why" is what makes the post so long, and what makes it worth reading (or, at least worth writing).
Tomorrow, I'll probably give out about assignments. Sure, it would be rude not to.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Last summer, I planned to do one thing: write and publish Balor Reborn in a week. I did that, I was happy. This year, I have more plans. I've had them for a while. It's possible they will be derailed by unexpected but not unwelcome changes in my life, but for now I have plans for the future.
With that in mind, I have been preparing.
A large part of this has been gathering books and resources, though there's also just been some planning of novellas. Aside from that, I've been looking at tax info and business info and marketing techniques and how to do particular things online and in "real life", and while a lot of it has been overwhelming, it's made it all seem very real in a good way.
That was the thing that made Balor Reborn a success in its publication: it's planning and preparation was real. I made it so I couldn't back out by sending a press release out, not just to local press but to major newspapers and magazines and television stations. People even responded. How bad would it have looked if, after those responses, I'd pulled out?
You don't have to answer that question.
Doing something concrete makes the plans and preparations easier to stick to, in my mind. Not just writing them on paper, but giving myself a reason for doing them and making it so I can't pull out. Sure it will be scary to make big announcements to the world about projects I've been working on (or haven't completed), but life has taught me time and again that the things most worth doing are often the things that scare me the most.
Last night proved that, Balor Reborn proved that. I think I can deal with being scared again for the sake of the rest of my life and all the madness that's bound to happen. The worst that can happen is that I fail, and damn that's not the worst thing that can ever happen.
And I'm not just saying that because of the Dreaded Exams.
What I'm taking from all of this is that in making preparations for something, it helps to actually make preparations. Like, sorting out tax information to make it so I really have to earn back the money it costs to file the paperwork. Or buying an absurd amount of books on a topic that has no real practical application without a further degree. Or getting other people involved, because other people like their time and you don't want to annoy them.
I have a lot going on after college. That's kind of scary, like leaving college is kind of scary, and I know that that's only because I haven't been anything but a student for eighteen years. But scary is good. Scary means it might be worth it. But scary can be hard to deal with, so I make preparations, real-world semi-adult preparations and scary becomes manageable.
Hopefully I'll have a better idea of what I can announce soon. All these preparations are leading to something that could take twice as long as I'd like to follow through with if things change, and I don't want life to suddenly become a terrifying prospect of not meeting deadlines, ever. So, for the sake of my sanity, I'm keeping quiet. Just know that I'm working on something (albeit more slowly than I'd like, thanks to college), and it will happen in the future (most likely this year, hopefully by September). It's scary, but scary-good, like reading poetry at a book launch, not scary-bad, like seeing a spider and wishing to burn it to death with a flamethrower.
Let's pretend I never said that.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
I spent my evening not watching Doctor Who, but at a book launch. Dave Lordan's 'First Book of Frags' provided not just a chance to meet again the legend and madman that is its author, but the opportunity to relax with friends and discover exciting new poets and performers from Ireland.
My mind is blown, and my heart bursting at the promising future for Irish literature and performance.
I too took to the stage, little realizing what was to follow. I read, quietly, two poems, one about being drunk (written about being drunk) and the other about leaving college.
I don't often identify as a poet, or read my own work publicly, but I think I did okay. I didn't quite wet myself, so I figure that's a little victory.
Those who followed, who I had time to hear, have made me want to write and perform more poetry. That doesn't happen very often.
I may make it my goal in the summer to do it every day for a month. Maybe not always live, because that's a somewhat terrifying prospect, but at least on YouTube.
In case it hasn't been obvious, I have been blogging every day this month. The challenge to write and publish something every day is not beyond me. Poetry isn't quite the same, of course, but I have managed forced creativity in the past. I do it regularly actually, because I have to write something. So maybe I'll manage it.
Honestly, I didn't expect to even set myself that challenge. The Frags did it. The Frag King will be responsible, if he even realises the monster he's created.
I'm yet to even read the book and its making a change in my life. Let's put it simply: I can't even.
Friday, April 19, 2013
I think I've made it quite clear of late: college is coming to an end. We've officially had our final lecture, our final night out before exams, our final review form for lecturers and modules... The book of college is coming to an end, with one more chapter to go: the exams. The Dreaded Exams.
I will never be able to speak of them kindly. That's just a fact of the matter. I can't wait until they're over and done with, and I can get on with figuring out the next steps in my life. I have a lot to write, a lot to learn about life. I was lucky last night for a friend to tell me about how she used to live, before giving it all up to come to college. She's older than I am and still has a couple of years to go, and here I am terrified about life.
It didn't take much of her story for it to dawn on me that just because we all make different choices in life doesn't mean we're any worse off for it inherently. I chose to come to college, and to avoid going directly into teaching. I have my reasons, a lot of which have to do with personal growth, and I know the only way to really "find myself" is to live some semblance of a life. I need to figure out what works for me and what doesn't, how to make life more than just bearable tasks between unsatisfactory breaks.
The book of college is coming to an end, and following it is a new book. It doesn't have a name yet, it's not written, it's not pre-determined. For some, it's the book of teaching, others of traveling, others of further education. I don't believe any of them are any better than another. Yes, some will lead to better career prospects or monetary earning or life experiences, but that doesn't mean they're better.
Books and chapters are an easy way for me to understand this, to see the world broken up into little life stories. But these are books that have no set-length. The conclusion can sneak up on you suddenly, and you have to pick up a new book or lay lifeless in the ether. Even then, there's a story being told, and it gets harder and harder to pick up a new book and start with its first chapters to see how you really like it.
I've thought about a few different books, almost afraid to wait and see if one of them really exists or if I'll just be avoiding the books that are there, waiting for the reading and the living that make them worth continuing.
That's my vague way of saying I'm worried that my plans that don't look like plans to some people might fall through. I'll quit with this little philosophy of the stories of life with that. We all have choices. I know what some of mine are. I know I can't afford a Masters course, so that's out of the question. All the publishing and writing aspirations are the uncertain ones, but I'll just have to take the advice of some friends as they trekked across Europe: power through. Eventually, they reached the destinations that made the journeys worth it.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
The Last Day
It started off nice and relatively sane; we sat down, we took down exam guidelines, the head of the English department made jokes and told tales and poked fun at his recently injured colleague (also in the room). Then they started the raffle. And handing out drinks. And...well...
We all received probably the most obscure books in history (except for the one girl who received a copy of Treasure Island.) For our part, we gave them chocolate and wine. We're cool like that.
This all followed a week of reminiscing about our four years in college. We had a lot of good times, and we all remember the first friends we made, the first time we arrived in our 1960s block of a building, the first time we hung out with each other outside of college, the first mass (we're that cool), the first proper lecture with the aforementioned head of the English department, about Walt Whitman, featuring a five minute rant about furniture, and all the little events over our little history in the college. All leading to a garden party that wasn't outside, wasn't in a garden, and didn't get us drunk.
We are truly living up to the stereotypes of college students.
We have one more day of lectures tomorrow (two lectures before noon... it's really only a half-day). Then that's it. Nothing.
We've gone from bewilderment in Liturgy in first year to this, exploring the history of the Church, all manners of Ethics, philosophers from as far back as Sophocles, the major world religions, the sacraments, ecumenism, death, death and more death, poets that wrote about politics and race and sex and anthropomorphised dildos, reduced narratives, epic tales, a confusion of tongues, the psychology of children and the development of faith; fueled by coffee and tea and chocolate and crisps, jambons, hash browns, beans, curry sauce, mash potato and gravy and an inordinate amount of alcohol; tearing through books and panicking in front of our first students and each other, reaching out in the country to teach, to educate, to inspire, and to flee before it all became too real, and lectures began again; with couples coming and going and staying and loving, friendships formed and forged and demolished and put back together again, small families gathered from all over this Emerald Isle and every one of them genuine.
We are not meant to forget these things. We are not meant to put it all behind us. All the good and all the bad and all the times we held each other together, all of it was part of what brought us through these years. This place, however dated it looks from the outside, however much we might wish to be rid of the building and the work, it is a home away from home, a structure of emotional gravity.
So we celebrate. We celebrate the brilliance of our lives having met and joined and become one, a mingling of souls. We celebrate with one last night together, meals out, garden parties, last plays, last concerts, last lectures together. We celebrate while the air is still clear enough.
This is our little history, all leading to a last day, and the start of something new. Terrifying and exciting as it may be, we do not embark on our journeys alone. Our past is behind us, but we bring those wonderful characters from our four-year chapter with us into the next.
The last day is upon us, and with it the rest of our lives together.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Can Anyone Be An Author?
You don't need a degree.
You don't need permission.
You just need words, and a message.
Right? I mean, who's going to argue with that? As far as I'm concerned, the more people preserving the written word, the more people who find interest in the written word, the better off we all are.
But what can people write about? I mean, not everyone has a novel in them. Lots of people have ideas, at one point or another, but the idea of a novel doesn't occur to everyone. The idea of sitting down to write something is also off-putting for many people. It takes time and patience.
There's also the fact that publication is not the end-desire of many people who do write a novel, a poem, a song, or whatever else they choose to write. They do it for themselves. Does that make them any less of an author?
No. Absolutely not. Everyone has a free choice over what they do with their lives and their work. I would encourage people to write more than they do - in most cases, I think, that's more than nothing - and to read more. Not just the same stuff they usually read, either, but more widely. Different genres, different media of writing, different authors. Read around.
I have a friend, an aspiring author in the sense that he has dreams and he writes, who I'm badgering to start a blog of his own. He was here a while ago - goes by the name of Ian - and he reads everything I write before I publish it (except, I think, Old Gods Returned). Why should Ian start a blog? Because I think he has a lot of things to say.
That's the point: everyone has something to say. Some have a lot more to say than others. I have a problem shutting up a lot of the time (just ask my brother or Messr Shanley, neither of whom have successfully managed to stop me talking without first insulting me.)
The problem is that most people don't see writing as something interesting. Writing is something we do a lot of in schools, and then never have to do ever again. The same goes for reading. Most people don't do either when they leave school. Some don't even read when they're in school. I still don't know how.
So then, it's not just a matter of exclusivity. I still think everyone has something to say, a language in which to say it, and most likely the ability to put words into sentences. I was thirteen or fourteen (I always forget) when I started my first book. I didn't have a degree. I didn't even have my Junior Cert. But dammit I had words, I wanted to say something, and I had access to a computer. I didn't ask somebody if I could write a book. I wasn't told to do it.
It's the same of every great writer. They write, but because they want to. They have stories to tell, a means to tell it, and happen to find an audience after they chose to publish.
So yes, I think anyone can be an author. Technically speaking. We all have the same basic skills as human beings in the "developed world". We all have something to say.
But should people be authors? Or, how can they be authors? I know from experience, it takes a lot of self-discipline to write a book. It's like writing something for school or for college, except nobody will be there to tell you what to write, if you're doing it right, or when you should stop writing. (Or start, for that matter.) With that in mind, I think it's possible to teach somebody to write. Absolutely.
If someone was willing to write because they were told to write, then it's possible to teach them the discipline of sitting down and writing something, and not stopping until either (a) they wrote a certain amount or (b) they wrote for a particular amount of time. Qualifying it like that makes it easy for a person to see that they have achieved something, particularly if it's incremental over the course of a project.
So, that part is teachable. But again, should people be authors? I think for them, yes. For the already saturated book industry, if they decide to publish... hard to tell. On the one hand, it makes it difficult for individuals to sell books. On the other hand, writers are readers. If you can write a book, you can read a book. Reading books - specifically if you buy them - helps to support the industry, and the people who actually run that industry.
Sidenote: it's an interesting fact about the book industry today that it is increasingly becoming run by the people who actually write the books, and less by the people who sell them. Publishers, bookshops and suppliers have less say in what is produced overall and what goes where, so while people talk about the collapse of the industry, they really mean that particular sections of it are suffering. On an individual level, there are more authors making money now than ten years ago, even if they aren't making much money, because they are now part of the industry in a more personal and active way, running things by themselves.
If people are running the industry, doesn't it make sense that more people are involved? Rather than monopolising publishing, we have the opportunity to change the system. If everyone suddenly decided to write a book and publish it themselves - through all publishing sites, not just Amazon, or not just Smashwords - wouldn't that then put more power to the individuals? In a way, this is a good thing.
However, there's a reason publishers have lasted for so long. They provide a means of determining whether or not something is (a) well written (in most cases...), (b) worth reading and (c) edited correctly. There are many more functions of a publisher, obviously, including getting a book around to more places than just one virtual bookshelf.
That, I think, is the importance of keeping the traditional book industry alive. It's not just about tradition or the people working in the publishing houses, wholesalers and bookshops (and every other step of the chain), but about offering people more choice, and creating a system whereby the power over the industry does not lie with any one company or person.
So, should people become authors? This comes down to the individual. I think it's an inherently good thing to write something, because it uses different parts of the brain than a lot of people are used to. (That's not an insult to anyone, mind you; there are plenty of people who use parts of their brain that a full-time novelist never will.) It helps someone to develop their creativity, which can help in other areas of their life. This is true no matter what you write, if you write it with a hypothetical audience in mind. (If you work in taxes, for example, and are writing about taxes, how do you explain why we pay taxes, how much you should pay, and where the money goes, in a way that people can understand, appreciate and actually read? Making something readable is a challenge, but one that cannot be avoided, even if you don't plan on publishing what you write. Thinking about what you write creatively can help overcome this challenge.)
In summary: yes, I think anyone can be author. I think some need more help than others (particularly when it comes to discipline in writing). I don't think everyone will be publishable (and shouldn't publish what they write just to spite someone). But I think everyone should at least be writing something. It's as much a matter of keep the written word alive as it is keeping your brain active.
What are your thoughts on this?
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Can You Plan For Exams?
Anyway, writing a book about planning and seeing people buying it (again, surprises me) has gotten me thinking: can the techniques I discuss in the book be used to prepare for exams?
I have three days of lectures left. Three. Then it's study time. It would be really helpful if I could figure this out in a stress-free environment, but I'm not sure that sort of thing really exists when you're a final year student with ten exams in less than a month. (Yay!)
However, it's pretty easy for me to consider how I might study. I've been preparing essays and seminar work all semester using the same techniques in the book, and I knew them all before I actually started writing, thanks to the eight years' practice and learning I've had in the craft of writing. (That makes me feel old... let's pretend I didn't just say that.)
The sort of things that make writing a book and preparing for an exam different, though, are quite complicated. For a start, I don't get to decide what's on the exam, or what shape the questions will take. That pretty much means there's one less creative way to tackle exams that would exist for a book, which makes it so much more difficult to prepare for. Even Non-Fiction books are creative works, and require that the writer have some understanding of how to write something creatively and differently to distinguish it from every other book in the market.
In the case of someone who writes their own books, there's one less creative exercise for exams: someone else decides what you should write about.
Ultimately, that's what exams are in my college: exercises in writing in a short period of time. It's also necessary to remember an obscene amount of information, and to think about topics ourselves in an engaging way.
Our game of Spot the Difference can clearly illustrate that for books you don't have to memorise everything to write them. When I'm writing essays, and even when I'm writing stories based on or inspired by Irish myths, I keep a tab open with info online about the topic, and some notes beside me. That option doesn't exist for exams.
So what needs to be done for exams that's different, then? Since we can't control the topics or the questions, and we can't bring in notes to help formulate our thoughts, what are we supposed to do?
One way we might be helped is if the lecturer gives us some tips. These have, historically speaking, been guidelines for study, directing us to explore particular topics in the course individually for questions, so we're not attempting to memorise everything about ten modules. That's an unrealistic expectation of anybody, and it's the biggest problem I have with the Leaving Cert. But let's not moan about that dragon right now; it has been slain.
So, if we receive some tips (and we have, from some lecturers, though they wouldn't call them tips - that implies they're giving us the questions), we're left with two things to worry about: the question, and the memorising.
Now, the question is actually easier dealt with last. The way I see it, if I can find a way to actually remember things (historically speaking, I struggle with this in exams due to pressure, exhaustion, and a general inability to sit in an exam hall and remember the things I need to know before it's time for pens to go down) to write down, dealing with the question is easy.
I don't believe in using someone else's study notes, so that's that out the window. But what about the planning techniques? Can they be used to study more effectively? I know Mind Maps have often been used for study. I don't know yet if they'll work for me in that way, but I'll see.
Normally, I get some flash cards. I write down everything I need to know about a topic onto an A4 piece of paper, and then transfer it neatly onto a flash card - preferably on one side only - underlining key words. With five different planning methods in my book, can any of them improve upon this method? My grades have been good, on average, the past three years, mind you. Not all top marks, but good. (I'm not going to get in to that at the moment, partially because it's private, partially because I can't remember my grades.)
So, five methods. I'll see how they fare, in the early stages. If I can't remember what I study on a given morning by the time that evening comes around, I haven't done a good job. I'm desperate to make these exams easier on myself, anyway. That's the point of Planning Before Writing, to make planning easier so writing can be more enjoyable. Now, exams are never meant to be easy or enjoyable, but they can be less stressful. That's all I'm asking for. And better grades. That would be nice, too, since I plan on being a bum for a while (while actually doing things that people won't know I'm doing).
There you have it. Final year. Final exams. And I'm choosing now to experiment. I'll know after a couple of days if the planning techniques can be used to help me remember material for exams. Remembering it is the important part, because then I just need to apply it to the question. That's the creative part of the exam, thinking on your feet (or in your seat...) about how to imaginatively and intelligently engage with the question, supply the information that's being asked for, and provide enough original thought to drag your grade up.
This is not going to be fun, is it?
Monday, April 15, 2013
What Has Writing Done?
It seemed ideal. Living in her shoes and witnessing the lives of those around her, I felt empowered to keep facing my life. I didn't like school, but I had to go every day. Eventually, I found the courage to stand up for myself, and I think it had to do with realising that I could define who I was. That came from the book that only I could write. With that book, I don't know what would have happened.
Around the same time I finished writing that book, I was sitting my Junior Cert exams. Let me tell you: they are not fun. However, I was prepared for the English paper a bit better than I would have otherwise been. There's a creative writing aspect to it. I wrote a short story, I was happy with how I did, and I wasn't as panicky about the exams having found something I was comfortable with.
(In case you don't know, me and panicky go side-by-side when it comes to exams.)
By the time my 18th birthday came around, I had written two more books. One of them, Meet Sam, I wrote in a month for NaNoWriMo. My first time attempting it. I had a ton of work to do for school, but I never fell behind. When December reared it's cold and book-less face, I actually went up a grade in Maths. My theory: writing a book, while still working, taught me to use my brain more effectively. I had more energy and determination, and did better in school. I consider that a plus.
But wait, there's more. On the night of my 18th birthday party, that same book was taken by some friends and adapted into a short film. There was a lot of ad-libbing, some racism, and some private jokes, but they did it. I still consider it the best present I've ever received.
Less specific to anything else, though, was the relationship I formed over the years with the one and only Darren Shan. He taught me a lot about what it means to be a writer, through good times and bad, and it was his advice at how to keep on writing after I lost my job back in 2010 that kept me going. If I wasn't a writer, I would have been just another fan. I've kept up with his events over the years when I could, and was even blessed to get to attend the celebrations when he moved to a new publisher for his Zom-B books in July 2012.
If I skip the amount of time I spent writing material that never reached conclusion, I can arrive in 2010, summer after 1st Year in college. I wrote three novellas of varying quality and style. They helped me to explore some issues, like the new friends I had in college, the weight certain relationships had on my life, and certain existential issues that like to creep up on me from time to time. The same therapeutic effect is now felt by writing poetry, incidentally, though I still see the value in writing those stories.
The past couple of years have seen the biggest impacts of writing. I had a play on stage that helped me do a lot of good for an important charity (an act that would have been impossible if not for that very first book, or the wonderful actors in my college). I plucked up the courage shortly after it went on stage to put together a plan to write and publish a book in a week. The writing of that book, Balor Reborn, led to three more books in the year following, a set up for the next few months of my life, and my first ever published article in a magazine.
All I can say is, wow.
I doubt mean that to sound pompous or self-praising, but really, really, I never thought that would be my life. I never imagined getting to meet my hero or having something read by thousands or actually selling copies of books to people, and not because they know me. I haven't even touched upon the charity books or the Writers' Soc or the Literary Den. I haven't mentioned the wonderful friends I've made thanks to writing, or the things that we pulled off together.
I mean that. I really never expected any of this. Back when I first started writing that first book, I knew I wanted to be published. That was before the publishing industry changed. That was before I knew how to write. It was before I could set realistic expectations for what I could do as a writer.
Writing has changed my life, in ways I couldn't predict when I was fourteen. To think that the first book came from three short stories back when I was ten and eleven in primary school leaves me speechless. I didn't write them to write a book, later. I just saw the book there. I saw something in front of me, physically, and I knew it would be a book, and that it would change my life, because that's what the book was about: change.
Now, writing is at the very core of my identity. The things I've written have led to the greatest accomplishments in my life. My aspirations in the field of writing have led to the plans I have for the future. Writing makes the future less uncertain, the present less terrifying, and the past more understandable. I can't live without writing, because writing is the one thing that stayed with me, the one thing I've had with me that was mine, ever since I was a child.
Writing has made me the person I am today, and set me up to become the person I'll be in the future. Ten years ago I had finished the last of three stories that would become a book. Ten years from now..?
Sunday, April 14, 2013
All-New X-Men: Let's put it simply. After Avengers Vs X-Men, the Phoenix Force blew up, and new mutants started showing up all over the place. Beast happened to also be affected, it seems, and was dying. So, he did the only thing he could think of: he went back in time to bring the younger versions of himself, Angel, Cyclops, Jean Grey and Iceman to the present to show Cyclops what a massive bag of douche he's being. Younger Beast saved him, so his whole "I need to do this one last thing before I die" story fell to pieces, and we still have five time-displaced X-Men wandering about.
Uncanny X-Men: Following aforementioned douche-bag Cyclops, in a post-"I'm going to change the world with reality bending abilities" life, things are still not quite as they should be. Even Cyclops's universe breaking before these comics, they're breaking the universe. I'm pretty sure Magik just exploded, or something, and Hellfire is loose. Yay.
X-Men Legacy: Legion accidentally killed the pseudo-mutagenic-alien-monks that were keeping him calm and not destroying the world. Now he's losing control of his abilities, because of a lack of self-esteem and a weird Xavier ghost in his head. Giant inter-dimensional monsters keep attacking him, and alien-police, and I'm pretty sure he's one bad date with Blindfold away from losing it all and accidentally ripping the universe a new one. So, uh...no pressure, Blindfold.
Cable and X-Force: Oddly, these lads aren't breaking the universe. However, they are breaking the law. Even if they are actually saving people. Bold Cable. Bold.
Wolverine: Hey look, someone who's not responsible for breaking the universe! Except, you know, the Watcher showed up. If memory serves, he's only there when there's some universe breaking going on. Something about the alien-tech blowing people up might explain that. But yeah...universe broken. Again.
Avengers: Where do I even begin? So, first Ex Nihilo decides to make a human, named Adam. And the Universe decided to personify. Again. And while she's not broken physically, the nexus that keeps all reality from collapsing seems to be in trouble. Add to this the fact that the Star Brand is up and running (and should only do this when the planet needs protecting) and he shouldn't be, because he's breaking things (like the Earth's consciousness). So...yeah...universe broken. Repeatedly. Last White Event and all that nonsense going on.
Uncanny Avengers: Despite her role in this series, the Scarlet Witch is not responsible for breaking the universe...yet. Instead, Kang the Conqueror is manipulating people and traveling through time, and now has a shiny magical axe with which to break stuff. And we can kind of blame Thor for that one, because he's arrogant and violent and he was seven hundred years younger, then.
Young Avengers: Um... remember that mention of the Scarlet Witch? Yeah, one of her sons is following in her footsteps. We'll ignore the fact that he's died and been re-incarnated twice and that he and his twin brother were born from two different women, neither of whom are the Scarlet Witch, and neither of whom are related to each other or the Scarlet Witch. No, this is all to do with Billy's powers, and how he seems to have brought an inter-dimensional parasite into existence that may or may not have created similarly parasitic copies of the Young Avengers parents and parent-figures (so...the Avengers), and Billy doesn't know how to stop her. Kid Loki does, but he's not strong enough, and it seems the only way to save the universe is to make Loki all-powerful. Also, Skrull Invasion. Yay.
Fearless Defenders: What happens when a Valkyrie gets lazy and doesn't do her job of recruiting Midgard's finest female heroes? She breaks the universe. Doom Maidens abound. Yay.
Guardians of the Galaxy: It's not their fault, but yeah... invasion. Massive invasion. At least they're trying, right? And no sign of... wait... hang on...
Nova: Watcher. Watcher right there. And this new Nova? Yeah, his dad seems to know Rocket Racoon and Gamora from the Guardians of the Galaxy. So... I think the universe is broken. Again.
A+X: They're short stories. There has yet to be any universe breaking. This pleases me.
Age of Ultron: This entire series is universe-breaking. Everyone is dead. Well, almost everyone. And now Nick Fury thinks it's a good idea to go to the future to fight Ultron. With just Captain America, Iron Man, and Red Hulk armed with Ares's axe. And I think they're going to die. At the same time, Wolverine wants to go back in time to kill Hank Pym before he makes Ultron. So, aside from the fact that there will be three stories going on simultaneously, we've also got to accept the fact that it seems the most use Hank Pym has ever been is in stopping Ultron over the years. Can we just let Wolverine kill him and be done with it?
Thanos Rising: He hasn't broken the universe yet, but I'm fairly sure this is all backstory. So, he's bound to break it at some point, sooner or later, and that's not including all the times he already has. Because Thanos.
By my count, about ten universe-breakings in fourteen series of comic books. Um, Marvel... I can't even.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
How Can People Know Me?
Thankfully, there are some options out there.
For me, telling someone who would care was an important step. This meant teachers. I think I only ever mentioned it to two of them, both English teachers, and word must have gotten around that I'd written a book. When I was in fifth year, a teacher I didn't have mentioned - to his class, of people in my year - that I had written a book. Suddenly, I was that guy.
That was before Twitter. It was before Facebook Pages. It was before Google+. I think it was even before I started blogging (if I remember when word got around, correctly.)
Now, things are simpler. What can you do to make yourself known as an author?
1. Set up a Twitter account. In your bio, make sure to mention that you are an author/writer. This worked for me in the early days of Twitter to get followers, because people like following users who are like them. I was a young writer, received a lot of encouragement for that fact, and it was impossible to deny that I was a writer. Follow other writers - and not just the famous ones - and get talking to them.
2. Set up a Facebook Page. This will be one of the easiest places for people to express a 'Liking' for you, if you'll excuse the pun. Having 'Likes' demonstrates your AUTHORity, to yourself and others. Invite your friends and family, and be sure to have a link to your Facebook Page somewhere people can see it.
3. Set up a Google+ Account. You can link this to your other Google accounts. Google+ makes it easy to be shared in others' Circles, and Hangouts allow you to talk directly to other writers.
4. Set up a Blog or Website. From here, you can provide valuable information about yourself and your writing, provide free stories and poetry, and keep people up to date with what's happening in your life. I use my blog, largely, to write about my personal life, though sometimes with posts like this that explore writing. My website has articles that have been researched to provide more informative posts, without so much of an insight into my personal life. It also contains stories and poetry, which help diversify what I share. My Friday Flash stories go up here.
If you publish something, or you want to, the next obvious step is:
5. Set up an Author Central Account, if you use Amazon's KDP. This will be where your books will be linked from, and where Amazon users can find out more about you. You can provide a video (the trailer for Balor Reborn in my case, as of writing this), set up a forum, write your bio, and add an author photo. It helps to use the same photo across a number of different sites.
You also have an optional couple of steps, depending on the sort of person you are:
6. Set up a LinkedIn Account. This is more of a "professional" social network, for connecting with people. The idea is to connect with people you know, and help others find people they might need to connect with for career or work opportunities. You should ensure to fill in your Skills, previous work experience, education, and other useful information that LinkedIn provides space for, as these not only allow people to find you, they help create a CV for you online. You can also be endorsed for Skills, and should endorse co-workers, teachers, clients and those you have hired (such as a graphic designer for your cover) in the appropriate areas.
7. Set up a YouTube Channel. If you can talk to a camera or make videos in some other way, and find it interesting and enjoyable, you have the opportunity to reach more people. You could keep a video blog, read poetry or short stories, upload book trailers, or create informative videos (as some examples). This can be linked to your Google+ and Blogger accounts, and provide links to your other Social Networking sites.
While there is no guarantee that any site will make you known as an author, it will help establish your author identity online. Getting involved in forums is also of benefit to you as a writer so long as you keep up with your writing, and make sure people know you are a writer (by having a link to your website in your signature, for example).
When it comes to "real life" (i.e. anything not online), you have the option of trying for events in a book shop, if you've published something and the shop will stock it (and remember, a shop does not have to stock your book just because it's been published), reading at public events, setting up a reading night (which works well for poetry), or seeking publication in magazines and/or newspapers for articles, poetry or short stories.
It's always beneficial to you as a writer to identify as one. If you don't, no one else will see you in that way. That's counter-productive to everything you could do to get your name out there.
But what about getting recognised? Follow this simple advice, and you'll be on your way:
1. Post often. People need to remember who you are.
2. Post something worth reading. If people enjoy it (for its entertainment value or its educational value), then they'll be more likely to (a) come back and (b) share it.
3. Interact with others. This can be difficult to do, especially if you're a busy person (as I tend to be while lectures are on in college), you should make sure to do a couple of things: respond to comments from others, set up something like Paper.li to share others' links, and make an effort to check in on sites at least once per week.
If you want, you can also:
4. Set up a newsletter on your website. This means you can have direct access to people's email addresses. You do have to write it, though, and having something to say could be difficult. Right now, I don't use mine as much as I should.
5. Set up auto-tweets if you can always sign in. Be careful about this, though. Many people don't like to see auto-tweets coming in all the time, because they don't get to know the person. I've tested them while I was in work one weekend, sharing quotes from authors about writing and life. The important thing is to check in when you're actually around to talk to people, and remember #3: respond to people's replies. I know I received a couple, because the quotes were amazing. You don't have to tweet quotes, but links aren't favourable. Try poetry or (very) short stories, instead, if you want to provide something interesting for people while you're away. (Social Oomph is useful and free for setting up auto-tweets.)
If/when you become a published author - either by having a book published by someone else, or by publishing yourself - make sure people know where to get it. However, don't saturate social media with links to your book. It's always beneficial to write free material in the same area you publish in, too, if you're trying to get others to notice your book, and to use promotions on whichever site you're using to publish.
In every case - every social network - you should have a bio that tells people who you are. Be informative, semi-formal, but aim to be funny or quirky, too. People like something that will make them smile. It's more difficult to do that on Twitter, but with other sites you have more space to talk about yourself and your writing.
Remember: get to know other writers, other readers, and demonstrate a real interest in what people have to say. Let them know who you are, what you're up to, and what you're feeling, and be consistent about it. Respect the people you connect with online. And never forget to show that you're a writer.
Friday, April 12, 2013
A Room That Means Business
Last night, I stayed in a hotel. In Dublin. Despite living fifteen minutes away in a car, with some light traffic. Why? Well, it was my college ball. I'm way too tired tonight to really talk about the ball, particularly since I need to figure out what should and should not be said, but what I can talk about is the room.
See, I've never stayed in a hotel before. I've definitely never stayed in one in Dublin, so close to the airport. However, it really showed, when it came to the rooms. Lovely as they are, there was something about them that spoke of the type of customers the hotel is used to receiving: people who run, or are executives in, businesses, and those who travel for business. How do I know this? Observation.
Every room came with a copy of a business magazine. This was on a table between two armchairs that didn't face each other. The rooms are not always booked for people who will necessarily talk to each other, at least not face to face.
In each room, there was a desk, with an abundance of sockets nearby. To me, this spoke charge-points for laptops, tablets and phones. It was clear that the room was set up for work, and for people to be ready to leave for business after their stay in the hotel.
The walls were not entirely sound proof. Pardon the crudeness of this suggestion, but it seems that they were not designed with intimacy in mind. If most customers are there for business, rather than pleasure, as might be suggested by its location (close to the airport, not the city centre), then it is less likely that there will be a need to drown out the sounds of peoples' neighbours late at night.
The cafe on the ground floor was blocked off. It was designed to be comfortable, but private, and suggested to me informal meetings.
The room where our ball took place was designed with two things in mind: conferences, and parties. The distinguishing feature was the partition that could be move to join the seating area with the bar. The arrangement of the tables towards a stage at the top of the room suggested that people would focus their attention to that point, with very little space for dancing, which again suggests to me conferences.
Is any of this a criticism of the hotel? No. Absolutely not. It was a lovely hotel, the beds were comfortable, the staff were polite, friendly and understanding of the obvious drunken nature of many (or most) of those at the ball, due to its celebratory nature. Literally the only problem I had all night was with the noise from some of those from my college, but that was to be expected. The point of this blog post is instead to highlight how the nature of the business affects the environment of the building. Setting up rooms for work, supplying a wi-fi code to all guests, and creating a positive, stress free environment suggested to me the typical clientel of the hotel.
For the writers reading this, this is an important consideration to make when writing a setting, particularly if you have a hotel or other holiday spot to write about. Think about what people might need the establishment for. This comes down to what is supplied in the rooms (a dresser, rather than a desk), how sound-proof they are, how dining areas are set up, the last times in which food will be delivered to rooms (as much a staffing concern as one that ensures noise is reduced by eleven at night) and the layout of the events room(s). The purpose of a location (a business, a home, a public area) will define how it should be designed, and so help in the description of such a room. Whether you choose to put your character in a suitable environment for their situation, or make them feel uncomfortable and out of place in an ill-fitting location, is up to you. What really matters is that the purpose of a setting is clear in its description.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
The Write Life
Fun considerations for the future - trying to figure out how much I'd need to earn to do things like a Masters Degree, and move out of my parents' house - have led me to thinking through exactly how to make money in a much more interesting way than scraping by on ten hours per week in a shop. I don't think I have to really say it, but I'd earn more on the Dole than I will be earning in the shop come June, when I am no longer technically a student. The only way the ten hours per week would be beneficial would be if I were also making money in other ways, during the five days off per week I will have.
Hence: the Write Life. While it is also the name of my Paper.li paper, it's a consideraton for the future. How many books, for example, would I have to sell per month to pay for rent? How many articles would I have to have published to cover travel and heating and Internet access for a year? How many avenues in writing and publishing do I have to take to make a sustainable income? How much more do I have to push myself to earn a holiday?
Let's be clear: I don't technically write for money. I publish for money. The one time I did actually write for money, I was writing about the experience of publishing my book, and writing for a magazine I adore. It's hard to avoid that while trying to stick to the idea of writing for love and publishing for money, because technically I was writing for money in a publication I love. Nobody ever said what to do when it comes to that situation.
The way things stand, I'm nowhere near earning enough to move out. Yes, I have some sales on Amazon, but I don't yet have a sustainable income. I don't yet know what things will be like when after I've received the first payment, how long it will take before I earn enough to make a second. That's a real consideration, not just for me but for other writers who publish digitally (or otherwise): how long until the next payment from books, and will it be enough to live on?
The odds are, unless I publish a book I love, that others love and/or find useful, I won't be at the point of earning enough from royalties per month to actually pay for anything. I have ideas, don't get me wrong. I have a whole publication plan, deciding to write books that interest me, not just something I think will sell, because I have to love the idea for it to be worth reading by other people. I don't think it would be written well enough if I wasn't in love with it.
Taking some rough estimates into account:
Rent can cost 800 euro per month, depending on where I live. That's for a single bedroom place. It's also way too much. Living by myself isn't a viable option. Why? Because unless I found work for eight articles at at least 100 euro per piece, I wouldn't have enough for rent. Not good. That, or sell 2400 ebooks at 99 US cent per month. That's even less likely, I think. Not so much because the figure is so high, but because that's a per-month basis of sales. Even if I did get to a point of selling that many copies in a single month, it's extremely unlikely that it would happen again in the following months.
Food, for one, could be up to 80 euro per week (if I cooked everything myself and didn't just use cheap frozen items), though I would have to buy in bulk and use as much of everything as possible, and freeze. That's possible. Earning the money, possible. The bookshop covers that. Otherwise, it's another 240 books per week, at 99 cent, which on a four-week-per-month basis brings us to up 3360 books.
Can you see the problem, if I rely on 99 cent ebooks? Even if I had a dozen titles released at that price, I'd need to sell a few hundred of each on average, per month, to make my way in the world.
The other option? Publish more expensive books. I have thought of this. A lot. Before I released Balor Reborn, I drew up a pricing scale, on how I would price books of different lengths. I already know what prices I'll be setting on books in the future, right up until September, and have an estimated earning per book at a 2.99 price. A rough estimate would reduce the amount of books I need to sell per month (before electrical, Internet, heating, etc.) down to just over 600. Much better, right? Still difficult, but much better.
Can I see it happening? I don't know. Publishing is difficult to sustain as a business. Earning month from writing is extremely difficult to do. That's why I want to at least have an idea of how well I'm doing, based on financial need. None of this yet includes the other necessary bills that need to be paid, or maintaining a social life. It also doesn't take into account: (a) what I will write, (b) when I will find the time to write as much as I need to, (c) how long it will take to reach this point, or (d) saving for the future.
Considering (a): I know I want to write about writing. That's not only sold books, it's also interesting. It's teaching, which I love doing, and it helps me to focus on my craft and the industry around it. The benefits are outstanding. The difficulty? Competition. Which exists everywhere. I'll also be writing my Modern Irish Myth books. Much harder to sell, I know, unless/until they become popular. Beyond that, I've got further projects planned, some fiction, some non-fiction, that will cover a range of different topics. This isn't even so much as to reach a different audience as to keep me motivated and interested in what I'm doing. The topics in each of my non-fiction books also provide something I could possibly write about for other publications, which I have to keep in mind.
That's when I have to tackle (b): the time has to be made. I can't just sit around in June watching YouTube videos or playing computer games, as much as I'd like to. If I have five days off per week, and I manage to write even 5000 words per day, I'll be on my way towards writing an awful lot by September (which is necessary, considering everything I have planned up to that point.) 5000 seems a lot to some people, but I've written more on several occasions. I'll also need to do research for various projects, so it's unreasonable to think I can produce twice as much per day. I wouldn't get the research done to actually publish certain things.
As for how long it will take, I can't tell. Success sometimes just happens to people. Okay, so obviously it will require a lot of work, but it's possible that I won't even realise it's happened until it does, because I'll be busy trying to get as much work done as possible. If I get to a point where I'm earning a lot by December this year - a lot to be considered enough in that month to pay for bills on a single-month basis - then I'd be delighted. The real test is how sustainable that income is. I know it will be difficult, but if I suddenly earn a lot less by March next year, then I know I'm not at the point where writing would allow me to move out.
And as for the future? I need at least 6000 euro to pay for a Masters Degree. Nevermind the costs that go around it. The actual course will cost that amount. Fun, right? Saving for the future will be the most difficult part of this. Chronically all of this is part of how I hope to keep myself focused on it, though. I don't want to forget, by December, that I need to be selling X amount of books, and consistently for the next three months after, to actually do something more with my life.
This has all been very money-centred, so far. That's not right. So, here's my plan: between June and September, I want to release the next four books in the Modern Irish Myth series. One per month. I only planned publication as far as September, but if it's all possible I'll be continuing at that pace until the series is complete. In July, I want to release a non-fiction book, and another in September, though on radically different topics. More on them when I get through my exams and can plan the time I need to get everything in order. I'm not about to announce something that becomes impossible. As it is, four books in as many months will be difficult.
I'm also planning a web-series. As in, one on camera. Still not sure what it will look like, exactly, but it's in the planning stages. I'll be working on that during the summer, but I don't know when the shooting or airing of it will happen. That's all in the future, and it will require picking up some video-production skills, and becoming a better actor. Yeah... I give myself a lot to do. I'll also need to keep things like costumes, set, marketing and publicity in mind, so there's a lot to consider. I'm not even announcing what it'll be about until later (like when I have an episode or two produced and ready to go!). This is partially because I'm paranoid about someone maybe stealing the idea. Yay?
The idea in all of this is to keep writing, keep trying to make writing my source of income, and making sure I still enjoy it. That's what really matters, in all of this, that I still enjoy writing this time next year. I think about this sort of stuff every single day, never really putting figures on it and only ever telling one person about it, but here it all is. This is what I want to do with my life, and with the projects I'm planning on undertaking from June onwars, it's all going to get extremely intersting. I'll be busy, almost non-stop, but if I pull it off, won't it be worth it?
Besides, even if I only ever end up making a bit of pocket-money per month from writing, at least I can feel like I'm achieving something with it, while still having fun. How many people get to do something they love, and have loved since they were young, for a living? For how many people is it even possible? If I manage to even just make something per month, at least I'll know I can reach somebody with my words.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
No Talent? You Don't Even Know Talent!
That title comes to you courtesy of Futurama...because Futurama. Also, there was a Talent Show in college tonight, hosted by upcoming comedian Darren Lalor, and judged by the Head of the Music Department, and the current President and Welfare Officer of the SU. Much banter ensued at the expense of the Welfare Officer. Rule Number One: don't heckle the comedian with a microphone.
Other than the fact that it was a Talent Show and I couldn't stop quoting the Robot Devil, the title has no real significance. There was actually quite a lot of talent, from pianists, singers, a song-writer, a musical-theatre actor, and a Daft Body re-enactment, all of whom showed what a fun and exciting place my college is. People did things I didn't know they could do, (like people I didn't know could sing), dressed up for various acts, and ultimately gave us a reason to be there aside from the charity aspect of the event, and the pizza.
So. Much. Pizza.
Anyway, I was on the bus wishing I had taken part. I can't sing. I can only dance when drunk, and I'm fairly sure insurance doesn't cover flailing arms and legs to the face. I can't play an instrument. But I can write poetry, and I know how to deliver my own work, and all I had to do was either (a) write a long poem or (b) write a series of short poems to add to one I wrote that only the Writers' Soc have heard. I could still do that during the summer. God knows I'll have time.
But anyway: fun. It was all fun.
Especially the jokes directed at the WO, because he kept bringing it on himself. (I'll admit some of it was uncalled for, but other parts of it had me laughing too much to care.)
It was the first Talent Show I'd gone to in the college. Yes, I know I've been there four years, but somehow I never managed to make it. This time, I didn't even know who was doing what. I just wanted to go, and I was conscious enough to attend. So that's fun. (Context: I had a late night on Monday, and couldn't make a gig yesterday because I was so tired.)
I'm glad I went, despite my regrets in not parttaking (I wish I'd had to idea to do a kind of poem-medley sooner!), and I definitely think the best act won (Daft Bodies). Tomorrow night: the Ball. How did it get to that time already?
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Real Life Induction?
Today, talk off post-primary school induction became a Thing. It's no longer just this far off idea; we've actually been given the information we need to participate in the workshops that serve as induction, towards becoming Real Teachers. It's not as terrifying as I would have thought. Essentially, in the year that I plan to work during to build up my finances for a Masters Degree, I can do all of these workshops that I will need to complete my registration as a teacher. Then, when I actually go job-hunting for a teaching position, I'll be able to get paid. That's always a bonus, right?
It got me thinking, though: what about "real life"? As far as I'm concerned, there are some basic skills for survival in a Capitalist society that are necessary. This includes being able to read a contract, applying for a mortgage, paying taxes, and finding a home. Nevermind the additional extras like knowing how to cook your own meals, knowing how to drive (and knowing your way around an engine!), meeting new people, proposing (either for marriage or for living together... let's just call it Big Steps in a Relationship), or raising a family. What sort of preparation do we have for "real life", even after eighteen years of continuous education?
Surprisingly, this does't really terrify me. How about that? Yes, the idea of stepping out into the world without someone scheduling my September-June for me (yet) is frightening, but the rest of it? I don't know. Yes, it will be weird when I eventually move out of my parents' house. I don't plan on overstaying my welcome (which is why I'm working on various projects to help radically alter my lifestyle towards such big changes), but it's not fear of moving out that's the problem. It's actually just that I can't afford to.
So, thinking this through: what induction do we receive for "real life"? In my school, we studied Maths and Business as part of our Junior Cert. These helped us work out taxes and family finances and all that jazz. So, that's something, right? Except what if you fall into one of two categories: you didn't study these areas, either because of the level you studied at, or the subjects you studied, or you just forget how to some, or all, of it? I fall into the latter category. Proper financial planning for a household isn't currently up there in the Important Things I Can Do. In saying that, I don't currently have a need to know this sort of stuff. I earn enough money to: get to and from college every day, buy lunch a couple of times a week, buy my writing magazines once per month, buy my comic books every week, go to the cinema every week, and still be able to afford the occasional night out, thanks to additional hours that pop up in work every now and then (thank you Bank Holidays!). I know how much I can spend each week extra, and how much it costs me to do it all. It's just, a "household budget" tends to include a few more things than these very basic things, like regular bills and all the things I don't have to consider while still living in my parents' house.
But that doesn't mean I don't have to know how to do it before I move out. Induction for this sort of thing shouldn't happen at the age of fifteen, and then never again. I need to know how much I would need per month to pay bills (rent/mortgage, gas, electricity, Internet/phone/television, food), on whatever basis for earning I'm actually on (monthly or weekly). My biggest worry here is that I leave something out, or fundamentally mis-calculate and end up in financial trouble right away. (Let's let future Paul worry about that one.)
Thankfully, I know how to do a couple of things: I can make Excel keep up with costs and income for me (yay basic skills in Microsoft Office!) and I can read up on tax rates. This is especially important if I'm to earn money from writing and not get into trouble with the Revenue Commissioner. Because that would suck.
However, I still think people need to be made aware of this sort of stuff, somehow. I suppose, if I could make it sound like I wasn't planning on moving out on less-than-the-Dole-per-week, I could ask my dad for help in figuring out basic costs. He's good with this sort of stuff. Not everyone is so lucky, but that's one big part of Real Life Induction sorted for me, right?
But what about a mortgage? That's pretty damn scary, and it seems like a massive amount of money for me to consider. I'm fairly sure the minimum amount given on loan for a mortgage is more money than I have ever earned in my entire life. So that's fun. And contracts? Because, you know, books and work and, well, mortgages. All the fun!
What about the additional parts? Those are less frightening in one way. Cooking I can pick up. I can probably force my mum to help me with that this summer, since I'll have much less to do than I'm used to. I'm looking forward to that, anyway. But driving? Um... I don't even own a bicycle. I haven't been responsible for my own safety on the road in eight years. Plus, that's a whole other set of bills. Can I avoid that one for a while? That'll be less scary. The last thing I need is a stack of bills to add to the already insurmountabl pile of imaginay expenses that don't even include keeping up with my basic hobbies.
Do I have to get into the proposal and raising a family parts? Given my status of Forever Alone, I don't think so, but I think it's worth pointing out that a lot of stuff, from the cooking to the babies tends to be covered in Home Economics over here. I think. I wouldn't know, because it wasn't offered in my school. But there's an opportunity for learning for people, to prepare themselves for "real life".
I don't know what to say for the rest of us. There's an awful lot that needs to be known that I don't believe is taught to people before they leave home. I think a lot of people, present company included, are nearly expected to just land on their feet and figure it out as they go along with their business. That sort of thinking makes me want to hide under my covers. I'd prefer to be prepared for something, even just a little bit, before it actually happens. I think this is where my Real Life Induction begins.
Crap. Now I have to be an adult.