The Lull

The long May Day Bank Holiday weekend has passed and it is time for me to start working again. The thing is, I haven’t got any writing to do…


Well, not ‘proper’ writing.


I finished the rewrites on Malekith and Call of the Lion last week and also sent off the synopsis for my Heroes of the Space Marines short. That means that this week is dedicated to paving the way for future work – another synopsis or three, emailing folks for possible ventures, and coming up with ideas.


100% Free Range and Organic

When I’m in this mode there are two different strands of thought competing for space inside my head. The first is practical. These are things that need to be done to get direct work commissioned (and pay the bills for another month).


I have upcoming projects such as the second instalment of The Sundering, Alith Anar. I have a rough outline of what occurs in the novel, some notes on characters and theme and even some text that is left over from Flames of Treachery (the first Sundering novel before it became Malekith). These ideas need to be turned into a proper synopsis with a plot and everything.


In a similar vein I have a proposal for a Warhammer 40,000 Eldar project, originally conceived as a novel but after conversations with Lindsey it looks like another trilogy would be better (yup, Gav’s hypocrisy strikes again!). So, I need to develop the ideas further from where they are at the moment, outlining the trilogy as a whole and coming up with a more detailed plan for the first book.


There’s also some follow-up work to be done for a possible novel or novels that continue on from the Space Marines story.


On the other side of things are the speculative ideas. These are the early seeds of future projects that I need to generate and then mull over for a while. This is what I suspect is most people’s image of a writer’s life – walking in parks, listening to music, scribbling notes and coming up with cool ideas. If only it was that easy…


The ‘problem’ is a simple one – it’s not a shortage of ideas, it’s trying to sift through the many and varied concepts and images to find the ones that I can hopefully turn into a good story. Some ideas are virtually stillborn, fleeting thoughts that don’t pass the first examination. Others seem dead-ends at first, but nag away in the back of your head demanding to be re-examined. Since I am not merely interested in writing novels, but also short stories, scripts, comics/ graphic novels part of this thought process is diverted to wondering which of the many media would be most suitable.


Split Personality

I can find this quite an unsettling time, because my first instinct is to dedicate as much effort as possible into the practical issues. Knowing that there’s another commission just around the corner, adding another little brick in the wall of financial security, is an exceptionally strong driver.


On the other hand, if I don’t make time to explore some of those wilder, more far-reaching ideas there’s no chance of them happening. These are the dream projects that may come to nothing and are a gamble in terms of time and money. They are also a real test of my creativity and I subject them to a high level of scrutiny.


As with life in general, the key to success is finding the balance. By spending some time on practical issues I can feel comforted that I have got some ‘work’ done, thus freeing my conscience to do a bit of exploration. The important point at this stage is not to apply too much structure, but rather to go with the flow. If I find myself stuck on one thing, I can move onto another. If I end up getting really caught up in a particular idea then it doesn’t matter if it overshadows some of the other stuff.


In this way I can deal with the ‘practical angel’ on one shoulder and the ‘speculative demon’ on the other and keep both happy.


In theory…


Mouse Update: Nope, still not taking the bait.


Last Week’s Life Lesson: Don’t put eggs on to boil and then forget about them whilst surfing internet forums:




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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I wonder, do individual novels that are part of a trilogy sell better than stand-alone novels? I don’t mean with Black Library specifically, but I do feel that they’re pushing more and more trilogies and series.

    Hope the Eldar work goes well. It’s going to be tough to portray them in a way fanboys will like.


  2. An interesting entry because I think it is a problem oft experienced but rarely addressed with writers. I spent a lot of time with a Jungian therapist discussing the definition of “work”(money producing) verses “writing.” What I have had to contend with many times is whether drinking a beer or a cup of coffee and making notes about a piece of speculative fiction on a napkin is play or an essential part of my writing (developmental) process and thereby work. You may think this conundrum is funny but this odd question actually bothers me. As Iain Banks says, and I paraphrase, the thinking over a pint is the work, the actual time in front of the keyboard is typing.


  3. Hello!
    You may or may not recall receiving, way back in 2001, a typewritten letter regarding Codex: Craftworld Eldar from a young Eldar player who signed off as “Jam”. That was me, and I’d like to thank you for a number of things, including having the time to reply (I was showing that letter to my friends for months), helping make the fluff Eldar what they are today, and a whole bunch of other things (T8 Wraithlords, for instance). Most of all, I think it was you in particular that first inspired me to seriously start writing. I’m glad to have found your blog, and if I ever get into “creepy internet fanboy” territory, just say and I’ll fade into the background.


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