All posts by Simon Speight

I am a writer who has recently published his first novel, Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bacchus-Sanderson-Deceased-Simon-Speight-ebook/dp/B00O7UIWDQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412671760&sr=8-1&keywords=bacchus+and+sanderson+(Deceased)

Four children, and I still don’t have a clue how it happened.



I often wonder how I’ve fathered four children when my default position on children is; not particularly interested. Before I go one letter further, please hear me when I say, I love all of my children dearly and in the main they quite like me. My life has been enriched by them, I am frequently frustrated to the point of apoplexy by them, I wouldn’t for one moment change any aspect of any of them, my next heart attack will be named after one or other of them, of that i am sure.

I first became involved in the procreation business twenty four years ago and found I was enthusiastic and satisfyingly fertile. I know this sounds smug, but a man’s ego is a fragile thing and anything that gives it a boost rather than shooting it down, has to be welcomed with open arms.

As a new father I quickly discovered that every single aspect of fatherhood had an enormous learning curve attached. I was a modern man who was keen to be involved in everything; nappies, feeding, dressing bathing. Tell me when and I’ll be there, just let me look up what to do first in the manual.
Excuse me; there isn’t a manual?

Remarkably this ineptitude was replaced by something approaching confidence, at least by the time my fourth child had arrived fourteen years later. Now the two older children have flown the metaphorical nest, living with partners and living there own lives and will I’m sure have there own families.

Our two younger children left at home are dramatically different from each other. One is creative, thoughtful, enthusiastic and slightly kooky, the other is technologically advanced beyond his years, fiery, passionate and loyal. I can only assume that this diversity of personalty is as a result of mine and my wife’s differing temperaments.

As I watch them grow and experience the same problems, revelations and delights that were present with the older children, I struggle to remember how any particular situation was handled. Does it matter? Probably not as long as when they become adults they are well rounded and happy people.

If I had one wish for all of my children it would be; happiness and a large family. It seems to work; even if you didn’t think you were interested in the idea to start with.

Journal – In the beginning…


I have discovered a need to get stuff off my chest. To rant at the stupidity of the world, the fecklessness of people in general and to cherish that which strikes me as funny, noble, endearing or just fucking weird. Isn’t there a lot of that out there?

So let me encapsulate everything up to now so that i can begin afresh. We lived in an enormous old farmhouse which was cold in summer and freezing in winter. We regularly had ice on the inside of the house in the morning.
Then we came to our senses and said goodbye to the 18th Century and welcomed the 21st century with open arms. We can now walk to a shop. Have our services connected – sewage is no longer a huge tank at the bottom of the garden and marvel at the beauty of double glazing. The children sit spellbound while I regale them with the wonders of central heating and insulation.
Now we are here I wonder why we didn’t move years ago. We’ve spent eleven years enduring cold, mould and damp. We’d begun to think this was how everyone lived in Dorset.

We’ve run our own businesses since we moved to Dorset. Sold pasta and ice cream at Farmers Markets, run a veg box scheme, delivered sandwiches to offices and corporate lunches to offices, which we still do. Latterly, Beloved has been running a children’s cookery school. It was trialled in the summer and opened to a small number of rave reviews. This was built on during half term with Christmas cooking starting soon. Beloved has also had a remarkable number of people asking if she would offer adult cookery classes so these will be starting in the near future. All details at http://www.the-dorset-kitchen.co.uk

So that I can’t be accused of loafing at home all day I call myself a writer, though judging by my sales, a crap writer. I have been scribbling for many, many years but have only recently finished my first novel. Bowled over by the indifference I have immediately started a another. In an attempt to avoid penury I am training as a proofreader, which is interesting and more challenging than i’d imagined and will, I hope, keep the bills paid so I can spend the rest of my time telling stories.

If you’d like to reassure me, like this blog, leave a comment or buy a book. Please buy a book. Please. Please. Please buy a book. Link to buy a book under the Book tab next to the Journal tab. Thank you

You’ve got your idea … What next?


The idea has arrived and it’s beautiful. You know this is the one, the idea that will transform fiction writing, film production and theatre. You are twitching to put pen to paper and get cracking with the great British/American/Australian novel. Before your keyboard is reduced to a charred and tangled mess by the ferocity of your typing you still need to test your idea to ensure it will have the staying power that you are sure it will have.

When I have those moments of blind panic as I stare blankly at the screen, wondering how my main character has run out of things to say and do, the idea for the story is pathetic and my anti-hero has decided he/she wants to be fucking nice, then I wished i’d taken my own advice and scribbled a few bullet points down first. Outlining gives you the time to take a breathe after the first rush of enthusiasm and excitement is falling away. It forces you to ask a few questions about your idea and honestly decide if it is any good. Not just any good as an idea for a novel, a short story or flash fiction, but whether it is worthy of your time and effort at all. Some idea’s will appear to be great and will be amazing. Others appear at first glance to be fantastic, but are in reality shit.

I can only describe what I do when I scribble an outline down and how I think it through. Here goes:

In each section I just write a few lines; enough to remind me how I wanted the story to flow and to help identify if there is enough there. By now I also know who I am planning on writing for, their age group, gender and the planned genre of my story. However the best laid plans of mice and men…

Opening

How you want the story to open? This section sets out how you see your stories opening and how you see the beginning shaping the rest of the story. Do you start from the beginning? From the end with the remainder of the story going back in time to set out how you get to your opening pages? In the middle of the action, thrown in at the deep end? Your choice, make it.

Mid Section

These sections are the meat of your story, where you develop your characters, bring in other story lines that complement the main flow of the story. You can cleverly introduce character back stories, introduce some red herrings, some twists and turns. These sections are where you can have a lot of fun. Don’t forget to keep your eye on the end – that’s what you are building towards.

Conclusion

This is my favourite part. you’ve chosen how you want to begin your story, you have developed the story and the characters keeping an eye on the final part and now you show how inventive you have been. The twists and turns that will keep your readers intrigued until the end. You can make your ending as lively or as intense as you want, it’s your story.

These three sections will go a long way towards helping you decide how you want to structure your story and what format you would like it to take.

Ideas


I’ve recently completed my author page on Goodreads and one of the things that I can do is answer writing related questions that are posed by other readers. That forced me to think about the processes that I have gone through when I wrote Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased) or indeed any piece of significant fiction.
The starting point of any work of fiction is the germ of an idea that sparks passion. By passion I mean the desire to invest the time in exploring an idea and deciding if it merits your time and in what format. Is the idea strong enough to be a short story? Flash fiction? Or is it a idea that can be developed into a novel length piece of work.
Take the time to look carefully at your ideas and analyse in which format they would work in and deciding if you are passionate enough about the ideas to move them forward. The majority of ideas that flash into your head as you sit at your desk or commute to work, you will decide are not good enough. The key is spotting the ones in which you can get excited.

The advice in years gone by was; ‘write what you know.’ This intimates that if you are a keen knitter and a housewife, the only fiction you can write with any hope of believability is the adventures of a knitting housewife. Rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish. In a digital age the majority of us have access to a world of information through the internet. We can write as spies, killers, aliens from a distant universe or should we chose, as knitting housewives. Our options are limitless.
Ideas for our writing are all around us and come from some unexpected places. I am planning and plotting my next novel at the moment and the idea for it came from a flash fiction prompt from WordPress. The point is that ideas are all around us and your spark will be very different to mine.

When I need a starting point I look to my interests. What do you do with your life? Are you a gardener, climber, chef, art lover or bibliophile. Can any of those areas be incorporated into your next piece of work? What genre of books to like reading or listening to? What films do you enjoy and are willing to pay money to watch? These are the important questions that will help unblock your psyche and give you a idea that could be the basis of your next work.

On moving…


We moved house just over a week ago. Not far, about ten miles down the road, but far enough that we rejoined civilisation. We had lived in an old, draughty, damp, cold farmhouse for nearly eleven years and after the very wet winter we had in the South of England last year, enough was enough. The mould had mould and the area around the BT socket sported a growth that was almost and inch deep and colourfully furry.

In the summer the farmhouse was beautiful and a pleasant place to live. The surrounding countryside offered us views that were typical of the beauty of rural England; grass, sheep, cows and trees. As autumn approached and the weather cooled, our single glazed windows began to run with condensation day and night. You felt you were living in a goldfish bowl or the glass sided turtle pool at Sea Life. Once winter began to bite, we would often come downstairs in the morning to find the condensation had frozen on the inside of the glass, adding an extra layer of chilliness to our already brisk start to the day.

We tried, really tried, spending hundreds or perhaps thousands of pounds on paint, filler, brushes and in the end professional decorators in a vain attempt to keep the mould and damp at bay. In one room at the back of the house George, our decorator, who had taken up a semi-permanent place in the family, scraped and repainted one wall five times as the paint fell off as fast as it went on. When the wall paper in the porch area began to fall off the walls as water seeped through the rustic stone; we gave up and registered with every estate agent in a twenty mile radius.

Now we are here. We have double glazing, gas central heating, mould free walls and you can go for a walk without getting covered in poo of one description or another. These things , which to us are remarkable and more gratifying than you can imagine, are to you and your friends, something to which you don’t give a second thought. In time, I am sure, neither will we. For now we go down on bended knees in gratitude.

If the urge overcomes you, have a look at my recently published novel. It really is very good:

Bacchus and Sanderson (Deceased) – published!


Today is a strangely odd day and also a day in which I feel extremely proud. My first (completed) novel has been published on Amazon as a Kindle download. It isn’t getting the benefit of tweaks by a publisher’s art department or promoted in the national press by an enthusiastic marketing department; it just has me. This book has taken six years to plan, research and write, a year or more of repeatedly rewriting it and then a number of months involved with cover design, proofreading and ultimately publishing my book.

I have learnt so much about the craft of writing, the determination and the sheer bloody mindedness of putting bottom onto chair and typing one word after another, day after day. The whole process has been hugely enjoyable and i have discovered the pleasure that can be gained from creating something from scratch, polishing it and finally presenting it.

The next part of the process; marketing my novel, will involve be another steep learning curve. I hope with the resources of Amazon to assist me and my own determination, I can sell a few copies and discover if my book is the jewel I believe it to be.

If you’re interested in having a look the link to the book is above.

Synopsis and cover letters


Okay, this is the question. How is it possible to condense one hundred and twenty two thousand words down to two double spaced pages of A4? And now for the tricky bit, for it to tell the same story as the longer version so that your reader can glean a flavour of the story? I was amazed at how hard it was.

I had spent a few weeks viewing the task with a degree of trepidation and finding excuses not to begin. I couldn’t avoid it any longer. The book was completed, seven versions, and now I needed to send it out.

Creating a synopsis I discovered takes practice. My first effort was too long and detailed. I had written a chapter by chapter plot line that told the story, but in far to much detail. Attempts two, three, four and five were improvements, but still too long and too much detail. I turned to the internet, our new font of all knowledge and discovered it had the answer, actually many answers.

Reading the thoughts of agents and publishers who are the recipients of our endeavours, they all wanted the same thing. Brilliance, an undiscovered gem that would catapult both the agent and the author to the pinnacle of Sunday Times bestseller list and leave them there. If that were not possible they would settle for a synopsis that showed them that the author could take a story and keep it interesting, coherent and gripping over the course of a hundred thousand words. Could the author continue to deliver beyond the three sample chapters. I have learnt that an agent will read the sample chapters and then the synopsis. If the sample had promise and the synopsis sounded interesting i stood a chance. Oh also nearly every agent wanted us to spell their names correctly…

Now the covering letter. I nailed this in under ten attempts, an improvement of sorts. the essence I gleaned from my font of all knowledge was that the letter was three short paragraphs. The first paragraph was a very edited version of my story, the second an explanation of the genre and what is unusual about the book and finally a brief biography on me and the type of fiction I enjoy.

The samples synopsis and covering letters have been despatched and so I wait in hope of a response, any response.

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield


The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

For a writer, all writers, this book should be required reading. Robert McKee, a screenwriting genius wrote the foreword for the book. Robert McKee said,
‘Steven Pressfield wrote The War of Art for me. He undoubtedly wrote it for you too, but I know he did it expressly for me because I hold Olympic records for procrastination.’

Procrastination is the enemy of us all. In his book Steven Pressfield calls this enemy Resistance. Resistance is elicited whenever an activity requires something of us. For instance, the pursuit of writing or painting, education of any kind, diet or health regime. Or as Pressfield say’s, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favour of long term growth.

His book then goes on to characterise the forms that Resistance can take. In part two he talks about combatting Resistance and the difference between an amateur’s approach and a professional’s approach. A lovely quote is from Somerset Maugham. When asked if he wrote to a schedule or only when inspiration struck he replied,
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” He’s a professional.
This book has had a bigger influence on me than any other. It has helped me, forced me, to complete my novel. It keeps me working even though there are a thousand other things I would rather do and most importantly it has allowed me to realise that it is a privilege to do what I do: write, but I have to remember that I have to do my work everyday to keep Resistance at bay.

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