Changing Point of View

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Not doing well with my promise to blog more so far, but here we go with some more!

In working on the new draft of Hope, I realised that the book would work a lot better if it is written from the first-person point of view. There’s a slight problem with that. I’ve never written anything using first-person before. Every single thing has been third-person objective, with what people are thinking never being said.

So needless to say deciding that Hope needs to be first-person has meant I’ve had to get some practice in, as well as going back and reading some of my favourite books that are written in the first-person to see how much better authors than I have done it. I’ve enjoyed challenging myself and am looking forward to seeing how a whole draft in first-person turns out.

Besides that I’ve been thinking more about every aspect of the outline I’ve gone and I’ve been tweaking it, from how the nature of some planets will change how some social aspects are shown to what happens to each character in the plot.

Once more I stand before the mountain of a 100,000 – 120,000 word draft ahead of me. Some of the paths along the way are familiar, but enough has changed to make it a new experience. Time to start climbing again.

2017 – The Year of Hope

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Well, 2016 was definitely not the year I’d planned it out to be. Not a bad year personally (world events of course registering quite high on the suck-o-meter, never mind all the celebrity deaths), but not what I’d thought it would be.

The biggest thing that didn’t go as I wanted was my writing. With some health stuff going on for the first half of the year I decided to focus on other parts of my life, so plans for the next draft of what I’ve been working on got pushed back, to the point where I’m only just about to start that next draft.

However in a way I think that delay has ended up being a good thing. The momentous political events of this year, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as President (both things I’m strongly against, voted Remain in the EU referendum), have had me thinking a lot about the stories I’m writing and the goals of them.

Elements of the world that I built for the Oranje and what was going to be the September series, and now morphed into the United novels, were constructed to reflect the world today and issues going on. The Commonwealth as the literal embodiment of the glorious past so many politicians are trying to drag us back to and never really existed as people remember. The Contracts, seen in Oranje, the decades long signing over work in return for education and safety, reflecting the insecurity of the job market, zero-hour contracts, and the ever increasing cost of education.

So with the world going topsy-turvy I felt like I needed to push that side of the story more, so the whole setting and background has gone through some changes, changes I definitely feel will make what I write better.

And I want to have more hope in my writing. With so many changes going on, and lots of freaking scary rhetoric being thrown around, I think we could all use some hope. That’s what the first book will be called, Hope, and it is the central theme of it. There are dark times ahead, and there needs to be more light. It can come from activism, getting involved in politics, donating to causes you believe in, and we need more stories that lift people up, maybe inspire them.

A grand goal for me to be aiming for, especially so early on in my writing career, but fuck it. It’s what I want to write, it’s what I feel like I need to write (myself, not speaking for anyone else), so it’s what I’m going to do.

Aim is for the book to be out before the end of 2017, we’ll see how that goes.

Oh, and hopefully more blogging too, I let that slide as well, and that should change. I find writing on here useful, it helps to give shape to what I’m thinking, so more of this too. Until next time, have a great 2017.

I hope it is a year filled with light and hope for you all.

We Could Be Heroes

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This week saw the deaths of two greats. On Monday morning I woke up to the news that David Bowie had died. I had to read that headline a few times before the reality sunk in. For someone who felt so timeless it was weird to hear the news of his passing, especially given the amazing scope of his influence on music, fashion, and culture. Not just in his constant reinvention driven by his curiosity, but also in how he played with gender and challenged the norms of the day. It took me a while to get into Bowie but when I did I realised just how many of his songs I knew, how much they’d been part of my life for so long. He was simply a genius.

And then to top the week off was the news of Alan Rickman’s passing. Also 69, also from cancer. I find it hard to decide what his best role was. The Sheriff of Nottingham in Prince of Thieves. Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest. The Metatron in Dogma. All fabulous to watch. My wife and I celebrated his life by watching Dogma and then Prince of Thieves. Any of them we could have watched and equally paid tribute to him. For many others he was Professor Snape from Harry Potter, though personally I didn’t enjoy the films. Nothing to do with the quality of them, I know there are millions of people out there who love and adore them. The films vision of Hogwarts just didn’t mesh with my internal one from reading the books and I found it off-putting.

Their deaths have left a lasting impression on me. not just because of what amazing people they were, but also in relation to a lot of other celebrity deaths there have been over the past few years. Robin Williams, Christopher Lee, Leonard Nimoy, and my favourite author of all time Terry Pratchett. Some have been talking about all these deaths as a passing of a generation, a group of unique people and talent we won’t see again. That we won’t see these people who dominated a genre or genres creatively.

I’m not sure I agree with that entirely. Okay yes, there will never be another Bowie, or another Pratchett. Their creativity, the way they connected with people, came from who they were, and no one can be like they were.

I do think it’s less likely we’ll see people who so totally seem to dominate an era, who speak to millions in such a way. Sure, there will be some, but I think our changing world will work against that.

One of the changes I think has happened over the past few decades, and which is accelerating thanks to the internet, is a broadening of niches. There are a lot more creators out there, whether they be writers or artists or musicians, who are much more able to connect with a fan base that is incredibly passionate about their work. That fan base may not be as large as the millions for Pratchett and others, but its one that will morn the loss of their favourite authors just as much.

I think about Amanda Palmer and the almost 25,000 fans who helped fund an album of hers for $1.5 million. I think of the birth of Patreon and the many comic artists and writers that can create more thanks to the money given by fans who are interested in what they make.

There are going to hundreds if not thousands of people out there all with their own curious followings making a living doing what they want creatively. The internet has allowed that connection to flourish and grow, and for artists to stand more and more on their own. To the point I think we’re entering a golden age of creativity.

With more and more ways for people to share their work, and to make money off of what they create, I think more and more people will. It makes me want to create too.

Thinking about the impact people like Bowie and Pratchett have had on peoples lives, I can hope to come close to 0.1% of that if I’m lucky. All I really hope for, and aim for, is that one person reads something I’ve written and lets me know they’ve loved it or that it’s had an impact on their life.

I think that’s a good thing to aim for, for myself and others. Have an impact on one life. Sounds good to me.

Who knows, it could even be your own.

Hello, I’m Still Here

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Been a while hasn’t it?

There are a number of reasons for that, some health related, but I’m back to posting on here more regularly.

Short update on things, Hodderscape got back to me about my open submission and they’re not taking it forward so I’m now going to do the next book self-published, same as I did for Oranje. I didn’t make the second round of reading for the submissions so I know I need to improve my writing.

The book i’m working on has changed a lot over the past month. Working on the third and fourth drafts of The Word has made me realise that several story elements that have been in since the first draft, and were carried over from the planned books of the September series, don’t really work.

As a result I’ve been re-outlining and making big changes to the story. Big changes, so much so i’m going to be starting on a whole new fresh draft once I’ve finished some outlining. I’ve been trying out some new techniques for outlining each chapter that I’ll talk about soon. More than just the story has changed, characters and locations have had their names changed so that it’s a much clearer break from Oranje.

I’ve also changed the name. It’s no longer The Word, now it’s called…

Hope.

So that’s where I’m at. Still writing, still learning, always making progress. I’m hoping to have a draft from this new outline done in a few months and then might share some it up here. Been enjoying more of the writing I’ve been doing lately so I think i’m getting better at the whole sentence to sentence part of it which is something.

Until next time, which shouldn’t be too long.

On the Importance of Reading Inspiring Books

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I recently had a short holiday to the US, visiting my best friend who I’ve not seen in person since he got married almost two years ago. The problem of them marrying an American and moving over there. The one good thing about a flight to the US is that it gives plenty of time to read, and on the way over I read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemsin.

Oh my, it’s spectacular. I loved The Inheritance Trilogy she’s also written, devouring that over a weekend, but this is on another level of awesome. But it wasn’t just fantastic to read, it’s inspired me as well.

I used to be wary about reading books when I was working on my writing, worrying about the ideas from what I was reading seeping into my work. It’s a silly worry, one that should be ignored, as the best books you read will make you want to write so much.

Reading a book like The Fifth Season, with its fantastic style and unique voice, just inspires me. It makes me want to reach the same levels (fat chance but I’ll try!) with my own writing, and to trust in my writing voice as well.

The best books not only show how a novel can be written, in a myriad of different ways, and teach you lessons on style, pacing, character. They make you want to improve as well.

So right now I’m working on draft two-and-a-half of The Word, and thanks to The Fifth Season I’m trusting to write my own way a little bit more.

Me and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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I’ve not really blogged about anything too personal on here before, but I think this is a topic worth talking about. A little warning, the word bowel is used a lot and a lot of talk about a medical condition I have.

Hi, my name is Jack Lusted, and I have Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

What is IBS?

Well luckily the NHS have a very good definition on their website:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation.

The symptoms vary between individuals and affect some people more severely than others. They tend to come and go in periods lasting a few days to a few months at a time, often during times of stress or after eating certain foods.

This is also followed by what I think is a wonderfully British sentence:

You may find that some of symptoms improve after having a poo.

Hehe!

I was diagnosed with IBS back in 2012. I’d been having problems for a while with pain in my gut/stomach and, well, my bowel movements were pretty damn running. Think shitting out a bowl of cheerios with the milk. You can thank me for that mental image later.

Result was taking quite a few days off work sick to the point where I went to my GP about it. They thought it was likely to be IBS and a series of blood and stool tests ruled out the other candidates. It was really nice to have a diagnosis for what I was suffering from, and it helped me take steps to improve my quality of life.

I don’t have the worst IBS in the world, there are others out there who have to deal with the pain on a daily basis and use pills to combat it. I have luckily been able to minimise it’s impact on me via changes to my diet and reducing the amount of stress in my life. Stress has been far the biggest trigger for my worst IBS episodes.

YO deal with IBS certain foods have been cut out of my diet or reduced a lot. For some people eating more wholegrain helps them but for me its the opposite, and some fruits such as apricots go right through me. I now eat a couple of cereal bars with oats in every day as that kind of fibre helps give me more solid bowel movements. The diet stuff has helped reduce its day to day aspect, though it still has an impact.

A good example of this was on holiday recently. Me and Clare went to Tenerife for a week, spending a lovely week at an all-inclusive hotel. It was lovely, the room we stayed it was bigger than some flats I’ve lived in! But I did have low level gut pain for most of the week. That was caused quite simply by the change in diet. It was a buffet meal service with a wide range of food available, but different enough from what I regularly have to cause me problems. Not ideal by any means but it is something I’ve simply had to learn to live with. My IBS is something I’m probably going to have for the rest of my life.

But what’s really driven me to talk about my IBS is a recent painful bout of it that’s been the worst for years, and which was triggered by high levels of stress. Part of the stress was from work, some from other personal life stuff, and a big part from one of our cats, Flynn, sadly being diagnosed with terminal cancer. We sadly had to put him to sleep last week. He was an amazing cat, and we were very lucky to have him as part of our lives.

The net result of all the stress was missing almost a complete week off work. I do have to say that my work have been incredibly supportive and understanding of my IBS. If i’m having an off day I can work from home so not got the stress of going to the office and they’ve offered a lot of other support as well. Generally I can reduce the stress I’m under as I lead my own team so schedule my own workload which also helps. With that bad week they understood I needed to take it off ill and kept in regular communication with me before and after to see if I could use any extra support. My stress levels have reduced again now and i’m back to normal, or as normal as I ever am with IBS.

It’s never fun to spend a whole week in pain, especially when I know I do so much to manage my diet and my stress to keep my IBS under control and sometimes you just can’t control the stress and it has a big impact.

Apparently around 10-15% of people suffer from IBS, but there are only one or two people I know in real life who’ve talked to me about it. It’s a condition you have to live with and deal with as you can, whether that’s via diet, reducing stress, or medication. What works for each person will be different as each person will have different triggers and severity of IBS.

My recent holiday and stressful painful week of IBS have reminded about how little I’ve seen people talk about it, but I think it is important to bring this up. Too many people suffer from IBS for it not to be a condition we feel comfortable talking about, and I hope someone who reads this takes comfort in me describing my person experience with the condition.

My name is Jack Lusted and I have IBS, and that’s something I have to live with. I hope this has been informative, and maybe if you’re reading this you’ve learnt something new. Not all medical conditions are big and showy, many people you know will have conditions they have to deal with every day that you might not know about. This is mine, and it has a constant impact on my life. But I have to live with it. I don’t have any other choice. So, I deal with it as best I can.

Thank you for reading.