28 Days Later…

First of all I need to make something clear, this post isn’t about the brilliant 2002 film. There are no references to pandemics – we’ve all had quite enough of that. There are no zombies here…

This is actually about creativity and productivity.

Yesterday marked the 28th day on which I’ve written consecutively. Whilst this might not be a big deal to everyone, it is huge for me. I’ve never been able to find the momentum. I’ve tried numerous approaches and none of them seemed to help.

A little over a month ago I stumbled across an article which talked of how you could approach writing a first book in a year. You can read the full thing here, but the basic idea is as follows…

You write every day for 365 days and you aim to write between 1 and 365 words each day. You tick each number off as you do and, if you stick to it, you’ll have 66,795 words by the end of the year.

So, I noted it. Told myself I would start in the new year. However, this was only an excuse. Procrastination to avoid trying. And that is my problem. If I tried then there was a good chance I’d fail.

I wasn’t aiming to write a novel. The goal, if I did try, was to motivate myself to simply write. Make it a habit. Also, I’ve always been a slow writer. It’s why NaNoWriMo, or targets of X no. of words a day have never worked for me. This approach of little and often seemed like it might suit me better.

On the 12th of October – I mustn’t have been feeling quite myself – I sat down and made myself a spreadsheet (more procrastination) and wrote some words. 337 of them in fact. I wrote the next day too. And the next… You get the idea.

That first week I was on holiday, and not having to go to work certainly helped give me an initial push. But, once I returned, I still tried to put down a few words each day.

There were days when I struggled. Days when I didn’t feel particularly creative. Days when I had no inspiration or motivation at all. Days when I thought everything I wrote was complete garbage. But I forced myself to write.

I use notes on my phone and Word online so I can access my stories wherever I am. I wrote on the bus, lounging on the settee. If I found myself lying awake in bed, doomscrolling (who doesn’t?), I would try and write a few words instead.

My lowest word count was 42. My highest has been 460 (I won’t stop at 365 if the words are flowing). I’ve averaged 226 words a day. It might not be a great deal, but the numbers add up…

I’ve written a little over 6,300 words in 28 days.

I don’t know if I will last the full year. I might not make it to Christmas. But in the past month I have accomplished something and I hope that will be enough to keep me motivated.

Enough to keep me writing.

New Story: The Forest Abyss…

My short story, The Forest Abyss, appears in the August issue of Aurealis, Australia’s premiere magazine for speculative fiction. If you’re so inclined, you can buy a copy here.

The quiet isolation of nature is fertile ground for fear to take root and myths to thrive. With The Forest Abyss I wanted to create a dark legend of my own. You won’t find the forest in this story on any map. But somewhere, it grows…

Music to Write To… Part Two

A couple of months back I put together a blog recommending some soundtracks I listen to when writing, and highlighted some some of my favourite tracks from those albums. A self indulgent exercise, I know.

Here are some more suggestions below, and not solely confined to soundtracks this time. I hope you find something you like.

I’ve also added them all to a playlist on Spotify, which you can find here.

Mica Levi – Death

Taken from the Under The Skin soundtrack. It isn’t an easy listen, but the track is perfect for the film. Weird and unsettling.

Akira Yamaoka – Theme of Laura (Reprise)

From Silent Hill 2. I’ve always loved this game and this piece in particular. Sometimes the horror is too much and to attempt escape is pointless.

Elskavon – Small Hands

This artist is a recent discovery. Taken from the album Release.

Seifert & Steinbuechel – Maunsel Sea Forts, England

The first entry on the list which isn’t entirely music, but more of an ambient soundcape. Taken from an album called Abandoned Places – all of which is quietly atmospheric.

Giles Lamb – Dead Island Theme

When I saw the trailer for Dead Island and heard the haunting music it instantly became a favourite. And if you haven’t watched the trailer it is well worth your time as a three minute horror film. Since then his music has become a go-to when I’m writing. Give one of his albums a go.

Desiderii Marginis – Come Ruin and Rapture

Dark ambient music. They have a number of albums to try. This track always conjures images of Silent Hill, perhaps helped by the drone of a distant siren.

Atrium Carceri – A Curved Blade

More dark ambience, this is taken from the album Void. Disconcerting tracks to help bring the dark.

Cities Last Broadcast – The Cancelled Earth

I’ve included the whole album for this one. Apparently created from a decades worth of recordings from urban environments and shaped into a nightmare soundscape.

There are many more I could recommend, but these are the ones I return to in order to help me find my feet. Let me know how you find these pieces and suggest your own.

Music To Write To…

A little over six weeks ago Arterial Bloom was released into the world. Reviews for the book have been kind so far and I am proud of the story I have in the anthology.

However, long before Dog (Does Not) Eat Dog found a home, when the story wasn’t much more than an idea, I opened a note on my phone and started tinkering with the opening line. I was listening to music, to drown out the noise of the office I worked in at the time, and as I wrote one piece stood out.

The piece was Abandon Window by Jon Hopkins. It became something I listened to every time I sat down to work on the story. It was a way in, a way back to the beach. There was something in it that resonated with the story I was trying to write. The music starts as a melancholic piano piece but becomes something more as an ambient soundscape swells beneath the notes. I thought it might be the Everstorm, raging above the ocean. Give it a listen below.

Now whenever I sit down to try and write, I need music. Something to help me lose myself in the world of words. Below I’ve shared some of the go-to pieces from my favourite film and TV scores.

Apokalypse – Dark

Ben Frost composed the Dark score and it is perfect for the bleak, time travel story at the heart of this Netflix series. This is a favourite piece of mine, full of quiet, building menace.

Campfire – Monsters

The Monsters score by Jon Hopkins is quiet, contemplative and full of atmosphere. The film might not be for everyone, but the music is great.

Waves Crashing on Distant Shores of Time – San Junipero

San Junipero is my favourite, and objectively the best, episode of Black Mirror. I love it. The episode has an amazing soundtrack, but it also has a brilliant, dreamlike score from Clint Mansell.

Welcome to Lunar Industries – Moon

Another score by Clint Mansell. Moon is an amazing film which doesn’t seem to get enough love. The building tension in this piece is useful for those moments in your writing when things are heading towards their final, inevitable conclusion.

She Remembers – The Leftovers

I haven’t seen the TV show but I’ve heard good things. I did however stumble upon the score on a Max Richter playlist and found this melancholic gem.

On The Nature Of Daylight – Into The Forest

This has appeared in a few places, but I first heard it in Into The Forest. I loved Max Richter’s soundtrack and I think this piece in particular is beautiful. A bonus – the music video features the brilliant Elizabeth Moss.

Motion Picture Soundtrack – Westworld

The Vitamin String Quartet are responsible for this instrumental version of the Radiohead song and it is a lovely, truly affecting piece.

That’s it.

Let me know what you have on your writing playlist.

And, if you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ve found something to add to your own playlist. If not, then I hope you’ve at least enjoyed some of them, and I haven’t left you feeling too down on this dreary, Sunday afternoon.

Why I Wrote ‘Dog (Does Not) Eat Dog’

The release of Arterial Bloom from Crystal Lake Publishing is now less than three weeks away, so I thought I would talk a little about what inspired my story, Dog (Does Not) Eat Dog.

Everyone of us has experienced, or will experience, an increasingly toxic friendship. The piece is an attempt to explore this.

Friendships, like any kind of relationship, require maintenance and if you neglect them they deteriorate. It was that deterioration – what drives it and what happens as a result – I wanted to focus on.

This story concerns two old friends reflecting on their friendship at the end of everything. The empty, apocalyptic setting provided a great canvas to push my ideas into the extreme.

Also, the coastline on which this story is set is real. I have walked on the sand and stood in the ocean. It’s only a few miles from the place I grew up. But I’ve moved away now and I don’t see that shore so often.

It seemed only fitting that a story about old friends should unfold close to my old hometown.

Arterial Bloom is due for release on the 3rd of April and you can pre order from Amazon by clicking here. You know what to do.

Thanks for reading.