Monday, February 28, 2005

Back to the grindstone

Today was my first day back at my full-time job after a week off following the nightshift. In my job we do four shift patterns: 6-2, 2-10, 10-6 and 7-3 or on occasion 3.30. Today I was on 7-3, which means I was woken up at 6a.m. by the incessant wail of the alarm clock, a device surely created in the bowls of hell.

Early shifts are when I find I have the least time to write. Today's output will probably total about 500 words as I also went the gym after work, but every little helps. With regard the gym, it's an excellent place to people watch and is populated by all manner of characters. There's the sporty type, the overweight type, the show-off type, the 'I'm attractive and don't I just know it' type, the quiet type, the determined type, the 'I'm only here to spot the talent' type, the social type, the 'I don't know what I'm doing but I'm too afraid to ask' type. The list goes on and on. I could probably fill a notebook with characters from the gym alone. But it's these social interactions that help build a mental library when creating fictional characters, which is why I believe having interests outside writing can be most beneficial.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Scrapbook snippet

While reading the newspapers this morning, I came across a story about plans to recover artificial joints from the ashes of cremated bodies to sell them. Macabre indeed. The article continued as to whether such an act would be legal, posing the question: If hip joints or orthopaedic implants are placed in there, who owns them?

This is the sort of thing I look out for, as I'm sure there's a story here. All it needs is a bit of imagination to see where it leads.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Train of thought - or where ideas originate

So where do ideas come from? In my experience, ideas come from what's going on around me. The things I see, the things I hear and the things that plain just pop into my head at the oddest of times. An example of where ideas come from is where my novel, Evilution originated: I used to drive past a village on a hillside, and for some reason I started wondering what would happen if the village was cut off from the rest of the world. When this idea had seeded itself, I started coming up with ways to cut it off from society, and then as the seeds of my imagination began to germinate, I needed a reason why the village would be cut off. The answer to ‘why’ came during a conversation with a client at the gym where I used to work at weekends, and the ‘how’ came one foggy morning on the way to work when I could hardly see the road in front of the car.

I actually had the title for the book long before the book was written, but I didn’t have the right story to pin it to. Then when the ideas mentioned above started to come together, the title seemed to slot itself in like the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Quality v Quantity

Although it's quality not quantity that's important, first drafts don't have to be perfect so it's OK to write them quicker. Quality comes with the rewrites. Up to today, I've written 4160 words of Fangtooth. Not bad (for me) in 3 days. Yesterday I realised that chapter 3 was going to be another one that needed information I didn't have to hand, so I've skipped it until later. I believe it's okay to skip chapters as long as you know that if something important is going to occur in said chapter that will reflect in another chapter, you make note of it. If you spent the time trying to find the information, you stop writing. I think it's better to keep writing. Unless vital to the story, any facts can be gleaned later.

With regard writing in general, if you're anything like me, you left school thinking you knew everything there was to know about stringing a few words together. How wrong I was. It's only in the last few years my shortcomings have been made evident. By reading books such as 'The Elements of Style' by William Strunk and E.B. White, and 'Self Editing for Fiction Writers' by Renni Browne and Dave King, I've learned a lot. I cannot recommend these books enough for anyone who wants to improve their writing. Like any other job, you only improve if you learn how to use the tools of the trade. In this case the tools are words. It's also useful to read a lot. See how other people construct a sentence. How they can make the words come alive, how they make a character or place seem real.

Other books I would recommend reading are: 'Writing Horror Fiction' by Guy N. Smith, 'Writing Horror' by Edo Van Belkom, 'The Complete Idiots Guide to Writing a Novel' by Tom Monteleone and 'On Writing' by Stephen King. If nothing else, it's good to see how other authors work.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Time to write

Yesterday, I wrote 1990 words in about 3 hours. When the characters are established, I'll probably be able to write more at each session. With regard finding time to write, some people find myriad excuses to keep putting it off. They'll read a newspaper, watch the television, browse the internet, walk the dog - anything to delay the writing. Then they'll say 'I just don't have the time'. To that remark I say, rubbish. I have a full-time job and a family, but I can always find time to write. If you put down that paper, forget about what the rest of the world is doing, don't subscribe to that forum (where you do manage to write in reply to numerous posts), then you'll find there's plenty of time. Even if you can devote only half an hour a day, make it count. Most books are between 300-500 pages. If you manage to write a page a day, in a year you have a book. Obviously there are days when you can't write, but make the most of those times when you can. Every successful author has served his/her time in the trenches. Now it's up to the new recruits to take up arms (pens), go over the top and make that final push for victory.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Horror

Today I have started writing a new novel. It's tentatively titled Fangtooth.

Although everyone goes about writing in a different way, I'll go through the steps I'll be using.

Step 1

I started plotting the story a couple of days ago. I haven't written a complete plot, just the bare bones including possible subplots. I've also skipped the first chapter and started writing the second chapter first. This is because my first chapter will need more technical information, so rather than wait until I've got the information to hand, I thought it best to crack on (also it stops me keep putting it off and spurs me to continue).

As I introduce a character into the story, I'll write a profile for my own notes. That way, I only have to refer to the notes when I want to know what that character's like. In this way, they won't step out of character so to speak. I'll give them quirks; phobias etc, to flesh them out and try to make them seem real. I give them a brief history, making (up) note of anything that might have happened to them that has shaped who they are now.

So far in the story, I have introduced a father called Bruce: After finding drugs in his teenage son's bedroom, Bruce decided to move away from the city to the coast. Through this action alone, I've got a feel for the character. I know that Bruce is family orientated and will do anything to protect his family (this probably stems from having lost his wife to cancer where he could do nothing to help).

Having written a couple of pages of the story, I sat down and fleshed out the character of Bruce, creating a short character profile to get me started. Now I can use this as a guide whenever Bruce is involved. Now that I know more about Bruce, I'll also go over what I have already written and add bits if required. The profile so far is like this:

Bruce Golden is 37 years old (although he looks younger) with a 16 year old son, Jack. Bruce likes to keep fit as best he can. He jogs and does a bit of weight training. Of medium build with short, choppy brown hair and blue eyes, he has a long face, and can be said to have a hangdog expression. After losing his wife to cancer, he will do anything to protect his son. He is organised and pleasant, but he is also slightly superstitious and carries good luck charms in his wallet. He can be slightly rash but will shy away from heated arguments as he doesn’t mix too well with other people. He runs a web design company from home.

It's only rough and will be added to, but it gives me guidelines to keep to at the moment, such as if Bruce came across a ladder, he would walk around it; if there are cracks in the pavement, he may decide to jump over them rather than chance his luck.

In this way, I can try to give Bruce a character of his own.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Writer's Tale

As a writer, I love books about writing, and I was more than pleased to receive through the post this morning a copy of 'A Writer's Tale', an autobiographical tour through the life and work of Richard Laymon. Laymon is one of my favourite authors, and it was a sad day when he died. To coin a phrase, 'A Writer's Tale' is as rare as rocking horse shit. The copy I purchased was an ex-library copy that was never read, and it is number 497 of the 500 published. It makes me sad to think the book was never even opened. Books are for reading, and you can be sure that's just what I'm going to do.

Monday, February 21, 2005


One of the worst things about submitting work is waiting to hear back. The link above is a useful resource which gives times taken for various markets to reply. It only works well when people continue to update it with their response times, but it does give a good idea of how long you'll be chewing your fingernails for.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Time to write

Finding a compromise between finding time to write and spending time with my family is probably one of the hardest things. Writing itself is an obsession; it's something I have to do, but weeks like this where I'm working nights at my full-time job make it difficult. If anyone's ever worked nights, they'll know what I mean when I say how hard it is to sleep during the day. The waking hours are then spent in a fugue where you feel disconnected, so anything I do write probably reflects this.

I received a short story rejection this morning from Strange Horizons. But like with any other rejection, I reread the story (it's funny how after having read it so many times before submitting it in the first place, errors can be spotted when rereading it weeks later), then resubmitted it somewhere else. If a story's good enough, someone will accept it. I also received a rejection the other day from the Borderlands 6 anthology. If anyone's ever read this series of books, they'll know the stories chosen are top notch and very surreal. The editor Elizabeth provided some very useful points, and ended with: 'You have talent...but this one is not right for us.' So even though the story wasn't accepted, it's nice to know that people appreciate what I write.

To sleep, perchance to dream

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Scrapbook snippets

To help with my writing, I keep a scrap book, and from time to time I'll post snippets here that I find worth mentioning for one reason or another, such as the story of the ganster in Suriname who asked a witch doctor to make him bulletproof - then ordered him to test the magic by shooting him. The task of pulling the trigger was delagated to an assistant. After the death, both men denied murder, claiming the gangster died because he lacked faith in the spell.

In keeping with the doctor theme, it's rumoured that the new series of Doctor Who will air on Saturday March 26th. It'll be interesting to see how the series pans out.

Putting a face to the name ... Posted by Hello

Friday, February 18, 2005

In the beginning

First, the introduction: Hello, my name's Shaun Jeffrey and I write horror stories. There, I've said it. Not that I'm ashamed, but I wanted to let you know who I am right from the start, so there's no secrets so to speak.

To some people horror stories conjure up images of poor writing, slashed bodies, the undead and the walking dead, but there's so much more. Horror can be quiet; it can be extreme, hell it can be funny. Despite the genre label, horror has crept stealthily into many forms of literature. To divert attention away from what may be an out and out horror book, publishers pigeonhole it as dark fantasy, thriller or some other form deemed more acceptable, but in the end it's all the same thing.

A little about me: I was born in 1965 and live in Cheshire, England with my partner, Debra and our son, Callum. My dark roots were sown from an early age, as I grew up in a house in a cemetery, my playground the graveyard where my early reading experience came from headstones- perfect grounding for writing dark fiction. I have a number of published short stories to my credit, and my first published novel, Evilution has received a number of glowing reviews.

That's about it for now, and any comments are welcome.