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COVID MUTUAL AID: Story Circles & Skill Shares

Writing from my sick-bed I would like to announce to you, Gentle Readers, Kittlings & Drekkheds, the start of a new post series here on Troublesomewords. Over the next little while I’m going to be offering what meagre skills I have on story-writing, characterisation, and plot-construction. I’m figuring that there’s probably comrades out there who now have the time to write That Thing That’s Been In Their Head for ages.

I can’t promise that my process will work for everyone, but it helps to see how others do the thing – even if it only helps you work out what you Don’t like!



Here are some things I’ve found useful to get started:

Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist:

Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook, a guide to writing imaginative fiction with contributions from St. Ursula, Catherynne M. Valente, GRRM, Charles Yu, Nnedi Okorafor, Neil Gaiman and many more…

Other Voices Which are Damn Useful:

Steering the Craft, by St. Ursula.

On Writing, by Stephen King

The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield.

…and, quoted before on this blog, Warren Ellis’s conversation on visioning, daydreaming, and generally figuring-the-thing out still hits the mark:

Try this, for a minute. Try to describe your experience of how your brain works. Think of a metaphor that works for you. Then describe your experience of the thing that stops it working. Explain your brain to yourself. It’s a good way to surface the problems, and perhaps the ways to solve them. The inside of your own head is really pretty amazing in ways that are unique to you. Even the annoying or “bad” parts. Sit and breathe and watch it go, and then paint a picture of it with words. That’s all we do, here in hermit country. Paint with words. Sit down next to me.

Exercise 1.

What are your three favorite stories?

Forget what format they’re in, you could choose novels, short stories, myths, folktales, movies, performances, memories – anything. Take a moment to remember the story, remember why you like it. Was it a particular character? A message? The setting, the humor, the romance, the adventure? Recall that first opening scene or chapter or first words, and how it tickled your interest and drew you onward…


**Now, I just need to make sure that I beat this mutant bat-flu so I get to write the rest of this series! Stay safe, and look after each other, comrades.

Letters to a Younger Freelancer, part 2

Stop. Breathe.

Sitting in the mailbox is the latest rejection. That inevitable tide of feeling “what did I do wrong?” They’ve become so numerous now that over the years it’s almost like seeing an old friend. Well, maybe not a ‘friend’ per se – or maybe that friend who turns up at your house drunk and trashes your kitchen and is sick on your cat – but still, someone you know well.

It’s normal too, for the insides of your head to be screaming “I’m A Fraud! I’m A Fraud!” like some maniacal demon. Especially when you’re just starting out on your career.

Read More →


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