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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.

COVID Diary: Convenience is King

It’s oddly unsettling amidst a world that is doing what it is doing right now, to find that one of the things unaffected by the New Normal is spam.

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It’s weird, also, reading the feeds and the posts over the last 12 hours or so, and literally being able to see the realization of what that New Normal actually is spread across the blogosphere. Curfews imposed in western countries. Soldiers patrolling streets. Frenzied, and then emptied supermarkets – and those of us fortunate enough to live in the affluent countries of the world have got it lucky.

None of what is happening feels normal, right? Or what most of us expected life to be like. These are strange times, throwing all sorts of curve-balls and readjustments.

But some of those readjustments, have revealed certain joys. Reading about the UK covid mutual-aid network being thrown up, to help communities co-ordinate from the ground up and support the most vulnerable in their area, or the authors doing read-alongs online.

A personal joy to me, has been discovering a cornucopia of convenience stores a few streets across from my new-new home. (ed. I have once again moved into a new-new address, just in time for the lockdown. Which is crazy, living out of boxes while half the world goes mad. How many house moves in the last 6months, ian? Srsly.) The food is healthier, more reliable, and much more interesting than what is on offer by the big chains, from every part of the globe; Islamabad or Dehli, Warsaw or Vilnius, Ankara, Hong Kong or Damascus…

These places know how to do community, I’m thinking as I half-listen to the friendly banter of the store owners. Not just know, they have community. It’s encouraging, and welcoming.


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In an effort to look beyond the fear and worry, I guess I’m thinking about what different sorts of hope can thrive in a socially- distanced society?

I’m wondering how many creative projects are going to be born in this time of enforced inwardness.

I’m hoping this experience makes us trust each other more…

I’m hoping that a lot more of us take up gardening…




An Anarch’s Pledge

If you need aid, I will try to give it,

If you are unheard, I will listen,

If you are sad, I will pull funny faces and make terrible puns until you are not,

If you start to sing, I will join in,

If you are alone – we are here.

We do these things because we are animals, we are humans, because we are interconnected.

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What can I help with specifically?

Work-from-home advice, best remote-office practices, apps, and online work platforms if you need to translate your work life to digital.

Formatting, copy writing and copy editing, desktop publishing either for print or digital production.

Skype and Zoom connect-ups.

Creative (written word predominantly) advice, mentoring, story-wrangling, or encouragement.

Gaming theory, critique, beta-testing & nerdlandia (trad board games and pen-and-paper RPGs only).

I can share songs, with campaign/social solidarity/peace focus.

I can share gardening war-stories.

Contact me through the About page.

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Some platforms you can always pick up a gig or two:

Upwork – largest site for every digital worker from code to illustration and writing.

Guru – slightly smaller version of the above.

People-per-hour – very piecemeal gig work.

Fiver– see above, but more so.

Freelanced – brilliant community and portfolio sections, but job competition can be fierce.

Zirtual – specializing in virtual PA’s.

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peace out~


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