Monday, September 29, 2014

Writing Is Kung Fu Fighting

    Every word you write is a YAH!  HAH!  WHAH! at the concrete block held nervously by your Shaolin temple master.

    Every sentence you construct is a HAAAAH!  HWAAAAR!  YEEEEEE! smack on the pressure points of your hooded assailants.

    Every paragraph you complete is a WHAAAAAAAR!  HI-YAAAAAAAR!  EEEEEEEEEEEE! delivered as a single paralyzing blow to the tattooed, shuriken-hurling madman before you.

    Every chapter you craft is a WAAAAAAIIIIEEEE!  YAAAAAAAAAAAAA!  HIEEEE-AAAAAAAAA! kicked and punched, Nuryev-like, at the snarling faces of the flick-flacking Triad Queen gymnasts encircling you.

    Every novel you finish is a HEEEE-YAAAAAAAA-IEEEEEE!  HWAAAAA-HAAAAAA!  YAAAA-HIIII-EEEEEEEEEEE!, stunning in its uncompromising ability to terminally rupture every organ, every blood vessel, of the rhinoskin-clad ninja death squad whirling its assemblage of razor-sharp swords inches from your heroically bared six pack.


    No way, Ho Tse!

    According to none other than Bruce Lee (that’s “Mr Actual Kung Fu” to you, my friends,), it’s important for all of us to “be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

    In other words, avoid vague imagery — and hire a decent fucking editor.

    As writers, it’s also important that we wear zany loon pants while putting pen to paper.

    I’ve thoroughly researched this online, and although the one killer reference still eludes me, I just know in my heart that it feels so goddamn right.

    So, whatever you’re writing today, PANT UP and have at it like you’re Captain Maim Cripple & Kill himself, flying through the air in slow motion with a HIIII-EEEEEEEEE!  HWAAAAAH!  YAAAAAAAAAAAA!

    Writing IS Kung Fu fighting.  And you know it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Say NO To Pant Crime

    Dungarees haven’t been fashionable in an age.

    More bereft of Come-back-round-againability even than flares, dungarees had their heyday during the Gold Rush, along with the few brief years between the late 70s and early 80s when the corpse of the 60s was devoured by the people who would later culture-vomit stuff like the iPad or call for the compulsory sterilisation of non-whites.

    These facts do not deter my neighbour King Dungarees (Hey Lookit Me) from romping about the ‘hood in a selection of especially droopy pairs of said abominations of trousery.

    Let me be clear about three things first of all.

    1) I know for a fact that King Dungarees (Hey Lookit Me) has more than one pair of strapped leggy abominations because I’ve followed him down the street.  It could have been just the one pair I saw every time — because, after all, who, who, who wears dungarees in 2014??? — but scans of his rear end from as safe a distance as reading glasses will permit allowed me to detect that his wardrobe of the damned pays host to at least six legs’ worth of indiscriminately evident HORROR.

    2) He doesn’t wear dungarees all the time. His legwear royalty credentials are thus on a par with the way the Queen of England dons her crown: he’s apt to look a pranny regularly, but his pranniness isn’t a permanent fixture.

    3) King Dungarees (Hey Lookit Me) isn’t his real name.  I think.

    As I tiptoe behind him to Tesco, eyes trained on his turn-ups, the crumples of his rear crotch, I’m often minded to ask where he purchased his supreme foulnesses of denim, stud and style.  Other questions bubble to the surface too — questions like what the fucking hell are you thinking, you total arsehole? and how regularly do children as young as 3 mock you and throw stones at your face? — but  I’ve found it pays never to overspeculate on matters such as this, just in case advocates of an Infinite Universe like Professor Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan (and all those Hollywood would-bes who no longer recognise each other at their sorry get-togethers thanks to their excessively deforming plastic surgery) were wrong about the whole infinity deal.  To date, I’ve seen no dungaree emporiums in my local high street, and when I’ve conducted research online, my browser’s porn filter throws the power switch on the Midlands.  So maybe he doesn’t purchase them at all.   

    My current theory is that either King Dungarees (Hey Lookit Me) makes his wretched thigh n’ torso adorning offerings himself, or (most likely, I fear) he deploys his wife as some sort of beleaguered trouser  slave to weave him denim and stitch from Weird Dog Telepathy Guy’s stray dog hairs.  I rarely see her out in the street by day, but when I’ve woken in a cold sweat at dead of night, obsessing about the lucrative possibilities of inventions from hamster-cum-doilies to velcro ‘mitten, bootee and fire escape’ sets for small terraced houses, I’ve caught sight of her tweezering her way along the pavement on her hands and knees with a rucksack dangling, baby sloth-like, from her chest.

    I can’t think that my neighbour is poised at the cutting edge of some new dungaree-friendly fad and is ready to do for their unfettered horribleness what Paul Weller did for the Mods back in the day.

    So what’s his game?

    I have no desire to be perplexed right now but this ill-clad buffoon has me totally distracted...

Monday, September 22, 2014

How To Deliver Value

    Let’s assume you’re having a yard sale.

    On the wobbly wallpaper table before you sits an assortment of your unwanted junk.

    Including a matching set of three old mugs.

    People pass, people stop, you sell the odd bauble — then some guy rolls up, eyes trained on your mugs.

    “How much you want?” he says.

    “I was thinking, maybe a fiver each, twelve quid for the set.”

    “Ah, well, here’s the thing.  There’s one mug missing from this set.  It’s a set of four, you see.  So I can’t possibly give you twelve quid for ‘em.  Would you settle for a tenner?”

    “Gosh.  I wasn’t aware of that.  A set of four, you say?  Okay, well, in that case — a tenner it is, my friend.”

    Okay, now let’s re-run this script, factoring in a reappraisal of what’s on offer.

    Let’s assume you’re having a yard sale.

    On the wobbly wallpaper table before you sits an assortment of your unwanted junk.

    Including a matching set of three old mugs.

    People pass, people stop, you sell the odd bauble — then some guy rolls up, eyes trained on your mugs.

    “How much you want?” he says.

    “I was thinking, maybe a fiver each, twelve quid for the set.”

    “Ah, well, here’s the thing.  There’s one mug missing from this set.  It’s a set of four, you see.  So I can’t possibly give you twelve quid for ‘em.  Would you settle for a tenner?”

    “Gosh.  I wasn’t aware of that.  A set of four, you say?  Okay, well, in that case — you’re very lucky to have chanced today upon three quarters of that set.  If you snap them up now, you’ll only need the one outstanding mug to complete the quartet.  Maybe you already have it — a lucky find on a lucky day like this one — in which case, my trio of mugs is precisely the set of three mugs you need to complete your set.  Problem is, these mugs are no longer for snapping up.  Maybe you should give me your number?  That way I can get back to you when I’ve researched how much they’ve been worth to people in the past.  And factored in the cost of a wobbly wallpaper table...”

Thursday, September 18, 2014


    Everyone loves the 7th Cavalry.

    When all seems lost (and the world is dangerously de-hossed) those boys come a-ridin’ over the hill atop their trusty equines, blasting on bugles and chomping on burgers like there was no tomorrow... rival the one coming up real soon.

    Whatever your endeavour or circumstance, your life is always so much better after the 7th Cavalry has had its way with your back.

    If you’re a writer, you may even feel zeal.

    Problem is, those boys and their horses are so often needed elsewhere and most of them need to catch some shut eye from time to time.  Plus, Stephen King shells out millions  to have them patrol his writing tomb on a daily basis.

    So don’t come to depend too much on their unrestrained bugling when you’re stuck on the constipated opening paragraph of your latest fancy.  Or even syllable 16 of a stinky haiku.

    Expect instead to catch occasional  echoes of their septumpteen Yee-haaars as they maraud and inspire in writing canyons yonder.

    These wails will sustain you as you struggle to write gibberish into the night or plough on to meet deadlines, fuelled only by caffeine and delusions involving purely fictional magical factotums such as leprechauns, sphynxes and (if you’re lucky lucky luckier than even Kylie ever imagined) unicorns
    If all you hear is silence, take heart; rest easy in the knowledge that someone, somewhere (Stephen King) is reaping the full reward of the world’s most magnificent mounted salvation-dispensing bunch of uniformed hunks.

    And should a real live arrow-strafed ass of a quadruped hurl its bloodied body onto your writing desk as you strain and sweat over a synopsis, remember that the saddle-bustin’ stalwarts of  the 7th Cavalry need to hone their effortless riding skills on something and occasionally their heroic exploits lead them to fall foul of the injuns.

    If this happens, be emboldened as a pluck-mustered foot in a stirrup flailing from a bronco.

    The 7th Cavalry exists to inspire.

    So don’t overlook their Geronimules.


Monday, September 15, 2014

How Long Is An Ideal While?

    My Mollies have been coddled — and now they’re sprouting fluff.

    This is what happens when you leave fiction in a drawer to marinade for a tad too long.  It’s what we’re told to do as writers (usually by other writers — the captains to our privates or serfs) and the idea goes something like this:

    Assuming our grammar is perfect and our first draft is typo free, the main problem our bold new prose is likely to suffer from (beyond incomprehensibility and Embryonic Maladies All) is zeal
.  And why not?  All first drafts should be overegged by our egoes.  After all, don’t we have our inner editor tied up in a trunk for the afternoon?

    At first glance, what we wrote is a mess; it’s OTT, it’s the embarrassing slapdashness of a would-be genius — all of which is precisely why it should never be mailed, published, broadcast, yodelled or manifested as an all-body tattoo at this stage.

    As the sage advice has it, material like this goes in a drawer, there to be forgotten until such time as we can look at it again with fresh eyes (and subsequently decide to shoot ourselves).

    (That’s a metaphor, btw.)

    With fresh eyes, we can separate the zeal from the prose like Gordon Ramsay peeling skin from custard with his bare teeth.

     Now, the non-essential elements of our writing become perfectly visible — everything from an inappropriate image or line of dialogue to eruptions of real world narrative wrangles that somehow made it through the illusory barrier between fact and fiction.  It’s amazing just how influential are the books we read the night before we wrote.  Even worse: TV documentaries about paralysed acrobats or the reproductive lives of cephalopods.

    Once you have everything from your drawer innerly edited, you’ll see how your material is all the better for having been tucked away for a while.

    My beef at the moment is how long is an ideal while?

    It’s true that the products of zeal can be cheffed off √° la Ramsay chomp after a relatively short time secreted in the darkness, but if you leave stuff in a drawer for too long, it’s like the thoughts behind the words embed themselves into every serif and sans with the permanence of bloodied urine staining a silk tablecloth.

    Leave stuff in a drawer for too long and it becomes incomprehensible.

    The words make sense only to yourself as you were a year or more ago, and because a whole seventh of your body cells have been replaced in that time (and Smartphones are now available for the tips of your nips) — this means that pretty much everything will need to be rewritten from scratch unless you are prepared to be committed to an asylum.  Sure, you get an inkling about what you were thinking, but the meta-thoughts behind the moment you wrote things down — the colour of the day, the acrobats, the state your cat’s ears were in (and the mush this day-to-day Instant Hopping makes as it rolls along) — all of this is gone, and you are left with words half-formed from thoughts you couldn’t half remember if you tried.

    This is not to say that nothing can be recovered from such arcane expositions.  If your inner editor can be tied up in a trunk and forced to remain silent while you zealpuke, then it ought to be perfectly possible to convert your outer Gordon Ramsay into a sort of literary vacuum cleaner (complete with narrative suction attachment) for snorting off raw material for use elsewhere.

    But such archaeological sub-resurrections are no substitute for pouncing on a half-baked idea at the perfect 50/50 moment between full formation and full-on gestation.  At this time you can pluck the crispness of the sense from the crassness of the waffle and know full well what you are doing.

    I’ve found two weeks to a month to be my perfect drawer while.

    A time span shorter than this allows my inner zealot-with-potential to be fooled by my pan-self total bloody wanker. 

    Give me two months, and I’m bored; six months, and I’m angry with myself for procrastinating; any longer, and I am left holding gibberish where once there was promise of a baby with a rattle and a clutch of banana yoghurt vouchers from Sainsburys.

    How long is YOUR ideal WHILE?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The SmartRacket

Image c/o Fidlerjan @

Monday, September 8, 2014

Discovering Invention

    You can’t go for more than a few minutes these days without some scientist or another discovering a new species of extinct dinosaur off the coast of Hong Kong or a mutant order of vegetable/human hybrids sprouting like mushrooms from Sydney to Honolulu in weirdly original ways.

    It’s like the flora and fauna of the world took a lead from the Terracotta Army and thought hey, let’s make ourselves discoverable, while the dinosaurs (long dead, and petrified) carried on playing the long game.

    All of which makes me wonder — how much other stuff is lying heaped up at the bottom of the ocean or tucked away in some Himalayan hidey-hole?  Buried civilizations, missing links joined at the hip, fossilized alien spacecraft — who knows how many tantalizing seconds away we are from discovering the next unbelievable miracle?  Speaking personally, I’m still holding out for the cave where Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin are shacked up with Elvis and a bunch of Roswell nutzoids.

    The truth, as they say, is out there.

    Great — but what about the fiction?

    The problem with plotting and putting words into people’s mouths and generating those people in the first place is that it’s sometimes such hard work making everything up.

    As writers we get glimmers of scenes and snippets of dialogue, and unless we’re writing anything contemporary and devoid of fantasy or -fi, every single inspiration invites endless world building and justification.

    UNLESS we treat our fiction like the oddly musical amoeboid molecules lurking at the heart of every Terracotta soldier.

    Because maybe they’re in there, those crazy globules — pulsating away and humming to each other in C flat, just waiting for someone to trash a clay commando with a mallet.

    So if you’re stuck today, try presuming your next story or novel is already written, its punctuation marks clustered around words like globs of undiscovered amoeba in a Terracotta soldier (or, if you’d prefer, harmonizing the name of your favourite brand of anti-constipation suppository up the rectum of a petrified Anonymosaurus).

    Presume your fiction already exists — then don suitably IndianaJonesified exploration gear and quest for it, starting at the bottom of your garden.

    “Sometimes, invention is mere discovery.”  Marie Curie

Marie Curie never said that, of course — I just made it up.