Ch-ch-ch-changes….

(With apologies to David Bowie)

Over the course of the past few weeks, there’s been a subtle shift in the emphasis of what I do on a daily basis. It appears to be less about the writing than it is about the reviewing. Writing stories, for the moment at least, has taken a back-seat, and this isn’t just because I have an ever skyscraping pile of books on the ‘to be reviewed‘ stack (as well as as a folder on the hard-drive getting filled with PDFs). There is a certain element of needing to get through them, of course, as I have promised I would do write-ups on them and I always keep my word (however old-fashioned and out of vogue that may appear to be). More than that, I surmise there may also be a subconscious motivation involved here: that the writer’s half of my brain needs to learn how other authors practise their craft, and I can only do that from actually reading stories (unless I can strap down some hapless author or two to a chair and ask directly – fat chance of that happening really).

I admit that I have been going through something of a lean period story-wise recently, which is partly as a result of trying to come up with something original and partly as a consequence of reading some spectacularly cracking books of late. One of the inherent dangers, I believe, of being a reviewer is that you often come across a book/story collection by a truly talented author and read it with both admiration and a feeling of quiet despair. The result? That more than slightly debilitating malaise called ‘Why am I bothering? I can never write that well’. I would wager that such negative sentiments afflict many writers during the course of their early careers – even to the extent that some give up altogether.

The point that anyone with similar feelings should remember (myself included) is that you are NOT Clive Barker, or Stephen King, or Gary McMahon, or any other writer. You are YOU, and you should be writing as you, and no-one else. These writers influencing you is fine, but attempting to copy their style and way of writing isn’t. Plus you don’t live in their minds – minds that possess very unique takes on things, the result of a very different upbringing to yours, as well as markedly different experiences, combined with different tastes, or whatever. You can NEVER be these people, so stop trying.

I am currently reading, for review, a marvellous collection of stories from Tim Lebbon, called Last Exit for the Lost. Tim writes in a very distinct, sparse and direct style, not normally my cup of tea, I have to admit. That isn’t the point, though. That very style makes them extremely powerful, far more so than if written any other way. He has very much deliberately written them like that. BUT (and here it comes), as much as I admire the strength of Tim’s craft and the way he handles his themes, I wouldn’t want to write like him. I am not Tim Lebbon. His literary style is uniquely his own, one he has deftly honed to suit his purposes extremely well, enabling his stories to hit the target every single time (to varying degrees, as not all the stories will appeal in the same way). However, as a reviewer (and a writer), I can take from it lessons I can apply to my own efforts.

So, getting back to the original train of thought which led to the writing of this post, the reviewing has seemingly superseded the writing just now. However, that’s okay, as I have a couple of ideas bubbling away on the back-burner of my brain. Whilst I concentrate on the reviewing, I can think up ways of telling them, in addition to absorbing stylistic hints and tips from my reviewing reading. Plus, the bonus in being a reviewer is that I get to read some quality material, material that is, in effect, teaching me more than any amount of attending writing classes or reading How-to manuals could do.

But then, I guess, if I could find a way of making a living out of reviewing, that wouldn’t be a bad thing either. =)

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3 Responses to “Ch-ch-ch-changes….”

  1. What this writer would recommend is that you force yourself to keep writing! I know from experience how easy it is to become discouraged and stop, and every day you’re not writing makes it harder to pick up the reins.

    • Yes, this is true…. and I have written something within the last week… and it’s still fermenting in the back of my head… I can guarantee I will get back into it as it’s happened before with good results… so I am not unduly worried…

  2. I think Gary McMahon just fainted from being lumped alongside Barker and King.

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