Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Don’t Use Reference Books When Writing

Stephen King

Stephen King has written a famous book about writing, called appropriately, On Writing. Here is a snippet of advice from an article in 1986. It may be old advice, but still very valid.

Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft

You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.

You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right – and breaking your train of thought and the writer’s trance in the bargain – or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere?

And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don’t have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it … but later.

When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.

Ann Marie Thomas head shot (80x90) (300dpi) Web GravatarAnn Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at

Monday, 28 August 2017

Introducing Medieval Gower Stories

Introduction final

Swansea Castle

Happy Bank Holiday, if you’re in the UK, I hope you have a great day. Today I’m resurrecting my history posts to tell you about my new book.

In case you’re new to my work, let me give you the background. Many years ago, I stood in the middle of Swansea and looked up at the ruins of Swansea Castle. I wondered what the castle was like in it’s heyday. I was already writing science fiction, and I wondered if I could come up with a fantasy about someone being thrown back in time from the castle ruins to medieval times. Not an original idea, I know, but it caught my imagination.

I went away and Googled it and stumbled across Alina de Breos, her father William and her husband John de Mowbray, who started a rebellion which grew to sweep across the country and topple Edward II from the English throne. Intrigued, I went to the library and asked them to teach me how to research that period in history. I hated history at school, but this wasn’t boring lists, this was real lives, real people, and I was hooked.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Involution Ocean & Neuromancer Cyberpunk Novels

Last week we reached the Cyberpunk era in the history of science fiction, the reaction to the New Wave rosy future. Two of the key novels in Cyberpunk were Bruce Sterling’s first novel Involution Ocean, and William Gibson’s first novel Neuromancer.

Involution Ocean

Involution Ocean

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Seize the Day

Dead Poets SocietyIn the 1989 Robin Williams film Dead Poets Society, he played an unconventional teacher who encourages his students with the Latin phrase Carpe diem – seize the day. This has become a well-known saying, to encourage people not to dream of the future but take action today.

This applies especially to writers. It’s what you do today that will make your future. Don’t just dream of writing a book ‘one day’, do it now. Don’t just seize the day, seize the inspiration, seize the opportunity.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Cyberpunk Science Fiction (1980s)

In the early 1980s there was a reaction against the New Wave’s rosy depiction of the future, and writers began looking at the 'punk' underbelly of future society, which didn't enjoy all the amazing benefits of everyone else. These early works have been credited with "renovating" science fiction literature after it had fallen largely into insignificance in the 1970s. William Gibson's debut novel Neuromancer (1984) encapsulated this movement. It was the first winner of the science-fiction 'triple crown' — the Nebula Award, the Philip K Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. Other key writers in the movement included Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, and later Neal Stephenson. We will be looking at some of their key novels in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

How To Run a Book Launch

If you are producing a printed book, which is easy enough with print on demand like Create Space, you can have a book launch. It would be difficult to launch a book without a hard copy, but you might find somewhere with wifi and persuade people to bring their ereaders.

On the subject of where you will hold your launch, as you can see below, a bookshop is favourite. This is actually a charity bookshop that likes to support local artists, but any bookshop, especially independents, likes a book launch because the people attending will also browse the shelves. Another place to try is your local library.
How to Run a Book Launch
A book launch has two phases: publicity and performance. It’s no good arranging a book launch if nobody comes, and your event will not be very successful unless the audience are entertained and encouraged to buy.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

New Wave Science Fiction TV

Before we leave the New Wave era of science fiction history, a lot at two significant developments on television. TV began to catch up with what was happening in books and films. Dr Who began on British TV in 1963, and Star Trek began on American TV in 1966. Both had such enduring appeal that they have been revived in recent years.

Dr Who 2

This is a British science-fiction television programme produced by the BBC since 1963. The programme depicts the adventures of a Time Lord called "the Doctor", an extraterrestrial being from the planet Gallifrey. The Doctor explores the universe in a time-travelling space ship called the TARDIS, an acronym which stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. Its exterior appears as a blue British police box, which was a common sight in Britain in 1963 when the series first aired. Accompanied by a number of companions, the Doctor combats a variety of foes, while working to save civilisations and help people in need.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Giving Talks

Speech 2Giving talks is a great way to earn a bit of extra money and get the attention of potential readers. A lot of writers will be horrified at the thought of standing up in front of people and giving a talk. I’ve had some experience, because I used to be a trainer, but it’s still scary – if you do it cold.

Think about your story or your book for a minute. Do you think it’s good? Is it interesting? Is it exciting, or heart-warming, or surprising? The answers should be ‘yes’, because you wouldn’t be promoting your book if you thought it was boring or badly written.

Monday, 7 August 2017

New Wave Science Fiction Films

Before we leave the New Wave Science Fiction era, we’re going to look at films this week and TV next.


Science fiction films took inspiration from the changes in the genre. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971), George Lucas' THX 1138 (1971) and Richard Fleischer's Soylent Green (1973) all reflected the new style. 2001: A Space Odyssey came from Arthur C Clark's vision of creatures out there who were older and wiser than us, and I wrote about in April here. No other science fiction film was so conceptually daring. The storyline was as true to life as possible, based on real technology.

The 1974 film Dark Star was the counter-culture answer to 2001: A Space Odyssey. In 1979 Dan O'Bannen co-wrote the most celebrated alien story in history: Alien, directed by Ridley Scott. It was the stuff of nightmares. This film again had meticulous attention to detail. Blade Runner (1982) was another film which used science fiction to comment on sociological issues.

But traditional feel-good themes continued to be popular. Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) explored the idea of a peaceful confrontation with aliens. George Lucas' Star Wars (1977) was traditional escapism with an epic setting. Spielberg's next film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) looked at what if one friendly alien who got left behind? The alien (E.T.) is helped by lonely boy. The aliens are the grownups.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

12 Steps to Overcome Procrastination

I found this advice so useful, I typed it out and stuck it on the wall by my desk. Unfortunately, I didn’t note where it came from. So, my apologies to the author, but it’s definitely worth sharing.

Overcome Procrastination

“Turning pro is free, but it is not easy. You don’t need to take a course or buy a product. All you have to do is change your mind.” Steven Pressfield.