What have I been doing?

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I realise it’s been time since I last posted on my site – I want to give a bit of an update as to what I’ve been up to and what my plans are for the rest of the year; certainly for September!

Since my last post I’ve managed to pass the second year of my degree in Creative Writing and English Literature, which was a bit of a mixed bag but I’m looking forward to starting my final year at the end of the month. I do want to reflect on Year 2 and I’ll aim to get that reflection up before I stick my head into the breech once again!

As I’ve finished University for the summer, I’ve taken a bit of a summer break. A couple of months ago I finished the first draft of my post-apoc novel The Thaw which was great, and the rest I’ve taken has been really good – it was an intense writing process and allowing myself some time to chill before I approach anything more creative has been great, as burning out is not something I want to experience. I now feel refreshed enough to be able to now properly begin looking over the draft and beginning the editing process, which I’m excited to start as I truly feel The Thaw is going to be a great book!

Speaking of reading, I’ve been playing a bit of catchup with my Goodreads Reading Challenge for the year. I’m already reflecting that 40 books is perhaps the upper limit of what I feel is achievable for myself without reading becoming mechanical and formulaic – I don’t want to find myself reading just to tick off the right number of books, and it’s hard to go from one book to another. I find a couple of days break is helpful between stories.

Thinking about my reading (and how I’m essentially chasing my challenge target), I realise I’ve been fairly remiss in posting reviews. These, I definitely feel, are worthwhile endeavours for building my critical skills so I’m going to be getting on that again very soon! As a writer, it’s good to be able to synthesise meaningful, precise feedback – how can I expect to take feedback when I never give it out? It’s a symbiotic thing I think is important about writing as a craft.

So then – what to expect from me in September?

  • At least a couple of book reviews; maybe more, when I pillage my “read” list.
  • I’ve been working on a new little short story called The Landlady which I hope to post this month!
  • My Year 2 University reflection.
  • A mini-post about my recent, brief trip to Edinburgh during the Fringe (which I really enjoyed)
  • A potentially controversial blogpost opining on the new Doctor Who (started this a while ago but I need to be in a certain mood to add to it!)

Regardless, it’ll be great to reconnect with my blog and get posting again, as it’s something I definitely want to do more of and become regular again. So stay tuned!

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The Thaw: Project Update

I was pretty pleased to recently finally break my 100,000 word target for the first draft of the post-apocalyptic novel, The Thaw, that I have been writing since last July. It was a big moment that I captured in a somewhat successful Facebook livestream. Considering my initial plan was 60,000 and then 70,000 words I’m impressed myself in what I have achieved! It’s not been plain sailing as perhaps I’d originally foresaw but projects like these are organic and gain a life of their own, almost; The Thaw certainly has!

Photo 20-05-2017, 10 37 00 pmI’m absolutely thrilled to have pulled this together – but my draft isn’t complete! First, the chapter I wrote during the livestream only barely touched upon a third of the planned narrative I wanted to cover, and I did discover that livestreaming writing does pile on the pressure, which isn’t ideal for a crucial part of the work but this is an experience I needed to learn from. But regardless of the perceived quality of what I wrote, I’m pretty confident that some of the ideas borne of that writing session hold weight and I want to include them into the final first draft. I plan to finally finish off the main bulk of the story (I plan a sort-of epilogue chapter to round off the book set some time after the climax) very soon.

And then I’m going to take some time off from the book before I even give the first draft a reading as a complete unit. I need some distance from the project, to cool off from it so that when I re-approach it late in the summer my mind is fresh and ready to appraise it and begin the editing phase. I’ve made a fair few notes during the first draft of things I want to change, improve, clarify (I didn’t want to go back while drafting; my ethos was to steam ahead only; I can fix stuff later) but an initial reading with a cleared mind will no doubt turn up other questions and points.

I’m really looking forward to editing it but I’m absolutely right, I feel, to take a break from the project and give it space to breathe. I do have some great plans for how I’m going to approach the editing but that plan remains somewhat in flux.

Again, I’m so proud of myself that I’ve managed to write The Thaw (especially given difficult personal circumstances) and I’m confident that the concepts at its heart are going to make a compelling story that I can’t wait to share more of. I’ve been pretty dogged in getting the first draft together; I can’t wait to tell you about my characters in a lot greater detail as the summer progresses!

On Novel-writing: Finally breaking into The Thaw

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In researching this post, I realised by happy accident it was a year ago that I announced my two big projects that I was working on: The Thaw and Doors.

I’m pretty pleased to say, a year on, that both of these projects have progressed a lot, but today I want to focus on The Thaw, which is the novel I have been working busily on for the past six weeks, and for a considerable while long in the planning stages beforehand!

So, without further delay, I’d like to introduce you to…

The Thaw

a post-apocalyptic adventure by Richard Holliday

The Thaw is the story of Elian Sarkov, a young and naïve doctor who has lived and worked in a ‘frontier camp’ all his life, sheltered from the Wild that lurks outside and which has consumed the world after a nuclear apocalypse twenty-seven years before. When the unsavoury nature of the camp’s true purpose threatens Elian’s very life, he must decide if he can live on the outside while fighting to save not just his closest companion but perhaps the world from falling back into a nuclear winter.

Over the past month and a bit I’ve managed to put down about 18,000 words on the initial chapters of The Thaw. Previously I’d engaged in quite an intense period of pre-planning and outlining. While my outline is still incomplete I feel it’s advanced enough to guide me with the writing process for the first act especially.

I’m also taking on board what I’ve learned in my initial year of studying Creative Writing at Kingston University – emphasising on setting and giving my characters a journey, and giving them interesting, contrasting characteristics. I’ve also reflected quite a bit on my previous novel-writing experience with my science fiction story Colonisation/Mars Zero, which is on hold for now. I definitely feel that I’m in a good place to write The Thaw and I feel the concept – if I had to describe it using extant works, it’s a bit of Fallout, a bit of Children of Men and a bit of The Hunger Games – is solid enough to be the one I want to pursue as a potential ‘one for serious publication’.

I look forward to writing more about how I planned to write The Thaw, and maybe about some of the challenges I encountered so far and will do in the future, so keep an eye out, follow my blog on WordPress or subscribe to email updates!

Kingston University: reflections on my first semester

 

In September I took a pretty big step by enrolling on a Creative Writing and English Literature degree at Kingston University. I’ve now got to the end of my first semester there and I feel it’s a good time to just look back on the last three months and reflect and review my time there so far.

I was nervous as hell on first arriving, starting University proper being a scary change (I’d previously completed a year of higher education study with the distance-based Open University) both academically, I was pretty unsure of my own abilities and had a nagging self-doubt that permeated the initial weeks and socially; being quite introverted, big social gatherings scare me and make me very nervous.

In terms of the academic side of my studies so far, I feel that it’s definitely been a good move. I’m enjoying soaking in the knowledge from lectures and seminars thus far; my degree is comprised essentially of two “halves”, the Creative Writing side which I am really enjoying on a practical level as I feel I’m already learning both how to re-evaluate my own writing, and that of others, and learning new skills that are definitely what I want from the degree; whereas with the English Literature half I am exposed to more critical analysis of both genre texts and literary theory. However, I feel that due to both the material I am studying in English Literature (especially some pretty dry theories and essays; though I understand the application of them to a set text to an extent) and the scheduling of some of the classes (our main lectures that cover different literary theories and essays each week are scheduled at 4PM on Friday afternoons; the backside of the week where everyone’s attention has already left the building) I would rather focus on Creative Writing in my second and third years. As the semester progressed, I did face a bit of self-doubt and worry if any of the material or teaching really was sinking in; however, my first Creative Writing assessment scored pretty well and that has certainly gone a long way to re-energising my confidence and I want to absolutely harness that in January.

Socially, it was hard – walking into a daunting environment and knowing not a soul was truly scary. However, I’ve certainly made some efforts to get to know classmates, particularly those I share both Creative Writing and English Literature classes with, and there is a certain sense of camaraderie that is really nice. My Creative Writing seminar group has been notably great (I’d certainly call them all friends, they’re all nice, and diverse, people) and I feel at ease with them. Everyone was very welcoming and, approaching with an open mind, it’s made University certainly a lot less scary!

Accordingly I’ve set myself a few goals for my second semester to “clear out” the naughty and lazy habits that crept in a little, as my assessments prove I’m a capable student. I wouldn’t have been offered the place if I wasn’t, after all! There’s a lot of work due in the second semester so I want to make sure I’m mentally ready for it! So no more “forgetting” to write up class notes, and I’ll be dedicating a stricter schedule for coursework and feedback (one of the reasons I love my Creative Writing group is the feedback – definitely acquired a “taste” for that analysis!). I’ve crossed an important first hurdle and I aim to fully capitalise on it!

I want to write more about my general goals for 2016 soon, so stay tuned!