Year in Review 2017

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I realise I’ve been a little inattentive to this website for the last couple of months and that’s regrettable; unfortunately “real life” has had to take precedence. However I did want to round out the year as I have done similarly in previous years by having a glance back over my shoulder to see the accomplishments of 2017. Let’s get started!

I posted toward the beginning of the year a list of ten books I wanted to get read to improve my writing. Unfortunately, I only managed six out of the ten. My reading this year has been fairly poor which has upset me a little but I have identified the source of the anxiety I’ve had regarding my reading and why it’s not been great this year – the Goodreads Reading challenge, which I have limped over the line of after revising the goal to be more realistic. In the new year I will outline why I am not going to participate in this again but looking back on what I did get read here’s the standout hits:

  • Children of Men by PD James
  • The Fireman by Joe Hill
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

I’ve been a little lacking with reviews lately which is another thing I want to address in 2018. Reviews are great things to write as they force me to think critically about books that I read; what did I like, what didn’t I like and, importantly, why. So reviewing read books as a writer is an important activity I’ve been admittedly lazy with.

In a similar thread, my return to University has been a little underwhelming. I’m not massively enjoying my course these days; there’s a small part of it, following on from a pretty insipid and uninspiring second year, that I am enjoying but for the most part I’ve intellectually checked out as I don’t feel challenged. I want to reflect more closely on the University experience once I graduate but it’s been a mixed bag, to put it kindly.

One better result this year is that I completed the first draft of my post-apoc adventure novel The Thaw and I feel so proud of this! It’s a great piece of work that I am thrilled to have completed and, yeah, I’ve been a little lazy in editing the draft (again, other concerns have crept in) but I am so pleased and feeling so pumped to work on it in 2018. I definitely feel that it’s something worth pursuing, publishing-wise as I am committed to the story and the world I’ve created therein. I can’t wait to talk more about the journey this book is going to take in 2018!

Speaking of journeys… I’ve had a lot of thoughts about this website as a whole for the new year, and I’m feeling inspired and invigorated. So watch this space because I’m going to understand some work on the site, for a new direction I can’t wait to unveil in early January!

So despite this year being somewhat of an underwhelming one, I come out of 2017 feeling ready to resume course for something brilliant!

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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!

Here’s to 2016: What I’m Getting Done This Year

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It’s almost beyond parody these days to write a “new year, new me” post. It’s almost as much beyond parody to think that the changing of a calendar is meaningful enough for serious life change – the traditional New Years Resolutions never last beyond a few weeks, and they’re usually the same vapid “I’ll be a new me! I won’t drink anything!” stuff.

I myself am guilty of this; I sat in December 2014 setting out my stall for 2015 with a similar sense of deluded optimism; however, I have to say, I am pleased that 2015 is over. It’s a year overshadowed by some pretty deep and painful personal tragedies but also tumultuous change, which is scary, so yeah my goals went completely out of the window, but in a sense, especially coming to the personal tragedies (I’m not going to discuss them here, mainly as they’re intensely personal and people I want to know do already, plus again, I want to start 2016 fresh), I’m pleased they’re confined to 2015.

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a very close friend of mine about my goals for 2016 and he gave me some excellent advice that has really struck me: don’t make a list of New Years resolutions to be forgotten about by February if you’re lucky, or a list of hopes and dreams (or other sentimental nonsense) – make list of things you will get done in the new year. And so, I intend to do just that:

  • I’m going to make a concerted effort to do well in my university studies – I’ve already acknowledged that, with the first semester, I allowed a few personal gremlins to kind of allow me to sink into a few lazy habits. They’re going to be banished. I’m actually enjoying university and the challenge, on an academic level, it’s presenting; I know I can do well, and my confidence is there. Plus, I’ve got some good university friends who have backed me up thus far and I look forward to more mutual support from them in the coming semester.
  • I want to find more time to do more reading – I’ve let myself become lazy with my reading, both for pleasure and academic study, which is a shame as I love books. If I had to pick out of music, books, games and television, I’d have to choose books as my primary vessel of entertainment. I’ve gotten into using Goodreads as a social tracker of my book progress and I really do find it useful! One of the most important pieces of  advice for a writer is that to be a great writer one must be a great reader, so it’s about time I took that to heart! Looking forward to setting my goal for 2016!
  • It’s time I got back in the saddle with my writing – for reasons I pointed out initially, I’ve been a bit dry when it comes to writing my own stories for pleasure; my output in 2015 has been pretty barren compared to 2014. That said, I want to move on with a load more projects:
    • More short stories – I’ve learned some interesting tips and techniques, especially for characterisation, across 2015 and it’s time to put them into practise. I don’t want to bind myself to a set number/output (writing doesn’t happen that way), but if I could come out of 2016 with 6-8 short stories that I am truly proud of, I will be happy.
    • I want to fully outline my post-apocalyptic novel The Thaw by the end of the first half of the year – this is a project I do feel could be great, but that I need to step up and organise for fully. I want to be in a position to take a deep breath over the summer and actually have the first draft written before I return to University in September, so I want to make sure that the b ulk of the organisational work is complete before then.
    • I also want to commence editing proper on Mars Zero – it’s been too long since I approached this project, and there’s a lot of work to do. But I still truly believe this story is worth pursuing, especially if I work hard to “science” it up and make use of the skills I have learned
    • I’m still committed to make prose my primary format, but I would definitely like to complete work on my first short film script, possibly work on another concept I have and write a play (possibly to produce/direct toward the latter half of 2016)
  • Most of all, I want to make so much better use of my time. I allow my perceived lack of ability drain my confidence, and I procrastinate horrendously. If I make one big personal commitment, it’s to have more confidence in what I do and to waste less time. Sure, free time and low time is important, and I don’t want to be too rigidly-scheduled but it’s about tightening up and getting sh*t done.
  • Oh, and getting to 14 stone by the summer would be raaaaad.

Two New Projects!

I’m very happy to be in a position where I can explain in detail the two projects I’m currently excited to be working on!

Doors (a short film)

For the first part of the year I’ve been working with my good friends (and filmmakers) Gary Thomas and Mark Lever as I develop my first full short film script.

Doors is a science-fiction/psychological horror charting one man’s journey into madness as he tests the latest word in wearable tech. Think Google Glass meets Microsoft Hololens… with an alien twist that drives one man to the brink of insanity as he struggles to believe what he sees.

I hope to blog a lot more about Doors over the remainder of the year as I work with Gary and Mark to refine the script. As a group, it’s hoped to put Doors into actual production in 2016.

It’s also been quite an experience to work in a totally different form of writing – I’ve never really written a screenplay before, and despite initially being quite reserved about it, I have found the experience to be quite liberating, and there’s a palpable sense of seeing one’s idea develop across drafts.

The Thaw (novel)

I’ve also undertaken the first steps in a new novel, to which I have attached the title The Thaw. I plan for this to be a post-apocalyptic adventure charting a man’s initially insular desire to protect his family from an oppressive rump state that ostensibly protects the survivors of a nuclear holocaust in North America but is hell-bent on picking up where the atomic bombs left off with an army of super-soldiers bred from the very children of those it purports to protect.

This is a great opportunity for me to give something back to a genre I truly love. I want to put my own mark on the genre; before, having played games such as Fallout that have arguably perfectly-realised backstories and narratives, I felt that I was limited to what I could add to the genre. However, now I feel I have an idea (again, I hope to talk about it in more detail as I go through the writing process) that I can develop and have faith in, I reckon the time is right to craft my own destroyed utopia and tell a story that I feel will resonate with people.

Now that I have opened the proverbial can of worms, I really can’t wait to get started getting these projects moving! I have waited until I have made tangible progress on each before I announce them; too often, it’s easy to say you’re going to do something and then never mention it again. With Doors I have two drafts of a script and plenty of excellent, constructive feedback to work with for the third draft; I have at the same time made a concerted effort to make a start outlining The Thaw – I’ve plenty of notes for my backstory and universe that the story will take place in but it is now that I have a few chapters outlined (roughly, at least!) I feel that the project has the steam up.

With both of these things, I ended up doing a lot of insular, introspective planning but transcending that thought process into tangible preparatory work is the greatest leap I face with new projects. And I have faith in the concepts between both of these ideas that I feel they can now take a wide slice of my time.