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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Website Update

I realise I have been absent in posting updates to my site recently, which is a shame as I enjoy posting – but I do have some valid excuses! And I haven’t done a Website Update in so long it felt only right to briefly talk about what I’ve been doing and what I’m going to be doing for the next while!

So a lot of what’s occupied a lot of my time in the last month or two, and has really precluded my working on personal projects has been finishing the second year of my Creative Writing degree at Kingston University. It’s been… a mixed bag but I’m definitely. at this point, glad to have gotten my assignments submitted – and some of them I’m pretty proud of. I’m absolutely, over the summer, going to reflect on this year and contrast it to how I felt about first year like I did previously. But naturally, these assignments have been important to do as I need to complete them to progress. I’m relatively confident I’ve achieved what I need to – it’s been a difficult, challenging but also enlightening year.

I’ve also very nearly completed the first draft of my post-apoc novel The Thaw. This has taken longer than I originally anticipated but with that extra time I feel I’ve not rushed things and I’m solidly happy with what I’ve produced. I’ve a couple of chapters left to do and they’re important ones – so I’ve taken some time to a) get University commitments done first and b) give these concluding chapters a lot of thought so I can execute the end of my story as best I can. But I’m also seriously proud of what I have achieved here – with personal circumstances being quite difficult at times – and I look forward to moving forward with my next planned steps. I’ve learned a lot while writing The Thaw and I want to codify those lessons into something definite!

Also, recently, with my good friends (and independent filmmakers) Gary Thomas and Mark Lever we’ve embarked upon a new film project – a Doctor Who-themed fan film entitled Reverence of the Daleks. This has been a really fun project that’s finally got started and I look forward to sharing more about it very soon (there’s not much to show from the first filming day just yet, though I think chatting about the writing process would be a good idea too)

Sadly my Goodreads reading challenge is quite badly lagging – I’m about 3-4 books behind schedule as it is and my review list is lengthy. I enjoy writing book reviews as it’s a good opportunity to synthesise what I liked and didn’t like about a book – this is helpful as an author as generic feedback such as “I liked it!” is pretty much useless. Again, a combination of personal circumstances and University deadlines being an absolute priority have meant I’ve had to dial back on my reading – but with Summer here I aim to put the pedal to the metal and enjoy some cracking reads!

Recently, too, I’ve found writing about my battles with depression and my mental health has been an invaluable and infinitely useful tool for dealing with this, and I’m humbled by the support I have gotten, and if my experiences can help others struggling with depression – a condition I feel is widely misunderstood – then that’s all the validation I need. My writing on the subject is meant to be cathartic, but also reflective. Looking positive about this can be very difficult but when it is done, it’s just extremely comforting and engaging to know, even if only one person reads, it’s not confined to my head.

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.