This is an entry for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group, a way for writers to discuss their writing anxieties. It cross-posts on each others’ blogs on the first Wednesday of each month.
One of the biggest problems I have as a writer is writing steadily and consistently. Looking back through my blog there is plentiful evidence of this – I have often gone months without posting, and my posts seem to cluster around a few weeks of activity at a time.
Most writers will have felt the instinct to wait for inspiration to strike, to write when the ideas are flowing most readily. But sometimes ideas have to be wrung forcefully from our minds, so that there is at least a terrible first draft when inspiration does strike – a rough skeleton that a better version can be superimposed on top of.
In fiction, theme is what the story is about. So a romance novel will be, on the surface, a story about two characters falling for each other. But looking deeper, the themes will be what the work of fiction has to say about the fictional universe which the story is set in, and to our universe. Love is worth the pain that precedes it; love is where you least expect it; true love conquers all, and so on.
For Jurassic Park the most obvious theme is that dinosaurs are cool, but few films can become as successful as Jurassic Park was if that’s all they have to say. There’s also a key theme that it’s dangerous for humans to think that they can control their new technology – Frankenstein ‘playing god’ theme. It’s a recurring theme in Michael Crichton’s fiction, including Westworld and Prey. Another Jurassic Park theme is the importance of family, in this case the non-traditional ‘family’ that forms between the central characters in the process of protecting each other.
This entry is part of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group – a group of writers helping each other deal with insecurities that are part of the writing process.
A consistent problem that I’ve always had when writing is getting the rough draft of the story down on paper. I enjoy the research and world-building – for instance today I’ve been looking at animals that are able to control electricity for background to a science fiction idea. I also enjoy structuring stories – building a kind of scaffolding to outline the key events, how the characters are going to change and when the key pieces of information will be revealed to the reader. But I struggle when it comes to writing the first full version of the story.
Being a perfectionist, ambitious, and having flickering self-confidence is not a great combination.
At times I feel that I’ve stumbled across a great idea, an idea for a novel or other form of fiction which no-one else is writing, and turning it into a major hit is just a matter of putting it down on paper. Unfortunately, turning a vague idea into a practical reality is a little trickier than that.
I first began blogging back in November 2011, as a way of giving myself small, accomplishable writing tasks to keep myself focused and motivated. The aim was also that it would eventually be a useful tool for self-promotion – once I had something worth promoting.
My use of the blog has waxed and waned, definitely more of the latter in recent years. I’ve written just five posts in the last thirty-one months – it’s fair to say that I’ve been neglecting the blog a little bit. But I’ve got a few projects on the go that I’m enthusiastic and confident about, and I’ve learned a little about social media promotion in the five and a quarter years since I started doing this, so it makes sense to get the blog up and going again.
I was aware when I started that it made sense to have a ‘brand name’ that would be distinctive and therefore easy to find online, but I probably made a bad choice in settling for ‘noonebutabloghead’. This was based on a Samuel Johnson quote that I sort of like but disagree with, that “no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money”. I added in a really bad pun (BLOGhead, get it?) and misremembered the quote as ‘noone’ rather than ‘no man’. Yes, when I started this I really was so amateurish that I didn’t check the quote my blog was named for.
I’ve found over time that the name ‘scififootball’ – a play on fantasy football, as well as being two major interests of mine – is surprisingly underclaimed across various social media platforms. So I’ve called dibs on the name on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram. Please follow me. Or don’t, it’s a free world.
I’ve chosen a new design for the blog, will be trying to post more regularly, hopefully sort out some consistent branding that hopefully will be better than my current home-made logo, and checking links in old posts still work and updating my menu bars. A lot of that feels quite boring, so I’ll end up doing it in stages rather than all at once.
And as I do that, I’ll try to form any ideas that pop into my head and that I think are interesting into new blog posts.
Lately I’ve been putting a bit of thought into the role names serve in fiction, about how they give a first impression of a character, place or culture.
One of the Star Trek franchise’s major alien races are the Ferengi, who began as accidentally comical characters in The Next Generation, developing into overtly comic characters who played a major part in Deep Space Nine. I was surprised to encounter a variation of the word ‘feringhee’ several years after first hearing it in Star Trek, in George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman, set in 19th century India. The alien species’ name came from a derogatory word used by Indians for foreigners, apparently particularly directed at white foreigners.
Production staff on the show have confirmed that this was the genesis of the word, with producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe stating that “Ferengi is, after all, the Persian word for foreigner, particularly for European.”
It’s difficult to work out the reasoning behind making this choice (particularly as not many of the target audience, in 1980s America, probably would have been aware of the meaning of the word) but it was a conscious choice to reference this meaning.