On Mentors and Monsters

Lego Writer 2

The certainties of the writing life: there will be dragons and mentors, and a need for laptops and mugs of sludgy-brown stuff to keep you awake.

The last two weeks has seen its fair share of ups and downs, and through it all my thoughts have turned to mentors and monsters, legacies and challenges.

On Mentors

These days, after hundreds of years of creating fiction, writers really do stand on the shoulders of giants. Robert Holdstock is a name any long-time fan of Elite knows: the writer of much fantasy and some science fiction, and the author of the very first piece of Elite fiction, The Dark Wheel. This novella fired the imagination of thousands of teenagers across the world and gave the first Elite game a depth and a story it otherwise lacked. It wasn’t a game, it was a virtual universe and the images on the screen created a playground for the storyteller in all of us. Today I am a trader, but tomorrow I shall be a stone-cold killer and destroyer of asteroids.

I came late to reading for enjoyment; my love for SF and fantasy started in my mid-teens, so Holdstock’s novella was one of the first pieces of SF I read that didn’t have pictures in it. (I used to love the old SF comics, those with the epic black and white illustrations and epic better-than-average plots. Their names escape me now.) The Dark Wheel set the Elite universe on fire for me and laid a foundation for a love of SF that survives to this day. That is some legacy to try and build upon.

Well, last week, I fulfilled the very first part of my Kickstarter: I’ve written something longer than The Dark Wheel. I haven’t completed that part of the Kickstarter goal—it still isn’t substantially longer, but I have now got to writing more.

It’s a shame that longer doesn’t necessarily equate with better—it would make life a lot easier. However, my challenge is to create something that will fire the imagination of my readers in the same way that Holdstock’s original Elite novella fired mine.

It’s a hard goal to reach. Many have already read his offering and comparisons with all subsequent Elite fiction is inevitable. Also, Holdstock’s audience was predominantly children who wear their hearts on their sleeves and keep their imaginations in their Hero Space Helmets. Today’s audience is a little older and possesses a lot more experience of both life and reading fiction. Somehow, I have to find something new and different to say to them: different to Holdstock, and different to all the other Elite: Dangerous writers. Out of the Darkness should be different. Those of you who have followed this blog and communicated with me on the forums know I do different. Whether it sucks, or whether it will be as good as anything that’s gone before will have to be a judgement call for my readers to make.

On Monsters

Over the last two weeks I have also been battling my monsters. The Contract Cyclops continues to rear its head and restrict my vision and the Viral Vampire has been sucking my concentration and draining my word count. Despite these incursions, The Block Bugaboo has been defeated yet again: I now have a rough outline for the next chunk of the story including a scene plan and more insight into the characters and where the middle of the book is going. The characters are also developing their own personalities and wandering away from the original plot. Still, it makes writing, and hopefully will make reading, a more interesting experience.

What lies ahead is more of the same: writing is a marathon and not a sprint, yada yada yada. As each foe is defeated and milestone passed I will drop another update and, one day, I’ll bring a head or two back to our little village. Whether you feel I will be worthy to claim the princess and half the kingdom, or I should be basted mercilessly with onion gravy and thrown to the starving wolves is something I will find out if you decide to read what I’ve written.

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The score so far: Mentors 2–TJ 1; Monsters 2–TJ 2I’m hoping to get through to the next round on aggregate.

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