How to Step out of the Dark

How to Step out of the Dark

A Writer’s Guide to Creative Self-Expression

As first published on Medium. Please feel free to join me there.

Writing is by its nature a solitary affair. Although we may duet on a poem, seek advice on this fact or that, in essence, we sit, write and publish on our own. Other people walk by our windows, peer in at our small, homemade offices, favourite seats and coffee mugs, shake their heads with pity at our flickering candles and laptop screens and wander away. Yes, writing is a lonesome trade, and it’s just how we like it. It’s the others that don’t understand, not us that’s strange.

For most writers, the hours typing on a keyboard are the best hours of our lives. We love the act of creation, be it in the thinking, or transferring said thoughts to paper, so to speak. There’s no effort to being alone because being alone is what we crave: time to think; time to reflect; time to unravel the worlds that others will tread. We impart our ideas to books, short stories and poems, lean back in our chairs and then think: what now?

For the introverted writer, the next stage of creation is the hardest. There are so many places to send work, so many ways to publish and we’re too scared to use any of them. At least, most are and I include my past self in this. So, what do we do?

The first thing is to not stop. No matter how scary the great, wide world appears, we should never stop doing what we love. Writing out our hearts gives us the same freedom that others find in sport, communal drinking, and social networking. And it is this latter item that can help a writer most.

Hiding behind a computer screen is much easier than hiding behind a book and not just because people cannot see your feet and hair — if you’ve got some. A computer gives us access to the world beyond our windows in privacy. And I assure you, the people out there really do want to read what we’ve written. There are so many great ways to find readers, magazines and publishers out there and just from asking/typing the right questions. We can all do that when no one is watching.

Below is a list of the most active and easiest Social Networks to scan and glean information from:

  1. Twitter
  2. Medium
  3. Facebook
  4. Instagram
  5. Google Plus
  6. Pinterest

All the above can furnish a novice or accomplished writer with great information. Type for example ‘UK/US Publishers’ into a Facebook search or Twitter and you will be amazed at what is revealed. Type ‘Literary Magazines’ into Medium and you’ll be furnished with lots of ‘in-house’ publications to try your hand with. Type ‘Writer’s Resources’ into Pinterest and it will knock your socks off. Then see if you like the look of what they have to offer. Do they sound like your cup of tea? Do they look good? There’s even a chance you’ll already know by association someone that writes for them. Just try those searches and different connotations of the same questions — they invariably yield contrasting results.

Then comes the hardest thing sending your precious work out. The worries begin. What happens if they don’t like it? What happens if they think I’m rubbish? And the list goes on. Think of it this way and it might help. When I first started submitting work, I was very nervous. My self-confidence was low. I then saw an article backed up by several quality Online Magazines that said this: only three percent of all submissions are accepted. Argggghhh!!!!

You could go ‘OH NO!’ and never submit so much as a haiku. But I looked at it rather differently and it was a great help. I said to myself that I should not worry in the least until a piece of work had been returned to me ninety-seven times. Only after that was I a failure and even then only due to someone else’s opinion. But I’ve never had a piece of work rejected more than six times as it happens. So what a fool I would have been to have given up. You should never give up if you are doing what you love.

In conclusion, I say the following. Enjoy writing what you want, how you want, where you want. When you’ve finished, don’t be scared. I’d be surprised if you aren’t a member of at least one of the social networks above — you’re probably reading this on one of them right now. Use them. Plunder them. Take advantage of the world that is only a keystroke away. No more hiding in the dark when you’ve such wonderful lights to shine for others.

Thank you for reading

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

The Eternals

Hunter Hunted

Into Eternity (Soon!)

Advertisements

The Author List

This is the second and final part of my lists posts after The Book List yesterday. These are the lists that define my reading and writing career so far. Again, I have put this in a rough chronological order from young to now. There is not one author here that appears on my book list.

So, what’s the difference between a Book List and an Author List you may shout? A lot. There are books that define people, they may be one-offs or part of a series, but authors resonate through both time and mind. The person stays with you when their works may fade.

This list was extremely hard to put together. I, like you, have read thousands of authors, but I felt these represented my writing history and principles best. I love them all. Accordingly, I have placed an example of what best demonstrates my explanations here for you all to see. I am sure this list will have more unknowns to you than the last. I can only hope they inspire. They inspired me.

B. B.

84644.jpg

So, why start with an author simply known by his initials? Well, for me, this was the easiest choice of all. I had read many authors even as a child who put fantasy into my life. B.B put fantasy into REAL life. The Little Grey Men were gnomes who lived by a beautiful stream and went in search of their brother. Their journey takes them through meadows of flora and fauna that are perfectly described and can be seen by the reader every day. Even the heroes are named after plants: Dodder, Baldmoney, Sneezewort and Cloudberry. What more could a kid want? B.B. taught me that the magical can be closer to home than one thinks.

Ray Bradbury

1930326.jpg

Another easy choice. Bradbury was a true master, a storyteller in the best sense of the word. Something Wicked This Way Comes personifies his easy style, total believability and appeal to both a child, and child at heart. But, and here’s the thing, as a writer who had and still hasn’t had any training, when I found out Bradbury was the same as me, unqualified, he gave me confidence a commodity I have always lacked. ‘Just write,’ he said in my mind. ‘Just write, lad.’ And I have. And I don’t care what anyone says anymore because nobody could judge me harsher than I judge myself.

Oscar Wilde

607609.jpg

Ah, good old Oscar. He resonates on many levels to many ages. I studied him at High School and went to see The Importance of Being Earnest at the theatre as part of my course. Wilde brought literary wit into my life, sometimes cutting, sometimes pertinent, always brilliant. You should read Wilde every year, once a year, because with every day  that goes by, his words will mean something deeper.

China Miéville

71304.jpg

Goddamn it, I want an accented letter in my name. Anyway, back to business. As I grew older, and the books I read evolved, I happened upon Miéville and thus grit was added to my list of what, in particular, a fantasy book can contain. His worlds are dirty, unpleasant, and all the more rounded for it. One of my pride and joys in life is a signed copy of The Iron Council by this author. He isn’t for everyone, but I’m not everyone, and I think he’s fantastic.

Henry James

214528.jpg

I first read James’s The Turn Of The Screw at a young age and to say it was such an old story it scared me to death (in a good way.) In many ways James along with Wilde are the most classical authors on this list and both are always eloquent. That is not why I included him, though. James’s The Aspen Papers is beautifully written and loses the reader in it’s style. But what got me was a line on the last page which turned the whole thing on it’s head. I realised then that all those many, many years ago people thought the same as us now and that we aren’t so very different and shouldn’t think it, either. Great writing is timeless as are we.

Gene Wolfe

344935.jpg

Wolfe is poetry in motion. The above book demonstrates this perfectly. I couldn’t care less what he writes about only how he writes it. The two are one and the same with Wolfe. Similar to Haruki Murakami on my last list, Wolfe’s book can turn on a sentence and you can be several chapters further on before you realise what you’ve missed. He taught me not to treat readers like sheep. One discovers and enjoys in equal measure it doesn’t have to be shoved down one’s throat.

Ryū Murakami

14287.jpg

I love Japanese literature in the same way I love Japan; they enchant me because they are not of the world I know. That is why Ryū Murakami hit me hard (not to be confused with Haruki, whatever you do!) His stories are indisputably Japanese but offer a grit and deep, dark undertone that I would never have thought of their culture. Again, Murakami taught me to look beneath the gloss and really understand those you write about. It may disturb, but wow it’ll make you think.

Robert Silverberg

4402754.jpg

I refused to read Silverberg until later in life because I don’t like reading overly popular work. Even then, I chose his lesser known stories. Both Nightwings and Roma Eterna twist the past into stunning fantastical literature. They are almost Science Fiction, almost Historical, almost Fantasy, and many more. They are always superb. This leads me to an author you’ll all know but is of particular interest to me…

Margaret Atwood

48261.jpg

Genre-bending, in  my eyes, is never more prominent in its displaying than with Margaret Atwood. She represents to me what writing is all about, words and stories, not classifications and pigeonholing. She writes what she wants how she wants and it goes into the fiction category of a book shop. To my way of thinking all writing should be either Non-Fiction or Fiction, nothing else. Readers are led to sections of a store by the labels publishers give their authors thus limiting the discoverability and readability of almost a whole life. Those same readers may never stray from those sections and therefore miss brilliance of an only slightly dissimilar style. I think this is criminal. I never want to fall into a category. I’d rather just fall.

J.G Ballard

56674.jpg

Ballard has literary and professional ties to my favourite author, Michael Moorcock. So why include him on this list and not Moorcock, who I was tempted to have on both, especially as he’s the last of my top ten. Again, this is not because of what he wrote, I love much of his work The Drowned World being foremost of them, but why he wrote them. It wasn’t until I read The Empire of the Sun and then because of it his own biography that I fully appreciated where, how and why you were brought up in a certain way could make your outlook so different. Ballard spent part of his youth in a Japanese concentration camp, which is enough to shape anyone’s ideas on life. An author’s outlook is shaped by experience; we do not all share the same experiences, though many say we do, therefore our stories are so very different. There is nothing wrong with this and it would do us well to appreciate it. Variety. Variety. Variety. If anything in my world of literature sums up both my own reading and writing it is this: Show variety, show your experiences, be uncontainable and revel in it.

I hope you enjoyed this selection of essential authors and examples of their work. Unlike the last post, I would encourage sampling them all for the reasons I have listed. Revel in their brilliance and take a little bit away from them all. It’s the little bits in this jigsaw we call life that make us what we are.

Richard

Richard M. Ankers author of The Eternals trilogy.

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

All images courtesy of Goodreads.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan in Waiting



 Land of the rising sun:
 Home of the many folded sword,
 Where samurai walk the neon streets
 Past geisha billboards,
 And words mean more with less.
 With mystic and mystique you enthral,
 As I glimpse the unusual made usual.
 Hillside temples are still holy
 Beneath the eye of watching Buddha
 And Shinto calms my soul.
 How strange you seem, yet alluring!
 Oh, to walk your shores,
 Live a life of zen,
 And know what it is to be unique.
 

 (Image courtesy worldfortravel.com)

Looking Forward


There’s a feeling in the air

A scent upon the breeze

A toning down of colour

An aching in my knees

A loosening of foliage

That’s falling to the floor

A crispiness below me

A crunching I adore

The world is turning russet

The sun is dropping low

But I’m now looking forward

For that first white fleck of snow

You Could? or You Could.


You could?

If you want to
Then you’ve got to
But don’t forget
Want is wrong

If you need to
Then you have to
But don’t forget
Haves aren’t happy

If you should do
Then you must do
But don’t forget
Must equals obsessive

You could.

If you want to
Take your time
And don’t forget
To take a break

If you need to
Do it right
And don’t forget
Better not to rush

If you should do
You already know it
And don’t forget
Life’s more important

Image courtesy freepik.com