Pen still hits paper

Progress is slow, life muscles in (constantly jostling for attention) but pen still (occasionally) hits paper – if only metaphorically. Over the past three months I’ve been working on the opening chapter of a Noir novel, the collaborative brainchild of Rob True and myself, spawned over a few beers earlier this summer, as well as a few flash fiction pieces:

Icarus Man

Just Desserts


What Would Hemingway Do?

If I can finish at least one of them, and get it published by the end of the year, I’ll be happy.

The Music of Our Youth – by GENE FARMER

My short story, The Music of Our Youth, has been published in Sick Lit Magazine. Big thanks to Rob True for readings and suggestions, and to my wife. Also thank you Kelly Coody for your tireless work championing new writers.


The Music of Our Youth


Gene Farmer

Evan first encountered the man in the Panama hat nearly one month ago. Their last meeting may have been today; it’s hard to say for certain. On that first occasion he’d been standing out the back of the research centre taking a smoke break, one he knew there was barely time for. His batch of lab samples was in the spectrometer – on schedule for once – and he really ought to have been closely monitoring the automated electrospray process. But his need for a cigarette was absolute. Besides, how many times had he run this process without a single glitch? Fuck it, have a sneaky fag, he told himself.

Taking cover in the narrow passage between the two giant bin sheds – a universally acknowledged hidey hole for those in thrall to nicotine – Evan lit up and sucked down the…

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SickLitMagazine | Probability – by GENE FARMER
Thrilled to see my first short story, Probability, published in the online literary journal sicklitmagazinedotcom. Special thanks go to SLM Editor Kelly Coody for her support and for tirelessly championing new writers, and to Annabel Banks for all the encouragement and the great advice (and for the whales!).

Not a Writer? Then how do you kickstart your writing?

Writers. The writing community: you can look at it and slice it up in a hundred different ways. And then you can slice each segment down into another hundred smaller slices. Turns out writers are just like everything else: slice it, label it. And for this piece, in order to illustrate a point, I’m going to have to slice the community into “Writers” and “Aspiring Writers” sorry about that; it shouldn’t hurt too much.

In this taxonomy I imagine Writers to be the ones that, professionally, don’t really do anything that’s not related to writing. So they write, they write about writing and they talk about writing. And, to varying degrees, they make their living from these activities. The Aspiring Writers are those that make their living from working in IT, driving taxis, nursing, keeping house and home, and so on – and it’s these writers I want to focus on here, particularly the question of how do you kick start your writing project(s) when the nursing or the taxi driving – not to mention the families and life in general – are all consuming?

Unsurprisingly, while there’s plenty of snake oil out there, I’ve found no miraculous fix for myself: it all still comes down to the basic rule of thumb of making time every day and just getting on with it. But there are things that can help, and here I’ll talk about what’s given me a vital kick start over the last couple of months.

In my first post on this blog I talked about how attending a writing masterclass had led to a noticeable boost in my writing output. My main project, a short novella, has been five years in the making so far and the first, skeletal draft totaled only about 24K words. Four hundred words a month is slow going by anyone’s standards, and at that rate the hare would need to die of boredom if the tortoise (me) was going to have any chance of winning assuming, that is, that the finish line was ever to appear.

But since attending the course my output has boosted significantly, if not spectacularly (see the graph below). Apart from the handy tips I picked up on the two day course, I’ve put my increased productivity down to the inspiration gained from rubbing shoulders with other writers, sharing experiences and feedback, and getting a sense that there’s a lot of other people ploughing the same lonely furrow.

If you’re going to go on a course, though, you’ll want to get as much out of it for your money as you can – you don’t want to be paying through the nose for just the privilege of meeting your fellows and for a handful of writing tips you might easily get from a book. So shop around, there’s a lot going on out there, like courses run by The Unthank School of Writing  and Brighton Writers Retreat I’d be interested to hear about other people’s experiences on writing courses.


Other inspiration can come from having something to work towards. When you have limited time and progress is slow, it’s difficult to see if there’s any light at the end of the tunnel and easy to lose heart. This summer I started following a host of writing journals on Twitter. It’s hugely encouraging to see how many outlets there are for writers it’s really not just about novels and I really enjoyed having something tangible to work towards. In August I wrote and submitted my first ever short story a piece of flash fiction to the Indiana Review‘s 2015 1/2K Prize. Since then I’ve started sketching out ideas for more short stories, flexing the creative muscle and, most gratifyingly, reading a lot of fantastic short fiction. There really is a vast array of journals out there; just follow a few on Twitter for instance @TheNottReview, @TheWhiteReview, @brittlestarmag and @ShortStopsUK and you’ll soon be deluged with recommendations for others.

Now would you look at that: I just spent all that time writing 650 words that could have gone into my novella.

Kick-start, Masterclass

Last weekend I attended an enjoyable 2-day writing “masterclass” at the Guardian HQ near Kings Cross, London, a well-judged birthday present from my wife. Whilst I thought the event overpriced – Masterclass is a bit of a stretch, but I should have known that already – I did pick up a few handy tips.

But the greatest benefit, by far, was rubbing shoulders with other writers, of varying degrees of aspiration and fulfillment. The whole experience of sharing our experiences, having my work read and critiqued and, likewise, doing the same for others in the group has been energising. So much so that I’ve crafted a writing slot for myself every day this week: the happy outcome has been a significant polishing of the opening chapter of whitespace and an additional 850+ words.