Writing Westerns at 5am

5am is a good time to write. Blue Pulp is getting exciting. The western is an underestimated genre. When you strip everything out, all the things that distract us in the modern world, so all you have is the man and his thoughts, you can get deep and frightening with the human condition.

I know you can’t buy any of these books yet but soon you’ll be able to. This is book three and I’ve got one more to write. I think I’ll be done by spring.

I was reading a western last night. A slim novella. Less that 200 pages. There is something engaging and lively in the telling of a shorter novel. Something I embrace in my own writing.

I can wait for you to read this. If you’ve never read a western before maybe it’s time to try it out.

I’ll be posting covers and release dates right here over the next few months.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz.

Book recommendation! (No spoilers outside of what is written in the blurb on the back of the book).

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz.

This was a rare thing for me. I don’t usually grab a book off the shelf in the supermarket just because of the cover. My tbr list is already so long I try not to add to it. But something drew me to this one. I was walking by and it caught my eye.

I read the back of the book and the first page in the store and felt the rare excitement of discovering a voice that I connected with. It wasn’t bland or generic storytelling. It was something more interesting. It was compelling. Jean knows how to put words together in that rare and satisfying way.

People get bored of authors making the main character of their book an author. But as an author, I get it. She captures the writer’s life so well. It rang true for me. Maybe a little too true. I felt seen.

In the story the main character, Jake, teaches writing. One of his students, a particularly arrogant man named Evan Parker, talks about having a plot that can’t fail. Jake disregards him, thinking he’s just an overconfident and inexperienced novice. Until he is told the story, and gets to read the first few pages. The plot really was a rare thing. It was unique. A story that has never been told before. A guaranteed bestseller. The holy grail of story. Even the worst writer couldn’t fail with this plot. And then Evan Parker dies, taking the plot with him. The novel unfinished. Barely started even.

Jake decides to use the plot. He writes the novel and becomes hugely successful. The book is called Crib.

The problem is, somebody knows what Jake has done.

A lesser writer could have set herself up to fail. Jean Hanff Korelitz now has to deliver on the goods. The fictional plot in her book has to be believable as unique and great. I figured, as I was reading, that maybe we would never find out what the unique plot was. But no. Jean doesn’t shy away. Over the course of The Plot there are chapters of the fictional novel, Crib, within. We get to read parts of the unique novel. And by the end of the book we find out what the plot is.

I loved this book. The standard of writing is exceptional and I was kind of sad when it was over. I’ll be going back and looking at Jean’s previous books for sure.

Tabby vs Maine Coon

My brother visited today and brought his Maine Coon, Odin, with him. He’s still growing (the cat, not my brother) but our own adult cat, Calcifer, looks like a kitten next to it. Odin wanted to play but Calcifer, understandably, wasn’t into it. Probably because one false move by Odin could accidentally remove Calcifer’s face.

Staring at the blank page while armed cowboys await my instructions.

I have been staring at chapter ten of Blue Pulp for an hour. I wrote thirty six words and then stared at them for a while. They were no good. There is something I’m missing. Something my subconscious is aware of but I am not. There is another, better way, for this chapter to be than the one I have in mind. I need to sleep on it.

This is what some people call writer’s block. It’s not a block of words, I’m still capable of laying down the letters; it’s more like the engine that powers the imagination is running on fumes and requires more fuel. Fuel is often made of caffeine, this time it requires something more ethereal. It needs inspiration. A new idea.

Normally in this situation I tell the story to Rachel and it turns out I knew what needed to happen next all along, my subconscious simply needed me to verbalise it. This is different. The path ahead is blocked. A new path must be made before I can walk it.

I think the problem lies in a simple storytelling problem. So far the whole story (a western) has been told from Robin Castle’s point of view (from the third person, but we as the reader only know what he knows), and I need the reader to see what another character is doing as Castle walks away from town with trouble coming up behind him.

I need to break the unspoken rule I have set for the novel. I need to look away from Castle. Maybe that’s the problem.

You see, we’re solving it together right here. So what do I do next? I’m going to ask my subconscious to figure this out and let me know the plan in the morning. I’m going to bed.