Tilting at Windmills

The personal wafflings of Cyran Dorman

“This Milk’s Bad.” June 7, 2010

Filed under: Fiction,Journalish — cyrandorman @ 8:43 pm

This year has been rather kind to me. I’ve gone from being an aspiring author to being weblished thanks to the Liverpool Daily Post Live Read Literary Festival, and now I’m about to have the first chapter of my novel “Down To Hades” published in an anthology thanks to being a finalist in this years Writing on the Wall Pulp Idol Competition.

And so not for the first time I return to the first page of Down To Hades, the first line, the first word and ask myself, is this a good enough opening?

I can still remember when it was all white pages. When these 80,000 or so words where nowt more than just a trickle of an idea. I can’t remember the exact first words that I typed but I can remember where I was. It was all so exciting then. The idea was like nothing I’d written before and so there was also a great deal of trepidation. At that time my main character was called Rachel and she was utterly alone. I think that she may have even been human then, but let’s not spoil things.

Since then Rachel has become Hanya. She’s skipped dimensions, attempted suicide 67 times, owns a dog, has a best friend and is just about to kill her boyfriend. And yes, I say that she’s done it. It’s an odd thing when you get so immersed in a piece of work, the things in your imagination start to take over and almost develop a will independent of your own. There are constant surprises as you find characters acting in ways you wouldn’t imagined them capable of just the day before. Taking great personal journeys and sometimes making heartbreaking sacrifices. Others trick you just when you thought you knew them best of all, and we constantly find ourselves falling in love with our antagonists and wanting to make her or him just a little more human. It little wonder that this is the part that I, and most other writers that I know like most of all. If only this was all there was to writing.

But soon the journey ends. You have a finished manuscript. You might want to print it out and hold it in your hands to get the feel of it. You’ll undoubtedly want to tell everyone you know that you’ve written a novel. Some will share in your joy. They’ll be the other writers. Most however, will ask you when you’re going to get it published. No, they can’t just be happy for you.

So, when are you going to get it published?

Well, first things first. Hemingway once said, “The first draft of everything is shit,” and I’ve yet to find a writer who disagrees.

The first draft of Down To Hades was written in 30 days three years ago. Since then it has had one full redraft and numerous partial edits. If I don’t find a way to stop somewhere I could be editing until I’m literally blue in the face.

This time however I have support.

The editing I’ve done solo hasn’t been particularly productive. I can see this now because for the past couple of months I’ve been part of a writing group. They are my first audience and as such they are who I need to please. So when they tell me that they’re rapidly going off my main character I know that she needs some major work. When they pointed out the number of times I used the word had I was shocked. And the overuse of my main characters names is frankly embarrassing. But it would have taken me another redraft to notice these things for myself because I would have been far too busy looking at something else. And these are just a couple of the things they’ve pointed out.

So here I go again, tearing down my work to build it up again and hoping that it’s one of the last times for this novel. Experience tells me otherwise. Happily the last two months experience also tells me that I’m not alone. This time, I may even get something approaching a final draft.


Day 76 March 22, 2010

Filed under: photography — cyrandorman @ 2:22 pm

On Wednesday (17th/Day 76) I was so busy writing that I forgot to take my 365 picture.

On each day since I’ve taken a photograph that could be included in my365. I could carry on only having missed a day. But I don’t want to.

The 365 project just isn’t giving me what I need from it.. And frankly, there are far to many pictures on my photostream that are there only out of desperation. Too many photographs taken too late on with no inspiration to them, sometimes processed in the hope that something might happen because I thought I had a better shot that day. In short it’s too much stress. And I don’t want to resent my camera.

Instead I’ve started a 52×7. That’s still 365 photographs per year but at a far more relaxed pace. It also takes into consideration the days when I want to post more than one shot for my 365. And I’m hoping that it will help me develop by allowing themes. I’ll be trying water droplets and smoke shots again but perhaps this time over the space of a few days, giving me time to learn from the previous days results.

And choosing my seven best pictures from one week should leave something on my photostream that I’m happy to have there. Early indications seem to show this to be the case.


Getting Ready March 14, 2010

Filed under: photography — cyrandorman @ 9:40 pm

It is said that if you don’t feel like a fake then you’re not a real writer.  By this reasoning I can surely say, I am a writer.

I realise that upon perusing my blog you might think, ‘really, that’s news to me.’

I also call myself an amateur photographer, and yet it seems to be what I spend the majority of my time doing.  I’m almost at the stage where I think I might have earned the title Amateur Photographer having recently had one of my photographs included in an exhibition and another printed large in the local paper.

And yet, although I have never had any of the four novels or two screenplays that I written published, or even close to, I would never call myself an amateur writer.

Perhaps it merely is different terminology, and perhaps I shouldn’t pay attention to the books but they all tell me that as soon as I start writing, I am a writer.  Perhaps we really are just such a narcissistic bunch that we need the affirmation right from the get go.  But I knew long long before I picked up any books on writing that that was what I wanted to be.  More than that.  I already knew that that was what I was.

So why can’t you see it?  Well, for the simple reason that I don’t put it out there.

Whereas I may take a decidedly dodgy picture one day for my 365 photography project and think, oh well, I’ll do better tomorrow and post it on Flickr for all to see, this would never happen with my writing.  It is far more precious to me that any photograph could be.  And although I’m happy to tell a few people what my novels are about, only the very lucky few get to read any of them.

And I’m not scared of the criticism for me so much, as for the writing.

By the time you have spent any length of time with a novel, whether it’s over ten years (my first novel is still in the 3rd draft stage.) or one week (my last attempt at NaNoWriMo where I wrote 50,000 words in a week, 10,000 of them in one day.) you start to feel protective of the lives you have created.  I won’t compare my novels to children, but when it came time for me to send outa script that I had slaved over to Paramount, it took me a long two or three minutes to just physically release the envelope into the post box.  (The script was rejected by the way, but I was still quite excited to get my script back with Paramount stamps on it and a rejection letter with Star Trek letter head.)

I have another problem and forgive me for complaining.  Nobody has ever said anything truly terrible, or even that bad about my writing.  If I have received criticism it has only ever been good.  And this includes a room full of class mates when I took a screen writing course at Birkbeck University of London.

I’m not asking anyone to hate me, but the fraud in me sees this lack of bad criticism not as encouragement but as proof that as yet I have faced nothing and learned little from outside sources.

So am I ready to show you all what I’ve written?

Well a little.  And don’t blame me if you don’t like it.  You should have told me before.

The first instalment of a story I’ve been asked to write for the Liverpool Daily Post’s first ever literary festival can be seen tomorrow (I’ll provide a link when I have one.) and I know full well that not everyone is going to like it.  I feel as though I am about to do my first gig and I know that at the end I may very well get a slow hand clap.  It’s terrifying.  So why am I so excited?

That’s easy.  Whatever happens, whatever the response is, it’s something new for me.  And it’s something that I can learn from.  Because I’ll never stop writing.

If you go way further down this blog you can read the first draft of a short story I wrote last year.   It’s a little bit on the raunchy side.  Enjoy if you wish.  Or not.  I don’t mind.  I think.


Self Portrait February 1, 2010

Filed under: photography — cyrandorman @ 2:18 am

31/365 Multi-Shot 16 pictures of me!

I’ve wanted to do a self portrait all month, but it’s not that easy to take myself seriously. And then I started to see collages of peoples first months of their 365’s and it got me to thinking about one of the modes on my camera I never use, Multi-Shot 16. Today I took full advantage of it, have 8 contact sheets of myself in every pose I could think of and chose these. There were actually a lot more that were usable than I expected. Happily! This is only my second attempt at a self portrait but it was fun!


No Worries! January 4, 2010

Filed under: Journalish,photography — cyrandorman @ 7:13 am

3/365 No Worries, originally uploaded by CyranDorman.

So, this is what I take on a weekly basis! I hate taking pills. It’s a constant reminder that I’m sick! Sometimes I don’t feel sick at all, sometimes I have great days when I have to really think about why it is that I can’t have the same life as everyone else. And then my hands shake so much that I can’t take a photo. Or my head hurts so much that it feels like I may pass out from the pain and never wake up. It sucks. And I’ve had enough. By the end of this year I want to take a photo that shows at least half this amount.

It doesn’t help that the NHS has nothing like a holistic approach to health. I see different specialists for different illnesses and never know whether one symptom is being caused by this illness or that and as you can probably tell by now…. it’s really dull being sick!


Framed December 29, 2009

Filed under: photography — cyrandorman @ 12:51 am

Framed, originally uploaded by CyranDorman.

In the past five weeks I have written just over 100,000 words of a novel I started in November for Nanowrimo. It’s going great although I’m probably not even half way done yet. Yes, this is getting a bit epic! But writing means time indoors and I was starting to go stir crazy. So, when I awoke today and discovered a thick fog I found myself with the perfect opportunity to get out of the house.

I haven’t really shot in fog before and so I looked it up on the internet, well I am a girl after all, prone to reading instruction manuals. The only real piece of advice that I could find was to use a polarising lens. So I did. I took a walk around Newsham Park which is conveniently located at the end of my road and took a whole bunch of shots. On days like today the only people around were either walking their dogs or me. As one dog walker said to me, “It looks all Dickensian doesn’t it?” It did.


Westcombe Park December 16, 2009

Filed under: photography — cyrandorman @ 4:24 pm

Westcombe Park, originally uploaded by CyranDorman.

For far too many years I would get the overground train from Abbey Wood Station into Central London where I worked as a Financial Controller.  But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy. Yes, the train was always late and overcrowded but there was always something out of the window that I wanted to photograph and couldn’t as the trains sped past and the train was a great place to write, most of my first novel was written on a delayed train.

So when I went back for a visit recently one of the sights that I knew I wanted to photograph was Westcombe Park Train station, one of the ten stops on my daily commute. I’ve always liked Westcombe Park Station simply for the face that it doesn’t look as though it’s ever been modernised. It looks as olde fashioned as anything can be in London without having modern distractions all around it and… well I don’t know, I just really like it and I was particularly glad that the photographs I took of it caught the exact mood that I was after. I’m also surprised that others have enjoyed these photographs, I thought it was just me who would like this 🙂