The Writing of Martin Brennan


Now: January 2019 and Year in Review

Another year has come to a close and I have come short of my writing and querying goals. This may sound bleak, and I certainly am not exactly happy that I haven’t finished what I set out to do in some regards, but I still did enough writing throughout the year that I didn’t feel as though it was a total waste. More often than not I get in my own way when it comes to writing as much as life, work, and procrastination get in the way, which means that I don’t write as much as I would like to in a year. This is a retrospective post on the last year, what I am going to try and do differently this year, and what I’m currently working on in January 2019.

2018

Writing Goals Review

In January last year I wrote a few things that I wanted to do in 2018:

  • Finish editing my first novel (Bottom Feeders) and start sending out queries
  • Start writing my second novel
  • Complete the novelettes I had written and start trying to get them published as well as submitting to more magazines, journals, and competitions. General idea was to get my name out there more.

I did not complete editing Bottom Feeders. I am finding the editing process for a novel much less interesting and much more difficult than the actual writing of the novel. I think part of the reason for this is that I have left it so long, and now the more I leave it the more it is a chore to finish editing the book. Stephen King says to leave a novel for around 6 weeks before starting to edit it and I did that…but then I’ve let the actual editing process drag out over about two years. However it wasn’t all bad. I had left the novel a bit out of order as I drove towards finishing writing it in the first place. I put off organising the chapters correctly for a while, but this year I finally got around to doing that!

I’ve edited 17/51 chapters so far, so I’m around a third of the way through. This isn’t much for two years! I’ve found the first chapters much rougher to work with than the later chapters, and it’s interesting to see how my writing style has developed since I started writing in earnest with the start of this novel. At the moment I’m getting a chapter edited every couple of weeks, but I really need to bite the bullet and just set aside a chunk of time to get the whole thing done. I went into this in a bit more depth in my Now: November 2018 post so I won’t go on about it any further. Here is a screenshot of the current chapter list and their percentage of editing that has been completed.

Bottom Feeders Chapter List

On the second point I did begin writing my second novel, The Thaw, which you can read more about in my Now: November 2018 post as well as my current Works page. I’m enjoying writing this novel so far, and I’m finding out more and more about my style. To be honest I kind of struggle with my style at times. I feel as though sometimes I’m too…technical? real? with my writing, and that I can sometimes have issues with things taking too long to get to the point or adding too much explanation. I try hard to try and think about plausible, realistic reasons for things happening in my books, and draw a lot from research, which I fear could come off as too boring or in-depth. I generally just drive through these doubts though, as when I read my work as a whole later on I find it nowhere near as dreary as I think it is when writing it. I’m coming up to some more exciting parts of this novel now though so hopefully these feelings go away, and any future readers won’t experience them!

As for the last point, I didn’t really further develop the “novelette” or long short story length pieces I have, of which there are three. I’m not really sure if they have a place anywhere or if anyone would be interested in reading them, so I may just chalk them up to practice work and move on. I submitted to a few things this year which I’ve outlined in the Submissions section below.

I also redesigned this website this year. I wanted something ultra simple that had great readability and I’m really happy with what I came to for the design.

Submissions

I’ve submitted to the following in the past year with the results next to each:

  • TLDR Press Horror Quarterly - Submitted my piece Snowman, which was not accepted.
  • TLDR Press Family Quarterly - Submitted my piece Only The Dead, which has gone through an editing pass and I’m still waiting for the result.
  • Literary Taxidermy - Submitted my piece Unrepentant, which was not accepted.

I’d really like to submit more in the coming year. I will definitely submit to anything else that TLDR Press comes out with as they provide personalized editing feedback to all submissions which is extremely helpful. If some flash fiction competitions come onto my radar as well I will submit to them, I love the flash fiction that I’ve done so far!

I find it quite difficult to submit to places that have no defined theme or restrictions. If a place is open to fiction submissions that can be no longer than say 3.5k words I struggle to think of something to write for that. I do much better if there is something like a Horror genre restriction in addition to a word count. Is this a problem that anyone else has? Send me an email if you do!

Books I Read

I had quite a reading slump earlier in the year, so in 2019 I’d like to read more books than I did in 2018 (with less re-reads as well!). I also had a couple of books (A Farewell to Arms and Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy) that I started reading and just didn’t get into. I may try them again in future, but I found John le Carré quite boring, and A Farewell to Arms not as engaging as the other Hemingway book I’ve read (The Old Man and the Sea). I diverged a little from my proposed reading list from the beginning of the year as usual but read most of the books on there. I found the first four Gunslinger novels at an op-shop so I’m keen to start reading them at some point.

  • East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  • The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy
  • Sapiens, Noah Yuval Harari
  • Hyperion, Dan Simmons
  • Misery, Stephen King
  • The Time Machine, H. G. Wells
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling (Reread)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (Reread)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling (Reread)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling (Reread)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling (Reread)

Here’s to a 2019 with at least ten books read!

Now: January 2019

Manuscripts

I’m still writing The Thaw and I’ve got the next chapter or two outlined, and I’m getting into the swing of things. We are finally leaving the island! Editing for Bottom Feeders is slow…as usual. I’ll get there eventually.

Competitions

I’m currently waiting to hear back on whether my story Only The Dead, which is a backstory of the primary antagonist in my novel The Thaw, will be accepted into the TLDR Press Family Quarterly. I got great feedback during the editing phase and I was overall happy with the piece, so fingers crossed it gets through!

This year I want to submit to even more competitions. I was linked to the website https://horrortree.com which lists upcoming open submissions via the TLDR slack and two of them have caught my eye, and I will be trying my damndest to get submissions done for both of them:

So I need to get cracking on the both of these as soon as possible to have a chance!

What I’m Reading

I finished Harry Potter once again, blew threw them in about a month and a half. The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows tie for my as my favourites of the series, they are so far above in quality of storytelling and more engaging with their different structure and more mature themes than the other books in the series. The best parts are in Prince when Harry and Dumbledore are going back into Voldemort’s memories; it’s like a bunch of little serial killer origin story vignettes.

My partner got me The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck for Christmas this year, which I loved! She knows exactly the type of books I’d like and often surprises me with her choices and gets me things I wouldn’t necessarily pick out myself but I end up really enjoying. I’ve started reading The Big Sleep and I will likely read The Grapes of Wrath next. So far I like it, it’s giving me strong The Big Lebowski vibes, the Wikipedia page for the movie said the Cohen brothers were influenced by Chandler so that’s probably why!

The Year Ahead & Reading List

As with the last two years, the editing of my novel Bottom Feeders looms large in my mind. I need to just stop procrastinating with it and edit the damn thing, there is no getting around it. I’ve been considering possibly self-publishing it, as I’m unsure that it would get traditionally published, but I know that is also a long process in itself in that I’d be responsible for marketing, typesetting, artwork, etc. and I’d still need to get it edited. Overall I’d still prefer to try the traditional publishing and agent route first I just…need to finish!

The Thaw is going well, at around 22k words so far and I’ve a better idea of the antagonists, protagonist, and the dual storylines in the book. I was thinking at first that it would be around 80k words like Bottom Feeders but now I’m not sure I’ll be able to get from Arkansas to Colorado and back in that short amount of time. I think realistically 100k-120k words would be more likely, and if I really get in trouble I may have to split it into two books! I’ll just keep writing and see how I go throughout the year. I’d ideally like to be close to the end of a first draft by the end of this year; depends on my determination really.

I would like to submit to more places this year as I’ve said above. Anything that TLDR press does I’m there! Ideally I’d like to submit at least 5 or 6 times this year, along with my editing work and writing for The Thaw.

What I’d like to read this year:

  • The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
  • Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  • 11/22/63, Stephen King
  • The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks
  • The Fall of Hyperion, Dam Simmons
  • Starting The Gunslinger Series, Stephen King
  • Starting the Outlander Series, Diana Gabaldon

And that’s it! Happy New Year to everyone reading this, and I hope you have a prosperous year with your own goals as well in 2019.

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Martin Brennan, the Author

I’m Martin Brennan. I'm a software developer by day, and I like to think I know how to write. Like how a hobo thinks he knows the recipe to Coca-Cola.

You can read about my major projects on my works page.

The authors that inspire me are Cormac McCarthy (my God), Stephen King (my Prophet), J. R. R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, Hunter S. Thompson, George Orwell, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Find me on twitter @mjrbrennan or email me.