Sunday, 28 February 2010

49 - Is this a spatula or not?

So I was just in the pub with some of my friends and for some reason or the other, we started talking about spatulas. It soon arose that what me and my friends were referring to as spatulas were different things. What they referred to as a spatula is what I'd refer to as a fish slice. See below:What I'd refer to as a spatula they'd never heard of, or at least had no idea what I was describing. I researched this online and apparently this is a cake spatula or a frosting spatula or even a scraper. See below:Only a few hours before this my friend was discussing her gilet with my sister. Now I was ademant that a gilet was a nightdress. But it was quickly pointed out that what I meant was a negligee.

Basically language is a tricky thing. You can use the wrong word and still be understood and you can use the correct word and have people look at you like you're making words up as you go along. So what's right? Should we use words in contexts we understand even if the meaning we ascribe them is wrong?

Probably not. Never mind.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

48 - Hallam Foe

What a cracking little film Hallam Foe is. It tells the story of a young voyeur who runs away to Edinburgh and lives on the rooftops, spying on a woman who looks like his dead mother. It's as disturbing as it sounds and yet it's an incredibly sweet, light-hearted film. It dances the lines between creepy and sweet very well and Hallam as a character is a very tragic and sympathetic boy. He's a sensitive cool-loser that are so popular in indie films. A social reject but someone we all want to be. And who wouldn't want to live on the rooftops, watching the world go by? Fantastic.

Friday, 26 February 2010

47 - Routine

Sometimes writing is spontaneous. Doesn't matter where you are, you have to write.

However, as much as I love writing, it doesn't mean that whenever I get a free moment I write. Even if I do want to write, it doesn't mean I will. Often I just can't be arsed. I used to think that writing when I wanted to write, when I needed to write, produced far better pieces than if I forced it, so I'd only write when I really wanted to. Maybe I was right, but writing in that way took a long time to produce anything.

So I've gotten into a habit and One A Day has been a huge help with this. By writing something every day I'm now firmly back in the routine of writing. I don't need to force it. I was worrying at the start of this month that One A Day had replaced my fiction writing. It hasn't. It took about 6 weeks of writing a blog a day but now this blogging has become habitual. I don't feel like I'm forcing these blogs out anymore. I now feel that I can sit down and write, in moderation, at any time. Having rekindled this 'ability' to write without needing the flaming desire to, I transferred this routine to my fiction writing.

As boring as this is, this has been my schedule each day this last week or so:

8:00 - Alarm goes off. Press snooze 5 times.
8:42 - Get out of bed. Have tea. Check emails, Twitter etc.
9:00 - Have shower. Put on comfy clothes. Eat bit of breakfast.
9:30 - With coffee, sit down and write.
10:30 - Have cup of tea and variety of cake.
11:00 - Write.
12ish - Finish.

This method's working really well for me. It's not as much as I could write but 2+ hours a day's not bad and I think it strikes a good medium for the time being between forcing it out and wanting to write. So yeah, thanks One A Day.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

46 - Feeling sexy

So I was redrafting Chapter 12 of my novel today and had to write a sex scene. Man, I felt awkward. That's a pretty pathetic attitude to have, right?

I wouldn't include the scene if it didn't need to be there. Unfortunately it does. I don't want it coming across as a desperate attempt to be sexy. As long as it's functional, I'll be happy. Still, I was writing it feeling like a teenager whose dad was trying to have 'that talk' with him.

I tried thinking of other novels with sex scenes and only one sprung to mind as I wrote - American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. If you haven't read it, then know the sex scenes, like everything else in the novel, are graphic but serve a point. They're not too sexy or ludicrous, just graphic. Oh, and they nearly all end with Patrick Bateman mutilating the women involved. Good stuff, but it wasn't much help.

Hopefully by the time I come back to this chapter on the next draft I'll have manned up a bit or done some actual research into better written sex scenes. For now, I'm sure the scene has been imbued with a great sense of awkwardness, and what's sex without awkwardness, right?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

45 - Literary exchange #1

Me and my friend decided to do a literary exchange this year. The plan is to lend each other five of our favourite books that the other hasn't read. To start I lent her Flowers for Algernon and she lent me Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Now I've seen the films and pretty much everyone in the English-speaking world knows the story, but I thought I'd try and read it with an open mind. I can't lie; it was better than I expected.

So I thought in continuing the way I read it, I'd write a few words on the book as if it weren't some huge cultural phenomenon - as if it were an unknown story.

The first thing that strikes is how solid an imagination J.K. Rowling has, and how good a sense she has of what will appeal to children. There's a bit of something for everyone. There's classic escapism. There's a sense of there being more to life. There's some entertaining characters and best of all there's magic.

For a children's book it's a great little read. There are flaws, most of which I overlooked seeing as it's intended for children. Everything that happens is fantastically convenient. The writing isn't exactly brilliant and the dialogue is often clunky and full of clumsy exposition. Most of all I found the sense of right and wrong in the book to be too clear-cut. Characters are either very, very good or incredibly evil and malicious. But as I said, it is meant for children.

Overall I preferred Artemis Fowl. It has a better plot and the character of Artemis is far superior to Harry. Still, I really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and I'm sure if J.K. Rowling ever pens a sequel I'll give it a read.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

44 - 1988.7.16 Tokyo

The only sound we hear is the wind.

The camera pans up and looks out over a huge, sprawling city.

1988.7.16 TOKYO

A pinpoint of light quickly grows and a nuclear explosion engulfs the screen.

All is white.

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED
BY
KATSUHIRO OTOMO

A picture fades in of the city from above.

A drum beat.

31 YEARS AFTER WORLD WAR III
AD 2019 NEO TOKYO

The picture fades to black and the camera pulls out of a huge crater; that of the nuclear explosion.

The drum beats continue and AKIRA in large, red lettering fades onto the screen.

---

That is why Akira has one of the best openings in cinema. That is why novels just can't compete with films when it comes to openings. Everything about Akira's opening is pure and simplistic beauty. It's shocking, powerful and provides the set-up for the rest of the story. My words don't do it justice. Watch the film.

Monday, 22 February 2010

43 - I'm my own grandfather. What?

Writing time travel fiction is a nightmare.

I tried writing a short story about a time traveller once and had to give up due to the fact that I couldn't keep a grip on the facts.

She travelled back in time just after her seventh birthday, lived for twelve years in the past then returned to when she came four years after she left.
How old is she again?


He just met for the first time a man that he's already killed.
What?

For him this is the ninth time they've met. For her it's the third. However she's aware of all fifteen times they've met due to the fact that the second time she met him was the final time of them meeting and he filled her in.
Run that by me again.


Quite.

So I've been playing around with it in my latest story and I think, I think, I've just caused a temporal causality loop. At least, I may have. I really don't know.

I think the key hope as a writer is that your readers won't be able to keep up either and so will just give in and go with the flow. Hopefully.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

42 - Ringworld

Ringworld - Larry Niven (1970)
I picked this up in a charity shop just before Christmas having heard of it before but didn't really know what it was about. The basic premise is pretty wicked; a group of four explorers travel to Ringworld, an artificial world in the shape of a ring (akin to a Dyson sphere) orbiting a sun. Crash landing upon its surface, the four must find their way free of this world, exploring it as they do so.

The whole way through reading this novel, I was reminded of Bob Shaw's Orbitsville (1975) a similar story in which mankind discovers a Dyson sphere. As such I couldn't help comparing the two throughout and I've got to say that I found Orbitsville far more entertaining, was better written and imbued me with a greater sense of awe.

Niven's novel is hard science-fiction and as such frequently explains precisely how things work. Now I have nothing against elaborately conceived worlds that don't dumb down the science to appeal to a wider audience, but in Ringworld I found it pretty intrusive. Most of it was fairly hard to follow for my brain which has very little understanding of science. It also slowed the pace more often than not and I would have been far happier to simply accept that a house could float than have characters hypothesise how and why before finally agreeing upon a theory.

Of the four main characters, Louis and Speaker, were likeable but Nessus and Teela were both pretty annoying. There isn't a lot else to say other than I did actually enjoy it. I just found that the points of wonder were often too far apart and that I've read far better examples of the genre. If you like big adventure, discovery sci-fi and you come across this, give it a read, but I'd recommend Orbitsville and Gateway ahead of it.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

41 - Evil

This man is the embodiment of evil. That's how a drama teacher once described to me Rutger Hauer's character in The Hitcher. Unike other anatagonists, he doesn't show mercy, doesn't waffle on in a long handy monologue. He doesn't have a real motive either. He simply kills because he can and because he enjoys it.

The only thing that comes close to a motive is provided by the character of Jim played by C. Thomas Howell. Being the only person ever to stand up to The Hitcher, he is subsequently tormented and played with for the rest of the film.


It's proof that you don't always need a deep character to make a piece compelling. They don't need complex motives to propel the story along. Sometimes nothing more than evil itself provides the perfect antagonist.

Friday, 19 February 2010

40 - The book inside you

You've got a book inside you, because apparently everyone does, and I want to read it.

I've decided that when I'm older I'm going to have a bookcase reserved solely for books written by people I know. It's one of my bizarre compulsions than whenever I find out that somebody writes fiction, I immediately want to read any and everything they've penned. I want to know what genre they write. What ideas they employ. How they write.

So for anyone reading this blog, if you've ever written a story, I want to read it. This isn't a big plea for you all to send me things to read, but just so you know, there is an audience out here.

Reading a story by some random author is great. Reading a story by someone you know, be that your oldest friend, someone you've gad a pint with, or someone you only know over the internet, is a far deeper thrill.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

39 - Twice as long as half its length

How long is a story? The same length as a piece of string, right? Twice as long as half its length.

I know the generally agreed upon word counts for what constitutes flash fiction, short story, novellas and novels, but when get an idea, how do we know whether it will be a short story or an epic tale told over three books?

Obviously certain ideas lend themselves better to shorter tales than longer ones and vice versa. Sometimes it's quite intuitive. You just know that an idea, even if it's only the bare bones of one, requires a novel to be told or only a few sentences.

And I think you need to stick to your gut feeling initially, at least when planning it. Trying to compress a novel into a short story can result in a piece that reads like it's screaming out for more words. And not enough words won't do it justice. But trying to turn a short story into a novel can stretch a great idea to breaking point. Even by beefing it up with subplots you risk diluting the narrative. Too many words can tear apart a piece.

But then as you write, I think you need to write the length that's right. You might start off with the plan for an 80,000 novel but you soon reach 20,000 words and feel you're already over halfway through. Conversely you might find yourself needing 15,000 words extra for a short story. Don't necessarily constrain yourself to what you originally set out to do. It can be heartbreaking finding your piece won't be as long as you intended, or is far longer, but a story needs be the correct length - it shouldn't be the length you want it to be. It should take as many words to tell as it needs, and not one more

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

38 - Writing music #4

Spotify playlist - 'writing'
This has to be the number one thing I listen to when I write now. It's not a cleverly crafted playlist in which I've obsessed over the order of every song. It doesn't just feature certain genres or indeed only songs I specifically associate with writing. It started off that way, but it soon evolved. I added various songs I hadn't heard for years in that Spotify way. Songs I wanted to listen to as I wrote.

Nine times out of ten when I'm redrafting my novel I'll be listening to this playlist. As bizarre as some of the selections might appear, I've been writing to it for so long that each of these tracks gets my fingers typing, even the screaming melody of In Flames's 'Take This Life.' Wizard.
  1. The Awakening - York
  2. Offshore - Chicane
  3. Now We Are Free - Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard
  4. Saltwater - Chicane
  5. Adagio For Strings - Tiƫsto
  6. Big Love (live) - Lindsey Buckingham
  7. Edge Of Seveteen - Stevie Nicks
  8. All Along The Watchtower - Eddie Vedder & The Million Dollar Bashers
  9. All Along The Watchtower - Francis Lockwood
  10. Never Had It - Flobots
  11. Bullets - Tunng
  12. Bandages - Hot Hot Heat
  13. Sweetness - Jimmy Eat World
  14. The Boys Of Summer - The Ataris
  15. Huddle Formation - The Go! Team
  16. Take This Life - In Flames
  17. Trojan Horse - Bloc Party
  18. Sway - Lostprophets
  19. The Boxer - Simon & Garfunkel
  20. 747 (We Ran Out Of Time) - Kent
Listen to it here if you desperately want to.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

37 - Once upon a beginning

Six years ago I watched an episode of Father Ted. I was too lazy to roll over and turn off the TV so watched what came next; the first episode of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, and so the love affair began.

Due to low ratings a second series was never commissioned. In some ways I don't mind because what we do have are six episodes of some of the smartest and finest comedy in TV history.

For those who don't know, the show concerns Garth Marenghi, a pulp horror writer who created a TV show in the 1980s entitled Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. Apparently considered ahead of its time Darkplace was never shown, until now. In the present day Garth has knocked together interviews with some of the actors and spliced these into the episodes as we watch.

What we get is brilliant comedy from watching this abysmal TV show. Poor acting, out of sync dubbing, poor scripting, poor editing, poor SFX, poor sets, dreadful continuity, errors, sexism and ill-judged musical numbers.

But look past the fantastically observed comedy and the frequent silliness, and beneath there's a dark believable world. We have a pathetically vain and deluded man who, spurred on by a hero-worshiping publisher, created a badly-made and badly-written horror that was deservedly lost for decades.

There's so much to get from the scripts, from the sets, from the actors. I don't exaggerate by saying I'll find something new to laugh at and gawp over every time I rewatch it, which is every few months. The attention to detail is beautiful. I go on about rich worlds in novels, films and games but here's a comedy so rich you can practically taste it. Simply beautiful.

Monday, 15 February 2010

36 - Your move, creep

Robocop is fucking cool.

Although he's created as machine devoid of personality akin to The Terminator he ends up evolving back towards humanity. Unlike The Terminator who retains a monotone attitude throughout the films, Robocop slowly regains his identity.

Though still a machine, glimpses of Murphy, the man he was before, slip through. From his stance as he shoots, the way he spins his gun or the quips he utters, everything's imbued with a real sense of the man who was before.

Peter Weller delivers his lines beautifully, saying them with something I can only describe as 'robotic charisma.' He speaks in a monotone fashion with a supreme air of authority but also includes stresses on certain words and puts pauses mid-sentence.

He's just so fucking cool.

"Looking for me?"

"Dead or alive, you're coming with me."

"Come quietly or there will be...trouble."

"Your move, creep."

Sunday, 14 February 2010

35 - Writing music #3

We Don't Need To Whisper - Angels & Airwaves
I can't honestly say that I think We Don't Need To Whisper is a good album. I don't think I can even say that I like it. But I do enjoy listening to, if that makes any sense.

Like Crystal Castles it was an album I was forced to listen to by a friend, and put it on while I did some writing. So I'd be writing into the early hours night upon night listening to this album. Whenever I hear a song from it all I can think of is those nights I stayed up when the words would pour out of me.

Even if I don't really take it in as I listen, it has great nostalgic value. I'll put it on after 1 a.m., let it wash over me and all I can do is write.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

34 - The Chris-ening

I'm rubbish at naming characters. I don't really know what I'm doing. I know that naming characters should be very important. Names can allude to various texts and can suggest subtle whatsits about your character and the plot. I however take names from wherever because they seem like a good idea.

Generally on a first draft of a story I might decide on the main characters' names but for everyone else I use stock names such as Jim and Jeff in the hope that I'll have decided upon better names on the redraft.

So I'm currently about halfway through redrafting my novel and have met most, but not all, of the cast. What I've got is:

1 character named after the lead from a favourite novel
1 character named after a pot plant at my friend's work
1 character named after someone in The Bible
1 character named after a friend
3 characters named after work colleagues who asked me to name characters after them
4 characters named after work colleagues who didn't ask me to name characters after them
1 character named after someone l met on the train who asked me to name a character after them
1 character named after a character in a video game
A variety of characters given the first name that popped into my head

I'll give them better names in the third draft.

Friday, 12 February 2010

33 - Be afraid

Shedding hair. Peeling off nails. Losing teeth. Growing insect hair. Losing ears. Tearing skin. Ripping flesh. Blowing up heads.
Bleeding. Vomiting. Squirting pus. Giving birth to a gigantic maggot. Breaking arms. Dissolving hands. Dissolving ankles. Tearing off jaws. Turning baboons inside out.

Pro tip: never watch David Cronenberg's The Fly while eating lunch, dinner, breakfast or any foodstuff whatsoever.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

32 - Holes

I've mentioned before that I have a fondness of stories that are brave enough to leave certain things unresolved and unrevealed. Stories that don't tie up all their loose ends. Stories that keep an air of mysticism about them. Stories that favour pacing over exposition.

Of course all this has to be done on purpose, and done right, otherwise you're left with a frustrating gaping mess. All too often a glaring plot hole can ruin a story. But I think a story filled with plot holes is frequently preferable to one that tries to account for everything.

Gaping plot holes are better than:

Stories that stop to dump a shitload of information on you every few scenes.1

Stories that continue for an age after they should have concluded, in order to tie everything up to perfection.2

Stories that take too long to find momentum due to the fact that they explain everything you encounter in excessive detail.3

Okay, I hate stories with paper-thin plots that have been dragged out to breaking point.4 I hate stories that leave a crucial point unresolved to either make a point or simply annoy you.5 But I'd still take either of these in favour of a story that treats me like I'm some kind of forensic reader demanding an explanation for every single detail.

1 - See Ringworld
2 - See Metal gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
3 - See Kushiel's Dart
4 - See Windtalkers
5 - See Broken Flowers

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

31 - Words etc.

I write. I speak. I read. Words occur a lot in all three of these activities. These are some of my favourites. Gripping.

infallible - I love how this rolls off my tongue, and it rolls off it a lot. It pops up all the time when I'm arguing with myself, aloud. Right.

absolutely - I rarely use this as a synonym for 'totally' or 'completely,' mainly to agree. It's more interesting than saying 'yes' or 'yeah' or 'uhuh' or 'affirmative.' It adds a little bit personality to agreement, if you get what I mean.

cracking - Similar to 'absolutely,' I prefer using this than simply saying 'great,' 'good,' 'excellent' or 'okay.'

meat
- I love this because it's vague and specific depending on its usage. Meat pie and meatloaf, fine. 'Is this a meat dish?' Cool. But see a can of Iceland's 'meat curry' and you start to wonder exactly what the hell 'meat' refers to.

facetious - I rarely use this word other than in lists of my favourite words. It's not particularly fun to say, but it has all five vowels in alphabetical order. Whoa.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

30 - Writing music #2

Destroy Rock & Roll - Mylo
Destroy Rock & Roll got me through University. I must have listened to it while writing every single essay given to me. It's that peculiar mixture of being relaxing and soothing as well as being energetic and inspirational. One of my favourite memories of my three years in Aberystwyth is writing an essay, listening to Mylo, next to an open window with a cool sea breeze and coastal sun flowing in.

Unfortunately there's not a huge reason to write essays once you've left uni, so I don't listen to it as much when I write now. I do put it on now and again, but prefer other albums that I associate more with fiction writing.

I'll listen to it on train journeys all the time and train journeys, as other bloggers will testify, are quite possibly the greatest place for brainstorming ideas. I'll sit with a notepad and Destroy Rock & Roll playing, scribbling endless nonsense with a broken biro. Beautiful.

For me, this album is essay writing music, it's brainstorming music, it's travelling music and it's summer music.

Monday, 8 February 2010

29 - Wandering

I can't say that travelling the world appeals to me. There aren't many countries I want to visit. I'm a bit boring like that.

What appeals to me is obscure, boring places close to home. Wilderness, forgotten spots, dull places. I'd love to do a Forrest Gump. Drop everything and go wandering round the UK. A tent on my back, a pen and notepad in my pocket, a camera dangling round my wrist and an iPod full of good music or, better yet, a like-minded companion.

I'd wander around for a while from village to town. Go down all those alleys and lifeless suburban roads that most locals don't even go down. The ones you pass all the time and never have any reason to venture into. Those quiet, leafy streets. Those thin, stinking alleys.

Or get on a train and end up at the far edge of the country and thread my way through forests and fields. That appeals to me. That would be an amazing way to spend a few days/weeks/months. That would be great.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

28 - Stand on Zanzibar

Two months and 650 pages after I started reading it, I finally finished John Brunner's remarkable Stand on Zanzibar.

The novel is set in 2010 where crippling overcrowding has lead to widespread eugenic legislation as well as frequent instances in which people simply go mad and run amok in public, killing dozens. Written in 1968, many parts of the novel are eerily prescient.

But the most fascinating facet of Stand on Zanzibar, in my opinion, is its narrative style. There are four types of chapters. While 'Continuity' chapters follow the main plot, 'The Happening World' chapters do no more than provide snippets of conversations and information that give us the wider view of the world. 'Context' chapters provide just that, often via excerpts from newspapers and
'Tracking With Close-Ups' chapters generally focus on minor characters.

Though the plot therefore progresses fairly slowly, the pace is pretty consistent throughout and the world Brunner has constructed is beautifully rich. This isn't just down to length. I've read novels twice the length that still don't come close to Stand on Zanzibar's depth. It's possibly one of the most deeply constructed novels I've read.

The narrative style, John Brunner's prescience and the dark and philosophical plot are all equally strong reasons for reading it.
It truly is remarkable and I strongly suggest giving it a read.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

27 - Last episode

Last episodes are tough to get right. They have to match the tone and the style of the show and yet go beyond it. They have to resolve enough issues to keep you satisfied and yet not try and tie up every loose end and become drawn out and convoluted.

Most of all, I find that a great last episode of a TV show should stick with you. It should really resonate and keep running through your mind for days after. It should leave you sad that you will never see those characters again in new situations and yet happy that it was so excellent.

Last night I finished Battlestar Galactica and though I see some people weren't too satisfied with the ending, for me it was perfect. It got the tone just right and I can't get it out of my head. It's up there with the last episodes of Spaced, The Shield, The Wire and Arrested Development. Every time I go back to these shows, their last episodes deeply affect me. Cracking TV.

Friday, 5 February 2010

26 - Writing music #1

Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
Christmas 2008, like every Christmas, saw my brother receiving a heap-load of obscure albums and not a lot else. I have a pretty poor music taste and knowledge. His is apparently overwhelming and vastly superior. He forces albums upon me all the time and generally I never get round to listening to them, because I like sticking with what I know and I just don't like what I hear coming from his room.

Anyway, that Christmas he forced Crystal Castles by Crystal Castles onto me. Determined to give it a go, I stuck it on while I did some writing and it just worked. It fitted perfectly. It's a simply extraordinary album that somehow manages to both play along unobtrusively as I write, and yet affect me and spur me on.
Particular favourite tracks are Alice Practice, Crime Wave and Black Panther.

Unlike other albums I put on when writing, this doesn't have a specific association. I'll play it when I write fiction, when I write non-fiction. I'll play it at night, during the day and especially when I'm sitting on my bed with a notepad jotting down a hundred and one bad ideas.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

25 - Sam & Wikus

My two favourite films from last year were Moon and District 9. Both sci-fi, both made incredibly well and both had a fantastic, original story to tell. But more than anything, it was the central character that made each film remarkable.

Sam Bell in Moon (played incredibly by Sam Rockwell) and Wikus Van De Merwe in District 9 (played superbly by Sharlto Copley) are fantastic to watch. Each man faces a tragic, truly saddening, if far-fetched, story. Both of them are caught up in really dire events that neither of them is to blame for.

These aren't perfect men. Sam has moments of selfishness, combined with a clear deep-rooted anger problem as well as a tendency to be immature. Meanwhile Wikus is even more selfish, self-centred, a coward and as xenophobic and crooked as the rest of his co-workers. All aside, neither man deserves the tragic events that happen around and to them.

We might not be able to fully empathise with each man, but we can certainly sympathise with them. These are very human characters facing extraordinary events and we the viewers are helpless. We can only watch each man 'cope.' This more than anything, makes these films compulsive, repetitive viewing in my eyes.

Faultless, good-looking heroes are great for action films. Amoral/immoral men with sadistic streaks are great for TV* but sometimes the best stories are told with a helpless man at the centre, trying his best to cope with the tragedy of his own existence.

*See The Wire, The Shield, Dexter

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

24 - 4265

As much as I'm enjoying One A Day, it had near-enough replaced my fiction writing. Since starting, I'd only written one short piece and that was it. I love the fact that I'm writing something new every day, but I was using One A Day as an excuse not to get back to the slog of rewriting my novel.

Last Summer I gave myself a target. From June until September I planned to write 500 words a day and end up with 60,000 words at the end of September. I finished September with 59,451 words and a very rough, largely forced first draft of a novel. Though I hit my target, I'd often gone days without writing anything then caught up at the end of the week. One week I wrote literally nothing. Another I wrote near-enough 7,000 words.

The plan was to then read over each of the twenty-one chapters throughout October, taking notes on what needed to be improved, changed, deleted etc. That I managed easily enough in a similar fashion.

The final part of the plan was to spend November, December and January redrafting two chapters or so a week. This was a foolish idea but the plan was to have it finished by February 3rd - today. Why today? Well, it's my friend's birthday today and seeing as she wants to be the first person to read my novel, it seemed as good as any date to aim for.

The end of the year came and I'd rewritten five chapters. The end of January came and I'd rewritten one more chapter. So today I forced myself to write - a strategy that rarely works for me. Today, it did.

I redrafted all of Chapter Seven and part of Eight. A grand total of 4,265 words, which is fantastic by my standards. Now I doubt this is the start of some huge push that will see the novel rewritten by the end of March, even, but I know I can do it. I'm going to keep forcing myself. It won't always work. But if I do it enough, I should get back into the swing of it. Hopefully.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

23 - Klaatu barada nikto

I started this blog with the hope in the back of my mind that it would help me achieve something. What? I don't know, but it fits in with my greatly delusional life view that everything's leading up to something big. That there's something out there. That this is by no means all there is. That I'm in some way special.

The novels I read, the films I watch and the games I play further compound this belief. They're about other worlds, or exceptional events happening, or quite often about a nobody with a destiny.

Occasionally it hits home that nothing exceptional will happen to me or anyone else. We'll never make contact with another world. I'll never mutate beyond my own colourblindness. I'm never actually going to get a novel published. And I'll probably end up becoming a teacher.

Monday, 1 February 2010

22 - Remember Sammy Jankis

Memento is one of those films that sticks with you. A film that gets inside your head and fiddles around violently. It's one of those rich tapestries that reveals further detail and depth every time you watch it.

For those who haven't seen it (and therefore haven't lived) it tells the story of Leonard Shelby, a man with short-term memory loss trying to hunt down the man who killed his wife and gave him brain damage. The genius part is that the story is told backwards. We start at the end, then skip to a few minutes before that and so on and so on. These parts are divided by black and white sections told forward in which Leonard tells us all about his condition.

By playing the main story in reverse sequence we get brilliant moments of perspective shift. One such scene starts with Leonard staring at a bottle of liquor in his hand. He remarks that he doesn't feel drunk and so hops in the shower and a moment later a stranger enters the apartment and a fight ensues. The story then skips back and we see that Leonard has broken into this man's apartment, waiting to ambush him. He grabs a bottle as a weapon, then his memory fades...

In terms of playing with the chronology of the story, it's done perfectly. I'm always a little wary of stories that mess around with time, but Memento wouldn't work if it didn't. Pulp Fiction is another story told out of sequence that works better for it.

Then again there's a shit heap of films that try it and fail. The list of films that begin at the end then work back up to that point is countless. Sometimes it works, often it adds very little.

I've never played around with chronology myself. I believe there has to be a reason for it like in Memento. That and I'm not competent enough to cope with it.