Monday, 29 March 2010

Can't stop

Since printing out my novel, things have changed. I've completely failed at writing a blog a day, although it had pretty much become two every other day. I'm slipping back into old ways.

When writing my novel, I'd try and start around 9.30am and keep track of how much time I had until I had to leave work. I'd feel good if I had anything more than 5 hours in which to write. Now without a project on the go I find I'm looking at the clock trying to work out ways to kill time before work.

I've got a short story that I keep meaning to write but I'm just not feeling it. I think it's a decent enough idea and it's all planned out and it's worth my time but in many ways it's too similar to my novel. What i mean is that it's sci-fi but not excessively so and I feel inside me that what I want to write is something incredibly, indulgently sci-fi. I want to write a story with robots and spaceships and hovercars and laser beams. I want to lash on helping upon helping of cyberpunk and tech noir motifs.

I've got such a novel planned but that's just the thing; it's a novel. I can't be getting into writing another novel with my first one still on the go, can I? And yet I'm being drawn to it. Planning and writing little snippets of this new novel is brilliantly addictive and it's the only thing stopping me from wasting my mornings.

I guess if I've gotta write, I've gotta write.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

73 - Ink

I printed out my novel today ready to hand to my ladyfriend this weekend. I'm also emailing a copy to another friend and I could easily have done the same for first friend but it feels good to actually hold a physical printed out copy. It looks good, seeing all those pages there. I can see that I've achieved something. It looks like a big, hefty, long story. You know what? It looks like a novel.

I used pretty much an entire ink cartridge printing it out. Actually I used two. I bought one, took it home and it must have been faulty because try as I might, my printer wouldn't accept it. It was incompatible one minute, then it wasn't present the next and occasionally it was empty. Of course rather than go right back down town and return it, I sat for a good half hour taking it out and putting it back in again.

And I swore. A lot. I got incredibly angry. Nothing frustrates me more than a computer that doesn't work. I was fuming. The air was very blue around me and eventually I resorted to insulting my printer. This didn't work and I felt a bit bad about it afterwards, so I apologised.

Eventually I went down town, exchanged the cartridge and printed it all out. So yeah, a vaguely eventful day and I have something to show for it, kind of. In the future I'll just email it.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

72 - Two little three-letter words

I'm still riding a vague wave of euphoria having reached the end of my second draft today. I'd been aiming to finish tomorrow, maybe Thursday but the words couldn't wait to get out today. I feel good about it. Better than I did at the end of the first draft. I feel like I've achieved something. I didn't until now.

When I finished the first draft last year I felt as though I still hadn't written a novel. As I was typing the final 500 words today I could already sense that anti-climactic feeling returning. I expected to feel similarly underwhelmed and not any sense of achievement. Yet as soon as I wrote those two little three-letter words I felt good. Pretty bloody good.

In part this is due to the fact that the first draft trailed off. I wrote 'The End' but it wasn't really the right place to finish. I wrote a half-arsed epilogue that I eventually cut. Today I wrote a finite last line. Also, the first draft was really closer to a half draft. There were frequent parts where I'd written, 'Put in description in later draft.' 'Emotional scene here.' 'Sort this bit out.' It wasn't complete. Okay, so it's still shoddy and needs a lot of work but at least it's complete. I feel like I can honestly say I've written a novel now as opposed to before where it felt like I was still writing one. Hopefully with each redraft the sense of euphoria and achievement will become more intense.

Monday, 22 March 2010

71 - Who am I?

author n 1 a person who composes a book, article, or other written work. 2 a person who writes books as a profession; writer. 3 an originator or creator.

creator n a person or thing that creates; originator.

n a writer of novels.

storyteller n a person who tells stories.

writer n 1 a person who writes books, articles, etc., esp. as an occupation. 2 the person who has written something specified. 3 a person who is able to write or write well. 4 a scribe or clerk.

Can I say that any of these accurately describe me?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

70 - The end is nigh

When do you end a story?

Someone told me once that you should write a story until it naturally ends, then go back and remove the last paragraph, page or chapter. Many of us have a tendency to overwrite. Novels can often be compared to songs with endings that fade out over a very long time when often they need to end with an explosive drumbeat.

My story originally had an epilogue. I knew it had to be there. After the first draft I realised it was completely superfluous and unnecessary. Writing chapter 19 the other day I typed a couple of words that I realised could be the new ending. The novel could end there, two chapters earlier than expected. There'd be a whole lot unresolved but is that such a bad thing? For the time being I'm going to continue up until ch.21 but I'll keep this earlier ending it mind. It definitely pays to think about it all in a new light from time to time.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

69 - The mind boggles

I love a bit of Boggle. Actually, I love a lot of Boggle. I get the guys over, crack open some beers and play some Boggle. For those that don't know, it's somewhere between Scrabble and a wordsearch. You have 3 minutes to find as many words as possible, but you only get points for words you've found that no-one else has.

Among my friends, I pwn. The secret lies in the 3-letter words. They're only worth 1 point compared to 5 points for a 7-letter word but they're so easy to find. Most 3-letter words can be spelt backwards too or rearranged and, throw an s into the mix to pluralise them all. Most people overlook them. Crackin'.

We played 3 rounds the other day on the super-size cube.
Nick got 41 points.
Matt got 48 points.
I got 75 points.

In fact I got 35 points in round 2 alone. I need to find some more competition.

Friday, 19 March 2010

68 - 11 > 10

I just saw an advert for the new series of Doctor Who and I'm pretty sure I already prefer Matt Smith to David Tennant. I could quite easily write thousands of words as to why only I can't be arsed. I can very easily say that I definitely prefer Stephen Moffat to Russell T. Davies as a writer.

The little ad gave me a shiver down my spine, quite literally and I really can't wait for the series to start. With a far, far, far, far, far superior writer at the helm and, in my eyes, a much more suited actor playing the part of the Doctor, I can't see how this series shouldn't be the best yet.

I might eat my words in a few weeks time, but I'm pretty excited. I think I'm almost as excited about this new series of Doctor Who as I was excited at the prospect that David Tennant and Russell T. Davies were finally leaving the show.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

67 - Murder

We give birth to characters. We give them life. We grow up with them. We give them back stories. We get inside their heads and they become a part of us. And then we kill them.


Because they annoy us? Because it's their time to die? Because it's necessary in order for the plot to continue? Or simply for a shock tactic that will keep readers/viewers interested?

A character's death should serve a purpose. Okay, sometimes that purpose is to not have a purpose. Sometimes killing off a character simply for shock value can be a great way to breathe new life into a piece, but only if done well. Generally character deaths should give birth to something else, no? We can't just go around killing off character after character. Spooks quickly got into the habit of introducing characters just to kill them off and generally it's more of a shock if a character survives.

Like everything else in writing there's no exact formula for killing off characters. I know there are many examples where it works brilliantly and many where it doesn't. We can all think of a TV series where they kill off one of the audience's favourite characters. Sometimes it works. Often it reduces the audience.

I think the best way to know if a character has been killed off well is if we regret their death but we don't regret the decision to write them out. If done expertly, we actually mourn these fictional people's deaths. We feel like we want to go into their world and save them and yet, we know the piece is better for their death. We know that these raw feelings that have been awoken in us should be treasured. For fiction to make us feel like this is phenomenal. We're glad and yet we love these characters. We want them to survive. We want them to have happy endings.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

66 - Words etc. #2

Seeing as there are words I love, it's unsurprising that there are words I loathe too. Strangely enough a lot of these seem to be popping up recently. These are some of them:

eclectic - This is a word that is thrown about with creative magazines. I hate it because it's a word that tells you pretty much nothing but is used constantly in these types of situations. It's a word used to give credence and uniqueness and yet does neither. All it tells us is that this particular creative magazine is a mishmash of various things which is pretty much the least you expect from such a publication.

enthusiastic - This is a word that constantly comes up in job ads and we're probably all guilty of using in cover letters. Point is most people find it hard to be enthusiastic about their job and we're going to fake enthusiasm in order to get a job. It adds nothing.

should of - It's fucking 'should have.' Think about it. If you said, 'I should of gone out' and then went out you wouldn't then say, 'I of been out.'

'adverbs' - I don't hate the word 'adverbs,' I just hate adverbs in general. More specifically I feel they are overused in fiction. 'He slammed the door loudly.' Can you slam a door quietly? 'He whispered quietly.' 'The phone rang suddenly.' 'He raced quickly down the road.'

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

65 - Yellow

Aberystwyth had a shitload of fantastic bookshops. I spent many an hour and many a pound in them. In one I bought A Wreath of Stars by Bob Shaw. It was a book I'd never heard of written by an author I'd never heard of and, if being honest, about 90% of the reason behind me buying it was the striking yellow dust jacket.

I loved it and found another two of his books in another bookshop just down the road from the first; The Palace of Eternity and Orbitsville. Neither were published by Gollancz and they both had fairly standard '70s sci-fi covers.

In fact I hadn't come across another classic yellow-cover Gollancz book nor a Bob Shaw book since leaving Aberystwyth in May 2008. However, down in Brighton over the weekend I found two more Bob Shaw books both with beautiful, simple yellow covers. One was The Peace Machine and the other was Night Hawk. The latter was signed and therefore quite expensive and I'm now feeling gutted that I didn't buy it.

Point is, I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that both Bob Shaw and these beautiful yellow books only seem to pop up in bookshops in coastal university towns.

Monday, 15 March 2010

64 - Free roaming

I've been playing the Just Cause 2 demo and I've developed a bit of a crush on it. Not because it's a particularly good or original game, but because of its environment. Okay, so only a small portion is available to explore in the demo, but videos show lush jungle, waterways, cities, snowy mountains and suburban towns. I can't wait for the full game.

I'm a sucker for open world games. I like the idea that an entire world has been created and the missions only take you in a jagged crisscross through it; there's a whole other world out there to explore. My favourites of the genre aren't necessarily the best, but those that provide the most satisfying places for exploration.

GTA: San Andreas stole hours upon hours of time. I never completed the missions. In fact I never got off the first island, I just waited for my brother to complete it. I'd spend hours driving around Mount Chiliad, or over those huge fields trying to find all the farms. I'd happily take a cycle through every alley, or fly a helicopter round and round looking for banal, boring places where I could stand and watch the sun rise, and just let the world go by.

Red Faction: Guerrilla provided some unparalleled destruction but just not enough variety. Everything was built on repetitive red rock that couldn't be damaged with the otherwise phenomenal destruction physics. The city of Eos merely provided a different set of vehicles driving by than the town of Dust. Although it had a few little gems hidden away, they were too few and far between.

Driv3r was the king of alleys. Like in Driver I'd drive for hours obeying the rules of the road. I'd stop at red lights, watch my speed and I'd look for car-parks that I could explore and parks and observatories well off the road. I'd go into back-gardens and see swimming pools and swing-sets.

Assassin's Creed, though severely flawed, was beautiful in places. Seeing a tower in the distance, running over to it, climbing it and pressing the synchronise button to get a soaring view over the city was one of those breathtaking moments in games that will stick with me forever. Again, it was tempered by a lack of variety but I could overlook that.

For my money Far Cry 2 suffered from many of the same problems as Assassin's Creed. Ignoring the missions which became a bore, there was some real jungle to look through. Problem was, I'd often wreck my car miles from civilisation meaning I'd be lumbering along on foot for miles. Quite often there'd be not a lot around for miles. Shacks in the middle of the wilderness, though awesome, were sullied by the fact that diamonds were littered around them, giving you a reason to go there. Also, there's nothing worse than going on a relaxing sunset drive only to stumble across a guard tower and get ripped to shreds my bullets.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

63 - Chris Rea(lly good)

Last Monday I went to see Peter Green with my dad. Last night I went to see Chris Rea with my dad and boy was he fucking phenomenal - Chris Rea, not my dad, though my dad is pretty great. It was all a bit civilised sitting at a gig, but Chris had amazing energy and really rocked the place out.

Similar to Peter Green, I was the youngest there by about 30 years. However, unlike Peter Green's audience which topped out around the age of 60, there were people at Chris Rea in their 70s and 80s.

His energy, his awesome solos and his extended versions of songs really meant he was one of the best live performers I've seen. Okay, he didn't play Driving Home For Christmas, but it's March so fair enough.

However, when he played Stainsby Girls just before the world's most half-arsed encore (they walked off the stage, didn't even reach the exit, then turned right back), a whole load of mums and dads got up in front of the stage and danced. There was a whole procession of mums dancing their way forward then jiving out in front of Chris. It has to be one of the funniest moments in a gig I've seen. It was excruciatingly awesome.

He finished his encore with Let's Dance then left. However, someone forgot to turn the lights back on. Everyone was cheering for a second encore that seemed certain seeing as the lights were still out. After about two minutes, the stage door opened and there was a huge roar only for everyone to realise it was just a techie. A few moments later the lights went on and there was a collective groan. Aces.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

62 - For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

So the title of this entry is thought by some to be the shortest story in the world. It was allegedly penned by Ernest Hemingway. So, can you really tell a story with just six words?

To consider "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" to be a story, I guess we look outside of the words and to the picture they conjure, right?

We think of a couple who were having a baby and bought some baby shoes in anticipation and then the wife had a miscarriage.

Or perhaps, in a slightly less harrowing interpretation, the baby was adopted just after birth because the husband left the wife and she couldn't cope on her own.

Or maybe it's a whole lot more banal than that and the couple decided they didn't like the baby shoes they'd just bought and couldn't return them because they'd lost the receipt.

Then again, perhaps on a drink-fuelled night, a student went to an all-night supermarket and bought some baby shoes for a laugh. When sober, he decided he wanted to salvage some money from his misadventure so put out an ad in the local paper.

Alternatively, maybe it's only a six word advert that simply doesn't qualify as a story.

Friday, 12 March 2010

61 - Stubborn bastard

So there's this arts competition that runs every month that I've been entering since the beginning of the year. Each month there's a brief or theme and you simply have to create a piece that somehow fits the theme. The number of participants varies, but some months it's a couple of hundred, other times it's around fifty, so it's not exactly an overwhelming amount of competition.

Each month I tell myself I'm going to write a very simple piece that somehow relates to the theme and yet, for the third month in a row, I'm experimenting. One month I wrote in a bizarre, stilted phonetic style. The next I created a fake magazine article. This month I'm writing a spam email for my entry. Oh, and they're all sci-fi pieces of course.

Now I'm not sure if my stubborn refusal just to write a simple straightforward story is some belief that I'll only have a chance of winning if my work does something bizarre. Or maybe it's no more than it makes a nice change to writing my novel. I should either congratulate myself for allowing my need to write to takeover, or I should castigate myself for getting too carried away and not being able to write something simple and straightforward.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

60 - Clone this

Thought the one-liner in Timecop was bad? You ain't heard nothing 'til you've heard the beauty Arnie quips in The 6th Day.

Now I love one-liners. They're a fine art and I reckon some of the best deserve Academy Awards. In fact there should be a new Oscar introduced for best one-liner of the year.

The best one-liners are generally:
  • short
  • comprised of monosyllabic words
  • puns
  • relate in someway to the events that just occurred.
A case in point is this little beauty from Predator:

It's just so perfect.

Not so in The 6th Day. Now the original trailer had Arnie quip, 'clone this' as he killed someone (the film's about cloning btw) but this line was scrapped from the final cut, probably because it was shite. Not as shite as the one they replaced it with however.

So around halfway through the movie Arnie is captured by evil baddie Drucker. Arnie in no-nonsense-style says, 'go screw yourself.' Nothing wrong with that. However, in the big confrontation Arnie has a fight with Drucker and a clone of Drucker. First he knocks out one clone, then he knocks out the other. The first falls flat on his back. The second falls face down on top of the first and what does Arnie say?

"When I said you should screw yourself, I didn't mean for you to take it literally."


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

59 - TV's greatest dickheads

Heroes are great and everything but sometimes all you want is a good dickhead. A selfish twat who causes more problems than they solve. Characters who probably fall more on the bad side of the line than the good, but those you want to come out on top. Here are some of my favourites from TV.

Vic Mackey - The Shield
Corrupt, selfish, murdering, torturing, blackmailing, extortionist, adulterer, bully, thief. But he almost always gets his man and, you know, make the streets safer - just.

Jimmy McNulty - The Wire
Gaping asshole, alcoholic, adulterer, with a serious problem with authority who bends the law and will go out of his way to piss off his superiors. But he's an excellent detective.

Gaius Baltar - Battlestar Galactica
Self-obsessed, arrogant, selfish, cowardly, scientific genius with an extraordinary sense of self-preservation. Will never do anything that doesn't in someway benefit himself.

Eric Cartman - South Park
Selfish, greedy, spoiled, foul-mouthed, racist, manipulative, deluded, evil genius who once killed a boy's parents and fed them to him in a chili just to get revenge on him for taking his $16.12.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

58 - Where am I?

The pace has slowed a bit on my current redraft. I'm drawing closer to the big climax which is, as it almost always is, the most fun to write. It's difficult, but fun. Everything comes to a head and it's addictive, shaping the way your characters' journey come to an end.

But in many ways it's the part just before the climax that is most important; the quiet before the storm. These lulls in the action before that final act have to be pitched just right. They have to slow the action down enough to let you get a breather and let you take in everything that the characters have achieved so far and what they're soon sure to achieve. They also provide a well-needed break and stop the action rolling forward in an unmanageable, indistinguishable rush. But too slow and you lose all sense of rhythm you've built up and end up boring your audience. Either way, you don't want the scene to feel like it's been awkwardly crowbarred in there to provide variety.

I'm struggling tremendously with this at the moment and though I'm still erring too much on the side of deadly slow and boring, I'm sure (as I keep reassuring myself) that I'll fix it in a later draft. Rather than turning to books or movies for inspiration, I've found the best examples of these 'quiets before storms' in videogames.

One such is in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater when just before the climax, you climb slowly up a ladder (it takes about 3 minutes) as a beautifully haunting vocal rendition of the theme song plays. It's a staggeringly simple and mind-blowing way of slowing the pace.

Even better is in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. You've just charged through a warzone, fought your way on to a train, fought your way along the speeding train, crashed the train, climbed up the train's wreckage hanging precariously off a cliff and battled a hit squad before finally collapsing. When you awake, you find yourself in a Tibetan village. You can't run, jump or climb. All you can do is slowly walk towards the end of the village taking in the amazing scenery and the almost tangible sense of sun on your skin. It's not only a perfect way of slowing the pace before the huge final act of the game, but it's easily the best moment in the entire game. And that's how you set up a ending.

Monday, 8 March 2010

57 - Oh well

I just went to see Peter Green with my dad. Cool, huh?

I was the youngest person there by about 30 years. 90% of the crowd was male and about a 1/3 were wearing leather jackets and bobbing their heads along to the music as though their neck muscles had been replaced with springs.

Peter Green himself sat perched on a chair constantly looking like he was trying to work out where he was, which I guess at the age of 63 and a 'well-lived' life is fair enough. He had what looked like his lyrics book out in front of him and he lost his page a few times. When he spoke it was more growl than words.

Still, when they played Oh Well and Black Magic Woman it was pretty special. The saxophonist stole the show, being phenomenal in places coupled with the fact that he looked like an overweight Eric Morecambe. It was an experience. Oh, and for the record, I still bloody hate Albatross.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

56 - Enjoyable nonsense

There are three films that I have to watch if they're on TV; films I can't bring myself to turning off even if I watched them the night before. They are The Rock, The Thomas Crown Affair and Evolution.

I think it's fair to say that each of these films falls into the 'enjoyable nonsense' category. None of them is particularly heavy on plot but they're all loads of fun, effortlessly cool and, in my eyes, severely addictive.

I watched Evolution again last night and it never fails to get my sci-fi sense tingling. I don't know much about science but I do know that all the science in Evolution is nonsense. It's not the funniest comedy and the special effects are dated but I bloody love it.

A whole word is created and evolves throughout the course of a 90 minute movie. We see the creatures start as single-cell organisms, become flatworms, insects, animals and finally primates. It's one of those experiences that unfortunately I can only describe as 'rich.'

It's another one of those films I want to live in. I'd love to go down into that cave with the meteor and hang out with all those aliens. So even if everyone else hates this movie, if it's on TV tonight, I'll definitely watch it.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

55 - Get lost

  1. Hong Kong - Gorillaz
  2. Stop The Dams - Gorillaz
  3. We Just Won't Be Defeated - The Go! Team
  4. Neighborhood#1 (Tunnels) - The Arcade Fire
  5. Beercan - Beck
  6. Keys To The City - The Go! Team
  7. Venice Queen - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  8. Once Around The Block - Badly Drawn Boy
  9. I'm A Cuckoo - Belle & Sebastian
Lacking inspiration, I just knocked up a quick playlist and went for a walk. Having lived in Farnham for about 22 years, there are plenty of walking routes I know and so decided just to go for a random wander. I only had one rule: if I saw a public footpath, I had to go down it and follow it until I either found another footpath or got to the end and then went searching for another.

As a result I trod down some brilliant little overgrown passages. I saw the backs of many of the hidden-away mansions of South Farnham. I got lost. I found some amazing quiet roads. The weather was perfect: cold enough to make the cheeks tingle and yet with a blazing bright sun and an almost completely blue sky. With the music, it was amazing. Like really fucking awesome. I'm in such a good mood now.

In the end I was only gone for about 45 minutes and try as hard as I could to get lost I somehow found myself back near my house pretty quickly. No matter, I'll get lost again in the future.

Friday, 5 March 2010

54 - Like magic?

So I just saw a car vanish into thin air.

I was walking along and saw a car parked on my side of the road, facing towards me with no-one in it. I looked away for a moment and when I looked back, it was gone. There were no driveways or roads between me and the car. I was confused enough to swear quite loudly.

I walked beyond the place where the car had been parked, and about 50m further on there was a driveway with a car parked in it - a car that looked like the one I saw. So what probably happened is there was someone in the car, only I couldn't see them due to the sun's glare on the windscreen. I then looked away for longer than I realised and in that time they reversed into their driveway.

But I don't believe that. I believe the car disappeared. Why? Because I like to think there are things in life that can't be explained. Demystification can make the world a boring place.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

53 - Bloody stupid

I've tried to reserve this blog for posts about writing and/or sci-fi, however, sometimes you just have to write and in this case I have to write about milk bags.

My mum (yes, I live with my mum) returned from the supermarket with a milk bag. It took me a while to work out what it was. Why the hell would you buy milk in a bag? After much deliberating, I was able to answer this question and decided that it's one of the stupidest purchases my mum's ever made.

The point of milk bags is that they produce far less waste. You simply pop them into a special milk bag jug and then pour yourself some cow juice. I quizzed my mum quite why she had suddenly become so eco-conscious and a fairly lengthy discussion ensued in which we summed up the good and the bad points of milk bags. Here's what I concluded:

Plus points:
They produce 75% less waste than milk bottles
By buying one, you got a £2.50 milk jug for only 80p

Minus points:
They leak
They can't be stacked
They're more likely to split than bottled milk if frozen
They cost about the same as bottled milk
The jug doesn't fit in our fridge's milk compartment
There was no full fat in stock, so my mum had to get semi-skimmed - something we both hate

Okay, so all the minus points in no way outweigh the environmental benefits but it soon transpired that that isn't why my mum bought the milk bag. Indeed she bought badly-packaged milk in a variety we don't drink simply because you got a, 'good little jug for only 80p.'

So whatever else you think, my mum's decision to buy a milk bag and her reasons for doing so are bloody stupid.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

52 - Last action weirdo

When we create characters, how much responsibility do we take for their actions? Sometimes we create characters who have a set path and a set purpose; characters who are defined by their actions. But really we should be hoping to create characters that are so fleshed-out that we should know how they'll react to any scenario; characters whose personalities defines their actions, not the other way around.

Some of my characters have started behaving like dicks, and I think that's a good thing. We all behave like dicks from time to time, and to have characters behave thus makes them that little bit more human. I'm beginning to get a feel for how my characters will behave in certain situations, but how much is their reaction my responsibility?

I've been thinking of Last Action Hero in which the hero, Jack Slater, learns that he is fictional and, not only that, has been forced to live a hard life in which his son was cruelly murdered. He hates the films' writers for this.

When I purposefully dangle something good in front of a character, then snatch it away and torture them, that's my fault. I'm being sadistic to these people, even if they are fictional. But when I've created a character and know that they'll now start behaving like a dick to another, is that my responsibility? Or once my characters have become fully fleshed-out, do they have to start taking responsibility for their own actions?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

51 - Will this ever end?

Over the Summer months last year I pushed to write the entire first draft of my novel. Frequently throughout I would doubt my ability to get to the end. I wondered if I really would get the satisfaction of writing those two little three-letter words, and yet I did. Rather than taking a step back and feeling pride in myself, however, I threw myself straight back into reading it over and making notes.

I spent the following few months trying very half-heartedly to redraft it. Over that time I was firmly under the impression that I might never get the second draft finished.

So I've been pushing hard this last fortnight and although the end of this draft is clearly in sight, I'm beginning to doubt whether I'll ever complete a final draft. Sure that'll be a long way off but I just can't picture myself ever being so satisfied with it that I'll consider it 'ready.' I don't see myself giving up - I see myself getting caught up in the process of redrafting it again and again for eternity.

But here's hoping, eh?

Monday, 1 March 2010

50 - Ring. Ring.

I went through a bit of a crime fiction phase a few years back and one of the best I read over that time was James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice. More than being a simply fantastic novel, it has one of my favourite titles of any novel ever.

Along with Flowers for Algernon and The Catcher in the Rye, it was one of those novels I'd known about for years merely because of its unusual title. Wordy titles, to me, are far more appealing than short, snappy ones.

What's most intriguing about The Postman Always Rings Twice is that the title has no relation to the story whatsoever. There's no postman in it. Cain has said that it refers to his friend Vincent Lawrence who would always wait nervously for the postman to arrive bringing news of submitted manuscripts. He'd always know when the postman arrived as he always rang twice. This can be seen as a metaphor for fate and as suiting the lead character's situation in the novel.

Personally, I don't really care as I think an enigmatic title that has no bearing on a novel's plot is far more intriguing. The working title of my novel at the moment isn't particularly great but is pretty wordy and refers to an event no longer in the novel. Now it only sticks around because: a) I can't think of a better title and b) it's my poor man's allusion to The Postman Always Rings Twice.