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Date: 2008-03-05 11:16
Subject: 23 weeks later and a reboot
Security: Public
Tags:novel reboot whinge
I think I got carried away with the last novel idea, lots of effort and stress but I have scrapped the first draft, yup I binned it because basically it just wasn't good enough, a bit like this post, it was a ramble with a lot of commas, a wandering narrative, that in honesty was fundamentally more therapy than story, so I have decided to start again from scratch. Which is a tough decision, dumping 30K words, whata choice, keep the crap and let it seep back in , or just dump it all and return to the daunting void that is the first blank page, no point in soldiering on when you know you've lost most of the battles and are ill equipped for the war.

I have been reading works by other popular fiction people and quite frankly, most of them are shit, self-indulgent slow rubbish, which I really can't understand how and why they are published, their only function as far as I can see is to obscure genuine works of literature, but hey that's the literary snob in me still resenting the loss of all those words. Now I have been reading various 'great authors' from Nabokov, to Pynchon, to Eco, to others like Cormac McCarthy and I gotta say, I had no choice but to dump my initial first draft fluff, it just didn't have any actual weight, either in terms of entertainment, intellect or enjoyment, so back to square one and try to rediscover my passion for completing this novel idea.i
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Date: 2007-09-20 11:01
Subject: hows the book - Juggling stools and playing the game
Security: Public
Tags:novel publishing creativity personal

I did eventually start my novel but started and finished a couple of full length screenplays since I began outlining. So the novel’s central function, within the overall scheme of my writing and creativity, has morphed to some degree, it’s become like an uncomfortable sofa where I go to rest from the rigors of reality, this blog/journal has become a stool between those two (-:

I’ve passed by here several times but have not had the inclination to sit down and do something. It’s September so I just jumped on it now for a few minutes. I’ll be back spending more time on line now that the summer, such as it was, has passed.


Having spent several years writing dialogue for comedy stuff I find verbal exchanges much easier than creating immersive descriptive prose, also as a writer I like to think I can (& should) create stuff, that in the first instance, I would enjoy reading. Whatever else we do as writers we must in the first instance feel free to please ourselves. Writing because we want or have a ready made audience means being a little more academic in our outlook to the craft. There is a fundamental gap between personal writing and academic writing – and it is really something that irks me from time to time. As *INSERT EXPERT* has pointed out and with which I agree so therefore my opinion must be valid or at least a little rational on this subject, by virtue of quoting the wisdom of other people, if even in an overlong and ramblingly misconstructed sentence, my audience, can derive my obvious knowledge and wisdom. 


Of course in terms of any literary pursuit we are standing on the shoulders of giants, reliant on the expertise, insight, craft, talent and creativity of those who went before. Academic conventions demand that we contextualize any original thoughts with reference to original thoughts from other sources, I have on many many occasions done this, because as stated, it provides context and maybe marks us as individuals who actually read and understand the work and methods of others. Perhaps another element would be the idea of duplication, nothing worse than writing your stuff for ages only to find some past master has already written the definitive, none shall surpass, work on/in the subject/ or style.


So there is obviously some validity to such activity, the critical commentary, the contextualization, the quotes and references are bedrocks and frameworks in academic constructs. Now here’s the hard part for many of us, what if the development of an audience is actually a secondary concern, meaning we don’t really feel the need for constant explanation, reference, framing or contextualizing? Maybe we'd rather concentrate on the actual work or works. Unfortunately the traditional audience gatekeepers: large publishers, corporations and marketers, like their masters, the accountants and lawyers: do think in small ridged boxes. if they were genuinely creative or actual artists then they would have stopped arranging & counting beans years ago and grabbed for a pot of paint or ink. Those that didn’t, still manage the machine: the creative industry. Which has over the last couple of centuries become just that an industry powered by consumers – when’s the last time you consumed a book an image or sound? Well it’s their language and their mindset and unfortunately their rules. So if you wanna their play the game you gotta abide by their rules, at least until another game comes along (-:


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Date: 2007-07-11 13:12
Subject: If I fail to plan
Security: Public
Tags:novel, process, writing

If I fail to plan, I plan to fail. An ancient adage in management squares, this is also true for certain specific creative processes. While we all love to believe that our muse or inspiration will carry us right through to critical acclaim, a sweaty palms appearance, a book deal or indeed the end celebration cigar, the simple fact is: if you don’t have some steps to get you where you want to go then you won’t actually end up there.

So before we can define steps we need to understand the context, framework or environment for our plan. Any project manager will tell you about initial PEST analysis – basically figuring out what the Political, Economic, Social and Technical environment is for our plan. We need to roughly sketch out what a successful outcome could be. Dealing specifically with the writing of a novel, that means what the market may want in one to two years time. Now there are yardsticks, standards and expectations particular to given genres, we won’t need to write 300K words for a chick-lit novel nor will 80K words suffice for a historical epic but generally anywhere between 80K and 130K words is apparently the average for a first time novel, so I’ve picked a figure somewhere between those two for a general word count target.


What does 100K words mean in page numbers, without getting into the history of printing, the rise of word processing and evolution of computers, a size 12 font like courier, without lots of blank space created by dialogue, will average around 250 words per page. This means an approximate page count of around 400 pages for a 100K word novels. Sounds to me like a viable volume to be able to charge somebody money to read it.


That’s the basic framework but what goes into the plan ? Well again any project manager will tell you about the QTC triangle, meaning Quality, Time and Cost. These three aspects are interdependent and if one changes it has a direct effect on the other, if time becomes shorter then obviously quality is affected but costs may be reduced, similarly if costs increase quality and time will also be affected. If you are writing a novel, unless you have some type of sponsor or philanthropic mentor you will personally bear the costs of its creation, so costs as a management concern are fixed, you can really only affect time and quality. I think it might be fair to assume that the more time you invest the better quality you may deliver. Now that’s a very broad statement and is obviously contingent on actual personal ability. However reducing it down to a simple work rate requirement is I think what will work best for me, if you search the net or read more of those ‘how to’ books that I mentioned yesterday you will encounter the 2000 words per day writing professional. I also recently saw a BBC documentary with Iain Banks saying that was his target, approximately 10K words per week, for the first draft anyway. So not having the experience nor the commercial pressures Mr banks enjoys my target is a little less. Don’t be daunted by figures like 2k words a day, my post yesterday, really for the purposes of kick starting my daily writing process contained over 500 words and took maybe an hour or so. “Aha but this is not creative fiction” I kind of accuse myself, what about the premise of the novel, the characters, the plotting, the plot devices, the descriptive pieces and the much much more difficult show don’t tell principle, it’s easy to do these ‘this is what I think posts". Compare 'this is what I think or know' with writing a piece that shows what someone else may know or may be thinking – that’s the 2000 word hill you need to claim each day. If you want to write an average length novel you will need to climb that hill each day for at least ten weeks to deliver a first draft.

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Date: 2007-07-10 14:41
Subject: Scratching the muscle......
Security: Public
Tags:"writing, books, creativity, novel, process"

Obviously the longest journey begins with the first step, or in this case: post. I recently bought and read Krishnamurti's 'the impossible question' and also two ' this is what you should do / I did it this way " type get your novel written books. I don’t believe in coincidence so reading all three I could only reach one conclusion: Hmmm... the time for reading has finished and the time for writing has begun. As I outlined in my profile, I have decided to create a substantial work of fiction, I signed up to livejournal as I'm certain there are others on the planet in similar frame of mind, i.e. bogged down in muddled artistic certainty that they are absolutely sure they don’t know what it is they are not doing – sort of creative rumsfieldisms perhaps. So maybe we will meet up here. Gather, Helium and other writing centric sites with one click functionality tend to attract anyone who has ever held a crayon let alone a pen and while there are some really wonderful writers and human beings using those sites the trouble is everyone has a vested interest in being nice to each other.. a bit like the reverse of internal performance review systems used by multinationals – having surfed it several times, live journal doesn’t seem to suffer so much from that phenomena.


I’m also using this journal as a means to kick-start daily writing, anyone who has completed the Artist’s way- will be familiar with this concept of head emptying before the craftsmanship phase. Among the many books dealing with the craft of writing that I have read down through the years, Michaal Legat’s writing for pleasure and profit was the first I encountered that convinced me you could well have a writing muscle in your head. That muscle required daily training and daily use to allow it to gain fitness, agility and strength.  A fit writing muscle merely guarantees the ability to produce work it doesn’t guarantee the quality of that work. We all know the adage: ‘writers..write’. but the truth is writers think, talk, look out the window, fiddle with distractions, make coffee, answer the phone, surf the web, play with authoring tools, any distractions that will prevent them from being immediately productive, play around with words the analogous  equivalent of merely sitting here scratching that muscle.


The one thing I believe is worth taking away from my recent reading of those three books was this: people who want to write novels - do so because they want to write novels - simple I know, it's very much the Everest idea that I want to climb it simply because it's there. But in the theatre I have heard this phrase many times: “most people have a play in them and for the benefit of most other people it should stay in them”.  So my actual personal truth resides somewhere in between those two thoughts. So my journal here is a sort of scribbling stretch out, so don’t be surprised if it all gets a bit obtuse, it’s a journal not a finished and edited piece designed for public consumption, critical reference or any sort of formal appraisal. Obviously if you do take any valuable time out of your life to read any of it I truly appreciate that and thank you for it. Please do comment if you do.

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my journal
March 2008