Category Archives: Writing Journal

DAMO: Rebranded

My general approach to productivity is: if I don’t remember to do it, it’s probably better undone. But I do handwrite a ToDo list every couple of weeks. Not to remember things, but to forget them. A swirl of tasks in the mind gets in the way of more creative thinking. Writing them out as a list is like house cleaning.

Looking back at lists for the last few years, I have a variety of entries along the lines of “Social Media WTF???” and “Blog vs. Patreon!” or “FB page…what is it?” There are a lot of exciting tools today to publish writing of all kinds. In fact, there are far too many, and they can easily stop being useful, and start using you.

Social media is heavily “gamified”. Facebook and other social networks want your attention, and they’re setup to grab it and keep it, by playing on the dopamine hit we get from the little red status alerts indicating people are showing us approval. Social networks are potentially powerful tools. But I suspect for most writers, they are really just an addictive time sink.

Social media. You can’t live with it. But you probably can’t live without it either. I’ve taken the puritan path of switching it all off. But it’s like a starvation diet to solve a fast food addiction. Creatively and professionally social media is HUGELY important. But as it grows more and more powerful, using it without being used by it means much greater self-discipline.

So I set aside a few days to seriously look at and plan out my social media use. My website is recategorised to make sense of the 1000+ posts and essays I’ve written. My patreon page is completely rewritten. I’ve rediscovered my Facebook page and reduced my Twitter usage. Welcome to the new DAMO: Rebranded.

As I shared with my patreon backers this week, branding for writers is a counter productive activity. But that still leaves us with these powerful tools built, in large part, for projecting a brand image. I suspect I’m far from the only writer both intrigued and deterred by the struggle to use them in a balanced way.

Advertisements

Rhetoric of Story weekend sale!

A year ago I began recording a set of 7 talks for the Rhetoric of Story. This week I recorded the seventh.

The large gap between the 6th talk, recorded last September, and the 7th talk, came for a simple reason. I got very sick in January. I’m fine now, but while I was recovering I reduced my work schedule to the minimum. Rhetoric of Story went on hold.

So I’m very happy to be fully recovered, and to have finally completed the Rhetoric of Story course. To celebrate, I’m offering the full full course at 80% off for this weekend only. Click the link below, and use coupon code STORY at checkout.

The Rhetoric of Story.

I hope you enjoy the 7th and final talk on Emotion: the secret super power of story.

Yours, Damien.

PS: Vote! (Labour)

Yes, I will be at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki

I’ve never done a WorldCon, and I’ve never been to Helsinki, so damn it I’m going to tick off both these ambitions in a single weekend! I’ll be at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, 9-13 August of 2017.

And I’d like you to be there also.

So if you’re hesitating (I know it’s a reasonably major financial commitment for most of us) then just know, if you’re among the many friends I have online, I would LOVE to see your actual face over a drink in the convention bar.

Also, I am looking at AirBnb apartments close to the convention centre. Interested in sharing? Shoot me an email: damiengwalter@gmail.com

This is my 1000th blog post

And I have nothing very special to say. I started this blog ten years ago to help me write more. It has done exactly that. So, to all my readers over the years.

Thank you.

Today I’m starting a new journal. 2017 is an exciting year for me, for reasons I can’t share quite yet. But I’ll be charting my creative progress through the year, exclusively for my supporters on Patreon. To kick things off I’m offering SUPER-PATRON level membership for anybody who joins on or before Sunday 13th November. Any level of support will get your name on my Super-Patron page up to and including that date. The first post in the new journal is coming soon.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Damien Walter’s Extra Special Blog EXTRAVGANZA

My blog turned 10 years old earlier this year, and is barrelling towards it’s 1000th post (this is post 990). To celebrate this cornucopia of anniversaries, I’m announcing the next week will be dedicated to an EXTRAVAGANZA of blog posts. Here’s some of what to expect!

I’ve never restricted my blog to being about any one thing. I write a lot about sci-fi. I post thoughts on writing practice as I learn more. Now and again I comment on politics, and where geek culture meets political life. I write about life as a digital nomad. My blog reflects my passions, and over time of course, those change.

If you enjoy reading, do think about joining as a patron. There’s no commitment, and a few dollars more helps me to explore ideas here in more depth.

I read the Sad Puppies. It was not a pleasure.

For the last few years, the Hugo awards for science fiction have been campaigned against by a group of writers and fans calling themselves the Sad Puppies – mostly male, very white, and overwhelmingly conservative. Unhappy with sci-fi’s growing diversity, the Puppies have deliberately block-voted for certain titles to get them nominated for Hugos at the expense of a wider field. They say it is their goal to “poke the establishment in the eye” by nominating “unabashed pulp action that isn’t heavy-handed message fic”. I say it is to sponsor awful writers.

Read more.

The Ted Chiang movie adaptation is on the way

Ted Chiang is, without any argument, the best science fiction short story writer of the last decade. He’s almost unknown outside the SF community, and is one of the humblest guys you will ever meet. Now there’s a film coming based on his work. Chiang is a clinical prose stylist, and a rigorous conceptual think. I do not know how well any of that will transfer to the screen, but I am very excited to find out.

It’s about the story, stupid!

What is a story? You arrange some words on a page, speak some sentences aloud, place some images in a sequence, or even string them together at 24 frames per second to make moving pictures. Words and images, that through some near miracle…

…make us believe they are real. As real, when done well, as the reality we are actually in. You’ve had that moment when you look up from a great book and feel actual SHOCK that you’re in your bedroom, not some far flung fantasy world.

Stories were “virtual reality” before computers were even imagined. How they work is something we’re only just starting to understand as we learn more about the human mind and brain. Put simply, stories are the operating system of human consciousness. When a story is well told, it hacks into the workings of our mind and, for a time, replaces our entire sense of reality. Woah! No wonder stories are so popular.

In the Rhetoric of Story I guide writers through the 7 foundational techniques that allow stories to create the amazing feeling of being in a different reality. But that’s not what I want to focus on in this post. Instead I want to think about all these crazy industries, like book publishing, TV stations, Netflix, Hollywood, and even video game studios, that hold so much of our attention.

All of these industries are in the business of telling stories. Every single New York editor, or Los Angeles movie maker, or London TV executive, stakes their entire existence on finding and telling great stories. That’s as true of reality TV as it is of theatre, and of a 30 second advertisement as an Oscar winning documentary. And as a writer, if it’s your intention to work as a professional in any of these industries, that’s your job as well.

And it’s a tough job. Because great stories are rare. That’s why editors get into bidding wars to buy them. That’s why journalists travel into war zones and the ends of the earth to document them. That’s why novelists work years or decades, and fail over and over again, to eventually reach the great story that is inside them. As writers we want to believe we can tell great stories on demand. But as lovers of story we know how demanding we are. Do you waste your time on stories that aren’t great? Be honest now.

But it’s also a wonderful job, which is why we risk all to do it. The great stories will still be here long after we’re all dust. Told again and again, performed by generations of actors, rebooted for the umpteenth time. And anyone can make storytelling their job. It honestly doesn’t matter who you are, if you tell stories that light up the human imagination like Times Square on new year’s eve, audiences and entire industries will sit up and pay attention. So the only question is…is that the job you are doing?

Stories are selfish.

No, not shellfish. SELFISH!

If one thing is certain about life, it’s that each of us will only ever see it through our own eyes. Go to the ends of the earth, climb the highest mountain, take a rocket into orbit. It will still be you, your eyes, your ears, your hands and other senses, at the centre of every moment of your life.

Stories are great because they let us, for a little fragment of time, get some idea of what it is to be somebody else. A great novel, a powerful play or movie, a storyteller by a camp fire, can all transport us into another human experience. That’s why “storyteller” in any form is one of the highest callings. And also the hardest.

“It’s not just others stories help us become aware of. They’re the best route we have to our own self awareness.”

How do we take one human being and help them see through the eyes of another? Helping you to find answers to that question is the aim of the Rhetoric of Story. Stories aren’t just make believe, they mirror the fundamental way your mind makes sense of the world. It’s not an exaggeration to say that stories are the operating system of human consciousness. And if you know how that operating system works, you can use that knowledge to tell powerful, compelling stories.

We all tell a story about our world, and we put ourselves at the heart of that story. So to captivate an audience, every great story has a self at its core. The hero. The protagonist. The central character. The self is given many names. These are the eyes we see the story through, the ears we hear the tale with, the hands that hold the world. The self isn’t just IN the story. The self IS the story. And we experience the story through them.

With a strong self at the heart of our stories, we can take audiences on adventurous flights of fantasy like Star Wars, or into the vivid romance of Wuthering Heights. The greatest storytellers show us how stories themselves are selfish, twisted by the limits of our perception, leading to the flawed tragic heroes of Oedipus or Hamlet. It’s not just others stories help us become aware of. They’re the best route we have to our own self awareness.

Learn more about the Rhetoric of Story.

No comments here, but join the conversation on Facebook.

Big Dumb Objects. Sci-fi’s USP.

We humans love things we can’t explain. Witness the vast array of outlandish claims made about Stonehenge, from ancient calendar to alien stargate, when in all likelihood it was just a big clock or an early marketplace, a neolithic branch of Tesco.

When the unknown is also alien, the mystery only grows more magnetic. Think of that iconic opening to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: a family of apes wake one morning to find a black monolith looming over them; that had its origins in Arthur C Clarke’s short story The Sentinel. Did some super-advanced civilisation intercede in the early evolution of intelligent life on earth? Or was the monolith just filming a very special edition of Life on Earth?

Read more on Guardian Books.

I don’t just want a woman to be Bond, I want a woman to KILL Bond!

Why should we cast a woman as the next James Bond? To prove that women are dangerous and corrupt too. A woman actress as Bond isn’t a fantasy. It’s a chance to give Bond more realism.

A new rumour seems to pop up every week – Idris Elba will be the next James Bond! No, Aidan Turner! Jamie Bell and Tom Hiddleston are the latest men to have faced furious Bond scrutiny, but perhaps we’re all looking in the wrong direction.

We shouldn’t be searching for a man to take Bond’s place. We should be keeping an eye out for a woman.

I agree with many fans that Gillian Anderson would be a perfect Bond. Sure, Tilda Swinton has the mystique, and Emily Blunt has the moves, but Anderson’s onscreen presence embodies the single characteristic that Bond needs above all others. I believe, if her mission depended on it, that Anderson would kill.

I believe, in a word, that she is dangerous.

Read more.

 

Will the book be replaced…by the block?

An interesting article over at Rhizome speculates on the future of Blockchain as a disruptive technology within publishing.

What does the verb “to publish” mean in a society where every thought, movement, and moment is recorded and stored?

Let’s say that publishing is the act of making something public and drawing attention to it. And let’s agree that the opposite of public is private. In the past, these two spheres—public and private—were clearly defined and separate. Today, they overlap, merge, and melt together. In the context of traditional publishing, the acts of printing, binding, and distributing a book delineated an unmistakable step from the private to the public sphere. The writer in her room, working on the manuscript, bringing it to the publishing house, and so on down the production line. In contrast, many current info-tools work in a gray zone in between, obfuscating where data ends up and how it is exploited.

Today, it is clear that the categories “private” and “public” need to be redefined in order to give the user the choice of where on this private/public spectrum she is communicating. Is the message meant for one person? Or for the community of all intelligent lifeforms? Should it expire after five minutes? Or persist until the last bits of information succumb to entropy?

The block exist on the extreme point of both the private/public and the temporary/permanent scale: a block is absolutely public and permanent. An inscription in stone.

The full article falls a little bit into the hype cycle and is rather overstuffed with jargon, but taken in all it’s articulating exactly the issue that I believe many of us are coming to understand. On the one hand, publishing has already been irrevocably and terminally disrupted by digital technology. It’s only a matter of how long that disruption ultimately takes to play out. To paraphrase William Gibson, the publishing industry is already dead, it’s just unevenly distributed. On the other, the new model that has emerged is…well…ebooks basically suck, and Amazon is almost the shittiest imaginable ebook library. A wholly corporate owned knowledge silo, where every text is locked down by private owners and can’t even be effectively searched, with the whole thing literally flooded with junk ebooks attempting to game the system.

Can Blockchain provide a better solution? In short, yes. Whether it will is about whether the vested interests in the writing and publishing world can see to making it happen. But however it plays out, I suspect we’re nearing the point of letting go of the “book” as the central concept of publishing, especially in non-fiction. Knowledge is now far more modular. If I want to, for instance, lear to use Adobe Illustrator (which I’m currently doing) I don’t buy a book. A make thousands of Google searches and read hundreds of blog posts, as and when I need to answer specific problems. That’s the new landscape of knowledge and learning, and the offer of Blockchain is that it will provide an effective reward and incentive system, possibly through micro-payments, for writers toiling in that landscape.

Read my short essay on Blockchain and book piracy.