Oh…the madness…

Sitting out of rehearsal for the event I was working on this afternoon I outlined two more chapters of Sword&Sorcery. This gives me the the first act in detail and the whole story arc in broad strokes from last weeks work (thats all long hand and as I don’t need it directly I’m not going to transcribe it directly just for the blog). I’ll get into act two in the morning and aim to have two and three done by the end of the weekend. I might throw myself into a few chapters then to reassure myself the new outlining process is a good one.

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Outlining

I put in two good, two hour writing sessions today, continuing the outline I began midweek. I’m taking the outline process further than I have in the past and at the moment it’s feeling like a very constructive way of working. My reservation with outlining is that when I sit down to write, that ‘whats going to happen’ excitement might not be there. Given that what I actualy experience is far more often a ‘will this be the the  ight thing to happen when I get to Act 4 or am I just going to have to rewrite the whole thing anyway’ feeling I decided that risking the excitement in favour of having at least a vague idea of how things fit together might be a good idea. The test comes when I sit down to rewrite chapters 1 – 3 of this project. If they are a significant advance from the last draft then I will have made some progress.

Its strange where and how I end up finding information about writing. I have more than one friend who is absolutely scathing about any kind of popular ‘How to Write a Novel’ book. A few years ago I felt the same, but my experience  of actualy trying to find expert insights into writing fiction has made me do a 180 degree turn on this issue. Novels are a popular artform after all (at least the ones I read are) so why shouldn’t you get ideas for making them from popular sources?

The latest in the long line of my literary muses is Albert Zuckerman’s ‘Writing the Blockbuster Novel’. I picked this up for 25p in a car boot sale and after a quick flick threw it into my large pile of unread writing guides. A few months later I was listening to a Slice of Sci-Fi podcast from Dragoncon 2006 that was a recording of Kevin J Anderson’s panel at the con. I don’t know Kevin’s work (although I’ve picked some up since) but half way through the cast he references Zuckermans book as the single most influential writing guide he read before getting published. So I pulled ‘WTBBN’ out of the pile a discovered an absolute gem.

Outlining is oone of the maiin things I pulled out of the book. I have always outlined my attempts at a majour project before, but only at half the detail of profesional outlines I have seen since. I think a big part of the reason was being over keen to get into the meat of the writing to prove to myself I could do it. Getting to the 15k point on my two week blitz of ‘Masques’ for FantasyCon really advanced my chapter writing, so now I feel much happier doing a full outline without losing patience and leaping into the writing feet first.

 If I get the outline finsihed this weekend I will post some sections of it here and go into some detail of how it developed.

And the kids go crazy…

I spent the morning introducing children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson to a school full of 7-11 yr olds. I’ve never seen that many kids so excited about meeting a writer before – and who says books aren’t cool!

Unfortunately I left my camera on a table in a cafe after the event. Doh! Hopefully I’ll be able to track it down and post some photos to the blog from the event.

It’s always a little odd meeting famous writers. They are never quite as you expect them to be. It’s especialy odd when you get to know somebody through their writing – you build up an image of how they look and behave based on the chracters they write. The odd thing is that even when there are nothing alike there is always something of a person reflected in their writing.

The Next Big Thing?

An idea I seem to have stumbled into three times in as many weeks…the ‘breakout’ artist.

Every type of art gets them from time to time. Folk music got Dylan. Kids books just got JK Rowling. Sports get them as well, basketball got Michael Jordan. Something about an individuals work gets them noticed far and above even their most succesful peers.

It seems like a long time since SF had one of these, if it ever did. Philip K Dick? William Gibson? I’m not sure any SF writer has really broken through into the popular imagination in that way. Well, theres always L Ron Hubbard. Throwing the net a bit wider to the whole of SF, Fantasy and Horror – Tolkien is a good example. As is Steven King. Neil Gaiman seems really close to that point, maybe after the new film is relased.

I’m wondering who might be the Next Big Thing? Its an impossible question to answer but maybe the folks over at the Asimovs board will have some suggestions. The two names that spring to mind for me are Charles Stross in the SF world and Joe Hill in horror – wouldn’t be the first son to inherit talent from his father. (I’ve been working my way through 20th Century Ghosts over the last few months, genuinely fantastic writing. I’m looking forward to the novel.) But something tells me that the fact I know who they are at this point means it probably won’t be them. They both have the talent but the ‘breakout’ status is more a thing of luck than skill. Perhaps theres somebody out there somewhere right now penning the next big SF/F/H novel.

Why Blog?

As usual the folks over at the Asimov’s magazine forum have sparked up another interesting conversation.

http://www.asimovs.com/discus/messages/2/6239.html?1159539485

Is blogging egocentric? Given that most blogs are never read or read by only a small handful of people, you could argue that a blog is no more egocentric than a secret diary. In many ways I find blogging the opposite of egocentric. How so? When I put my thoughts down in a public forum I’m being open, whereas when I leave them spinning around in my head I’m being closed. The latter state is a much more egocentric one, because it is based in the belief that if others knew what I was thinking they would all suddenly be effected by ot, either positively or negatively. Posting to a blog in full knowledge that even if people read it they probably won’t care is therefore the polar opposite of egocentric!

Evil Yahoo!

I wish I could say I left Yahoo! as part of a principled stand against their activities in China, or as a protest against their horrendously corporate identity. Perhaps these things crossed my mind, but the truth is I left because Yahoo! stopped working.

There is no doubt that Yahoo! represents the worst of the mainstream internet. If you want to be forced fed advertising for every type of cultural lowest common denominator from teeny pop videos to mobile phone ring tones then Yahoo! is the place for you. I can’t imagine anybody over the age of 16 being anything but bored stupid by the utter shit that Yahoo! is pedalling. But this has been the case for years and I lived with it.

I loged onto Yahoo! everyday for the best part of a decade because they had the chore of hosting my webmail. For a long time it fulfilled that purpose admirably. And then one day I noticed that not only was I waiting way too long for the new video ads to load, but once they did they were so huge that my e-mail messages were being displayed at about three words per line. And then the final straw came when Yahoo! overhauled their whole e-mail system and the whole thing became completely unusable.

So I’ve moved over to Google. Maybe they are evil as well, but at least the site loads cleanly, the facilities are 5 star and I can read my e-mail properley.

But Yahoo! weren’t finished with me. Oh no! Not by half. It seems that when Yahoo! figured out I had defected they implemented their revenge by deleting my website on Yahoo! geocities. No warning, no message allowing to even capture the files. I go to log on and the whole thing has just been purged from their system.

So I knew Yahoo! were evil, and now I know they are also vindictive. Fortunately I have back ups for all the website files, but I can say without a doubt that if I can possibly manage it I will never type http://www.yahoo.com into my address bar again.

Amen.

Bike it!

Found a new love. Brought her home with me. Had her stolen by some dirty handed scutter…nnoooooo!

So I’d had the new montain bike for twelve days when it went awol. I’m starting to feel better now that the replacement has arived. But I’m still struggling to deal with the idea that my ride is in the hands of a thieving toe-rag, or even worse got sold on for crack. Theres many things you can do in this world but you don’t touch a mans MTB.

I’ve been cruising bike racks and E-Bay. I keep thinking I can see it…just over the next crest in the road. give me back my bike!

mtb.jpg

My beautiful MTB

Horus Rising by Dan Abnett

horusrising.jpg 

Under the benevolent leadership of the Emperor the Imperium has stretched across the galaxy in a golden age…

Whoa there – Golden age? Benevolent leadership? Isn’t this Warhammer 40K, the most brutal SF franchise known to man and home of the universes toughest homosexual icons, the Space Marines?

The new series from the Black Library has rolled back the clock on the Games Workshop universe ten millennium to the most famed event in the 40K mythos – the Horus Heresy. Penned by Dan Abnett, the godfather of Games Workshop novelisations, Horus Rising promises to bring a new level of sophistication to a franchise occasionally accused of being as flat as the table top games it is based on.

Warmaster Horus, favoured son of the Emperor, is left in charge of conquering the universe when the old man decides he has had enough of the whole war thing. Horus slowly develops a bitter hatred for daddy which, exacerbated by some ill advised Chaos abuse, drives him to rebellion. This is the first part of the story arc, told through the eyes of Captain Loken, but leaves the reader in no doubt that this rebellion is for more than a hike in Horus pocket money.

Abnett understands his audience, killing daddy is a common fantasy amongst Games Workshops adolescent male fanbase. Horus Rising hits all the expected marks, with some of Abnett’s grimmest and most visceral battle scenes ever that should satisfy fan’s appetite for carnage. But despite Abnett’s efforts at characterisation he struggles to inject depth into a cast of resolutely two dimensional characters. Horus Rising is an exciting romp, perhaps the next volume will fulfil the trilogy’s early promise.

Episode IV – A New Hope


I’ve been working up a few ideas as an essay entitled ‘The Psycho-Geography of the Mystic City’ over the last couple of days. Hopefuly I’ll post it up on the blog at some point when it is finished. I think it might be the basis of of a serial fiction.

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a serial fiction for a while now. I like the idea of telling a story in an episodic way. There have been a great spate of TV shows with fantastic ensemble writing this year and episodic structures really play to that. It also seems like a good opportunity for promoting a story, given the potential of rss and podcasting thats opening up. Mostly though it plays well against the urban magic ideas I’ve been working on and the group of characters that strem of thought is coming up with. It seems like the most well rounded of the different ideas I’m chipping away at at the moment.

I’ve also just run into some info on the Dogtown Features, which were a set of photo-journalistic articles written in the 70’s about the Zephyr skate team. Skating is very similar to the metaphor I’m trying to build around magick – finding meaning in urban watseleands etc etc. The articles captured a really cool format for capturing that kind of urban ennui. I might try using elements of their journalitoc style to shape some of the telling of the mystic city tales when I next sit down to work on them.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0275309/

The SF Genre?

You know how it is. Or at least you do if you spend some small part of your time on web forums as I do. You find repeating themes in the posts you are reading, and in your answers to them. Ideas begin sparking in the tiny mind you (and I) have access to and then sometime later that idea reaches some kind fruition. So what do you do? Well, if your anything like me you splurge it out in a couple of posts with tenuous connection to the actual thread of the ongoing conversation and hope for the best. Excatly as I have done here –

http://www.ttapress.com/discus/messages/1976/2575.html?1149998069

So is SF really a genre at all? The thought that it isn’t has been entertaining me recently. Sure…there are some genres in SF – space opera, dying earth, high fantasy, cyberpunk. These have recognisable character archetypes, tropes, plot structures etc, all the toys a writer can play with within a genre. But SF is much bigger than these genres alone. SF, I would argue is more of a mode of writing than a genre.

A mode tells you something about the writer / reader relationship that a story is developing. The SF mode is all about taking the reader into their own imagination (by way of yours) and giving them an experience beyond reality. I’m sure every writer and reader has their own way of phrasing that sentiment, but I feel that the sense of taking the reader beyond the realms of their own experience is what glues all the otherwise diverse types of SF together into a whole.

Writer. Story geek. Travelling the world while writing a book.

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