Mea Culpa. Wednesday, Apr 8 2009 

Okay, so I hadn’t been paying attention. Apparently the demonstration wasn’t to prove that Bain Senior couldn’t reach the trigger… it was to prove that he could, but only with some difficulty. Like, yeah… he couldn’t have done it because it would have been slightly inconvenient for him to bother.

I was reading about this in the paper today. Apparently Bain Senior was also wearing a hat and hadn’t been to the bathroom. In other words, nothing was said that proves anything one way or the other. Or in fact says anything about anything.

I don’t see how anyone could possibly have strong feelings one way or the other about this case. Nothing seems to prove anything either way. I guess if it were a clear-cut case, it would be too boring for the papers to put on their front pages.

Le sigh. Monday, Jun 23 2008 

Four months ago I set myself a deadline that I’d have another draft written by the end of june. It’s now about one week until the end of june and I have approximately 600 words to show for it. Hmm…

The only progress I’ve made is of the mental persuasion. I’ll start writing something, then I’ll stop writing after 300 words because of some gut feeling that what I’m writing is wrong. Then I’ll examine that gut feeling and come to a conclusion about what I should actually be writing instead.

I like to think I’m slowly improving my writing this way, but unfortunately this entire process takes about three months.

The only thing I’ve written that I haven’t deleted was something I was inspired to write while I was half asleep. And probably the only reason I haven’t had a bad gut feeling about it is that I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean.

I should probably just follow my guts.

The last time I updated the software on my computer they seem to have amended Quicktime so that when I watch videos downloaded from YouTube, I no longer have sound. Grr…

Somewhat encouraging. Thursday, Nov 15 2007 

“Dear David

Thanks for your submission to Friday Pitch.

Though your writing style is very strong, I wasn’t quite captivated enough by the material you sent to proceed any further.”

I assumed this was going to be one of those instances where my submission vanished into some kind of void. I certainly wasn’t expecting feedback. My writing style is very strong? I like that. I’m happy with that. It’s much better than the ‘void’ option. In fact, I’m going to let the use of the word ‘very’ go to my head.

I was just debating whether or not to bother with a second novel or if I should start my internet serial thing. At least the internet serial would rely on word-of-mouth, so if I worked hard enough I’d be able to get people’s attention that way… novels on the internet (if I chose to just throw it out there in that form) never have the same word-of-mouth thing, which is why I rely on a publisher. But no one earns a living from an internet serial. But novels have a much smaller chance of at least getting noticed. What to do, what to do?

Write another novel with a more ‘captivating’ opening? I’ll get right on it, Captain Publisher. And I can still send Pirate Space to the 12-week-wait English publisher, to see if they have lower expectations for how ‘captivating’ a first chapter should be. Anyway, they read the whole thing, so maybe they’ll have forgotten about the opening by the end.

Robots in Disguise. Monday, Nov 5 2007 

Talking about Robots in Disguise with a bunch of people on the internet, someone made this comment:

“I quite like it if it’s rather amateurish and a mess. Just so long as it’s a fun mess.”

It made me realise that the risk I’m taking is that there enough people with this attitude in the world to make my literary career viable. The comment I made was, “People like this are flying through life where the rest of us can barely lift one foot off the ground at the time because we’re too busy worrying about what people will think if we name our band after the Transformers tagline.”

(Apparently the Transformers tagline-name is one of the main reasons people are initially put off by the band. To me this means the band is cleverly pruning the weeds from their audience. Or weeding the prunes. Too shallow to look past the band name? Piss of, mate.)

I think I’ve been worrying too much about the mistakes I made in Pirate Space. I started writing another book on Saturday, Untitled Folder, just wrote a brief sketch of what I think the first chapter might be, “Untitled Document 1”. In my mind it comes across as very… plaid. I mean staid. By killing anything that I might do wrong, I’m also utterly incinerating any of the fun stuff that I think I do right. Like accidentally writing ‘plaid’ instead of ‘staid’ there, but not deleting the mistake. In Pirate Space I deliberately left some mistakes like that in because I thought it made up the character. That’s the sort of thing I shouldn’t prevent myself from doing in the next book.

I’m going to try rewriting that first chapter, but ditch the plot and run with the motif. Presumably another plot will come to the surface.

Pratchett down one place, Rankin up. Sunday, Oct 28 2007 

I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s latest book, mostly because I can’t read a series of books without finishing it and unfortunately Terry Pratchett never stops. There are a lot of things I like about the Discworld novels, but there’s also this slightly arrogant, patronising undercurrent that puts me off. I just get the impression that Pratchett uses his books to look down on the world.

Take the qualities of eccentricity and irrationality, for example. Douglas Adams and Robert Rankin embrace those qualities and write from the perspective of people who are, just like their characers, flawed. David Tennant as Doctor Who spends a lot of his time infatuated with human foibles. He doesn’t look down on them, he admires them.

Terry Pratchett, on the other hand, seems to write from the perspective of someone who is entirely flawless himself, who sits smugly in a throne overlooking the absurdity of mankind, and who from this position is qualified to cast judgements. I’ve always found it hard to explain this impression I get, mostly because I think a lot of people can read exactly what I read and not see the same thing. It’s in the way the major characters are always superior to the minor characters who quite often seem to be entirely unaware of their faults.

On page 144 of Making Money, as a prime example, Moist doesn’t ‘understand’ the behaviour of the masses. They attend an event, and then want to read about it in the paper… why do they need to read about it in the paper if they were there? Moist is apparently so far above normal human mentality that he can no longer comprehend it. Am I the only one who sees the arrogance of the writer in this sort of ‘blindness’ of the protagonist? Especially since the ability to ‘not understand’ human behaviour always seems like an annoying affectation. I don’t see the point in watching sport, but if I pretended not to ‘understand’ the sport-watching mentality then I’d be fatally disingenuous.

I don’t know I’m the only one who sees this, though. Either way, I’ve promoted Robert Rankin to the status of my favourite living writer. He can write some dire unreadable crap and I haven’t dared to read any of his latest books, but I’m very fond of some of the older ones. Terry Pratchett never writes unreadable crap, but I can’t stand the patronising, superior attitude that comes across. ‘Unreliable quality of writing’ wins.

Jasper Fforde: Attempt II. Sunday, Sep 30 2007 

I got the second Thurday Next book out of the library and only got as far as the beginning of chapter two. To be fair to the book I’ve developed into an profoundly choosy reader anyway, but there are two reasons I couldn’t go on.

The first was that the entire first chapter was a comic scene that didn’t contribute anything to the plot or develop anyone’s character or have anything interesting to say. I persevered with the Shakespeare Pantomime in the first book because it was halfway through the story so there was enough momentum built up already, but starting with a scene that doesn’t go anywhere is really just a false start. The entire scene could have reduced to a couple of paragraphs, been a lot more punchy and given all the same information.

The second was that everything in Jasper Fforde’s world has to be comically silly. It reminds me of this Boy on a Stick cartoon:

boyonastick2002715970912.gif

When everything is special, nothing is special… when everything is comic, nothing is comic. When someone puts on a pair of shoes, you don’t need to give the brand of shoes a silly name… sometimes a pair of shoes is just a pair of shoes.

Tuesday in the unforeseeable future. Thursday, Sep 6 2007 

I’m slightly miffed because I noticed that one of Jasper Fforde’s books starts with an illustration, and underneath that illustration is a quote taken from page 299 of the book. That’s precisely what I had in mind for my illustrations – taking quotes from the text and illustrating them. I did steal the idea from Homestar Runner but didn’t think anyone else had already done that in books. Except I was going to put the illustrations after the text.

Never mind. I’ll just try something slightly different then instead. I already have something in mind that I quite like.

I’ve been thinking about Jasper Fforde in general. It’s bewildering – he should be one of my favourite authors. I should be reserving all his books at the library and getting excited every time one comes in. In fact I should have read them already. So why would I rather read Moby Dick again than a new Jasper Fforde book? The weird, imaginative fantasy of Fforde seems like exactly the sort of thing I’d like. So why isn’t it?

Maybe the answer is that I just don’t care about Tuesday Next. Now I’ll have to think about why this is the case.

It’s never homage if you want it to be true. Wednesday, Aug 29 2007 

For a long time I’ve been trying to figure out where the line is between thievery and homage; if I wrote, for example, a ‘sequel’ to Dorian Gray, carrying on where the last one left off (maybe the painting gets found and repaired in the modern world and Dorian comes to life as a sort of hedonistic zombie or something), would this be proper? Or would I just be abusing the literary legacy of Oscar Wilde because I really want to be Oscar Wilde?

This “reimagining” of The Famous Five is the latest one I’ve noticed. Also I’ve found a ‘sequel’ of Treasure Island, a murder mystery book with Oscar Wilde as the sleuth, a children’s series featuring James Bond as a child, and of course the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics. There are probably hundreds more that I can’t remember right now.

Sometimes I find it acceptable, but other times I don’t. The Extraordinary Gentlemen is okay because by mixing lots of literary characters, there’s no way you could possibly say “this is a natural continuation of the stories of Bram Stoker/Robert Louis Stevenson/Ralph Ellison”. Jasper Fforde’s novels work for a similar reason. But to sincerely have Oscar Wilde working as a detective seems like a corruption and an unforgivable liberty to me; so does the idea of a ‘sequel’ to Treasure Island. This is no longer a homage; this is claiming a famous name/title as your own to boost your own career. It no longer has artistic value. It’s commercial fanfic.

And then there are other things to consider, such as: what about movie/television adaptations of books? In the case of the new Famous Five TV series, what about an adaptation of the extrapolated ‘future lives’ of the characters? I can imagine a lot of Famous Five fans loving the idea of seeing their characters in adulthood, but would Enid Blyton be happy? Hergé said there would be no more Tintin books. How would he feel about the movie? Was it just comics he was talking about, or any medium featuring Tintin?

I’ve written William Dampier into my novel, I’m assuming it’s okay because it’s clearly in no way a sincere attempt to ‘continue’ the life of William Dampier or ‘amend’ it in any way; but I have my qualms. I was also going to include George Orwell but decided it would be overkill.

Quandary. Thursday, Jul 26 2007 

I’ve never quite come to a conclusion about whether it’s a good or a bad thing for a writer to include their own lives in their work; on the one hand it can be disruptive and disingenuous, on the other hand it can be charming and unexpected. Looking at my own work, some of my favourite touches are little observations or incidents from my own life that I’ve manipulated and turned into part of the story. They’re things my imagination would never have come up with on its own. I’m quite sure that if I took them out the whole story would be a lot more mechanical; on the other hand, are they supposed to be there at all? Maybe they just mean so much to me because I’m biased about them; maybe I should only write about stuff that I can see objectively.

The big risk I’m taking with the book I’m writing is that I don’t know whether readers will assume that I am the narrator. The set-up makes perfect sense to me; the narrating is narrating the book, ergo they’re the one writing it, ergo the narrator is a writer. Isn’t it perfectly logical to have a narrator who is also a writer? I always find it annoying when a narrator shows no literary tendencies. But then I think people will assume the narrator’s writing experiences are my own autobiographical experiences.

Apparently some writers try avoiding the comma altogether. Saturday, Jul 14 2007 

At work they sometimes play this song that has an extremely deliberate and ponderous nature to it – I could easily imagine a bunch of Westies swaying back and forth while listening to it, but no one could ever actually dance to it. It’s frustrating to listen to because the rhythm seems to interfere with my flow of thinking.

I feel the same way about commas. I first noticed how annoying they can be when a couple of extremely long books by the same writer featured this rhythm in a high proportion of the sentences. It would have a first half broken by a comma, and then there would be the second half. Then it would say something else, and then it would say something else. Then it would say something else, but then it would say something else.

It creates the same kind of ponderous rhythm that the Westie song has and it almost made the books too unbearable for me to read. Sentences are very versatile thing; they can dance this way – and skip back again, all beautifully choreographed. There is not need, for ponderous commas. In this same, repetitive format. It dulls the mind, and kills the music of reading. Unless they’re trying, to make you fall asleep. Break it up please, with semi-colons. Or hypens, or sentences with no comma at all. You don’t blink every two seconds, so why use a comma that often?

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