Category Archives: Writing

Just wiped the whiteboard

It’s a good buffer space, brainstorming site etc, but want to keep it as a short term store. Think that’s going to be one of the ways I motivate myself. To try to fill it up every so often, capture the information digitally, then wipe it clean and start again, hopefully a little further down the line. I’m still very much planning this novel, I’m coming to realise, and need to keep fleshing out ideas at least until I can give a straightforward answer to the question: “what’s your novel about, then?”

“My novel is about…
…a man coming to believe in himself”
…gangsters in London with big plans”
…pan dimensional aliens plotting sinister things and the forces of good that stop them”
…demons! explosions! football! death-defying stunts!”

Back to the whiteboard….

Armand’s writing wall

The work on the novel is ongoing, and still painfully slow. This is my latest writing-aid – a rollout whiteboard! Cheaper and more easily mounted than its steel-framed colleagues, it’s allowed me to do character mapping, multi-colour scene setting and other generally fun things.

Actually helps as a mode to motivation – I don’t know whether its the egocentric exhibitionist in me or perhaps some missed vocation as a teacher but I do actually love writing on the whiteboard. If only I could write the whole novel that way…!

Hero vs. Anti-Hero

Wesley Crusher, Beverly Crusher, and Deanna TroiChris pointed me to this review of an early Star Trek: TNG episode. It’s very, very funny, and actually seems to be written by Will Wheaton, who played [[Wesley Crusher]]. But it highlights a choice that the writers made about Wesley: that they were going to make him a very straight-laced hero. Which is the polite way of saying, a complete and utter loser. Which is a polite way of saying all the worse things viewers thought about the character.

I suggested that [[Lobo]] might have made a more appropriate character base for the character – no-nonsense, tough guy, who swears a lot and lives by his own rules. And not even them. Lives by no rules at all. What a crazy cat he would be.

If only it were that simple. I am glad that this decade has seen a slight rejection of the traditional conventions of heroism – there’s a bit more darkness in the heroes lighting up the screen and stage. From Harry Potter to Ghost Rider to Spidey and back again – few have the tedious do-goodishness of Wesley.

[tags]startrek, comics, lobo, wesley, writing, heroes[/tags]

I’ve really started this time

This weekend has been relatively peaceful. Following East End Fun (check the photostream) on Saturday – I’ve not been out and about too much. Some dim-sum and novel planning on Sunday, a quiet dinner with Sheila and Dave on Sunday, and most of today – watching rubbish TV and working on the novel.

Not made huge progress – in that now I’ve kicked off properly I’d like to be able to write more than 1,700 words in a weekend. But this is one of the first pieces of fiction I’ve worked on since I was about 17 that I haven’t wanted to tear up within a day of writing it. So a good start.

It helps that people keep asking me what the novel’s about. It means I have to think about it; do things like write what it would say on the jacket, think about who the novel’s target audience is, who the heroes and villains are, what the plot complications are… etc. You know, obvious stuff, but which when all you have in your head is “I’d like to write a novel” you don’t really process it all.

So the planning’s been important. Been tapping stuff down in notes all over the place and just about got it under control, and the first few hundred words, characters, sets, scenes — they have got me pretty excited about it. And the filler — the descriptive stuff that I was vaguely worried I’d struggle to write (I’ve been practising concise, functional writing for years now) — well, that seems to be working out ok too.

It’ll be a little while before I publish anything here. I think I’m going to stick to my original plan not to put the straight text up here but perhaps to record podcasts. Hopefully get one up by the end of this Sunday, but we’ll see…

Wish me luck! For what its worth, the working title of the novel is Elemental, its set in contemporary London and it is slightly fantastical in nature. My dream would be to hit a tone somewhere between Eddie Izzard, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Joseph Heller, Phillip Pullman and Martin Amis.

Hey, I said it was a dream. Wish me luck!

Writing in the morning vs. writing in the evening

When does inspiration strike?

I’ve had a hectic few weeks. The peace and relative calm of this bank holiday weekend has given me some motivation to write during the day — normally distractions abound and I don’t get around to putting the proverbial pen to paper until I’ve decided to go to sleep and find insomnia striking.

I do keep losing ideas, however – thoughts for characters for the novel, blog posts etc. that occur in the shower, at work, during conversations with friends — I need to find my little black book again and starting keeping more meticulous notes…

I don’t really know if I’m a morning person or an evening person. It kind of depends how I’m feeling that day. But it’s clear I’m going to need stucture in my routine as well as structure in my planning to get this novel off the ground. I should also probably spend more time writing and less time writing about writing.

Writing planning

The longest piece of writing I’ve ever done was a 12,000 word thesis for my MA. Since then, I’ve written loads of 1,000-3,000 word articles, stories, project plans, etc, and literally hundreds of shorter blog posts… But a novel? That’s a whole different proposition.

Guess that’s why there’s so much random writing software out there, designed to help people structure their work. I would imagine that few authors have the capacity, skill, etc to map out a 50,000-100,000 word storyline in their head, in all its glorious intricacy and wonder.

For me? I’ve found the initial planning stages fun. Huge fun. No software in use at the moment; just a big, A3 pad, on which I’ve sketched character descriptions, plot outlines, literally drawn the main character (I’m a terrible artist, but its a helpful part of the process…) and miscellaneous other notes.

Next up is to produce a more detailed chapter plan (probably in Word, or staying on the A3 pad), and then I’m borrowing from the screenwriting profession and storyboarding a few scenes. Have even accessorised accordingly. Hopefully this’ll get me to the point where I can actually write the story without feeling too self-conscious about individual aspects of it – this is the bit I find a little harder…

When I get to that point, to keep motivation up, I might try to do a weekly podcast – probably just me reading out chapters in audio-book on tape fashion. We’ll see…

Motivational diarising

Due in no small part to the busy-ness of my calendar, work and social-wise, I’ve felt it necessary lately to give myself ‘appointments’ in my calendar; computerised reminders that I should be achieving things on my weekends. This is more helpful at some points than at others…

…today, for example, due to an unexpectedly late Saturday night, I woke up after my first three ‘appointments’ (breakfast, cycle, storyboard — for those of you who are curious) — and was then too low on motivation to do much of any of those. Did manage to do some writing in the afternoon, which the diary note did help me with, but it was a generally poor showing…

Whilst the practise is useful, I’m not bothered about today’s ineffectiveness. Sometimes you just need to switch off, and the bits of writing I’ve done have covered my need to be effective. Going to blog a bit more this evening and then see about plotting a few more elements to the novel, and maybe kicking off the opening chapter. Or a chapter in the middle. Or something, we’ll see…

Joss Whedon rules

Sorry, still in full geek mode. This comes via Arvind via SFGate – Joss Whedon being recognised for his work in writing strong, female characters and therefore doing his bit for ‘Equality Now.’

Its an absolutely amazing speech. Unbelievably moving without being trite; unbelievably articulate without seeming scripted. Incredibly humble, but simply… incredible.

Some bits that moved me in particular…

Recognising somebody else’s power does not diminish your own


Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this Earth as men and women.


Funning gog

Charles points to Stuart Bruce who points at the Juicy Studio readability test. This handy little beasty tells you how readable your website is, based on some criteria that Messrs. Gunning and Fog presumably came up with at some point when such things were important (where were they when Jane Austen was writing, I ask you!? Mind you, they don’t do anything about the word:event ratio).

In any case – Stuart, on his sample of about 15 blogs, determines that PRs are less readable than journalists. My score of 9.74 stands me in the cateory of “most popular novels”, though, which I can live with, even if it is marginally higher than Charles, Gary and a few others…

I’ll read someone else’s blog for a little while, I think…