Friday, July 30, 2010

It's a lie!

You know the saying "If you want something done, give it to a busy person to do"?

That's a lie - just because someone is apparently busy means nothing, lots of people run around at high speed making a lot of noise and doing almost nothing.

It should be: "If you want something donw give it to a productive person to do".

I thank you.

What's on the turntable? The sounds of suburbia waking up.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Brilliant. Mostly.

If it hadn't been Moffat and Gatiss I probably wouldn't have even bothered watching (considering the recent TV output).

But this was good. Impressively maintaining the feel of the original stories in a modern setting - I really didn't think it could be done but they managed it.

It wasn't perfect, the "what sort of person could it be committing these crimes" was insultingly obvious, and the idea that Sherlock didn't see it instantly is ridiculous.

But I'll forgive that because the rest was so good.

Let's hope the remainder of the series can maintain the good bits and fix the bad bits.

What's on the turntable? Nothing, again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Strange Hinterland

I'm at home, yesterday I was in London.

It's all the fault of the Government - well, isn't everything?[1]

I won't bore you with the insanity of Michael Gove (this is not a political comment, it's a technical fact, he's what we call in the business "a nutter"), but from the start of the election all Government departments go into purdah. I shall avoid obvious jokes[2]. Essentially no further promotion can occur of almost any sort because it could be deemed an attempt to influence voting by the incumbent party. This applies to websites. I build websites. I was building government websites when the purdah thing happened.

Sounds of twiddling thumbs.

I was still getting paid - still am getting paid - but not doing much. So now I'm at home, effectively on retainer. But the contract was finishing soon anyway and I've been applying for other jobs.

So I was in London yesterday attending two interviews, one with a big digital agency and one with one of the Hollywood big five (oh yes). Plus I have a telephone interview today with another company, although I was offered one of the London jobs - almost before I got out of the building.

It's nice to be wanted. It will be a challenge, as I'm moving up in the world from simple programmer, to project architect which means that if it doesn't work, it's my fault.

So, if I'm away from home, my blogging rate may go up again, and I should get a lot more writing done. But it's been nice living at home with my family for the past year, rather than just seeing them weekends. But it's really interfered with my writing. Oh well.

On the writing front I'm a bit buggered with my Red Planet entry; it being a detective series which really isn't panning out right. I've had some feedback on the first 10 pages including from the inestimable Jez - the main problem being I can't quite get my ideas to fit the genre.

The genre can't be wrong (it's just a genre) - it's me. So either the idea is fundamentally flawed and can never work, or I'm a genius and nobody recognises it. Or perhaps I haven't done enough research.

Time will tell.

At the weekend, on Sunday, we spent a few hours at the Dr Who Pub Convention Vworp! (at the Lass o'Gowrie in Manchester) and I think it was the interview with Rob Shearman where he was talking about "editing as you watch". At which point the Teacher nudged the Daughter (the whole family attended) and said "That was your father last night - watching "V for Vendetta". I'm in tears and he's saying 'I'd've taken an axe to the dialogue'."

True story.

In other news...

The Daughter has an audition for a roller-skating pantomime but she can't roller-skate (apparently it's not a pre-requisite); the Boy is getting the hang of riding a bike which is important because he's going to be spending a day riding when he's in France in a couple of weeks.

Oh and for those who care, in the blog entry where I printed the advice I'd given someone about writing, I also printed his response to my advice in the comments because I was dead chuffed (for my non-UK readers that is the same as "chuffed as a buttie", i.e. "happy as a sandwich" but in this case is "as happy as a zombie").


I have been instructed, by powers so much more powerful than I, that my List of Films I'd Watch Again ... and Again should be a meme. Soooo...

1. Provide a non-exhaustive list of films you'll happily watch again and again;
2. There is no rule 2.[3]
3. Reprint the rules.
4. Tag three other peeps.

And I hereby tag Sir Jon of Peacey, Duke Rob of Stickles and the utterly translucent Piers of Beckley.

That'll learn ya.

[1] No, not really.
[2] In fact I wrote an obvious joke ... but it wasn't funny so I deleted it.
[3] That is a lie.

What's on the turntable? Nuffink, I'm saving bandwidth.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Films I'll watch again

There are some films I can watch only once (such as Mercury Rising, or The Birds) not because I think they're bad films, I may really liked them but ... never again.

Then there are films I could watch again and again - and do. These are not necessarily deep films - in fact, terrible writing fraud that I am, I really don't care about "deep" and "important" films.

So here's a non-exhaustive list of films I will happily watch any number of times:

Blazing Saddles
Young Frankenstein
High Anxiety
The Incredibles
Wayne's World
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
National Treasure
The Princess Bride
This is Spinal Tap
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Forrest Gump
The Bourne Identity
The Fifth Element
True Lies
Never Say Never Again
Monster Inc
Toy Story
Toy Story 2
Finding Nemo
Short Circuit
Lord of The Rings
Pirates of the Caribbean (the trilogy)

The significant prevailing element? Humour and character.

What's on the turntable? "Running Hard" by Renaissance from "Turn of the Card"

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Novel advice

A friend of mine has written a novel. It's his first - and he finished it, which is an achievement in its own right. Knowing that I have some experience with both writing and editing (I have edited novels for money) he asked if I would have a look at the first two chapters.

Like most beginning writers he was very nervous about the whole thing, and feeling vulnerable. Yup, been there. Anyway I thought I'd post my response to him here:

There were two things I had a problem with between your first and second chapter, although the first chapter is really a prologue. But they are related.

The ch.1 is not terribly interesting, it's all quite vague and in generalities, lots of "the greatest" this and "the best" that, plus the whole chapter is "telling the reader stuff" and "telling the reader stuff" and "telling the reader stuff". Way over the top. But ch.2 is very precise, it's about something happening to somebody.

Readers need someone to focus on and identify with, that's not possible in ch.1. To achieve that the reader has to become part of the creation process in the writing, you need to let them figure stuff out, let them wonder, make them think "what's going on?". Readers (viewers, whatever the medium) are not mere spectators (not even in music) - at least not if it's good. If it's good they join in. That's why ch.1 is tedious.

But look at ch.2, the reader knows nothing about what's going on. We're introduced to this character who is young and apparently a slave. And something's going on with something in his leg ... wow, weird, interesting, different. I immediately start thinking up possible scenarios about what's going on.

At least I would except...

Having read ch.1 and ch.2, I know the plot. It's obvious - okay I may not know the details, but I know the general trajectory. Ch.1 gives it all away.

It's good for you to know the backstory - in fact it's vital - but not the reader. The story needs unravel, ideally in an unexpected but logical way - the more unexpected (but still logical) the story is the better the reader will like it.

Anyway, now you've done that you need to read this:

I know it says screenwriting, but the stuff about novel writing starts halfway down.

And to any any other budding novel writers out there: No, I will not read it.


What's on the turntable? Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow" by Jethro Tull from "Broadsword and the Beast"

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

More than chance

I had to smile. Watching an episode of The Mentalist recently where someone expressed the opinion that behaviour "did not have to make sense", and the lead character Patrick Jane says "yes, it does".

Which mirrored almost to the word a piece of dialogue I had written the day before in Tec, my Red Planet submission.

Of course it's not entirely unsurprising, the lead characters share similar Holmesian characteristics - though my lead is not a "mentalist", she's a geek.

But it was worth a smile.

What's on the turntable? Nothing, by heaven!

Sunday, July 04, 2010


I've been thinking about story. And have come to some conclusions which I know (or, at least, imagine, or hope) most professional writers of story already know. (Either that, or I've got it completely wrong.)

In almost any subject you may know the basic principles "intellectually" but there comes a point where you really know them. I don't think it tends to happen in one fell swoop, it's something that happens over time, bit by bit.

So I'm just going to write some stuff - to get it out of my head and into the world so it stops bothering me.

Story is fundamentally artificial, it's a representation of a reality - in the same way that a painting isn't the thing that it represents.

The upshot of this is that while inspiration plays a role in story, the real truth is that a writer is a craftsman who takes his raw materials, and the principles of the subject, then constructs a story. And a writer with a professional viewpoint is someone who knows this, and constructs his stories to effectively communicate the story's theme. (And theme is the fundamental communication of a story.)

Part of this, for me, revelation came because I listen to BBC Radio 3 a lot. They play classical music (and some jazz) but the evening drive show always has guests - musicians - who chat about their work, their gigs (yes, classical musicians call them "gigs" as well), the composers and so forth.

One time they were talking to a composer and discussing how much work he put into his composing, the way all the big composers do and always did. Yes, he might get the inspiration for a sequence of notes that sound good - sound right - but from that point it's the work of a craftsman putting that theme into a context, building the rest of the composition around it.

There is one corollary to this: the audience should not notice the craftsmanship. There is no point complaining that the general public don't notice how cleverly a story has been put together (say, all the brilliant set-ups and pay-offs in Back to the Future or the wondrous sparkling dialogue in The Biederbecke Tapes). Because if they notice, you as a craftsman, have failed. Only someone with an understanding of the subject would notice - your peers.

If a person comes away from a story having been moved by it (meaning, in this sense, having felt the emotions the writer tried to convey) then the writer has succeeded.

What's on the turntable? "Lady" by Supertramp from "Crime of the Century"