Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Wilderness Downtown

This is rather cool, and not just because it involves one of my favourite bands, Arcade Fire:

The Wilderness Downtown

This site is host to an innovative music video for Arcade Fire’s “We Used To Wait” track, which uses the HTML 5 protocol (basically a standard for presenting video, audio and other content on the internet without the need to download any plug-in players) to deliver an interactive experience featuring the house you grew up in. You type in the address you want the site to include, and then via multiple video windows, pre-recorded footage, Google Maps, really nice art, dynamic compositing, and likely lots of long words that I have no hope of understanding, this “Chrome Experiment” (tailored for Google’s fast-growing browser, though it apparently also works with Mozilla Firefox) bamboozles the viewer with what can only be described as a load of freakily clever shit.

Certainly I’ve never seen anything like it before.

While I’m far from a boffin when it comes to things like this (though I do like to be confused by science – there’s something reassuring about not being able to understand everything), I definitely see the potential. It seems that we’re no longer limited by standard linear progression even in something as ostensibly simple as a music video, and that’s an exciting thought for the future of all media. It’s likely that if this experiment is a success (and judging by the internet reaction, it probably already is), we could be seeing a lot more of this kind of stuff, further advancing the delivery of audio-visual interactive experiences that will be uniquely tailored for each individual user.

It seems that the only limit going forwards will be human imagination. And, of course, how hard the fans on your PC can blow.

Over to you, Radiohead…

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Pace

I have noble writing intentions, but right at the moment they’re getting overshadowed by the practical reality of continuing to polish my novel until it gleams. Whenever I think I’ve finished I really haven’t, and whenever I go back to it I’m amazed by how much I’ve missed that simply doesn’t read as well as it should. This must sound like a familiar refrain by now to any regular reader of this blog, but it’s still surprising just how much there always seems left to do.

For me, the editing process isn’t about making my sentences flow better, though. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite. Certainty contains a number of action scenes, and in my first draft I wrote in long, luxurious sentences, thinking that style was “better”. Unfortunately I’ve come to realise that this type of writing just plain doesn’t work when you’re trying to convey a real sense of pace. Most of my editing has therefore involved breaking such examples up, transforming the narrative into a kind of staccato style that makes action read more urgently and move more quickly on the page. What’s weird (or at least seemed so when I first started doing it) is that simply taking off the tops and tails of sentences, and breaking all the rules that I learnt in school English lessons, makes all the difference.

Now, then, the action scenes hopefully read like a breathless thrill ride. And I have to say, it’s been great fun to see them come together. Reading them on the page in their current form is pretty satisfying, and they’re almost unrecognisable from the early drafts. While I love writing dialogue and interesting character stuff, there’s just something about action which makes it a real guilty pleasure.

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Congrats

Massive congratulations to my good friend Ben, whose lovely wife Beth today delivered their first child: Ettie (Harriet) Anne Jeanette Bladon. Awww. And by awww, I mean awwwesome.

And also congratulations to Wells’s finest, Edgar Wright, whose latest film Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is an utterly joyous two hours of fun, laughs, amazing visuals, and superbly inventive action scenes. Definitely the best time I’ve had in the cinema in a while.

It’s probably non-congratulations to me, though. I still haven’t written the ending of Jump!, instead choosing to polish the rest of it yet again. I’m increasingly suspicious that I’m actually afraid of finishing this script, due to the final section being rather complicated. I did try to hammer it a few days ago, and what I wrote was so bad that I ended up deleting it (wine was to blame). Wish I’d kept it now, though, as I’m sure there was a line or two of dialogue or something at least that would have been worth holding onto. Never mind. It’s the Bank Holiday tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll sort it all out then.

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Filed under Films, Writing

Cleesh Ey

Clich├ęs! I’ve been trying to get rid of a number of them in my manuscript today. They’re very easily done – you hear something you like the sound of, it somehow finds its way into your writing, and then there’s a sentence which implies that movie trailer voice-over guy has wisecracked all over your novel. Ouch.

So today I’ve nuked a phrase that blatantly came from the poster of the movie Platoon (cringe), and also various other comments on dialogue which just aren’t original and have been seen a hundred times before. I lapse into this rubbish. It’s a safety blanket. It’s so lazy. I really must stop doing it.

In better news, something that was said about the last novel inspired me about how to open the next one. I’m still figuring this out, to be honest, but the first chapter is mega-ambitious – a bit of a story in itself, hopefully. I should start writing it over the remainder of the Bank Holiday weekend, assuming that I don’t do my usual and go all self-doubt about how the hell I’m going to do it. Allegedly it’s going to work pretty well, and it’s certainly the first big test of a novel that’s going to be brilliantly difficult to write. Will I be able to pull it off? I’m going to think optimistically and say maybe. Delusions are fun.

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Rather Novel

So it’s the end of yet another week, and it’s been pretty incident-packed in terms of writing. My first full manuscript rejection (boo!) was followed by another full manuscript request (yay!), a glowing review of my novel from an author friend of mine (double yay!), and the decision to stop submitting to other agents until the few currently considering the novel have given their verdict. It was also spread via Twitter that those who get through to the second round of the Red Planet Prize will hear the news in mid-September, which gives me more time to polish my script just in case I advance.

This weekend I plan to attack my new novel in earnest. I’m very excited about writing it, although it promises to be pretty tough as the main protagonist is a man who doesn’t speak – or at least, not in any conventional sense. While there is a counterpoint – a female journalist heroine who certainly will speak (and the two characters meeting is the driving force behind the plot) – I’m still not entirely sure exactly how I’m going to write their relationship, and to be honest, I still only have the opening and a very rough outline.

I guess the best thing to do is to start writing and see what happens. But despite all the uncertainties, I reckon that it’s going to be a lot of fun discovering exactly who or what lies behind “The Man Who Shouldn’t Speak”.

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Network

I’m a brilliantly terrible networker. I simply don’t do it. My stammer makes me massively self-conscious when speaking to new people, and so the idea of me voluntarily inflicting myself upon others is a silly one.

On the other hand, I’m a terribly brilliant emailer. My stammer has likely made me compensate for my lack of verbal nous by increasing my writing skills, and so the idea of me voluntarily inflicting myself upon others in that way is a good one.

As an author looking for an agent, I’ve recently come to realise that having people in my corner who actually know what the process is like, could well be a good thing. It’ll also give me an idea of whether I actually stand a hope in hell’s chance of succeeding, or whether I’m one of those delusional nutters who’s the literary equivalent of the worst X Factor auditionee. (If only there was a way to Autotune my writing, eh?)

So I’ve dipped my toes into the online arena in this regard, and have already lucked into at least one author who I can now proudly call a friend. It’s great to be able to talk about my writing with people other than my family and existing mates, and the cool thing is that I don’t feel out of place in other authors’ company. Also, the grand search for an agent sees a lot of common ground and shared experience. Everyone’s been rejected, everyone’s had the overly tense wait for feedback, everyone’s had optimistic hopes and crushing disappointments.

What chatting to other authors tells me, is that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. Recently that light has seemed a lot closer. Doubtless there will be other setbacks along the way, and even when I do find an agent, it’s only the first step towards a career in the publishing industry. The worry about agents will move to worries about the book being sold to a publisher, and then being ready enough to be released, and then selling enough copies for a second novel to be viable, and then delivering that novel, and so on and so forth.

But you know what? I can’t wait. And recently, I’ve genuinely started to believe that I’m going to do it.

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Feedback

Waiting for feedback about anything is always nerve-wracking for me, whether it relates to a report I’ve written for a client, a letter, or the latest draft of my magnificent octopus. Whenever I see an email in my inbox that I know is going to tell me what the other person thought, my heart skips a beat, and I often move the mouse cursor over the title line of the message for a while without opening it. Then I might go and get a cup of tea before clicking on the email. Sometimes I even make a bargain with the universe – for example, if I run a certain payroll before opening the message then that means it’ll be good news. I guess I’m more than a mite superstitious in that respect, and it’s become a force of habit.

The amount of nervousness does change depending on the importance of the feedback I’m about to receive, but even when it concerns something pretty innocuous, I want the person concerned to believe that I did my very best to accomplish the task I was set, or set myself. That’s why I edit work emails extensively before sending them, and try hard to present work in a format that’s as easy as possible to understand; why if one of my friends is reading something I’ve written, I’m always very worried in case they don’t like it.

I guess I’ll always be a worrier in that respect, but at least no one could ever accuse me of not caring. Still, when I’m sitting there agonising over the exact way to phrase something in an email – deleting, writing, re-deleting and then rewriting again – I do feel that I take minutiae way too seriously. The occasional grammatical howler probably wouldn’t kill me.

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