Monthly Archives: December 2010

NYE

So, farewell then, 2010. And, frankly, good riddance. You started off as all years do, with the promise of great things. Given that you were the beginning of a new decade, expectations were even higher. I’m sorry to say that they weren’t met, and the general impression among my friends is the same. However, I suppose it’s all growing pains. You were the baby of the decade, after all. You’ve yet to grow into a… er… strapping 2019. So I won’t be too hard on you, shit though you most certainly have been. Instead I look forward to 2011 – the older, and hopefully wiser year ahead.

First off, congratulations to my One A Day compatriots, the awesome Mat Murray, the lovely Jennifer Allen, the indefatigable Ian Dransfield, and the rather cool Pete Davison. Some of you have already written the final entry of the 365 daily posts, and I think that a couple of you, like me, have a few days to go. All of you, however, are legends (as well as incredibly stubborn bar stewards), and one day we shall all meet up for a pint to celebrate a full year’s worth of pointless meanderings (in my case), and profound offerings (in yours). One day my blog will look as visually appealing as the others. Er… advice would be welcomed on that score.

New Year’s Resolutions, then. It is the 31st of December, after all. At this point I’d simply take a better year than this one, but since I’m all ambitious and stuff, I’ll say that I want an agent, a book deal, another novel in the can, and peace and goodwill for all men (and women, of course). Not a lot to ask for, then, eh?

As far as my own One A Day celebration in a couple of weeks is concerned, I think I’ll have a look back to see which few of my posts weren’t ball-breakingly average, and link you to them so that you can suffer them again, in some kind of Top 10 format. It would be Top 500, but (a) that would be impossible as there are only 365 days in a year, (b) I suspect I’ll barely spot 10 posts I’d subject you to for a second time, and (c) I don’t even know Jimmy Carr.

Happy New Year to all the readers of this blog and, to be inclusive, the many, many more who have never, ever seen it. I hope that you all have a great night, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what 2011 will bring. See you on the other side.

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Disconnect

There’s an increasing disconnect going on between my perceived status and my actual status. Take today, for example. An author friend of mine emailed four people to help her rewrite the blurb for her forthcoming novel, since the publishers had basically ruined the back page bit of her advertising copy by composing something rubbish.

One of the recipients was the author with whom she’s collaborated on two novels already. The second was many people’s author of the year for 2010, someone who’s been eulogised as a frightening talent. The third was an editor who I’ve heard described as being ‘shit-hot’. And the fourth was… er… me. Well, I’m more than confused.

As Johnny 5 would say: “Need… input!” I’m not complaining, of course – it’s great to exist in this kind of company for even the few lines of this plea for help. But I can’t help but feel like a bit of a fraud. I did write the best new line, though, to be fair.

New Year’s Eve tomorrow. New Year’s Resolutions will, of course, be inbound. 2011’s going to be a good one, and everyone’s invited.

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Scrivener

Today I finished the rather large interactive tutorial of Scrivener for Mac. It’s a piece of writing software designed by a novelist for novelists, screenwriters and anyone who wants to be able to organise every aspect of their writing in one place. For example, while Microsoft Word expects you to write your draft in one massive document, Scrivener allows you to have a separate file for each chapter, append a synopsis and notes to those files in order to remind you what the hell you originally wanted to write, and have a research folder where you can put PDFs, videos, web links, audio notes and anything else you’ve come across in order to help your novel go swimmingly.

Then, when you’ve written your masterpiece, you can reorder and redraft as you see fit, saving snapshots before revisions, tracking changes, and basically organising your work and playing around with it in whatever way you want to.

At the end, when you’re happy, you can export your file in pretty much any format imaginable. Scrivener is an absurdly powerful writing tool, and seems incredibly well designed to aid workflow. Admittedly it’s doubtful that I’ll use much of the functionality until my first draft is finished – I’ll simply have a file for every chapter, make a few research notes, and write in the rather natty full-screen mode which removes all temptation from the usual Apple Dock at the bottom of the screen – but when I do have the whole to look back on, I reckon that I’ll be using a lot of the bells and whistles.

So now all I have to do is write the darned novel. Which, by the way, is going to be awesome.

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One A Day 2011

The future of One A Day was always going to be a topic that came up towards the end of this year, and sure enough, the plans for 2011 have been revealed. My reaction is: hmmm.

While I wholeheartedly support the fact that it’s now for charity, the relaxing of the ‘rules’ strikes me as a tepid watering down of the concept. In fact, in my opinion, it ruins the concept. The key to One A Day is in the name – that’s its function, its reason for existing. Its purpose is to encourage participants to develop a writing habit, to actively continue their blogs in the knowledge that others are going through the same blood, sweat and tears at 11.50pm when they’re really fucking knackered, to go through the pain barrier and get something down, no matter how shit it is. I’ve written many posts this year when I’ve been absolutely paralytic, and had to tippy-tap single letters while the room was spinning around me and my fingers point-blank refused to hit the right keys. I could have just gone to bed, but the need to challenge myself that One A Day gave me, and the sense of responsibility not to let down the other entrants, always forced me to man up and write. I’ve basically been a stubborn git. I went to Majorca and paid for internet access every day so that I could get entries down. I went to Grenada and wrote every post in my hotel room on my iPhone, using the wi-fi I had there. This isn’t self-congratulation, much as I’m pleased to be approaching the finish line intact, it’s an attempt to explain that the challenge of writing a blog entry every single day is what One A Day is all about. It makes you go the extra mile.

Diluting this concept is fine to encourage people not to give up after missing an entry, but it makes it something different. It won’t be One A Day anymore, not really. The new emperor has no clothes. The fact that sticking to it is really fucking difficult, is what makes it unique. I’m only still doing it because I made a commitment. I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to show that I could stick at something, that I had the discipline to force myself to write an entry every day. Much of what I’ve written is utter bollocks, and doubtless if I’d been able to take a week off without worrying about it, the general quality of the few posts I did write might have been better. But would I have even returned? I think that’s one of the problems with the new rules – without the enforced discipline, a whole load of people are going to get to the end without really committing to the process. They’ll type an entry every day for the first couple of weeks while it’s all shiny and new and cool, but soon it’ll be every two days, every three, every week, once a fortnight, and then it’ll be three months later and they’ll haphazardly crap something out just to stay in. And when they get to 31 December 2011 they’ll congratulate themselves for making it, but deep down they’ll know that they didn’t really do it properly. The rate of attrition is part of the fun. By making it easier to make it to the end by relaxing the requirements, it may be more inclusive but it makes it… well… not worth as much.

I always roll my eyes at hardcore videogamers who bleat on about how so-called casual games are ‘ruining’ the industry by doing terrible stuff, like not being horribly obscure and encouraging more people to play by streamlining interfaces and having decent help systems and tutorials, etc. In the case of One A Day, though, the hardcore aspect of the process – writing a post every single day, no matter what you’re doing, what your problems are, making no allowances for your location or internet status or how near a computer you are – is why it works. Watering down the concept takes away the very thing that makes it worth doing in the first place. How do you encourage a writing habit by making it fine for bloggers not to blog at the first sign of trouble?

The announcement of the new rules has come at a rather coincidental time for me. Last night I was at a party, and one of my friends asked me what my plans were for One A Day in 2011. Would I carry on doing it? At the time, I didn’t know. I was torn between keeping up the daily routine, at the expense of writing time that I could in theory use more productively, or dropping the requirement for daily posts here. While the latter would certainly free up more of my time, I could see the obvious problem: a serious danger that I’d quickly slip into a bad habit where I wouldn’t update for a few days, and soon this blog would become quieter than an Australian cricket fan. But then I got thinking: what is this blog supposed to achieve next year? Certainly the reason for its existence is going to be different. By the time my year of One A Day is up in mid-January 2011, I’ll have proven what I needed to prove, and so this blog can hopefully become more of a fun project for me, updated when I bloody well feel like it.

So I think that I’m going to pretty much adopt the rules of One A Day 2011, such as they are, but not actually be part of the process. I wish all the participants well and will read a lot of the blogs, but there’s no point in me being involved. Even leaving aside the watering down of the concept, I think it’s best for me to retire unbeaten.

I should have a lot to blog about, though. Agents and publishers and new projects and who knows what else? So maybe I won’t need ‘rules’ to carry on with The Mirrorball. Maybe the self-discipline I’ve gained, that I thank One A Day for, will be enough.

While I have absolutely no influence on the matter, I really hope that the organisers realise they’re making a mistake by diluting the One A Day concept to the point where it won’t mean as much as this year’s version. But still, I hope that they’re right and I’m wrong. The proof will be in the pudding, I guess.

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Mac #2

I’m hoping not to turn into one of those insufferable Apple fanboys who can’t stop bleating on about their goddamn Macs, but the ‘new tech is awesome!’ feeling hasn’t gone for me yet. Today I managed to connect my new MacBook Pro up to my big telly, and after sorting out a couple of slight technical issues which required a bit of looking around the internet to find the answers, it worked perfectly. I may well, therefore, be able to ditch PS3 Media Server as a streaming solution, and instead just connect my Mac straight to the telly for big screen viewing. It seemed to handle basic 1080p video files just fine, so I’ll throw something really evil at it and see how it copes.

I also loaded the holiday videos from my HD camera onto the Mac, and will play around with iMovie to see how it compares to the video editing software I’ve been using on my PC. The problem with the latter is that my PC isn’t really powerful enough to piss around with HD stuff – it tends to have a coronary. So it’ll be cool if iMovie is good and allows me to manipulate the footage to my satisfaction.

I haven’t tried Garageband yet, but allegedly my Rock Band 3 keyboard will connect up just fine if I have the right lead (a Midi-to-USB cable, apparently). So, much amateurish noodling will hopefully soon commence.

I do, of course, also have a novel to write, and I’m midway through the Scrivener interactive tutorial at the moment. It already seems like a powerful and bloody well thought out piece of software, and I’m very much looking forward to testing it out properly over the coming days when I get some quiet time.

Tonight, though, I’m off to a party. I’m so going on a diet on 1 Jan 2011.

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Mac

Today I bought a MacBook Pro. It’s a purchase intended to help my writing, as it means that I won’t have to take my work laptop home or struggle with my mediocre desktop. I’ve downloaded Scrivener, which is supposed to be the best writing software for novelists, and while I’m currently struggling with the Mac operating system, OS X, I’ve been rather impressed with my buy so far. Is there anything more satisfying than opening Apple packaging? It always contains credit for the team which designed it, and when you open it, you always feel like you’re some high-end consumer, privileged to experience the design therein.

My Grandpa’s inheritance money paid for this laptop, and I know that he would have been very happy to have helped me buy the machine that is to play host to my next novel. I can’t wait to write it, and I know that I’m going to do him proud. 2011 is going to be a great year for me, possibly the most important of all, and I have a big smile on my face while thinking that Grandpa is responsible for giving me the tools to write what I think is going to be a bloody brilliant story. More on this in the near future.

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A Trivial Matter

Christmas dinner with the in-laws is done and was very nice indeed, so now I’m just waiting for the arrival of the rest of my family for the big party we’re having this evening. It should be pretty epic – there’s going to be Kinect on the go with Dance Central and Kinect Sports, and doubtless a load of Rock Band 3 later on. Also a massive amount of present-opening, drinking, and then the game of Trivial Pursuit to end all games of Trivial Pursuit.

After the debacle of last year’s Trivs which went on forever (it’s probably still being played somewhere), for the 2010 spectacular we’re having a timer of 2 minutes on the questions, and rather than segregating the teams into family groups we’re going to randomly draw team captains who will then have to pick their teams from the personnel available. I pity the poor person who gets chosen last (a real playground flashback, this), but it should make for an entertaining game.

Merry Christmas everyone. Right, enough of blogging, I have to get back to my drinking. I’ve already set the V+ Box to record Doctor Who, of course.

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