Friday, November 11, 2011
My experiment seems to be back-firing on me.
Okay, that might be somewhat melodramatic, but I did recently realise / decide that the novel I was writing without any structure, plan, plot or character development wasn't working. Wow, big surprise, right?
As I said, it was an experiment, to see how far into a novel I could get without doing all those preparation steps. The answer, it would seem, (for me anyway) is five chapters.
Don't get me wrong, I did really enjoy writing those five and it was somewhat liberating to be writing without any real clue as to where the various journeys of my characters were going. It was the closest I had come to 'free-writing' for years.
But eventually, and unfortunately much sooner than I expected, all this unbridled 'creativity' had to come to a shuddering halt as I asked myself the question 'Okay, what is this thing actually going to be about?' (well someone else, an industry person, asked me and I was forced to pull a one-line pitch out of the air - luckily, it's still applies...kinda).
So yes, I've fallen back into my old ways. The synopsis is done. The characters are drawn. The plotlines are detailed. And pretty soon, the spreadsheet with the detailed chapter headings and descriptions will follow. And then, after much mulling, consideration and deliberation, will I starting writing chapters again.
So much for free-writing.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
It is great to be a guest on Paul’s blog today. I have brought cake, who wants a slice?
While Paul puts the kettle on, here is an extract from my new book, 21st Century Dodos. It is a compendium of inanimate objects, cultural icons, traditions and other things that are endangered or recently extinct. In this short excerpt, I look back at a profession that has almost completely vanished.
Petrol Pump Attendants
You’d pull up at the petrol station in your Rover 3500, Ford Capri, or perhaps an Austin Allegro [insert your own nostalgia-inducing make and model here], and onto the forecourt would waddle a chap in overalls.
‘Fill her up’, you would cry cheerfully from behind the wheel. And fill her up he would, as well as checking the oil, water and tyres, while he was at it.
You may find it hard to believe, but this was how everyone got their petrol until the onset of self-service stations in the 1970s. You didn’t even have to get out of the car to pay. The attendant would take your money, pop back to his kiosk, and return with a fistful of change.
That, my friends, was proper customer service.
The idea of the petrol pump attendant actually harks back to a time before the garage forecourt, when fuel would be delivered to the homes of the privileged few who could afford to own a motor vehicle. It seemed natural for that personal service to extend to all customers when cars became more affordable and widely available.
One of the last attendants in the country, Dudley Oliver of Bentley’s garage in Exmouth, finally hung up his nozzle in 2010, not for lack of business, but rather because the ancient pumps were beginning to fall foul of health and safety laws, and would prove too costly to replace. The garage continues to trade for repairs and, in a nice touch, for free oil, water and tyre checks with Mr Oliver, kept on the payroll to valet cars.
So it isn’t all bad news, although for one elderly lady customer it did truly mark the end: ‘I’ve never had to put petrol in my car myself and I’m not going to start now.’
Thanks Scott, don't be a stranger!
And before I leave, here's me reading a piece from '21st Century Dodos', all about my favourite piece of technology from the 80s.
My new favourite thing? The Guest Blog.
It's the laziest form of blogging, really. Basically, you invite and warmly welcome a friend / colleague / contemporary to put their blog entry on to your blog for a day. It's normally associated with a particular event or promotion or something like that and gives the guest blogger an extra bit of publicity or the very least a nice little soap-box for them to stand on for the day.
And with that, I'd like to announce...
Writer, publisher and 'most powerful man in the books-trade' (not my words) Scott Pack - known to many of you on Twitter as @meandmybigmouth - recently published his book '21st Century Dodos - A Collection of Endangered Objects and other stuff' (yes that is what it's called) and this Thursday (13th), his blog will be coming from right here at my beautiful home and will feature a video of lil ol' me reading an extract from the book.
So check back here on Thursday for this blogging extravaganza! (Hope I'm not building it up too much).
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
A FEW GOOD TABLOID JOURNALISTS
David Cameron: Did you order those phones to be tapped?
Rupert Murdoch: You ever worked for a tabloid newspaper, son? Ever had to make something up and report it as news?
Cameron: No Sir.
Murdoch: My editors follow orders son. My editors follow orders or people get bored. It's that simple.
Cameron: Mr Murdoch, did you order the Phone Hacking?!!!!
Nick Clegg: Mr Murdoch, you don’t have to answer the question.
Murdoch: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?
Cameron: I want the truth.
Murdoch: YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE….I’m sorry, what did you call it? Son, we live in a world that has newspapers. Those newspapers have to be written by people without morals. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Mr. Clegg? I own more newspapers than you can possibly imagine. You weep for Milly Dowler and you curse News International. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that tapping those phones, while illegal, probably entertained lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, entertains lives. You don’t want the….the… - the truth, that’s it - because deep down in places you don't talk about parties you want me at those papers. You NEED me at those papers. We use words like ‘JK ROWLING IN ORGY WITH RYAN GIGGS, MAX MOSLEY AND JORDAN’ . we use them as the backbone of a life spent destroying people. You use them as a punchline. (Well actually so do we.) I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of news coverage I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I prefer you just bought a copy of The Sun and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you sit down at a computer and write a bunch of lies about someone who doesn’t deserve it. Either way i don't give a damn what you think I am responsible for.
Cameron: Did you order the Phone Hacking?!!!!
Murdoch: YOU’RE GOD-DAMN RIGHT I DID!
(Thanks to Marcus Brigstock on Twitter for the idea....and some of the material...and the title.)
Thursday, June 23, 2011
It's only today that I realise that's what was required.
I have the new novel ready to go, yeh see. It has a plot, beginning middle and end, the characters are taking shape nicely(ish), I'm even accepting the mistakes I made during the first book (Me? Admit I made mistakes? That's not a cloud in the sky, it's a pig.)
And yet, for weeks (some would say months), the page has remained blank.
My excuse for the last 12 days, 3 hours and 15 minutes (approximately) is that I'm on my holidays and that I shouldn't feel under any real pressure to write unless the mood strikes me. There's a rookie attitude if there ever was one.
The other justification has been that, before I even think about writing word-one of chapter-one, some foundations need to be dug. A detailed plot-outline, a chapter-breakdown and, above all else, character biogs are required. Except that, yeah you guessed it, I'm not doing those either.
And that aforementioned K-I-T-A? Aptly enough, it was a book. Well a number of books really, but one in particular. No, not the bible.
'Writing To Get Published - Bringing the Dream Alive', the new e-book by Vanessa O'Loughlin (Collca e-Publishing) is what it is. Some of you might know Vanessa from Inkwell Writers Workshops, her company that runs writing courses, classes and workshops, and offers services to writers like proofreading and critiquing. She also set up www.writing.ie, an excellent website for writers. (And those of you who listen to my radio show will know her as my guest on the 11th June.)
Anyway, so Vanessa took from her experience from running Inkwell and the website, and from being a writer herself and this gem of a How-to book was born. I'm not going to review it in detail but suffice to say I read it an hour, it was only about two euro, and it got me back in front of the laptop (poor fella was starting to wonder why it was brought on holidays at all).
Right, back to deciding what is the 'physiology, sociology and psychology' of Justine Locke.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Oh dear god, do I really sound like that?
This is a question I find myself asking every Saturday around noon. Because I'm now on the radio.
Internet Radio, to be precise. As of about three weeks ago (first show was on Paddy's Day), I am hosting a half-hour Writing Magazine show on blogtalkradio.com. The show, aptly called Paul The Writer Talks To Himself, broadcasts to the internet-airwaves every Saturday.
The idea is fairly straight-forward - to provide a informative (and hopefully entertaining) resource for writers, celebrate all-thing-writing and to give advice (and not just from me, I hasten to add) on the practicalities such as getting an agent, writing for Film and TV and the pros and cons of Self-Publishing.
This week's show, going out on 2nd April at twelve o'clock, is about Writing For Film and I will be talking to Mark O'Connor, writer and director of the critically acclaimed 'Between The Canals' (which you can see in Dundrum from tomorrow). He will be chatting with me about how the film came to be, where he gets his ideas from and what motivates him as a writer and film-maker.
I would like the show to be as interactive as possible with comments, question, or generally slagging the hell out of me for overuse of the word 'basically'. So feel free to get in touch on Facebook, Twitter or email. You can also post messages on the show's messageboard. No bad language or bad grammar please...
Yes Paul, you do sound like that. Get used to it.
Feel free to listen to previous episodes of the show below. Yep, this is where the 'magic' happens.
(Apologies for the dodgy, and ridiculously long, American ads.)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
But yes, a week has passed and I am feeling somewhat more enthusiastic about the whole being-a-writer thing. Seven rejection-free days did help, it has to be said.
As did, in no small part, the completion of the aforementioned stage play 'Writing For Brahms', a comedy drama about four 'artistes' all looking for one small thing...to be loved and revered by the world.
The rewrite was finally finished yesterday (pancakes helped a lot, thank you Taste Food Company South William Street) after a six-day-marathon effort and at 5.28pm, I was standing in line at the post of office (very 'of-the-people' of me, I know) to dispatch it the Soho Theatre in London for their Verity Bargate Award competition.
Today's chipperness can also be attributed to meeting up with my 'international' writers group last night. Well, international-ish...Eva-in-Berlin-soon-heading-to-Munich, Maria-in-Monkstown-soon-heading-to-Finland..and me, Paul-in-Dublin-not-quite-managing-to-move-to-London. Group also consists of Alena but as she now lives in Melbourne, her attendance at the meetings has dropped off slightly (she didn't even bother showing up last night, the cheek). But, as ever, it was a highly funny, creative and inspirational get-together - I even came up with a fabulous title for a future novel. Gotta love brainstorming, really.
Speaking of which, I do now have the enviable task of deciding what my next masterpiece will be. Fellow writer and blogger MSD did point out that, of everything I've written over the years, my favourites seem to be things in which people aren't actually gruesomely murdered. (And as she's pretty much read everything I've written since Burning Matches - and patiently listened as I waxed lyrical about each and every one - her opinion's got to count for something.) But come on, I love killing off my characters! I'm only human!
So...what? A lighthearted comedy drama about two people who meet up once a year on St. Swithin's Day? No, that's been done. A TV drama about the goings-on in a Dublin restaurant? That one sounds vaguely familiar too.
Or maybe I'll take a few days off and play Xbox. Those zombies won't chop themselves up with chainsaws.
I wonder where I get the inspiration to kill off all my characters?
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
That's my way of saying that, while I've been heartlessly neglecting you for the last month or so, there's been looooads going on 'behind the scenes'.
Which is true...kinda. The two outcomes were, in fact, remarkably similar in that they were both rejections. The most recent was just yesterday when I found out that novel 'Burning Matches' (remember that guy?) didn't win Poolbeg's 'Write-A-Bestseller' competition. Congrats to Siobhan McKenna, author of 'The Lingerie Designer' . The title suggests that it probably won't be my thing but, then again, I wouldn't have thought David Nicholls' 'One Day' was my thing either and I stayed up til three in the morning reading that.
The other 'Thanks-but-no-thanks', and one that hit me harder (or maybe the Poolbeg one just hasn't sunk in yet) was from Literary Agency Blake Friedmann on behalf of 'Square One'. I'll be honest, I did think I was at least going to get over the first hurdle on that one, due in no small part to the excellent recommendation it got from Accomplice TV. But hey, it's the 'real' rejections that make us stronger...or something.
But, not to worry, it's not all doom and gloom. I am today, after a brief sojourn to do some actual paid work (heaven forbid), starting the rewrite for 'Writing for Brahms', my first attempt at stage-writing. Needless to say, it wasn't quite the masterpiece I had decided it was the day I finished the first draft, but thanks to my ever-honest and pragmatic writers' group, I was shown, in no small detail, the error of my ways. So the re-write starts now, and not a minute too soon - it has to be on the desk of the Soho theatre by Friday week.
And lastly, the sad announcement that I have made the momentous decision not to proceed with writing the novel 'Lividity'. Having written the first three chapters, I've kinda 'fallen out of love with it'. It also might have something to do with a large part of it being about a person working in Dublin's new state-of-the-art crime lab...and then the other day, I came across the recently published 'Taboo' by Casey Hill, about a person working in Dublin's new state-of-the-art crime lab. Ouch. Can anyone spell 'Missed-The-Boat'?
Not to worry, the next novel is already stewing away in my brain ready to pop out just when I need it. Coz that's how creativity works, right?
Thursday, January 27, 2011
As some of my fellow scribes will certain attest to, there is one thing that I love doing more than actual writing. Talking about Writing. I do. A lot.
I'm no different from the rest of the world, really. We all have something we're passionate about and we'll talk passionately about it at any opportunity. This is something I learned when researching for Burning Matches . Chefs talk food, climbers talk climbing and pathologists talk, yes you guessed it, pathology. (What the hell is this book about? I hear you ask.) And so, by the same rational, I talk writing.
And now, lo and behold, I have found a place, a controlled environment so-to-speak, where I can talk and people listen! I am, in fact, referring to Fighting Words, the creative writing centre in Russell Street, Dublin 1. It was set up by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love to give everyone a place to go to write and to help students develop their writing skills. It was inspired by 826 Valencia, a similar centre in San Francisco.
Fighting Words provide story-telling fieldtrips for Primary school groups, creative writing workshops for secondary students, and seminars, workshops and tutoring for adults. All tutoring is free.
I'm involved in the secondary student workshops, which start with a brainstorming session in which all aspects of creative writing (plot, character, dialogue etc) are discussed between the group. After that, the students have an opportunity to work on their writing and the volunteers (that's me) are available to offer guidance, answer questions and help the writers create their masterpieces!
I've been to two sessions so far and I'm going back for more next week. Tiz great fun!
Friday, January 21, 2011
I am simply referring to Paul_The_Writer's writing universe of all-things-writing, not the, yeh know, actual universe. It might have expanded too, I suppose, but I am so self-involved these days that it's likely I wouldn't have noticed. I didn't even realise that Ireland's politico had it's own little melt-down yesterday until my fellow writerbloggertweeter MSD told me about it.
Speaking of melt-downs, I had one myself this week. (See? I can even take the imminent destruction of our government and make it about me). But, yes, I did have a melt-down.
I should have seen it coming, I suppose. Having started my second novel after Christmas, and telling anyone who asked that I was inspired, motivated, even excited about writing it, how many chapters have I written thus far?
Yes, that's right. No need to adjust your set. One.
And I know why. Because I'm not inspired, motivated or excited about it. Not even a little bit. I like the story, I'm pretty sure it works and, without doubt, it will be an easier book to write than its predecessor. But that's as enthusiastic as I can get.
But in the spirit of that whole 'closing-a-door-opening-a-window' thing, I discovered (during one of my many moments of procrastiation) that I have a interesting date in my diary. March 11th.
March 11th is the deadline for the Verity Margate Award. Soho Theatre are looking for a new play that will stand out from the crowd. 'The only limit is your imagination'...apparently.
Yes I know, what do I know about writing for the stage? Well do I have an idea for a play? Thank god, yes. First hurdle.
Technically, I probably don't know much, but I've seen enough theatre to know the basic rules and I hope that if I apply my own 'process' (there he goes talking about that shit again), the rest will fall into place...with the help of my wide circle of fabulous writing friends and the few thespian-types that I know (CS, you reading this?).
And the most important word in that paragraph? 'Deadline'. I realised that that's what I need right now. Writing a novel (or anything) for publication on some indistinct far-off date doesn't exactly lend itself to being desk-side by nine, does it?
So, huge sigh of relief right now - I know what I'm doing...until I change my mind tomorrow, that is.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Denis Lehane, Aaron Sorkin, Tony Jordan...yes you guessed it, some of my writing heroes. But do I really want to know what's going on inside their heads?
The knee-jerk response will of course be 'Yes of course you should'. They have been doing this forever and have managed to make a very successful career of it, so anything they have learned, discovered or invented to make me a good write should be noted and copied with immediate effect. And thanks to Facebook (somewhat), Twitter (big-time) and now websites like bloodsandscripts.com, the brains of these behemoths could not be more accessible.
There are two reasons why knowing the processes of other writers, whether you bow to their superior talent or not, is not such a good idea. The first one comes via Monty Python, or more specifically Brian - 'We are all different.' A truism, I will admit, but it is valid. Basically, if I wrote the way a certain horror writer (initials SK) does, I would get nothing done. Not a jot. Because he writes with classical music playing at Volume 11.
I would, first-of-all, spend most of my time recovering from the daily beating from my neighbours on the other side of the cardboard walls. But, more importantly, with any music on in the background, my concentration levels would be at minus-11. I have to have silence.
Irish romance novelist MB tells us that she does her best work in the pre-dawn hours. Me? Get out of bed while it's still dark? Give me a break.
Another successful novelist (the name currently escapes me) writes everything by pen in a notebook and later transcribe to print. No thanks. I need my laptop. I once scribbled a chapter in a notebook while drunk on an Arran island (I forget which one). I then duly forgot what I had written and lost the notebook. I'm still certain that it was the best thing I ever wrote.
Which leads me on to sunny point number two. And that is that I'm precious. I'll freely admit that. I have spent the last almost-three years (more like eight if you include my years as a part-timer) creating my own writing process out of a combination of circumstance, habit, technology-addiction, caffeine-addiction and procrastination. I'm not saying it's perfect or that it's etched in stone - it continues to be sculpted and honed on a daily basis - but it's mine.
So by all means, hero, write your next masterpiece by dictating while hanging upside-down in a door frame, but don't expect me to follow. I'll be too busy drinking a cappucino.