Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Books and the Art of Piracy

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Ideas don't follow the laws of commerce. They are not objects. They are not a product. They don't run on batteries. 

Information is not a fuel that you can pump out of one mind and into another. You can't price it at dollars per barrel. 

If our society made money obsolete and whatever you wanted was free, would people stop writing books, making music, putting on plays?



The following video is 4 minutes long but very pertinent to anyone considering selling books online.


Did you discover your favourite author through someone  lending you a book? Pick up something at a library? Read it at school? Intelligent humans like to read. They enjoy it, they benefit from it, and others around them benefit too. And it generates money. Lots of it. Always has. But not because of copyrights and intellectual properties and strict regulation.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Haruki Murakami — Jazz Messenger

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Taking time out this weekend to daydream (someone's go to) so here's part of an interview (the good bits) from the great Japanese writer Haruki Murakami from the New York Times:

I read a lot from the time I was a little kid, and I got so deeply into the worlds of the novels I was reading that it would be a lie if I said I never felt like writing anything. But I never believed I had the talent to write fiction. In my teens I loved writers like Dostoyevsky, Kafka and Balzac, but I never imagined I could write anything that would measure up to the works they left us. And so, at an early age, I simply gave up any hope of writing fiction. I would continue to read books as a hobby, I decided, and look elsewhere for a way to make a living.


When I turned 29, all of a sudden out of nowhere I got this feeling that I wanted to write a novel — that I could do it. I couldn’t write anything that measured up to Dostoyevsky or Balzac, of course, but I told myself it didn’t matter. I didn’t have to become a literary giant. Still, I had no idea how to go about writing a novel or what to write about. I had absolutely no experience, after all, and no ready-made style at my disposal. I didn’t know anyone who could teach me how to do it, or even friends I could talk with about literature. My only thought at that point was how wonderful it would be if I could write like playing an instrument.


One of my all-time favorite jazz pianists is Thelonious Monk. Once, when someone asked him how he managed to get a certain special sound out of the piano, Monk pointed to the keyboard and said: “It can’t be any new note. When you look at the keyboard, all the notes are there already. But if you mean a note enough, it will sound different. You got to pick the notes you really mean!”


For the full interview and lots more cool stuff I've been assembling from all over the web, please visit 'The Funnily Enough'. Inspiration, amusement, rare gems and brilliant ideas — all for writers.
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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Chapter One: The Friends of Eddie Coyle

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The latest genre in my series of Chapter 1 Analyses is crime fiction. The Friends of Eddie Coyle was written in 1972 by George V. Higgins, an experienced lawyer. It was his first published novel (although he had 14 failed attempts under his beltt—hope for us all) and it was made into a film soon after starring Robert Mitchum in the title role.

I looked at a number of crime fiction books for this post as I would have preferred something more recent, but most followed fairly standard approaches, many of which we have already discussed in this series. However, this book, considered a classic and much admired by people like Elmore Leonard and Dennis Lehane, had a first chapter that really made an impact on me. Here are the opening lines:

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Passive Resistance

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Don’t write passively, that’s what they tell you. It isn’t as immediate, it lacks energy, it is weak writing. This is all true. For certain contexts. And untrue for others.

Like all generalised statements, the idea that passive writing is bad writing is simplistic and wrong. The important thing is to decide what effect you want your writing to have at various points in your story. To be able to do this you must know the options and the possible effects (and side-effects) and choose the right one for your story. This is hard and requires learning many things. Or you can rigorously apply the same technique to every sentence. This is easy and requires you to learn very little.

The first thing to bear in mind is something no one ever mentions when discussing this subject, that there are two entirely different types of passive writing.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Bunch of Cults No.3: Monster

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This post is in two parts. Firstly a look at one of the greatest stories in print, a truly masterful suspense thriller. And secondly a few thoughts on my new Kindle and how I think it could be utilised to great effect in the future.

Monster by Naoki  Urasawa is a manga (Japanese comic book). It weaves the riveting story of brilliant Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a Japanese surgeon with a promising career at a leading German hospital. It is a compelling thriller. No costumes or masks. No bulging biceps or heaving bosoms.

The Hook
A brilliant surgeon sacrifices his career to save the life of a child who’s been shot in the head, rather than operate on the Mayor of Dussledorf who needs a minor operation. The Mayor dies, the child survives... and grows up to be an incredibly evil psychotic killer. 

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Rewriting: Longer Faster Harder

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This post specifically relates to getting from the first draft to the second draft. This rewrite is key to the whole rewriting process. Further down the line changes in small details and polishing of the text become important, but at this stage the transition from raw material to story-worthy narrative is what’s going to keep you interested in coming back time and again in order to get the story told. By establishing exactly what the story is about now, you can save yourself a lot of trouble later.


At some point you will have a complete first draft. Whatever genre, style or approach you take getting it done one thing is for sure: It won’t be good. If you look at it and think, Hmm, not bad, ninety percent there, then you are either a genius like none before you, or you’re just plain wrong. It’s going to be all over the place.

But terrible is perfectly acceptable because it isn’t meant to be good at this stage. It just needs to have a beginning, middle and end, a good sense of who the main characters are and their roles, and as much plot development as you could work out.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Chapter One: Harry Potter

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This dissection is specifically looking at how best to construct an opening chapter of a novel, in this case for children. I should say first that I am not a big reader of middle grade books and will be approaching this first chapter the same as any other in the series (other books I’ve analysed can be found here: Chapter One Analyses), with a view to taking it apart to see what works, what doesn’t (and how she got round that), which conventions are used well, and which are broken to good effect.

Clearly this is one of the most famous and most revered books in children’s literature but I have attempted to approach it objectively, aided by the fact that I have never read any of the books in the series. It should also be remembered that chapter one in a published book as written may not have been chapter one in the original manuscript, or may have gone through many edits.

The original Harry Potter book was published in 1997 after being rejected by numerous publishers. The first chapter, thirteen pages, is a little different to the rest of the book, being in omniscient POV, very much in the narrator’s voice. The following chapters appear to switch to a more conventional third person POV from Harry’s perspective (although I don’t know if this remains so for the rest of the book).

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Plotting In Your Pants

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When it comes to writing a story there are the two widely known approaches. You can plan thing in advance and then follow the instructions like a map. Or you can wing it and see what happens as the story develops organically.

People have their preferences, but which is better? Which is easier, and which requires more effort? Does one lead to a dry, mechanical tale, and the other to a meandering, unfocused mess? How can you tell which suits you and your story best?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Bunch of Cults No.2

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Previous in this series can be found here

Robert Aldrich’s Emperor of the North Pole. 30’s America. Lee Marvin is A-No.1, the baddest hobo riding the rails. Ernest Borgnine is Shack, a vicious bastard, the railwayman whose train ain't never been rode for free. 


The Hook
Ever seen a man fight off three attackers with a live chicken? Ever seen a man pick up another man while he’s sat in a chair? Men! Real men! A wager. A hammer. An axe. A fight to the death on a moving locomotive.
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