Thought, experience and memory from a brain in a jar, one that sometimes has control over a thirty-two-year-old Londonite.

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Location: Herne Hill, London, United Kingdom

27 November, 2007

NaNoWriMo 2007 - Day 27

Well, tonight ought to see me complete the first and rough as hell draft of Pieces, and it's been a curious journey. I had started out with a rough idea about a love triangle, and notions about characters being complicit in their own victimhood and to their own ends, and some nebulous stuff about a dangerous mumbo-jumbo taking over the United Kingdom included only to serve as some kind of backdrop to the present day events. By the end of this draft, though, the backdrop has stepped very much into the spotlight (broken metaphor, there) and all sorts of other business is now at work in the narrative - small actions having massive repercussions, the meaninglessness of freedom of will, disconnections between intent and effect, and more and surprising occurences of the jigsaw puzzle motif. Very late in the day I decided that if a weird brain-melting cult had taken over Britain, then there ought to be a resistence group, and given that the disbanded love triangle involved the narrator, who had nothing to do with either, it was pretty obvious where the other two ended up.

I'll be sitting down to chart out what I've written, see how it can be massaged to bring out and emphasise the stronger aspects of the story, and what other parts of the story need telling. So many of the late emergent elements need to be introduced earlier. Also, I'm going to have to cut the thing into 102 pieces that will each make a sort of sense on their own (though I have the beginnings of a strategy for that), and build a hideously bloated bit of JavaScript to put the whole thing together. I was tempted earlier today to devise 100 subtly different endings for the story, but that might be a bit too much. And as if to egg me on, I was in a bookshop the other day and saw Perec's Life: A User's Manual in the bestseller's section. Ah, nice.

Oh, and if the whole mess isn't too ghastly once I'm done, I shall be approaching a certain fictional anthology with a view to getting it published. I envision a box including a jigsaw puzzle and 102 bits of paper. Now that would be something. Oh, and a disc for the disinclined.

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The Today Programme

For some reason the Today programme decided to run an item on NaNoWriMo this morning, but as a debate between a NaNoWriMoer and a publisher. The latter's main thrust seemed to be that she was down on NaNoWriMo because it threatened to make her slush pile larger, as if she wasn't already inundated, and everyone she speaks to seems to be writing a novel, yah boo. And although we have heard writer after writer say that the hardest thing about writing is sitting down and writing terrible stuff when they're really not in the mood, she cautioned against the idea of people using NaNo as a way of turning off their inner-editors. Ironically, it was she and not the NaNoWriMoer who seemed to be confusing a first draft with a finished manuscript. And this just three days (and 1800 words, chiz chiz) before the finish-line!

The NaNoWriMo done us proud, though, standing her ground, explaining it was about writing, not about getting published, and that it was a tool used by some writers to develop early drafts of works they then go on to develop into full novels.

I can't help but bring up Kerouac's On The Road here, and whereas the odds are against NaNo ever producing or discovering a Kerouac, it does demonstrate that NaNo-like writing stints are a valid and important part of, if not the development of literature itself, certainly the development of the writers themselves. The publisher suggested that if people were serious about writing then they wouldn't need NaNo to motivate them, but sadly those people are the people to be found in her slush pile. I suspect that NaNo might serve the world better in giving people who, maybe, you know, can actualy write, the excuse and the motivation to get down to it, and adopt the discipline that will actually allow them to fluorish, with or without publication.

Oh, and you can plan your story all you like, but you never know your story 'til you sit down and write it, and NaNo, again, is a great way of doing that.

But anyhew, for all I know the publisher doesn't really give two figs about NaNo, and was just playing devil's advocate at the behest of the Today Programme. This conflict was probably fiction.


21 November, 2007


Fuckr Messenger Bag
I'm Not a Plastic Surgeon

I create beautiful things for the world like the above fashionable accessories, and do people show an interest? Pah!


13 November, 2007

NaNoWriMo 2007 - Emergent Themes

  1. Non-verbal communication
  2. The diffences between intention and effect
  3. Betrayal
  4. Small acts with large consequences
  5. The acquisition of a moral highground by casting oneself as the victim
  6. Choosing captivity
  7. Delaying progression to maintain a less-satisfying but sustained status quo.

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11 November, 2007

And God said, "Well, you can't choose your followers..."

Apparently The Golden Compass, the film adaptation of Northern Lights is causing a bit of a brouhaha in the States. The film sees a huge multi-universe battle take place between mankind, theocracy and a heavenly army. Bastions of sensible and rational criticism the Catholic League have spoken out against the film, based as it is on the books of atheist author Philip Pullman. Here are some quotes I have mercilessly borrowed from Wikipedia.

They believe that while the religious elements of the film will be "watered down" from the source novels, it will still encourage children to read the series, which League president William A. Donohue says "denigrates Christianity" and promotes "atheism for kids", citing author Pullman as saying that he is "trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief."It is the League's hope that "the film [will fail] to meet box office expectations and that [Pullman's] books attract few buyers."
And they have every right to say such things and wish such things on their fellow human beings. However, Mr Donohue seems to believe that the religion in the book, the basis of the theocracy, is Christianity. But guess who never gets a mention between the six covers of Pullman's opus? Guess who doesn't even get a cameo in Lyra's Oxford? Yup! The big JC himself! And as for promoting atheism to kids... he makes that sound like a bad thing. What the coition is wrong with atheism? Golly! Would Donohue have spoken out against a film promoting Islamic faith, or Judaism? Probably not, but as it's atheism, then it's open season, 'cos, hey, atheists aren't organised! Release the dogs! As it is Pullman has already sold shedloads of copies of HDM, and I'm sure the money he's received from the adaptations hardly have him crying all the way to the pawnbrokers.

Also, Mr Donohue is worried that kid's are going to pursue a line of thought given them by a film that features alcoholic talking polar bears. But then maybe he's right to. I think most children are incapable of distinguishing between the kind of fantasy presented to them in fairytales and the kind of fantasy presented to them in religious texts.

Is it time for an atheism league? The trouble with rectifying such insulting behaviour as Mr Donohue's is that it's not a very atheistic thing to do. However mistaken atheists believe the likes of Christians are, we're only ever going to engage with them when they cross the line - insisting that creationism gets equal prominence in science lessons with Darwinism, for instance.

What troubles me most about Christian pressure groups getting up in arms whenever their Gods aren't depicted in a way that they would like (see Jerry Springer: the Opera and Last Temptation for reference) is that it suggests either a) they have no capability of entertaining any form of critical thoughts about their own belief system or b) they do, but feel that the man on the Clapham Omnibus doesn't, and to that end such critical thoughts are a danger to him. Arrogant but righteous.

How Far Can You Walk Into A Forest?

NaNoWriMo 2007 - Day 11
Originally uploaded by Simon Scott
Half way of course! I spent about four hours on public transport yesterday (thank you public transport!), which meant that when I reached Richmond I was not in the most creative of frames of mind, and only managed to get about 2,000 words down, despite the industrious ambience on offer courtesy of m'good friend Daniel.

Happily, though, I managed to rattle off a good 3,409 words today and so have made it through the 25,000 threshold. What is more, my plot seems to be holding up, so I will hopefully be feeling less antsy about it. I have about seven vignettes left at my disposal, and add more to the list as they occur. They're my back-up for when I find myself travelling through the plot too quickly.

I've a couple of nights out next week, and so have a couple of no writing days, but all is scheduled for. Nevertheless I still feel guilty about them, so will probably choose to overshoot for the rest of the week. If I stick to the plan I will finish up at 50,000 words on the 27th, so the day off on the thirtieth ought to be well within my grasp.

And pictured is the author reading some Donald Barthelme just after writing about two adults sharing a bath. How writers suffer.

10 November, 2007

NaNoWriMo 2007 - Day 10

NaNoWriMo 2007 - Day 9
Originally uploaded by Simon Scott
I'm off to Dan's today for as much scribbling as I can manage. The last time we did this was day 1, where I made a fantastic start, but had all my plot before me which makes it rather easier. This time may be different. As I think I've said elsewhere, I have realised my plot is far too thin for 50,000 words and so have had to embellish it, which is something I find tricky in that it has to be embellished in a way that contributes to the story as a whole. I think I've managed it, and made it much more interesting and exciting as a result. I've made the decision to have the end of the recounted story's chronology come right slap bang up to the start of George doing the jigsaw, which I hope will function well enough. I love those moments in novels where two different situations suddenly inflict themselves on one another. What this means, though, is that (come December) I will have to rework my opening. At the moment it sounds as though George has just come in from somewhere, which isn't quite right now. Easily changed, though, and what better way of convincing oneself that one is serious about revision if the first thing one is going to dicky around with is the opening!

Last night, as I left work, I felt a small amount of discomfort in one of my two feet (you know I have two feet, right?). I put less pressure on it and waited til I got home, assuming I had something in my shoe. Said somethings, and the discomfort, vanished when I removed my shoes so I assumed that whatever it was had fallen off and gone to join the kibble. But padding barefoot across the kitchen the pain returned, so out came the tweezers and a strong light and from mine own flesh I extracted a tiny tiny sliver of glass, no bigger than a piece of glitter.

Behold the serendipity, for glass is broken within the novel and here I was fishing a piece of the stuff out of my body. Coincidence certainly, but the act of removal has somewhere to go in the novel, and brings in some of the weirdness that is finally starting to creep into what I'm writing. I have a character called Elsa who to whom I wanted to give a maintenance task involving my main character, George. Initially she was to shave off the salt and pepper moustache he wears that adds a country decade to his face. This I may keep in, but I realise that the removal of a piece of glass from his foot is much stronger and, because of certain resonances already set up, will add to the suggestion that George and Elsa's friendship is healing him of something. One of my favourite things about writing, and NaNoWriMo specifically, is the way in which you are forced to play magpie with your own life. There is something almost transformative about taking the events that happen to you or to those around you and placing them in a story, to load the chaos that surrounds us with meaning and structure, even if it is an illusion, and its beneficence is merely temporary.

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07 November, 2007

What? I'm Not Allowed A Night Off?

Horrible journey home, got back much later than usual, and the blank screen was too much to bear, so instead I am going to lie around the flat in the clothes I just bought from Uniqlo and read Donald Barthelme stories. I only wish Barhelme was available in Japanese. And that I could read Japanese.

(and don't worry - I have been through my schedule and bumped up my Sunday targets, so all should still be well)

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06 November, 2007

ID, Ego, and Super-ego!

For the first time in a log time, the ID Card Scheme is back in the news. This is the scheme that Gordon Brown gave full support to, as long as it came in on time and under budget. Since then it has been rescheduled and is (massively!!!) over budget, racking up an extra .8-1.2 billion pounds within the first few months. The long grass is over there, Mr B.

It's fun watching Tony McNutty going at it. He has been drafted in to discuss the scheme that he is supposed to be in charge of, but his statements are so hesitant! "As I understand it..", "As far as I am aware..." both suggesting he is not as in the loop as he would like.

And it seems Lord West too, can only speak of his own awareness. Doesn't anyone attached to this scheme know what is going on? This is New NuLabor, after all, and uncertainty is not in the vocabulary!

04 November, 2007

That'll Be The First Wall Then.

It's been an odd couple of days. Despite having much of the plot mapped out, I started getting to stuff that I hadn't thought about in any great level of clarity. Some of this was stuff I didn't really want to write about any way. There was a trial which I ought to have relished, but it was one of those complicated year-long trials and covered stuff I wasn't prepared to look too deeply into considering how incidental to the plot it was. It's paramount that one of the characters goes to prison, but the means by which that occurs is immaterial, and might as well be a footnote for all I care. Anyhow, I was beginning to find real difficulty in getting the words out without leaping forward to stuff I really didn't want to write about just yet.

When I started out I had hoped for four major strands to work on, so I could flit about between them to keep the wordflow going. However, only two of the strands have survived such scrutiny. I had put off the school strand because it was a bit clouded in my mind and I wanted to give it more thought before I got to it. The joy of writing about a character thinking back over his life is that he needn't do so in order. However, after a lunchtime spent brainstorming (or whatever the word we're supposed to use now is) I felt I had a strong enough storyline to get started on. That night I managed to eat up half of it in about 1,700 words, meaning one of the four strands it aint. With a fair bit of jiggery and pokery, however, I believe there is enough meat in the main two to keep me going, and some dainty vignetting around the edges that will hopefully come in handy when I start on the December work. Also happily, the next section of the school story took longer than I'd expected. I've still probably only another 2,000 words or so to get out of it, but it's a little less bleak than the first 1,700 words suggested.

What has been fun, though, is trying to establish the motivations of the characters. It seems virtually the entire cast is a shower of arseholes! But in that frail human's picking their way through moral mazes in the pursuit of a happiness that is all too fleeting kind of way. Also there's an enjoyable repeating patterns of behaviour thing happening, and that should help along the December machinations when I get to them.

And I've still not got to any of the sex yet!

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03 November, 2007

NaNoWriMo - Day 3

Well, I've not started on my day's output yet, but after a marathon day on Thursday and a coasting-along-quite-nicely-thank-you Friday I am at 8,217 words. Last year my approach was pretty much to scribble out 1,667 as best I could each day, with the occasional wobble and panicked catch up. This year, I'm basically trying to capture as much slack as I can going along, so I'll have room to maneuvre when the terrain gets trickier later on. My secondary target is to take the 30th off, but to have already finished by then.

The ultimate destination for what I'm writing is helping me a little in forming the structure of the story, and allowing me to not take too seriously the peculiar order in which I'm telling the tale. There is a distant past childhood memory section that I have no intention of starting on till I've got the dreadful part about love and betrayal out of the way. My worry is that I'm assuming the childhood section will stand up to the same level of scrutiny as the stuff I'm writing now and it may well not. Plenty of time to find more story to tell, though.

I've brought in a state-run cult for the "present day" vignettes, the challenge of which is to blur the lines between something we would recognise as a cult and something that is the feasible unintended outcome of a government drive. But that kind of problem solving is what NaNoWriMo is all about. Not it's not; it's about words.

I'm also having some fun taking the metaphorical ideas about jigsaws and coupling them up with the narrative, which helps a great deal in rationalising why the book is about a guy doing a jigsaw puzzle, beyond the structure alone. There are also some straggly bits that I want to include but I'm not quite sure yet what they're for. I worked for a day or two at a commercial espionage company as an audio typist. The job involved transcribing phone conversations between agents posing as clients and various people such as sales staff, or scientists, or whoever. I wasn't told that's what the company did, but it really could have been the only purpose of the recordings I worked on. I desperately want to give this job to George, my main character, and use it to crank up his paranoia a bit. Can't write about it too much here, though, because as we all know, you only get so many words a day to use, and I don't want to put them all in here. It's not true, but it does feel true.

I have uploaded the opening to Pieces to my NaNoWriMo profile. Please note that the first few sentences start with "And". I did this firstly to suggest that events happen prior to the start of the "action", which seems fitting for a story that is memory; secondly I did it to annoy English teachers the length and breadth of the nation (pretty big guys, some of those English teachers).

And on. And on.

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