Writing Life

I always wanted to write a post like this one by Alan Campbell, another Tor author and the man behind Scar Night and its sequels.

"Open word processor. Look at empty page. Write another beginning for another new book. Notice that I have 27 of these openings now. Close word processor. Answer emails. Have a ten minute game of online poker. Win 83p. Open word processor. Start all over again."

I've read some writers descriptions of their working lives - up at dawn, five mile run, bran and fruit for breakfast, work for a straight eight hours, outline a complete book by supper and then to bed for a maximum of six hours sleep before up again two hours before dawn for judo practice - and wonder if they might be, you know, exaggerating just a wee bit.

My life is a bit more like Alan's. Just a bit. I do actually write almost every single day, for at least a couple of hours. I'd love to do more, but my brain and body just won't let me. I've found I usually can't write until maybe three in the afternoon - emphasis on can't. Brain-to-fingers communication is zero until that point. Or perhaps it just takes that long for the caffeine to finally hit my system.


Rude bits

A writer for the Guardian spent some time analysing pictures of Tory leader David Cameron's bookshelves and provided a list of the titles there, along with appropriately snide comments. Charlie Stross's 'Saturn's Children' was amongst them*, which got a comment that managed to be both snide and dismissive: 'An "erotic futuristic thriller" according to Amazon. I've never heard of it. And Cameron's never read it.' But how does he know?

Otherwise, there's been a bit of a mini-storm over a book, Knife Music, by David Carnoy, which Apple chose to ban from being sold to users of the iphone for 'objectionable content'. I rather suspect the hand of a wildly overzealous non-reading Apple employeee in this. Carnoy was required to take the word 'fuck' out of the book - and he did, since it was used only a couple of times.

Just to be clear why I think this kind of censorship - and it is censorship - is a bad idea: without sweary words, we might end up reading passages like this -

Parker shot the thug once in the knee and twice in the chest.
"Darn it!" cried the thug as he collapsed to the ground, staring up at Parker. "You beastly swine!

Or perhaps we could substitute a comedy WW2 German soldier for the thug:

"Aiee!" cried the German guard as he collapsed to the ground, staring up at Parker. "Englischer schweinhund!"

My point: censorship is carried out by authoritarian moral cowards who think we're far too simple-minded to handle the big nasty sweary words. Once one moves past the appalling hypocrisy inherent in a company who have no issue in selling an Itunes track called 'Jizz in my Pants' but don't want us to see the word 'fuck', one is left wondering what they're going to do when it comes to selling books like 'Wetlands' by Charlotte Roche, which is apparently almost entirely set in a proctology ward and features a hygiene-free and deeply promiscuous heroine. Perhaps they could next work their way through Henry Miller's back catalogue and replace every naughty word with 'zoinks!', lest our poor hearts be stilled by the shock of encountering lewdness.

*Or apparently it is, since the picture the Guardian posted is at a sufficently low resolution for me not to be able to make out any titles at all.


Thoughts on writing a very fast first draft

Generally positive. Between the 20th of October and the 10th of January I wrote 122,475 words, averaging roughly 1750 words a day, not counting thirteen days when I was otherwise restructuring what I'd already written or busy getting on with life-stuff. Some days I wrote more, several others I wrote less. It helped that I was working from a very detailed 15,000 word outline.

The advantage is it's a lot easier to remember what was going on in your head when you wrote a particular scene two weeks before as opposed to, say, two or more months before. What you end up with might be rough as hell, but it at least has the advantage of being fundamentally more cohesive than a first draft that takes six months to write. A quickly written draft allows you to be much more 'in the moment' of the story.

Even so, I stopped short of writing the penultimate scene in the first draft, since by the time I got there I knew I wanted to make very fundamental changes to certain major characters, and those changes would very likely be reflected in that final, as yet unwritten, scene. So I've started on the second draft. Since I'm using Scrivener, I can change the text colour according to which draft I'm writing; white (on black) for the first draft, green on black for the second. I can scan through the text I've reworked so far and see it's about 90% green and 10% white. By the time I'm on the third (yellow) draft, I'll be interested to see how much, if any, white text is left.