Archive for July, 2008

Dan Brown – on the flipside

Poor Dan Brown. His latest novel is over a year late, and hasn’t yet been submitted to his publishers, who are taking a hit [source].

A while ago I heard rumour that he was on the phone to his editor frequently checking lots of details, as he was drafting it – not a good sign. If true, it sounds like insecurity over the new book (which is supposed to be about Kryptos and the CIA – so I’m quite interesting in reading it myself). Given all the attention, both good and bad, that The DaVinci Code attracted, I can understand his nervousness. It’s the flipside of the success we all hope for, and fair warning for any aspiring bestseller. Neither success nor failure is without its struggle; it’s just a matter of your attitude to it.

Come on Dan, let’s be ‘avin it! It’s only a book, after all.

Add comment July 31st, 2008

President Sarkozy in Ireland to discuss Lisbon Treaty

President Sarkozy is coming to the emerald isle on Monday to discuss the Lisbon Treaty.

The lead-up to this has been surrounded by much controversy. It has been reported that Mr. Sarkozy told his ministers that Ireland will have to vote a second time – a prelude to Monday’s meeting that set noses out of joint on both sides.

This week, it was said that the Irish government was planning a forum with all Lisbon Campaign representatives, but several of the ‘no’ campaigners were concerned that as late as yesterday none of them had been invited to attend. Today, we’ve just heard that most ‘no’ campaigners have been invited. Farcical is how the Irish headlines described the organisation of the event. Was it the Irish government that wanted the dissenters excluded? Or was it the French? Given Sarkozy’s pre-announced agenda, the latter seems more likely. Perhaps in the end, they thought it might be more sensible to dance with the devil in the contained environment of the French embassy, rather than have the devil grab the European media headlines by protesting outside the embassy? Who knows?

I’d love to be a fly in the wall (if not a fly in the soup) in the French Embassy. Still, just guessing what is going on between the various parties at the moment is fun. It will be very entertaining to hear how Monday goes off. Some days, European politics are very interesting indeed – vive la différence!

Add comment July 18th, 2008

Score your novel

Score your novel, and no I don’t mean grade it. I mean give it a soundtrack.

One of the things I do to get myself into a creative frame of mind is listen to music. It really limbers up the creative muscles and opens out the emotions. It has another useful side effect too: it can actually help you assemble the pace, mood, tone and structure of the story narrative. Here’s how.

One of the things I tend to do on a new project, particularly at the very beginning of the creative cycle when my imagination is most rampant, is to assemble a playlist of some favorite tracks on my iPod, which can be considered the ‘soundtrack’ to my novel. They can be pieces of music or songs that I am very familiar with and have a deep connection to, or they could be brand new tracks that I heard when starting the novel, or ideally a mixture of both.

It works this way. Imagine you are scoring a film, choosing music to suit particular moments, transitions, or themes. Just pick out pieces that have a particular emotional resonance with you for certain scenes in your story, or music that evokes a sense of place for certain scenes, or lyrics that match the sub-text of what is going on with a character. Anything – just listen to music and let your head roam. Once you have the film ‘soundtrack’ in your mind, it can help you picture the sights, sounds and feelings all the way through the story, as if you were looking at a movie of it. It’s handy to be able to listen to the whole thing, or just listen to a single track to re-evoke the feelings you need to call upon when writing a particular chapter. No one else will ever hear the soundtrack but you.

Give it a go – it really works.

Oh, and one other thing I have found: in doing this, it creates a whole new relationship with your old music, and individual pieces might never be the same again to you. When a novel is done, you’ll need to find some new pieces for the next one.

Add comment July 13th, 2008

How to expose yourself

I’m writing a chunk of plot exposition at the moment. Plot exposition is best avoided in chunks. Like big chunks of anything, it becomes indigestible. I think the ideal way to expose plot is to do it in small fragments, preferably distributed throughout the run of the novel. It is also best if the reader becomes aware of some plot point themselves, rather than having a character obtrusively blurt it out to them. We people prefer, I believe, to discover truths for ourselves rather than have others tell us.

That, of course, is the perfect situation. Life, and stories, are never perfect. Sometimes, there is so much plot exposition that needs to be done, or it simply needs to be done in a compressed span within the story (in order to move the story on), that having a character tell other characters a few home truths (or a lot of home truths) in one large dose can be unavoidable at times. If that information can’t be segued piecemeal into other chapters of the novel, then the best resort left is to ensure that a large block of expository dialogue is broken up into several chapters, with scenes of action in-between. It is very bad to sacrifice pace for exposition; keep it moving.

Of course, you have no idea what I’m referring to. Well, keep an eye out around chapter 30 and you’ll see what I mean. Of course, by then you’ll be so gripped by what is going on and what is being said that chapter structure will be the last thing on your mind – I hope!

Add comment July 10th, 2008

Ireland on the Rocks; Mine’s a Bourbon.

I came across a scathing editorial of the Irish public finances.

It seems we are, or soon will, be in an unprecendented situation within the EU. I think everything I said before about the idealism and opportunity presented by Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty will be moot. Our government’s mis-management of our economy will soon give the EU every reason and opportunity to kick us all the way from Berlin to Boston.

It’s going to be a rough ride.

Add comment July 10th, 2008

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