…no, not my wife but me – I’m suddenly pregnant with ideas!

I’ve had writer’s block before and realise that it’s all part of the game, but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with each time.

During my most recent bout of the malaise I’ve spent two weeks tinkering with my second manscript and have not really been able to come up with anything approaching anything creative. As of yesterday though, I’ve suddenly scribbling away in my Moleskine and the ideas are coming thick and fast. A silly name came into my head and from that a whole story started to form that I’ve just had to get written down as fast as I can. In the past my problem has been finding suitable names for characters but this time out it’s totally the other way around and a silly word game played inside my head has suddenly given me an injection of enthusiasm.

Now my only predicament is whether this is going to be a long short story or a short long story…

George Orwell Day?

Well I missed it, but yesterday was apparently George Orwell Day.

Not that the great man doesn’t deserve celebrating, but I suspect that this idea has more to do with the launch of the nice new Penguin Classics editions of some of his most famous works (cynical? Moi?). More interesting though, were the comments in The Guardian book section after the article that I linked to above.

Here, I’ll repeat it for anyone interested enough to want to read it.

Skim the main article but give the comments a good read (if you can stomach the first half dozen or so). It’s always problematic to appreciate an author or an artist for their work while ignoring their personal life or their behaviour. Orwell is no different, as some of the recent revelations of his activities reveal. But the sheer depth of enmity on display amongst the would-be literati there is baffling. Not only is it baffling, but it’s mostly vapid posturing and thinly disguised pedantry and nastiness. It’s not literary criticism but character assassination.

This lasts for another six or seven posts before the ‘contributors’ start to turn on each other and correct each other’s grammar. It seems that Orwell upsets as many people now as he did when he was writing, but once again we see that online commentary is far from the best format for a proper debate on the man.

It’s my own fault for reading so far down the page. I generally make a point of ignoring the bile that these articles elicit. It puts me in mind of a Charlie Brooker column from a few years ago. In the main he was talking about TV new programmes and their fondness for seeking opinions from the general public, but the observation is just as relevant:

 “Most opinions, however, don’t really need to be written down at all. They can be replaced by a sound effect – the audible equivalent of an internet frowny-face. Imagine a sort of world-weary harrumph accompanied by the faintest glimmer of a self-satisfied sneer. That’s 90% of all human opinion on everything, right there. Internet debates would be far more efficient if everyone just sat at their keyboards hitting the “harrumph” key over and over again. A herd of people mooing their heads off. . .”

It’s not that Orwell was a faultless human being – he wasn’t. It’s just that once you’re an adult you start to realise that most of your heroes have feet of clay. Does this detract from the work that they produce that transcends their human weakness?

An hour and a half too long…

I went to see The Hobbit at the cinema yesterday afternoon. I wasn’t exactly going against my will, but it was my wife’s birthday and she really wanted to see it.

Despite being a big fan of all things fantastic, I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve never really been a Tolkien fan. There, I’ve said it even though I know that this is akin to sacrilege in some quarters.

I read The Hobbit when I was younger, but it didn’t really excite me in any way. As a result I never bothered with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or The Silmarillion, or the Unfinished Tales. Strangely enough though, I did read Terry Brooks’ original Shannara trilogy – despite them seeming to be borderline plagiarism of Tolkiens work – and I absolutely loved them. Of course, this was years ago and I don’t know if I’d feel quite the same way about them now.

Peter Jackson has apparently spun the relatively short novel of The Hobbit into three movies, the first of which is nearly three hours long (and felt like it). In fact, at one point, about an hour into the film, I actually nodded off briefly thanks to the endless chatter and slow, steady drip of  outlandish exposition.

The last hour or so was much more fun, with huge chase set-pieces and over-the-top special effects that had me ducking my head at several points to avoid the 3D effects flying out of the screen. But thanks to its laboured and tortuous start, Jackson hasn’t made me want to pick up Tolkien again any time soon.

And, if I do go to see the rest of the trilogy, it’s because the wife has dragged me along and not because I’ve chosen to go myself.

It’s raining dead (hallelujah!)

If I’m not the biggest Dracula aficionado in the world, then at least I’m probably the biggest one in my particular post code area. And so it was particularly interesting for me to come across the news that the iconic St. Mary’s Church in Whitby is now under threat.

What I found of most interest are the possibilities that this might have provided for Stoker had it happened before he had written his magnum opus. The every idea that the cliff is collapsing and that bones from the graveyard might now start raining down onto the town below would surely have provided another great horrific scene for the book?

Perhaps the harbour master might have been introduced as another contributor to its epistolary narrative. Imagine a stormy night, with the wind howling and the night sky criss-crossed with lightning. The Russian ship, Demeter, has just run aground, spilling its cargo and revealing that its entire crew is missing. As the townsfolk attempt to rescue survivors and to salvage the flotsam, the call comes from back in the town that the dead are now raining down upon their homes.


Beta readers

Being new to this publishing malarkey, I didn’t know what a ‘beta reader‘ was until yesterday.

My editor informed me that after our back and forth with corrections and queries, that the first stage of editing is now complete and that the manuscript would now be passed on to several of these beta readers for further scrutiny. Apparently they’ll look to make sure that the story flows nicely, that there are no gaping plot holes or flaws as well as providing another round of spelling and grammar-checking.

This is even scarier to me than the first editing stage as I may now have someone come back to me to say that chunks of the story now don’t make sense or that I’ve lost a character somewhere or, heaven forbid,  thrown in an inadvertent deus ex machina that shouldn’t be there.

I just hope that they come back to me quickly and break the news to me gently if I have cocked up…