Friday, 30 September 2011

How to avoid writer's block

Apparently, the way to cure writer's block is to think of it as talker's block:
No one ever gets talker's block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down.
I understand where this is going, but if you think there's no such thing as talker's block, you've never seen one of my students give a presentation.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Review: Feet of Clay

Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett (1996)

Commander Sir Sam Vimes has a problem.  His wife Sybil insists that he go to the Ankh-Morpork Royal College of Heralds and get himself a coat of arms drawn up.  Oh, and two people have been found murdered with the only clue a small lump of white clay found at the scene of each crime and someone is trying to poison Lord Vetenari.  The Assassins Guild denies any involvement, so there is a freelance killer loose in the city.

It's a toss up which he thinks is worse.

I have a particular fondness for the Commander Vimes stories.  Because they tend to be mysteries, almost whodunnits and thrillers in some cases, they are much more tightly plotted than Pratchett's other Discworld novels and I've always found Commander Vimes a real treat of a character.  As the dedicated beat cop promoted to suit his abilities, but way above his preferences,  He's a marvellous combination of weariness, frustration, anger, stubbornness, anger, suspicion, anger, resourcefulness, anger and anger.  He's also a wonderfully stable centre for the Watch, a police force that includes trolls, dwarves of both (albeit indistinguishable sexes), werewolves, humans and Corporal Nobby Nobbs, who has a letter that states that, appearances to the contrary, he's human, too.

Feet of Clay twists with all manner of subplots that eventually tie up nicely and the climax highlighted by Pratchetts comic imagination and talent for a neat turn of phrase.  Only Pratchett could come up with a rat catcher who meets his quarry face to face (well, forehead to forehead) and can make proper characters out of walking lumps of clay.

The only sad part about Feet of Clay is that it shows how the world has changed since he wrote it back in 1996.  Then, his satirical city of Ankh Morpork was a wonderfully twisted version of a modern Britain trying to  cope with immigrants.  There may have been dwarfs, vampires, zombies, gnomes and golems moving into the city, but they were all hard working and, aside from the odd riot, wanting to get on with their lives.  Unfortunately, in a modern Britain where immigration has become colonisation and includes a sizeable faction of fanatics who despise their host country and actively work to overthrow it, that happy image seems as hard to see in our world as one that rests on the back of a giant turtle.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Blog to sell

More stages here.
If your book gets published, you must help sell it.  If you've self-published your book, you really need to sell it.  One way of doing this is through a blog.

Here are some tips on how to get started.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The book tour

Yearning for the day when your novel is published?  Be careful what you wish for.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Mad tips

I found this tip list on a site that also has some excellent advice on how to write scripts for Mad Men, which has some good general advice mixed in.

The only objection that I have with the tip list is with No. 5, which I would amend to read:
...unless it works, in which case, go with the stereotypes.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Review: Clarkson on Cars

Clarkson on Cars by Jeremy Clarkson (1996)

A collection of Clarkson's columns from the mid-1980s to mid-'90s, Clarkson on Cars airs Mr Clarkson's views on Volkswagen Beetles (Nazi cars), vegetarians (expect everyone to conform to their whims), Beards (just weird), the Jaguar XJS (Glorious) and the usefulness of car performance stats (0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds is less informative than calling it "terrifying").  Along the way he talks about his abortive attempt to use a bicycle in London, why he feels so sorry for Japanese car makers when their presentations go wrong, and the utter pointlessness of 'roo bars in a car without kangaroos.

Essay collections can often be hard going and this one is no exception.  More of a book to be dipped into rather than read cover to cover in one go, Clarkson on Cars  is filled with Clarkson's outspoken, humourous style, but it also exhibits his encyclopaedic knowledge of cars, which is impressive.  Unfortunately, it also means that reading the book often calls for having an ipad at hand to look up whatever obscure marque he's talking about.

And it has a kangaroo on the cover.

Friday, 16 September 2011

You've got Trollope in my Austen

Joanna Trollope is set to bastardise rewrite Jane Austen's books start a "'conversation' between Austen and today's novelists"

Fortunately for Miss Trollope, Miss Austen has been safely dead for some time, so there is little chance of her receiving a sound beating about the head and shoulders by the offended author.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Brief and to the point

A succinct review of the James Bond pastiche Colonel Sun
by Kingsley Amis after it came out in 1968

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Status report

If you want your characters to stand out from the page, don't forget to work on their status.  Making body language come off the page is tricky, but it pays dividends.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Ken Follett teaches

Fancy a master's class in novel writing?  Ken Follett has one on his website and since you're reading this, there's no reason why you shouldn't pop over for a shufti.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Thursday, 1 September 2011

10 Screenwriting No-Nos

Never do this.
Yesterday, we looked at Raiders of the Lost Ark as a perfect model of how to write a screenplay.  Now let's look at the polar opposite:  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as the perfect model of how not to write a screenplay.