Monday 12 December 2011

What I Told The Students

I was recently asked to give a seminar to some creative writing students on the subject of being an author. Fortunately this is one of the few subjects that falls within the limited area of my expertise(1) so I wandered across the river to Twickenham and faced up to a terrifying collection of ridiculously fit and healthy young people.

This is what I told them. None of it's particularly original but hey it's not like you're paying for this stuff.

1. You Must Make Time To Write
The world is full of people who say they have a book inside them but fortunately for us professionals only 0.001% ever bother to write the fucker down. If you don't write you're not a writer and if you can't find time to write then you obviously don't want to be a writer.(2)

2. You Must Complete What You Start
If you find that you've written the first ten thousand words of more than three novels then you should seriously consider switching to short stories. The first bit of a novel is like the first bit of a bridge - you have to start somewhere but without the rest it's a waste of time(3).

3. You Must Become The Arbiter Of Your Own Work
You cannot rely on other people to validate your work. You must learn to judge the quality of your own writing for yourself. The best way to do this is to read some writing that you find substandard and ask whether your work is better than that? High art is all very well as an aspiration but clarity and readability(4) make a good solid floor.

4. Your Must Experience The Wider World
You need to constantly expand your experience of the world. You can do this through travelling, reading, talking to people, visiting places or just using your imagination to create new places, people and situations. This is one of the most important aspects of being a writer without which you will never transcend the narrow confines of your own life(5). Make a point of learning the names of everyday objects, readers can get away with a vague sense of a lintel but you need to know for certain so you can use it properly.

I could probably bang on about all these subjects for many more pages but there's paid work I'm supposed to be doing so that's your lot.

(1) The other subjects are; shelving, watching TV and... nope that's pretty much it.
(2) Obviously this applies mainly to people living a 1st world lifestyle.
(3) Or a diving board.
(4) Unless you want to win the Man Booker of course.
(5) I don't know about you guys but if I found my life interesting I wouldn't be writing about other people.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Schwarzer Mond Uber Soho

Black Moon Over Soho
I don't know why it's a black moon but the covers good and it's in German and that's the main thing. Here is the blurb... I have no idea what it says.

Constable Peter Grant ist ein ganz normaler Londoner Bobby. Die Abteilung, in der er arbeitet, ist allerdings alles andere als normal: ihr Spezialgebiet ist - die Magie. Peters Vorgesetzter, Detective Inspector Thomas Nightingale, ist der letzte Magier Englands und Peter seit kurzem bei ihm in der Ausbildung.

Was im Moment vor allem das Auswendiglernen von Lateinvokabeln bedeutet, die uralten Zaubersprüche wollen schließlich korrekt aufgesagt werden. Doch als Peter eines Nachts zu der Leiche eines Jazzmusikers gerufen wird, verliert das Lateinstudium auf einmal seine Dringlichkeit. Peter findet heraus, dass in den Jazzclubs in Soho, im Herzen Londons, plötzlich verdächtig viele Musiker eines unerwarteten Todes sterben. Hier geht etwas nicht mit rechten Dingen zu ...

Monday 5 December 2011

The November Fictional Criminal Report

Welcome to the third and last monthly fictional criminal report. The question, are black criminals more likely to be portrayed as career criminals than white criminals in a completely arbitrary selection of US TV series, has been answered with a firm yes. Here are the monthly totals...

Type: Number (percentage of group/percentage of total)

White American: 51
Sympathetic: 8 (16%/10%)
Unsympathetic: 12 (24%/15%)
Vicious: 5 (10%/6%)
Career: 26 (51%/33%)

Non-white American: 20
Sympathetic: - (-/-)
Unsympathetic: 8 (40%/10%)
Vicious: - (-/-)
Career: 12 (60%/15%)

The number of foreign criminals has been so consistantly low that I've stopped recording and in the next evaluation foreigners will be folded in with the American characters.

The totals for the three month period are as follows.

White American: 172
Sympathetic: 24 (14%)
Unsympathetic: 50 (29%)
Vicious: 23 (15%)
Career: 73 (42%)

Non-white American: 50
Sympathetic: 5 (10%)
Unsympathetic: 9 (18%)
Vicious: 1 (2%)
Career: 35 (70%)

These proportions were remarkably consistant across the various shows with only the Mentalist and Blue Bloods showing equal proportions of career criminals in both white and black.

Starting in December we will be folding the foreigners into the main figures and counting all non-regular characters in a slightly wider range of shows.