Monthly Archives: January 2016

January reading round-up.

Looking back over my reading notes for January, I seem to have got through a fair few books, and since I confine my twitter length reviews to my good reads page, here is a quick rundown for the interested:

New Selected Poems by Carol Ann Duffy, who likes puns too much.

Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare, who wasn’t always a great writer.

The Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo, who is the Michael Crichton of existential seafaring and Guerno superstitions.

The Penguin Book of Modern Short Stories by Edited by Malcolm Bradbury, who coincidentally has the best story in the collection. Suspicious.

Monkey: Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’En, who writes long, even when heavily abridged.

The Quiet American by Graham Greene, who doesn’t like colonialism, especially when the Americans and French do it.

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn, who is only a bit less racist than most of the Restoration English.

Henry VI Part 2 by William Shakespeare, who was not above doing sequel after sequel if it paid.

A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift, who writes basically incomprehensible nonfiction sentences.

Tales from the Thousand and One Nights by Anon, who has an endless thesaurus of words for genitals.

Henry VI Part 1 by William Shakespeare, who is good at play writing and bad at history.

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, who taught me that war is more fun than you would expect, but is also every bit as not fun as you would also expect.

Lips Too Chilled by Matsuo Basho, who taught me that I don’t really get haikus.

The Qu’ran by God, who is nice to widows and orphans, but less nice to gays and people who don’t respect his prophets.

Managing Oneself by Peter F Drucker, who gives super helpful advice to the self-employed.

White Noise by Don DeLillo, who is really bad at natural dialogue but really good at being a good writer.

Next month’s menu should be follows: Tom Jones from the classics; The Communist Manifesto,  Fire on the Moon, Hiroshima, Falling Man, The Information and Pamuk’s The Black Book for novel research; Titus Andronicus, The Taming of the Shrew, Henry VI Part 3 and Richard III from ol’Bill; and The Ancestor’s Tale by Ricky D, because sometimes I miss science.

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Finally Writing

Photo on 19-01-2016 at 13-06.jpg

Books!

Another general update on the passage of works and days.

I have at last begun to write properly, and am getting into it. Yesterday was the first day where I got down more than 1k words on the novel and, just as importantly, they mostly felt like roughly the right words. A scene that was otherwise a slightly flat bit found its third heat and has given me another thematic thread to work into the rest of the novel.

I currently write new stuff for an hour a day, then spending an hour editing, rewriting and adding to the older stuff. The hope is that this will balance forward momentum with a quality first draft.

Today marks the passing of the 5k mark in total and so am feeling that there is a proper opening developing. The whole thing will be about 80k in total I expect, so I am storing this optimism for when the going gets stickier and stodgier in the often troublesome second act.

The rest of my days are given over to reading (I have just finished Monkey by Wu Ch’eng-En and am getting started on Hugo’s The Toilers of the Sea #islandhome) and to hunting up some magazine work that will hopefully bring in a little bakshish to keep me in caffeine and calories.

More on other stuff some other time.

 

 

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America! 2016; or the Whales

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The author, with the smell of pulled-pork still on his breath, meets the second most famous pig after the muppet.

I have swanned back to civilisation from a lovely holiday with the in-laws to Orlando’s magic kingdoms: where Mickey Mouse is Führer, the happy blackfish dance, and everyday is Christmas but never winter. Which means the year of writing seriously begins yesterday. So I thought an update for the interested would be in order.

As well as putting about 1300 words to paper, I spent a chunk of yesterday setting up Twitter (@jonpill) and rather threadbare Linked In and Facebook pages because, you know, that’s what professional people do, I guess. It’ll need to do a bit of googling on what people actually use those for in terms of “raising one’s profile”.

More enjoyably I have moved all my ‘read in xyz’ lists, going back to mid-2010 over to my Good Reads profile, where I can now enjoy fiddling with the page count stats and spend hours trying to find the exact out of print penguin edition of Animal Farm that I have on my shelves. All of which feels far more worthwhile than other social media.

In terms of the actual writing I’ve started sketching out the second chapter of the current WIP and spent this morning plotting out the main structure of the novel. Which, inspired somewhat by a picture of J K Rowling’s planning for HP5 that went around the internet a couple of years ago, I have been doing in a spreadsheet.

rowling_spreadsheet

A leaf from Rowling’s notebook.

My breakdown is in much broader strokes at the moment, and there are sections that require a lot of knitting between the columns.

My approach to planning this WIP is iterative. Gather all those sketched out notes into one spreadsheet and sort them into a semblance of order (easier said than done with something as non-linear as the WIP). Then it’s a matter of teasing out one sentence descriptions of each scene or sequence in each column. Then turning those sentences into short paragraphs. Adding in details that foreshadow the scene to earlier paragraphs and payoffs to later ones. One hopes there will be a critical mass reached at some point where I can start writing from the beginning, but likely the planning will still be ongoing until I write: ‘And they they all died horribly. FIN.’

There is also the business aspect of being freelance: before I start looking for magazines to pitch articles to I have an interview at the Job Centre tomorrow to get my Nation Insurance number which, having lived in Foreign so long, I do not have at the moment. From thence I need to talk to HMRC about sole trader registration and the NHS about not dying of tuberculosis like so many other writers, artists, badgers. I also had a moment of genuine pleasure at filling in the double entries for my purchase of a printer and toner cartridges into my ledger (a gift from the Lady Friend). Those three years of working in the financial sector are not to be wasted.

And until that starts to pay off I’ve been setting up my profile on a tutoring website, if you know anyone who needs help with their GCSE or A-Level Biology or Chemistry . . . you know who to send them to.

Until next time, that’s all folks.

 

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