Whether You Want To Or Not

**Note**: If you’ve seen multiple copies of this post, it’s because I had trouble with accidentally posting it in the wrong format, and then WordPress refusing to let me change it. Hopefully be all right now.

“Write even when you don’t want to,” say some people encouraging us to write every day. That would be me right now. The “don’t want to” part, not the “encouraging” part. It’s late and I haven’t written anything yet and I’ve made this [daily rod for my own back](http://devilgate.org/blog/2017/01/01/the-year-turns-again/).

On the other hand, I do love to write, and I can’t deny that I’ve done more of it in this last couple of months.

Though, not, as I hoped I might, any more fiction. I’m still stalled in the middle of the novel [which in idea, at least](https://twitter.com/devilgate/statuses/182916113741520896) is nearly five years old. It’ll be starting school soon!

And I need to get round to submitting some of the other, finished, things I have. Because they’re no use just sitting here on my hard solid-state drive.

Also on:

The Writing Process

In What Writers Really Do When They Write George Saunders gives a great insight into some parts of his working process.

What does an artist do, mostly? She tweaks that which she’s already done. There are those moments when we sit before a blank page, but mostly we’re adjusting that which is already there. The writer revises, the painter touches up, the director edits, the musician overdubs.

Or “Writing is rewriting,” as someone once put it.1

It’s a good piece, and well worth reading. Oddly, in the printed edition (Saturday’s Guardian Review section) it was entitled “Master of the Universe.”


  1. Hard to find who, but it seems to have been Hemingway. Whose writing I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong. []
Also on:

All the Things in the World

Do you ever look around and think how amazing everything is? How it all got there? And I’m not talking about the grandeur of nature, the glory of the universe, and all that. I’m talking about all the human-made stuff.

I have often found myself in the middle of a city, or looking out of a train window at a bridge or power station, and thought, “Wow: people built this. Just ordinary people, like me, actually made all this.”

Look at ancient buildings and you realise that they used to do it without the help of modern machinery, too.

And then think about the infrastructure that’s carrying these words from where I’m typing them to where you’re reading them. Hundreds of miles of fibre and copper cables across the country. Thousands of miles of undersea cables. Satellites, and the rockets to launch them.

We’re pretty amazing sometimes, us humans.

Like I say, I’ve often thought about this kind of thing. But today, while not at work because I’m a bit under the weather1 I had a slightly different version of it.

I had a sudden, overwhelming sense of how much cultural work we have created. Specifically stories and TV and films. Though in fact it was comics that really triggered it.

As I say, I’m not at my best, so I wanted something simple. I ended up reading a bunch of comics on Marvel Unlimited. And no matter how many I could read in a day, I could only make the tiniest of scratches in the surface.

And in TV, Netflix seem to have a new original series or two coming out every week.

It’s not all great, of course. But just think of all those people, writing away, acting, filming. Making things.


  1. I have a vague memory of someone in a film or TV programme mis-saying that as “beneath the weather,” but I can’t think who, or where. I kind of want it to be Josie in Twin Peaks, but I’m not sure. []

Some More Bitface Thoughts

Something I forgot to mention yesterday was that I thought the “bitface” term was useful not just to refer to people who manipulate bits for a living (or hobby) — programmers, like myself. It can also work to discuss anyone who makes digital content: websites, blogs, podcasts, videos, photos, and so on.

We’re all moving bits around. We’re all labourers at the bitface.

One Month Gone

As you’ll know if you’ve been paying attention, I’ve challenged myself to blog every day this year. Well, the first twelfth of the year (approximately) has gone, and I’ve succeeded so far (my problems posting last Saturday notwithstanding).

One or two posts were extremely short, maybe just a link and a few words. But most of them have been more substantial. So I’m quite pleased with my progress so far. I’m not sure that it’s making me write more — well, by definition it is, as I have to write something every day.1

So: blogging about blogging. It’s a fine tradition. And thirty-two days in a row now.


  1. I could write posts in advance and set them to publish on a future day, but there’s no need for that. Maybe when I go on holiday I’ll have to do that. []

Andy’s unpunctuated ambiguity

“[Andy Murray finally reveals views on Scottish independence](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scottish-independence/11103345/Andy-Murray-finally-reveals-views-on-Scottish-independence.html)”, says the headline in the Telegraph. It goes on to say he “appeared to declare his support for Scottish independence”. That “appeared” is key, because the lack of punctuation and capitalisation in Andy’s tweet actually allows at least a couple of interpretations:

> Huge day for Scotland today! no campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. excited to see the outcome. lets do this!

The Telegraph is clearly reading that as “‘No’-Campaign negativity…” The negativity from the “No” campaign, in other words.

But you could read it simply as “{there has been] no campaign negativity…” In other words, the absence of negativity in the campaigning (by either side or both) has left him with a positive view of the referendum.

I’d guess that the Telegraph‘s opinion is correct. But it just goes to show… if he could place a quote character like he can place a tennis ball, it would all be perfectly clear.

This “short story” that I was going to knock out before getting back to my novel is growing into a behemoth. At 12000 words it’s thoroughly a novelette, and heading squarely for novella-land.

November spawned some words (but not that many)

I’m not very good at this [NaNoWriMo](http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/about) thing, it turns out (again). This year I declared myself a [NaNo Rebel](http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/forums/nano-rebels/threads/60762) (basically anyone who aims to write 50,000 words, but not of a brand-new novel). I had originally hoped to finish my [previous novel](http://devilgate.org/blog/2010/11/30/nono/) before November started, and leave November clear for taking a big run at the new one, the idea for which [came knocking](https://twitter.com/devilgate/statuses/182916113741520896) when I was about three-quarters of the way through the then-current one. But as it turned out I didn’t manage to finish it until [a few days into November](https://twitter.com/devilgate/status/265818475761659904). So I decided just to count the words of original fiction I wrote in November.

Which proved to be just as well, because after just a couple of days on the new novel, I was cycling home from work one day when a short story deposited itself in my head, unbidden, but complete. I took a few days off from the novel to work on that, thus further ensuring my rebellious state.

As an experiment for my own interest, I also tried to keep a note of how many words I wrote for other things, both at home and at work; just to get an idea of how many words I write normally. I kept that all in a Google Docs spreadsheet, so I could get to it wherever I was. I’m sure I wasn’t complete in recording everything, though.

In the end I wrote 16,600 words of fiction1; so comparable with [last year](http://devilgate.org/blog/2011/12/02/the-words-that-maketh-novels/). And oh, dear: reading over those old posts to get links makes me realise that this is the _third_ NaNo during which I’ve been working on Accidental Upgrade.

But having said that, the thing that I’m underplaying in all this is that: **I. Finished. My. Novel.** 89,000 words of first draft, done and… well, left quite dusty, truth be told.

And a new short story drafted, and another novel reasonably well under way. I’m feeling quite positive about it all.


  1. And around 9000 of other stuff. []

Warren Ellis on Writing Dialogue

When you have a character talking, have two things you know about their lives in your head as you let them talk. Two things that make them what they are. What was their childhood like? What was their first job? Do they spend a lot of time alone? Are they guarded around people? Because dialogue is about moving information around and expressing character. What you know about them affects the way they talk. Take a book you like — or, hell, even one you don’t — and select a passage of dialogue, and see what you can learn about those characters from the way they speak. (And, on top of that, see if the way they speak changes during the course of the book.)

Via Warren Ellis.