John Meaney: August 2011 Archives

What he said, below...

So, thanks Karl, it was a huge pleasure being in the same tag team. (If we do it again, maybe we should have, like, costumes and a heroic name.) Thanks to Charlie for inviting us and trusting us, and I hope we haven't left too much mess around your virtual house. (Must've been Karl who left those beer cans...)

Seriously, it's an honour, and thanks to everyone who continued to visit, read and post while two Non-Charlies were playing in the sandbox. Sayonara!

So, I heard a multitude of heads following off when I posted Chris Priest's admonition to print off the first draft and delete all electronic copies...

I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only...?" Er, I mean, "Is that the way you write, John?"

All right, I told my friend it was a good idea, but... No. I do not delete my first draft.

However, my second or my third draft is physically a rewrite: I don't amend much of the existing text; I write new stuff at the top of the screen and delete away the older version as I work. No sentence from the first draft survives unless it works so well that I retyped it during the rewrite. But I type very fast - usually I can reproduce an entire sentence faster than moving the cursor to the correct position to, say, delete a word - and the main thing is that the very first words you wrote need to be re-examined.

...which is normally translated as austere discipline.

No one pays you for a first novel that doesn't exist yet. Likewise short stories for paying markets. (Being independently wealthy might help, but I'm not even sure about that - it doesn't totally preclude driving ambition, but it surely can't encourage it. In any case, it doesn't apply to most of us.) Therefore you're forced to squeeze it into your normal working day/week, somehow.

Roger Zelazny (back to him) once prefaced advice to new writers with what he called extra-literary considerations before getting to the actual art and practice of writing. He justified the preface by writing: "...if it causes even one beginning writer to think ahead to what it may be like to sell a book first and deliver it by a certain date, to wonder what it will be like to write on days when one doesn't feel like writing... then I am vindicated in prefacing my more general remarks with reference to the non-writing side of writing."

My thesis is that I have no thesis. I'm writing this in something like the manner that Stephen King employs with his novels: I'll whip up a starting-point and then just go with it.

I have to say, that works better with books. His beginning is a mental representation of one or more characters in a setting that interests him, and then he lets rip. (This is one of the things that varies most among writers, the degree of knowledge of the ending when still writing the beginning. That in turn is one factor in determining which readers will enjoy the books.)

The first C.J. Cherryh novel I read was Heavy Time. For some reason, the title struck me so much that I had a vivid image in my mind before reading the book - I envisioned space opera with weird time-related physics. I guess I was thinking of time dilation in a gravitational field. [If you'll allow me to call it a field rather than distortion. That suggests another side point that might be worth picking up later, to do with metaphors in science. Wow. Must be the cappuccino.]

Near-future extrapolation, as Karl has recently written, is not for the faint-hearted. Vague though I was about the exact dates of my two near-future thrillers (10-30 years from now), I hope to be alive during that time period... So how predictable is the world? A world filled with Wicked Problems (cf. Karl's previous post).

Snapshot of my imagined near-future Britain: corrupt government, even more surveillance, local services beginning to break down, climate change and one socio-political twist. Before I get on to the twist, two things: 1) my technological (and other) extrapolation was deliberately conservative, 2) this is not a dystopia. In the London of these books, people get on with their lives, as they do now and as they've always done.



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This page is an archive of recent entries written by John Meaney in August 2011.

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