I tried using slang in a recent short story of mine about some school boys. I cut it out because to try and make it sound current it sounded stupid to me. I comprised by using a few good old expletives and this worked much better.

Originally posted 15.11.11

This BBC article got me thinking about how words change and why it is important to consider this as a writer.

It is often easy to work out when a book was written by the language used. Some works stand up better than others which get the worst characterization of ‘dated’.

A ‘dated’ work can read awkwardly because the writer has either used a lot of slang that is no longer used, slang that has changed meaning or overly references popular culture or fads which disappear.

The use of slang can make a piece seem current and more realistic at the time of publication. If the slang then becomes outdated as it most often does then the work loses its ‘cool’.

The problem I have is that most my slang is already outdated, things are no longer ‘cool’ to start with, heaven forbid they are ‘groovy’ or ‘funky’. Apparently things now can be ‘dark’ or ‘wicked’ but not all things.

I think, therefore, it will be easier to avoid slang lest my writing become ‘well old, init’.

Lots of reading

I also had flu last week, which has not helped with my upcoming deadlines. I have upped my novel target to five a month now on the Goodreads website although, I am only hitting two at the moment.

Originally posted 11.11.11

I have finally managed to crawl off my death bed. For the last two weeks, I have been struck down with a nasty strain of man flu.

A weaker man may have fallen, but I bravely hid under a duvet on the sofa and had cups of tea given to me by my lovely wife.

What it did allow me to do was catch up on some reading. I find it hard to read as much as I would like balancing a work life, home life, social life and academic study. All too often it is the reading that gets pushed aside or maybe I read two pages before going to bed.

Whilst suffering from flu I tore through Terry Pratchett’s Snuff, John Burnside’s A Summer of Drowning and reread four other Terry Pratchett Discworld books.

Reading widely can only help my writing but it is too simple to not read so I have made myself a resolution to read at least two novels a month.

All about me

I have another critical analysis to submit for my advanced practice and I am not nearly as worried as I was back then. I used to find it hard to say what my aims for a piece were and what I was attempting because I just wrote without thinking about these ideas. I now approach my writing in a far more structured manner so find talking about it much easier.

Originally posted 24.10.11

First 4,000 words of my novel are ready for submission now. Only problem is that I need to write a critical analysis of my own work. This is much harder.

I have never liked commenting on anything I do. Mark Cavendish the cyclist has been accused of being arrogant to which he responded if people ask him if he is the best sprinter he says yes. If they don’t ask him he doesn’t say it.

I would like to think my writing is good but I don’t really want to have to say it out loud or on paper. I am a modest person who would prefer the old recluse style writer image to the modern celebrity image.

I could easily put together 1,500 words as required (I am a writer) but they wouldn’t neccessarily be true which is the big issue here.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Book err?

A different award ceremony is almost upon us with the Oscars just round the corner. While I don’t normally care at all about this Hollywood back slapping, I am looking forward to this year in the hope that Gary Oldman is finally recognized for a brilliant career. He is one of my favourite actors and my fingers are crossed.

Originally posted 21.10.11

Congratulations to Julian Barnes on winning the Booker Prize.

I have been planning to blog on this for a few days but hit a bit of a stumbling block in that I haven’t read any work by any of the nominated authors.

The Booker is awarded to great literature, but I willing to bet none of the nominees will outsell Sir Terry Pratchett’s new novel Snuff.

This doesn’t make Snuff better, it just makes me question what we can draw from awards and recommendations as readers. An award win will generate more sales for a book as will a book club recommendation. Does this mean we will enjoy the book any more or less than a non featured book? I doubt it.

The ‘establishment’ trys to dictate what is good and what is bad but, surprisingly, a lot of what is viewed as bad is the most read and enjoyed. The Twilight series I would not touch with a barge pole yet is hugely successful.

The reason for my thoughts on this is I am revising the start of my novel for submission and have had feedback from a lot of sources. Most is very good but some I feel is trying to make me a more Literary writer. This is not a bad thing but is not being Literary a bad thing either?

Just a quick one

Not much I can add to this. I stil think readability is vital to a good book.

Originally posted 16.10.11

I read this article on the BBC website about a new literature award to rival the Booker.

The reason for the new award is the Booker’s supposed requirement for ‘a notion of readability’.

Now I know I am new to all this, but surely the minimum requirement of any good book, let alone a prize winning example, is that you can read it?

It’s probably just me.

Gardening time

I actually enjoy going back through work now. Because I have been writing more and across a wider spectrum I forget some stuff I have written. It is good to go back with a totally fresh mind and I am finding it is making my writing so much better.

Originally posted 13.10.11

It’s time to stop writing more of my novel and to rework the existing words. This has always been my least favourite activity writing. I find it much more enjoyable to find the gems rather than to cut and polish them afterwards.

What I am finding though is it is much easier thanks to the feedback from fellow students and my tutor. It is a bit like weeding a garden I suppose. If you don’t know what are weeds and what are flowers you just go round yanking at things at random and make a mess. My problem now is over planting. We are revising our first 4,000 words and I have already increased that to 4,750 words. So I need to either do more pruning or get a bigger garden.

A break by the pool

I am having similar feelings now. Whilst I enjoy my pool nights out, I now play for a different pub further away. This eats up more time which could be spent making my pieces better. The season ends in a couple of weeks though so I will soldier on, although I may skip the summer league instead of playing as planned.

Originally posted 02.10.11

My local pub pool season started up again recently which I was kind of apprehensive about. Time is a very precious commodity for me at the moment with work, a home life and the course and losing what in my mind was another evening from being able to write was causing me anxiety.

It has been a blessed relief though. Writing can become too all consuming, too much brain activity focused on plot events, character construction. A night out with friends playing some tactical games of pool freed my brain up and the next day I found writing much easier. I know it is a common theme of make sure you write everyday and find time to write but also finding time not to write and do something else can be just as productive.

I am not sure if it is just myself that needs to be in a frame of mind to write well. I have read that this is procrastination and ‘real’ writers can always write. However taking a step back works for me so I don’t care if it it not what ‘real’ writers do. Everyone is different after all.

Ask Jeeves?

I have since interviewed three more people. It has gotten easier, but I still find it an awkward experience and much prefer email or forums as a method of communication. I am aware that I need to get more comfortable with interacting with other people so will make an effort rather than retreating into my shell.

Originally posted 27.09.11

Writing for me is a very solitary action. I enjoy taking myself away to write on my own. My course has recently required me to interview somebody for research purposes and this filled me full of dread. This isn’t what my writing is about. I don’t talk to other people about it heaven forbid.

My neurosis aside, it has made me wonder about the best method for research in the current day and age. Previously I would say that if you needed to learn something for your novel that interviewing people face to face may well have been the best approach. We now have the internet though. I can find out pretty much anything from Wikipedia and if that doesn’t give enough information a Google search will yield thousands of pages. The people who I could interview often will have their own web pages now just giving me the information without me needing to ask. You can find a forum on most subjects if you then need further information and the joy of forums is you can post a message and come back later when convenient to see who has replied. It also asks lots of people in one go.

I will of course be doing my interview properly as it is required by the course although I think it may well be the only one I ever do.