Sunday, June 13, 2010


You ever have so many ideas and plans bubbling in your head that, ultimately, you get nothing done?

When I was a teenager I did a lot of angsting about this and that. I got into the habit of buying self-help books. Dealing with anger (a lot of good that did), how to make friends and influence people (good book that. Everyone should read it), building self-confidence (that may have worked a little too well) etc. etc.

When I want to learn something, or start a new project, my first instinct is to get a book about it.

Right now, I have a lot of books laying around with bookmarks in them.

Every day for the last couple of months I've quit writing forever. I've also been buying a lot of short story anthologies, six in the last three weeks alone. In between quitting writing forever, I've been trying to analyse what makes a good short story. It's a bit like the proto-humans trying to come to terms with a black monolith, but with even more chest-beating and jumping around.

I bought the Vanessa Gebbie edited collection of essays and article on writing short stories, "Short Circuit". Vanessa used to a have an endearingly daffy site on blogger, but she lost the keys and now seems to have that flash monstrosity. Flash-based websites were never a good idea but the iPad is well on the way to rendering it obsolete.

From the introduction to the book, is a quote from William Faulkner.

"Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him."

Pfft. What does he know? There is a shortcut and I will find it. Muwhahahaha.

In the last couple of days I've been trying to sign up for an Open University course "A174 Start writing fiction" but it keeps spitting my application out at the last stage. Maybe that's a sign?

I'm a great believer in continuing education. As a concept for the mass of humanity, if not for me personally. With the Open University you can study up to degree level, with the vast majority of the work carried out at home. I think there are some residential courses that become mandatory at higher levels but I doubt I would ever take it that far. I think it takes around six years of part-time study to earn the points for a degree. I do actually already have a degree in electronic engineering, but it didn't take. Turns out silicone doping wasn't what I thought it was at all.

On paper, I like the idea of being forced into studying a subject. I've often felt at a disadvantage with my writing, because I have zero formal education in writing. Well, nothing since I was forced to write a diary every Monday morning in class, when I was six or seven. We never did anything interesting at the weekend, so I wrote an awful lot of diary entries about playing with Lego and toy soldiers. Eventually I started making stories up, but pushed things too far when my weekend adventure was suspiciously similar to something that had been on the Onedin Line that week. Ah, never resort to the truth when a lie will do. Wheels within wheels, remember.

So in theory study seems quite attractive to me, but in practise my contempt for other people's opinions will surely get in the way.

I've been trying to teach myself HTML and CSS in 24 hours, but became disruptive after two hours and was told to leave the class to think about what I'd done. I did, and it was awesome. I'm going to go back on that and press on. I really enjoy the site layout jiggering you can do on Blogger and I'd like to build my own website some day. I've been looking into hosting choices and became comatose from options-overload. It'll wait.

If I'm going to write a book someday, it'll not be anything commercial. I'm resigned to the fact I'll never write anything with mainstream appeal. Or appeal. But the indie, self-publishing route looks doable, if desperate. For that I'll need to design a cover.

I haven't actually bought a book to teach me how to use GIMP, but I have been eyeing these online tutorials. I came up with this recently, so as you can see, I really need some help.

Which takes me to last year's NaNoWriMo. I really like the concept I came up with, and I've been meaning to re-write it into something more-polished, pretty much since the day I closed the file at the end of November. I was going to start yet another site to blog my progress but I abandoned that idea pretty swiftly.

You see, as well as completely re-writing my NaNo, I also want to edit a bunch of my old flash pieces into more rounded stories, put them into an anthology and upload them to Smashwords, for the experience as much as anything else. Smashwords seems to be hammered most days, probably from the explosion in e-book reading devices that's happened over the last year.

I'm drawn to chaos, which may explain my love of Elric, and what's happening in the stock market on a daily basis is super-enticing. I bought a rather thick book on investing (significantly, on sale at half off) but will I find the time to invest in reading it?

So many books and bookmarks to deal with. I'm sure you can guess what I'll tackle first.

None of the above.

Oh, why do I have an 85 year old picture of Louise Brooks up there? Why not.

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