November 5th, 2010 | paper and process
May 17th, 2010 | paper and process
I don’t have much that you’d recognise as a daily routine. Aside from one thing. The pub.
Within an hour or so of rolling out of bed, I stagger to the pub round the corner, buy three cans of Red Bull, and sit outside in the pub’s smoking compound to drink them and have six or seven cigarettes. I have a terminal allergy to common housedust, and need to get out in the air for a good ninety minutes every day. So I sit there, caffeinate, push some smoke around my system, and read and communicate.
I’ve been doing this for years: with a Handspring Visor, with a Treo, with a Nokia N95 8GB, and now with an iPhone 3GS. Time was that I’d write to my email list from the pub. I shut that list down a while ago. What I tend to do these days is wrangle information, sitting outside in a nice pool of 3G (no wifi around).
The iPhone is an annoying device in many ways. But with the right arrangement of apps and web services, I find I can get a bunch of things done very easily. This is very probably the best mobile comms device I’ve had yet.
There’s an app called Reeder that links to my Google Reader RSS aggregator. Reeder connects to my del.icio.us account, which lets me save links, and my del.icio.us account dumps to warrenellis.com every 12 hours or so. So I can start the day by digesting a chunk of news and leaving a permanent record of the interesting stuff. I’ve got something like 130 sites in my reader — some of those are music sharity sites that I’ll only look at when I’m at a proper keyboard and a decent connection — but, even so, that’s usually a lot of new stuff. (I also read the BBC News, The Guardian and Variety on dedicated apps.)
I actually get much less email than you’d think. Much less than, say, Amanda Palmer — just reading her inbox rundown makes me want to curl up in a corner and mewl for a while. I took my mail email off the web a year or two back, which means I’m not actually spending a shitload of my pub time replying to email. So I can usually just focus on the RSS capture. I still don’t feel like I’m getting enough stuff or processing enough stuff, which is a catch-22 I’ll probably just have to live with.
Think of it as watering the plants, or priming the engine. I have an agreement with myself – I don’t have to write while at the pub. I very often do, but I don’t have to. Only when I feel it coming on, and have to get stuff down. When it’s warm enough to type, I carry a netbook to the pub, otherwise I always have a couple of notebooks and pencils in my coat. But the rule’s there so that the day’s production isn’t contingent on my first having it together enough to write the moment I sit down at the pub. If I need the recharge time more, then I get it. Forced writing is very rarely good writing.
And then I go home, eat lunch and begin the horrible slog through the day that ends around 4am.
May 14th, 2010 | paper and process
Someone just wrote to me with the following question:
The problem I encounter every single time I try to write something is that I have a brilliant idea, but I have absolutely no clue as to how to make a proper story out of it. Bits and pieces will come to mind, but finding the whole story is typically a feat… do you know of a way to overcome this issue?
And this was my very quick response, which it occurs to me might be worth sharing, as one avenue (of many) that can be taken to solve this:
Identify a character in your idea.
1) What does that character WANT?
2) What does that character need to do to GET what they want?
3) What are they prepared to DO to get what they want?
Superman wants to save the world, will go through a quest to save the world, and will, if need be, sacrifice himself to save the world. (Crap example, but you see where I’m going.)
Hannibal Lector wants to be free to live in the way he wants, needs to arrange people and incidents in such a way that he can escape his current circumstances, and will kill and eat anybody he feels like in order to be free. (The difference between a "hero" and a "villain" is often the ruthlessness and extremity they’re prepared to go to in order to achieve what they want.)
(Also, the villain is rarely the villain in their own mind. Norman Osborn from THUNDERBOLTS/SIEGE is a good example of a villain who is plainly the hero of his own story. Another good example is one of my favourite villains, the deluded, vicious Janetty from Steven Grant & Vince Giarrano’s BADLANDS)
It’s a really simple way to discover a rough one-two-three structure that you can start to build on. You build on it by asking yourself what you can do to make 2) as difficult as possible for the characters.
Hope that helps someone.