3 is the magic number

13 05 2010

This blog is three today.

Back in 2007, when I started the blog, I wasn’t entirely convinced I’d be able to keep it going. I have had a variety of web presences over the years since 1998 when I dragged my arse up to Bradford to Get Educated but none have ever lasted this kind of time. At its peak the site was pulling in four figure visit numbers per day, even these days with me posting rather less it still pulls in a few hundred a day and I’m sure it could be pulled up a bit again.

But I’m not going to.

It’s been a good run but I’m finding the restraints of the wordpress.com platform – fab though it is – a little too much now. I’d like to have more opportunity to hack around my own analytics (helps with the day job); run the odd affiliate link to publications carrying either my content or that of my friends; include richer widgets and generally do what I want. It gives me more room to play.

I’m hoping as many of you as possible will come with me over to the new site:

My new blog, the imaginatively entitled Flotsam: The Other Side of the River Vol. 2, can be found at http://www.neilbeynon.com.

If you read the blog on a feed reader then you can update your feed to this address: http://feeds.feedburner.com/neilbeynon

If you want to sign up by email or update your email subscription please sign up here.

NB – This site will remain live for the foreseeable future.





Near yet far

31 03 2010

I didn’t quite hit my deadline.

As of two minutes ago I did finish the major rewrite on The Scarred God’s fifth draft. However, strictly speaking it will need a line edit; a continuity check; and probably a slight trim for length. These will probably be quite quick passes, throttled only by my need to read the thing out loud to line edit it as at this stage it’s the only way I will spot problems, and I will probably finish in around two weeks time. And as I said before: then I really am done on this one.*

Nearly there.

* Unless someone pays me.





The week that was: City of Light

16 02 2010

It’s that time of the week again. Been an eventful one this week.

World:

To be honest I wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on in the world as the imminent threat of snow focussed all my attention on just what the hell I was going to do if the Eurostar shut down. I vaguely got something about some designer allegedly offing himself (very sad when anyone does it, regardless of fame) and some weird Scottish fella, increasingly few people pay attention to, employing yet another cynical media trick. Oh and Wales won. Just.

Work:

Buzz was the name of the game last week as Google demonstrated its ability to casually ignore privacy to an even greater level than most social networks. For those who missed it Google launched Buzz, a twitter/facebook hybrid that sits in your Gmail interface and was – until today – defaulted to on and accidentally made all your highest frequency contacts visible to the world. I was unsurprised that caught people’s attention but shocked and disappointed that the very dodgy terms and conditions around the Buzz i-phone app didn’t attract more attention. Perhaps it was corrected quickly but certainly initially in order to use the app you had to agree to let it use your location. This may have been only for targeted advertising but if the system is used in the way Twitter is then it could have unforeseen consequences.

Writing:

Word count tailed off a bit last week. This was disappointing but I managed an end of week rally and know where I am going this week – fingers crossed. I am still working to finish off the last draft of TSG.

Reading:

Mainly reading Aliette de Bodard’s debut novel Servant of the Underworld; an Aztec murder mystery with full blown magic and mayhem; Aliette’s great story telling and artfully woven research – what’s not to love?

Fitness:

Pretty good week here. Managed to up my cardio and finally introduce some resistance work, mainly just using my own weight for now. This is of little interest really other than to draw attention to how ridiculous I look on a cross trainer and how it was an entirely different short tubby Welshman that fell off. Honest.

Travel:

Constant readers and people who know me in meatspace will know I was planning Something for last weekend. The something was a return to Paris that G was unaware of and the first time we had been back since the infamous Paris Incident that occurred shortly after this blog was started. It was a surprise for G, meant as a distraction from a rough Christmas and a means of sorting something else out that will probably spill out in the next couple of days. But not yet.

The trip was a great success: we managed to see Notre Dame, hang out in the very cool Shakespeare & Company bookshop, wander round parts of the Louvre we missed last time, see the Chinese New Year parade and ate some very good food. Best of all: I escaped pigeon attack.

So it was a pretty full on week. How was yours?





The week that was: Shit happens

8 02 2010

OK. So in an attempt to get some semblance of regular posting I have decided to introduce regular features. One of the problems of with the blog has been steadfast refusal to self filter and spawn other blogs for certain topics hence I subject many of you to numerous random posts that may not be of interest. The week that was will be a round up post noting stuff that happened in the last week to either me, the world (and thus worthy of comment) or just stuff from my notebook.

This is not an original idea.

It exists because it’s a handy way of letting people I know, who aren’t in my general vicinity, keep up to date with what I’ve been up to (one of the original purposes of the blog). It will be posted on Sunday/Monday times. Ish. Reviews will also be making a return soon.

So here goes:

World:

The majority of my contact with the outside world last week was limited to the odd trawl of the news feeds to learn the startling fact that Clare Short doesn’t like Tony Blair much. Who knew. In other political shenanigans it seems Andrew Marr hurt Alastair Campbell’s feelings, the news being that he has them. Who knew.

The rest of what happened in the world really passed me by for reasons that will become clear.

Work:

The day job is not really a topic I dwell on here, other than the broader theme of digital. The main news last week was that mergers and acquisitions that had previously been off the table suddenly returned with a certain .com offloading one of its lesser properties for a cut down retail price. On a personal note the hours got a bit long as unrelated deadlines collided with SQL servers that refused to restart and apparently sternly telling them to Sought It Out doesn’t work.

Writing:

Ah. In spite of the afore mentioned day job creep I did manage to hit more consecutive writing slots than I have done in quite some time. I only missed one slot and that was more a case of if I was capable of writing anything on four hours sleep you wouldn’t want to read it. I’ve mainly been finishing off The Scarred God rewrite, this involves substantial rewrites to Act 3 and is definitely, absolutely, positively, the last draft (not to be confused as another draft but the same draft I was working on last year). Unless someone buys it. Fingers crossed I can keep the rhythm.

Reading:

I finished The Road in time to start a new book and spent the week’s commute poodling my way through Revolutionary Road. It’s kind of a black comedy about suburbia as far as I can tell but it verges in places on that kind of early 20th century American prose that just feels like it’s trying too hard. Crushingly smart observation mixed with terribly cynical analysis that – on occasion – misses the point. Interesting read though.

Fitness:

Urm. Yes: having one of my periodic I Will Get Fit Or Die Trying programmes. I managed a staggering four sessions at the gym and am starting to feel more relaxed there although I still find the amount of nudity on display in the changing room somewhat off putting. Hey, I’m not a prude but really there’s no need for me to see that. Especially before breakfast.

And by the time the weekend rolled round I had about enough energy to sprawl on the sofa.

Next week: Actual Stuff Happens. I hope.





Painful

27 11 2009

Sometimes lessons can be painful.

I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking when I decided to engage in NaNoWriMo under the ballsy criteria I set myself in late October. I suspect that the growing dissatisfaction with how things had gone this year, and my realisation that my current approach has not proven effective on any level, culminated in the desire to do something huge. I didn’t really think about logistics. Project management is for techies not for creatives.

Yeah, right.

What I should have done is calculate my average word speed ( a maximum of 2k per normal working day rising to 3k at the weekend if I have nothing else on) and the average time to edit a thirty minute piece of audio (around four hours). I should then have divided that by the number of days and factored in the already scheduled Other Things I had to do in November. Roll in all the other tasks such as marketing the podcast etc. and it…well:

It was never going to work.

In many ways this is a really hard blog to write because I don’t like admitting failure and without wanting to sound melodramatic this has taken a great deal of reflection. I’m at about 25,000 words of Eleutheria and I really like the story concept and some of what I’ve written and I’m pretty sure its got legs – if done properly. However, the podcasting is extremely time consuming, I have done little to push it and so very few people have listened. In the last week I’ve found myself increasingly padding the story in order to hit word count and more often not enjoying the process. This is not why I write.

In short I am ending the experiment early.

I am very sorry to anyone who has listened to the podcast and is waiting for subsequent parts. If you contact me via the blog I will be happy to share the complete story with you at some point next year, when I finish it. In terms of the charity, I will make up the rest of the target amount as a means of reminding myself in the future about not thinking things through properly and assuaging my guilt.

What now?

I usually wait until year end to reflect but, in truth, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with where I’ve got to and think most of the blame for that rests squarely with yours truly. I’m going to be a bit quiet for a week or so while I work through some of this stuff and come up with a more systematic plan to get where I want to be. If you really want some Neil written prose, please do check out Ballista and my story Crunch. In the meantime, I hope you will bear with me.

Have fun and see you in a couple of weeks.





Eleutheria: Chapter 1

16 11 2009

Time for an update.

It’s now been a little over two weeks since my rash and foolish promise that I would podcast my NaNoWriMo exercise as I went. I confess that I was unsure it was wise at the time and let my general dissatisfaction with progress in general this year goad me into doing it. Furthermore, I admit wholeheartedly that in retrospect this seems like a Bad Idea. This has no doubt been evident to the few people still reading this blog by my reluctance to post the first chapter (now a week and a day overdue).

But a promise is a promise.

I am making the first chapter of Eleutheria available as a podcast and you can subscribe here:

http://www.podcastfm.co.uk/about.php?id=676

A few things:

- I am still experimenting with set up and so the quality is patchy in places.

- For some reason the hosting company seem to think it’s a video podcast, I will fix this as and when, you should still be able to listen.
- I can’t work out how to make it available as an MP3. As soon as I work it out I will make the files: a) available here and b) in that more accessible format.
- It sounds first drafty because it is.
- Feedback is welcome, insults – as ever – not so much.
- I hope to get better.

Lastly, although this podcast is free, this project is ostensibly for charity. If you enjoy the podcasts; or feel embarrassed for me; or simply feel it’s a good cause I’d really appreciate it if you would consider donating to my chosen charity, MIND.

A donation page can be found here: http://www.justgiving.com/neilbeynon





Editing

8 11 2009

Those of you swinging by now, expecting the podcast, I’m afraid I have to admit that I am still editing it.

I don’t mean textual editing – I finished that on time – but actually editing the audio file. This is taking a smidge longer than anticipated. I’ll post it, somewhere, as soon as I can.

Apologies. *shuffles away embarrassed*

 





Mad

1 11 2009

Alright folks, as I said the other day I will be participating in NaNoWriMo this year.

It was a hard decision because my other projects haven’t run to time this year and so the story I was going to use, being an SF tale, is not ready to go. Mainly this is owing to the amount of research required to do the thing justice from a science and setting perspective.

I digress.

I didn’t really want to just try to do the month for its own sake because when I tried this in 2007 I woefully failed. I need extra heat to keep going. I’m also a bit of a tinkerer who is keen to try different methods of writing novels and it seemed to me that these two things weren’t incompatible.

Here’s what I’m going to do:

1. Produce using (or attempting to use) a story design method, an urban fantasy of at least 50,000 words.
2. I must hit 50,000 words by November 30th and the whole story must be finished by 20th December.
3. It must be research light (based on current knowledge or my own world building).
4. I will have a tip jar of some description that will, during the month of November, go to a charity of my choosing. (NB – More to follow on this in subsequent posts).
5. Starting on Sunday 8th I will begin podcasting the story as I go.

Yes, you heard me right: I am going to podcast the draft as I go. Not the sound of me typing as I inadvertently made it sound like when explaining the concept to a friend, but me actually reading the story. Why?

I haven’t excluded the chance that I have actually lost it but that’s not the actual reason. There is a certain, screwy, kind of logic going on here:

1. I want to experiment with producing a more reader ready first draft by doing planning up front rather than producing a draft 0 as I have done in the past.
2. I am doing NaNoWriMo for fun rather than trying to advance my writing career and so I want a way to prevent myself endlessly tinkering. Broadcasting it provides a way of closing the door on the story.
3. Although I’m doing it for fun I do want people to experience the story and I’m not confident that I can proof and typeset this kind of volume at the frequency required to get it out in text (print or online) as I go. By reading it out loud I will pick up the errors as I go – in fact this is how I line edit; all I’m doing is recording it and editing out the mistakes.
4. I want to see what the results are of adopting a serialised approach to writing as novelists often did in the Victorian period and as comic writers frequently do today. How will the results differ when I can’t go back and add in things I think of half way through the draft? Is it freeing or constraining?
5. I enjoy reading out loud and don’t get a chance to do it very often.

Mainly I’m doing it for fun.

So that’s the plan. Beyond this I haven’t done a huge amount yet: I know it’s an urban fantasy, I know where the story is set, I have a faint idea of a plot, I have some twists planned and I have a small but growing menagerie of creatures.

From here on in I’ll be blogging as I go, albeit short posts, about where I’m at and I dare say my twitter feed will be an eye opener: http://www.twitter.com/neilbeynon

I hope you’ll listen.





Troughs

20 10 2009

Things sound quiet on the writing front because I am working on what I am now affectionately calling the-absolute-final-unless-someone-buys-it draft  of The Scarred God. I’m at the all too familiar middle point sag where motivation dips and self-doubt swings a low blow. I’ve been here before with this manuscript, I recognise the signs and have deployed counter measures.

Still.

I want to start something new. I’m about done with Anya’s story, this one at least and I have another, entirely different, story I want to write – one more ambitious than anything I’ve ever tried and I have a ton of reading to do before I can start it. I have a protagonist in my mind, a premise and a loose idea of the world(s). Much to my surprise it’s SF not fantasy.

Anyway, my plan was to be ready to go on Nov 1st and therefore be able to run in NaNoWriMo. I’m not sure I’m going to make that deadline now because I was supposed to finish TSG last weekend and then go into creative rest for two weeks while I read the research material. I’m behind on TSG but still making progress and I really want to finish properly. At this stage I have too much time invested to rush it and fumble the ending, again – the last act being the area that require most work as regards pacing and somewhat left field developments. I still think I’ll finish up before November but whether I’ll have enough time to recharge is anyone’s guess.

In other writing related updatery I finished a new piece of flash that read well with my test reader and so I think I may try and flog that for a change. It’s also SF.

And now: back to TSG.





Weekend

27 09 2009

I just got back after a weekend back in Wales.

My brother’s birthday was this weekend. It seems to be quite rare these days that family birthdays fall on days where I can actually be there and so I wanted to make the most of it. We had a lovely family lunch and seeing everyone – even my sister who is in Sydney courtesy of Skype – was really good. I can’t get over how much my niece has changed in eight weeks.

As we were only an hour(ish) away, we also popped over to Bristol for the appropriately entitled Bristolcon. It was a small but enjoyable event on the Saturday afternoon and evening with some interesting panels. It was good to catch up with friend, and fellow Friday Flash Fictioneer, Gareth L Powell and his wife, Becky; to chat again with Colin Harvey and Terry Martin; and to meet some new people. I particularly enjoyed Al Reynolds’ talk on hard SF and the need to make it weirder.

Now back to the graft, I have me own novel to finish.








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