Monday, May 31, 2010

Cabinet of Curiosities parts 2, 3 and 4. And, er, 1.

Yes, well, what I meant to do was put a further quarter of the Cabinet out as a free pdf each Monday. But I forgot that I'd put the entirety of the pdf on lulu for free, so that seems rather pointless now. So here's the whole thing in one easy-to-click book cover-style button that takes you to the lulu free download page:

Remember if you do want to buy the paper copy, the link's over there on the right. Thanks for all the lovely comments from those who've read it so far (pdf or paper), it's much appreciated, and I'm delighted to see sales in double figures. How far into double figures I'm not saying, but it's more than ten, oh yes. Slightly more than ten.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Down dang dangde dowwwwww

Last night I had a very pleasant pint with (EDIT: THE MYSTERIOUS MAN BEHIND) the Eighty Waves blog, as he surfs his way around Britain. And then a very pleasant second pint, which I haven't actually drunk more than a small glass of wine for two years now, plastered a stupid smile on my face, and caused me to walk home singing aloud to Timo Mass's 'To Get Down', which was on repeat on my mp3 player, which may have annoyed a lot of people on that long stretch of road between Falmouth and Penryn, apologies.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Cabinet of Curiosities 1/4

Right, yes, what happened was, I wrote this children's novel, in the nine to twelve age range, although adults of all ages &c &c, about a girl who stumbles into a weird museum, containing items from stories, although perhaps in this world they're a little more than stories, and then finds out more about her own story than she ever would have worked out on her own. The first three chapters got me a literary agent (woo!) and then I wrote the rest of it, and she stayed my literary agent, and we got some interest from some quite well-known publishers, and I did some rewrites (a lot of rewrites), and... it never quite got published.

Two things I learned from this process:

1. Publishers are no longer prepared to spend time and money on editors knocking a new writer's first work into shape. Literary agents are now having to do a lot of the work editors used to. My agent worked with me on five full drafts of the book, with various tweaks and nudges taking the number of drafts to eleven in total. So if I actually start making money off this thing, I'll have to find out what her percentage would have been and start handing that over. But I do feel the rewrite process made this a much better book, so I'm more than happy to do that, obv'sly.

2. Having experience as a scriptwriter is useful, but by no means a guarantee that you'll get published. Scriptwriters tend to be more proficient with dialogue and structure than first-time writers, and probably better at pacing too. All of which is a step in the right direction, but still only a step.

So, after eleven drafts, there came a point where I felt I'd pared the book back as far as I could, or at least as far as I could without it becoming something else and any further expenditure would probably be better spent writing an entirely new book. Or a script, which might actually contribute towards paying for the mortgage I seemed to have picked up since I started the first draft. In the old days, this would have been the end of the line. These days, however, you can get a copy printed up on lulu, so suddenly, this thing you were writing exists as an actual physical object, and as a scriptwriter, that's a feeling you really don't get very often.

So the book arrived, and it was great that it was a book, and I could hold it, but I hadn't done the layout very well, and it wasn't a cover so much as some words on a background, and before I knew it I was talking to my brother in law about making it look just a little bit more professional. So he sorted out the layout, and did a great cover, and suddenly it looked like something that wouldn't look entirely out of place amongst other, you know, bookish type things.

However, it still didn't feel right putting it up for sale when all people had to go on was the blurb, and then, by a strange coincidence, just as I was about to start writing this post, I saw Cory Doctorow's article in the Observer: "My Bright Idea" in which he says:

"I give away all of my books. [The publisher] Tim O'Reilly once said that the problem for artists isn't piracy – it's obscurity. I think that's true. A lot of people have commented: "You can't eat page views, so how does being well-known help you earn a living as a writer?" It's true; however, it's very hard to monetise fame, but impossible to monetise obscurity. It doesn't really matter how great your work is; if no one's ever heard of it, you'll never make any money from it. That's not to say that if everyone's heard of it, you'll make a fortune, but it is a necessary precursor that your work be well-known to earn you a living. As far as I can tell, these themes apply very widely, across all media."

Which is pretty much what I was going to say about putting the book "The Cabinet of Curiosities" up as a free pdf. Or rather, four pdfs - what I thought I'd do is split it into four parts, give each a blog post and allow anyone who was interested to read it for free. Then if they like it, they can follow the link to the right and order a physical copy. I'll putting up the next bit each Monday.

Here's part the first:
The Cabinet of Curiosities 1/4 (pdf)

Friday, May 21, 2010

I done a book (short version)

Looky over there to the right - a picture of a book cover that is also magically a link to a place where you can buy a copy of that exact book!

What happened was, I wrote a children's book, in that 9-12 sort of age range (but there's lots for adults to get as well - in fact the idea is kids reading it will get one sort of book and adults reading it will get another sort of book but I'll explain that later) and got a proper literary agent and everything, and it got very close to being picked up by a couple of quite large proper respectable publishers... then everything ground to a halt. So I thought sod it, I'll have a copy made up on so just for once in my life something I wrote actually has a real, physical existence in the world and I can read it to my tiny daughture and everything, and then I ended up roping in brother in law to do a proper layout and cover (seriously, I could not have asked for a better cover) and suddenly it had turned into a proper book! No-one was more surprised than me.

So what's happening is, the link on the right will take you to lulu, where you could IF YOU SO CHOSE buy a copy - but what I'm going to do next week is put a pdf on the blog where you can read it for free. Probably broken into four parts over four posts, but totally free. The hope being that if people like it enough to want a copy they could actually hold in their hand, or read in the bath, or roll up and swat things with, they could do that too.

Anyway, proper blog posts about it next week, but in the meantime, look over there - a link to a book!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Running Wilde"

New thing from Will Arnett and our very own Peter Serafinowicz. It looks strange. And good. And strange.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Temper Trap - 'Love Lost"

Great song, and one those lovely videos that starts well, then just builds and builds. Doesn't quite go as far as an OK Go type vid, but I think better for being slightly rougher around the edges.

Friday, May 14, 2010

In London, I punched a man in the balls.

What it was was, I have these new trainers, which were cheap, but apparently of slightly different sizes, and halfway up Charing Cross Road my right foot wobbled, and I shouted 'Woo!' and my left hand went to steady myself in an 'ooh, I can't walk in flats' sort of way, and I accidentally punched a bloke who was slightly behind and to the left of me, the Clegg to my Cameron, right in the Boswells.

I froze, and said, gosh, and I'm terribly sorry, but he instantly straightened up and said cuh, and not to worry and continued on his way. LONDON MAN I SALUTE YOU.

Then later, after a nice lemony drink with my agent, I was asked for direction by THREE sets of female persons, first a trio of Eastern European teenagers, who wanted a big Primark, which I didn't know about, but when I pointed the way to the big Oxford Street TopShop they all jumped up and down shouting ''TOPSHOP! TOPSHOP!' so I think that was fine. Next were two quite posh french girls who wanted to know the way to'a Underground', and finally one more female type person who allowed me to utter that sentence most chaps spend their whole lives dreaming about uttering: 'Young lady, I will help you find the modelling agency for which you have an important interview'.

And there were meetings, which were great, but frankly the street-based was just as much fun AND TO THINK I NEARLY CUT MY HAIR EARLIER THIS WEEK. In the end I did not, and it was the right choice.

Monday, May 10, 2010

They had me at "Digital Puppetry"

Not played the first "Little Big Planet" (nor do I have a PS3), but does LBP3 really allow you to create digital landscapes and characters for animation rather than solely for gameplay? Could be interesting...

Music is 'Sleepyhead' by Passion Pit.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

How scriptwriters get paid

Patroclus is in the process of moving our mortgage, which led to a phone call from the new bank, after they received a copy of my accounts for the past three years.

BANK: Hi, we'd just like to know what exactly your employment is? And why it is your income seems sort of... erratic.
ME: I'm a scriptwriter. Which also explains the second part.
BANK: So is that a full-time occupation, or...

I decide that if you add two full hours a day sighing to another two hours staring out windows (rather than counting them as the same activity) that counts towards a full days work.

ME: Yes.
BANK: But you seem to get weird amounts at weird times.
ME: Yes. What happens is, when you get commissioned to write a script, you get paid half the amount up front, then the other half when you've finished.
BANK: Oh. So does it take different amounts of time to write scripts then?
ME: Well, usually a half hour script takes two weeks to write, an hour long script takes a month to write.
BANK: So you get half the money first, then two weeks, or a month later, you get the other half of the money?
ME: Ah, it's not up to me to say it's finished - it's up to the producer, and even then, they usually have to get the say so from the commissioner, the person above them. So I might spend a month writing it, then the commissioner decides it needs some changes, which often takes a week or so.
BANK: And then you get paid.
ME: And then they usually decide some more changes are needed. Then, if they're happy with it, they pass it to the person above them, which usually takes another month or so for them to read, and they usually want some changes. So you do the changes, then you wait for the commissioner to read it, then often they want some more changes.
BANK: Oh. So it can take quite a lot of time.
ME: Indeed it can. Which is why it's best to have a lot of projects on the go at any one time.
BANK: Your job is strange.
ME: Well, at least I didn't nearly bring about THE END OF THE WORLD.

I didn't say that bit. But paymentwise it is strange. And the big gaps while you wait for people to read things can be frustrating, and can make it really hard to keep momentum going with scripts, remember what the main characters are called, and so on. This can be more of an issue with the BBC, where there's a huge inverted pyramid of writers and producers, all working up to the two or three people who have the power to get your series made. On the other hand, Channel 4, whose comedy department seemed to consist at one point of two temps and a man who worked in Jimmy Carr's suit shop once, seemed to have a habit of nodding enthusiastically at one's script then wandering off never to be seen again. So at least with the Beeb, there's a system.

In fact, having projects hang around for ages can have advantages as well. A bit of a distance from a project often means you stop hanging onto that scene that isn't really working, but you've always been attached to for some reason. Or, just when your crime drama was about to go to big BBC Drama commissioning man, it can come back for a (quite minor) rewrite, and you think aaaargh - only to discover big BBC Drama commissioning man had just read five other crime dramas that week, so was probably a bit crimed out, to be honest, in which case you think phew.

On the plus side, having to ask my agent for an advance always makes me feel like a character from an Edwardian play, so that's nice.