‘So, you’re a writer?’

The man at the fireworks party turns to me and says, ‘so, are you a writer too?’

I was rather taken aback to be honest. I mean, I was here to watch people walking up and down the street dressed up as monks and Romans and such like, while carrying burning torches and banging drums, before going to see a fab firework display (with the burning of a political effigy), not to talk work.

Image Courtesy of Adrian Spinks Photography http://www.asphotoart.co.uk/
Image Courtesy of Adrian Spinks Photography http://www.asphotoart.co.uk/


Of course, you can’t stop a writer comparing notes with another writer. So, full of enthusiasm, and beer, I reply:

‘Yes, I am a writer! I write fantasy and comedy now, just got a book out with Harper Voyager. I use to write for radio and TV, for people like Rory Bremner – a lot of political stuff. Plus, stage and now film. How great to meet another writer here, you didn’t do the secret handshake you see, threw me completely!

‘So,’ I say, ‘what do you write?’

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Simultaneous book writing, film writing and plate juggling – differences in script and novel writing.

I am currently writing a book and writing a film, at the same time. Well, not actually physically at the same time. I mean I am not ambidextrous or split-brained in some weird SF grey matter bisection style. I write one on one day, one on another and try not to get too mixed up with the plots. It keeps me fresh and I don’t tire of either and fortunately they are both science fiction (no brain splitting involved mind!) and they are both, sort of coincidentally, adaptations, but going in different directions.

So far so good.

My favourite book cover still waiting for a book
My favourite book cover still waiting for a book

What I do have to watch out for are problems connected with the differences between screenplay and book writing, because of course there are differences. I always try to be aware of these distinctions, but one gaff came to my attention yesterday. I was writing what I thought was a particularly good scene with snappy dialogue going backwards and forwards very nicely when I realised there was a problem. The problem was this: “the snappy dialogue going backwards and forwards very nicely”!

I think it was Alfred Hitchcock who said something along the lines of: “we’ve written the script, now we add the dialogue”. He certainly is quoted as saying: “dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms”. Yoiks! I’d gone into ‘Dialogue Overload’!

There is always a temptation when writing a script, especially when adapting from a book, of taking all the character’s internal thoughts (and when adapting, even material from the written descriptions) and putting it all into people’s mouths. This was what I was doing.

Now, I am not somebody who gets hung up on the “film is a visual medium” malarkey, as far as I’m concerned film is a recording medium and you do what you want and what is appropriate. Sometimes it is right to have scene after scene of characters expressing their thoughts and emotions … and we call them French films. You just need to be aware of what you are doing and consider if this is the time to be doing it because most of the time you won’t be writing a French film, even in France. It wasn’t appropriate for my SF script.

And I looked back and I realised that the scriptwriting was also causing some problems for my novel writing. Book sentences were becoming too terse and too short. Although this is actively encouraged for scriptwriting, where action is usually condensed to a couple of lines per paragraph, such writing can get very wearing for readers when presented in book form. I would argue that it can even be irritating in a spec script, especially if not done really well! Although you can get away with grammatically incorrect, or even incomplete, sentences in a script you need to get proficient in this style of writing and this proficiency isn’t something that comes overnight. I always think you should stick to simple evocative sentences when starting out scriptwriting.

A spec script, in particular, isn’t a shooting script and its first job is to be a pleasurable read to get somebody interested in your story. And although I am a huge fan of the hard-boiled detective style of writing sometimes in a book you should take the opportunity to stretch yourself a bit to produce a sufficient fluent read for your reader.

Time for some rewriting, I do believe.

‘And what about the plate juggling?’ I hear you ask.

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All-Inclusive Holidays in Mordor – not just for the adventurous!

There is not doubt that the growth of Mordor as a holiday destination has been one of the great tourist successes of the Modern Age. With its startling volcanic landscape, and frozen lava fields, Mordor provides a magnificent backdrop for any vacation. The colour scheme is remarkably different from what most of us are used to, yet Mordor has its own stark magnificence, as the ash greys and blacks of the petrified magma contrast with the bright white local buildings and splashes of palm and cactus green.

The writer enjoys a moment of relaxation next to the lava fringed Sea of Nurnen

The resort destinations of the Sea of Núrnen are, of course, the major attractions. Fed by rivers from Ephel Duath and Ered Lithui, which now run clear and true, this startlingly blue inland salty sea is currently much larger than of old and provides a wealth of opportunities for water sports, such as wind surfing and water skiing.

This was our first trip to Mordor and we didn’t know quite what to expect. The larger towns are experiencing some commercialisation, but over all Mordor is still manages to retain its own unique charm. Our hotel was built from local lava bricks and was clean and accommodating. The return of abundant bird life has certainly put an end to the flies that once bothered travellers! We went ‘all-inclusive’ as we weren’t sure about the local cuisine, but we needn’t have worried. The fertile plains of Nurn, with their rich volcanic soils now provide a wide range of staple, as well as exotic, foods. Plus, the Sea of Núrnen provides plenty for the fish-loving gourmet to enjoy!

The locals were exceptionally friendly (a bit different from the past eh?) and from many different backgrounds. The smiling bar goblin was forever mixing up a fantastic range of cocktails – warning they are very strong! Of course many people are simply attracted to Mordor by the warm weather, the sandy beaches and the deep blue sea – and who can blame them? We found a beautiful beach for relaxing on, with a fabulous restaurant close by, where they mixed a marvellous Mordor Punch – perfect for watching the sun set over the distant Ephel Duath range.

Although somewhat surprising, there is little doubt that Mordor has become the chic choice for both the adventurous traveller, and the more sedate holidaymaker. We’re certainly going back again!

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Confessions of a FantasyCon Virgin (Nicely’s going home, he’s going home)

Nicely at Fantasycon2015

Detective Nicely Strongoak has just returned to his spiritual home, as an excited me went back to the University of Nottingham for Fantasycon 2015. Yes, it was here on the Nottingham campus where, after work as an ultrastructural morphologist, I first put down my ideas for the dwarf detective in a modern(ish) fantasy world, on a Apple computer so old it was actually a Pip. And I was now here talking about him.

Officially I was there discussing comedy and fantasy on an excellent panel, with top writers Donna Scott, Frances Hardinge, Steve Jordan, Heather Lindsley and Craig Saunders, and doing a little bit of reading from A DEAD ELF. Unofficially I was getting my first introduction into the current state of fantasy writing in the UK, and very healthy it appears to be.

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Funtasy 2015

Really looking forward to Fantasycon 2015 in Nottingham when I’ll be on the panel for Funtasy: Comedy & Humour in Genre Fiction at 7.00pm Fri 23 Oct along with Frances Hardinge, Steve Jordan, Heather Lindsley and Craig Saunders. Donna Scott will be keeping us all in order as we discuss matters such as “what type of funny? Narrative tone, situation, language and character”.

Getting ready for FantasyCon 2015
Getting ready for FantasyCon 2015

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What Dads do (and Mums too)

Some Dads play football with their children. Which is cool. Some Dads take them swimming, which is also cool. And one Dad decided to film a science fiction series with his son and his son’s friends and that is surely 0º Kelvin, absolute zero cool!

Fun with the family!
Fun with the family!

And how do I know about this? No, I’m not the Dad in question (sadly); aforementioned Dad just needed a little help with the story navigation after they got the series up and running. What a fab, fun thing to get involved with and what great notes son Tom was able to give me too!

I have been lucky enough to have worked on a lot of exciting projects now (cue commercial for novel) including feature film scripts, radio and a couple of TV series, but for sheer enthusiasm from participants ‘Choreye’ takes some beating.

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