Secret Diaries…..

whats behind the wrapper?
  • woops… hadn't noticed the twitter plugin went mental there. All I did was update some categories! Still, makes me look busy I suppose #
  • How exactly does iain m banks get away with being cryptic as all bastardy when I can't? Oh right… he makes clear in the end, bugger. #
  • #haveyouevernoticed that a surprising amount of text speak doesn't actually make words shorter, just badly spelt #

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’s a fairly obvious question for a company whose oft quoted motto is ‘do no evil’, particularly when the company in question has become so intrinsic to many peoples daily lives.  With stories of accidental Wi-Fi data collection and data centers filled with peoples personal information its easy to become suspicious of one of the world’s fastest growing technology companies.  All this does not automatically become a reason to doubt Google’s sincerity however, no one actually knows what they are collecting or even how long they hold onto for so is entirely possible that nothing particularly personally identifying is held for an extended period.  The flip side is also true of course, they could be holding everything forever.

This vast data store could be being used for the simplest of purposes, providing more targetted advertising, its a clear capitalist goal to aim for and makes Google a lot of .  What if thats not what they are holding for though?  What could Google do with all this information while still staying true to the ‘do no evil’ catchphrase.  If we look at the world of artificial intelligence we may find a clue, swarm intelligence relies on individual agents interacting with each other and there environment with no centralized control structure, what larger group of individual agents exist than the human population of the internet?  Perhaps Google’s data gathering is all part of some larger plan to create a real and working artificial intelligence by understanding the interactions which take place amongst the ‘swarm’ that is the internet.  Or taking the social interaction principle further perhaps at the heart of the Googleplex sociologists are seeking to understand the deeper causes of human behaviour by analysing the interaction of internet denizens.

To take a more science fiction route another possibility surely exists, Psychohistory in the world of Asimov relies on the analysis of statistical information of large groups.  Again the internet represents the largest grouping of individuals in the history of the world, where better to gather the data necessary to predict the flow of human events?

These possibilities are obviously vague and certainly in one case fairly outlandish but the possibility exists that Goolge are gathering data for some great and noble purpose, rather than just to shove a more targetted advertising campaign down our necks.  Even if they are ridiculous, the potential material for fiction authors created by Google’s mere existence is huge and shouldn’t be ignored.

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I’m going to take a break from the usual subjects that I’ve been writing about of late (namely writing…) and wonder off into the world of professional football.  Following the England teams less than stellar performance yesterday against Germany I’ve been trying to work out what the England manager can do to try and improve matters for our next tournament fun time.

A lot of the discussion which has taken place recently has made mention of the small pool of talent available to the England manager with so many foreign players in the Premier League at present.  This has confused me slightly, Algeria held us to a 0-0 draw with a team largely made up of amateurs, they qualified for the World Cup with the same team.  Why exactly is the England manager under the impression he has a small pool of talented players from which to make his selection?  If Algeria can qualify with amateurs surely England can select from more than just the premier league?

If you open your selection to the lower leagues you’ll find yourself with a lot of good, hungry young players looking for their big break this gives you a serious chance of finding people who can play together as a team and who want to wear the shirt and represent their country.  The chances are you’ll also find that you can be more creative with the team, leaving 4-4-2 behind you and really improving the quality of football the team play.

Now, all of the above comes from someone who is willing to admit that his football skills are severly lacking but I cherish the belief that I would actually make a good manager (whether football or anything else) because I’m willing to listen and I like to do what I can to see people do well.  What seems to be lacking in English football is the desire to do well for any other reason than the big fat paycheck at the end of , its no longer about football, its about job satisfaction.

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As you all know a major cause of deforestation is the unpublished novel, whole rainforests have been destroyed by people desperately seeking that big break from any and every publisher.  A lot of this is caused by some peoples complete inability to be self critical, a problem I thankfully do not suffer from, unfortunately I have the opposite malady.  I am firmly convinced that 99% of my output is total crap.

Take a flick through previous articles and you’ll see what I mean.

Having produced a lot of bad writing I thought I was capable of spotting a mile off, I now realise that my talents in this area pale in insignificance compared to the might of Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman the minds behind “How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published“.  I added this little gem to my bookshelf a while ago and have over the last couple of months (I’ve not had a lot of time to read recently) finally got round to reading .

If you are a writer, if your thinking of becoming a writer, if you’ve ever picked up a pen or sat in front of a keyboards with the idea for a sure fire bestseller in your head then you need to read this book.  I’m sorry to say its very likely to destroy some of your more extreme illusions about your talent.  This is a good thing however, if no one points out your mistakes then you’ll just keep making them (trust me I know what I’m talking about here).

I found very interesting flicking through the Amazon reviews of this book, trying to guess at the personalities behind the keyboard, some see as mocking or smug, everyone sees as sarcastic.  What interested me most though is those who claimed was useless, having read their opinions I’m firmly of the belief that the book cut a little too close to the bone for there liking.  I’d guess their own manuscript is currently being rejecting for one or more of the mistakes listed in this book!

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A lot of my writing energy at the moment is going into simply generating ideas for things to write about, in the past I’ve relied on random inspiration to give me a topic but recently I’ve started to examine where those random ideas actually come from.  My reliance on randomness regularly leaves me bereft of ideas which seriously damages my output so finding the source will help to stabilise things somewhat.  The search has revealed a few things to me about my writing and about my approach to some things outside of writing as well.

The major discovery is the obvious one, ideas come from everywhere and anywhere.  A comment in the middle of a conversation, an image glanced as you go about your daily life, all these things get stored away and eventually if your very lucky your unconscious mind makes some kind of connection and you’ve got a potential best seller idea waiting to be unleashed.  This makes a vitally important part of any writers life to make sure that they always have their eyes and ears open or else the ideas may pass you by.

Dreams are another useful source of ideas, both your own and other peoples, as a for instance this morning my girlfriend told me she had a in which two of my friends from the world of amateur dramatics were researching their next role by pretending to want to be part of the Mafia.  All on its own you’ve got the begins of a fantastic story without your conscious mind actually having to do anything.  Dreams however are fickle and where one day you get a prize winning short story idea the next you may get a complete damp squib.

Which brings me to an incredibly important point:  Good ideas do not always produce good writing.  Once you have that germ of inspiration takes a lot of work to turn from idea into finished project and if you don’t approach the process the ‘right’ way you’ll waste a lot of time polishing a turd.  Evidence of that (I’m ashamed to say) can be seen in various corners of this site where over excitement at the mere thought of turning idea into substance has resulted in badly formed and incomplete product.

This is what my quest to understand the source of my ideas has taught me, I need a Plan, up until now (to paraphrase Phoebe Buffay) I haven’t had a pl.  Hence the creation of The Plan, the overriding rules by which I now abide when doing anything for this site.  The details of The Plan will continue to be fleshed out as time goes on.  Much of The Plan is actually still unpublished as I’ve come to realise I need something which extends beyond this site and into my daily life.

Its a freeing experience knowing that a part of your life now has structure and some kind of future, writing has become easier and more fluid and the rest of my life seems to be following suit. So, if your a budding writer whose struggling to find focus or if your just feeling a bit lost in any area of your life, make yourself a plan, even if its only a list of what your going to cook each night for dinner ’ll help.

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Dreams

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I would like nothing better in life than to sit and do this every day, the sheer joy of writing is incredible and fills me with a sense of well being and purpose.  The challenge is turning part time into making enterprise, something which isn’t easy.  The truth of the matter is though that there are now more people ‘living the ’ and making from writing, drawing and otherwise creating content than at any other time in history.  The internet has opened up a whole new avenue and that avenue is spreading back to impact more traditional media, the days of self-publication have very definitely arrived.

This freedom to create which has been handed to so many people does of course give rise to the creation of a whole wealth of total crap, but some gems are really starting to shine through, the world of webcomics seems to be the most advanced of the new breed with many turning their comic into a full-time job.  Quite apart from the prolific Ryan Sohmer (and the rest of the Blind Ferret team) over at www..com many others are making their mark and making their living in this new world.  Where the webcomics guys seem to have got right is by not limiting themselves, they are not only producing collections of the work they’ve presented on the web they’ve also expanded  into prints, T-shirts, figurines and even shot glasses.

So how do those of us with little in the way of artistic talent make use of these potential new making avenues?  The phrase ‘you have to spend to make ’ may come into play here, once you’ve established your writing as worth peoples attention you can spend a bit of cash getting a talented artist to create a few T-shirt designs for you.  If your writing fiction a few posters of your main characters may sell well.

The important thing is that there is no better time than now to try and make your artistic dreams come true, I’m certainly going to be trying over the next few months to make happen for me, whether that involves a whole load of merchandise or just some damn good writing only time will tell.

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I’d like to introduce you all to Lightning Bug, an incredibly useful little site full of stuff to just get your writing moving.  Theres a whole raft of warm up excercises and different things to help you develop characters and setting.

Its well worth a look if you need help turning vague concept into fully formed idea.

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Evernote

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As I’ve said previously I intend to keep track of the work I’m doing on my top secret project and let you in on some of the things which are helping me pull everything together into a sensible whole.  First on the list is Evernote an incredibly useful little application for the technological writer.

I have spent a fair chunk of time walking round with a pen and somewhere about my person so that I can write down ideas as they occur to me and to be quite frank I’ve been useless at using them, you see my handwriting is terrible and if I’m writing fast in a small goes from terrible to almost completely illegible.  I needed another solution and with a quick look round the Google market on my shiny new powered phone I’ve found the answer:  Evernote.

Evernote is available for Mac OS X, , iPhone / iPod Touch, iPad, , BlackBerry, Palm Pre / Palm Pixi and Mobile, so more or less any platform your likely to be using (except Linux, sorry open source fans.  Still ’ll probably run fine in Wine).  allows you to take notes in a whole variety of forms (Text, voice, snapshots or file uploads) before uploading them to Evernote’s servers where they can then be synced to your other devices.  The basic package is free and gives you a maximum amount of 40Mb of monthly uploads which in these times of GB email inboxes etc doesn’t sound much but if all your using for is making text notes for your upcoming novel you should remain well below the limit.

The application itself (on and anyway, I haven’t used on the many other platforms available) is simple to use and intuitive so you’ll find yourself taking a whole wealth of notes on a whole variety of subjects before you know .  I use to keep track of those random moments of inspiration which occur throughout the day before taking those many disparate thoughts and hammering them into a meaningful shape the next time I sit down to write.

This is actually looking like the single most powerful tool I have at the moment, those fleeting moments of inspiration are no longer being lost for want of a working pen and the chances of meaningful writing have been massively increased.  If you find yourself losing those brilliant ideas that would turn you into the worlds most successful author I seriously suggest taking a look.

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Structure

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I’m working a lot on improving the structure of my writing at the moment, particularly focussing on the need for a clear beginning, middle and end to everything I put together.  The beginning and middle have tended to be things which I don’t have a problem putting together its bringing those things to a well rounded conclusion which seems to cause me some challenge.

A lot of forward planning goes into writing any article, short story or novel.  Research is always necessary gives a far better structure and depth to your writing and this has been the main casualty in my recent work.  I’ve avoided property research or planning in an effort just to get something published which unfortunately has resulted in the series of random ramblings currently present on this very site.  Opinion only carries you so far when not backed by verifiable fact, without that grounding in reality the writers voice tends to get lost and the content of the article ends up awash in a sea of nothing in particular.

So this is where I find myself now, in search of facts and a rounded and well written ending to go with the many beginnings and middles floating around in my head.  Without them my new super secret project will remain unwritten.  So, over the coming months while I try and get my head round these little conundrums I’m going to be publishing a series of articles on the methods I find and the thoughts I have on the good and bad points of them all.  If nothing else the end result of all this may be some useful hints and tips for everyone else!

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I’ve just started work on my new project (which in all honesty is a rehash of an old project), this will begin appearing in the not to distant future on this very site!

I’m not going to reveal too much largely because the detail isn’t all there yet but expect to hear more as time goes on.

For now its off to work!

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