Day 437 – What You Know.

There is an old writing adage which exhorts you to write what you know.

Sound advice.

If you have never been a police officer, or investigated a murder, then you might want to avoid crime novels.

Yet plenty of writers ‘do’ crime.

Why? Possibly because they want to murder someone and they’ve really thought hard about it?

Fake it until you make it?

You get out of your writer’s room and ride along with the police and detectives so you do know what you are talking about?

But what do you know that can be used in a different way?

George Lucas knew Westerns and Japanese Samurai movies but he had a fascination for space.

Think about your setting and drop in different characters or point of view.

Think about your characters and drop them into a different setting.

See what happens.

Day 433 – Idea Notebook.

Some writers seem to swear by a notebook. Others swear at the mere suggestion of one.

Most artists make sketches. Most musicians will record something on their mobiles – probably.

Have some way of recording your thoughts, ideas, research, and inspirations, is essential.

Too much happens to us on any given day to remember every idea we have.

I think it was Under the Dome which Stephen King had the idea for when he was still a teacher. He may even have written a scene or section. That became something special when he eventually returned to it after becoming one of the most successful novelists of his generation.

Whether you use apps on your phone, or a notebook, or both, keep them handy and use them. Read back through them on a regular basis.

Transfer those ideas as you develop them to a bigger notebook or your laptop.

Return to them and with a little TLC they will grow into something special.

Day 432 – Dark-side of the Moon.

This isn’t an inspired by Pink Floyd post – not that I have anything against the band.

The anniversary of the lunar landings let people know what was on the side we all can gaze out of our windows and see.

Sure, it took a lot of effort to get there, but very quickly we kind of knew what we didn’t know before.

So then people started to wonder what was on the other side – the dark side.

It is a metaphor that’s been there in creative arts forever.

So what’s on the other side of the ideas you’ve been working on recently?

Day 423 – Back Catalogue.

As soon as we find a new artist who captures our attention we look for their back catalogue.

For some writers/artists/musicians there is a lot to see/hear/read. For others, not so much.

For some, the back catalogue is diverse and wide ranging. For others, not so much.

There isn’t a ‘right’ back catalogue. There just is what there is.

What’s your back catalogue like?

Is it what you want it to be? If someone discovers your creative endeavours, would they find a body of work which reflects your creativity?

Day 409 – Be A Documentarian.

If you haven’t discovered Austin Kleon yet, do it now!

He describes himself as ‘a writer who draws’ but he also just happens to be a New York Times bestselling author of books about creativity in the digital age.

In a conversation with Chase Jarvis, Kleon gives you three reasons why we must show our work – apart from it being in the title of the video.

I want to just focus on the first reason.

Be a documentarian.

In the digital age we are in control of our work and how our audiences can access it.

If you are a writer then you used to write a book, it would get published by a company, someone from a newspaper/publication would review it, and then readers would go to a book shop and buy a copy. Now you can publish it yourself on your blog, on Kindle, via email, or what ever platform they invented this week.

The cool thing, which most authors don’t seem to realise yet, is that you can now have the equivalent of the DVD extras with your work. You know the short interviews with the actors and directors, the locations details, the ‘making of’ features.

Any modern creative can now do this for themselves.

Document your creativity.

Open up your blog, for example, and type away ‘here’s p.73 of my latest book – it only took me 7 hours and 23 cups of coffee to write’, then stick in a screenshot of p.73, or the coffee, or both.

Share that quick scribble in your notebook, ‘I think the person at the next to me just killed someone’ . . . At the very least we can tweet it into the police if you don’t post for a while.

If our favourite author, painter, musician, posted this kind of content on their websites, we would probably pay for it.

Anyway, I have a few more ideas about this which I will share over the next few weeks, but until then check out Austin Kleon on the links above.

Day 400 – Think Inside The Box.

We are all aware of the phrase ‘think outside the box’.

The ‘box’ being the confines of the problem we are contending with.

It is ironic that colouring outside of the lines often gains you chastisement rather than praise.

Life is full of lines. Most of them have penalties for crossing them. We are encouraged to stay within the box.

Then you are expected to think outside of the lines, and that is seen as a good thing. You’ve done something new and novel.

What you have done is admit that you can’t solve the problem, so you’ve had to go outside of the lines to achieve it.

Next time, stay in the box. Solve the problem, within the confines.

The writer Larry Cohen, if my memory serves me correctly, took around ten years to finally solve the problem of how to write a script where the main protagonist is in a phone booth for the majority of the movie.

He didn’t colour outside the lines.

He thought inside the box – literally.

Work within the confines of your genre, or main character, and work out how to tell your story more perfect than those before.

Day 396 – Quarter Time.

Time pressured could almost be a definition of modern life.

We have too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

For most creatives – where their creative pursuits aren’t providing their livelihoods – the biggest obstacle, the biggest block, is having enough time to be creative.

Anthony Trollope, the great Victorian writer, had a full time job with the Post Office but still found time to write eighteen novels.


He generally aimed to write for three hours a day.

The real secret is the he broke this down into fifteen minute chunks.

With his pocket watch on the desk beside his pen and paper, he aimed to write 250 words every fifteen minutes.

If you can find fifteen minutes, you can write like Trollope.

So here’s the challenge – set your stopwatch for fifteen minutes and start writing.

You might not get 250 words, or you might write more. It doesn’t matter.

Start writing in quarter time and see how many of these sessions you can fit into your everyday schedule.

Let me know.

Day 394 – Hockney and the Art of Seeing.

Watch this documentary about David Hockney and his work.

It’s an hour that will be seriously worth it.

You don’t need to even like his work to appreciate an artist in his eighties still committed to his craft.

He gets up in the morning and he does his art – every day!

Sometimes it is as simple as that.

If you are a writer, then write something.

If you are a musician then play something.

If you are an artist, then art something.

Day 95 – The Art of TV and Novels Meet?

First, Read This:

TV Novel

Nothing new, right? Charles Dickens was doing a similar thing back in the day. Worked out pretty well for him.

Eventually, someone is beginning to think differently about how we consume the written word. Culturally there have been massive changes in how we consume media/entertainment, in the last five years, in terms of music, film, and tv.

SerialBox is now changing the face of how we consume novels.

Whether you wait patiently for each weekly episode/chapter, or whether you binge-read, the possibilities of returning each week to our favourite characters and following them through a wider story arc, as well as self-contained adventures, will definitely catch-on.

Why wait for a whole year for the next Jack Reacher or Harry Bosch story to land, after you consumed the latest one within twenty-four hours?

I would definitely pay for a chapter a week from my favourite authors.

I do think there is a different dynamic between a novelist releasing a chapter per week and the tv writer/writer’s room dynamic, however. I like the format, but there are more tv-series that I’ve stopped watching because the writers have had to re-jig the dynamics/story-line because the series has been renewed on the last episode, and they have been writing as if it is their last, than I’ve kept with.

You have to build a dynamic between characters episodically and keep with it in a much longer story arc, rather than trying to do that in every episode.

Plot lines can become tethered to the three-act storyline in each episode and the important over-all plot get lost somewhere about episode/chapter eight.

I love the fact that writers/publishers are starting to think differently.

I definitely think this kind of format will be a hit with younger readers.

Beginning On Episode Four.

The advent of Catch-up and Box-Sets, has removed one of life’s most frustrating pleasures. Missing the first couple of episodes of a tv series which suddenly becomes unmissable.

You didn’t watch those first couple of episodes because you have more important things to do in life than tv, or the trailer didn’t look very good, or you were out at the gym and forgot to set it to record just in case it was any good. The end result is the same, however, you didn’t catch the start of the show.

And this didn’t matter, until your friends and co-workers started asking you if you have seen it, because it is awesome.

And now you are the outsider.

In our modern times, we can immediately pull out a smartphone of our choice and download the missed episodes and catch up to where everyone else is.

In the olden days, about eighteen months ago, you just had to suck it up and pick up at the next episode.

And here the frustrating pleasure of beginning on episode three or four kicks in. You are now part of the story and the conversation, but there are loads of references and plot points you don’t quite get. You have to work them out, and everything suddenly seems important.

You got straight on your phone, not to watch the missed episodes, but to contact your friends, peppering them with questions until everything made sense.

Great writers discovered this secret long ago.

J.R.R. Tolkein, set The Fellowship of the Ring in a history of a long running conflict between forces of good and evil. All of his characters had a back story which began to be pieced together throughout the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

J.K. Rowling, seemed to have begun at the beginning with Harry Potter, but you quickly come to the realisation that Harry is unwittingly in the middle of a much bigger story. This was no accident. Rowling planned out the wider picture to begin with.

George Lucas began his Star Wars saga on Episode 4. But he knew what had happened in episode 1-3, and what was going to happen in episode 5 onwards. All of these story points were referenced in some form or another in Episode 4.

So, take a leaf out of the playbook of three of literature/film’s most successful and commercial writers – begin after the beginning of where you think the story should begin.

Start on Episode 4 and allow your readers to relive the old days when you had to work it all out from where they started.

At least, that is, until you decide to write the episodes 1-3.