Wellcome to The Reading Room

“The Reading Room is designed to encourage you to indulge your curiosity and explore…” (Wellcome Collection, no date).

Last Friday the UCL MA Publishing class of 2015 visited the Wellcome Trust in London. A strange cross between a library and a museum, the Wellcome Trust encourages interaction with their displays, and promotes discussion about the way physical environments can affect readers. The two main areas of interest for us were The Reading Room, and the Blackwell’s gift shop. The Reading Room showcases the eclectic collection of Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936), the founder of the Wellcome Trust.

My first impression of The Reading Room was that it was a very informal museum. It encourages visitors to touch, pick up and interact with many of the objects on display, as well as discuss with other visitors what you have experienced. A stone stairway leading up to a more formal library archive was cluttered by students lounging on beanbags, many reading books collected from around the room, but others simply sitting and enjoying the comfortable and tranquil environment.

For the more adventurous, straitjackets were available to try on. Touchscreens with headphones and biographic audiobooks connected to comfortable chairs were hidden in a corner for those who prefer listening. A mirror was set up with drawing pencils and worksheets, along with several art titles on self-portraits. The artwork covering the walls was at times disturbing, yet always factually accurate, and a cross-section of actual human remains took pride of place at the entrance.

This is a room designed to encourage participation and education. I certainly enjoyed myself more than in any museum or library I have visited due to the unique nature of The Reading Room.

While there are signs listing which topics are covered in each section, there are also books thrown in seemingly at random. For example, shelves dedicated to faith, religion and death held titles about Japanese mythology, the Quran and, to my surprise, a centennial edition of The Wizard of Oz. Two works on non-fiction dealing directly with religion, and a work of children’s fiction.

When you think about it though, this also makes perfect sense. The Wizard of Oz has many religious themes, the plot itself is driven by the character’s faith that the Wizard himself can help them, and there are also contemporary theories that the whole story is a metaphor for death and the afterlife.

These books and displays, which at first seemed to be so out of place, have very cleverly planted around the room in places where they would provoke the most thought from any who came across them.

Not only the books themselves, but also each display was set up to enhance a particular topic. Again, looking at the faith section, I noticed it was crested by a physical display of Christian Holy Water flasks. This physical reinforcement of the topics discussed is further enhanced by a display case of charms and amulets, and a piece of artwork depicting saints, sinners and great leaders of men. In a museum, such displays would be separated into more clearly defined areas, but the way they all sit together produces a far more interesting

By using visual and tactile displays, and stimulating more than just the visual senses, The Reading Room appeals more widely than it would have done by perhaps following a more traditional “museum-esque” approach.

“[Blackwell’s] stocks a wide and changing selection of books to complement the themes of Wellcome Collection…” (Blackwell’s, no date)

As they describe on their own website, the Blackwell’s store mimics the curated style of The Reading Room. Everything seems to be misplaced, with toys, games and novelty items displayed next to fiction and non-fiction titles which appear to have only a tangential link to each other. Neither are there signs labelling where items can be found. The lack of signs meant I had to engage in a different manner.

“Filtering out unchanging stimuli and focussing on difference helps us spot potential predators and prey,” (Glaser, 2015). That trait of desensitization is avoided by Blackwell’s to great effect. The range of titles in a specific area will all be similar, and yet be different enough to catch the eye. For example, books relating to disease are all contained within the same section of the shop. However, fiction and non-fiction books are displayed beside each other, many with their covers facing out.

The general subject is the same, and so the shopper has enough information to decide if they are interested in the items on sale in that particular area. But the differences are enough that they draw the attention, meaning that each individual book is viewed and considered on their own merits. This is completely different from a large chain bookstore, such as Waterstones, who will have clearly defined sections for fiction and non-fiction, then sub-categories for genre, and will probably be alphabetized by surname of the author as well. This means that readers have to “…rescue the book from the category to which is has been condemned.” (Manguel, 1997)

While that allows customers to head directly toward a particular book, it means far fewer of their products are going to be seen, and so impulse purchases are far less likely. Stores such as Waterstones pack their bookshelves with as many titles as possible to show off all their stock. This means that unless items are on offer or promotion, they are stored spine facing out.

Again, the differences with the Blackwell’s are marked. With the cover facing out, Blackwell’s draws far more of the attention of their customers, simply by virtue of the larger dimensions of the object on display. It also allows for greater range of colours from the whole cover design to be shown, again increasing the chance of the book catching the eye.

The Reading Room and Blackwell’s are similar in several ways, such as their eclectic and tangential style of display, or their focus on health and medicine. However, they are also very different in their motivation. The Reading Room is a free space, one where people can visit and spend hours sitting and reading if they wish. Blackwell’s is a business, one interested in making money by selling products to customers. To this end, they do not have any chairs or places to gather and talk with other customers.

Overall, I would say that The Reading Room and Blackwell’s are successful in their respective aims, education and interaction, and engagement and temptation. In the meantime, for those looking for some peace and quiet, I’d recommend The Reading Room.

Literary Bloomsbury

“Tucked in the corner of the Borough of Camden, you’ll find Bloomsbury, the intellectual and literary capital of London.”

(Senate, 2014)

The area of Bloomsbury in London is widely considered synonymous with literature, but the phrase ‘Literary Bloomsbury’ creates a different connotation. So how can a place be regarded as ‘literary’ in and of itself? The dictionary defines ‘literary’ as pertaining to authorship, the nature of books and writings, or preferring books to actual experience (Dictionary, 2015).

Does Bloomsbury pertain to authorship? Can any village, town or city claim it pertains to books and authors? Surely it cannot prefer books to experience, as a location cannot have preferences.

Bloomsbury is a town which has hosted some of the greatest and most famous writers of Britain and Ireland, including:

  • George du Maurier (1834-1896) – Trilby (1894) and The Martian (1897);
  • Sir James Matthew Barrie (1860–1937) – Peter Pan (1911);
  • Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) – assorted novels and non-fictions;
  • William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) – assorted poetry; and,
  • Charles Dickens (1812–1870) – The Adventures of Oliver Twist (1837-1839), A Christmas Carol (1843) and various others.

The fact that so many successful authors and poets have lived in close proximity however, can be argued to be coincidence. Possibly it could be that one or two major writers living in Bloomsbury attracted others there, thereby creating a myth that Bloomsbury was the place to be for their contemporaries.

If this is true, then it may have escalated into a self-fulfilling prophecy; authors arrived and added to the literary culture, which increased the respect for literature in the area amongst themselves, and thereby enticed even more writers towards Bloomsbury. This theory is strengthened by both the dense demographic of literary agents, publishing houses and bookstores in the area, as well as the fact that Sir James Matthew Barrie’s Peter Pan was inspired by George du Maurier’s grandsons, the Llewelyn-Davies boys (who later became his foster children).

“Hours can be lost rummaging through the many bookshops in Bloomsbury, with unique treasures to be found behind every bookcase.” (Senate, 2014)

According to The London Bookshop Map (London Bookshop, 2012), there are one hundred and fourteen independent bookstores in London, at least ten of which are in Bloomsbury alone. Added to the large company chains like Blackwells, WH Smith, Oxfam charity stores, and a Waterstones on Gower Street which holds the largest academic & specialist range in Europe, Bloomsbury is rather spoilt for choice. I would argue that this shows Bloomsbury is relevant in terms of the historical writers, as well as being seen as important by booksellers, corporate and independent. Important yes, but this still doesn’t answer if Bloomsbury is literary.

“It is notable for its…literary connections” (Wikipedia, 2015)

The nature of books and writings is something I would define as being, what is necessary in order for books or writings to be published. The most obvious answer would be the authors, but we’ve already covered the most famous authors to have lived and worked in Bloomsbury. However, literary agents and publishers are also fundamental to the process.

A short search on Google Maps show at least nine literary agencies in Bloomsbury, including:

  • AP Watt Ltd;
  • Luigi Bonomi Associates;
  • MacFarlane Chard Associates;
  • MBA Literary Agents Ltd; and,
  • Sheil Land Associates.

Publishers Global state that there are three hundred and six British publishing companies in London (unknown). In Bloomsbury itself there are several national and internationally best-selling publishing houses, which include:

  • Bloomsbury Publishing;
  • Constable & Robinson;
  • Faber & Faber;
  • Guinness World Records;
  • Persephone Books;
  • Scholastic;
  • The Publisher’s Association; and,
  • University College London Press.

Admittedly, London is a huge city, and there are hundreds of literary agencies and publishing houses spread throughout. However the fact that so many of those professionals have chosen to centre themselves in Bloomsbury, where there is already a high population density for writers, agents and publishers, indicates that they feel the best place for them to undertake business is within a community full of their peers and those with whom they work. Again, this returns us to our cycle of ‘the more professionals in Bloomsbury, the more business occurs, attracting more professionals in turn.’

“[Bloomsbury is] a literary maze you never want to find your way out of.” (Senate, 2014)

Perhaps a town so steeped in literary history as Bloomsbury can indeed be argued to be ‘literary’. However, the main failing point of any argument would be how it can pertain, or be existentially relevant, to books.

My personal opinion is that regardless of the academic arguments for such a definition, Bloomsbury’s history and culture is the epitome of literary. Perhaps it is actually the culture of Bloomsbury which is literary, by virtue of the sheer weight of numbers that its industry professionals have created. A culture such as this, in which the book is treasured, attracts book-lovers, writers, agents, publishers, academics and students. Each has their own perception of Bloomsbury as a place, but all add to the culture of the area, making it increasingly literature-focused. And there, to me, lies the appeal.

Literary Bloomsbury is a place I want to be. How about you?

Are You Game: Part III

My last two posts have looked out games which have already been made. Today I’m going to look at games I think should be made.

The Concept

The game I propose is, thankfully, not another shooter. Much as I enjoy playing them, I’m going with a different franchise. Pokémon.

I know, I know. There are plenty of games in that franchise already. They have even announced their first ever 3D games, Pokémon X and Y. However, these games are only available for the Nintendo 3DS, and their graphics retain the anime-style of all previous games. But I think Nintendo are missing a trick by not utilizing the larger consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, as well as full HD graphics.

Imagine it, a full-length Pokémon game on your console in hi-def. I’ve listed below a few of the key points of my game proposal.

  • Completely open-world, in the style of Assassin’s Creed or Skyrim;
  • RPG elements to your character as well as your Pokémon;
  • The game focuses on the original 150 Pokémon;
  • You control your Pokémon during fights from their POV;
  • Online multiplayer gives players the chance to challenge other humans;
  • Players of a certain level or higher can assume Gym Leader positions on a server; and
  • Your Pokémon completely refuse your orders unless you have a gym badge above their level.

Taking the example of controlling your Pokémon during a battle – I think this could be accomplished by designating the X, A, B and Y buttons (that’s square, circle, X and triangle for PlayStation) for one attack each. Battles will not be turn based, with movement/evading attacks achieved by the analogue sticks.

The plot itself can be as simple as young man/woman ventures into the world for the first time to become the best Pokémon trainer. Or it can explore the idea of leaving home and the effect that has upon the protagonist’s character as they travel. The need to catch more Pokémon just to have sentient company and dialogue with other characters could be used to highlight the difficulties of leaving home.

The world around the characters can be further detailed by the small things, like evidence of Team Rocket’s wrong-doings, even if you don’t meet them until later in the game. Or chatter between NPCs about how they have dealt with being away from home, and their recent experiences in battles/gym fights.

Of course, there are still plenty of issues with this game, both in concept and in details, but it’s one that I would love to see developed.

A long time ago, in a game developer far, far away…

In other news, Disney announced yesterday that they are closing games development company LucasArts, after buying them in October 2012. LucasArts was behind every Star Wars and Indiana Jones game ever, the good and the bad, as well as other cult hits Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island. Disney’s reasoning was this:

“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games.”

While many of their games received mixed critical reviews in recent years, LucasArts had somewhat reinvigorated the Star Wars Franchise with The Force Unleashed I and II. However, they were to prove the final gems in the franchise, with Star Wars Kinect failing, both critically and financially.

This closure means that Star Wars 1313, which was under development, has been put on hold. It is yet to be officially cancelled, but with this move, you have to wonder if 1313 will ever be completed.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about the closure. Obviously I feel sorry for the staff who have been made redundant. But on the other hand, the company had already tried outsourcing to other companies for some of their games, and their games since the ‘90s, with the exception of The Force Unleashed series, have been fairly generic. With LucasArts staff now no longer involved with the Star Wars games some fresh blood will be introduced. This could be exactly what is needed to improve the series. Of course, it could also turn out to be a disaster and ruin Star Wars games for a generation of gamers. Only time will tell.

So are there any games that you feel the world is missing? What are your thoughts on the LucasArts closure?

NK

Are You Game: Part II

In my last post, I focused mostly on shooters and multiplayer, and how they are affecting our expectations. Today I’d like to look at gameplay and graphics.

Retro

I’m sure we’ve all at least heard of the games Pong, Pacman, Space Invaders or Snake, even if some haven’t played them. These games have been around decades. Pong was first brought out in 1972, Snake and Space Invaders in 1978 and Pacman in 1980. And I’m certain they will all still be around in another 40 years as well. But here is where everything I said in my last post is shot out of the water. None of them has a plot. Only Pacman has named characters. None have any dialogue or conflict. So what is the secret of their success?

When they were all brought out, these graphics were top-of-the-line. Now however, their graphics are completely outdated. So it isn’t their graphics which makes them so popular with today’s gamers. As I mentioned above, none of them have a plot, so it isn’t plot or characters which have made them successful. The only aspect of the game left is gameplay. These games are all simple-minded fun. You don’t have to invest anything other than time into them. The controls are easy to grasp, and the concepts are simple enough that anyone of any age can play and enjoy them.

So for all that my friends said about preferring games with engaging plot and strong characters, the games which survived for the longest are those which lack exactly those features.

Modern

But what of modern games with easy gameplay?

Again, we come back to shooters, simply because shooters seem to have become the staple of all gamers and game companies. Yes there are sports or racing games. And much as some companies might like to reclassify their games as action or adventure, they still fall under the shooter genre. But the biggest and best promoted games of the past twenty years have all been shooters. I’ve split these up into three sub-categories for a little more detail. (For the purposes of this blog I’ve only included large franchises.) The graphics of all of these series are top of the line.

Firstly we have games with plot. The Halo and Gears of War series have both been meticulously planned out. Literally whole universes have been created just as backstory to the games. The characters are all given personalities and motivations.

Secondly comes games with little or no plot or backstory. The Call of Duty, Battlefield and Unreal Tournament series are some of the biggest around. These games are known as much for their online multiplayers as the single-player campaigns.

And finally there are games with, in my opinion, wonderful concepts. However, they failed to be successful because of issues with plot or gameplay. Resident Evil: Raccoon City and Assassin’s Creed 1 top this category.

Raccoon City was such an opportunity for Capcom to really make a game that stood out. For the first time, we were given control of a squad of the bad guys (the Umbrella Corporation) personal army. We broke into Raccoon City in the middle of a zombie outbreak that we had caused, with the objective of destroying any evidence or witnesses to Umbrella’s link to the viral outbreak. The game was brought out amidst franchise hype: two films in the Resident Evil franchise, one live-action, the other animated, were released within a month of the game. It should have been their best game yet.

Instead, the game was far too short, the storyline was poor and gameplay was completely different than the controls and gameplay from previous games in the franchise. That you are betrayed by Umbrella near the end should come as no surprise at all, yet the way that betrayal is delivered implies that it was supposed to be a shock. The characters certainly act as if it is, and yet they’ve been running around a city infested with the undead, killing anyone and destroying anything that could tie Umbrella to the outbreak. Ben Croshaw, better known as game reviewer Yahtzee for his Zero Punctuation videos for The Escapist magazine, has this to say about betrayal in games.

Good-[non-playable-character]-is-actually-bad-[non-playable-character] is not even shocking anymore. Even though a lot of game story writers can’t foreshadow to save their lives and merely pull the betrayal from some celestial arse whenever it’s needed, you can always tell when it’s coming. That look in their eyes and that tone in their voice when they come to meet you on the battlefield. The funny way they examine the maguffin in their hands after you pass it over. And, most tellingly, the fact that there’s still about an hour of gameplay time left.

Among these seven franchises, which do you think will still be around and popular in 40 years’ time?

In my opinion, none of them. They’re all generic games. They all do the exact same thing, just in slightly different ways. While they stand out because of their successes as a brand, none of the individual games do anything dozens of others haven’t already done in the past two decades alone.

Graphics

This leads me onto games which, ignoring the strength/lack of plot, have such wonderful design that they have been recommended to me simply on graphics alone.

  • Crysis 1
  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Metro 2033
  • Batman: Arkham City

The other thing these games all have in common? They’re all particularly strong for plot and gameplay. Batman: Arkham City in particular is a great example of engaging characters within a clearly defined world which we explore, with gameplay mechanics which have brought me back to replay it several times.

The Future

Going back to our retro games then. What is it then about these ‘70s and ‘80s games which makes them so popular?

Nostalgia maybe? These are the simple games that many adults played as teenagers, and many in my generation played because we saw our parents playing them. I remember stealing my dad’s old Nokia phone all the time just to play snake when I was younger.

Does this mean that in say twenty years’ time, the Halo series, or Call of Duty will inspire the same nostalgia in us as Space Invaders and Pacman did for our parents? Perhaps it is the simplest games which make us want to replay them. Side-scrolling platform games like Mario are hugely popular with all age-groups. The controls are simple as is the plot, with a core of four clearly-defined characters.

Jesse Schell of gamasutra.com writes “Are we going to have a Shakespeare of games? A game that was told so perfectly, and so well, that 200 years later people will insist we play it exactly as it was?”

For me, the only contenders will be the games from my parent’s generation, because they can be enjoyed by anyone, of any age, game preference and skill level.

NK

Are You Game: Part I

With video game graphics at their most impressive ever, and technology constantly improving, are game companies paying too little attention to other aspects? If graphics have been pushed to the very best they will be for the next few years, will game developers concentrate on story and character to ensure their games stand out in the ocean of mediocrity?

Let’s face it, in games like Call of Duty or Battlefield, plot isn’t the first thing which springs to mind. I’ve played several of them, and honestly, I couldn’t tell you the story. Go to location x. Shoot some enemies. Every now and then I may be graced with an escort mission, a vehicle section or a secondary objective to blow something up or retrieve intelligence. Yes the graphics are usually top notch, and the gameplay is smooth and easy, but the story, and anything that could make me empathize with the protagonist, is non-existent. And yet for their failings in story, these are two of the best-selling modern game franchises. So what makes them so popular?

Expectation

To answer that you’d have to first answer what makes any game “good”. This ultimately boils down to the expectations of each individual. Do they want to play alone, online multiplayer offline with family? What do they look for in a game before they purchase it?

For example, the Wii console caters more to social gamers. People who prefer to have a console which is fun for lots of people or younger children to play all at once. An Xbox 360 or a PlayStation on the other hand, are considered more serious consoles. The majority of all games are brought out for these platforms, and are the consoles most professional gamers will use. Those who prefer online multiplayer to single-player campaign would be less interested in the story more concerned with the gameplay mechanics.

I play games for the characters and story as much as for escapism and enjoyment. However, there will be others who only play for the fun of it, rather than any cathartic experience they may glean.

I asked several of my friends what they look for in games. The answers were more varied than I had been expecting, but the general consensus was much the same. Their favourite games all have:

  • Character-driven plot – player actions directly affect the world around them;
  • Detailed worlds which are fully discoverable;
  • Gameplay mechanics which encourage re-playing; and
  • Plot focused on atmosphere.

Ben Croshaw of The Escapist says this about the Resident Evil series:

…despite Resident Evil 6‘s best efforts to blow up the world for our amusement, it fails to unseat Resident Evil 4 from its position as The Only Good One. And part of why I like RE4, besides the gameplay shift and its campier approach, is that the story actually gets a whole lot narrower in scope than its predecessors. No fighting massive nebulous global corporations through entire zombified cities – Leon’s in the middle of bumfuck nowhere rescuing one girl from a nutty Lovecraftian cult run by a handful of kooky personalities. And the cult are trying so hard, God bless ’em. They’re working out of garden sheds and dressing up in burlap sacks and the leaders keep turning themselves into giant monsters out of desperation. Albert Wesker never looked like he was exerting himself at all and that’s why he’s a boring c*nt. The point is, the characters never got lost in the action.

Resident Evil 4 is one of my all-time favourite games, for exactly the reasons Croshaw points out. The characters are stronger than the action. The basic plot is simple enough to be understood, but the history and backstory of the series is still referenced, which allows for a deeper experience. It also helps that Leon, the protagonist, cracks jokes in all the right places, and the atmosphere of the game is genuinely scary in places.

Genre

Shooters are probably the most popular genre of games. Partly because friends will have heard about a game or own it already and recommend it. Partly because the gameplay mechanics are simple and the graphics are usually very strong. Shooters have seemingly become the staple of gamers of my generation. Sure, there will be games like Mario Kart or Wii Sports, but the vast majority of games belched from the corporate production lines are shooters.

Very few of these games have solid and engaging plots or characters whose flaws genuinely make gamers care about them. But they almost all have an online multiplayer system, which seems to be more and more important to gamers. Where once a game was judged solely upon its single-player campaign, it is increasingly the norm for games to be reviewed for both multiplayer and single-player.

The ability to play against another human, rather than an AI which can sometimes be as thick as two planks, is obviously an important one. Players can enjoy the challenge and judge themselves against strangers. Some games in recent years, to varying degrees of success, have tried to mix both multiplayer and single-player. Gamers can play through the campaign online with others, rather than alone.

While the latest games will always have a surge in their multiplayer traffic, big name shooters like COD, Halo and Battlefield have had fewer players on their online multiplayers in recent times. I think there is something of a chain-reaction behind this. Updated shooters are released. Players notice the lower numbers of competitors online and decide to change to a more popular game. Repeat with each new game that is released.

But these aren’t the only reasons. Perhaps gamers are growing tired of multiplayers being so similar. Perhaps we’re finally reaching the point where gamers will demand games, and shooters in particular, with engaging plot and characters with whom we can empathize.

Of course, that isn’t to say that games with a good writing are always more popular. One of the most popular games around, both single-player and online multiplayer, is Minecraft – a game with no backstory, characters, dialogue or conflict. You simply build whatever you wish.

Essentially, my point is this.

Are shooters, and the increasing focus on multiplayers, damaging our expectations of games by not providing us games with enough quality plot or characters?

NK

Latest and Greatest

Well now that was an exhausting month.

I’ve spent the past four weeks deadlocked with two pieces of coursework, and been unable to work on my novel as a result. I finally finished the second piece of coursework, an essay, about five minutes ago. In that month though, have been a couple of amazing meetings with professionals within the writing industry. One, a talk from Ajda Vucicevic, a literary agent with Luigi Bonomi Associates, and the agent of my personal tutor, Niki. I handed her a copy of my book proposal – 19 pages of paper – after the talk, and introduced myself. Two issues straight away:

I forgot to number the pages.
I forgot to add my email address.

So after that bad first impression, she smiled it off and promised to get back to me.
Which she did. I received an email from her a week and a half later with some recommendations for how to improve my manuscript. Sadly for me, Ajda didn’t want to offer to represent me. (Which would have been amazing if she had, because she’s the first person I’ve submitted any work to outside of a university anthology project). She did however tell me that the concept for my novel was “fantastic”, so I was stoked about that.

The other meeting was with Jade Chandler, a commissioning editor at Little, Brown. Again, it wasn’t particularly long, but Jade was visiting the university to give a talk, and kindly read two page submissions from several students, then offered feedback on where we could improve them. Talking with her was a great experience – she offered advice on what plot points to utilize more in my submissions, and even (after listening to my tastes in SF and fantasy genres) which London agencies or publishing houses I might enjoy who might also offer me internships. I have since applied for internships at Hachette, Egmont and will send an email to Gollancz soon.

Now that my coursework pieces are both out of the way, I’m spending the next month playing catch-up on my novel word count. If all goes to plan, then byMonday 18th March, I should be on 88,670 words – 8,670 words more than I estimated for the end of my project. The only issue is that I doubt very much that the 28k I need to write in those four weeks will actually finish the story.

As before though, I’m not hugely worried about this. During my meeting with Jade, she mentioned that first drafts for books she receives (she works with crime and thrillers) are often around 110,000 words. After all, it’s always better to have more material that you can cut things from than not have enough and need to stretch things out.

In other news, my twitter feed has become the home of numerous writers, agents and publishing house feeds in the two weeks that have passed since Damien G Walter began teaching a module on writing for the web. Personally I think it’s a testament to the man that after only 6 hours contact time with him, he’s managed to get me more involved with the blogs, twitter accounts and home pages of many writers, some of whom I’ve never heard of or read anything by!

As always, let me know how your writing endevours are progressing.

NK

Catching Up

So after my mutiny before Christmas, I settled down while on holiday in France.

While also spending Christmas out in the Alps and doing a lot of skiing, I also made myself write 12,000 words in 12 days on holiday. Including a day when I had a lie in until 10.30am, went skiing for 4 hours, and still managed to write 2,500 words. Probably the most productive I’ve ever been, and it happened on holiday!

The real issue came when we arrived back home. I just couldn’t make myself work again. I spent another week doing nothing, and then the week after that was spent working in an office for some money – after all, I’m still a poor student *cue clichés about students with no money*. So by the time I returned to university, I had allowed myself to slip 8,000 words behind on word count TWICE in one month. I’m still trying to play catch-up even now, but I’m being a bit more generous and allowed myself an extra week, so I can write 12,000 words again in 14 days, rather than 8,000 in 7 days.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never really had to work hard at home, but I’m definitely finding that I’m at my most productive AWAY from my bedroom at home. My bedroom in my student house is a good place for work, as I’ve spent many a long night until my word count has been achieved.

On another plus note though, I’ve now reached 52,977 words, with another 7 weeks until my deadline of 4th March – 24 days before my project hand-in date. So, with 7 weeks to write another 27,023 words, for a minimum of an 80,000 word novel, I’m feeling pretty confident. Yes I have many other pieces of coursework which will require my attention, but now that I’m so far into the story (in terms of words, even if not plot itself) I’m enjoying writing the story a lot more than I was at the start. My characters are shaping up nicely, and I feel that I know the two main characters fairly well. Obviously, it’s still in the first draft form of my first ever novel, but still.

It feels nice to be able to say I’m nearly a novelist!

On a different topic from writing, does anyone else wish that people wouldn’t introduce them to new TV series while they’re in the middle of working? A friend of mine suggested I watch Suits, a TV show about New York corporate lawyers. Think the slickness of Ocean’s 11 dialogue and the legal accuracy and intrigue of The West Wing, and you’ve got something close to how good Suits is. My only issue now is that, now I’ve caught up with all the previous episodes, I have to wait until next week for the next one!

NK