Monthly Archives: April 2007

Take A Step Away From The Computer

That’s right. Hands in the air. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court.

I’m finding that my computer doesn’t really help the writing process. And that doesn’t make sense – what is so different about writing with a pen and writing with a keyboard?

Everything, as it turns out.

I write best with pencil and paper. Pens won’t do, since I can’t stand crossing out phrases that could be improved upon. Pencils give me the freedom to doodle along the margins and to mind-map all my plot ideas, themes and characters … in cute little bubbles. It’s aesthetically pleasing.

Composing my thoughts on the computer, like in WordPress or in Word is an entirely different thing. I don’t see the empty document window or text box as a canvas on which my art can be crafted and molded on. I see obstacles to my creativity (and my lovely email inbox).

Writing this post has taken me 2 hours. During that time roughly 30 minutes had been spent on actual typing and forming sentences, while the other 1 hour 30 minutes spent on surfing Amazon, checking email, catching up with friends on Skype as well as reading up on the latest reviews over at the NYT.
In contrast, it takes me roughly 4 hours to write a 3000 word chapter on paper. That means 750 words an hour – a hefty pace, considering I spend a lot of time on rewriting entire pages.

You know what? I should spend more time writing my posts offline. I believe the quality would improve, as well as give me the time to doodle and drink coffee (no fear of a short circuit!) and to smell the flowers and run from the bees.

Take a day away from the computer. It helps.

Bookmarked! April 5th

This has been a rather slow week for me, relatively speaking. I’ve been looking up a few articles and brooding over them – as well as a rather hilarious look at Penguin group’s attempt at a Wiki novel. So here’s the Bookmarked! post for April 5th:

I’ll start off with a mention of Mugglenet’s April Fools stunt – apparently each of the members posted up a ‘preview’ of Harry Potters and the Deathly Hallows – and the results were spectacularly hilarious:

“I always had an inkling that there was more to Hermione; her immediate knack with magic, and her irregular mood swings towards supposed ‘friends,’ Harry and Ron. I should have known she’d switch to the Dark side eventually. I just wish she hadn’t killed the whole of Ravenclaw in the process – I suppose it was just her annoyance at not being sorted there initially.” –Ciaran

“I couldn’t believe Snape was the long lost love child of Aberforth and that goat. It explains so much, including Severus’ appearance. And we now know why he told Harry to never call him a ‘cow’-ard, because he was in fact part goat.” –Micah

“I knew it! I knew it! When the Muggles came and totally obliterated everyone at the final battle, I was totally ready for it. Although, I admit killing every major character in the series was going a bit overboard, especially when Neville got hit by that bus after all was said and done. I didn’t know JKR had it in her!” –Tom

Quite a few of my friends actually did believe it, and they were reduced to pale-faced ghastly zombies for a day, wailing “How could they?!”

Those Mugglenet writers better run for cover for at least a full year. Heh.

On a more serious note, there’s been much talk lately of the recent Eyetrack study conducted by Poynter’s Institute. The findings state – get this – that online readers actually read 77% of an online (news) story, compared to 62% in broadsheets and 57% in tabloids.

News has always been suited for online reading, being that it is short, easy to digest and (usually) doesn’t require much thinking. The fact that the online world is threatening traditional newspapers and magazines isn’t the least bit surprising to me. But what I do find surprising is that readers actually complete more of a story on the internet rather than off it. What about the various distractions? The email and the Myspace pages and the RSS news feeds?

This is one myth that we’ll hear more about, sooner or later.


A Story Blook has actually been around for quite some time. The author’s recently gotten back from a hiatus and I’d say this is a perfect time to head over and to check it out – it’s grown to have quite a few short stories, all twisted to some extent.

Books I Want To Read

A quick trip over to the bookstore yesterday found me updating my ‘must-buy-book’ list. Let’s see:

1. We Need To Talk About Kevin caught my eye, nevermind the fact that it was on a bottom shelf at a tucked away corner of the bookstore. You’d expect the kevinbook_1.jpgwinner of the 2005 Orange Broadband prize for fiction to be prominently displayed – but no – the Da Vinci code and Jeffrey Archer’s newest novels occupied the top rows. Bestsellers vs Award Winners right in your face – and this was a small bookstore, mind you.

I like the premise of Kevin: shortly before his 16th birthday, Kevin Katchadourian kills seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher. The main narrative of the novel is then contained within a series of letters by his mother, Eva, to his estranged father, telling him the story of Kevin’s upbringing. Is she at fault for her son’s actions? Or is the evil he shows inherent in Kevin’s very being? The novel asks some very disturbing questions and I can’t wait to read it.

2. Lord Of The Flies is my favourite book – something I’ve read twice over – but my copy went missing about a year ago. I’m on the lookout for a better, nicer looking edition (let’s say my old one had encountered a few insect problems) and this cover caught my eye:


It looks kind of innocent, especially for a novel with such dark, overarching themes. But I still love it – and if it tricks my family members into reading it, then why ever not?

3. The Book Of Air And Shadows. I know it soundsbookairshadows_1.jpg very much like the Da Vinci code (A distinguished Shakespearean scholar found tortured to death … A lost manuscript and its secrets buried for centuries … An encrypted map that leads to incalculable wealth …) – but we all need a regular dose of roller coaster fiction, don’t we? Something you can enjoy and … that’s about it. No need to rethink your set of values, no need to consider a theme or point of view that the author presented and which you’ve never thought of before. Just pure, orgasmic reading.

This is going to be bliss. I’ll be expecting to buy these books within the next two months, if I can find copies at the (mostly small) bookstores I frequent. And when that happens I’ll probably disappear from the web, immersed in a world quite unlike our own.

Sophie About To Be Released

Remember Sophie? That project under the Institute for the Future of the Book that was designed to replace PDFs once and for all? I wrote about it in February, and at long last there’s some news about the software.

The Institute’s blog states that an alpha version of Sophie will be released this week, which I can’t wait to get my grubby paws on. It should be very interesting to see how they’ve implemented the features they mentioned in their last press release.

A very rough roadmap for Sophie:

June — a more robust version of the current feature set

August — a special version of Sophie optimized for the OLPC (aka $100 laptop or XO) in time for the launch of the first six million machines

September — a beta version of Sophie 1.0 which will include the first pass at a Sophie (sic) reader

December — release of Sophie 1.0

I can’t wait for December. Find out more about Sophie here and here.

Are First Lines That Important?

The following are first lines – from some of my most loved novels:

Call me Ishmael.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

All day, the colours had been that of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths.

“Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes.”

Can you recognize any of the above? (Don’t you go and Google them … I’ll put up the answers at the end of the post).

Are first lines that important? I usually read at least half a novel before developing an opinion about it (a possible exception is online fiction, or something that I know is from the slush pile) – and even then I don’t judge something by its first line alone. I read at least two pages of rubbish before I decide to call it rubbish.
But I’m not spokesperson for the world at large. Nor are novels what we usually read online.

So should you give thought to the first line in your writing?

The answer? It depends on the medium. Novels can get by with absolutely pathetic first lines, though writing overall still has to be good, vigorous and well structured. You wouldn’t have thought that To Kill A Mockingbird – one of the greatest novels ever written – started with an extremely unimpressive first line now, would you?

Once we take it online, however, the first lines of posts, episodes and chapters become absolutely vital. Which of the following would you rather continue reading?

I’m so tired to blog today because a lot of bad things happened to me while I was coming back from school and it was so horrible to be stuck between this woman that stunk like a fish market and a man who looked like he came straight out of The Departed – it nearly made me puke after the heavy meal Kristin made me eat during lunch break as well as the breakfast Mum forced down my throat.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Alright, so the second example was borrowed off Dickens. He wrote sharp and beautifully, and that first line from A Tale Of Two Cities still sticks with me today. Unfortunately for me, he peppered the rest of the first paragraph with variations of the first line, making me rush through to get to the meat of the story as soon as possible.

The first line in online writing should be concise, to the point, and attractive enough to draw the reader in. You’re not going to get anywhere with:

Hello, my name’s Kevin – but that’s not important.