Category: Writing

The perfect opening line I no longer have

Below is the perfect opening line to a story I was writing. Unfortunately, I wrote it on my phone at 3 a.m. on a night when I didn’t sleep, so it has been lost forever to exhaustion and predictive text.

“After hearing about Plus, he Fluox it was a story hestorymehow always known but had been just beyond his touch.”

Kindle Worlds: Legitimizing the Rabbit Hole to Fan Fiction

If you haven’t already heard of Kindle Worlds, it’s “a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games” and get paid for your work. Amazon have partnered with the copyright owners of certain titles and created a place where you can legally get paid for the fan fiction you write. The titles are only available through Kindle, of course, but when a title you’ve written sells then you get paid, the copyright owner gets paid and Amazon take their percentage.

There are a few comic titles participating, but most interesting is that Warner Brothers have launched with a selection of their shows. These include Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. Presumably the planned spin-off of the latter, Ravenswood, will either be included in this deal or will be imminent; both shows exist in the same universe and have some character cross over, so it’s hard to imagine how a separation would work from the perspective of fan created content.

It will be interesting to see what resources Warner Brothers put into fostering a writing community on Kindle Worlds, or whether they’ll let it grow or die organically. It looks like they’re already supplying the basics for consistent covers, such as a series footer and title fonts, but how far will they go in providing additional content for Kindle World creators, and how involved will they become in promoting the work of the community?

There’s an excellent post on Transmedia fiction and it’s importance to a franchise by James Waugh that talks about just this. Content that is ‘in world’ and across multiple media types has been an integral part of building narrative-based brands since they began producing Star Wars toys in the late seventies. Centered around the movies, that brand now also spans multiple comics, novels, computer games, cartoons, collectables, playing cards, theme park rides and who knows what else, as well as non-canonical cross branding with other popular products such as Lego and Angry Birds.

Some people view these cynically; opportunistic deviations from the core product that make a quick buck but cheapening your brand in the process. They’re actually critically important for a narrative brand to sustain long term. Feature films are hugely expensive, and there’s a limit to the number that can be made around a single narrative world; It would only need one or two films in the franchise to not make the expected numbers and investors would begin to look elsewhere, plus there will be a natural rate of attrition in the audience.

Through extending the brand across a diverse range of media (all of which are cheaper to produce and market than a movie) they create multiple touch points with their core fan base and the opportunity to explore stories on the periphery of the main product. These touch points retain the importance of the brand for the user in the times between movie releases, keeping them engaged and excited.

The titles that Warner Brothers have launched with in Kindle Worlds don’t have the fan base or (I would wager) the longevity of a brand like Star Wars, but if they succeed in engaging fans (who are either creating on-brand content or consuming that fan created content) it will make the platform more appealing to the owners of other, larger brands.

So, if you have ten years worth of Star Wars fan fiction you’re itching to monetize, your hope rests with the success of fan fiction for Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl.

[Time] + [Energy] <> [Infinity]

“Time and energy but not an infinity around.”

I have no idea what the above sentence means, but I quite like it. Last night I fell asleep while writing, and this was the last line I wrote. The scene was about someone in a police interview room waiting for their lawyer, so that offers no clue.

It’s quite possible it’s some kind of equation to the universe; a literary equivalent to Einstein’s E = mc2. I guess I’ll never know.

The Nookpad

In my last post I mentioned how I wrote much of the first draft of two books using the Swype keyboard on my phone. Now I’ve taken this one step further and bought a Nook eReader.

The Nook is just configured for reading, but with a little judicious hacking it can run as a fully capable tablet on which I can now check my emails, write, tweet and even send texts. Now, it’s no longer a Nook but a Nookpad.

Just as the E Ink screens are perfect for reading in all lights and all conditions, it’s also perfect for writing. It’s lightweight, the battery lasts for months and you can sit in direct sunlight and write. It’s better than paper, as you don’t have to decipher your handwriting afterwards and, at the first available WiFi connection, it backs up everything you’ve written to make it immediately available on any other device. It’s the equivalent of having a dozen notebooks in my back pocket with the pages searchable.

The Evolution of Writing Tools. Quill – Nib – Ballpoint – Typewriter – Keyboard – Smartphone

In my last post here I talked about how current technology affects the way we can produce, edit and distribute stories. To think a little more on that, I’d like to talk about how the technology we have at our fingertips (literally) shapes how we write. Or, at least, shapes how I write.

Anyone who’s ever tried writing will have reached that point where you feel the need to correct what you’ve done to date rather than continuing writing. This can be the death of the project; if you spend your time trying to get the first x% perfect then you may never get on with finishing it. But I’ve found the new writing tools available are a perfect means to prevent this.

For years I used to write the first draft of anything by hand, meaning I have a chest full of notebooks and am on around my fifth version of a particular model of Parker pen which they no longer manufacture (the other four having been lost at various times and places). It worked for me because not only is writing by hand a slower process than typing buy you can’t easily go back and edit what you’ve written. This made me think about each line I wrote to make sure I was fairly happy and wouldn’t have to rewrite it until I came to typing the whole thing up. The drawback was that my handwriting is atrocious at the best of times, but if I was writing whilst traveling by bus, car, train or plane then it often became illegible.

And then I bought my first touchscreen phone.This was a revelation.

I discovered the Swype keyboard on my phone, where you swipe your finger across the keyboard to spell out words rather than tapping at individual keys; the keyboard looks at the letters your finger passed over and works out what word you’re spelling. Once I’d got used to trusting the keyboard to know what word I was trying to spell (which it’s surprisingly good at) this was a turning point.

Suddenly I had everything I was in the middle of writing, multiple chapters and stories I was working on, all instantly accessible in my pocket without needing to load up my bag with notebooks. I could write whilst walking. As I could hold and operate the phone with one hand, it meant I could write while I was stood on a train and hold on with the other hand. Anything I wrote my phone was instantly saved to the cloud, so all my writing was immediately backed up and instantly accessible on any device.

The only drawback I found to this method of writing turned out to be a strength. It’s not easy to edit things on a touchscreen phone. Jumping through the text, changing words, cutting and pasting are all cumbersome tasks. However, this meant I didn’t procrastinate and instead kept on writing. This limitation pushed me forward to finish the first draft, leaving anything that needed to be fixed in subsequent drafts.

I wrote probably half of the first draft of Personal Jesus on my phone and almost the whole of the first draft of The God of Las Vegas. The quality of what I wrote is no different to if I’d written it long hand, it was just a different and more convenient method of getting the words out of my head and into a usable format.