Modern technology: can't understand it, no longer allowed to use it for landfill.
I do read blogs from other writers, mainly ones I know. Hey, 1) I'm cheap and it saves on phone calls to find out what they're doing. And 2) anything I do on-line counts as research. OK? So anyway, one link lead to another in that time eating way it always does on the web, and I wound up on something called Writers Store - okay, it should be Writer's Store, but that's just mean spirited quibbling on my part, though it does sort of weaken their credibility. However ... There I discovered what a stone age creature I actually am. There is such a thing as software for writers, when I thought all you ever needed was Word 97 (even I have stopped using locosript professional). Software to help guide you through setting up plot outlines. Software that claims to overcome writer's bloc. Software to, well, basically write the book for you if you believe the function logs.
Now I know it's all too easy to laugh at adverts, but the best claim just had to be for a program called Story View, which was: Spontaneous ideas can be placed at any point in your story's timeline - even if you don't know what comes before or after.
Like Barney in The Simpsons said when Homer gave him his first can of beer: Where've you been all my life?
Sadly once I'd picked myself off the floor and stopped giggling I didn't actually hand over the cash for this astonishing chunk of technology. Well now I do get spontaneous ideas, I'll be honest with you, that's one of the major reasons the books are the length they are. Total inability to stop slotting ideas in. Unfortunately for me, my problem is that as a traditionalist I like to put them in where they're moderately relevant to the plot. That takes time. If it's a particularly good idea I'll even shuffle the plot around a little to accommodate it. So maybe I do need Story View, I can shove in spontaneous ideas each day without fretting over the deadline ever again. But then there's that claim: even if you don't know what comes before or after. Not knowing what comes next, I can understand. But not knowing what came before? As Ozzie would say: you've got to be effing kidding me. How can you Not Know what you've already done! Maybe I am just an ancient relic, writing stuff that's completely outdated, or perhaps that kind of structure is just weird post-modernism that I can't get my simple head around.
Whatever, It reminded me of two old short stories; the first by Brian Aldiss about future writers who buy machines to write with, and the better you are the better the machine you can afford, so the better your stories are; it's a nice conceptual cycle they're all trapped in. The second was by Roald Dahl about the inventors of a writing machine going round signing up existing writers to serve as ghost names for their machine's output. Why am I talking about all this, well for me Dahl in particular who I read when I was younger set a gold standard in short stories. They always had a point or a sting in the tale or built up to a good joke. They made sense. So the wheel turns and a new writing tool with ridiculous claims reminds me of short stories written by people who instinctively knew how to produce damn near perfect narrative structures. What glorious irony.
And so to real life.
In the last three months I've lost a stone in weight. No fad diet, just cut down on butter and chocolate.
Publicity for the UK publication of Dreaming Void is cranking up. I've recorded a podcast of me reading a section of Dreaming Void which should soon be accessible from various sites like this one and Macmillan's. And many thanks to the studio producers who managed to get me and my horrible voice through the ordeal. The same day I signed a thousand pages for the limited box set edition. I've also done various e-mail and phone interviews. There's a photographer coming up to take my picture for SFX magazine, so I'm hoping photoshop will be able to ease the bags under my eyes I now have courtesy of my kids waking nice and fresh and early each and every day. I've also got my lone signing at Forbidden Planet in London. Apparently author events at bookshops are in decline - unless you happen to write about boy wizards, of course. If you're in the area please come along and say hello, and bring all your old books for signing.
So there we have it. Nothing much else to report other than I have started writing The Temporal Void; this next won't make much sense yet, but the focus in this book will be more on Edeard's life in Makkathran and the nature of the Void, what happens outside in the Commonwealth takes more of a back seat until volume three - so now you know.
I've also now seen the American cover of Dreaming Void, which is a stunning piece of artwork.
And now back to my ageing yet trusty word processing program to carry on with the book ...
Peter F. Hamilton