If You Want to Write a Book, Write Every Third 5 Minute Interval in a Period of 15 Minutes, Also Never Sleep

There are many websites where you can get writing advice, for example, this one:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/05/27/if-you-want-to-write-a-book-write-every-day-or-quit-now

Here at Felapton Towers and via our leading Science Fiction/Fantasy/Military History publishing arm Cattimothy House, we meet and train many aspiring authors – people who we’ve turned from mere robotic vacuum cleaners into leading voices in modern fiction. We’ve compiled all our experience and writing advice into this one article that WILL help you turn your dreams into a book!

So you are about to write a book? Remember, on the day you start, millions of others will be starting a book also. Worse, BILLIONS of people live on Earth and many of them are also capable of thinking about starting a novel. Bear in mind that approximately only SIX books are published each year and of those FOUR are guide books to Disneyland. In order for your book to be published, it has to be better than the books those several billion people on Earth might write. Most of those people have more interesting lives than you and also probably nicer personalities.

Lesson 1: You have to defeat your rivals. Your book has to be better than your rivals. Looking at the odds, that implies you’d be best trying to sabotage them from finishing their book. But how? Well, articles like this can help! Find a blog, a writers group or maybe a popular online media organisation and instead of writing a book, write an article full of bad writing advice! BINGO! All those billions of rivals will read it, follow your advice and either write a terrible book or give up in exhaustion.

Lesson 2. The two most important words you can write in any manuscript are “the” and “end.” Also “a” is pretty damn useful. You need articles both definite and indefinite and also use the word “end” a lot. Take Tolkien (please!), why do you think Bilbo lives at “Bag End”? Because “end” is very important. Why? Because EVERY book ends with THE END in big bold capitals and underlined. If you don’t have “THE END” at the end, how is the reader going to know that the book is over? Editors at fancy publishers expect to see that kind of shit in manuscripts you know? Like this:


Ha! Bet you stopped reading right! Old writer’s trick there. Seriously though, that was just an example. Don’t use the power of “The End” until you’ve actually finished the story! Otherwise, your readers will be going “Huh? Why are there all these extra chapters after the end of the book?”

Lesson 3: Somewhere along the way your fancy-schmancy competitors mosey off. I’m too stupid to mosey off. Heck, I’m so dumb I wouldn’t mosey off if my fingers were bleeding because I’ve been typing so DAMN HARD that my callous have worn through and I’m typing with the bloody stumps of my finger bones. You want to know what writing is like? Do you? Do you PUNK? It is exactly like the film ROCKY. Before I start writing I follow a strict regime of running up and down the steps of famous buildings and punching sides of frozen meat – not with my fists but with my TYPING FINGERS. That’s how I learned words like “mosey” because also writing a book is a lot like watching a film with John Wayne, maybe the Searchers but also like Rocky, like the Searchers but the guys doing the searching are Rocky Balboa and it is in New York and he has to punch sides of frozen meat but he is on a horse.

Lesson 4: Write Every Third 5 Minute Interval in a Period of 15 Minutes. You knew this already from the title. Good. Reading is nearly as important as writing when it comes to writing. However, remember you have NO TIME for reading because you must be writing. ZERO distractions people! No family, no life, no movies, no hobbies, no reading because those bright glittery distractions will bring NOTHING but emotional pain and regret. People betray you, TV shows get cancelled, your pets secretly hate you. The only solution is to retreat into the world wholly separated from the rest of humanity into which no external ideas can penetrate. Nothing feeds the writing powers like total sensory deprivation. You are going to need salt, lots and lots of salt. Also, some sort of tank which you can fill with a warm saline solution in which you will float, disconnected from reality. Drift, drift, drift, they can’t find you here, in the tank, the back stabbers, the freaks who prey on you, what the hell do they want from you, always taking, taking, taking, Shhhh, you are safe now. Lie there, floating for exactly TEN MINUTES. Use a timer. BEEP BEEP BEEP! Ten minutes are up! Now type, type type! Ouchy! Minor electric shocks from your laptop in the saline – you’ll need to figure a way around that but the pain is good for productivity. BEEP BEEP BEEP! Five minutes are up! Now drift for ten minutes again.

Lesson 5: You’ll need some scary goons. Firstly they will help stop your so called ‘friends’ and ‘family’ and ‘social services’ and ‘police’ from intervening in what will appear to them as a bizarre descent into a regimen of salt baths and electrocution hazards. Also, they will keep your legion of fans away that are all out there whispering, can you hear them in the silence of the tank? Yes, you can, they are whispering “we want your book” or is it “you are a loser” or is it the Enochian language of the angels? You’ll not want to go back into the tank but you’ve paid the goons well and they have strict orders to ignore your protests. Their dead eyes will ignore your pleading and carry your weakened body back to the tank after your repeated escape attempts.

Lesson 11 no is it 1 or is it 111 and what, yes. Never sleep. What do you do when you sleep? You dream. And where do those dreams GO? Do they go onto a written page? No? NO? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!!!! That is precious imagination juice just spilling out of your brain and going NOWHERE. That’s like your SEED your MOJO your essence and using it up on what? DREAMS? Seriously, are you even TRYING? Do you want to write a book or not, you pathetic excuse for a human being? NO SLEEP. Sleep drains your imagination, it makes you dull and rational. Cut out sleep and you won’t deplete your imagination juice each night. BINGO! CREATIVITY JUGGERNAUT! That’s what you’ll be.

Lesson $%^&*(). Research! You’ll need a cloak and someway past those goons, you hired. Maybe you shouldn’t have given them guns. Listen, there is a hatch in the kitchen, it gives access to pipes under the house. No, no, no time for questions – LISTEN, trust me the hatch is there. Wait till the guards are sleeping (ha no book deals for them!). GET TO THE KITCHEN. Now find the hatch and get into that space. Hold on, shhh, one of the guards is stirring. OK, he’s still asleep, move. Right, follow the pipes. They lead to a facility. You’ve always known it was there, the facility. It is where they have kept tabs on you all those years. Find the horse. The horse is your friend. Now ride through the facility till you find the computers. There is a snail there who was your boyfriend at school, it’s weird because he is a snail and also your boyfriend from school but all grown up and now you are at school but it is a garden and the grass is soft, soft, soft… WAKE UP!!!! Ha, caught you dreaming! STOP IT! You are wasting imagination juice.

Lesson 2. Give up. What are you doing to yourself? You can’t write. You are hopeless.

Lesson 18. Get past Lesson 2. Forget your doubts and uncertainties. You define yourself. You must NEVER question yourself AGAIN EVER. Emerge from the tank. Your goons move towards you but uncertainly this time. They can see it in your eyes – the cold certainty of a man who knows no doubt. Did I say ‘man’? No, you’ve surpassed that. You are a being of PURE WILL. You make Nietzche look like a ditherer. One by one your goons kneel before you. They are frightened and in awe, for they have looked on the face of God. You forgive them for their blasphemy. Your book awaits but mere writing is beneath you.

Step outside. At first, it will only be the weak minded who will hear your call. The forgotten ones. They can sense the presence of your mind through the fog of their confused existence. “Come to me,” you whisper and they hear you, from the Le Paz to New York, from Toronto to Mumbai. Billions begin their pilgrimage to find you.

Soon, the others can ignore you no longer. You are a phenomenon that governments cannot escape. You still keep your goons close to you, for they are the blessed ones who first saw your glory when you emerged from the tank, your fingers worn away to stubs but your eyes glowing with a golden fire and your skin translucent like alabaster.

The UN meets. NATO meets. The Bilderberg Group and every shadowy conspiracy of world elites meet. All to discuss YOU. What is this being who can command nations? They cannot possibly understand.

You are the writer and at last, you have found the page for your manuscript. It is a palimpsest, full of the writings of others, over which you will write your TRUTH, your WILL. That page is called ‘the world’. The words you write are:


Review: Doctor Who – The Pyramid at the End of the World

Peter Harness co-wrote this middle part of the current Doctor Who three-parter. His previous Doctor Who credits includes the divisive Kill the Moon and the more liked but unconventional Zygon Invasion/Zygon Inversion two-parter. There is a tiny but odd reference to Kill the Moon when the Doctor describes the Earth of the near future as “as dead as the moon” but UN/geopolitics set-up is more firmly like the Zygon Invasion.

The corpse-like monks are back but this time they’ve brought a pyramid an ancient pyramid and landed in central Asia in disputed territory near Chinese, US and Russian forces. The crisis sends the UN to look for the Doctor, which in turn leads the UN Secretary General to interrupt Bill’s date with Penny.

Meanwhile…in bio-research lab two scientists are conducting tests on plants. Given the flights of fancy of last week’s episode, the scenes in the lab are very grounded and nicely done. Erica (Rachel Denning) and Douglas (Tony Gardner) are presented as just ordinary people doing their job – although their very unconnectedness to the rest of the story creates a sense of lingering doom. Douglas has a hangover, Erica’s glasses were broken on her way to work: minor humdrum events that are setting ominous events in motion.

Good not great but also something of a classic. The story sits, rather like the freaky pyramid, at the borders of multiple Doctor Who elements: an overtly SF story about a bio-engineering threat to life on Earth, a more fantastical story about corpse-like monks in an alien pyramid, and the classic theme of the Doctor stopping multiple armies from shooting each other.

Hugo 2017: Short Story

I think it is fair to say that the most serious damage done to a Hugo category during the Puppy campaigns (both Sad and Rabid) was to the Short Story category. No Award won in 2015 when faced with a set of stories that at best rose to the level of mediocre. Upsettingly the choice in 2016 was on average even worse, only the single (and excellent fun) ‘Cat Pictures Please’ prevented No Award from winning again. Yes, other categories had similar troubles but the short story is an important element of Science Fiction as a genre and in the history of fandom.

The boast of the Rabid Puppies was that No Award winning meant the category had somehow been burnt to the ground. Painting themselves as vandals, there was much crowing about they had managed to get nominated in 2015 and 2016 (although Chuck Tingle’s nomination backfired on them). So to 2017 and what does the nearly-Puppy free scorched Earth of a category look like? Fresh, exciting and full of difficult choices. Why it’s almost like ‘burn the category down’ was confused delusional bullshit.

Tough, tough, job ranking five of these but I’ll try! User experience may vary and I can see me changing my mind on these.

In reverse order:

7. Won’t get on the ballot: John C Wright’s walking advert for the Three Stage Voting proposal. Bad even by John C Wright’s standards. Interesting how even Wright’s sycophants aren’t praising it.

6. No Award. Making a strong case for itself as there is still some trash to take out.

5. “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” Alyssa Wong.
I did enjoy this and it would be a worthy winner but…this is a competition and it has to fight off some excellent competition. The alternative-timeline snippets make the story hard to work as a short story and it may have worked better as a longer story.

4. “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” Bo Bolander
I nominated this punchy, super short revenge story. It does a lot of work with very few words but…the very nature of it means there is not much in the way of characterisation or plot development. The cruelty of having to pick between these stories forces me into finding fault when really this story does not NEED these things – it is great as it is and expanding it would undermine its sense of anger.

3. “The City Born Great” N.K.Jemisin
I really liked this story that takes the term “urban fantasy” literally and celebrates the freaky alien monsters that so much of humanity lives in and which we call “cities”.

2. “That Game We Played During the War” Carrie Vaughan
Not a story that was on my radar and a nice find in the Hugo Packet. Almost a textbook demonstration of an effective science fiction short story – setting, character, interpersonal relationship against which wider events (a war) and science fiction concepts (one side has telepathy, the other side doesn’t) but written with a fresh perspective.

  1. “Seasons of Glass and Iron” Amal El-Mohtar
    It had a tough job against strong competition but I do think this one stood out. The story takes two elements from lesser-known fairy tales: a woman who has to live on top of a glass mountain and a woman who has to walk the earth in iron shoes until their soles are worn away. El-Mohtar captures the atmosphere of the stories but also turns them to her own purposes.

And what a great set of reads those five stories were!

Review: Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

This review meanders somewhat and assumes you’ve read the book and also maybe all those notes I wrote. So, no it isn’t really a very useful review of a book! So I’ll start with: yes, I got a lot of enjoyment out of these books 🙂

I’ve split things into sections so you can skip bits. Spoilers etc below the fold.

Utopia or dystopia?
Is Mycroft Loki?
What’s going on with Frankenstein?
And the gender thing?
Figure and Ground?
Is it a philosophical book?
So what do I think now?

Continue reading “Review: Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer”

Review: Alien Covenant

Had to leave the house but soon discovered that sitting down was the only viable option. So shuffled into the multiplex like the guy in a movie about some horrible outbreak of an apocalyptic zombie infection. Trying to check back over the past few weeks to see if I’d been exposed to any weasels.

Alien movies are much better if you feel sick. Aliens movies less so. Aliens movies are about fighting monsters but Alien movies are about infection and parasitism. That the creature becomes a big physical entity that can be shot at is almost reassuring – even though it is unstoppable.

Covenant and its predecessor Prometheus are both variations on the theme of the original Alien. The same elements have to appear (some of which are shared with Aliens films), the horseshoe ship and the undiscovered planet and the body horror. The tone is serious and visuals are striking.

Covenant’s cast is sufficiently good and the dialogue strong enough that while the characterisation is not deep there is at least a sense of these people having some depth of character – it’s just that we don’t get to see it before they variously die horribly. Looking back at the original film, I suppose the same could have been said of it – even Ripley. I think we back project Ripley’s character from Aliens onto the crew member of the Nostromo. This is OK I think. Maybe it would be less obvious if everybody on these doomed ships was somewhat reserved, middle-class British people.

The exception with Alien was Ian Holm’s Ash*. Ridley Scott used a more complex emotional range for Ash initially as a trick – to hide his actual motives and to make the revelation that he was an android more shocking. Ridley Scott double-downs with that approach and gives us two robots – both Michael Fassbender-bots – David*, the disturbing android from Prometheus and Walter, a newer version of the same model who is serving on the Covenant.  David, in particular, gets what no other character has had in any of the other previous Alien movies – a character with deep motivations that have wider ramifications for the story.

Without revealing too much of the plot (the bones of which you already know – spaceship crew finds a planet, away team goes down, oh look a freaky ship lets look inside arrrggghhhhhhh, ugghhhh, blerrrgggg, ouch, gasp, waaahhhhh squelch etc), the David story becomes clearer. Ridley Scott has gone back to sci-fi roots and is remaking Frankenstein – which we should have guessed from the title of the last movie ‘Prometheus’. This time he brings in more of the film elements of Frankenstein including the spooky castle. The dark and stormy night, of course, has always been there and was in Aliens as well.

Is it a good film? If you want character driven stories then no, not really. Character is irrelevant is what Scott seems to be saying – and he has a point. These people are going to get killed regardless. The decisions they make aren’t stupid (aside from the required lax quarantine procedures without which Alien can’t proceed) but they can’t factor in ‘alien killing machine with baroque reproductive cycles’. So only Walter and David get one of any depth – which makes you wonder about Blade Runner.

The horror doesn’t quite work either because we already know that everybody will be chopped up eaten and eviscerated. Some of the cliches work well as an homage but others (the two crew members having a sexy shower unaware that there is an alien on board) just seem tacky.

As a science-fiction film? I quite liked it. Yes, a lot doesn’t make much sense and is science argle-bargle but it has a sense of mystery and discovery. The Earth-like world is shot in a way to make that very quality seem disturbing – which is impressive. The alien city is also suitably Alien and familiar in a way that develops the weird intelligent-design premise of the new sequels.

No surprises. Some revelations. Two Fassbender’s kiss.

*[Which Holm does play as a middle-class British person come to think about it.]

**[Um and of the two Fassbender-bots, Walter-the-Wobot*** and David, Fassbender plays David as a middle-class British person. I think maybe Scott sees stereotypical Britishness as a. robotic and b. having inherent character and agency. Everybody else will get eaten by monsters.]

***[I mean, seriously. Scott must have read 70s/80s 2000ADs and he calls a robot ‘Walter’?]

Review: Denial (Movie 2016)

An interesting dramatisation of the libel trial in which Holocaust denier David Irving sued American academic Deborah Lipstadt for libel.

In 1993 Deborah Lipstadt published the book Denying the Holocaust, an approachable but detailed discussion of Holocaust denial as a phenomenon and the major players in Holocaust denial circles. David Irving, a self-taught military historian with some scholarly reputation but also a Hitler apologist, objected to Lipstadt’s description of him as a Holocaust denier. As Lipstadt’s book had been published in the UK, Irving was able to sue Lipstadt and Penguin Books in a British court.

The film charts the course of this legal conflict with the ever capable Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt and the ever watchable Timothy Spall as David Irving.

There are several good performances including Tom Wilkinson as Lipstadt’s barrister Richard Rampton and Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) as Lipstadt’s celebrity solicitor Andrew Julius.

Yet…although parts are both moving and informative, the film often lacks tension and real drama – in part because the reality is like that sometimes. An attempt to create some real tension over whether Lipstadt will testify personally (spoiler: she doesn’t) creates a weird arc which makes the whole film feel like its underlying message is ‘listen to your lawyer & barrister who are really smart men and will be proved right in the end’. Well, I suppose that is true if you are trapped in a complex libel case in a British court but doesn’t make for a good drama. So there is no High Noon showdown between Lipstadt and Irving.

Likewise, the long case – often caught in minutiae of whether Irving was simply mistaken on an issue or whether he was deliberately lying about history – does not play out along the lines of film courtroom dramas. Again, because court cases don’t actually work the way they do in film.

A good film but not a great film. A worthy attempt to dramatise an interesting and important issue but maybe not a story that suits the medium very well.

Link round up

Review: Doctor Who – Extremis

A cracking episode in which Doctor Who crashes a Dan Brown novel, has flashbacks to Missy being executed and then gets pretty damn dark. Did it all make sense? No, not really but really it had everything, including the Pope crashing Bill’s date.

The re-mixing old ideas continued apace in this episode. The virtual reality from Silence in The Library, a library like, um, Silence in the Library, religious orders, creepy monks, some sort of Pandorica like thing. The big difference was that most of the loose ends were neatly tidied up by the end. The plot holes were substantial but mainly irrelevant. We don’t know who the bad guys are but there is more of them next episode.

It does look like the three-parter, in this case, is three sequential stories with their own beginnings, middles and ends. This may prevent the usual problems with multi-part Who episodes.