Friday, August 26, 2011

We Never Talk Any more (well, actually, we do…)

So I mentioned last week that I recently purchased voice recognition software for my computer. I've had it for just over a week now, and I think it's safe to say that it's pretty nifty. In fact, I'm writing this while leaning against the bookcase on the far side of my office from my computer. If I wanted to (though I'm not sure why I would) I could probably even write from the men's toilets across the corridor. It's… liberating.

I got the idea, as I mentioned last week, from John Birmingham who has written the last couple of his books using the same software. I read an interview with him in which he discussed the impact that it had on his writing productivity and I thought to myself “well, if it's good enough for Birmingham, it's good enough for me!"

So I've spent the last week, quite literally, talking to myself. I have it on good authority that the other people in my building are starting to wonder exactly what's going on here in my office. Not that a writer talking to himself should be news to anyone. I think it's fair to say that my computer and I are only now, after almost 2 years together, just getting to know one another.

And, like any relationship, we've had our ups and downs in the last week. While for the most part my MacBook is remarkably attentive, there have been a few times when I just can't escape the feeling that it's just not listening!

Take this morning, for example. Having just finished my firrst close edit of The Hunter, and with my head still in the story, I decided it was time to make the best use of my new toy, (and also an opportune time to put off reading any more of the 190 odd grant applications that I have to get through before next week) to start writing the 2nd book in the Orion series.

I duly fired up Scrivner, spent a very pleasant half an hour mapping out plot points and chapters, And then, excitedly, I donned my headset.

“Okay, here we go!" I thought. “A new chapter in my writing life. It's all sweet from here."

And it was. That is, at least until I came to the word “dared", (which, FYI, I just had to spell out manually) Whereupon my computer decided that no matter what my opinion was on the matter, it wasn't going to come to the party. here, I'll show you…

He ran as fast as he did.
He ran as fast as he did.
He ran as fast as he died.
He ran as fast as he daredevil.
He ran as fast as the daring.
He ran as fast as he dead.
He ran as fast as the dead.

That should give you some idea of the problem. I tried every trick in the book; I opened up the program's vocabulary editor, found the problematic word, spent the next 5 min “training" the program and, when I went back to my book, it made no difference whatsoever; “He ran as fast as he Darren" it told me.

So, that's where we are at. For the most part I'm loving being liberated from my keyboard, and the fact that I managed to bash out just under 1000 words in just a little under half an hour is, let's face it, fantastic. But I'd be lying if I pretended that it was all smooth sailing: As well as having issues with "dared"* it also has a couple of other little habits which irritate the life out of me—automatically inserting numerals instead of spelling out numbers, for example. Still, I'm hoping that as the weeks and months progress and as my computer learns not just to recognise the sound of my voice but to love it, but these little issues will become fewer, and fewer.

It's worth a try, anyway.

Because, as they say; “only the dialling succeed!'

* just had to spell it out again, in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Much better now, thanks for asking...

Hi everyone,

Firstly, thanks so much for all the lovely messages of support after my bleak and depressing post from last week. You'll be pleased to know that I've managed to come through my little meltdown and am feeling much happier and more like my usual self now.

On which note I did promise that I would post something this week and, well, here we are.

Actually, in the midst of all the last week's bleakness, I did have one particularly interesting experience. I'm pleased to say that early next year the lovely people at UQP have decided to repackage my second novel “a New Kind Of Dreaming" with a spanking new cover and all-new internals.

This, of course, means that I got the oddly pleasurable task of re-proofreading the book. As a general rule, once my books are finished, I tend to send about into the big wide world without so much as a second glance. Certainly I don't think I've ever actually sat down and re-read any of my books after publication-at least not from cover to cover. So was a weird feeling to settle down last week with a story I'd written over a decade earlier, right the very start of my writing career.

It was rather strange and for the first few pages I found myself spotting things that I would gladly change if given half a chance. But of course, that wasn't the point. The point of this particular proofreading was simply to pick up on any typos which may have crept through from the original edition.

What struck me most about reading the proofs, though, was how oddly different the book seemed. The version of “A New Kind Of Dreaming" in my mind didn't at all add up with the version on the pages. The book in my memory was, somehow, fundamentally different. It's hard to pin down exactly why or how, but I couldn't shake off this odd feeling of cognitive dissonance as I work through the pages of the new edition.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm still incredibly proud of the book. It's something I wrote when I was in a very different place in my life, when I was politically very angry, and which really says a lot about both who I was and who I am today. But working through the proofs last week, it felt like reading someone else's book.

So that's my little observation for this week. Not sure if it means anything though it probably does.

And also, if this post seems a little disjointed, it's because I'm “writing" it using my fun new voice recognition software which, inspired by John Birmingham, I've gone out and gotten for myself. This is in part to increase my productivity, and also because, quite frankly, sitting at a desk in front of a screen all day was playing havoc on my back. It's kind of strange talking on my computer, but I suspect I'm going to get to like this. I'll keep you posted.

In any case, thanks again for all the support last week it really made a difference.


Friday, August 12, 2011


Sometimes the words just won't come to life.

On the page, in the head, on the screen.

This is where I've been for the last couple of weeks. Feeling flat.

It's happened to me a couple of times before in my creative life; periods where no matter what I do, how hard I try, I just can't make myself interested. Can't make myself interested in the stories, in playing with the words, in the ideas, in writing, even in other people's writing.

Just. Plain. Flat.

And so I disconnect, and let the words lie fallow for a while.

This, in case you haven't worked it out already, is why there's been this big black hole of silence here for the last fortnight. It's not that I haven't wanted to put some posts up, not even that I haven't had ideas of stuff to post. Just that when I go to do it, I find myself feeling... flat.

It's the same with my books. I've had the draft of The Hunter sitting, half-edited, on my desk for over a month now, and every time I pick the damn thing up, and grab my pencil, I just get a few lines worked then then... flat.

And writing. I've got two big ideas that I want to work on at the moment. Both of them things I've been keen to write for ages. Both of them ideas that I've spent hours and hours thinking about, planning, anticipating.

Both of them, currently, seem like an utter waste of time and energy.

Like I say. Flat.

Still, it will pass. These things always do. Next week the teaching semester begins again and, like it or not, I'll be pulled back into the world of words, and hopefully it'll make a few of my own words rise up of the page, take on a bit of form and function and perspective. Take on some depth.

Wow. What a depressing post. Sorry for pouring all my flat out onto you like that.

Still, if it's any consolation, I'm feeling a little bumpy now. Slightly hummocked. Ruffled, even. This bleak post has more body to it than anything I've bashed out in a month.

Which is probably a good thing.

So thank for reading. See you all here next week.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin