Sunday, 27 March 2011

Remember It's the Future

EDIT: this post refers extensively to the original title of my blog, which includes an ableist slur. I apologise for any hurt caused by my poor choice of title.

I've been telling myself this for a while now (hello, by the way). It's the future, stupid. Without wanting to be trite, we - those of us lucky enough to be born in rich, western, industrialised nations, anyway - live in a world where we can pull a gizmo out of our pockets and be talking to the entire world in seconds. It's not the flying car, but it is the future.

And yet, here I am, in 2011, without even a blog of my own. I only started using Twitter late last year. Time for a change.

On which note, let me introduce myself. My name is Rik. I am a writer (note: not aspiring). Thus far, I've written two novels, and this blog exists for me to tell the story of my adventures as I move towards self-publishing them as e-books. I'm intending - hoping - to publish both this November 1st, which gives me, as of this post, 214-and-a-bit days (seven months) to get them ready.

The title of the blog comes because, well, of course I'm e-self-publishing. It's the future, stupid. Many people better-informed and more experienced than me have written copiously about the advantages to a 'new' writer (I've been writing, in various forms, for almost a decade) of e-publishing and self-publishing - I'm currently reading J.A.Konrath's blog archive on the topic (at a newbie's guide to publishing), which covers it all brilliantly. I don't pretend to be an expert on the topic - the main thing I plan on doing for the next seven months is learning what I need to know.

I'm not an expert on blogging, either. In fact, I consider myself an expert at very little (which will come as a surprise to anyone who's met me in person ¬_¬). Here is a list of the things I consider myself an expert at: 1. the philosophy of John Foster (on which I wrote my MA thesis two years ago), the history of idealism within modern philosophy (which I'm currently researching for my PhD, and only consider myself an expert on relative to the average among English philosophers, most of whom don't care about it), and the life and works of Rik Davnall (that's me).

On everything else, I'm prepared to learn. When it comes to writing, e-publishing, self-publishing and related disciplines, I'm also willing and eager to learn. If you think I'm making a mistake, TELL ME. A man is better protected by an honest stranger than a friend's white lie.

I wanted to get that out of the way because I'm sometimes accused of talking as if I know everything about everything. Consider this a promise to at least try to remain humble. If I break it, pelt me with things. Preferably soft, non-messy things, at least on a first offence.

A bit more detail about me: I'm 23, currently reading for my PhD in philosophy, with the title 'Phenomenalism and Quantum Theory', at the University of Liverpool, England. I live on Penny Lane (about a hundred yards from the barber's shop from the song, which is still open). In addition to novels, I write and draw two webcomics, play drums in a local progressive hard-rock band, grapple regularly with a crippling videogame-and-candy addiction, and play ragtime piano whenever I can. I earn my keep as a teaching assistant at Liverpool's philosophy department and doing support work, mainly as an amanuensis, for students.

Having spent my childhood reading voraciously, it first occurred to me that I could maybe make some money writing when I was about 14. Now, I'm not saying that no 14-year-old can make some money writing, but I certainly couldn't. My first offerings were predictably awful. Still, I enjoyed it, so I kept plugging away at it, and things slowly improved. I've still not made any money from any of it, but at least there are a few bits from back then I can still look at with some pride.

After struggling with trying to write epic fantasy novels for a few years (I don't really have - or wasn't willing to learn - the patience), I tried my hand at screenplays and found it much more to my liking. I've written five screenplays, two of which ended up, after copious re-drafting, almost good. I even found the confidence to send a few things to agents - though, given that I was about 17 at the time, it should come as no surprise that all I collected were polite nos.

Again, not saying you can't succeed with a screenplay aged 17, but I couldn't.

And just when things were starting to look up for my writing ability, I started two webcomics and university, all in the space of about three months. Webcomic writing is a great writing exercise and webcomics are a great form, but they take up a LOT of time. The same goes for essay-writing at university (and in philosophy, it's all essays). As a result, I didn't do a lot of other writing.

Fast-forward five years, to the start of the second year of my PhD. I was sick of the PhD and the webcomics were running into the ground. As October ground on, a crazy novel idea occurred to me. A few days later, I realised that NaNoWriMo 2010 was just around the corner. I've always wanted to do NaNo (any NaNoer worth their salt will recognise the irony in this), and I had a 'what the hell' moment and signed up.

It turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made. I hit my 50,000 words in just under 8 days, thanks to fierce but friendly competition, and eventually finished the novel at 67,000 words about 10 days later. 'Bad Romance' was the result - a love story about pretending to be a girl online to woo a lesbian pop-star you've fallen in love with (yes, I do plan on coming up with better marketing copy before trying to sell it).

I liked the whole experience so much, I did it again the following month, writing the 61,000-word 'The Death of John Collins' in 20 days over my Christmas holiday (one advantage of student life is the long holidays). 'Collins' is much more like my preferred oeuvre, being a sci-fi thriller-cum-disaster-story about the collapse of time itself. It's based on a short story I submitted as coursework for my Master's degree - my subject is occasionally that awesome.

'Bad Romance' notwithstanding, I see myself as a sci-fi writer. Most of the ideas in my notebook are overtly sci-fi (or at least 'futuristic fantasy'). I want to write books that use my philosophical skills as well as whatever writing skills I have, and sci-fi is probably the most philosophical of genres (unless Sartre, Camus et al count as genre writers). Plus, y'know, laser guns are cool.

Actually, I consider 'Bad Romance' sci-fi, in the loose sense of the term. Partly because it notionally belongs to a series whose other installments reach far into the future and engage with many of the great issues of science fiction, but that's not the main reason. The main reason is that a lot of it takes place in a virtual realm supported by a world-wide network across which vast quantities of data can be shared near-intantly.

Yes, I do mean the internet. As I keep telling myself, it's the future, stupid.

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