#YouGotNoFans – The Death of the Scripted Comedy Catchphrase

Somewhere towards the rear of my head, being pushed back down the queue for creative attention behind a number of novel plots and film script ideas, jostle a group of characters all with their own comedy catchphrases. They were one day supposed to come together and be moulded into a feasible, and hopefully funny, sketch show series. The longer time goes on though, the less likely it is that they will get any of the limited time available for my #amwriting.

With what I have stumbled across, or been shown by my #teendaughter, online, I just don’t believe there is a future for the carefully crafted, scripted comedy catchphrase. Over the years, status in school playgrounds was helped considerably if you were able to pull off a remarkable, #loadsamoney, #yeahbutnobut, #Iwantthatone, #amIbovvered, etc etc.

The likes of Harry Enfield & Chums Paul Whitehouse et al, Messrs Walliams & Lucas and Catherine Tate to name just a select few, will have spent many an hour moulding their characters into those funny enough to be imitated by the laughing masses. There have been so many more over the years.

One of my all time favourite catchphrases was, “you see that (enter example of something really s**t), that’s you that is,” performed by Baddiel and Newman as the old History Today historians in their Mary Whitehouse Experience. This example, like others, also gave you the experience to adapt your own. For example, now you could say, “see that Sony Pictures, that’s your big brave Daddy’s film company that is.”

However, #teendaughter and her contemporaries are viewing comedy differently now and what they are seeing, laughing at, and copying, is no longer scripted. The catchphrases you need to be able to imitate these days are from real people, mostly captured on camera phones.

Gordon Hill, aka the #WealdstoneRaider, is probably the most current. While I write, he is Number Three in the iTunes Singles Chart with a ridiculously quickly put together commercial dance track with him intermittently saying his various catchphrases over the top. This is the Christmas Singles Chart, typically the highest selling week of single tracks of the whole year. The list of artists BELOW him in the chart currently reads: Olly Murs, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Take That, Calvin Harris, and One Direction! He is clearly a popular little fella.

So who is the #WealdstoneRaider? If you haven’t seen him yet (where have you been if you’re UK based?), just search Youtube. His fame comes from a brief drunken rant at a non-league football match. Various other Vines have then been added to hyperspace where he is spliced into clips along with, or instead of, Bieber, #MontyThePenguin, TOWIE’s Gemma Collins and Psi of Gangnam Style notoriety.

The catchphrases you now have to be able to deliver to be accepted in society are, #youwantshum?, #whatas***hole but, most importantly, #yougotnofansh.

The spellings are deliberate to incorporate builder Mr. Hill’s lisp.

His lisp, his relatively short size below the eye level of the camera filming him, and the fact you sense he is somewhat of an underdog if the other person does indeed #wantshum, all help turn him into the likeable ‘football hoolie’ he has become.

At my #dayjob office, there are people with much better educations and higher intellects than I will ever have who are also falling in love with him. I find myself laughing one moment then cursing him the next. He even looks likely to enter the CELEBRITY Big Brother house and will make tens of thousands of pounds from his drunken rant. As much as I detest the fact we are making people like him famous, I can’t help find him funny.

If he had been part of a Harry Enfield, Little Britain or Catherine Tate show, I’d be full of admiration for the writers’ parody of modern society. Yet, he now suggests there is no real need for such creations. If you’re reading this a year on, hello December 2015, then no doubt there will be some other real life character who has said something captured on film and is being copied throughout the country and even further afield.

Hill, isn’t alone.

“I’m in me Mum’s Car, broom broom”, “don’t care” and, sorry for this, “f**k her right in the p***y,” have all been screamed in British playgrounds over the last year. These are the catchphrases of 2014. I cannot recall a scripted one. Why parody something when you can just laugh so hard at the real thing?

Even broadcaster Richard Keys’ pathetic excuse for his sexist behaviour and comments, #itwasjustbanter, has been hijacked by social media creators and adopted by students. Indeed, the phrase has now been banned by some teachers at #teendaughter’s school as the kids keep using it when pulled up for bad behaviour.

“It was just banter,” now carries an immediate detention. Obviously, when some kids are told this, the response just has to be, “but… it was just banter,” leading to a second detention.

So, I’m not saying these people and clips aren’t funny (apart from Keys who is clearly a chauvinist t**t and not in the slightest bit humourous). Gordon Hill and his fellow #internetsensations do make me laugh. Even #FHRITP man. It’s just I can’t help feel sad that I’m pretty certain they have killed off the lovingly created characters, with their scripted comedy catchphrases, of the past. Those, along with any waiting to be unleashed on the world such as those jostling for attention in my mind, may as well just jog on because they really have… #gotnofans any more.

Thanks for reading,
Luis.

@LuisAdrianoUK

Ps. I realise the #WealdstoneRaider’s single is for charity so fair play, go and buy it!

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Making Plans for #Nigel – When that BIG new idea enters your head

I doubt I am the only writer who is hit with ideas that instantly sell themselves to the mind as the BEST STORY EVER. This morning, walking the three miles to my #dayjob office, the music playing on my iPod was interrupted as THE big new idea came crashing in to my consciousness. This led me to the thought of sharing what happens when I receive that first suggestion of a creative project I think can change the world.

My #dayjob employment is with a multi-national company who, among other things, manufacture goods. Whenever they are working on a new product, the project is given a codename. Obviously there is a load of secrecy and these code names are supposed to be used internally to ensure nothing gets out to competitors. As I was quickly convinced my new idea was, and still is, the best story ever, I decided I would borrow this code name idea and came up with the name of… #Nigel.

It was only after deciding on #Nigel that I thought of the title of this article* which again borrows from a late 1970s hit song (*although I do use it sparingly, I still struggle calling this a #blog).

I’m hoping #Nigel won’t give too much away but there is a very tenuous link between codename and story just like the very tenuous link between code names and new products at #dayjob. I won’t say anything more on the plot though. One big fear of the writer is that their idea will surface through the pen (or keyboard) of someone else. By coincidence or plagiarism, I’ll be devastated if this idea sees the light of day without my name assigned to it.

Like most births, the arrival of THAT BIG IDEA is something to be celebrated. If I was a little bit more religious, I might even say it is a heaven sent or God given gift bestowed upon me that it is my duty to share. I do feel the necessity to get it #outthere but, nah, I’m taking all the credit (and criticism) rather than any religious outlet.

I realise there are writers who may be lost in the middle of an ideas desert and would love to have that feeling in the head that there is something really worth following through. These major new ideas do also bring a variety of negative emotions though.

For me, one of the first is always how the f**k am I going to find the time to grow the idea acorn into an oak tree of a finished, shareable piece of creativity?

#Dayjob remains vital for more than one reason. Forget Maslow, Adriano’s Hierachy of Needs sees providing for my family as even more important than the self-actualisation of getting those ideas out of my head and into the public domain.

Luis Adriano – Father, partner, (and only after those two) writer. Until a publisher, a production company or a rich benefactor decides to remunerate me more than I currently receive for #dayjob, then the writer part remains a hobby with potential to become a living rather than one itself. I am not about to quit my job just to follow a dream however selfishly romantic it might seem.

I also see #dayjob as being an ever important outlet to actually interacting with people. Although I would love having more time to spend on bringing the ever-mounting pile of ideas to fruition, I do sometimes wonder if I’d struggle being a full-time writer locked away with my laptop. Would there still be the inspiration to tell stories?

As it was, today I managed to spend lunchtime scribbling some notes on a piece of paper to get the main ideas of the #Nigel plot written down.

Time being available is also a knock-on issue to other projects I’m working on. I’ve been pleased with recent output on #HelloMrMagpie, my current main work in progress which I’m determined to get out next year. Now I have this even better concept manifesting itself in my mind, will I be able to concentrate so much on completing this previous best idea ever?

So what next for #Nigel?

My process starts with creating an Excel file to keep all my planning together. Spreadsheets, well more the numbers contained within them, are the real bane of my time at #dayjob. However, I will allocate tabs to general ideas, chapters, characters and keep all my plans for structure together in a file that I will keep open when I finally get round to starting the actual chapters. The notes I made a lunchtime today will be transferred by the weekend.

I will also spend more time just thinking about plot and character developments ready to transfer to Excel . The walk to and from #dayjob is great for this and will mean I’m not stumbling along with my head in a paperback as I have been doing recently. The bath is probably my place at home most conducive to idea growth so my water bill is likely to be impacted. It will also be in my thoughts when I go to sleep at night and between the four or five times I press the snooze button in the morning. Subsequent dreams may influence the plot to take slightly different directions to those currently set up.

One of my writing heroes, Irvine Welsh, responded to a question I sent him on Twitter, stating he usually has about three-four ideas on the go at any one time but focuses most of his time on one of them. Again, his dynamics are a little different to mine, in that he doesn’t need to spend 40 hours a week in non-writing Excel files. Maybe I can keep #HelloMrMagpie progressing at its current rate while preparing #Nigel to take on the baton when it’s finished.

So, this weekend, I’ll set myself another target of writing more words for #HelloMrMagpie than I did the previous weekend. In addition, I will give some time to #Nigel. Wednesday 29th October 2014 will one day be looked back on as the day #Nigel was born. When the story is completed, published, adapted into an Oscar winning movie and paid for my plush new pad in Hollywood, its Wikipedia page will have a reference to this article and this day.

I realise that last bit is pretentious as f**k. I just feel every author has to believe they are writing the best book ever. At the other end of this extensive creative journey, I really hope I still feel #Nigel is it. It will be even better if just one other person feels it too.

Saturday Night’s Alright For Writing… but not the X-Factor

 

It’s been another good day for #amwriting as the first draft of my current novel in progress #HelloMrMagpie has reached the 22nd of 36 planned chapters and closed in on 77000 words. Whether they are the right words in the right order remains to be seen but I’m delighted with, at least, the quantity of my current output. I am fully prepared for some hefty editing and rewriting once I’ve concluded the initial version and plan to be at this stage early in the new year. Anytime before that will be a bonus.

There have been a few things that have stolen my attention today without which I might even have been looking back and flicking the Vs as I passed the 80000 word mark. In fact, if the words in this piece had been part of the novel instead, then I’d be less than 1000 away from 80K. Friday night’s planned writing also didn’t happen due to the Channel 4 programme Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C – donate here) taking over our family living room. Once I caught some of the clips of those who had either beaten or succumb to the illness, it was a case of wiping the many tears away and thanking my lucky stars for my own and immediate family’s health. There was no way I was going to be able to forget what I’d watched and put myself into the character of my two protagonists.

This morning, Saturday morning (18/10/2014), was therefore once again my primary time for completely escaping into the plot. Writing in the first person as two separate characters, I genuinely believe there is a need to turn myself into those people. Some may thin this is odd but I need to believe I am Paul Archer (formerly known as Blake Chapman – I don’t want to give too much away though) and even more strangely, his wife Helen. I mean I need to believe I am them mentally. I can confirm when it’s time for the Helen chapters I am not dressed in women’s clothing or trying to act overly feminine. Maybe I should be.

As today progressed, the distractions came, some of which I opened my arms to but others to which I was less welcoming. I’ve written previously about trying to cut down on the time I devote to football, but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to watch my team Brentford when someone posted an online link to live TV footage of their trip to Wigan. I tried to multi-task and continue writing during the match but was scared I’d miss a goal as the live stream being, erm, unofficial, meant there were no action replays. The match finished 0-0.

My #teendaughter then wanted to watch a movie on Netflix and chose the adaptation of John Boyne’s ‘Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ as she has recently been studying the World Wars in history. Shamefully not yet having read the book, I had just an inkling it wasn’t going to be the happiest story ever but was still rather taken aback by what happened. I suppose you have to at least cover some facts when writing historical fiction. Luckily the dry your eyes mate tissues from the previous night were still close to hand.

So, the football and the film, I don’t mind losing time to. What I struggle with is the subsequent minutes lost tonight, given over to watching X-Factor.

Now I usually hate creative snobbery. Don’t look down on the person reading Sophie Kinsella just because you’re currently ploughing through Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s complete works and don’t think you’re better for listening to rare The Fall b-sides than anyone shuffling their iPod through Steps’ Greatest Hits. However, when it comes to television I find myself turning into Victor Meldrew and complaining about many of programmes. Don’t even get me started on that new ITVbe channel.

So, while I’ll respect anybody listening to the likes of Little Mix, Ella Henderson, James Arthur and any other recent artists to have taken this route to a recording contract, there are a number of issues I have with the current format of the programme. What I find most disturbing is its continued popularity among youngsters and what they may be learning from the show.

Just from the incomplete show I viewed tonight, I was able to identify quite a few factors 🙂 that p*** me off the most. In fact, pop-pickers*, here is my Top Ten hit-parade* of things that annoy me most about the X-Factor:

10. Blatant product placement – for this series, just like the last couple, there will always be clips of the ‘contestants’ on their tablets. Last year the deal was definitely with Samsung. I haven’t watched enough this time round to see this year’s tablet manufacturer of choice, even if every one of Mel B’s contestants was tonight shown chatting to her one through Skype (probably another brand placement).

9. Judges bickering among themselves. Yes life can be competitive but sometimes, quite a lot of times, you do have to work as a team. The judges $just seem to be so intent on winning that they will often argue between themselves. Some people may find this entertaining, I find it draining.

8. Judges belittling the acts that have been put through. However s*** the performances are, it must take courage to get up there and sing in front of the cameras, crowd, crew and judges. The judges have no qualms about absolutely crucifying the acts who don’t perform to perfection. As well as manipulating the contestants in the name of entertainment I can’t stand any feedback being given in a bullying form.

7. The Aggression in Mel B’s voice. She just seems to have taken number 8 to a new level (erm, number 7). I imagine being a parent to someone getting some of her snidey, snarling feedback and climbing down the seats to confront her. Yes, you may have been part of one of the most successful girl bands of all time, but come on, you’ve had your fair share of c**p performances – may I refer you to the Costa Bingo ads.

6. The Italian fella with one of the better voices who won’t be getting Nigel Farage’s, and quite a few other people’s, vote. It’s not the Italian fella himself that I find annoying. He seems a sound enough chap. Unfortunately, despite the fact he even seemed to impress Noel Gallagher on the SU2C Gogglebox last night, I’m just fairly confident the Italian fella (I’ll have to keep calling him this because I’m rubbish with names) won’t win and might not even make the final. With UKIP hypnotising far too many voters into falling for their (lack of) policies, it would seem there must be at least a quarter of the population who wouldn’t want this foreigner progressing too far in such a British show. I hope I’m proved wrong in this one.

5. Factually incorrect interpretations of the ‘theme’. It was ‘80s week’ this week. There were songs that were definitely made famous in earlier decades (Jealous Guy, Imagine and If You Don’t Know Me By Now were first hits in the 70s by John Lennon, John Lennon again and Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes) that were then re-released or covered in the 80s. I guess these ones can kind of count if the boundaries are stretched a little.

The one I really struggled with tonight though was It’s a Shame. The rap part of the song (“Sister, my sister” or rather “sista, ma sista”) clearly came from the fine Monie Love version (youtube link). I remember vividly this being part of me and a couple of mates’ DJ set when we thought we were about to set the music world alight in 1990. The chart records show it was indeed a hit across the globe in 90 and 91. The original version of the song however, which was co-written and produced by Stevie Wonder no less, was recorded by the Spinners in 1970.

So Mr.Cowell et al, by all means have it included in either 70s or 90s week but no, not the 80s.

Pedants may point out that Grandmaster Flash had a cover of the song on their 1982 debut album The Message. That hardly makes it a HIT of the 80s.

4. People on the Reality TV ‘Circuit’ – That posh Jazz singer model girl, I’m still rubbish with names, was instantly recognisable in our household, and I daresay many others, for her appearance on a fashion reality TV programme. Don’t quote me but I think it was called The Face and had Naomi Campbell close to meltdown for a few weeks. She also cropped up this week on some other reality type programme too, so is clearly working the circuit. Also, the really rubbish singer guy, this year’s Jedward-Wagner-Chico-Rylanesque joke contestant, rings a bell as someone who has appeared on Come Dine With Me. Are they really struggling to find enough decent singers in the recruitment process that they have to trawl round the Reality TV circuit?

3. Just adding quantity to try and improve quality– Stereo Kicks are a boy band on the show. I can’t believe I remembered their name. They aren’t a three like the current Take That line up or a four like the last Take That line up. They aren’t even a five like the original Take That, Westlife, Boyzone etc etc line ups. They have even outdone S Club 7. It was when they screamed through the Don Henley (at the time a solo artist, that’s 12.5% of Stereo Kicks – in number, not talent) song ‘Boys of Summer’ that I had to put my headphones on and look away from the TV set.

Eight?  Eight members of a boyband? It shouldn’t work and at least the boys prove it doesn’t work. It’s like those razors where they used to just add more blades to make them seem better. Where the f** will they stop with this nonsense? Will the next series have ten girls and Mel B telling giving them all a suitably s*** nickname? The group could be called The Diverse Girls or something? Members of the band giving their real names away to be known as Well-to-do Girl, Athletic Girl, Frightening Girl, Young Girl, Blonde Girl and five other Girls? I won’t be surprised.

2. The man/woman on the street – getting their chance to be a star. Last year it was a prison warden. This year it’s that bloke who might, or might not have been, on Come Dine With Me. A horrendous rendition of Rick Astley’s Neber Gonna Give You Up (now THAT is an 80s song) burst through the headphones Stereo Kicks had made me wear. It was really, really bad. As it was so really, really bad, he should be confident he’ll get through another few weeks. There will be enough people either wanting to give him a further chance in ‘pursuing his dream’ (TM) or others who want to vote him through at the expense of those who may feel they have a genuine chance of making a career out of this.

1. Still having the costly phone and text votes – “Mum/Dad, can I phone up and vote?” No. It should be THAT easy. Teach your children the value of money. Donate that money to charity if you insist in dialling some numbers on your phone to make you feel good. It will go to a better cause and have more chance of making a difference. Your vote for Act A won’t make the slightest bit of difference in whether you get to see Act A return the following week. Some of it however will go towards making Simon Cowell even more obscenely rich than he is before you dial.  

I didn’t even mention the Winner’s Song which is usually a murder of a song you will never listen to in the same way. What will it be this year? You’re probably best off looking for some other Syco, Sony or ITV related act as these seem to be becoming increasingly incestuous.

Oh well, at least the show has now finished and I can end my rant because Jonathan Ross is back with his (usually) entertaining chat show. I’m sorry but I did warn you, the X Factor turns me into Victor Meldrew. So, who’s on tonight Wossy? David Attenborough? Ah, nice one, he makes proper television programmes and has been doing so for longer than my Life on Earth. Steve Carell? Funny fella who should hopefully bring some much needed laughter to this weekend of tears.

Well, who are your first guests Jonathan? Mel B and Cheryl Fernandez-F***ing-Versini from the X-Factor.

Oh, for f**s sake.

*I realise many readers will think wtf at these phrases. They were both used by cheesy UK DJs in the 1970s and 1980s.

Thanks for reading,

Luis.

@LuisAdrianoUK

Happy 10th Birthday #Letters To Aimee!

The first words in my novel #LettersToAimee are, “Saturday 9th October, 2004”.

Thus starts a collection of correspondence from lonely shopworker ‘Pete’ to an attractive new customer who entered his convenience store that day. So, seeing that date, I thought it would be appropriate to say Happy Birthday #LettersToAimee and look back a decade to that fictitious meeting between two characters who lived in my head and the real life incidents that then found themselves caught up in my story.

I’d had the brief outline of what I wanted to happen in the plot for a while but decided I’d write it in real time to also capture news events for posterity. Although some readers found the writer of the letters rather creepy, others believe he was just a good guy with a sad secret. Aimee, yes the letters are obviously to her, also has some skeletons which come walking out of her closet as the story develops and Pete finds more out about the subject of his desire and his communication.

I don’t recall just what chose the 9th October to be the start date, but it’s clear from the first day that, sadly, some things in the world just don’t change. The main news story exactly ten years ago, was the beheading in Iraq of Liverpudlian Kenneth Bigley. While I used my protagonist to convey my own feelings back then of horror at what had happened, here we are ten years on with another spate of such murders. ‘Pete’s comments about the tabloid newspaper, “distastefully” sharing its cover between this distressing news story and a picture of a scantily clad young woman also resonate today. It was only a couple of days ago that The Sun was criticised for headlining the Shrien Dewani murder trial alongside a topless Helen Flanagan. I find myself often shaking my head at the front pages shouting out when I’m in supermarkets and think they’ll continue to find their way into my fiction.

#LettersToAimee’s 10th Birthday is special to me as it was the first novel as such I shared with the outside world. I had previously sent a completed film script, #WhenMyTimeComes (about a fucked up Boyband) to an agency but their rejection resulted in that being hidden away as a confirmed failure. While I do have the patience to complete novels and film scripts, I have been unable to keep sufficient interest in trying more agents and publishers. For each of my projects to date, it has been a case of send it to one and if they don’t like it, I can’t be arsed to try anyone else. I understand the world would have missed out on Harry Potter and a whole load else if Rowling et al followed suit but I just have not had that desire to keep banging on the relevant doors, or at least keep sending my manuscripts to be posted through them.

When I had finished #LettersToAimee, many of my then HMV colleagues were talking about #myspace and I decided this would be a good way to test the waters. I set up my myspace then posted the first few letters as blogs and the feedback received, not just from work mates but people I spammed with requests to read it as far a field as the States, was overwhelmingly positive. I’d purposely chosen people who listed reading and/or writing among their interests. I’ve copied many of the comments onto the Amazon description but a few of my favourites are worth repeating here:

‘Wow! I must say that I can already see this book turning out to be quite a treasure. It’s certainly a story that once a person starts reading, they just won’t want to put down. Very well written, riveting, and the list goes on.’ – ‘Jeremy’

‘I have one thing to say, ‘get it published! Great Read’ – ‘Roxann’

‘Very intriguing and a different point of view for the reader which is great… I do think if it gets into the right hands it will surely become marketable.’ – ‘Shayla V’

‘I loved this… I dare say brilliant… I laughed and I’m in America man!’ – ‘Amulette’

‘Man,…. I think this will be a hit… When it’s published, send me an autographed copy!’ – ‘The Big Dog of the Woods’

‘I enjoyed this. I can certainly empathise with Pete… I like the humour you bring in to the real world.‘ – ‘Kurt Rellians’

‘This has a caustic wit that I think works very well.’ – ‘Michael’

Your writing is intelligent and thought-provoking. I like it.‘ – ‘Danny Hill’

It’s pleasing to read those back and know that none of them were from my colleagues who were also very supportive.

As the story develops into November, December and the start of January 2005, I do think it is interesting to remember other events from that time. During this time, the actor Christopher Reeve made the front pages of the London Evening Standard when he passed away following his battle with those injuries he received falling from a horse. This particularly resonates with Pete as he talks of being upset at, “life changing accidents”.

It was also the first season of X-Factor in the UK and there is a time when Pete empathises with that year’s winner Steve Brookstein. I’ve always thought the subsequently short career and treatment of the London based soul singer was much more worthy of a film adaptation than Paul Potts, the opera singing first winner of Britain’s Got Talent. I have to now say that @SteveBrookstein is definitely well worth following on twitter, if only for his informed cynicism of those programmes.

Despite the pleasing praise, there was a minority of people who fed back that a series of letters couldn’t work as a novel. I’d cite the both much superior ‘Wrong Boy’ by Willy Russell from before I wrote #Aimee and Stephen Chbosky’s ‘Perks of Being A Wallflower’ from after, as two examples that prove it is a structure that can work.

It was actually my intention to write out a few copies of the completed letters and leave them on tube trains or at train stations for people to find. I toyed with the idea of making people think the communication was real and wondered what the responses would be. With the lack of sales and therefore limited readership, I guess I still have the opportunity to do this one day! It’s quite low down on my list of creative priorities however so may have to wait until I retire, probably around #Aimee’s fortieth birthday!

I was also drawn back to #LettersToAimee by someone in the bookselling trade who told me the first third of recently published thriller #YOU by Caroline Kepnes (@carolinekepnes) was so like LtoA it was “freaky”. I can see similarities at the start of both but think it would be unfair to place them completely side by side in terms of quality. Our plots and protagonists certainly take different journeys and I fully expect to see #YOU adapted to the big screen. Unless I win the lottery and fund it myself, I think you can safely say cinemas will not be screening an actor playing Pete writing his notes to Aimee.

I am now finishing up writing this in the early minutes of 9th October 2014. I am proud that Aimee can celebrate her tenth birthday but will also admit there are now parts that make me cringe. I don’t know if this is just common amongst writers looking back at old work but I am now looking forward to continuing with my current work in progress, #HelloMrMagpie. This blog was really set up as an outlet for when I was struggling with Writers’ Block during the writing of this current work, a tale which I have always felt is my BIG story. It is the one I think is worth shoving in front of more than one agent or publisher. It is the one I really want to see in book stores rather than just on line.

I’m pleased to say that since the last time I wrote here, and decided to curtail some of my football writing activities, I’ve been cracking on with it. The characters are sitting comfortably in my head and we regularly converse about how best to tell our story! I intend to keep them fully fed and reday to come out more at weekends when I have the most time. I shall continue to leave the football blog writing to when I feel I have something to say rather than just trying to fill some space and time. Feedback, primarily from myself but not exclusively, told me that I was writing a lot of words on www.beesotted.com that had little point. I shall now leave such blogs for the likes of Billy Grant (@billythebee99), Nick Bruzon (@NickBruzon) and Greville Waterman (@grevwaterman) who all manage to consistently get worthwhile points across. I still felt it necessary to comment fairly recently on homophobia in the game and how best to take a penalty but my writing priorities now are all around #HelloMrMagpie.

So, the 9th October is here – a memorable date in my writing career and a final Happy Birthday wish to #LettersToAimee. I wonder if ten years on, she might get just a few more readers!

Thanks for reading,

Luis

@LuisAdrianoUK

A football free weekend = lots of #amwriting. Or will it?

As there is a football* ‘international break’ this weekend, I’m going to see if I too can take a complete break from the sport and use the time saved to get on with writing my novel… 

Being a football fan seems to be increasingly time consuming these days. Even if you don’t attend the games, you have to have an opinion and you have to share it.

So a typical weekend when your team are playing (my team = Brentford FC) will include but not be limited to:

the game (attending/listening to commentary/watching on TV or online),

tweeting – comments on the game, messages to players, comments on your rivals especially if they use;

commenting on supporters’ messageboards which will often mean repeating your argument to counter someone else’s point of view;

watching other matches – the more obscure the game, the more knowledgeable you sound (“did you see that Everton Under 18 game on Friday night?”),

writing blogs (mine sometimes appear on www.beesotted.com) and reading blogs (those by Nick Bruzon & Greville Waterman are two I will usually not allow myself to miss),

reading other websites, reading newspapers, etc., etc., etc., I could go on and on.

Brentford, now they are in the second tier of English professional football ‘The Championship’, have no fixture this weekend due to the number of players in their league called up for international games taking place. Having spent the last twenty-two years in the league below where this very rarely happens, this is something us fans are not used to.

So, as I have no interest in our national team who play Switzerland on Monday, I thought it was about time I took a complete break from all football activity. Nobody will die if I don’t know the gossip about who might be coming into or leaving Brentford or if I fail to know the outcome of the Morecambe versus Cheltenham game in League Two.

Stephen R Covey should be proud as I, for once, take notice of his Time Management Matrix and try to pick up one of his 7 Habits of Effective People. All those usual football activities will this weekend take their position in sector 4: Not Important & Not Urgent.

I shall attempt to refrain from all of those time thieving activities mentioned and will try and report back some time after Sunday. Who knows, maybe it will completely empower me and I’ll decide to take a longer break than the players. I doubt that.

So, what will I be using this time for?

Firstly, and most importantly, I really want to get some substantial words down for my first draft of #HelloMrMagpie.

It’s a project which has been in my head for about a decade and the one I believe in most. Even my harshest critics, my partner and daughter, have both suggested it could be a commercial success. It’s been nice to get positive comments for other projects like PENALTIES, but I now want to be the author sitting down in Waterstones, Piccadilly (and other locations!) signing copies of a proper (not just e-) book and discussing it with MY readers.

Currently around the 55000 word mark, I’m still not halfway through my first draft. I have all the chapters planned out on the one Excel spreadsheet I actually enjoy opening. I desperately want to complete this version by the end of the year but realise I have a hell of lot of editing to do before I let it loose on the world. This weekend has to see serious inroads into the next couple of chapters at least.

To help with this, I want to trade all my normal football time this weekend for writing time. If the dreaded writers’ block rears its familiar, ugly head yet again then there are plenty of other things to be getting on with.

I’m now also in the middle of a comparative reading frenzy with two books on the go, so I intend to make further, notable dents into both Dave Eggers’ ‘The Circle’ and ‘You’ by Caroline Kepnes. They were started today and yesterday respectively.

The latter was actually sent to me by someone I know at Amazon who recognised “freaky” similarities with my own story ‘Letters to Aimee’. I agree there are quite a few at the start but thankfully we take our plots and protagonists on quite different journeys after the first third.

If, big if, I finish either or both of these, then I have a whole host of complete books and sample chapters begging to be opened on my iPad Kindle app. I will no doubt return to Amazon to find more titles to download. Feel free to forward suggestions.

So as well as reading and writing, I also want to make use of social media as an author and reader more than a football supporter.

Goodreads seems an excellent treasure trove of information and opinion which I have, shamefully, pretty much left for others to discover. I’m hoping to spend some of the time I’m forgetting about football, remembering some of the great stories I’ve read in the past and coming across new ones I need to add to my reading list.

As I’m finishing up writing this, it’s about fifteen minutes before we enter Saturday. This is when my self-imposed football ban/break will begin. My next blog on here will hopefully show just how much I got done while distancing myself from checking out if any defenders are likely to be joining the Mighty Bees during the forthcoming ‘loan window’. Either way, I’ll let you know how I get on.

Here goes…

Thanks for reading,

Luis.

@LuisAdrianoUK

*Being English, “football” means… football. Elsewhere, it is sometimes called soccer. Please don’t get too confused!

Attention to detail in FICTION – Does it matter?

Being a pedant and picking up on things others probably just read through, THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt has me asking if attention to factual detail in fiction actually matters.

The part I most enjoy about novel writing is releasing that first draft from the confines of your mind and it becoming recorded on paper, well, more often computer disk space these days. For me, seeing the story develop on my laptop screen is where the fun’s at. It’s the subsequent rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit (repeat to fade) that I struggle with.

In particular, it’s when creativity is completely halted and the focus is placed on checking factual detail, ensuring you haven’t added any inaccuracies that will annoy the most pedantic of your readers, that I’m best avoided.

If I’m describing a real location, for example when Blake in #HelloMrMagpie is leaving Charing Cross station, then I don’t want my reader to be thinking, “well no, actually the dry cleaners is on the other side of the road”*.

As most of my writing is set in contemporary settings, I do have easily accessible resources to help me. Rather than constantly travelling across to Chelsea where a lot of the story currently takes place, I sometimes save myself the journey and lose myself in Google Maps StreetView! Not quite the same I know but good enough for checking some detail.

I also don’t really have to worry about historic facts as I’m describing modern day London. Even a short drift back in time can offer up chances for inaccuracies to appear.

I’m currently three quarters through reading Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning, international bestseller THE GOLDFINCH, and it was earlier on in the book that gave birth to my big question. As it is a fictional story, do the facts have to add up? If I’m describing the outside of the National Portrait Gallery, do I need to ‘get it right’? It’s MY story. The NPG, although still in the same area of London could be completely different in the world I’m bringing you into, could it not?

If I’m writing a non-fiction piece on the architecture of art galleries then of course, the devil is in the detail and I lose credibility for every thing I describe incorrectly. I’m not though.

It was actually timings in Tartt’s story that led me to contemplate whether this matters.

As I’ve yet to finish the novel, which I feel I must add I’m thoroughly enjoying, maybe there will be an explanation to the issue that has bugged me. If on completion I find an explanation then I’ll post a reply comment to this article.

Tartt’s protagonist, the “alone and rudderless in New York” Theo Decker, starts his story by talking about something which happened either thirteen or fourteen years ago. Much of the story is then told from that time. Then, while we remain at least thirteen years ago, there is talk of iPhones for example.

Hmm, excuse me, the ‘First Gen’ iPhones were issued in 2007. So, thirteen years on, in present time in the novel, we must be in the year 2020?

As I said maybe that is the case or there is some other explanation, but for me as a reader, I’m left thinking why couldn’t the writer have described an actual phone from the turn of the millennium as this must be the correct timing?

The more I read the book and the more references there are to iPods, iPhones and Apple Stores, I’m actually wondering if the author has some kind of product/company placement deal in place.

But, then again, does the apparent timing issue matter?

Even if she is describing people having iPhones six or seven years before they were available, it’s her world. Should I just accept this?

A character during that earlier period of the story also lambastes celebrities giving their children strange names and cites ‘Apple’ as an example. Wow, there’s that company placement again! No, they must be referring to Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter. That will be Apple Blythe Alison Martin (b. 2004). If this part of the story is set thirteen or fourteen years ago, then that takes the ‘now’ part to 2018!

So, I’m left as a reader wondering whether I’m being too pedantic but at the same time, as a writer I don’t want people questioning my writing in a similar vain.

Once I finish this blog, I’m back to my first draft of #HelloMrMagpie. As I said, that’s the fun bit of the lengthy process of enabling other people into the story in your head. I then still have to decide how much importance I place in checking the facts I’m handing anyone investing their time reading my story.

Also, I know other pedants’ blood boils when they pick up on errors in spelling or grammar.

Again, in fiction, should we just allow these? If I’m describing a bird and state it’s a cormarant then it could be one I’ve made up for my story rather than the real, large and conspicuous waterbird, the cormorant.

Again, I feel compelled to emphasise that I am really enjoying The Goldfinch before I point out something else which stopped me in my tracks.

At the bottom of page 177, chapter x opens with…

HAD ANYONE EVERY FELT so lonely?

Every?

Don’t you mean ‘ever’?

I think it was more a case of considering how many people must have proof-read the sentence before it went to print than a condemnation solely of the author.

This made me wonder if on any future reprints, Abacus/Little Brown/Hachette should add another quote to the back cover.

‘A gripping page-turner’ INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

‘A triumph’ STEPHEN KING

‘Astonishing’ GUARDIAN

‘Thrilling and touching’ NEW STATESMAN

‘Dazzling’ NEW YORK TIMES

‘Masterful’ EVENING STANDARD, BOOKS OF THE YEAR

‘Gripping’ DAILY TELEGRAPH, BOOKS OF THE YEAR

‘A modern epic’ OBSERVER, BOOKS OF THE YEAR

‘There’s a spelling mistake on page 177’ LUIS ADRIANO.

But, hey, if Donna Tartt can get away with a spelling error, please can I just leave mine in too?

I understand the examples I’ve given make me look like a moany old git. It’s just I know when I finally get my first draft finished, I realise I will have to back go through and edit out any similar mistakes and I guess I’m looking for excuses to just leave any errors as they are.

For now, with that all finally off my chest, I am going to get back on with #amwriting my first draft (errors ‘n all) and aim to spend other parts of the day completing the excellent story of THE GOLDFINCH.

Thanks for reading,

Luis

@LuisAdrianoUK on Twitter

*Note to fellow pedants: feel free to point out any spelling or grammar errors in the above article and I just plucked dry cleaners from thin air so realise there might not be one in the Charing Cross Station vicinity!

When To Write? Too tired earlier, then too awake!

Different authors clearly have their own favourite ways of writing. This reminds me of hearing a discussion, at a Borders book store (RIP Borders), led by Alison Baverstock from Kingston University. I think it was advertised as, ‘How to get Published’ and I recall part of the talk focussing on writing habits. Among various factors, it looked at places where writers feel the words flow more freely (do you always sit at the same desk or find yourself more productive at a certain café) and what are your preferred writing materials (do you prefer to look at a computer screen or does it need to be a page of paper)? I may refer back to these questions some other time.

For me, one of the most important elements of maximising your creative writing output, and I’m sure it must have come up in the discussion, is knowing what time of day suits you best. As this whole blog is for when I’m escaping writers’ block, I’ve tried to establish if there are certain times where I should just accept my creative juices aren’t going to flow.

While researching this further, I once heard Alex Garland (author of ‘The Beach’ among other novels) say, for him, the best time to write is either late at night or early in the morning. Well actually, it was more either just before going to bed or just after waking up. I suppose these are not always as clear as night and day.

His reasoning was that these times are when you are closest to your dreams and you therefore become more creative. As a working father, I’ve actually found these are the default times to open the laptop and tap away on the keys anyway. I guess my own hierarchy of needs, matches Maslow’s famous model. Providing for, and spending time with, my partner and daughter are more important than the self actualisation of creative writing. So with limited time available, it is often when these two people are asleep, and I’m on the verge of nodding off myself, that I will be able to commit some hours, or even just minutes, to my works in progress.

Late Friday night and very early Saturday morning are my favourite times to get some words down. Thoughts of, and from, my dayjob, where I work more with numbers than words, can be completely cast aside and my brain can totally lose itself in the plot and characters of my work in progress – currently a contemporary novel, ‘Hello Mr Magpie, How’s The Wife?’

So last night and this morning should have been the time when I was adding to the 51000 words I currently have committed to my first draft. However, with the dayjob numbers still bouncing around my head, when I finally opened my personal laptop around 9.30pm, my eyelids grew heavier and heavier, and despite the mug of strong coffee I’d just poured, I fell asleep on my keyboard, not waking until 2am.

Moving away from the table and laptop and finally lying down, I continued the sleep but was woken up a couple of hours later by some of my neighbours drunkenly shouting. This persisted for about half an hour and I considered staying up until the 5.15 my alarm was now set for. However, the snooze button was pressed a few times, the alarm then cancelled and I eventually rose from my pit around 8.30am.

Feeling refreshed from the total amount of sleep, despite the breaks, I should have then just quickly hashtagged #amwriting on Twitter and cracked on with it. I just couldn’t get back into the story though. I’m at a stage where I’m writing in the first person of a twenty-something mother of young twins. She is now in a downward spiral following the apparent loss of her husband and the twins’ father. Bizarrely, I do think I sometimes find I’m too awake to completely take myself into her psyche. I need to be that much closer to my dream state to drift off into character.

So, annoyingly, I found my two weekly optimum writing times both disappearing into history without any progress made on my novel whatsoever.

I am therefore interested whether other writers, particularly novelists, feel there are times when they are more prolific at writing and then other moments when they know they won’t be productive. Thankfully, as I end this piece, I’m finding myself yawning and feeling increasingly tired again. So I am hoping that tonight, and possibly early tomorrow morning too, will see me escaping the block again and adding to the story.

I’m off to the kitchen to boil that kettle again which will hopefully prevent a repeat of last night. Then, I aim to tell the world, well at least those who follow me on Twitter, that I am #amwriting once again.

Thanks for reading,

Luis

@LuisAdrianoUK