Cheeseburger Gothic

Interview advice from Ira Glass

Posted Yesterday into Writing by John Birmingham

Glass is responsible for This American Life, one of the world's great radio shows and podcasts. He gave an interview to Lifehacker which is worth reading in it's entirety, here. But this extract, on how to organize an interview, is pure gold for students and young journalists. There are few jobs I find less appealing than transcribing interviews and picking out the best bits.

Let Ira show you how it's done.

When I come out of an interview, I jot down the things I remember as being my favorite moments. For an hour-long interview usually it's just four or five moments, but if out I'm reporting all day, I'll spend over an hour at night typing out every favorite thing that happened. This is handier than you might think. Often this short list of favorite things will provide the backbone to the structure to my story.

Then I transcribe the tape or have it transcribed by someone. Getting every word right isn't as important as having something on paper for each sentence that's been said, because to make radio stories, you edit by the sentence. For some reason in the radio biz we don't call these transcripts, we call them tape logs.

Then I print out the log and mark it up. Every possible quote I might use, I write a letter next to, A, B, C, etc. As I do this, on a single piece of paper, I make a list for myself of the quotes. So when I'm done, there's not just the tape log, there's a piece of paper with tiny handwriting on it, listing the quotes "A - he describes the old house, B - what it was like the moment he came home, C - his sister warned him," etc. Any quote that's especially promising gets an asterisk. Any quote I'm sure I cannot tell the story without gets two asterisks.

The point of this is that it gets all this inchoate material—the sound you've gathered—into a form where you can see it all on one page. You see all your options. It's in a form where your brain can start to organize it. Also, writing the list sort of inserts all the quotes into quick-access RAM memory in your head in a helpful way. I find that the important first step to writing anything or editing anything (half of my day each day is editing) is just getting the possible building blocks of the story into your head so you can start thinking about how to manipulate it and cut it and move it.

Listing the quotes this way is also important because a radio story, unlike other kinds of writing and even other kinds of journalism, is usually structured around the quotes. You organize the beats of your plot around the most compelling moments you have on tape. (Though I learned this from a print journalist so I guess it's applicable there too.)

Next I stare at my one-page list and think about what would be a fun or compelling beginning. (Okay, I've been thinking about that since I decided to do the story but now it's down to brass tacks: what actually works on tape and what are the many things that I tried that failed?) Usually there are two or three decent options for the beginning of the story and one or two obvious possibilities for how to end it. Then I think about what really are my very favorite moments and what doesn't need to be in the story. And then I sketch a structure based on my letter code: okay, F is the opening beat, then do C and D and then jump to M and N and end on G. And then I write. Usually my list will include a few extra beats that I'm not sure if pacing will permit. When I get to that spot in the writing, I'll know whether to include them or cut them.

This technique lets you go from many hours of interview tape to a concise, workable structure very quickly. It's hard to imagine how you could do it more efficiently.

8 Responses to ‘Interview advice from Ira Glass’

jinx puts forth...

Posted Yesterday
This is almost identical as the process for pulling multiple cameras and hours of interview together to make a scene for a reality tv show.

You start with comprehensive field notes;highlight your favourite bits, go through the interviews and transcripts; label and highlight them out, then string out the basic order of these highlights in an edit (or for us old schoolers - on paper). Leave a couple of options in case you need more info, humour or whatever and then refine refine refine.


NBlob would have you know...

Posted Yesterday
Jinx, behold the subtle beauty of single camera ENG. It's the journo's job to wade through the non-sequiturs, disjointed ramblings, double negatives and agenda driven drivel most often spewed by those pushing a barrow, hence available for a comment.
Me I just put my batteries on to charge and go out for a smoke & tune up the weather girl.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted Yesterday

Great stuff, He should also cover the problem when you have an interview subject who is as responsive as a rock.

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damian would have you know...

Posted Yesterday
What about the problem where the interview subject is just a cock?

[*rhyming challenge*]

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted 23 hours ago

You have a great gift for rhyme.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted 2 hours ago
I love you people, but sometimes you confuse the hell out of me.

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Dino not to be confused with would have you know...

Posted 17 hours ago
I have only done one interview in my lifetime.
Sent it to various MSM's. Only a couple even replied.
So people are willing to trust their flying lives with this guy but what he thinks is irrelevant?
Anyhoo they have decimated Qantas(Why is there no 'u' in Qantas?
Answer: Cause Qantas doesn't give a fuck about you/u!)
Any way all Praise fro the Libs/Nats.
No CSIRO or Climate bullshit to get in the way of running the cuntry...

Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted 13 hours ago
Goin' to bed.
Friday night and tired.
The Theory of Gravity, Newtons or Einsteins, I will continue to support tomorrow...
I have studied them both.
Engage when you have some balls or ovaries.
Otherwise ignore and watch the Soccer, or as they say, Foodball...

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Ghost in the machine

Posted Thursday by John Birmingham

A sad, lovely story via Beeso.

14 Responses to ‘Ghost in the machine’

Albion Love Den asserts...

Posted Thursday
Lovely. Right in the feels.

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Spanner puts forth...

Posted Thursday
I have to go. There appears to be something in my eye.

Dick asserts...

Posted Thursday
Ditto

Greybeard puts forth...

Posted Thursday
Yep. Must be catching.

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Surtac reckons...

Posted Thursday


Great story. Another fine example of hauntology at its best - history recorded anonymously in supposedly obsolete technology.

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HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted Thursday
OH GOD!

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted Thursday
Really liked that. Very pure.

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Therbs would have you know...

Posted Thursday
Great little story, nicely told.

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Barnesm reckons...

Posted Thursday

I wonder how long before that happens to one of us with our Facebook page? There was an eisode of Black Mirror Season 2 where a woman had a similaum of her husband build from his online presence that responded as he would when she was online.

It is indeed a brave new world.

Spanner ducks in to say...

Posted Thursday
Black Mirror was some of the creepiest, smartest distopian furture screen writting I've come across in a long time.

Dave W is gonna tell you...

Posted Thursday
I liked that particular Black Mirror ep. The pig-f%%%ing one and the Cartoon character running for election ones were okay. The prison sentence one was truly terrifying and therefore gets 4 hovercrafts from me.

damian would have you know...

Posted Thursday
I already get the occasional bit of auto-facebook stuff from a dear friend who died a little over a year ago. Mostly it's a bit weird rather than touching.

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Bondiboy66 asserts...

Posted Thursday
Wow. So much story in so few words. Very poignant.

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Lobes mumbles...

Posted Thursday
I had to unfollow Roger Ebert on twitter when he died because some associate kept tweeting from his account and disconcerting me.

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Sometimes it's better to stop writing

Posted Wednesday into Writing by John Birmingham

I've been writing this third book in the Hooper series to a plan. Something like the story board technique used by film makers. When you're trying to keep three interlinked narrative arcs and all their various sub plots in sync, you don't really get a choice in that. Or I don't anyway. Maybe Stephen King and George RR Martin do.

Anyway, I reached a point in the third book yesterday where the characters had dragged the story so far off plan that I had to admit defeat and go back to the blue print. I could have plowed on, hoping that writing a few more chapters would help me get back on the one true path, but that didn't work with Weapons of Choice and I paid for it all the way through that series.

So yesterday, rather than power on through another two or three thousand words that would take me even further off course I decided to stop writing and start thinking. Specifically I decided to think about the original chapter blueprint and what I needed the characters to do if I was going to get to the resolution I had planned. It meant compressing eight or nine chapters worth of action into three, and four days of narrative 'in-story' time into five hours.

That's not a bad thing. The first fifty thousand words of Hooper 3 cover about five hours of action. It would leave the book feeling lumpy to have the second fifty thousand jumping through the better part of a week.

This morning then was all about redrawing the blue prints. It can feel like a wasteful distraction, or even a disruption to stop lime that when you're in the middle of a writing exercise, but it's worth it. The hours I spent doing this over the last day will save me weeks of chaos at the end of the project.

32 Responses to ‘Sometimes it's better to stop writing’

Sarah Mayberry has opinions thus...

Posted Wednesday
I do this, too. I am a plotter (as opposed to a seat-of-the-pants writer), but sometimes I get dragged off course by things that the characters do or say or by what seems like a good idea until it turns into a freaking cul-de-sac of story death. When that happens, I read what I have already and wait for my gut to tell me where I went wrong. There's always a place where I made a decision and things got blurry. I have learned that cutting out chunks/rewriting is simply part of the process sometimes. Even though the stuff on the cutting room floor kills me.

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Dan reckons...

Posted Wednesday
My PhD is a bit like that too, JB. Constantly revising the scope of inquiry to ensure it finishes as a (relatively) refined version of that drunken brain fart I had that one time...

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WarDog mumbles...

Posted Wednesday
Writing software can sometime be like that too. Generally it means that I need to down tools for a while, stare at the sky or even have a nap, then re-evaluate in which direction the value lies. Tossing aside a lot of work used to be painful, but now I find it quite cathartic.

Software development has the added luxury of good source control tools, so I can easily park a branch and switch back to various commit points (all nicely annotated). Or even merge in some parts that are still worth incorporating.

I find there is often value in letting myself plough down a path. It turns up interesting things that end up having high value at some point.

pi ducks in to say...

Posted Wednesday
Same same WarDog. I have a hobby in developing genetic algorithms. My development has gone in loose correlation with education that I do, and things i read that provide new avenues for thought/development.

Long ago I made a conscious decision that I wouldn't 'hold on' to old ideas or code. For the most part, the only thing I hold on to is the version number. If it is a good idea I've used in the past, I will apply the idea, but not the code, to a complete re-write. I'm currently at about version 25 of my platform, and it has been re-incarnated into five different development languages. The latest is C, but I'm also pretty happy with some parts of Java. Pruning the tree, for me, is essential to the process.

If you want to write good tight code, re-write it again and again and again from scratch. You'll learn quick-smart what's wasting your time, that's for sure.

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Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted Wednesday


sitting at my desk is like that too. sometimes I plot for hours achieving nothing, mostly I sit trying to come up with pithy comments for this here blog.

insomniac reckons...

Posted Wednesday
Rob, are you sure you're not me?
I also get cranky if I'm late for work because it eats into my goofing off time.

Rob mumbles...

Posted Wednesday
they keep paying me. I keep showing up. Somebody is enabling this behaviour.

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pitpat mumbles...

Posted Wednesday
You are special, very special, not that there is anything wrong with that. Like a sunflower on a frosty morn or an offshore breeze on a perfect point break.

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted Wednesday
Pitpat, JB rides a shark biscuit. He wouldn't care about an offshorey.

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
Yep, when JB says he likes to boogie, he's not talking about music.
Not that there is anything wrong with that!

HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Thursday
OH YOU ARE FKN ..>SPECIAL ALLRIGHT!!!!

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted Wednesday
Writing is hard. Much harder than what I do. And I sincerely mean that.

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DarrenBloomfield mumbles...

Posted Wednesday
"...but that didn't work with Weapons of Choice and I paid for it all the way through that series"

That little teaser has me intrigued. Like to hear that story one day

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Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Wednesday

I wondered how tightly you plan out chapters and plot lines given that good characters have a way of making up their own shit if you don't keep an eye on what the fuckers are up to.

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Wednesday
After reading this @ lunch I tried to apply your policy. For the record, my boss thinks you're an idiot.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted Wednesday
Perhaps I might interest him in my compulsory napping policy.

damian puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
I find myself going to meetings 5 minutes early for a quick power nap till the others arrive.

It seldom works, some fucker is always early.

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Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
Me too(Although amateur vs Professional)
Ran with a great scene, gradual buildup to violent action.
Then got stuck.
Didn't know where to go.
'Lost the Plot'.
But I am good at that... real good... do it a lot!

NBlob would have you know...

Posted Wednesday
*crickets*

Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
You are sooo mean NBlob.
Just for that you will not be receiving an autographed self published first edition of my first book due out in 2037.
So there!

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted Wednesday
*Wiggly fingers, wiggly fingers.*
2037
Book? What's a book?

*Wiggly fingers wiggly fingers.*
2037
A Post-apocalyptic 8 year old in the burnt out shell of burger joint tears the 3rd last precious page for kindling.

*Wiggly fingers wiggly fingers.*
2037
Greybeard, in layered rags, leaning heavily on a sinking staff festooned with small animal bones crosses a sand dune to windward and plucks bleached, bloated coverless carcass from the sands ground of of our future.

*Wiggly fingers wiggly fingers.*
2037
One of seven, 3 taloned unobtainium hooves of Human Pacification unit 455:63:9 presses lightly on a remainders table in a long empty bookshop.

*Wiggly fingers wiggly fingers.*
2037
Those darned kids in the combi van discover the answer.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted Thursday
And if not for those fucking kids, I would have gotten away with it. Not just some of it. All of it.

Greybeard reckons...

Posted Thursday
Layering is very fashionable at the moment. Or so I'm told.

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted Thursday
The bandicoot skulls, not so much.

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted Yesterday
They work when you layer with rat skulls and possum skulls

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insomniac mutters...

Posted Wednesday
Actually at uni I had an essay where I started out with one viewpoint, followed it logically from one step to the next, until I realized I was going to end up at the opposite viewpoint, so I stopped writing and handed it in. Grade = A

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pete puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
Get up, go outside, smoke a joint, get the neural pathways back into order, and get the fuck on with it ... how is this hard to do?

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HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted Thursday
its called FK KNUCKLING ABOUT!

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Thursday

This sounds much in the same way as its better when you stop hitting yourself with a hammer.

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Respond to 'Sometimes it's better to stop writing'

I will be forever grateful to Mr Strong Choices

Posted Tuesday into Blunty by John Birmingham

When you're on deadline, without time to waste on blogging, he always come through.

At Blunty.

22 Responses to ‘I will be forever grateful to Mr Strong Choices’

Style, Big Willie ducks in to say...

Posted Tuesday

Off topic. I bought a hardback copy of "Leviathan" from my local library yesterday. Fifty cents, it was. In the discarded pile out the front.

Are you entitled to a royalty?

insomniac puts forth...

Posted Tuesday
Not sure about the royalty, but surely JB is entitled to some dignity

w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted Tuesday
Checking on the online catalogue, the Brisbane library service still retains 7 copies of Leviathan, plus an electronic copy.
Which is an amazing accolade to JB's writing. Because obviously, it couldn't be the subject matter.

Rob asserts...

Posted Wednesday


My beautiful top condition second hand copy of Leviathan arrived yesterday from jolly ole England. It cost one whole penny and 4 pound postage. be great if JB comes down to Hobart sometime soon,it will be my shout to make up for the lack of royalties.

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pitpat asserts...

Posted Tuesday
Ah Newman, the gift that keeps on giving

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Therbs reckons...

Posted Tuesday
Queensland - A Game of Cletuses

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted Tuesday
Therbs - Game of Drones, more like it.
I heard Canned Ooh on 612 yesterday muttering about mending fences or some such with the judiciary. I assume he'll use razor wire.

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted Tuesday
Game of Thongs. Because there are so many places to which one should not go, and this lights the way with blazing neon.

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Legless is gonna tell you...

Posted Tuesday
Just heard that Mr Strong Choices is going to redouble his efforts in Queensland.

You poor, poor bastards......

Sharky has opinions thus...

Posted Tuesday
Hi Legless
OT, but can u check your PM at the SP?

Cheers

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MickH is gonna tell you...

Posted Tuesday
I admit it.
I voted for Newman (but Labor won my seat)
I was over Bligh and her dysfunctional gang.
I wanted to give Can-do a go, you know, just to see how he'd go.
Holy shit!
I didn't expect:
The arrogance!
The bullying!
The attack on our Medical system!
The attack on our Judiciary system!
The fascism!!
The 'over-the-top' approach to dealing with bike gangs!
Pink jumpsuits? OMG! grow up!!

And don't get me started on the Federal fuckwits and NO I didn't vote for Abbott.
I Hate Abbot on many levels, I have for some time. When he became Prime Minister it was a case of Homer's 'Noooooooooooo' for me.

I'm seriously concerned with the turn Australian politics has taken towards the extreme right. Are these guys that out of touch with the average Aussie? Christ! its like we have aliens governing us. Certainly not Australians. or the typical Australian that I know.

I am so concerned that I am thinking of giving up my swinging voter status and joining the Labor party. (its only 5 bucks!)

We have to get this country back on track so many of us have to give up our Australian apathy and do something about it.

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted Tuesday
Ms insomniac turned to the labor party last year. I would too but I don't get to vote

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tqft ducks in to say...

Posted Tuesday
Gonna be tougher from 1 August when new standards from the Australian press Council apply.
While I am sure you could take their wet lettucing if you cross the line, Fairfax lawyers may not be so forgiving

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Anthony reckons...

Posted Tuesday

New LNP slogan:


Making it even more Queensland!!!

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ShaneAlpha reckons...

Posted Tuesday
HULK MAKE STRONG CHOICES!
PEOPLE NOT LIKE STRONG CHOICES!
HULK SAD.
PEOPLE STUPID.

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ShaneAlpha ducks in to say...

Posted Tuesday
Birmo for PM!

(because, hey, in an alternate reality he's King)

A Bunny in every lap and a gold plated hovercraft in every garage!

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ShaneAlpha mutters...

Posted Tuesday
I'm starting to miss being stalked by Strong Choices on Twitter.
It was like going to High School with the bastard all over again.

There was Strong Choices, hanging out behind the bike shed, having a smoke.
There was Strong Choices, demanding lunch money with menaces.
And there, proudly, stood Strong Choices, king of wedgies, dead arms and swirlies.

God I hated that prick.

MickH puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
Did you go to school with Can-Do?

ShaneAlpha has opinions thus...

Posted Wednesday
No. Was trying to humorously point out that , to me, the Strong Choices campaign made me fell like I was in high school, a target for a bully. Particularly the way it Twitter stalked you.

I have, however, met the man once at a public event. Like any other similar situation, it's courtesy all round because there's no point being a dick.

It's like meeting Birmo, you don't want to come across as a twat.

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Big Willie Style puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
Bill O'Chee presents the other side of the story in today's Brisbane Times. Newman strong, Labor weak, Newman possibly greatest man ever born, Labor rack up debt for the fun of it, that sort of thing. Sheesh.

Now if you'll pardon me, I'm off to the penis enlargement people. It's the only way I can land my dream girl, Jacqui Lambie.

Greybeard mutters...

Posted Wednesday
Tough (strong?) choice there BWS. She also likes 'em rich so don't pay too much for the apinnadicktomy.

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Quokka mutters...

Posted Wednesday
Let's not forget the superquarry they plan to foist upon the community at Tallebudgera. 300m from the nearest residence, in the middle of a wildlife habitat.

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Respond to 'I will be forever grateful to Mr Strong Choices'

Drinking for Australia

Posted July 18 by John Birmingham

Took a last minute commission from the Herald yesterday, about the news that the Oz C'wealth Games team will be allowed to drink in competition.

A marvelous development, in my opinion.

"Did Dougie Walters score a century between tea and stumps in the 1974-75 Ashes series on tofu shakes and goji berries? The hell he did. His preparation to take apart the English seamers consisted of sucking down two packets of unfiltered, lethally dangerous high tar cigarettes, a carton of Toohey’s Old and another carton of Toohey’s Old in the drinks break. He didn’t warm up with yoga or Pilates, he warmed up by flogging the hide off Bob Willis."

At smh.com.au

Best of all? The hurt feelings of the Glaswegians in the communtz.

16 Responses to ‘Drinking for Australia’

Rob asserts...

Posted July 18

seems crazy to suggest that even for a minute that there should be no drinking in Scotland. Seriously without booze, what is the point of Scotland?

Lulu mutters...

Posted July 18
Golf.

Greybeard reckons...

Posted Saturday
No seriously, what is the point. Still, golf may well be the best joke Scotland ever played on the world.

Bunyip would have you know...

Posted Saturday
So, does this mean you're supposed to play golf sober? Or not? Asking for a friend.

Lulu has opinions thus...

Posted Monday
Either. It's the Scots Presbyterian Holy Trinity: golf, whisky-drinking and sectarianism.

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Therbs asserts...

Posted July 18

In their 'free' days I just hope they venture out to educate themselves in the superiority of single malts over stillnox. They may learn how a fine Islay enjoyed in a post dinner environment of team bonding affords the drinker enhanced powers of recuperation.

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Dino not to be confused with mutters...

Posted July 18
The thing is I think I am too old for the Games now.
Oh I can 'heave ho' at 5.30 am.
Did it today.
Bile and shit.
Had a great day after that.
Youngins need to learn that shit!
Old School.
As for sleeping tablets I think I took Stillkn0cks in '96.
Messed me up.
But like I said I am no athlete.

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Big Willie Style would have you know...

Posted Sunday
Eh? The Commonwealth Games is still a thing? I thought it'd gone the way of powdered wigs and bookshops.

After Straya's shithouse performance at the World Cup and our bicyclingists struggling at the TdF, this will be just what Straya needs to restore our sense of self-worth. Aussie swimmers backstroking their way to delicious gold against the might of Guernsey, Namibia and Fiji! The Hockeyroos finding the back of the net time and again against the hapless Cayman Islanders! Bermudan and Papua New Guinean gymnasts? Ha! Best of luck competing against our sun-drenched sons & daughters, tryhards!

If Australia doesn't bring home at least 478 gold medals, the entire team should be sent to detention camps in Indonesia. This is no place for losers.

Greybeard asserts...

Posted Sunday
La Sir, I fear you are a mere vulgarian. 'Twas only a week past that I visited Protheroe and Forelock, Dealers in Fine Books and Wig Powder. Tis true I do not see them as often as in former times but the fine and rare nature of their books has forced a remove to Darkest Canberra. There such wondrous volumes may be sold without hindrance from the loathsome Peelers. As for their delicious Colombian Wig Powder, the merest whiff sends me into transports of delight. Indeed, the suggestion that I might forgo it sends a cold chill down my spine.

Should you visit our dreary capital, I strongly recommend a visit to their premises.

Yr Obd Servant
Lord Greybeard of Melbourne

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Sunday
Alcohol can only improve sport.

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tqft reckons...

Posted Sunday
The obvious question is when will drinking be an official sport?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted Monday
I see drinking as an accoutrement to sport rather than as a sport in and of itself. For example, putting on shoes is an element of playing rugby, but putting on shoes isn't a sport in and of itself.

Alcohol in sport does the opposite of amphetamines and steroids. Amphetamines and steroids give unfair advantage. Alcohol is the Great Equalizer.

Drink up, me hearties, and throw, bowl, kick, run and scum!


Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted Monday
I just learned via an email from a helpful mate that the term is "scrum."

Why didn't anyone correct me earlier??

tqft asserts...

Posted Monday
But you waste so much valuable time

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted Monday
When you said "scum", I thought you were talking rugby league, hence no correction.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted Monday
Ah. Okay. Makes sense.

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Respond to 'Drinking for Australia'

A thought on writing three books at once

Posted July 17 into Writing by John Birmingham

I have a lot of these thoughts, and should probably write a whole essay on the topic, but for now I'll stick to one simple observation.

This is the third trilogy I've written, although the Hooper books (my publishers are in another round of discussions about renaming them) aren't so much a trilogy as three books at the start of what I hope will be a long story.

One of the things that used to bug me about the earlier series was my inability to retcon stuff. When Weapons was published, that was it. No going back and inventing 3D printing. No giving everyone iPads. No unmurdering Captain Anderson. Same with Targets. Dan Black was dead, no bringing him back. Same with the Disappearance novels. RIP my little redneck princess.

With Hooper though, I've been constantly revisiting the first two novels as I've drafted the third. As I did when writing the second.

At the moment I'm copy-editing Hooper #1 and the flow is actually reversed. Returning to Dave's origin story has let me see him afresh two books down the line. You wouldn't think that would be significant or even necessary but it is. I'm writing Dave as a 70s style anti-hero, and that's not an easy thing to maintain, especially when he gets his superhero mojo working. There's always a danger of forgetting his inner asshole and letting his Captain America side bland out.

Going back over that first book, while I'm writing the third is really helping avoid that. Often by reminding me that this is the guy we first met vomiting up his bonus payment after blowing it on a couple of top shelf hookers and a mountain of blow because he didn't want his ex wife wasting the money on school fees.

Oh Dave, you incorrigible reprobate.

If the publishers agree, I'm going to do the next series in exactly the same way.

42 Responses to ‘A thought on writing three books at once’

Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted July 17
In a way it is "one big book" - just split into three easily publishable kinda stand-alone explodey awesome parts.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted July 17
I prefer to think of it as a saga. A giant, well paying, transmedia saga.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted July 17
Transmedia eh?

Blarkon puts forth...

Posted July 17
's working for James S.A. Corey ;-)


Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted July 18
Another author I fail to see the appeal of. I got maybe a hundred pages into the first of that series before I gave up in aggravation. The former Navy officer/XO was such a screaming fucking idiot that I'm surprised his own crew didn't space him long before their main ship was nuked.

Alastair Reynolds that individual is not.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

Blarkon mumbles...

Posted July 18
Actually 2 blokes. James SA Corey is a pen name.

It is SF of the Matthew Reilly style of "solving one problem causes another problem that needs to be solved" that keeps the tension and the action on the boil.

They certainly have excellent pacing - I went through Cibola Burn in 48 hours. I love the Poseidon's Children books, but they don't have an airport novel's frenetic pace (which the Expanse books do).

As Dan Brown showed - you can get away with less characterization and intricacy at plot if the narrative hauls arse like an out of control semi.

Sudragon asserts...

Posted Sunday
If Dan Brown is 'out of control semi'...what does that make Matthew Reilly?

Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted Sunday
Blarkon,

Quantity of writers does not equal quality.

M

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted July 17
I think we saw a bit of that frustration back in the post AoT discussions at the JSpace blog. Suffering Jebus on a fkn slouch bike that was a looooong time ago.

Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted July 18
The most frustrating thing was trying to rationalize decisions that couldn't be retconned, such as a Marine Corps Doctor which I think we handwaved away by saying the Corps had expanded significantly during the War on Terror.

On the other hand, after AoT the effort to catch potential problems before they needed to be retconned improved significantly. One example pertains to what, exactly, did The Wave kill in the Disappearance Trilogy. There were some lengthy exchanges about that and what After America and Angels of Vengeance would be like depending on how deep into the fauna the Wave went.

And I can say there have been some interesting changes made during the process of this trilogy as well, particularly concerning the support characters.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

Don Bagert has opinions thus...

Posted July 18
I'm glad that JB did not, to my knowledge, have characters that became well-known in OT between books, and then have them conveniently outside of the Wave when the Disappearance occurred. So although he did use Sarah Palin (who was mayor of Wasilia, Alaska in 2003) in Without Warning, he didn't have state senator Barack Obama visiting relatives in Hawaii during the Wave (no pun intended LOL) so he could use him.

Don Bagert has opinions thus...

Posted July 18
Sarah Palin was in Angels of Vengence, not WW, sorry.


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Dino not to be confused with reckons...

Posted July 17
That graphic is fucked JB.
So you're telling me get some hipster glasses?
My eyes are fucked and getting worse.
But if I get the glasses I will be respected?
Can't believe your doing three books.
I remember way back when you saying you were starting the project and me replying 'no way me too!'.
I done three chapters, some of the fourth.
race ya!

insomniac mumbles...

Posted July 18
Hair too

Dino not to be confused with swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 18
I got hair.
On my ears.

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted July 17
I was recently reading an old edition of the 'The Hobbit'.
The foreword noted that the scene where Bilbo met Gollum had been slightly revised from the original edition due to Tolkien's planned 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy.

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tqft puts forth...

Posted July 17
But 3 paychecks or at least one bigger one?

The copy editing of 3 I expect to induce a twitter meltdown.

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Don Bagert would have you know...

Posted July 18
Good post JB, but I thought that Dan Black died between Designated Targets and Final Impact.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 18
You're right. Forgot my own books.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted July 18
you need your own Eilo Garcia like George R R Martin has

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted July 18
For what it is worth, I love this development. It just makes for better individual books and any series as a whole.

It allows for deep foreshadowing - which is what I love most about Stirling's stuff.

And, perhaps, it allows you to reconsider killing off a much beloved character or two if you decided on implulse to kill them off. Imagine how much better you would sleep at night.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted July 18
I tried writing with quills once.

What a pain in the ass. I genuinely feel sorry for those poor bastards who had no other choice.

Lulu puts forth...

Posted July 18
Just think of it: all of Shakespeare's plays (including the *long* ones) - all.by.quill.

Guru Bob has opinions thus...

Posted Sunday
It did take Hugo something like 17 years to get the book finished. But it did supposedly sell out in one day...

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insomniac mumbles...

Posted July 18
If it was a pain in the ass, I suggest you weren't using them correctly.

yankeedog is gonna tell you...

Posted July 19
You win the internet today! Best comeback I've read in a while!

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted Saturday
I wasn't amused. Although it does explain what are apparently avoidable medical issues.

Greybeard puts forth...

Posted Saturday
But it does make a rather attractive display.

Greybeard ducks in to say...

Posted Sunday
And I've never been back to the Greek Club since.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted Monday
And yet moved to the city with one of the largest - if not largest - population of Greeks in the world. Don't tell me you did it for the pasta and espresso at Pellegrini's.

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Aaron asserts...

Posted July 18

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Blake has opinions thus...

Posted July 18
Makes you wonder about how the Victorian? / Dickens era managed with publising books by the chapter.

Surely though theres always the zombie mermaid fifi option?

Or the jj abrahams (Alias) retrospective plot twist. 'we've written ourselves into a corner... Nope the last three series joe blogs was a double agent and we'll play on the doubt surrounding the inconsistent plot elements to keep the audience guessing. '

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damian reckons...

Posted Saturday
Goodness, I thought I was merely a drunken vagrant but it looks like I might actually be some sort of writer. Whooda thunk.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted Sunday
Perhaps the solution to the drunken vagrant problem in these United States is to provide drunken vagrants with a pair of glasses.

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pi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Monday
The most mind-bending series of books I ever read with intricate stories and story arcs connected across multiple time-frames was the multi-series books by Julian May, that started with The Many Colored Land. From 1981, in which the first book was published, to its culmination across three series' later, in the book Magnificat, in 1996, it had links between first books that only got explained as story arcs in books seven, eight, and nine. It spanned a total of nine books, in three different series.

To this day I'm still gob-smacked that so complete a series got started where the entire end of the series was known from the very start, the writing of which took 15 years.

I reckon it's good that you get the opportunity to now do this. Like all things in our world these days, it seems that things get compressed further and further. But I can only bow to the authors that have managed to do the thing 'old school'.

pi asserts...

Posted Monday
Sorry... eight books.

pi mutters...

Posted Monday
The books were :

The Many Coloured Land
The Golden Torc
The Non-Born King
The Adversary

Intervention

Jack the Bodiless
Diamond Mask
Magnificat

Dino not to be confused with ducks in to say...

Posted Monday
Yes Pi,
I loved those books.

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Drew ducks in to say...

Posted Tuesday

You said Retcon!

<Unmanly fanboy squee>

I'll shaddap now.

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