9 Things You Need To Write A Novel

My thanks to Mr Toby Litt for his feedback on his JGB interview, and for this piece on writing a novel…altough having read it, not sure if I should give up. Right now.


The first thing you need to write a novel is… Time.

The second thing you need to write a novel is… More Time.

And the third thing you need to write a novel is… Even More Time.

This perhaps seems a bit obvious. But let me explain.

Time, More Time and Even More Time are all necessary.

I’ve divided Time up into three because you need Time for different things.

The first lot of Time is, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, Time to write. Time to sit at the desk with words coming out of you.

The second lot of time, More Time, is… Time not to write. Time to do stuff which doesn’t seem to be writing but which, in the end, turns out to have been writing all along. To the uninitiated, this may appear to be window shopping or people-watching, taking a nice long…

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Big Brother is following you


Hurt / Smith, 1984.

Spent the evening listening to Anthony Burgess podcasts, writing ’til late on Orwell, checking on end of year tax payments etc. and then to bed in a bit of a turmoil. Should’ve had more cheese… woke up about 3 a.m. felt like I was Winston Smith .. cold, scared and even hungry .. wanted to get up for a quick shot of gin and a dry biscuit perhaps but was afraid the telescreen might bark at me, and get me to do my morning jerks (sic.) or even order me back to bed…

Somehow got back to sleep..dreaming of electric sheep in a desolate Airstrip One landscape .. woke again before the alarm call . .kept the lights and the telescreen off..but I knew Big Brother was still watching me. Crawled out for a pee .. thought of the day ahead..it’s cold outside. The Ministry awaits.
Never felt more grateful for running hot water, although razor blade a little blunt, Ingsoc style. Shavespeak. Tuned into the wireless. Radio App.. “Here is the BBC“, Listen, they said: some woman was talking about birds, then a man talked about doubleplusbad schools in Airstrip One and torturecrime in other parts of Oceania. Needed cornflakes and warm milk: easy on the Victory gin, don’t spare the coffee.
In other news….. I don’t remember. Change channels. Classical music…no! Too Clockwork Orangey!
Out into the cold morning air. Morning sun on thin veil of frost. Automobile. My turn to drive, Clemmy-cast to hand.
Reached my destination .. had to get something off my chest and out of my head. The thing I’d been gestating all night while Big Brother wasn’t watching. Scribbled in my secret notebook. Here it is.
I’m going to need a bigger piece of paper.

Brave New Worlds

reminder to self….

Brave New Worlds: The Dystopia in Modern and Contemporary Fiction

Welcome to the official site for ‘Brave New Worlds: The Dystopia in Modern and Contemporary Literature’, an interdisciplinary conference which will take place at Newcastle University on Wednesday 29th April 2015. Please keep checking the site regularly for further updates and information including the Call for Papers which will be published this weekend.

We look forward to seeing you all at the conference!

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Pop has eaten itself

I was pleasantly surprised to read Paul Morley’s feature in the Guardian recently basically about how pop/rock music has effectively nothing more to say and that classical music is the only way forward. Readers of this blog (and I know you are many) will have learned that this has been my sentiment exactly since round about the beginning of this year when i started getting ‘back into’ classical music and finding ‘new’ pop and even re-cycled rock music toatlly boring and pointless.

As Morley says, listening to classical music may “seem like a classic, cliched, late-life move into a conservative, grown-up and increasingly remote world” but i really don’t see it like that at all. Ok, there is a cliché in there somewhere..my parents couldn’t understand what kind of music I was listening to in, say, 1980 although my Dad might have appreciated something ‘with a beat to it’ (no Jean Michel Jarre, eh then Dad?). Likewise I can listen to stuff my own children listen to, only if there’s a decent lyric and a tune. But having said that there’s hardly anything new or interesting around and even “old” rock/pop artists such as Bowie, Depeche Mode and others are just re-hashing old ideas, often with sub-standard results, not to mention U2’s rather pathetic attempt to ram their new album down your throats, or rather literally into your ears, with the free i-tunes issue that came with your latest update. As with theirs, and most new pop music, it is merely what Morley calls “skilfully engineered product design” (never been a U2 fan anyway). I saw that BBC documentary recently about music and fashion, where a famous ‘label’ is also launching a new musician as part of the package. Pathetic.

Sadly the days of Buzzcocks, Joy Divison, Tubeway Army or even Duran Duran are no more (although the latter do have quite a lot to answer for), so let’s find a real alternative and discover some music from 100 or more years ago which can actually tell us something new. I’m not going to make any suggestions or create a playlist like Morley did, you can discover it all for yourselves, just like we used to with pop music back then.


cartoon from lsned.com – click if you’d like to know a little more.


STOP PRESS! (and edit) Clemency Burton-Hill gets the balance right (somewhat) in this piece just up on BBC Culture.


The food of love

Just looking back over this wordpress I started a few months ago, it seems to have turned into yet another music-oriented blog, the likes of which I’ve been writing in various forms for what seems like a decade at least.
I really did intend to write about other subjects, such as literature, history, current affairs and so on but it seems as if I always come back to the same subject. Music.
I do do other things in my life: I read, watch films, watch telly, go to work, travel, study, eat etc. yet none of those other things really seem to preoccupy me as much as music.
One thing I don’t do is cook, so yes, music really does seem to be my food of love. Thanks for that one Willy…looks like I’ll just have to play on.

Music in the Great War

ImageRadio 3 are coming full on with the World War One centenary celebrations this and next week with a series of programmes under the Music of World War One umbrella. Full details here.

I must admit that my initial enthusiasm for such “celebrations” (I use the term loosely) has rather died down, possibly die to an overkill, especially by Aunt Beeb. But never mind, there’s plenty to choose from and to be honest I am looking foward to this special concert by the Vienna Philharmonic which will be broadcast live from the Vijecnica National Library in Sarajevo on Saturday 28th June. Among the composers featured is one Alban Berg, a new name on me so look forward to hearing some of his work for the first time.


The Beatles’ Secretary

La segretaria dei Beatles

..well, that was the Italian title of the “Good Ol’ Freda” docu-film about Freda Kelly we went to see last night.

I wouldn’t say it was a disappointment but let’s just say a kind of ‘missed opportunity’ in many ways. Let’s face it, Freda could have been a wealth of information: only she knows how much she saw / knew about The Beatles after 10 years as the “secretary” (she was actually secretary to Brian Epstein and sort of running the Fan Club at the same time).

But unfortunately not a lot came out of her…mostly because she is in fact a very reserved person (she says she had never talked about it until now, not even to her late son, which she regrets), but also becuase the film perhaps didn’t quite know how to “exploit” her fully.

It was kind of ‘low budget’, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it was low budget trying to look like high-budget which can be a bad thing. Apparently they even had to struggle to get just four Beatles songs included (hello, Yoko Ono) although admittedly there were quite a few earlier photos of the Beatles band I’d never seen before, in my Beatles/JL research, including a lot of her photographed with them.

Interviews other than with Frida (and her daughter, Christmas coffee mug in hand – natch) were with the usual suspects  (the ageing press agent and a couple of other Merseybeat musicians) and aside from a 30 second contrubution from Ringo Starr (whom she affectionately kept referring to as ‘Ritchie’) just before the closing titles there was nothing from Paul McCartney or any other really prominent Beatley people (although admittedly perhaps there aren’t many around any more).

All in all, a pleasant enough hour or so, preceded by a live interview with Frida in Milan (it was all shown simultaneeously in about 30 cinemas around the country) but I don’t think it’ll be considered as one of the best Beatles documentaries ever. A bit of a wasted opportunity. Shame, but thanks anyway Frida.