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On rewriting fiction – again
Fig.1. One box from the garage: Five/Six project to work on here 😦
Thank you SWF Fall 14. [Start Writing Fiction. An Open University ‘Massive Open Online Course’ or MOOC that run from October to December 2014 on the FutureLearn platform]
A MOOC on writing fiction has rekindled my desire to be a published writer for the eighth or ninth time in four decades.
Writing in 1991/2 with a further burst of activity from 1996/8 and another from 2001/2006 and abandoned since 2008 I am glad, though daunted to be looking at drafts of novels and of screenplays that I just dug out of a lock up garage over 10 miles away. There’d be more if I could read floppy disks and ZIP drives.
These piles are stacked carefully enough, though some were tipped out of arch-level files when I started my OU MA in Open and Distance Education in February 2010. Here I am back again, as if these last five years have been something squeezed from me like the last teaspoon of paste from a tube of tomato purée.
I am thrilled to see a TV play called ‘Sardines’ – a farce in which some eight characters all end up hidden in the cupboards or under the bed of the same man in a penthouse flat in central London. I am gobsmacked to find variations something called ‘Form Photo’ which charts the relationships of one man from the age of 17 to 57 … mostly teens, with some first loves in his early teens. This is, I think, the one I am now turning to.
Also in front of me is the manuscript I may have given 18 months to – a typical time span, 18 months and 300 pages and 100,000 words. Working title ‘Journey To Work’ because the premise in 1996 was that a character wanted a car that would drive him to work … i.e. a self-driving car. It is not about the motor industry (although I was doing a lot of work for Land Rover at the time). It also has the title ‘Fifteen Roads to Nowhere’ about this guy who sets out on this mad quests: the car thing, a relationship with such enthusiasm … eventually he takes a bet to drive, or be driven by this homemade car across 100 miles of English rural and urban landscape. So there’s that one.
‘The Contents of My Mind’ was an effort to explore how a person’s mind is stored digitally after their death and in this instance is put into the brain of someone who had been in a coma. You end up with a hybrid horror of a person trapped in a body that isn’t theirs that also enforces a new way of thinking and doing on them. Toss! It went to the BBC, was read and returned. 2004 or so?
Hardly a novice writer then?
Always a novice writer. Even should I have the good fortune to be published eventually I will doubt what it is that I do or have done. My sincere hope, as I return to a commitment to writing fiction after a long break is that I now have a better idea of what it is I do, what makes this ‘chef’ how it is that I toss the ingredients down and pull out a meal that is enjoyable. A short film broadcast on Channel 4 that I wrote, directed and produced is my only broadcast credit; I have not been published outside a school magazine.
Editing that destroys what I write isn’t the way to write – it becomes like writing by numbers. I have plenty of examples of that too, where I have tried to write as I believe I am required to write. I did this with a 12 part historical TV series that I read today and it is about as thrilling as a telephone directory – there is nothing of me in it. ‘The Little Duke’ could be retuned wearing my new head.
Far better the outrageous, Tom Sharpe meets Henry Miller, of things like ‘Sardines,’ even ‘Exchange with a Frenchmen’ … the treatment of which I have seen kicking around somewhere. I cut and pasted hundreds of strips of papers into a long scroll. I think, as I am now doing with other work, that I am starting to know how to construct that prose.
I also found the proposal, in French, for a series of false news stories.
I was on the team writing, directing and producing these things for Antenne 2 in 1991. Outrageous. One story even ended up on the news. We told some lie about the French Prime Minister owning a Honda even though she claimed to be wedded to supporting output from French car manufacturers Renault and Peugot. At this time I also spent six weeks on the road documenting the lives of those in the HLMs outside major towns and cities where immigrants had been put. And I wrote a story about an Algerian boy who when stressed turned into sand … All this and I was translating from French to English a kids cartoon series called ‘Chip and Charlie’ from France Animation.
The funniest read is something I typed up in the Christmas Holidays when I was 13 1/2 I now look at it’s nonsense and think ‘Blue Lagoon … only in space’ 🙂
Still in the garage there is the manuscript for a kid’s adventure story called ‘The Time Telescope’, a kids TV series about a time shift device called after the main characters, brother and sister ‘CC and Susie’ and some kids’ stories written when my own children were six and four. ‘Hapless Harry’ comes to mind … a small boy who ‘transmogrified’ into everyday objects whenever he did something naughty. He turned into his dad’s brief case and got taken to the office in one adventure, I remember.
Data, Analytics and Learning
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.1. EdX MOOC – right up my street (MOOC = Massive Open Online Course).
These, like the NHS, are ‘free at the point of delivery’ – they are free and online with often, potentially at least, a huge enrolment – though this collapses on the heavyweight longer courses such as the above to around 5%. FutureLearn with its three week ‘lite’ format is retaining 22% of those who register.
They are free, but the US ‘Open Learn’ courses don’t half use the opportunity to sell you at every turn on the idea of making a contribution, or purchasing a badge, certificate or even a formal assessment. It shouldn’t feel like one of those holiday timeshare things or a ‘free’ trip to a traditional Turkish village where you are flogged carpets.
Might the supply of free online learning of this calibre threaten traditionally courses entirely?
H817 on Open Learning, a new MAODE module, is, in various alternative forms offered online. Here with George Siemens, now at the University of Texas. This would be no different to Martin Weller turning up at Harvard and offering a version of H817 or some of the other MAODE modules on the EdX MOOC platform.
|From NSSC 3AUG14 ARK|
Fig. 1 Five Lasers, like butterflies
Helming the boat that set the buoys for this race (it’s called ‘Ark’) I got this shot and likened it to butterflies in the back garden. I so wanted to be out there competing in the race and juggling my inabilities to control the dinghy, but got a thrill from this moment all the same with this imbalance of boats. One getting away, the others heading towards the buoy.
My turn next week.
I’ve done 12 hours on a ‘pond’ in various winds on a Laser so feel ready for the sea, and ready for bruises, muscle pain, a dunking: ready too for managed risk: I will have on a wet suit and life jacket. I will have a pouch containing an inhaler (asthmatic) and water.
I like danger. I need the physical and mental thrills I so enjoyed in my ‘youth’. I prefer a challenge. I want to be hit with a stick and offered a carrot. The Open University equivalent of the written exam and recognition of success: Tutor Marked Assignments (TMAs) are too infrequent for essay writing to become a way of life, whilst End of Module Assignments (EMAs) lack the danger and challenge of an examination. At Oxford University essays are weekly, read out and shared in a tutor group of two or three and at the end of the year you sit exams – terrifyingly demanding but both proof that you know your stuff and a way to distinguish the pack.
‘Ark’ is a bit of a tug, a diesel engined quasi-fishing vessel on which the day’s race buoys are kept – hunking great things on a long length of rope with a chain and anchor attached. It has a VHS radio so you call back and forth to your harbour of departure and the Race Officer in the clubhouse and RIBS in the bay.
Seven years since I was last on the thing I had with me a cushion I grabbed from the sofa at home not thinking why I did this … until in the chop I recalled how I had broken my coccyx training to do this when I had bounced off the rubbery side of the RIB and landed on the anchor: twice. Broken coccyx. Imagine how they test for this in A&E? Basically someone prods you up the arse and if you scream there’s a problem. This problem then turns into ‘there’s nothing we can do’. But here’s a rubber-ring you may like to have to sit on for the next six weeks … or don’t sit down????
You live and learn, or rather learn through giving things a go until you can get it right enough.
The contents of my brian
Fig. 1. A moment to reflect
This by the by was the title of a TV screenplay I submitted to the BBC – rejected otherwise you might have seen it on the box by now and I wouldn’t be sitting here.
As the round up to my final, final MA ODE module H818: The Networked Practitioner it is suggested that we prepare a timeline drawing on possible blog entries, as well as ‘appearances’ in the OpenStudio platform we’ve been using.
I’ve posted some 80 times since H818 began. I’ve posted some, I don’t know, 1000 times here since February 2010?
The surprise is to find a dozen references to H818 from 2012 and when contemplating how I got to the ideas that I delivered for H818 where these may have emerged from. This in turn takes me as far back as a visit to the Science Museum in 2010. Then all manner of things, from the launch of Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ and attending seminars in Bristol on ‘curation’ and earliest indicators that I may take an MA in First World War studies having tried to write on the subject for … well, 22 years ago another failed TV play optioned by Tyne Tees Television called ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’ – which is what my late grandfather said to me while we watched the local news featuring a private in the Durham Light Infantry out in Saudi Arabia. He was 96 in 1992 and had joined the DLI in his teens in late 1915.
And all of this for my very, very, very last EMA ever.
And what did I just jot down
‘Word counts in an EMA are anathema to the culture of open education’
My first draft, I haven’t ever dared look, will run to anything between 6,000 and 12,000 words.
Talking of writing … never one to say never, I have committed to a week long ‘retreat’ with a dear friend and writing tutor. My goal is to work on … ‘The Angel of the North’ a story set in the era of the First World War about a woman who flies over the Western Front.
(Actually, I’ve just thought of that. She does fly with an RFC pilot/instructor … and in the final pages is about to set off to attempt to fly the Atlantic for the first time in the wrong direction. She does, as a couple of women did, impersonate a soldier to get herself into the Front Line …)
Oh boy. And I thought I was done with writing. Thought that getting 5,000 words finished was a challenge. It is, but the OU provides the parameters and schedules, the kick up the arse and the carrot that no other kind of writing has yet provided. Except for once.
Meanwhile I must get the kids to school, must walk the dog and must prepare for an online conference I madly volunteered to do a few weeks ago as if I didn’t have enough on … which will include sitting with a veteran of the Second World War this weekend, he was in the Polish Resistance during the Warsaw Uprising. I have a Sony Flip camera and digital sound recorder in my pocket determined to interview him as I did my grandfather …
Onwards to … more of the same I should think
p.s. yes, it is my ‘brian’ – the idea of the brain is so ridiculous.
Towards an assessment of my teaching
I often share a post I am writing as I do so. In this case having identified the story to tell : running a workshop to solve a ‘messy’ business problem I am pulling together or creating supporting images, in the above case a grab and mashup from Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ – my goal is to be recognised as one. In a forum post as an Open University ‘Master of arts in Open and Distance Education’ (I graduated in early 2013) I suggested this could be achieved in four years – John Seely Brown thinks that eLearning speeds things up, while Weller reckons on ten years.