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800th post snapshot! August 30, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Blogging, Book Reviews, Misc, Movie Reviews, On Writing, Reviews, Travel.
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7 comments

A charm celebrating the 800th anniversary of the University of Cambridge (2009) -- which just happens to be the year I studied there and started this blog! (I got one of these when I graduated)

Congratulations to me!

This is the 800th post on this blog.  I thought long and hard about what to write about for this monumental occasion, but I had my usual brain freeze…so instead I decided to write about the fact that I am writing a post about my 800th post.

Today is the 30th of August, 2011.  I started this blog on the 11th of January, 2009.  By my calculations that’s 962 days.  That’s a lot of writing!

On average, that’s 1 post every 1.2025 days, 5.821 posts per week and almost 25 posts a month.  As at the time of writing I have 833,486 blog hits, which translates into an average of 1041.8575 hits per blog post and 866.409 hits per day.

When I started this blog I was happy to get around 10-20 hits a day, and certainly for the first month or two that was the norm.  Now the blog hovers around 1,000 hits a day, with occasion dips and spikes (like the current one courtesy of StumbleUpon, which is giving me around 2,500 a day).

I currently have 2,601 comments, which equals roughly 2.7 comments per day.  I’ve also been bombarded by 26,754 spam comments (I believe more as some slipped through the keeper), or a whopping 27.81 per day!  I find Akismet has been doing a much better job as of late, meaning less penile enlargement advertisements.

My top post remains My European Adventure Round-Up, which has amassed 66,273 hits, though it is almost certain to be overtaken shortly (in the next couple of days) by The 20 Most Rewatchable Movies of All-Time.

My top movie review?  Shock horror, it’s Ninja Assassin (with 12,825 hits), probably because no one else has seen it — or maybe it’s that topless shot of a ripped Rain that has web surfers flocking to it.  My top book review and writing-related post is the same one — Stephen King’s brilliant On Writing (with 12,766 hits).

Moving forward, I’m not sure if I can keep up with the same pace (pun intended).  I love to write, and that’s why I continue to write on this blog without compensation (apart from the occasional free movie, DVD or book).  Even though at some point I’ll likely be swallowed by the demands of work and other responsibilities I hope this blog can remain my sanctuary, a place I can come back to to express and rant and be creative.

Is it ever too early to start re-writing? July 26, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Fantasy, Misc, Novel, On Writing, Study.
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2 comments

I’m trying to put my focus back into writing starting this week, and one aspect of that is to revisit my dormant fantasy novel which I have been thinking about a lot these past couple of months.  I still think the book as potential and I like the story it has to tell, but having written significant chunks of it around 2 years ago, I know it will require plenty of work.

Conventional writing wisdom suggests that rewriting comes after completion of the first draft.  The primary goal in the first attempt is to just get the words of the story out of your mind, out of your system and onto the page.  Anne Lamott, who wrote the popular writing book Bird by Bird, discussed at length the unavoidable ‘shitty first drafts’ even excellent and seasoned writers churn out on a regular basis.

The idea is that if you worry and procrastinate over every paragraph, sentence or word, you’ll never generate any momentum and it will take you much longer to finish the story.  And often it’s when you are in that ‘zone’ of pumping out a copious amount of words at a frenetic pace that some of your best writing is generated (though it has to be ‘unearthed’ from all the crappy stuff).

However, although I am not even at the halfway line of the first draft of my fantasy epic (around 150,000 words), I’m highly tempted at the moment to go back to the beginning and rewrite a few of the first chapters.  One of the main reasons is that I realised my beginning lacked a serious punch.  After an action-packed prologue, I started with the usual boring ‘fantasy world introduction’ chapter where I introduced the characters and the world in which they lived in a methodical fashion.  It occurred to me that it would have made a lot more sense to start in the middle of the action, beginning with the final of a tournament in which the protagonist is involved in.  In the current version, the tournament was already over by the time the story began.

But would rewriting before I’ve even finished the first draft be a waste of time?  What if I later change my mind and come up with a better intro?  What if later on I decide to change characters or events?

I read in an interview with Philip Pullman (author of the His Dark Materials trilogy) that he doesn’t have a particular method when it comes to writing and rewriting.  Sometimes he waits until the end and sometimes he does it as he goes along.

In Stephen King’s brilliant On Writing (my review and summary here), he says that first drafts should be completed within 3 months, which is pretty much supernatural for most people out there, but even for him, this essentially means no rewriting until the first draft has been completed.  King also recommended putting the draft aside for a while before coming back to it with fresh eyes.  That said, King might be an anomaly because he seems to churn out pretty decent first drafts.  I say this because he suggests that a second draft should tighten a first draft by 10% and that he usually only does two drafts and a polish for a novel.

Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, said in an interview that he did literally 150-200 drafts of the first 90 pages just to get it right.  Can you imagine that?  I did about 5 or 6 drafts of the first chapter of my Masters writing project and I found it to be brutal already.

In the end, my gut tells me that I should just do whatever I feel like, whether it’s keep going or go back to the beginning.  It’s been so long that anything is better than nothing.

Rekindling the passion with old writing projects June 27, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Misc, Novel, On Writing, Study.
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3 comments

Have you ever started writing, got halfway through, or almost finished a piece of writing, but for whatever reason never saw it through to the end?  Have you then, days, weeks, months, or even years later, tried to pick it back up again to see if you can finish it off?

That’s what I’ve been trying to do the last few days.  I have no less than three ‘old’ projects that I’m trying to get back on track, with the time off being from a couple of weeks to almost a couple of years.  And you know what?  It’s really really hard.  Ridiculously hard.

What I’ve been trying to do is rekindle the passion I once had with these projects, to recapture the flame inside me that made me want to write all day, work on it all night, think about it as I’m drifting off to sleep and getting right back into it the moment I wake up.  I’ve had those moments with all three projects, but whenever I stop (due to a plethora of reasons, including laziness, procrastination, holidays, other work and unforeseen circumstances outside of my control) I find it difficult to regather that momentum again.

I ask myself why that is the case.  Do I still want to finish them off?  Of course, more than ever — in fact, now is the best time because I actually have the time to work on them.  Do I still think they are good ideas?  Yes.  Perhaps not as brilliant as I originally envisioned, but good enough.  So why, dammit?  Why?

I guess part of it might be because I fear that I’ll pick up the old project, have a look at it, and be stunned into depression over how crap it is and how much work I’ll need to do just to fix it up.  That almost always happens when I look back at my old work.  But surely I’m not alone in that, and others have gone on to put in whatever work was necessary to finish it off.

Having a zillion distractions around you certainly doesn’t help.  That’s why I am so enamoured of full-time writers who work from home, people who can just sit down at the table X number of hours a day and work on their shit rain, hail or shine and no matter how much they don’t want to do it — like a real job.  I remember Stephen King said something like that in On Writing, that you have to take your writing seriously or else no one will.

That’s it.  I’m going to give it a try and see what happens.  Work on my shit like a 9-5 job on the days where I can.  I’ll report back with the results in a couple of weeks.

25 Films That Scared the Crap Out of Me When I Was a Kid May 10, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Entertainment, Misc, Movie Reviews, Reviews.
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18 comments

When I was a snotty little kid, my older sister used to always borrow horror movies from the local video store.  Scary movies were all that she watched.  Scary movies and Stand By Me and White Fang (on loop — thanks to crushes on River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke).

I grew to like horror films too, but it wasn’t before they caused some serious lifelong trauma.  Without further ado, here the 25 that scared me the most (entirely from memory).

(to see the list, click on ‘more…’)

(more…)

An Afternoon at the Great Moscow Circus! September 19, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Shows.
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A few weeks ago I went to see the Great Moscow Circus, which is in the middle of its ‘regional’ Australia tour, even though this particular show was pretty close to the city.

I haven’t always been a fan of the circus — yes, I’ll admit, ever since I watched Stephen King’s It as a kid I’ve been terrified of clowns (shudder).

Anyway, it was time to put those fears aside, because the Moscow Circus doesn’t come around very often — maybe once every 2 or 3 years, if you’re lucky.  It’s a travelling circus comprising some of the most amazing acts from around the world, and although it’s not as glamorous or well-funded as say the artistic Cirque Du Soleil, it’s certainly no less impressive.

We went to see an afternoon session (they have 3 sessions on Saturdays, 2 on Sundays, and 1 or 2 almost every other day of the week — life is not easy as a travelling performer), which was playing at an empty sports ground.  The show was inside a massive tent that fits up to 1000 people, and has a relatively tiny performing stage in the middle.

Most of those in attendance were parents and grandparents with young children.  It had a very carnival-like atmosphere, which I love, and I think it’s a fantastic show to take kids, especially in this day and age where almost everything is simulated.

Three other positives it has over Cirque Du Soleil — (1) the prices are significantly cheaper (you can purchase tickets at the door for just $25 for adults and $16 for children, and the most expensive ringside tickets are only $60; (2) you get to sit real close to the action (one thing that irked me about Cirque Du Soleil was how far the stage was from everyone), and even if you sit in the back row you can still get a wonderful view; and (3) the performers are not as precious — by that I mean they get up close and personal with the audience.  Kids are screaming and laughing and moving around all the time, but like true professionals, they don’t get distracted.  And get this — one performer I saw that afternoon did the juggling, the magic show and the stunning final act, AND he was selling drinks during the intermission.  Talk about multi-talented!

One of the heart-stopping acts (Source: ntnews.com.au)

As for the show itself, I was very impressed with some of the things they did, which was a combination of traditional circus acts (like juggling, magic and body contorting) and stuff you’ve probably never seen before (no spoilers, but it was cra-zy).  And yes, there were a few clowns that came out between acts to keep the crowd interested and stir up the kids.  And yes, they still scare the crap out of me!

Roughly 2 hours later, the show came to a close and all the parents and kids left the tent with wide grins across their faces.  I had forgotten just how fun the circus is, especially when you’re a kid.

To find out more, check the Moscow Circus website.  Apparently more Sydney shows are to be announced, and after that they will travel to regional areas in South Australia and Victoria.

PS: There was a slight controversy last month with one of the acts, which involved goldfish.  That act has now been cancelled.

Pennywise from Stephen King's IT

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