Thursday, 20 October 2016

Knight Of The Rocks by Mark Farley

I have something of a minor milestone to announce today.
I am very pleased to have added a name other than my own to the Old Words Home author list. I’m not sure if two counts as a list but I am sure that one definitely didn’t so a big thankyou to Mark Farley for submitting his piece of flash fiction Knight Of The Rocks for me to record and doubling the number of featured authors at a stroke.
It’s a really beautiful piece in my humble opinion - both warming and somewhat melancholy at the same time - and it manages to cram a surprising amount of depth and emotion into a very small number of words.

I promise you it is well worth two and half minutes of your time so please give a listen, let me know what you thought and if you really like it then consider checking out some of Mr. Farley’s other work.
You can find him under various guises on Twitter:
You can also read the original text of Knight Of The Rocks at

Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Egg and The Martian

A friend sent me this article recently.
Now, I haven’t read The Martian by Andy Weir. I haven’t seen the film either, though I hear both are pretty good. I’ll get round to them one day.
The fact that I intend to get round to them one day meant that I nearly didn’t read this piece for fear of spoilers but I can promise it doesn’t contain any. It’s not actually that good an article to be fair, it’s an interview with a computer programmer who just happens to have written an unbelievably popular book and while the story of his road to success is somewhat interesting it seems to have taken him as much by surprise as anyone and so he’s not really able to offer any insight into his own sudden rise to fame.
The most interesting thing I took from the article was actually just a piece of web trivia - Andy Weir wrote The Egg!!

It’s quite possible you have never heard of The Egg but I remember when it first started getting linked around all over the internet.I remember really liking it. I think I even read it to my Mum.
For a little while it did the rounds, getting posted on Reddit and Facebook and all those other outlets and then - as memes tend to do - it tailed off and I’d forgotten all about it. If I ever noticed the author's name at the top I definitely forgot that detail.
Then it cropped up in this article. It was apparently written by Andy Weir in 2009, long before The Martian. I read it again just now, probably for the first time since that year and it’s still cool. I have issues with first person narrative and it reads a bit like a first draft but the concept and the setting are really good.
If you never read it before - check it out. If you read it in 2009 - check it out again. If you read it recently then, well done, aren’t you clever and down with the kids. That’s the last time I recommend you anything!

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Hemingway Editor

I tend to write really long sentences.
It is a problem that I have come to terms with and am fighting but it is a long hard road. I don’t even notice it happening in a first a draft and only when I come to read back what I have written do I find myself gasping for breath as I stumbling through these huge blocks of rambling, unpunctuated text.
I mentioned this to a friend of mine and he suggested the Hemingway Editor as a tool that might help.

The Hemingway Editor is available as a desktop app for both Mac and PC but being happy with my chosen editor I have only tried the web version.
What it does is analyse your text and highlight long or overly complex sentences. It also points out other perceived stumbling blocks such as adverbs and passive voice and gives you an overall grade or basic readability rating.

I admit I love a good tool and the idea behind this fascinates me. I don’t know the exact logic being applied but it seems to be more than simply a word counting engine. I pasted in a few chunks of my own work and it pretty conclusively told me what I already knew - that I write stupidly long and dense sentences.
While that was hardly news to me it was interesting to see the other points that it highlights and I found it a very satisfying process to make edits and watch the various red blocks change to amber and then to disappear one by one.
But it was here that I actually began to question the usefulness of this tool. I found myself forgetting that while there is of course a practical science behind writing - established conventions and accepted wisdom - there is also a more ethereal side to it which many would argue is actually more important. Find any rule or writing convention and there will be multiple examples of amazing works of literature that either twist them beyond all recognition or ignore them completely. Using the Hemingway Editor it becomes all too easy to forget this and I found myself so keen to achieve approval from its inner algorithms that I made edits even where I felt the results were less expressive and exciting than before.

I should mention here that the app appears to works better the more text you give it. It seems clever enough to understand that sometimes a long sentence is necessary as are adverbs and passive voice and it makes some allowance for each when it calculates your overall grade. So if you try out the app - it is definitely worth it - then give it as many words as you can and most importantly, stay in control and don’t become a slave to the pretty coloured highlights and easy fixes it presents.

I am geeky enough to believe that with the rise of AI a time may come when a computer programme can edit a manuscript as well as a human but that time is not yet here and for me at least such a thing is unnecessary. I am not a professional writer and I hold no illusion that I ever will be. Of course I want to improve my writing and to produce work that others might enjoy but predominantly I write for myself and as such I would rather be happy with my own creation than strip out its guts to tick the
boxes laid out by some mysterious function on a far away server.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps the Hemingway Editor really does know best and I just don’t want to hear it. I would love to hear your thoughts on the idea of automated/AI editors and on your experience with, and opinion of, the Hemingway Editor. Please have a play around with it and leave a comment below if you feel inspired to do so.

As an experiment I ran this post past Hemingway and got a grade of 12 which apparently is OK. There was a lot of red highlighting going on but I just ignored it because that is how I roll.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Chain Letter

The latest short  - Chain Letter - is now available on the YouTube channel. It's quite a slow one in many ways and is somewhat inspired by real events that took place in my past. The letter did arrive as described telling of the horror that awaited if it was not sent on and the great fortune to be gained if it was. My mother did indeed seal that letter up in a ratty old bible to calm my fears about it but beyond that fantasy takes over. Neither myself nor my parents were struck down by misfortune and and the story of the letters origin is entirely made up.
I hope you enjoy the story. As always if you would like to leave a comment or a like, or subscribe to the channel that would be much appreciated.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Fandom & World-building

BBC Radio 4's Homer, Hagrid and the Incredible Hulk
I listen to a lot of BBC Radio 4. Usually I stay within the confines of the Science & Nature category but from time to time I stumble elsewhere and I recently came across this programme on the creation of universes and how fans engage with them. It’s pretty lightweight but makes a few interesting points about the importance of detail and consistency and has interviews with some established writers including Robbin Hobb and the lady who created the My Little Pony universe.
Depending on where you are in the world it might not be available due to BBC policy but I listened to in Sweden with no trouble so give it a try and see what you think. Leave a comment if it inspires any pearls of wisdom in you.