Arts 2.0: a catchup and an appeal

Since I last linked to my Arts 2.0 column for The Stage, I’ve written three new pieces. First off, the launch of the BBC iPlayer Radio app just three days after the combined BBC/commercial radio RadioPlayer app led me to look at both, as well as some of the other options for audio listening. I have to say that while I’ve used both those apps since, it’s the iPlayer app that I enjoy using the most. Once you’ve started listening, of course, you tend to leave the app – but the act of selecting which audio stream to listen to should be quick, and not feel like a chore. I think the Radioplayer has some way to go on that side of things, while iPlayer Radio is closer to nailing it.

Then last week, I looked at three magic trick apps for the iPhone. I remain to be convinced that custom apps can be effective sources of conjuring – close-up magic with real life objects is far more effective than working with pixels on a screen. John Archer’s Streets app works along the right lines because it uses the maps feature within the phone itself – or at least it did, until Apple dropped Google Maps for its own service with iOS 6.

Finally, this week the news about Radio 4 releasing the Letter From America archives got me thinking about all those dramas the station has commissioned over the years, but remain locked away due to contractual or other reasons. Recent radio productions of West End hits then led me to talk about archiving contemporary performances.

An appeal for help

I’ve got a few ideas for future columns, but if you have an arts-working-with-technology story you’ld like to pitch, please email me at scott [at] thestage.co.uk.

One thing I’d like to do for next week, to tie in with the start of NaNoWriMo, is look at digital tools that writers – of books, plays, or scripts for TV, film and radio – use. An initial appeal on Twitter brought up several references to Scrivener, which combines templates for several writing projects with the ability to store research notes. I’m not just looking for scriptwriting software, though – do you use anything to incentivise you to write a certain amount each day? Other applications (from Evernote to Pocket) to collate research materials? Anything digital to remove distractions and allow you to focus?

Whether it’s PC, Mac, iOS or based on another platform – or a piece of hardware gadgetry you can’t do without – I’d like to know about it. Use the comments box below or email me at the address above!

NaNoWriMo 2008

I’m working on a new draft for this year’s [National Novel Writing Month](http://nanowrimo.org) — but there’s no way I’m ever going to make the 50,000 word target for my first draft by the end of the month.

By virtue of my day job, I have to watch a lot of theatre and television, and then write about it afterwards — hardly a chore, but it does bite in to the amount of spare time I could possibly devote to writing a novel.

So, in addition to the word count I will be maintaining for NaNoWriMo, I will also keep an eye on how many words I write professionally. Hopefully, combined they will beat that notional 50,000 word barrier.

Whatever happens, I think the story I’m working on is strong enough to work as a novel — but more of that anon.

In the meantime, if anyone’s thinking of Doctor Who-related Christmas presents for loved ones, I understand that The Ghosts of Christmas is still available…

Why write?

It may be a tough question to answer, but [I love Neil Gaiman’s attempt](http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2007/10/why-write.html):

> The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising (“but of course that’s why he was doing that, and that means that…”) and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.

I wouldn’t dare try and compare myself to Gaiman — I doubt I’ll ever achieve anything like one thousandth of his talents. I’m _really_ looking forward to **Stardust**, my excitement only being tempered by the thought that the film can’t possibly compare to the novel (what film ever does?). That said, I do know what he means. _Tell Me You Love Me_ will be my first published fiction work and a short story, but there were times writing it where I just got swept up and everything came out at speed. It’s happened before with the [fanfic short stories](http://matthewman.net/category/fiction/fanfic/short-stories/) I’ve written before; the pleasure increases slightly when you know you’re being paid for it, though.

Looking back at the proof PDF which I was sent last week, those points in the story still stand out as the best bits for me. It’s the portions where I had to include exposition, to write and rewrite and rewrite again to make sure that there was sufficient explanation, that stutter and falter. In contrast, I really love the opening few pages, which are largely unchanged from the very first draft. And reading it back, months now after I first wrote them, I can really detect the influence of Gaiman’s writing style upon my own. Hopefully, as I carry on writing that will develop into my own writing style, rather than an inferior copy of somebody else’s.

I was so scared, too, that as a first time writer, my work would stick out from that of the experienced writers with whom I’m contributing to _[The Ghosts of Christmas](http://matthewman.net/2007/10/02/coming-soon-the-ghosts-of-christmas/)_. But I’ve read the whole draft of the book several times now, and am beginning to feel less like the fraud I thought I may be when I was first offered the commission.

Next up, I have to decide if I’m going to have time to devote to [NaNoWriMo](http://www.nanowrimo.org/) this year. Other pressures last year meant that I just had no spare time to devote to writing, and I’m hoping that I can spend November 2007 writing 50,000 words of a first draft.