Three Achingly Hip (And On-Trend) Tips For Writing A Modern Novel

Well, I thought that I’d start April’s roster of articles by talking about hip, new, modern fiction. After all, who wants to read old books? What can they teach us about how to write great fiction for today?

Nothing, that’s what!

Just like how literally every gamer will agree that the very latest computer and video games are always the best, every reader is eager to read the latest modern fiction. So, how can you write it?

Here are a few tips, hot off of the press smartphone (I mean, who uses *ugh* printing presses these days? What is this? 1619?)

1) Tomes (or GTFO): You’re never going to believe this but, back in the bad old days, novels were often only a measly 200-300 pages in length. Talk about lazy writing! I mean, these “novels” were the kind of thing that people could read in just a couple of days. It’s practically fraud!

Thankfully, just like how those cool people in Hollywood have realised that the deep and complex drama of a superhero film requires a running time of at least two hours, many modern writers and publishers are giving their readers value for money! In fact, the best modern novels can be so long that most of their readers don’t even finish them. Talk about generosity!

Not only that, the widespread acceptance of 800 -or even 900 – page novels has freed modern writers from the oppressive tyranny of the editors! No longer does a writer have to justify a rich, expansive story to some miserable pen-pusher or agonise about whether their story really needs that 10-page description of a houseplant. No, modern readers want the author’s full artistic vision, in all of it’s majestic length.

In the bad old days, a novel used to be considered to be a paltry 50,000 words or more. These days, if you don’t fill at least a gigabyte of your audience’s e-readers or smartphones (since, like, who uses dead trees any more?), then you are short-changing them! So, remember, the more words the better!

2) Plain Packaging: This will probably disgust you, but back in the bad old days, book covers often used to look like tawdry film posters. A writer’s masterpiece would be handed to some artist who would try to make some patronisingly melodramatic fan art based on it. And the result would often be offensively vivid, shockingly melodramatic and hideously low-brow.

Thankfully, things have been streamlined and regulated these days 🙂 Gone are the glaringly bold and vivid colours of old – a modern novel cover should be rendered in gloomy greys (for thrillers and detective stories) or serene pastels (for everything else). This helps to ensure that no book cover breaks the mellow, ordered harmony of any respectable shop’s website.

Of course, for truly respectable literary novels, there should be no visual elements whatsoever on the cover – just the title and a plain, or lightly patterned, background. This helps to ensure that nothing distracts from the adoring critic quotes on the cover, in addition to ensuring that your readers know that it is a serious novel.

Then again, with the widespread popularity of electronic books, who even needs cover art these days? It’s just a racket to keep those grubby artists in business! So, don’t be afraid to signal your defiance against this painterly cartel by insisting that your latest work is released as a good, honest, plain text file (in Courier, for added authenticity).

3) Social apps: If there’s one terrible thing about reading books it’s that they’re so solitary. It’s like it’s just you and the author. Like you actually have to think and things. Don’t you know that there’s science that says that being alone is bad for you. And, on a more concerning note, who knows what subversive or offensive thoughts might creep into your mind if you have to endure actual privacy whilst reading.

Well, fear no more! One of of the amazing advancements of the electronic reading revolution is that books can now be read on smartphones. And this means that the soma familiar safe haven of social media is no more than a second away at all times 🙂 So, your novel should be written with this in mind.

First of all. All sentences should be short. For easier live-tweeting. #Progress!

There should also be a “like” button on, like, every page too, so that your readers can signal to their friends that they’re, like, actually reading – and, more importantly, what they’re reading. After all, we can’t have people reading the wrong books, can we?

Likewise, don’t worry if you write anything someone doesn’t like. Thanks to modern social media, thousands of enthusiastic critiques from passionate readers will appear within minutes to correct you. So, when you put out the next daily update of your novel, you know what to alter or remove. It’s almost like having a fanatically strict edito… I mean, it’s a bold, democratic alternative to the tyranny of the elitist editors of old!

There has never been a better age to be a writer! It really is a brave new world 🙂

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Happy April Fool’s Day everyone 🙂

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Four Awesome Things That Artists And Writers Can Learn From The Modern Games Industry

Well, I thought that I would start off April’s roster of articles by throwing all of my dusty old “retro” games into the dustbin and talking about the exciting world of modern gaming. In particular, I’ll be talking about what my research into this thriving, scrupulous and reputable industry can teach artists and writers when it comes to presenting their works to the public.

After all, the modern mainstream gaming industry is absolutely adored by their millions of customers, so they must be doing something right. Right?

1) DLC: “DLC” stands for “Downloadable Content” and it is all the rage these days! Whilst gamers of the past had to suffer through full-size official expansion packs and a bewildering plethora of extra fan-made levels for their games, modern gamers have none of these problems!

No, they can just buy small, low-calorie portions of extra content directly from the games companies for a reasonable fee. Not only that, this downloadable content can sometimes also help to provide an extra sense of closure to fans by telling them how the stories of their favourite games actually end. Recent advancements in this exciting new field include randomised “loot boxes” that allow players to experience all the thrills of the casino from the comfort of their living rooms. It is truly an exciting time to be a gamer 🙂

So, how does this popular and well-loved business practice relate to fiction? Well, the simplest way to add some trendy new “DLC” to your latest novel is simply to remove the final two to four chapters and sell them separately. Yes, some miserable old fogies might accuse you of “fraud” or bang on about the days when novels used to be “complete” self-contained things. But, your hip young fans will be eager to enjoy the experience of buying the same book twice. After all, where’s the fairness in only allowing people to enjoy that “new book” feeling once?

But, what about you artists out there? Well, the process is a little bit more complicated. But, I imagine that it would probably look a little bit like this:

Your audience will love you! They’ll be queuing up in the streets! Look, some of them are even carrying pitchforks to help with your gardening too!

2) Standardised content ratings: One of the greatest success stories in the European gaming industry was the introduction of standardised PEGI content ratings across almost all of Europe.

By applying a single ultra-strict “one size fits all” set of censorship rules across more than thirty countries, Europe is leading the way in protecting younger gamers from the corrupting evils of “mild bad language” and “Non realistic looking violence towards human characters”.

But, why stop at games? Surely, we writers and/or artists have a moral responsibility to introduce something similar in our own fields? After all, think back to your own youth and how seeing or reading age-inappropriate creative works hindered and stifled your own creativity. How, far from making you feel like a “rebel” or making you feel like making art and/or writing fiction were “cool” activities, it left you filled with shocked moral indignation!

Well, a standardised world-wide age rating system for all creative works would soon solve all of those problems. All of the next generation of writers and artists would only be inspired by wholesome, age-appropriate things. Just imagine how much better all of the books, paintings, comics etc.. that come out within the next couple of decades will be.

3) System requirements: If there’s one word that defines the exciting world of the modern computer games industry, it is “progress”! Game companies are always pushing the limits of new hardware, and real gamers are eager to upgrade their systems as much as twice weekly just to keep up.

When a PC gamer looks at the “system requirements” segment of a game’s website, they don’t think that it’s some kind of discriminatory system of exclusion designed to favour the wealthiest and/or trendiest of gamers. No, such silly thoughts do not enter their minds for one second.

Instead, smiling with glee, they eagerly rush out to buy a new £450 liquid nitrogen cooling system for the £700 graphics card that they need in order to use the latest £1200 virtual reality headset. Progress! An example to us all!

Alas, both art and fiction are stuck in a rut by comparison! We live in a world where any literate peasant can pick up a book and read it, or a world where anyone with functioning un-modified eyeballs can gaze upon any work of art. We’re stuck in the past!

As such, I propose a radical upgrade to the English language. English 2.0! If you can’t take the time to spend an extra five years in school to learn it, then s8BB@~## t%8 (“sod off, old fogey!”).

Likewise, artists have been constrained by the fact that their works must appear within the visible light spectrum. It is only the stubborn consumer’s backwards unwillingness to try new experimental ocular surgery that prevents exciting new art made using the infra-red and ultra-violet light spectrums from gaining the mainstream popularity that it deserves. Honestly, these so-called art connoisseurs could learn a lot from the humble PC gamer!

4) Day one patches: Modern games companies are eager to get their games out to players as soon as possible! Who cares if a game is technically “finished” or not? The modern gamer will have pre-ordered the game two years ago and will expect something, even just a collection of glitches and error messages, at the appointed time!

Back in the bad old days of cartridges and discs, gamers were forced to languish for months whilst they waited for companies to “finish” making their games. But, in this modern connected age, any small oversights from game developers can easily be corrected via small downloadable “patches” (which are only mere gigabytes in size) that can be released soon after the game goes on sale.

We artists and writers can learn a lot from this! Don’t have time to finish that novel? Well, you can always put out that rough draft of the first three chapters at full price and correct the rest later in an “updated” version. Likewise, the laughably old-fashioned days when an artist actually had to complete a painting before showing it to the public have thankfully long since passed:

Isn’t this watercolour painting awesome? What? I’ll patch it in about a week or so. You DID pre-order, didn’t you?

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Happy April Fool’s Day everyone 🙂 Normal articles/reviews will resume tomorrow 🙂

You Totally And Utterly Won’t Believe These Three Weird Ways To Upgrade Your Art Supplies At Home (That THEY Don’t Want You To Know About!)

2017 Artwork April Fools Day Article sketch

Well, I thought that I’d start off April’s roster of articles by taking this blog in a bold new direction!

Ever since I recently followed some handy banner adverts and instantly lost several pounds of belly fat using only half a lemon, saved hundreds on the electricity bill by placing a crude magnetic coil somewhere near the boiler and made myself look five years younger by peeling a sheet of perforated cling-film from my face, I now see that articles like those are the future!

But, this is – of course- an art blog (amongst other things). So, I began my research into some of the shady things that Big Art doesn’t want you to know and I was shocked!

Did you know that greedy art supply companies have been thought by some to deliberately sell downgraded art supplies in a sneaky ploy to get you to buy their “premium” products at vastly inflated prices? Yes, I certainly couldn’t believe it either!

Well, you didn’t hear this from me, but there are several clever ways to turn your ordinary, bog-standard art supplies into something that art supply companies might try to sell to you at up to seventy times the price you paid. So, let’s get started.

1) Magnetise your pencils at home and save hundreds!: The pencil sharpening industry would like you to believe that the levels of precision that you can get from your drawing pencils all depend on how often you use the useless, dangerous rubbish that they peddle to gullible artists. This obviously isn’t true!

Those in the know, know that magnetic forces play a large part in how precisely the molecules of graphite from your pencil adhere to the paper and, more importantly, whether they stay where you put them.

The pencil manufacturers, in cahoots with the sharpener industry, know this and it’s no coincidence that the really fancy pencils have been secretly pre-magnetised in order to set them apart from the more plebian offerings that they sell to you and me. A magnetised pencil doesn’t need sharpening. All the famous artists know it, and they’re laughing at you!

Well, you can have the last laugh! Magnetising a pencil is quick, simple and potentially guaranteed to improve the precision of your drawings. It even works on blunt pencils! All you need is a simple bar magnet, four triangular pieces of paper (equilateral!), some tape and a pencil.

Begin by rubbing the tip of the pencil vigourously against the south pole of the bar magnet. Once you have done this precisely forty-seven times, then gently place the pencil on a non-ferrous surface.

Use the tape to fashion your four triangular pieces of paper into a simple pyramid. Once you’ve done this, place the pyramid over the tip of the pencil and leave overnight. As many ancient mystics will tell you, the shape of the pyramid helps to focus the Earth’s magnetic field onto the tip of your pencil. The pyramid alone can quadruple the potency of the magnetisation process.

The results speak for themselves!:

A basic comparison of the results of using magnetised and non-magnetised pencils.

A basic comparison of the results of using magnetised and non-magnetised pencils.

2) Homeopathic paint for a fraction of the price!: As many will tell you “nothing is better than homeopathy!“.

Well, the paint companies know this and they’re deliberately trying to rip you off by bogging down their paints with far more pigment than is actually needed to achieve the desired effect. Only the ultra-rich get to use the good stuff – the homeopathic stuff!

After all, homeopathy relies on the magnifying effects of placing microscopic quantities of things in specially-treated water. Bogging down the water with large quantities of pigment instantly obliterates any homeopathic benefits that may have come with the paint.

To make your own homeopathic paint and stick two fingers up at Big Paint, just load your brush with paint like you normally would. Then rinse it under the cold tap for no less than five minutes. Place the wet brush on a non-ferrous surface and then heat a four-litre jug of water to precisely thirty-nine degrees centigrade. Once you’ve done this, dip the very tip of your brush into the water for no more than two seconds.

Once you’ve done this, heartily beat the side of the jug with the spine of a stout book no more than thirty times. Then repeat the entire process seven more times. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a lifetime supply of 100% homeopathic paint.

Your colours will be much more subtle, they will mix seamlessly with literally any other colour and, best of all, you’ll have got one over on the evil paint industry!

3) Smoother paper for literally nothing!: Wait! Before you instantly dissolve those five pounds of belly fat with that one simple trick that you read about online, put them to good use first!

They probably wouldn’t want you to know this, but the kind of paper that paper companies sell to ordinary people like you and me is riddled with millions of micro-creases! Micro-creases that can cause paint to appear blotchy, magnetised pencil lines to appear shaky and nano-dots of ink to spatter around the page. This is all deliberate!

Whilst we may not have the heartless stables of shaved gerbils that paper companies have been rumoured to use in their environmentally-unsound paper smoothing process, we have the next best thing. The softness of our own stomachs. When used properly, those extra pounds can be used to remove up to 95% of the micro-creases found in a sheet of paper.

Lie on your back, take your sheet of paper and gently place it on your stomach. Take care not to bend the paper! Once you’ve done this, then gently place your right palm on the back of the paper and slide it around your stomach in a clockwise direction at least 8.3 times. It’s that simple!

Yes, your paper may show the occasional harmless cosmetic macro-crease after doing this, but this is a small price to pay to get rid of those dangerous micro-creases!

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Happy April Fool’s Day Everyone 🙂

Today’s “Art” (1st April 2016)

As I mentioned earlier today, I have decided to use the beginning of this new month as an opportunity to break free from the bourgeois shackles of traditional art and become a conceptual artist instead.

I present two of my inaugural conceptual masterpieces here today: “Yearning Of The Cosmos For The Zeitgeist Of Postmodern Thought ” and “Gossamer Memories Of Paperback Perdition”.

These works form two halves of a coherent whole and are a post-structuralist critique on the existential meaninglessness of traditional knowledge forms, as well as a sharp critique of the shape of Anglican church collection plates in the years 1901-1903.

Lest these bold anti-capitalist works lose any of their inherent multi-million pound value, this two-part masterpiece will not be released under a Creative Commons licence of any kind.

Happy April Fools' Day everyone :)

Happy April Fools’ Day everyone 🙂

(Happy April Fools’ day everyone 🙂 Don’t worry, I’ll post some real art here tomorrow.)

Four Revolutionary Tips For Making Conceptual Art

2016 Artwork Conceptual art April Fool article sketch

Well, it’s the beginning of a new month, so I thought that I’d talk about how to make an innovative and revolutionary new type of art today. An art form that I have often sung the praises of, but have never really discussed in detail.

Unless you’re the kind of archaic philistine who clings to outmoded reactionary ideas of artistic beauty (and who frequently spews ignorance-laden bile such as “artists need to practice to get good at making art“), then you’ve probably heard of conceptual art. If you haven’t, then you should be ashamed of yourself!

Conceptual art is a bold paradigm-breaking genre of art that is a clean break from the oppressive traditions of the past. It began in 1917 when Marcel Duchamp bravely placed a urinal in the middle of an American art gallery and, right then, a silly fad a bold new artistic method was born!

For almost a century since then, countless artists have kept this bold new urine-taking tradition alive in order to strike back at the stale old artistic traditions of their parents’ generation.

The idea behind conceptual art is that the concept behind a piece of art matters more than what the artwork itself looks like, or even what it’s made from.

For example, if you think that a discarded drinks can you just found in the park is the perfect metaphor for modern capitalism then, thanks to conceptual art, you can make a bold anti-capitalist statement by selling that worthless piece of rub.. boldly political piece of found art to any modern gallery for at least a five-figure sum.

So, how do you make this bold and revolutionary paradigm-breaking type of art? Well, here are a few tips:

1) The statement: Although writers often swear by the old adage of “show, don’t tell” – artists are not writers and, as such, it would be horrendously insensitive for artists to follow this simple piece of writerly advice!

As such, when making a piece of conceptual art, you need to accompany it with a long-winded statement that explains precisely what your work of art means. Allowing the audience to come to their conclusions about your art often also allows reactionary ideas, incorrect politics and other heresies to slip into the discourse.

So, in the interests of freedom, you must pre-emptively stamp down hard on all audience interpretation with an iron fist and ensure that there is only one way that your masterpiece can be understood. You do this by writing an artist’s statement.

Of course, if the idea of writing your own statement offends you, then there is thankfully a helpful website that will generate a pre-written artist’s statement for you.

2) Art school: Although I have unfortunately never attended one of these fine institutions myself, at least a few modern-day art schools are on the vanguard of this bold new art movement. Well, from everything that I’ve read at least.

Gone are the repressive days where art schools would cruelly force their students to learn. Gone are those horrendous times when attendees of art schools would be made to *ugh* practice outdated “skills” like “drawing” and “painting”.

At least a few modern art schools are now thankfully safe havens where all forms of artistic creativity (except for anything that isn’t conceptual art, of course) are valued and supported. So, if you want to be a conceptual artist, then attendance at one of these schools is almost mandatory!

Not only will you get to meet many of your other fellow conceptual artists if you attend one of these modern convents of creativity, but you will also be inducted into the esoteric mysteries of how to understand and discuss other works of conceptual art. No longer will you be a foolish member of the uninitiated, prone to heresy and blasphemy. You will be a conceptual artist!

3) Dealing with criticism: Unfortunately, due to the old-fashioned concepts of “free speech” and “humour”, it is likely that cynics, traditional artists and other undesirables may feel that they can mock and ridicule your conceptual masterpieces with impunity. This should not be tolerated!

You should not give these heretical “opinions” any platform! You are the artist and they are not! Loudly denounce their “opinions” for what they are – outmoded expressions of stale traditionalism!

Don’t even think about “accepting the fact that other people have different opinions”. Any words or non-verbal expressions that indicate that your conceptual artwork is anything less than a fully valid, excellent and magnificent work of art are ghastly heresies that must be silenced immediately!

Be wary of mild praise too! If someone says that your conceptual work is “ok”, then this actually means that they don’t understand your unique artistic vision!

4) Actually making the art: No, silly! You don’t “make” conceptual art. You find it. If your artistic process even vaguely resembles the act of “making something”, then you’re doing it wrong! You heretic!

But, of course, you knew that already, didn’t you?

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Happy April Fools’ day everyone 🙂 Normal articles will resume tomorrow.

Quiz: What Kind Of Artist Are You?

2015 Artwork April Fools Day Quiz Sketch

Let’s face it, art can be a confusing thing. And, if you’re new to making art – then it can be difficult to tell which kind of art you should make.

So, I thought that I’d start this month’s trove of articles with a handy quiz that will help you work out which kind of artist you are.

So, get a pen and paper handy – and let’s get started!

Question One: There is something lurking in the shadows, what is it?

A) The rozzers! Run!
B) Three boxes of tennis balls and a pair of old trainers. They’re surprisingly expensive.
C) A filthy hippie! See! It’s even written on his T-shirt!
D) A puddle of vomit. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
E) An unusually rotund cat, who is wearing a three-piece suit and smoking a cigar.
F) You didn’t use black paint for those shadows, did you? Real artists don’t use black paint for anything. Ever.
G) I don’t know, it probably isn’t a good idea to look.
H) The hotel staff, trying to retrieve the smashed remains of a television.

Question Two: You’re putting on an exhibition, where do you do it?

A) London, because that’s where the rich people are.
B) London, because that’s where the rich people are.
C) An old manor house in the countryside. With a bouncer on the door to keep the riff-raff out.
D) Magaluf, Ibiza or Faliraki. Or any British high street after midnight.
E) Nowhere. Don’t you know how bad travelling is for the environment?
F) Italy or France.
G) What’s an exhibition?
H) All over! I’m on a world tour, baby!

Question Three: You’ve got a hot date, things are going great. But, your date turns out to be…

A) Faking it too.
B) An uncultured, reactionary philistine!
C) A pleb!
D) Winning at beer pong.
E) Nigel Farage!
F) An oil painter!
G) More interested in the cute guy on the next table.
H) Interested in a long-term relationship!

Question Four: After your disastrous date, you decide to order a drink. What do you order?

A) A martini.
B) Something that even the bartender hasn’t heard of before.
C) A glass of whisky, after spending ten minutes telling a boring story to the bartender.
D) Shots. Obviously.
E) Nothing. You’ve already drunk more than the Government’s recommended consumption limits.
F) A glass of wine.
G) Whatever you’ve been drinking earlier.
H) What do you mean I have to pay for it? Do you know who I am?

Question Five: Someone criticises your art, how do you react?

A) You refine your sales pitch and hope for better luck next time.
B) You rewrite your artist’s statement and hope for better luck next time.
C) You start gloating.
D) You ignore them and keep drawing badly-drawn penises on their forehead in marker pen, whilst laughing loudly.
E) You sternly tell your critics to check their privilege! And then write an outspoken Tumblr post about them.
F) You let out a derisive snort of indignation and walk away.
G) You react with puzzled incomprehension.
H) You get to reply in an editorial column in a major newspaper.

Question Six: You’re listening to some music, what are you listening to?

A) Frank Sinatra.
B) Why should I tell you? You’ve probably never even heard of them.
C) Something from the seventies …or earlier.
D) I dunno, but it’s easy to dance to.
E) Nothing. All music is offensive … to someone, somewhere.
F) Classical music.
G) The same bands you listened to when you were a teenager.
H) The support band. They aren’t as good as I am.

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If you answered mostly “A”: You Are A Con Artist– You enjoy tricks, scams and grifting. You don’t actually need to make any art – you just have to make sure that people think that the stuff you’re selling is art. Your clients are, inevitably, people with far more money than sense.

If you answered mostly “B”: You Are A Conceptual Artist
– See above.

If you answered mostly “C”: You Are A Conservative Political Cartoonist– Your art may be badly-drawn and you may have to write explanatatory text on everything in your cartoons because your readers are not sufficiently evolved enough to understand basic symbolism, but that doesn’t matter. After all, you went to the same private school as the editor did – and those other cartoonists didn’t!

If you answered mostly “D”: You Are A Piss Artist– … and you’re taking the wrong quiz! I’ll tell you what, why don’t you turn this into a drinking game and take a shot every time the word “Question” appears?

If you answered mostly “E”: You Are A Liberal Political Cartoonist – Yes, you’re the kind of bold, free-thinking cartoonist who loves nothing more than “sticking it to the man” on a regular basis. Just as long as you don’t offend him. Or anyone else for that matter. Because that would be bad.

If you answered mostly “F”: You Are A Traditional Watercolour Painter– Yes, and a very traditional one at that!

If you answered mostly “G”: You Are Not An Artist– There’s hope for you yet! Get out while you still can!

If you answered mostly “H”: You Are A Musician– Goddamn it! Why do you people keep calling yourselves “artists”? You’re musicians!

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Happy April Fools’ Day everyone 🙂