Hacking the World

For a long while, I've been fascinated by tales of a world I missed out on by a couple of decades, the world of the early computer hackers; the people who created the early home computers, the early computer games, and brought about the technological revolution that we are all benefiting from today. (Anyone who spots the little in-joke related to this in 'Price of Admiralty' gets a prize that is as yet to be specified, but which will provide much kudos.) The tales that impress me the most – what comes across well from books such as 'Masters of Doom', or 'Hackers', is that of the lone artist. A single individual who sits down in his room and creates – creates works that pioneered a genre, that we still talk about today. A little tragedy is that this has become less and less possible, though there are some signs that it is returning. There is only one industry where this is still the case, and where technology is actively aiding it: writing.

Think about the wonder of the world we live in today. The barriers have crumbled, and by the views of some, the barbarians are sweeping into the Eternal City, but far from being a bad thing, this is a wonder. You only have to look around the blogosphere to see writers talking about books that everyone had rejected, but which the readers have taken too and loved. There has to be something wrong with a system that is throwing diamonds out into the midden; how many classics have never been seen outside a small circle of friends and associates, lost to us all. That will not happen any more. A single person can write a book, polish it, and publish it. Some contract out for covers, for editing, for layout, and each of these is a creative process in itself – others do it all themselves. (I wouldn't dream of creating my own cover, but the layout and conversion to Kindle was easy enough.)

Progress can be swifter, as well. Depending on your point of view, Price of Admiralty took me three weeks, or three years to write. I first started work on the idea back in the dying days of 2009; I wrote the words that comprised the final book in nineteen glorious days. (I'm a fast-writing advocate, as you might gather from that – I can't write slowly. Tried it, and I never got anywhere.) That's on a par with the time taken for some of the classic computer games, and in similar circumstances – one person sitting in front of a flickering screen.

There's another affinity there that I had last night, and here is where I apologise for not having posted anything for the last two days; I hit a couple of bumps in 'Not One Step Back'. (I swear that title is cursed. This is the third book I have started with that title.) The first Chapter 8 I wrote was actually pretty good, but the last thousand words led me into a massive cul-de-sac, and I had to reconsider a part of my setting, create a new bunch of characters, and then I could start again. Which I did around midnight, finishing up an hour later. Then, yesterday, I wrote Chapter 9, poking away in the afternoon, and it just sucked. The drama wasn't there, the characters weren't there, and the story felt forced. So another midnight binge, the original chapter deleted and replaced, and now I've got one of my favourite pieces of writing and a character I really like developing nicely. That's the beauty of discovery writing, you never know where it is going to take you – but basically, it felt like I was hacking my world. Getting deep into the bowels of the story felt like I was getting deep into the code and changing it, twisting it around to get the desired result. When that works, it feels great.

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